I met Stuart MacFarlane on July 1st (2004) when Andy Wilson (formerly SVP Global Product Management, Overture Services… now Managing Director, Momentum Venture Management) invited me to join Stu and him for lunch.
Terms like “great guy”, “brilliant”, “passionate” and the like are so commonly tossed around when talking about entreprenuers (especially Internet entreprenuers) that… well… they don’t mean what they should. So it is with my most sincere voice that I say all of these adjectives apply to Stu, which makes this such a (vicariously) exciting announcement.
Stu’s built an offering that blends all of the things that are right about Craigslist (community, referrals), Local Search & Directory (listings, comprehensiveness) and LinkedIn social networking (trust, relevance) — I picked LinkedIn, BTW, because people seem to be much more selective there than on most social networking sites, ala Friendster (almost by definition).
The results are exactly what you’d expect (and want). Need a local mechanic you can trust? Turn to InsiderPages.com; you can see who your neighbors have tried and how they rate them. What’s more, if you’ve invited your friends, you can filter the results to see only those recommendations made by friends or friends of friends (whose opinion you likely trust more).
Of course, there are weaknesses:
– The service is only as good as the listings that users post, and the number of friends you invite
– If, like me, your friends are spread all over the world, you may not have enough “local density” to get the friend/friend-of-friend trust factor; the value of social networking from a trust factor drops off substantially beyond that point, at least in the focus groups I’ve done on the topic.
– It’s only a business if someone will pay for it. The obvious candidate is the service/product provider, who may not be comfortable with an open forum (where negative comments can, and frankly should, be listed)
In my opinion, cracking the business side of the equation will be the easiest of the three; focus on Pay Per Call and online coupons (for use in-store). Local businesses will value the tangible proof of a phone call or in-store visitor long before they adopt SEM in mass.
The rest? Well, I’ll save my thoughts until Stu does the official reveal. 😉