2008 could be the year for a Filipino-American entrepreneur and his partner
I’m betting that you’ve had your fill of 2007 flashbacks and 2008 future casting. So for this first column for 2008 I’m doing something completely different: introducing a new social networking website. I understand that you’ve probably grown even wearier of what seems to be endless news and commentary on social websites, which are the latest Web 2.0 e-fad. And I can almost hear your groans as I draft this column in the late morning and lunch hour of New Year’s Eve.
I’m convinced you’ll find this new site of interest though, because it is: 1) developed by a couple of Filipino entrepreneurs who have already made some significant returns on the Web; 2) off to a reasonably good start; and, 3) pushing what its creators argue is a unique value proposition. Under development for what I understand is about a year, the site originally appeared as TheOosh.com, and has recently evolved into OneDomus.com
Domus is the Roman word for house, especially the houses of ancient Roman and European elites. According to co-creator Eric Wallace, OneDomus.com refers to One House, or what seems to me “everyone under one roof.” OneDomus.com is meant to be more than another social networking site, of which there are more already than can ever expect to survive. Instead, it is a network of highly interest-focused networks.
Wallace stopped by the office recently with Outsource2Philippines (O2P) CEO Frank Holz to discuss what makes his site different from other social networking sites, and ways to increase the visibility of OneDomus.com. The site is already somewhat visible for a site still in beta development, with approximately 20,000 members. That’s nothing, of course, compared, say, to Facebook ’s 57 million active subscribers.
Like all entrepreneurs, Wallace faces multiple challenges once his site formally launches and begins to compete for subscribers. Among the first is attaining visibility. Wallace is looking for partners that can help him raise awareness of the site and give him an opportunity to sell his value proposition. Naturally, he has a number of communication alternatives available to him. All will require an investment, either in equity or cash.
But to attract the partners who can make those alternatives available, Wallace will need to convince them that OneDomus is distinctive in meaningful and relevant ways from all the other debuting social networking sites hoping to be the next Facebook, MySpace, or Friendster. That’s where Wallace’s “One House” value proposition comes in.
Wallace, who got hooked on web development while studying economics at Columbia University, says his site is distinctive because it allows users to set up their own private networks. Other sites allow members to decline invitations to network, but don’t provide the flexibility of setting up specific interest groups, such as your graduating high school class or amateur photographers who use a particular camera or skydivers at Clark.
The attraction of private networks for members is the virtual guarantee that interaction over the network is almost always going to be of interest. How about advertisers? For advertisers, the first consideration is going to be the size of the networks and their revenue-generating potential. A network for the 1972 graduating class of Harvard Business School is not going to be very large. On the other hand, it is likely to be composed of some very large net worth individuals of interest to investment bankers, real estate developers, and yacht manufacturers.
A network of teenage girls using a specific manufacturer’s beauty products in contrast is likely be very large and very attractive to consumer products companies, clothing manufacturers, and recording studios. The value of these user-defined networks to advertisers is that they allow advertisers to focus resources on very specific demographic and user profiles, which increases the efficiency of their marketing communications investments.
Once Wallace attracts partners that help him attain the visibility necessary to effectively communicate his value proposition, he will face another major hurdle. Although prospective members may like OneDomus.com, many will think hard about whether they want to walk away from the investment in time and persistence that went into developing their current networks on competing sites. There’s got to be a powerful incentive to get these social networking devotees to shift their “domiciles.”
Wallace made a good amount – I don’t know how much, of course – selling advertising on the web while he was studying at Columbia, so he clearly understands the challenges ahead. He also has the benefit of mentoring by older, successful entrepreneurs and professional managers. And Wallace appears to be comfortable taking the risks necessary to build a successful company.
Whether he will be able to leverage these attributes to do so of course remains to be seen. I hope this New Year is a year for achieving his dreams and realizing his vision for OneDomus. And for you, and your dreams and goals, as well.