Ex-Microsoft Execs Extend Bill Gates' Vision for a Better LinkedIn- One That Pays You

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One of the most interesting announcements last week was for a new service called Nextio (sounds like Next to you).  This takes an idea that I first heard from Bill Gates—that the emails folks are annoying you with should come with a cost—and pushes that idea into a revenue opportunity for people that are constantly getting pitches and not responding to most of them (I’m one of those people).  Sadly, like LinkedIn, the service is mostly focused on connecting people to those that might hire or buy from them. However, I see real utility, and potentially larger revenue, when it comes to connecting people to folks like Bill Gates. Let me explain.  

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a typical social media service in that it is a place where people go to share. It is focused, however, on business, and that means much of the interaction of value comes from job prospecting and sales attempts and far fewer selfies of folks eating food and cats.   LinkedIn makes its money selling access to you— which you are more than free to ignore— and through ads.  Like most social networks, that makes you the valued commodity that they, not you, are making money from.  This has always seemed unfair in that companies like Google and Facebook make billions off you and, in exchange, they are generous enough to let you use their services.  It makes us look like the current version of the Native Americans that sold Manhattan Island for trinkets (granted, the actual history suggests the Native Americans were the scam artists and the folks paying the money were the idiots).  I’ll bet that made you feel a TON better… 

Now, that doesn’t mean that LinkedIn doesn’t provide value, but there is no real incentive for anyone on the service to respond to any of the inquiries they get. And, the most powerful people you might want to talk to aren’t at all motivated, or able (given the amount of spam content they likely get), to respond. 

This last goes to what Bill Gates argued years ago that spam is a major problem and that the only sure way to end it is to put a cost on it so that someone annoying you pays a fee— basically an email stamp.   LinkedIn does do that, but that money doesn’t go to you; so while the spam you get on LinkedIn is far less— folks that do mass mailings pay a fee— it isn’t non-existent and there is no incentive for you to respond. 

Nextio’s Better Idea

On Nextio, folks not only pay to contact you, but 80 percent of that money flows to you.  Don’t get excited, you aren’t going to suddenly become an Internet Billionaire or even pay your car’s lease payment with this service anytime soon, but it better showcases the value of contact with you, creates a higher barrier to sending you stuff you aren’t interested in and provides you with an incentive to respond.  

Right now, the suggested price for an email you respond to is between $1 and $10 but, I think, this really gets interesting when you realize that this price could go over $1,000. 

Taylor Swift or Bill Gates

What would you pay to have someone like Bill Gates or Taylor Swift actually read and respond to a note from you?  $1,000 might not be unreasonable, and given both of these folks likely do handle up to 100 emails on a given day, at $1K a pop, that is $100K and likely worth their time.   Granted, it would also more than pay for an assistant to do this for them, which would significantly reduce the value. Therefore, there would need to be some form of assurance that the real person was actually reading and responding to the message, and that the response be more than the typical, terse, three-word reply. Now, what would it be worth for you to get a VC, reporter, or even an analyst to look at your pitch?  Might not be $1,000 or even $100, but it would likely be more than $10, and $1,000 a day for looking at and responding to 100 emails still isn’t bad.    

Wrapping Up:  Getting Paid For Social Media

Boy, given the massive trend in the last decade to get everyone to participate on social media for free, and how quickly most of us really tired of that, it is nice to see a firm pushing back the other way.  However, I think the real opportunity for a service like Nextio is to get people on it where the value is well above the $10 max they now have because then you can get to critical mass with far less volume. Besides, $1, the current common standard, just isn’t enough to truly make a difference.  Still, I’ll take $1 over nothing, and that makes Nextio a service that is worth watching. Granted, if the service went into arguments, some of you might end up richer than Bill Gates!  Here is an example.  I can think of some celebrities, pundits, politicians, and reporters who could make a fortune!



 

President and Principal Analyst, Enderle Group

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