Following the $1 Billion acquisition of Instagram last month, the New York Times is polling readers to determine which startup holds the greatest (perceived) potential return and future. If you could only invest in one startup, which of these would it be?
While we love these discussions as much as any would-be investor, what we find most interesting about these lists of ‘hot’ startups is what they may indicate about broader shifts in people’s behavior, attitudes — and business models. The NYT’s list led us to note:
- Several of these have ‘mobile‘ as central to the use case they’re designed for, and of the problem or challenge they were meant to solve (Path, Square, Uber and even Dropbox).
- The ability to (visually) share + discover experiences seems to thread Pinwheel and Pinterest together: are we gaining satisfaction from pinning things we want to experience – even if we can’t actually do it?
- Sharing specialized knowledge is at the heart of both Quora and even Pinwheel.
- Taskrabbit and Uber both technically speak to collaborative consumption and the re-evaluation of ownership, providing the match-making service between service provider and customer.
- Dropbox is a cloud-based utility that allows users to access files from anywhere (and which may also play into the re-evaluation of ownership through sharing, based on how people are using the service).
- Path: The private, mobile social network exists only on your phone, limiting your activities to a limited group of friends. To date, there has been zero brand activity or presence on the network. With $250MM in financing – how will they monetize?
- Pinwheel: A service that lets you pin virtual notes to particular spots on the globe, like the best place to watch a sunset.
- Square: Jack Dorsey’s second venture allows small merchants to accept credit card payments through its simple, seamless technology. Valuation could inch as high as $4 Billion.
- Uber: Matching off-duty private drivers with stranded pedestrians anxious for a ride.
- Pinterest: A virtual pinboard and the subject of seemingly millions of stories in the past couple of months, the platform is currently the third most popular social network, following Facebook and Twitter.
- Quora: The question and answer site counts Former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers and Zuckerberg as users. But the question persists – how will they monetize long-term?
- Airtime: Sean Parker and Sean Fanning’s still-mysterious video-sharing service.
- Taskrabbit: A site that outsources – and matches – individuals with tasks they can’t or won’t complete themselves to those that are willing and able to complete them, for a price.
- Dropbox: With over 50 million users, the file-sharing service counts iCloud and Google Drive as competitors, but has resisted acquisition to date (including an earlier offer from Steve Jobs).
If you believe strongly in any one of these as ‘the next Instagram’ – let the New York Times know.