Am I Bored With “Web 2.0”?

I read a comment on my “Looking For Inspiration” post this morning that suggested I was just getting bored with Web 2.0 like many others. It’s something I’ve considered a lot lately.

I am certainly not bored with the investments we have made at Union Square Ventures and many of them would be classified as “web 2.0”. There’s pretty much nothing I’d rather do outside of family time than spend a few hours talking with the entrepreneurs who run our companies about their businesses and the opportunity and challenges facing them. This collection of companies we have in our portfolio right now is certainly the best collection of companies I have ever had the opportunity to work with at one single time.

But I am a bit jealous of friends who are working on finding and funding alternative energy or biomedical technologies that have the potential to address the serious problems facing the world. At times it seems that helping the web become more social, intelligent, mobile, and playful is not as impactful.

That’s partially why I want to spend a month in Europe and will do that starting tomorrow. I want to see how the web is changing the world and I want to see how entrepreneurs who are operating with a different worldview are thinking about the power and potential of the web. I could do the same thing in Asia or some other part of the world, but Europe is particularly easy place to do this because of the range of cultures and countries within a couple hours plane ride from each other.

The work that we do at Union Square Ventures can’t just be about making money. At least that’s not enough for me. It has to be a force for positive social change. It needs to be about making the world a better place for our children and their children.

And certainly there is much about “web 2.0” that doesn’t seem to address that need. Throwing food at your friends on Facebook or twittering about the length of the line at the shake shack lands squarely in the “banality” camp that Kirby railed about in his essay on “pseudo modernism” that I blogged about last week.

As I make my way through Zakaria’s Post-American World, I am struck by the power of bringing the world together. As the “rest” modernizes in the next 20-40 years, we have a unique opportunity to create a world where people all feel like they belong to the same society. It’s already happening in business. Look at the EU to see a model of what the entire world could become.

And I think the web is driving this globalization. Most analysts, including Zakaria, talk about the power of instant news and information in driving globalization. But I think the impact of information flow (in the news sense) is tiny when compared to the power of social media.

Take a look at this map of the last 500 vistitors to this blog.

World_map

We are a community here at AVC. I didn’t start this blog to create a community. You all created it and I am blessed to be able to moderate it, to start the conversations that you all finish. And this community is a worldwide community.  I can name at least a dozen commenters who are in the top thirty most frequent commenters who live outside the US. They give our conversation a global perspective. Which is a glimpse of what we are going to have in all forms of society in the next thirty years.

www stands for world wide web. It was aptly named. It is the single most powerful force in global change. And if that is true, then it will be the single most powerful force in solving our world’s problems.

So I am not bored by the web. I do want to figure out how to use the web to answer some of Umair’s questions, how do we:


Organize the world’s hunger.
Organize the world’s energy.
Organize the world’s thirst.
Organize the world’s health.
Organize the world’s freedom.
Organize the world’s finance.
Organize the world’s education.

We are not doing enough of that right now. And that has to change. Maybe the answers lie in what’s
next. I am going to try to find out over the next year or two.

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