Photo: National Archief via Flickr
Here’s something obvious that we haven’t seen anybody else point out. What are the three fastest growing startups of the past three years? Gilt Groupe, Zynga and Groupon.And what is the one thing that these three startups, which are in quite different businesses, all have in common?
Their core audience is women.
This is important because most tech entrepreneurs, as we’ve been reminded lately, are male. Tech investors are even more male.
But this isn’t just an amazing, multibillion dollar arbitrage opportunity for audacious entrepreneurs. It also tells us something about how far the internet has come, and where it’s going.
Right now, the internet is a teenager. It’s only been fifteen years since the web has become a mass medium. Fifteen year-olds grow very fast and start to show real signs of what they’ll be like as adults.
As we head into 2011, it’s worth taking a look at what is changing during those teenage years.
The best definition we heard of the nebulous concept “Web 2.0” was by Ross Mayfield and went something like this: Web 2.0 assumes the web is made of people, not just machines.
Who are the people who make up the internet? Well, they’re everyone. That’s the point.
The growing importance of women on the internet doesn’t just reflect the importance of women, it shows that the internet is becoming a much more mass medium than before.
Zynga grew much faster than Google, which was an extremely fast-growing company. And now Groupon is growing faster than Zynga.
But more important is how they grow. Usually a web service would start with a niche of early adopters, and then seep into the mainstream. This is how all web 1.0 companies, and many web 2.0 companies, grew. Zynga and Groupon, to the contrary, started right in the middle of mainstream and haven’t stopped, and when the tech set became aware of these companies they were already huge.
These companies, their trajectory and their audience, show that the internet is finally reaching critical mass. And this will create plenty of opportunities. You would think that a business model like Groupon’s could have existed in 1995, aggregating buyers and sellers by email. But for Groupon to work you need social networks so that deals can spread virally and tip. Much more importantly, you need a critical mass in cities big and small of normal people who are familiar enough with buying online to buy a coupon for a local spa.
This shows that, in Nikita Khrushchev’s words, “quantity has a quality all of its own.” This new massification of the internet doesn’t just mean that traditional internet businesses like Amazon will do very well, although it means that as well, it also means that it will allow new business models, like Groupon’s, to come into being.
In any case, the internet is finally turning into the internet. It’s going to be great.
NOW WATCH: Tech Insider videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.