Beyond the Launch: SeedHive and the Stages of Entrepreneurship

12 Aug

RapLeaf

Businesses face different challenges at different stages in their development. An individual entrepreneur, batting around a business idea, faces fundamentally different questions and challenges than one who already has a prototype, one who has raised angel funding, and one who is looking for an exit through IPO or acquisition. It’s a simple concept, but one which I had failed to consider in my initial thinking on SeedHive, a business concept for an entrepreneur’s social network.

This modest but important revelation is courtesy Manish Shah, the co-founder and CEO of RapLeaf, a business which helps you manage your reputation online. I contacted Manish in order to get his reaction to the SeedHive concept as someone who fits squarely into my target user profile: he’s young, smart, web connected, and running a small business. His thoughts were valuable, and gave me pause.

Staying relevant to entrepreneurs of all stages

Businesses face different obstacles as they mature. As Manish said in our conversation, “It’s not always ‘early days.'” An entrepreneur may start with question about the basics, like how to find a good business partner, or how to legally incorporate. With time, however, those questions will shift to things like “How do I hire people?” “How much should I pay them, and how (equity, cash, etc)?”

In order for SeedHive to succeed, it would need to be both helpful for the newbies, and for those with experience. In essence, its success would hinge on the site’s ability to follow their journey.

Manish predicted that entrepreneurs would likely use the site in bursts. They might be extremely active and engaged in the community for a week or two at a time, as they tackle a new challenge, but then will “put their heads down” and get to work. Only if the site had proven truly useful in that initial period would they return when the next obstacle presented itself.

How he got started

Manish became an entrepreneur straight out of university, networking his way into a partnership with an experienced entrepreneur. In many ways, his partner’s knowledge of entrepreneurship, experience, and networks, eliminated the need for Manish to seek help to the basic questions of how to start a business, thus reducing the likelihood that he would have sought out the forums of SeedHive for advice.

Given his own experience, Manish strongly advocated that someone seeking a route into the world of startups must start through networking. Since Silicon Valley operates very much through informal networks, the onus is upon the entrepreneur to get plugged in. In this regard, SeedHive might hold some promise, since it would allow entrepreneurs and VCs to find each other easily, and start relationships online which could be transferred into the real world.

Challenges for a business social network

“Social network fatigue” is an ailment affecting not only Manish but many of the friends whom I would classify as “early adopters.” While Facebook is a novelty to my friends here in London, social networks seem like yesterday’s news to those in the Bay Area. If that attitude is consistent with the venture capital audience (which it likely is) then SeedHive might struggle to raise funding.

Most importantly, however, if the very people I would hope to be reaching with SeedHive, young, “plugged in,” entrepreneurs, are tired of social networks, and less likely to join and give it a try, the site might never get off the ground.

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One Response to “Beyond the Launch: SeedHive and the Stages of Entrepreneurship”

  1. Tony August 13, 2007 at 4:35 am #

    It’s not that people have grown tired of social networks. The problem is that many aren’t useful. It’s a painful process to get a successful one working (as a user) because you have to invite people, convince your friends to join, etc. So there has to be an overarching reason for people to participate.

    Like we can have many different groups of friends, i don’t think it’s a stretch to have many different online communities. Facebook’s got the social aspect. Other sites have a different approach – last.fm (music), linkedin (career), zecco (investing). As long as SeedHive is focused and can provide real benefit to your users that they don’t get anywhere else, and as long as a community adds additional value, you’d be fine.

    That’s a big statement though 🙂

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