Are we in a social media bubble? #SMWF

Today’s session at the Social Media World Forum (Africa) on Social Media Start Ups addressed the question: Are we in a social media bubble? This is what some of the speakers had to say …
(Full list of panelists below)

Patrick ( – We’re in the “cambrian” phase of the internet – where there is an “eruption of life”. People are now exploring the online world to do lots of things they used to do in the bricks and mortar world only. An example is – helping you with your “todo” list, where very real things are actually being done, but primarily facilitated by online connections. The problem with this is that the pace at which these things are happening is outstripping the demand.
The currency of demand is “attention”.

In order to use and integrate an online service into your life takes a lot of time, attention and energy. This means you can’t take on too many that require updating on a daily basis. Fundamentally, there are too many things being developed for the attention to soak them all up. For start ups, this means that you shouldn’t expect to create something that the whole world will love. What you can aim to do is service a niche very well.

Vincent ( says that there is no bubble. Nowdays VCs (Venture Capitalists) tend to make smaller investments over a broader portfolio. This limits risk and brings on earlier inevitable failure which essentially hastens the natural attrition rate – those that come through will be more likely to succeed and less money is spent on what would fail anyway.

Paul Cartmel ( says that there is a partial bubble. The big players like facebook and twitter are sound. However, the little guys tagging along (such as yfrog and twitpic) are not quite as sound – so when twitter starts their own picture sharing model (recently announced) then what hope is there for independent photo sharing facilities? Facebook’s value is in tying in content like micropayments, ticketing, video renting, music etc. this kind of model is sound and will be around for long time.

However, Daniel ( cautions that small start ups based on success of other social media e.g. those developing APIs for facebook can be vulnerable to facebook changes.

How do you find a niche to compete effectively, against the giants of fb, twitter, linkedin (if they’re ultimately just going to gobble up your space)?

Daniel ( says that mobiles in Africa are currently overlooked by the big players – so there is space to grow something worthwhile before they get into that territory.

Paul Cartmel ( says that their service www. uses curation to set itself apart. Their location based service platform sifts out the rubbish and curates content which adds value. Often users of facebook places and foursquare include their home, gym, friend’s houses etc as “places” that end up cluttering the platform. Curation provides value. They still use the platforms available on facebook connect etc., but link back to their service.

Patrick( says that facebook, twitter, linkedin etc are just enablers, an environment.  You can add value by building content and interaction to use those particular platforms.

Vincent ( spoke about how Motribe is often compared to facebook, with people question why someone would use motribe as opposed to facebook. Facebook’s agenda is clear – they are building something for themselves, and it is a very open, social platform. For users wanting to share the “dark side” of themselves, they are happy to create an alternative identity on another platform, where their mother/teacher or some moral superior will not have access or be able to judge them.

Also, for companies/clients wanting to build their own networks, they want to OWN and MINE their data, which they can’t do on facebook.

Moderator: Michelle Atagana, Editor,memeburn   
Vincent Maher, Co-founder, Motribe
Patrick Kayton, Co-founder, Cognician
Daniel Guasco,
CEO Groupon
Paul Cartmel, Founder, New Media Labs,
Daniel Schwartzkopff, CEO,

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