Remember when the internet was supposed to be a dehumanizing anti-social force destined to turn mankind into this:
Turns out evolution’s work over millions of years creating our social beings couldn’t be undone quite so quickly even by a force as mighty as the internet.
From the very beginning the Internet allowed the blossoming of previously impossible transnational relationships and collaborations at a previously impossible scale. And yet in the early BBS and IRC days the focus was still on virtual relationships and virtual experiences. The virtualization theme dominated the internet’s evolution right through the dot com bubble. Yet the bubble also comprised more social aspects of the internet economy. These included informal and formal get-togethers of people involved in the industry such as the First Tuesday events and Josh Harris’ infamous parties.
These helped foster a real sense of community amongst the web practitioners of the day. As usual in those circles the natural urge was to take the idea and use the internet to spread it globally and make a buck. Meetup was launched in an America that was reading Putnam’s Bowling Alone
and more specifically in a forever changed NY post 9-11 with a renewed focus on community and in many ways fathered the long, slow rebuilding of the NY tech scene that’s currently one of the hottest outside of the Valley. Scott Heiferman cleverly married the internet’s decentralized dna to human’s social dna helping to turn latent interest groups around the world into real world communities.
Probably NY tech meetup attendees themselves, Perry Chen and Yancey Strickler took the community building potential of the internet and its ever powerful potential for identifying latent groups (HT Clay Shirky) a step further towards the decentralized participatory ideals of the web’s founding fathers when they launched a crowdfunding platform enabling like-minded individuals around the world to become micro-patrons of their chosen arts. They were inspired by this Kevin Kelly blog post:
Patronage — It is my belief that audiences WANT to pay creators. Fans like to reward artists, musicians, authors and the like with the tokens of their appreciation, because it allows them to connect. But they will only pay if it is very easy to do, a reasonable amount, and they feel certain the money will directly benefit the creators. Radiohead’s recent high-profile experiment in letting fans pay them whatever they wished for a free copy is an excellent illustration of the power of patronage. The elusive, intangible connection that flows between appreciative fans and the artist is worth something. In Radiohead’s case it was about $5 per download. There are many other examples of the audience paying simply because it feels good.
Both companies are seeking to build real world participatory communities (made real and participatory by action: location and investments respectively) around interests utilizing the internet’s decentralized backbone.
Interesting to note that USV are investors in both.