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Getting high on your own Svpply: When who’s using the service is part of the product

I learned about Svpply at Brooklyn Beta.  It's a beautifully uncomplicated service--you share cool products and follow the shared products of others.  Sharing is quick and easy.

It's been done before--whole social networks have been built out around the idea of product sharing and cool finds, but their comprehensiveness (complexity) seemed to be their downfall.  You couldn't throw enough buzz points, wishlists, and leaderboards at them to make them feel any more than a hamster on someone else's ecommerce intent wheel.  Svpply has few if any extra features--del.icio.us for stuff to buy, if you will.

The most valuable thing about Svpply, however, is that people with incredibly cool taste are using it--setting a very high bar for the interestingness of items that one feels comfortable posting there.  There hasn't been a lot of buzz about the service yet, so the people in my network who are using it are the people I'd consider to be tastemakers.

It's similar to the way LinkedIn started with Reid Hoffman and the network of Silicon Valley VC's that initially populated the service or the network of developers who were following Joel Spolsky and began the Stack Overflow community.  The same thing happened in the creatively skewed social graphs of Zach and Jakob at Vimeo, resulting in cool video submissions versus the random pirated mainstream sludge of early YouTube.  The list goes on...The initial Gilt userbase of successful female friends of Alexis and Alexandra, the private equity laden graph of the Doostang founders--capturing a certain group's attention goes a long way to creating that value of the service.  You could undoubtedly code up a Svpply clone in a hackathon, but you couldn't get Zach Klein using it and sharing it with his friends.  That creates some interesting social barriers to entry.

The question is whether or not this kind of highly influenced vibe is sustainable at scale.  It seems to have scaled well at Tumblr.  I wonder if the fact that Tumblr never made itself too easy to discover by the mainstream enabled it to stay cool.  You can't find your friends on it. It doesn't SEO well.  If you found it, you probably knew someone else using it and were taught a norm for what kind of content goes there before you started. 

If it doesn’t scale, you’ll wind up with Nebraska soccer moms adding Champion tube socks from Walmart.com.  Is that a good thing?  Bad thing?  Can you design around it?  Do you want to?

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