Garbage Social Networks

I have a friend, Frank Gerber, who writes a nice blog called Frankly Green
about environmental issues and things we can all do to improve our
immediate environments. He has me thinking a lot about my daily
routines ranging from driving my car to throwing away trash at our
house. In particular, I have been amazed by the amount of garbage that
we throw out each week…even more so when I think about all of the
houses doing this week after week. I am amazed we can find homes for
all of this. So, enough environmental rambling…

I was also intrigued by the Nike+ program where you drop their sensor
in your shoe and then upload your run data from your iPod to their
community website. You can compete & compare to friends or to
random people around the world. It creates social nets around running.
It got me thinking about this in the environmental sense.

What if you had a similar type of site for different types of
environmental factors. Interested people could, for example, weigh
their garbage weekly and post it to a community site. Being
environmentally friendly is becoming all the rage and people are
competitive by nature while also wanting to be part of community. This
would lever all of the above towards a common good. People could see
how their consumption compares to other families of similar size. They
could have discussion areas where they shared what they were doing to
reduce consumption/waste and best practices. You could embed awards and
such to this. Since it requires weighing your garbage, it is not overly
invasive and people seem to be looking for ways to get green. This is
not an investment idea as I don’t think the purpose should be economic
though you could possible generate some revenue (and donate it).

I believe that it is becoming increasingly difficult to make horizontal
"social net" sites work. The barriers are too low and there is too much
noise. However, using the learned dynamics of community from the first
wave could benefit future efforts that embed social nets into their
solution. I see social nets as a tool or enabler and not necessarily a
stand alone investment concept.

Anyways, this is the random thinking of a VC…

3 thoughts on “Garbage Social Networks

  1. Matt —
    Interesting post. I’ve seen other posts on social networking recently, and commented on one just yesterday:

    In my opinion, the success of a social networking site depends heavily on repeat visits, which in turn relies on the need to find people or information (the more targeted/relevant the better). You make an interesting point about having “team” networks where everyone is working towards a common goal or cause. I agree that regardless of the specific application, a successful social networking site is an enabler — in particular, by fulfilling a real need for finding people or information.


  2. I like the general idea of using the dynamics of a social net to set up a competitive structure to motivate environmental conservation.

    Another spinoff…
    A recycling company, on their database, logs total amounts of recycled materials brought in by specific contestants who subscribe to the same green social network. Those running logs could then be posted by the recycling company onto the social network for all to see.

  3. Matt,

    Thanks for this insight from a VC’s perspective. As our firm begins its initial forays into identifying enterprise customers, we will keep in mind these words of wisdom in outlining our progess to our Board.

    -Dave Peak

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