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What Virtual Events Can Learn From Groupon, Quora and FarmVille

December 18, 2010

Introduction

Successful web sites provide a great opportunity: the chance to study what makes them successful and apply those learnings to your own websites or applications.  In 2010, three of the “most talked about” web sites were Groupon, Quora and FarmVille (though FarmVille is more a discrete app, rather than a web site).  Let’s consider how some of their concepts can be applied to virtual event experiences.

Groupon


Groupon is said to be in the local advertising space, but they’re really much more than that.  They’ve hit the mark with a group buying phenomenon (using bulk purchasing to drive down prices) combined with creative and entertaining email copy that keeps subscribers eager to receive the next day’s email.

Groupon, which serves local businesses, segments their offering by geography.  So I might subscribe via San Jose, CA and receive offers from merchants who are near me.  But the Groupon model could certainly apply to national or even global brands.

Group Viewing at Virtual Trade Shows

Now, let’s consider a common dynamic at virtual trade shows.  Exhibitors (sponsors) would like to get their message across to attendees, while attendees are resistant to hearing unsolicited product pitches.

How can you “arbitrate” this situation?  Consider Groupon, where the “daily deal” only registers when a certain number of users agree to purchase the item(s).  Here’s how it might work with sponsor presentations (webinars) at a virtual trade show:

  1. Five sponsors list their webinar title in the trade show Auditorium
  2. Each sponsor is “on alert”, ready to begin broadcasting their live presentation
  3. No presentation begins until it receives 50 (or more) viewers
  4. The presentation continues, only if it can continually sustain 35 simultaneous viewers – if it drops below 35 viewers for more than 5 minutes, the presentation closes

Benefits

  1. Puts portions of the presentation agenda in the hands of attendees
  2. Forces sponsors to present on relevant topics
  3. Forces sponsors to “deliver what they sold” with regard to the presentation
  4. Ups the overall quality of sponsor presentations, as sponsors need to both “sell” the topic and sustain the audience

Quora

Quora is “a continually improving collection of questions and answers created, edited, and organized by everyone who uses it.”  Question and Answer (Q&A) services have been around for some time. Quora has picked up steam in 2010 due to the quality of the members participating (e.g. some of the leading thinkers on the web – and in Silicon Valley).

In virtual events, experts and leading thinkers in a particular industry have gathered online.  They can listen to featured experts (e.g. the presenters), but the event doesn’t fully extract and share the collective knowledge of those assembled. If done right, a Q&A service layered on top of a virtual event can be quite useful.

In fact, let’s consider a related Q&A service, Aardvark, which is now part of Google.  With Aardvark, “you email or instant-message your question to Aardvark, it figures out around half a dozen people you know who might have a good answer, then emails or IMs them for a response and sends what they say back to you.” (source: VentureBeat article).

A virtual event platform could implement a “Quora meets Aardvark” model, whereby questions are distributed to online attendees – and answers are fed back in semi-real-time.  Questions (and their answers) could be shared not only with the requester – but, all attendees, based on their selection of particular topics.

FarmVille

On the surface, FarmVille is about planting your virtual crops and tending to your virtual farm.  But below the surface, its “power” is in the psychological reward of achieving success in something you take pride in.  It’s the same dynamic that fuels entrepreneurs (who take pride in their businesses) and Twitter power users (who take pride in their following).

As virtual events shift from “point in time” live events to “365 day communities”, the challenge becomes how to sustain an ongoing and active community – who will visit the environment on days where absolutely nothing is scheduled.  It’s the same challenge Zynga had – how do you incent farmers to tend to their virtual farm each day?

Virtual Farm Meets Virtual Community

For virtual communities, there needs to be a parallel to that virtual farm – an abstraction that allows members to feel psychological reward when they’ve done something meaningful.  Ideas include:

  1. Elevated  member profiles. Turn the “vanilla” user profile of today into the parallel of the virtual farm
  2. “Pimp my space”. Exhibitors get to build booths – now, allow attendees the freedom to create their own spaces and receive ratings on them
  3. Leverage “status badges” on the profiles – but ensure that demand consistently outstrips supply
  4. “Rate the ratings” – allow members to rate the worthiness of a rating (a la Amazon.com, and “Was this review helpful to you?”) – top rated members receive elevated status in the community
  5. Prominent Leaderboards related to particular activities, games, etc. – these can be a tremendous draw, as users continually return to check on their position on the board

Conclusion

Groupon, Quora and FarmVille have taught us some valuable lessons.  The rising demand for virtual events tells us something as well.  Aardvark may have hit upon the right model – in which they combined social collaboration with a real-time (or semi-real-time) component.  Perhaps Grouopon and the like have something to “learn” from virtual as well.

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FountainBlue’s Virtual Worlds Annual Conference (2010)

August 11, 2010

On September 24th 2010, FountainBlue will hold its “Second Annual State of the Virtual Worlds Industry Event” on Cisco’s campus in Milpitas, CA (USA).  The title of the event is:

Virtual Worlds: Where We Were, Where We’re Going, What Does It Mean to YOU?

Register to Attend

The conference will host three panels of virtual worlds experts and thought leaders – one on industry trends facilitate by Jeff Pope (Founding Partner, Spark Sky Ventures), another featuring industry entrepreneurs and facilitated by Nina Gerwin (Founder, The NRG Group) and one that I’m facilitating on corporate use of virtual worlds.

Linda Holroyd, Founder and CEO of FountainBlue answered a few questions about FountainBlue and this virtual worlds event:

Q: Tell us about FountainBlue.

A: FountainBlue stimulates collaborative innovation one conversation, one leader, one organization at a time, through our monthly events, our dynamic communities, and our strategic and business development consulting services for early stage clean energy, high tech and life science entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley and beyond.

Q: Who should attend this conference?

A: This conference is for virtual worlds and other high tech entrepreneurs involved in or interested in this hot space, for intrapreneurs involved with virtual worlds solutions building brand and serving customers, and investors interested in investing in this space.

Q: Why should they attend?

A: FountainBlue events are known both for the quality of the speakers and program, but also for the value of the quality, win-win, long-term connections created. Both are highly valued in creating an entrepreneurial community in this exciting area.

Q: On virtual worlds and “where we’re going”, what is your opinion?

A: The opportunities in virtual worlds brings together the best of enterprise solutions which automate business process to better serve customers at all levels, the best of social media and its capacity to expand audiences virally leveraging technology, and the best of gaming with its fanatical appeal to extremely loyal customers. It is a hot Web 3.0 opportunity, which takes the technology, community, and monetizing potential of Web 2.0 to the next level.

Q: Tell us about other upcoming events from FountainBlue?

A: FountainBlue produces monthly events for clean energy and life science entrepreneurs as well as a Tech2Green series for executives transitioning into the clean energy industry and a When She Speaks Women in Leadership series, supporting women entrepreneurs and leaders. We run annual events for the high tech entrepreneurs in our community, which includes an annual freemium-to-premium event, an annual M&A event, an annual data analytics event, as well as an annual virtual worlds conference – this one, which we are conducting for the second consecutive year. We facilitate the cross-over between communities in support of entrepreneurial ventures.

Q: How do you support early stage entrepreneurs beyond connecting them through regular events?

A: FountainBlue supports entrepreneurs through one-on-one strategic and business development consulting for early stage clean energy, high tech (including virtual worlds) and life science entrepreneurs. We help our founders develop and refine business models and strategies and work with founders to build momentum with initial customers and strategic partnerships.

FountainBlue’s Virtual Worlds Annual Conference

Topic: Virtual Worlds: Where We Were, Where We’re Going, What Does It Mean to YOU?
Date & time: Friday, September 24, 2010, from 8:30 a.m. until 3:00 p.m PT
Location: Cisco, Great Dane Conference Room at MCCARTHY RANCH 3 (SJCMR3), 155 North McCarthy Blvd., Milpitas, CA
Cost: Register by September 22 at noon: $42 members, $52 partners, $62 general
Late and On-Site Registration: $62 for members, $32 for non-members
Registration: http://www.svvirtualworlds.com by 9/22 at noon
Audience: Entrepreneurs, Intrapreneurs and Investors only. No service providers please.

Description
FountainBlue’s Second Annual State of the Virtual Worlds Industry conference updates entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs and investors on the successes, challenges and trends of the industry overall, and showcases corporate and entrepreneurial virtual world demos. Beginning with a panel sharing the growth of the industry from the legal, venture, research and corporate perspectives, the program will next highlight how leading corporations are leveraging virtual worlds solutions to better serve their constituents, and culminating in showcasing early stage, funding-bound virtual worlds entrepreneurs with a range of solutions pushing the technology and business envelope.

Agenda

8:30 Registration and Networking

9:00 Welcomes and Thank Yous

9:15 Trends in the Virtual Worlds Industry: An Update on What’s New and What’s Coming

Facilitator Jeff Pope, Founding Partner, Spark Sky Ventures
Tim Chang, Principal, Norwest Ventures
David Helgason, CEO and Co-Founder, Unity
Chris Platz, Creative Director and Art Lead, Stanford Sirikata Labs
Eilif Trondsen, Research and Program Director of the Virtual Worlds @ Work Consortium at Strategic Business Insights
Mark Wallace, Conversation Manager, Linden Lab

10:20  Morning Break

10:35 Corporate Panel: Serving Customers, Building Communities, Training Users

Facilitator Dennis Shiao, Director of Product Marketing, INXPO
Mic Bowman, Intel
Dannette Veale, Global Virtual Event Strategist, Cisco, Lead, Virtual Component, Cisco Live
Another Corporate Presenter to be confirmed

11:40   Lunch and Networking

12:30   Entrepreneur Panel: The Tools, The Goods, The Immersion Experience

Facilitator Nina Gerwin, The NRG Group
Michael Gold, CEO, Electrotank:
Steve Hoffman, CEO, Rocketon: virtual world for tweeners
Albert Kim, CEO, Zenitum: Augmented reality with 3D displays
Jim Parker, CEO, Digitell: SaaS 3D immersive virtual events and virtual training
Reuben Steiger, Founder and Chairman, Virtual Greats

1:30 Adjourn and Further Networking and Corporate Exhibits and Entrepreneur Showcases open until 2:00

For more information and to register, visit http://www.svvirtualworlds.com.

Thank You to Our Sponsors:
We are grateful to our sponsors at Cisco for their ongoing sponsorship of FountainBlue’s annual virtual world’s conference.

(Technorati code: 2KFW26VPVNTT)

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Silicon Valley Virtual Worlds Conference: Seeking Expert Panelists

July 21, 2010

On September 24th 2010, FountainBlue will hold its “Second Annual State of the Virtual Worlds Industry Event” in Silicon Valley (California/USA).  The topic of the event is:

Virtual Worlds: Where We Were, Where We’re Going, What Does It Mean to YOU?

Previously, I posted a summary of the 2009 event.

This year, I’ll be moderating a panel discussion on corporate use of virtual worlds – the title of the session is:

Corporate Panel: Serving Customers, Building Communities, Training Users

I’m seeking expert panelists (local to the Bay Area / Silicon Valley) who have used virtual worlds in a corporate setting (e.g. for customer engagement, marketing, community building and learning/training).

If you’re interested in being a panelist, drop a comment below, find me on Twitter (@dshiao) or send email to dshiao (at) yahoo (dot) com.

Here are more details about this event:

FountainBlue’s Virtual Worlds Annual Conference
Topic: Virtual Worlds: Where We Were, Where We’re Going, What Does It Mean to YOU?
Date & time: Friday, September 24, 2010, from 8:30 a.m. until 3:00 p.m.
Location: TBD – Silicon Valley (USA)
Cost: Register by September 23 at noon: $42 members, $52 partners, $62 general
Late and On-Site Registration: $83 for members, $93 for non-members
Registration Link: http://www.fountainblue.biz/virtualworlds.html
Audience: Entrepreneurs, Intrapreneurs and Investors only. No service providers please.

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Call for Virtual World Executive Summaries

March 23, 2009

FountainBlue produces “monthly events for clean energy, high tech, and life science entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley (US / California)”. Earlier this month, FountainBlue held its first Virtual Worlds event, ” Virtual Worlds: The Hype, The Reality, The In-Between”. I attended the event and provided a summary of the virtual worlds panelists’ discussions. FountainBlue now plans to produce an annual virtual worlds event, with the first one on September 25, 2009.  According to FountainBlue:

This annual conference will showcase where we’ve been and where we’re going in virtual worlds, featuring key stakeholders, including entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs, and investors in this space. There will be two morning panels: one on Virtual Worlds – What is it, Where Has it Been? And the second one is on: Where Will Virtual Worlds Take Us. As part of this event, we will also feature Corporate Exhibits on Virtual World and profile Six Virtual World Entrepreneurs, the winners of this business plan competition.

Here’s a draft agenda of the September event:

8:00    Networking and Registration
8:30    Welcomes and Thank Yous, Audience Input On What They Would Like Covered
8:40    Presentation on Virtual Worlds – What is it, Where Has it Been?
9:00    Questions from the Audience
9:10    Panel Discussion: Where Will Virtual Worlds Take Us?
9:40    Questions from the Audience
9:50    Morning Break, Corporate Virtual World Tables on Display
10:20  Six Virtual World Fast Pitches, 15 minute rounds each
11:45  Awards, Closure and Networking
12:00  Adjourn

FountainBlue notes the following criteria for submitting an executive summary:

Early stage, funding-bound entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs are invited to submit their executive summaries by visiting http://www.acteva.com/booking.cfm?bevaid=180447, completing the questions on the registration page (following the format available at http://fountainblue.biz/images/Executive_Summary_Submission_Form.pdf) and paying the $20-$30 registration fee by noon on August 14.

Process for Submitting Plans

March 20    First Call for Exec Summaries
August 1    Last Call for Exec Summaries
August 14  Deadline for Exec Summaries Submissions (@ noon)
Sept 15      Announcing Six Finalists (by noon)
9/15-22      Informal Meetings with Finalists
Sept 25      Annual Virtual Worlds Event, with Presentation by Finalists

Process for Pitching During the Annual Event
The Six Virtual World Entrepreneurs will be conducting fast pitches, 15 minute rounds each, broken down as follows:

  1. 3-minute pitches
  2. 3-minutes Q&A with judging panel
  3. 2-minute feedback from judges
  4. 1-minute additional feedback from the audience

For more information on this event, contact: info@svvirtualworlds.com


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