Collaborate to Innovate: The Rise of Social Networks

I attended a Nesta event on Monday, Collaborate to Innovate. Ronald Burt of the Chicago Graduate School of Business spoke about some of his research regarding social networks. Ronald has conducted extensive research on interaction between social clusters. The key conclusion is that value resides in the white spaces. Brokers, social flies, serial networkers, etc are most likely to benefit from cross-pollination between different social (or work) groups/communities.

The second topic for the evening was the rise of online social networks. For most anyone reading this, you’re well versed in social networks. The important point made is that there are really two key types of social networks- those focused on the person, such as LinkedIn, and those focused on people’s attributes, like musical taste, such as Lastfm, where the actual individual takes a back seat.

Thinking about where the white spaces are around my social networks, it makes sense to think about your (or my) attributes: American, VC, Chemist, Blogger, Guitarist, Mac Zelot, etc…any of those place me within potentially new "social networks".

Where would you look for disruptive, insightful, new social interaction?


  1. Jason,

    Thanks for the post and glad you found the event of interest. Sorry we didn’t get a chance to catch up but hope to see you around.

    Roland (NESTA Connect)

  2. Isn’t mybloglog an example of a social network based around blogging? And WAYN a good example of social networking around Travel? Maybe there is a need for social networks around social networks 😉

    Guitarist eh? I’ve been given a hand me down guitar from a friend to learn on (as if having a full time job and doing an MBA haven’t given me enough to do), so do you give lessons? 😉

  3. I actually think there *is* a need for social networks around social networks.

    Yes, I am a guitarist- my musical taste (to the lower left of the site) includes, among other things, guitar-based (heavy) music like Muse and Tool. I actually took lessons from a neo-classical metal guitarist that had learned from Jason Becker and Marty Friedman (Cacophony and Megadeth). I guess it seems like a strange mix: VC and Metal Guitarist, but hey, if Nivi is the resident VC drummer, there’s gotta be room for a VC guitarist…

  4. So are you funding bands? Complete with drums, keyboard, vocals, base and lead? I should tell some of my friends who have been contemplating starting one. After all there is only so much cricket one can play in spare time!

  5. I’m not so sure our investment strategy could be stretched to cover bands…but I do think VCs could learn a lot from the music industry approach- especially the ones doing seed investments…

  6. For videos of the Nesta C2I event, please check out:

    PS. I think there would be a considerable value in comparing the business models of music and film producers approach to finding talent verses VCs. My gut feeling is they are far more similar than they may at first appear: 1000 demos/scripts received; 100 followed up; 10 artists/scriptwriters signed; 7 sink without trace; 2 break even; 1 superstar/blockbuster…

  7. Roland,

    You’re right about the drop off rates to get to a blockbuster- that mirrors venture numbers well.

    It’s also worth thinking about the current problem with the music industry – it’s becoming fragmented and its getting harder to achieve those blockbusters- which mirrors the current thinking that “VC is broken”. My post on Monday highlights some of the changes in distribution helping indie bands reach customers- which isn’t a million miles away from what’s happening with Web 2.0 companies. What can we learn from Lilly Allen and Flickr?

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