RSS Investment Fund too narrowly focused?
Upon hearing the announcement of the $100m RSS Investements Fund one might react to the news that the fund is too narrowly focused (on RSS) to be successful. One example of of this view is Paul Ketrosky's comment:
"While there are few hard and fast rules in venture capital, one is that people need to be disciplined about investing, but opportunistic about domains. Over-orthodox sector selection, right down to the level of specific transport protocols, is a marketing exercise, not a realistic approach to generating significant IRRs for limited partners."
Jim Moore, co-creator of the fund responds:
"...we are investing in much more than a standard (RSS writ small). We are investing in a space that is defined by the RSS approach to solutions, services, companies, and innovation.
We think the RSS space is already huge and has almost unimaginable potential. The reality is not that we are big and the space is too small. Relative to the space, we are small, and the RSS community is large, inclusive, and growing, and the RSS investment space is vast and expanding. We think we have plenty to work on!"
RSS is of those things that come along from time to time that can make hard to-do stuff easy. Looking at old problems with the RSS Looking Glass such as content management for example, reveal great opportunities.
As Dave Winer puts it (via Richard MacManus):
"RSS is more than a format, it's an approach to creating systems. He likened our web content management software to corporate publishing platforms, like Atex, which were cumbersome, hard to use, and even harder to manage. Connecting them to other manufacturer's systems was so hard that people practically never did it. The whole point of RSS, Jim argues (imho correctly) is to make connecting systems together so easy that users can do it themselves, without any help from system managers or vendors. This is a brilliant observation, in all my years thinking about RSS, I had never approached it from this direction."
As Steve Butler (Software Architect at Microsoft's MSDN & TechNet Product Group) explained to me earlier this year when describing an internal project: 'the whole page - the whole site is just a bunch of RSS feeds!' I paraphrase (forgive me Steve), but this realisation - that the grabbing, mixing and rendering of content/data from a multitude of different sources used to require large efforts of integration and can now be done so much more easily through a universally accepted schema and design approach is a big deal.
The excitement surrounding RSS is not just about about a specific transport protocol, - it is the new opportunities RSS enables that excites these investors, the technical community and the users.
Richard MacManus highlights some examples of end-user scenarios done more efficiently with RSS:
"- Track Fedex packages
- Get bargains at Ebay
- Get stock updates
- Get the weather reports
- Find out what people are saying about you, your company, your products
- Track Music, radio shows, TV clips
- Stay updated on someone's schedule
- Get cinema schedule updates
- Read your favourite comics
Check out the wiki for the whole list"
In my own personal 10 years of experience of using the web I can safely say there has been no more disruptive a technology than RSS - my own 'online content consumption' behaviour has been dramatically transformed through the advent of RSS. Every day, more and more people are realising the potential of RSS.
The bet this RSS Investment Fund is making - and I completely concur - is that the business of the web will be dramatically transformed through the advent of RSS.
Update: Just came across this Red Herring article 'RSS Goes Corporate':
"Whether they’re leading or following the bandwagon, enterprises are starting to realize that the strengths of RSS are great fits for the corporate environment. Email, web browsers, and databases often fall short when an enterprise wants to send a message to hundreds of thousands of global employees, to measure buzz about its products, to filter industry news for relevancy, or to synchronize employee’s web needs between work, home, and travel use."