22. May 2013–
So Mark Zuckerberg, boss of some social networking site or other and all-round really rich guy has been traipsing round Berlin in the last few days. The excitement here was more than if Jesus, son of God himself, had climbed up the Fernsehturm and started singing Hurrah.
But Zuck's visit was a tad more subdued, with the head of the Western economy meeting with some lesser-known politicians, enquiring politely as to the workings of German democracy. We know not why. Perhaps he was simply avoiding Philipp Rösler in Silicon Valley.
One startup insider may have the answer: "I think this deal makes a lot of sense. The FDP has been running out of voters and ideas for a long time and being part of Facebook will enable them to do things at Zuck-scale. Also, it'll help Facebook to rejuvenate its image and regain its "cool" – let's not forget that the FDP still has access to roughly 300 business students in Germany..."
But if the buoyant billionaire *were* in a buying mood in Berlin, who would be in the running for an acquisition? We take a look at some of the contenders...
Already dubbed "the Facebook for scientists", ResearchGate has recently proved its worth with a $20m investment at a time when most Berlin startups are raising a few thousand and a case of Club Mate. The company connects scientists and research data, and claims 2.6 million users... with several thousand new sign-ups each day. And let's not forget, these users will be an educated and engaged bunch. If Zuck was looking for a new vertical, this could be it.
Remember Myspace? Of course you don't. That's because you've had it erased from your memory, Men in Black style. It was either that or claw your own eyes, then brain, out. Not even a Trousersnake endorsement could redeem the memory of what happens when you let hoi polloi near a control panel.
But as a platform with music at its core, MySpace bests Facebook by miles. I have an email from my ex-boyfriend in 2007 that reads: "Yeah, I tired Facebook today... it's like MySpace without the music. I'm not convinced...". He's a tech journalist.
Wouldn't it be great to have a fully integrated music player on your social network, and an easy way to share and distribute your tunes? If Facebook snapped up SoundCloud, the service could continue to experiment with native advertising, but to 1.11 billion monthly active users. Ker-ching.
Zuck's love affair with social games maker Zynga has cooled somewhat this year, with the online gaming company stalling while Facebook's gaming community continues to grow. Facebook states that Q1 was its largest quarter of games revenue to date — despite a 37 per cent drop in year-over-year payments from Zynga, with Zuck pouting that Zynga's growth "hasn’t been as awesome as everyone had hoped".
Maybe its time for Wooga, Merkel's favourite startup, to fill the void, especially given its stronger focus on speedy mobile transition, one of the main failings of Zynga.
The former poster child of the Berlin startup scene has a great team, a slick concept and Ashton Kutcher as a BFF. Using peer recommendations, you can browse opinions and create your own ad hoc city or entertainment guides or "best nearby"s on mobile. It could provide a nice rationalisation of throwing out random questions for your Facebook friends to answer. And it'd also be nice and cheap.
"What should I do tonight?” is a question that Facebook normally answers with "waste all your night on Facebook". But if you manage to break out of the cycle of procrastination, then you need some peer-based inspiration. Sure, Facebook has bundled in Suggested Events for a couple of years, but it desperately needs to develop a native event-discovery feature into something more fun, functional and lucrative. We reckon ultimate chancers Vamos could be the boys for the job, especially given its new partnerships with ticketing services... and Facebook Events.
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