Today I finish off my Top Web 2.0 series (see Winners and Losers) with my list of the Top 5 Web 2.0 Upstarts to keep an eye out for. As with the prior two lists, coming up with a clear definition of what constitutes an upstart will be difficult, but for the sake of both simplicity and argument, let’s just say that an upstart is one that is gaining momentum and isn’t necessarily flooded with the attention that the other Web 2.0 darlings seem to achieve.
- Cyworld. Already a major hit in South Korea, Cyworld is the fun social networking site that actually has a revenue model that is only partly based on advertising. You can customize your cyber room to your heart’s content and if you still aren’t happy after spending all of your acorns you can buy more accessories.
Building your room and your online persona might seem kiddie and Barbie-like, but once you get started it is hard to stop and I can easily seeing this gaining ground quick in the US. The US version will more than likely use advertising more than the Asia version because our youth market isn’t known for paying for anything.
- Netvibes. Having recently reported over 5 million users the question still remains who wants to use custom homepage portals? The answer seems to be a lot of people. With competition from heavyweights Google and Yahoo, it’s nice to see the little guy (well over $15MM in funding might not make you so little anymore) rise to the challenge.
Even better is to see them make money from partnerships that utilize custom modules instead of attempting to plaster the site with ads. It will be interesting to see how well they can grow without turning every homepage into a Yahoo portal clone.
- Guba. Guba has been around for some time in one form or another, but have now made the transition towards an online video seller. You can watch free movies, watch premium movies ($0.99) and TV shows ($0.49) online. The site used to be catered more towards adult-oriented sites, but now it is starting to hit the mainstream.
The challenge now is to see how well they can compete with Apple and their new iTunes Movie section. For now they have the upperhand by providing a more diverse selection of movies, but how long will that last?
- VideoEgg. When you have AOL, bebo and others using your technology to power their video offerings you know you have a hit on your hand. By offering their technology to any site that will allow their users to upload videos without leaving the site, VideoEgg has setup a platform that has a good chance of grabbing a hold of the online video wave and never letting go.
Add to all of this craziness their recently launched video ad network and you have a company that doesn’t look like they will be slowing down anytime soon.
- coComment. The only upstart on the list with no clear business model (when has that stopped something from being cool before?), but definitely a technology that is needed to keep track of all the conversations you try to maintain across the web. By making sure their technology works on a majority of the publishing platforms on the web, coComment has instilled themselves as the leader of the conversation tracking arena.
Of all the upstarts I think coComment will have the hardest time of surviving (although I think they will) because it might be hard to monetize conversations in a way that makes the service worth it. The rest of the list seem well on their way to riches and acquisitions and it will be very interesting to see what happens to them over the next year. I wish the list could have been longer, but it is hard to find companies that survive past their initial hype and continue to show strong growth and innovation. Competition is fierce and it’s good to see the smart companies rise to the top.