Viral patterns are those ideas and products that you just can't put down. You immediately feel a need to show it to friends to gain social proof of your impression, and if your hunches are correct, to share with them something worthwhile. I like to imagine the original discovery of edible fruits was somewhat viral.
A woman walks up to a round thing on a tree, sniffs it and takes a bite. She runs back to her family and shares her find. Her family meets with other families and friends describing the wonders of this round fruit. Soon an entire world full of humans is eating apples. The original discovery is long forgotten, but the pattern remains.
What's an Alpha Business
When a company forms around a viral pattern and forges a new business space a Blue Ocean is opened up. Alpha Business is a term I use to describe a very specific type of company which nurtures an alpha or novel viral pattern into mainstream adoption while refining the product for optimal "business" utility*. Other businesses may come in and do a better job of executing but are not necessarily alpha businesses.
- Google didn't invent web search but their algorithm of leveraging human created links as a knowledge quality system was and still is a potent viral pattern
- Microsoft selling software was an alpha pattern
- Facebook social networking is not an alpha business but a highly tuned execution engine
- Twitter is an alpha business as it truly brought microblogging mainstream
One of the interesting features of studying viral patterns is that the change from something interesting to an explosive society altering pattern is usually something small and discrete. We're always caught up in utility, while we should be cognisant of intuitive flow.
What would a thought riff on viral patterns and alpha businesses be without acknowledgement of funding. Founders the world around posture and shape their startup ideas into something that fits the perception of potential financial backers who will share the risk. Out of numerous angel investors and early stage VCs there is a miniscule number of folks who appreciate the alignment of investor and founder business goals. These ladies and gents have strong business networks which are capable of getting introductions to powerful partners for the startups they foster. The jury is still out on whether the investors or the star founders are the king makers.
*= optimizing business utility usually translates into maximizing the profit from the average user. This usually decreases value at the edges for early adopters who in response seek greater value elsewhere.
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