Attack of the MyMajor Clones – a French Malady?

Seems everyone these days wants to be another Groupon, Foursquare – or even Chatroulette. And I can’t blame them. When a model works in one country or industry, why not just modify it a bit, apply it to a new market and hope for it to take off? Sounds like a game plan to me.

Enter MyMajor.

In France, one group of clones has sprung off of the success of MyMajorCompany (MMC). For anyone who doesn’t know, the company is essentially a participative music label. Translation: crowd-sourced funding for music production. Yes, that means any old nobody with a bank account and a minimum of €10 can essentially become a music producer once the total funding for an artist hits €100k. And to make a long story short, the model took off in France, is now distributed by Warner Music France and has produced some local best-sellers, like Grégoire (don’t ask my opinion on his music please). FYI: this is yesterday’s news in France, as the company has been around since 2007 and started making headlines shortly after.

Cut, copy, crowd-fund.

So OK, I’ve seen a lot of clones of all types of companies and to be honest, I’m not against it. Plus, for the crowd-sourcing/crowd-funding models, I actually think they often capture the beauty of the internet/web 2.0 – and I’m fairly certain this trend is unique to France as a direct result of MyMajor’s success. Another French company that has done a brilliant job in leveraging the crowd via internet is MyFab (obviously a slightly different model). But now I see this model being applied left and right to every last product or sector you can think of – from furniture to start-ups. A majority of the ideas are actually quite interesting but seriously, what’s next? 

MyMajorVC?

I’ve recently seen several companies try to pitch the MyMajor model for crowd-funding start-ups (I told you French companies were creative with funding) and I’m particularly skeptical of this idea. For music, the model works because it’s more or less a B2C market; consumers know what they like so by funding, they are essentially pre-selecting and confirming a future purchase. Oh, and the ROI is not too shabby. But for a silly bypasser betting €10 on a random B2B start-up – I’m just not sure that would amount to anything other than, well, €10. Then again, with all the ISF funding floating around in France, I’m not sure it’s really all that different.

YouFund, iFund?

Still, I actually think that this model could be refined for a specific type of product or start-up and work very nicely. It just needs to be well-implemented and not addressed to all start-ups as a whole. Crowd-fund something small. Like an app. Perhaps this model could give KPCB’s iFund a run for it’s money? Oh, and that’s $200 million, to be exact.

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Was Loic Le Meur’s Seesmic the precursor to Chatroulette?

Disclaimer: this quick post was oddly inspired by a company that pitched yesterday at Startup Weekend Paris called Waazz. Essentially, the Chatroulette-like webcam-based platform wants to be a hub for insult competitions.  That’s right, angry internet users will come to the site to creatively unleash profanities at each other, record the videos and then ask the community to vote for the winner. Classy.

But for some reason it reminded me more of Seesmic than Chatroulette.

No, not the current Seesmic (Twitter client) but the original Twitter that I saw Loic Le Meur and his team pitch a year or two  ago in San Francisco – which currently goes by the name of “Seesmic Video“. For anyone who hasn’t had a chance to check it out yet, it’s essentially recorded Chatroulette; AKA users record conversations and then other users come on the site and record replies and it just takes off from there.

Now, what is the difference between Loic Le Meur and Andrey Turnovskiy?

Being that the platforms are so insanely similar, it’s hard to see really why Chatroulette became such a(n unfortunate) phenomenon and Seesmic Video, well, didn’t – at least not to the same scale as Chatroulette. Perhaps it has something to do with the real-time trend? Loic Le Meur seemed to have hit the nail on the head with people wanting to talk with random strangers via webcam – but recording videos perhaps scared away the masses (maybe the closet-exhibitionists?). Anyhow, behold the slight tweek of Andrey Turnovskiy and presto: if we make it real-time and thus obviously more conversation-friendly, it magically attracts hoards of people.  Oddly enough, introducing additional recording fuctionalities to Chatroulette don’t seem to faze users either. Weird.

Upnext: the wave of “me toos”.

Well, whether or not you agree that Seesmic may’ve been a precursor, looks like Chatroulette may be hanging around for a while. Last week I wrote about a French Chatroulette site, Bazoocam (obviously France needs its own Chatroulette clones), that recently launched a gay version of the site, Camtogays. I’m sure eventually additional niche sub-groups will pop-up and we’ll end up with a proliferation of Chatroulette sites like we have with social networks. Who’s next?