Silicon Valley's blue-shirt army is doomed
Back in the bubble days, a small army of men in blue shirts and khakis acquired their MBAs from Harvard or Stanford, got hired by dotcoms, printed up business cards that said "business development," and then marched from offices to bars and parties, trying to strike deals with other Internet companies. These deals would, in theory, attract more users, advertisers, partners and maybe even revenues. Then the bubble burst, and the biz-dev soldiers scattered to the four winds.
Lately, by the looks of things, the blue-shirt troops seem to be making a comeback on the streets of San Francisco and in the office parks of Silicon Valley. But the Web 2.0 crowd is wondering what the point is. Flickr co-founder Caterina Fake points out that she doesn't have time to return all the biz-dev guys' plaintive e-mails begging for a meeting.
She's glad, however, to let programmers tinker with Flickr's software using an API -- a standard coding interface -- to build something that works with Flickr's photo-sharing service. That's exactly what photo-printing startup Qoop did, and now the company is Flickr's official printing partner -- no biz-dev guys required.
Venture capitalist Fred Wilson weighs in with a half-dozen other examples of deals brokered without any help from biz-dev, like how Technorati uses Del.icio.us's tags to make searching blogs easier. He also points out that when people do strike a biz-dev deal, like Simply Hired did to put job listings on MySpace, customers often ignore it, meaning all of that blue-shirt dealmaking energy went to waste.
The simple alternative? Hire smart engineers, build a great website, and let partners and users discover it. Easier said than done, but it seems more productive than sending MBAs to parties.
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