Network Independent Value

- 2 mins

What is Network Independent Value (NIV)?  Well, it’s the value that a network-based service provides to the users before the network reaches scale.  The concept itself isn’t new, but I first heard it referred to as Network Independent Value from Thumbtack’s CEO Marco Zappacosta on twist.  Not sure if the term originates with him, but I’ll attribute it to him in the absence of better information.

Network Independent Value can be very hard thing to achieve, which is problematic for early stage network-based businesses.  Your product is awesome, but how do induce users to get in and stay on?  There are three types of solutions to this problem: create condensed networks, fulfill the other side of the network transaction, or build a feature that provides standalone value for your users.

Condensed Network

A condensed network brings together people who potentially fulfill all the roles required for the network to work in a relatively short time span.  For example, one can induce their friends and family to join the service at the same time.  Or, as in the case of facebook, jump from college-to-college, where the users of each institution provide enough value for their peers to join the service.  It’s a really compelling option, but may be difficult to organize depending on the nature of the network transaction.

Company as Network Agent

In this scheme the service provider participates in transactions on the network, either explicitly or clandestinely.  This approach creates the impression of greater network activity, which might induce potential users to jump in.  However, you should be careful here.  I think its fair to use this approach when the users receive the value they would expect under normal operation.   Pulling a bait-and-switch (the user engages your pseudonym, then learns that the transaction will not be completed) not only sours users, but is also unethical, which reflects poorly on your business.

Standalone Value

This is a pretty straightforward concept.  The only other blog post I found on NIV that references this category uses facebook’s photo sharing feature as an example.  The service technically serves as a way to archive one’s photos in the cloud, outside of the additional service of allowing a user to easily share their photos and the experiences contained therein with friends.  I doubt that was facebook’s goal in introducing the feature, but it does serve that purpose as well.  Incidentally, I’ve come across people online who claim to use the photo service for exclusively this reason.

My co-founder and I have evaluated ideas from each category, and we think there’s room for all to help get fetchmob off the ground.  Look forward to subsequent posts on how well they worked (or didn’t work).

Crisson Jno-Charles

Crisson Jno-Charles

Fullstack Software Engineer specializing in Scala, JavaScript, and Java development

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