The marginal value of new art[^1] decreases as content accumulates over time because new works compete[^2] with all prior art. Conversely, the value of curation increases exponentially. This predicts the wealth of several discovery startups:

  • Products: Product Hunt, Gdgt (now Engadget)
  • Startups: AngelList, MatterMark
  • Places: Yelp, TripAdvisor, NomadList
  • Answers: StackOverflow
  • Music: Rdio, Spotify, Soundcloud and Shazam
  • Video: YouTube, Netflix, Vimeo
  • Cat Pictures: Reddit, Imgur & 9Gag
  • People: Tinder, LinkedIn
  • Activities:, etc.
  • News: Twitter, Facebook Signal (verdict still out)

These companies are built on network effects, but each has a mechanism for filtering signal from noise, such as liking, sharing, voting or swiping. The ubiquity of a curation mechanism seems undervalued and suggests a higher abstraction for thinking about search as on-demand topic curation.

Both the curation pivot and the interface seem important. Any service that can effectively distinguish between good or bad options in a vertical representing a human need should do well.

Which new startups will generate wealth by curating new or existing kinds of data? I suspect you could pick winners by investing in new sources of data like genomics and its supporting databases without applying any complex algorithms.

A Recipe

  1. Identify a human need with a growing set of options
  2. Collect and classify new or existing data
  3. Pivot that data on an under-serviced metric that people care about, like "agony" for air travel

Some Spins On Existing Data

  • Jobs by culture, perks or co-worker personalities, instead of by role or brand.
  • Real estate by cost of surrounding areas instead of by rent, or a combination of the two.
  • Mind-altering drugs by subjective effects - marijuana being the obvious choice.

Viewed through this lens, a successful team is a curated group of the right people. Whoever can predict fruitful cooperation, will prosper.

[^1]: Art meant to please, not transform, like music, videos, games and other forms of entertainment. I think the same is true of transformative art, but I'm not as sure.

[^2]: Should I watch Chris Rock, Interstellar or The Beatles? Like restaurants, all entertainment competes with all other entertainment.