Long tail everywhere

Thought I’d share the buzz on some startups I learned about today at the Central Coast MIT Enterprise Forum‘s October Event,

The Long Tail: Web Enabled Niche Marketing & Services

First, it was pretty cool.

Three companies presented:

Kevo A celebrity-focused wiki for the pop-culture long tail.

ThisNext A social networking-based product recommendation service.

Blue Lava Group A niche-focused multi-boutique online retailer.

All three businesses looked good. Blue Lava Group probably has the hardest challenge with the long tail, as they hold inventory and ship physical products, but their business model lets them niche into markets that couldn’t exist without the long tail of the Internet. By systematically picking the right niches and building an integrated back end for all their storefronts, they are building an Amazon-like marketplace from the niches up.

Kevo is probably the most long-tail company of the three, with over 6,000 celebrities currently in its wiki. While it is incredibly challenging to rank at the top of Google’s results for the top 100 celebrities, who already have thousands of fan sites, Kevo particularly excels at ephemeral, historical, or niche celebrities and Google proves it. Their user base is continually updating celebrity profiles with the latest gossip and news. They straddle the boundaries of the live web and the static web, with content that a lot of people are rabidly interested in. I like their focus and the leverage of fans around the world.

Finally, ThisNext helps users get real human recommendations for just about any kind of product. Think Amazon’s reviews plus tagging and you just about have it. It is a nice model in that it gives power-reviewers the opportunity to establish their own digital identity, with personal recommendations for products that mean something to them. As Henry Dubroff of the Pacific Coast Business Times put it, ThisNext has a great opportunity to empower the long tail of celebrity recommenders: think of all the wannabe Martha Stewart‘s and Emeril Lagasse‘s of the world. Everyone has something they love and a large number of us want to tell others about it.

Good stuff. I look forward to the next event.

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