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The Open Web Movement: A Personal Data Summit

December 6, 2010

I talk regularly with many of the entrepreneurs starting companies in the personal data space. We all believe in what we’re doing, but it’s tough finding an entry point. It’s tough getting traction in a world where Facebook and Twitter suck up so much of people’s time, where the press pays attention to anything social or mobile, and where more people are working on streaming live sports in HD to your phone than on ways to improve our use of information to help solve the energy, financial, real estate, and government crises we’re in now. For some reason, people aren’t frustrated when they are asked for the ten thousandth time to enter their personal details into another web site, start yet another profile on a social web site, or re-establish all our connections inside yet another new membership-based site (Quora comes to mind).

As I already mentioned, quite a few people are working on the framework for a personal data ecosystem, so we can have a common blueprint to build to. This is important, because in the 21st century you don’t go it alone, and you don’t trap people’s data inside your application. We need a way to store our data in our data lockers and then let the services assemble and work for us on demand. Already, thousands of people are working on building aspects of this, even as we’re still dreaming up the specs. If all the investors are waiting for a core company to emerge and then follow later, it might be too little too late.

When I talk with venture capitalists, they say they are already investing in the semantic web. Then they tell me about their projects, and I don’t spend time correcting them, I simply urge them to read my book. Most venture capitalists are investing in metadata aggregation and sense-making, not in the semantic web. As Dan Connolly of the W3C says, “The operative term in ‘semantic web’ is ‘web.’” Almost all VC-backed projects don’t pass my semantic-web acid test. In fact, I haven’t heard of a single one. If VCs want to get into the semantic web, they should be talking with Martin Hepp at GoodRelations or any of the companies working with the Science Commons project, or with companies working on leveraging XBRL. If investors want to understand the world of personal data and the early investment opportunities, they should come to my investor/entrepreneur day at IIW this spring.

My goal is to help connect venture capitalists and angel investors with investment opportunities in the coming wave of personal data management. Perhaps by getting everyone in the same room at the same time, I can help everyone working toward these common goals and slingshot the movement before Faceborg takes over the planet.

The event will be a loosely structured day for investors and entrepreneurs. This will be an extra day at the end of the next IIW workshop, which will be held in Mountain View, California, probably on May 4th or 5th. There will be sessions on things like:

  • the standards framework and the roadmap to the personal data ecosystem
  • principles and progress of the open web
  • What the W3C has in store for personal data
  • the economics of linked data
  • marketing issues for consumer adoption
  • the phone as a window to the personal data locker
  • progress in various verticals
  • near-term investment opportunities
  • entrepreneur-driven pitches and sessions

I’ll have more details early in the year. But for now, if you are reading these words, I want you to help get the attention of people in the press and key investors/catalysts. If you know any of the people below, or if you can suggest more people for me to reach out to, please connect us. If you are on this list or can help, I’m asking you to step forward and help me make this a kick-off event for the personal open web. This isn’t a complete list, but I’d like most of the following people to attend …

  • Mark Andreesen
  • Ron Conway
  • John Doerr
  • Tim Draper
  • Esther Dyson
  • Roger Ehrenright
  • Brad Feld
  • Andy Fillat
  • Chris Fralic
  • Paul Graham
  • Bill Gurley
  • Rob Hayes
  • Danny Hillis
  • Ben Horowitz
  • Joi Ito
  • Bill Joy
  • Rohit Khare
  • Josh Kopelman
  • Mark Kvamme
  • Om Malik
  • Mike Maples
  • David Marquardt
  • Dave McClure
  • Mary Meeker
  • Chris Messina
  • Alan Meckler
  • Mike Moritz
  • Tim O’Reilly
  • Adeo Ressi
  • Roy Sardina
  • Mark Suster
  • Ann Winblad
  • Stephen Wolfram
  • Yossi Vardi

In addition, if you’re an entrepreneur looking for money or partners to help build the personal data ecosystem, please contact me as well. I want it to be an important event for everyone who attends. My email is [email protected]

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