So it is not surprising that investment is pouring in, as investors themselves go gaga over the most promising firms. Just this week, Pearltrees received $6.6 million in series B funding, as part of the wave of investment in sites that bring together folks with common “interest graphs.” The site uses a clustered visual interface to organize anything that users see or read on the web.
This is merely the latest example of a tectonic shift among venture capitalist and merchant bankers away from funding general social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr, towards internet startups that curate user interests, which is another way of stating that these sites offer human bookmarking and organization.
More popularly known sites that similarly use bookmarking and organization include Pinterest and GetGlue.
Pinterest has accumulated more than 12 million users in the US alone, and has been aggressively building its engagement worldwide. According to GigaOm, in January 2012 Pinterest drove more referral traffic than Google+, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Reddit combined. The power behind its growth is that it taps into what users are interested in, thereby creating shareable pointers among readers, for example, in nature photographs or fashionable outfits.
This is the opposite of what sites like Facebook do, that is, connect readers who have a common relationship, and provide the recommendations of friends and acquaintances to their network.
Why is bookmarking and organization so important?
The answer is that the primary revenue source for social media platforms is advertising dollars. But the friendship of one person and another and their trusted recommendation does not necessarily correlate with the likelihood that the second person will buy hair potion, a backpack, or a travel service.
By contrast, a group which bookmarks and shares pictures of fashion are inherently primed to consider purchasing the latest hip handbag, or the designer shoes at a shopping cart site. In other words, purchase behavior goes in the other direction. Online marketers see that the intent to purchase is more closely aligned with shared interests and ease of passing the latest and greatest, than it is with random recommendations made by friends.
“Pearltrees has leveraged social curation to create an open and collaborative interest graph of the Web,” said Pearltrees CEO Patrice Lamothe.
The startup will use the money to scale its product and solidify the monetization scheme, which is based upon a freemium model.
Other sites that leverage human curation to organize and bookmark include the Switzerland-based Paperli, the France-based Scoopit, shopping curation site Svpply, and image service Mlkshk.