Take-aways from the ThinkEquity conference

I attended the yearly ThinkEquity conference in Half Moon Bay at the beginning of this week and have to congratulate the organizers for putting on one of the best events where private technology companies can present to investors. This year’s conference focused on 3 major areas: social gaming, display advertising and education (2 of the 3 areas coincidentally overlap with where I currently see opportunities). Some quick take-aways:

  • It is not really a secret anymore but social gaming is on fire. Zynga has apparently a revenue run rate of close to $100 million and is only a 2 year old company. Playfish‘s PetSociety has more than 10 million active users on Facebook and is just 8 months old. In all of these cases, two things come together: superior, viral distribution by building games on top of the social graph and excellent monetization potential through virtual goods. Social media has shown impressive growth in many areas over the past year but social gaming is probably the only category that has turned their audience into real dollars.
  • There continue to be large opportunities in display advertising: brand advertising is a significantly larger market than performance advertising but nobody has figured out how to scale it on the web. More standardization and more data will help the course but we are far away from finding a Google AdSense-like product for display.
  • Education is always being cited as the big opportunity of the future but the reality still looks different with even established educational companies struggling to find the right online model. It is worthwhile reading the Hacking Education post on the Union Square Ventures blog.

All in all it still feels like very exciting times in consumer Internet…

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