Amazee

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URL = http://www.amazee.com


Description

Michael Horvath:

"Amazee.com, a social collaboration platform, which launched in September 2008, has set the goal to provide a global collaboration medium. Amazee is headquartered in Zurich and has an office in San Francisco, thus has the optimal global footprint to extend the social collaboration movement from the US to Europe." (http://static.amazee.com/files/The_Evolution_of_the_Information_Revolution.pdf)


Characteristics

Key Features of Amazee include:

• Social Networking Tools consisting of member profiles, invitations, messaging and newsfeeds.

• Collaboration Management features including to-do list, calendar, discussion forum, write-board, voting, member right management and file sharing.

• Site Promotion is enabled by a shareable project home page accessible by anyone on the Internet without an Amazee membership, making it easy for project teams to drive new members to a site via all the tools available on the Internet, including other social networking sites, email campaigns, media outreach, and advertising.

• Project Funding is an important and unique part of Amazee, providing several built-in mechanisms for projects to raise money.


Discussion

In the course of the research for this paper, the author came across Amazee a recently launched online platform for social collaboration, a very relevant key word when looking at the growing influence of social networks. In order to get a better insight into the rather new developments in the areas of social collaboration and social action, the author set up an interview with Gregory Gerhardt, the CEO and Co-founder of Amazee.com. Gregory’s profound knowledge as well as his exposure in the Silicon Valley places him at the core of the online collaboration movement.

Gregory describes Amazee as following:


"Amazee is a more evolved social networking site devoted to the joy of collective action and designed to empower individuals and small groups to launch global initiatives," (Gregory Gerhardt, CEO of Amazee)


Amazee, unlike the typical social networking platforms, puts not the personal profile center stage but rather the project profile. “The project profile is the main vantage point of our platform as people are connected not directly via their profiles but through common projects.” Gregory explains. While on Facebook the groups are usually organized around static interests like hobbies, work place or real life organizations, on Amazee the projects are of dynamic nature. Projects are usually set up with a goal in mind. Once that goal is reached, the project is completed and archived, thus projects are in general a timely limited venture. “We position ourselves right in the middle of the three domains of social networks, campaigning platforms and collaboration tools, as we incorporate features from all three segments.” Gregory says. (compare to figure 2) In all three domains, there are already large established players.

Nevertheless, the space in the overlap has been neglected in the past and Amazee is set to change that with the launch of their platform in September 2008.

“We have come to realize, through feedbacks from our users, that a certain level of social interaction between people outside of respective projects is desired. As a result and to improve our platform, we are in the process of including a friendfunction, which will enable the user to add friends, track what they are doing, interact with them on a non-project basis as well as recommend project to them or recommend them to be added to a project.” Amazee will, at least in the basic functionality, include more Facebook-like features in order to leverage their sophisticated project management tools.

“At Amazee, we position ourselves to serve the upper regions of the Maslow pyramid, where as Facebook and other plain social network platforms are aiming at the middle of the pyramid.” Gregory specified.

A general modularization of the people’s lives can be observed. “Many people in today’s world think in terms of projects. Their work is a project, their hobby, their social engagement and so forth” Gregory observes. “Amazee is aimed to become the place, where people keep track of their life project portfolio and manage and share it efficiently.” It can be observed, that the private and physical “I” is increasingly often merging with the public and virtual “I”. “People tend to realize, that by portraying their true personality in the virtual world, they can increasingly leverage their influence in the real world to become an influential personality in the virtual world. As a result, they can apply their virtual influence to achieve real world projects.” Gregory explains. The platforms, which have become the leading social networks, share one common feature: They mostly replicate existing real-world networks in the virtual world. “Traditionally, the circle of friends that one has on Facebook mirrors the circle of friends one has in the real world. In the early days of virtual social networking, only rarely two people connected as friends without having met in person at least once in their lives.” Gregory explains. “On Amazee, we want to encourage people to start projects and achieve goals with a team of which not every member has seen the other member in person or has known that person prior to the launch of the project.” Gregory specifies. The intention is that the project manager has the option to choose from a worldwide pool of potential team members. A general hesitation, especially in Europe, can be observed when it comes to collaborate and communicate with people without a prior physical encounter. In America, and especially in the Silicon Valley, Internet users are much more open to accept a virtual personality as the true personality of the person behind the profile. As a result, meeting someone in person or being introduced on an online platform has become increasingly equal and consequently online collaborations are more willingly formed. “Since online profiles and online personalities have become increasingly accepted as the mirror of one’s true personality, people start to realize the Figure 3: The pyramid of needs according to Abraham Maslow Source: http://nodearth.files.wordpress.com/2007/09/maslow-pyramid.jpg 14 importance of building up a virtual reputation. With other words, your actions and contributions in an online environment are becoming increasingly important for the formation of your personality, your track record and thus your reputation online” Gregory says. As opposed to the early days of online interaction, where people usually were hiding behind user names, today people want to be recognized and accredited for what they do. Thus, in settings where people can contribute and link the contribution to their personal profile, the participation rate is much higher. Online users want to be presented with their true personality, which is increasingly reflected in their virtual profile. Back in the day, where the Internet was a rather new phenomenon, anonymous chatting and posting was prevalent. Today, people want to leave a personal imprint, which can be traced back to the creator. As per November 17, 2008, Amazee had over 4’000 signed up users, 764 registered projects and 52 alliances. “Even social collaboration demands active project management. Many users have the impression, that once their project is registered online, the goals will be reached by itself. That is not the case. Projects must be actively promoted, managed and communicated.” Gregory explains. In online project management a typical contributor split, which can be also observed in the real world, occurs. Typical project participants can be divided into 5% leaders, 10% contributors and the rest is split into direct followers and stalkers, which only occasionally come to see how the project is going.

Amazee sees social collaboration as the logical evolution of social networks. To achieve the largest possible exposure, Amazee has entered into agreements with media partners, which extend the reach of the virtual platform into printed media. “Projects that have created a certain motion in the virtual world are selected and presented in the print and online media of our partners, reaching over 40’000 subscribers via the printed press or the online magazine.”

Gregory explains. “This increased exposure of the projects is likely to establish Amazee as the main platform for online collaboration and project management, while at the same time, gives the project initiators a stage to address new and potential participants. Spreading the word and getting media coverage is what empowers every single online motion. Be it a project, a petition or action, once the mass hears about it and it appeals to them, change is likely to be set in motion.” Gregory describes.

By building up a social collaboration platform, Amazee has stated in their mission to remain completely neutral. Their goal is to provide the instruments and the platform and let the users provide and decide about the content. “We do not intend to actively influence the projects on our platform as long as they play within the guidelines of our Terms of Use.” Gregory says. With random monitoring as well as user reporting options, Amazee keeps an eye on the dealings on their platform. “Every user has the possibility to report potentially dangerous or inappropriate projects directly from the online interface. Our administrators will promptly take actions to insure conformity with our Terms of Use.” Gregory explains. Due to the fact that Amazee is still in the starting phase, an automated and constant monitoring of the content is not yet necessary. “We are considering adding active oversight applications to our platform framework once a critical mass is achieved” Gregory says.

Regarding the revenue model, which currently for most platforms is traditional advertising, Amazee is envisioning advanced forms of advertising and sponsoring. “Our analysis has shown that companies like their logo and identity to be linked, also referred to as engaged branding, to projects and events for good causes and with clear objectives. As long as the project has a “positive feel” to it and aims at achieving a goal, companies are very likely to be willing to present themselves as sponsors of these projects.” Gregory says. The income generated by engaged branding sponsorships, combined with a Freemium user revenue model are likely to become the main sources of income for online platforms. The Freemium model is a combination of a free and a premium fee based revenue model. The premium users pay a fee for unlimited access and additional tools and options, where as the free users on the other side, have limited access and functionality but add to the critical mass in order for this model to function. “The social collaboration movement is still at a very early stage even in the USA, which usually is 2-3 years ahead of Europe. Nonetheless, clear trends towards a growing popularity and influence of collaborative networks can be recognized.” Gregory describes. “The establishment of user habits and source credibility takes time and does not truly become established until a critical mass of followers is reached. Once that number is achieved, in my view, the new collaboration platforms and above all Amazee will become very powerful instruments for charismatic leaders, which will have the ability to project their real life status into the virtual world while reaching billions of people on a very personal level via the collaboration platforms.” Gregory envisions. In a world where numerous online platforms and applications are fighting for the attention of the users, only the best will prevail.

“I am convinced that by constantly improving our platform and by listening to our users and the general Internet public, we will in the future, combined with far reaching network of partners, establish Amazee as “THE” platform for social collaboration similar to the status of what Google is for Internet search today.” (http://static.amazee.com/files/The_Evolution_of_the_Information_Revolution.pdf)