One million true fans


A few years ago Kevin Kelly wrote a post called 1,000 true fans, in which he argued an artist "needs to acquire only 1,000 True Fans to make a living," and using the power of the Internet it is possible to do so independently.

In the last few years since that post we've seen an explosion in the use Web services and apps by everyday people -- with arguably Facebook leading the way. Chris Dixon just called where we are today an internet of people.

We're at a point now where I see the 1,000 true fan concept regularly applying to startups, albeit a few orders of magnitude higher (depending on whether it is consumer or business).  Now it is relatively common for a startup to get 1,000,000 true fans and be both nicely profitable and relatively low profile.

A couple of days ago @startupdigest tweeted a link to a Business Insider article on the story behind Zappos where the founder told this related anecdote:

We would have that conversation over and over again about, alright, no one is going to buy shoes without trying them on. I would say, "No, last year 5% of shoes sold in the U.S. were sold through mail order catalogues," and they'd say, "Yeah but nobody is going to buy shoes without trying them on." And it was like, did I just say that out loud or inside my head, but let me repeat it, "last year, 1 out of every 20 pairs of shoes sold was sold through a mail order catalog." "That may or may not be, but no one is going to buy shoes."

I've had a similar conversation a half-dozen times in the past year. Just because the majority, even the vast majority, doesn't want to do something, doesn't mean there isn't a sizable and passionate minority who does want to do it. And because we are now an Internet of people actually using stuff, that passionate minority is a) increasingly reachable and b) willing to spread services through their online communities. 


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