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Think Ahead: Megan Smith

A dispatch from PC Forum 2001.

Megan Smith

CEO
PlanetOut Corp.

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Can you name one idea that was true two PC Forums ago but is no longer valid?

Two years ago, Web sites were racing to capture market share. Today, market share is still important, but it’s not anyone’s first priority. The industry has shifted away from land grabbing. Now those of us who bought the farm have to work it.

For PlanetOut, that means going back to our founding principles: We didn’t build an Internet company to build an Internet company — we built a company to satisfy an underserved community and customer base. Everyone in our organization understands that we need to innovate in order to survive. We don’t have the money to be wildly experimental today, so we must be even more clever and devise solutions that serve our customers and contribute directly to our survival.

The great by-product of the Internet era was massive experimentation. So many things have been tried on the Net that we’re now in a position to build on what has worked and avoid what hasn’t.

What business opportunity, partnership, or investment are you really excited about today?

Fundamentally, this business still excites me because every day that we’re building great products, we’re also working to improve the civil rights of underserved people. One of our recent investments is gay.it — a portal that reaches one-third of Italy’s gay community. That site is selling advertising and attracting huge numbers of members in an intensely Roman Catholic country, where the needs of gays and lesbians were previously ignored or chastised. I love to check our metrics and see that we get 20 unique visitors a month from inside Vatican City!

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What will we be seeing and talking about at next year’s PC Forum?

A year from now, we’ll be talking about more major revolutions driven by consumer demand for a Napster-like service that goes beyond the music industry. I also think that we’ll be talking a lot about the next level of Web interactions — a world where the Amazon.com one-click concept becomes ubiquitous.

Learn more about Megan Smith on the Web.

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