The Winner Takes It All

Chicks dig the long ball. Football fans live for “the bomb.” Oilmen only want “elephant fields.” Movie studios only like blockbusters.

It’s the same everywhere. You’re either No. 1, or no one cares.

It’s a great game when they’re looking your way. If “Titanic” is your movie, if you’re going to the Super Bowl, or if someone has just said “and the Oscar. goes to,” adding your name, the winner-take-all thing is great fun. When they want to know what you’ve done since “Titanic,” or last year’s Super Bowl team has just gone 4-12, or talent scouts are saying, “get me a young” adding your name, it’s no fun at all.

That’s where we are. It goes by fast. E-commerce is suddenly “The Dirty Bird.”

Wasn’t it just two years ago that e-commerce was No. 1? That was fun. (It was silly, but it was fun.) Now folks have figured out that e-tailing is just retailing and e-advertising is just advertising, so the game has moved on.

The question is, of course, where has the game gone? If you want to stay in the game, you’ve got to follow the crowd.

CNET founder Halsey Minor, whom I’ve always recognized as among the most clued in of Net entrepreneurs, told CNBC last week that the game has moved from sites used by people to services used by machines. Cut through the spin of his new outfit, 12 Entrepreneuring, and that’s what it comes to.

The first start-up to have won Minor’s blessing is iBuilding, which builds online systems for managing commercial real estate. But that’s small beer. The first funding of 12 Entrepreneuring was $100 million, out of which iBuilding got $15 million. There’s a lot more out there.

Remember if you can (since this was your game not so long ago) the aim of the venture capitalist. He’s not funding ordinary businesses. If you can’t get him a 1,000 percent profit in a few years, he’s not interested.

All this is leading, of course, to “Ginger.” If nothing else, Ginger is a great case study in creating buzz, one that PR people will be analyzing for years.

Ginger, in case you’ve actually been doing useful work the last week, is the code name for something (we don’t know what) invented by Dean Kamen, previously best known for designing a wheelchair that climbs stairs (and there are just TONS of those around, right?).

Only a few people have seen Ginger, but they’re the right people. Steve Jobs has seen it, Jeff Bezos has seen it, and John Doerr has invested in it. All Kamen has said about it is that it will be an alternative to products that “are dirty, expensive, sometimes dangerous, and often frustrating, especially for people in the cities.”

This means, I guess, that it’s bigger than a breadbox. What is it? It could be the world’s best April Fool’s joke, but we all want to know. Why do we want to know?

Because chicks dig the long ball.

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