If you get her started, Caterina Fake sounds almost like a professor of social networking philosophy.
One particularly interesting theory of Fake’s is about how an online community should grow in its early days. She thinks the answer is very clear: Slowly.
Fake added emphatically that the worst thing a start-up social network can do is to buy advertising to attract users. Growth should happen because users find value in a site, and then get their friends to join, she said.
And if users don’t come? Start-ups should try harder to make a better product.
That’s why Pinwheel plans to only slowly let in the tens of thousands of people on its email list, Fake said. And it’s why Pinwheel will ask users to write original notes, rather than filling the many empty places on its map with existing location-based content from around the Web. “We’re not going to suddenly metastasize by adding Wikipedia content,” Fake said.
Of course, 10 million dollars only gives Fake a window of time; there’s no guarantee that location-based storytelling will be a hit, or that Pinwheel will be the one to do it right.
If Pinwheel does end up working out, what it does may well change significantly, Fake admitted. Her advice to herself, and others: “You shouldn’t get attached to a feature set. You should get attached to a problem you’re solving.”