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Vinny Lingham: The man to watch in 2008

Web entrepreneur Vinny Lingham will be my local web 2.0 story to watch for 2008. Despite his early critics, Vinny has put his money where his mouth is and secured some useful venture capital for his new baby, Synthasite. Earlier this year, Synthasite raised US$5-million in investment from a Richemont subsidiary, Swiss-based Columbus Venture Capital. It’s not a huge amount by world standards, but certainly useful and easily enough to take the project, a typically inexpensive web 2.0 creation, to the next level.

When I first blogged about Synthasite a while back, I hadn’t used it much and admittedly was moderately impressed by the interface and concept. There are many browser-based applications for website and blog engines out there, so what made this any different? I also remember finding the site a bit clunky.

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But about a month ago I met up with Vinny for lunch in Cape Town where we did a bit of plotting, but more importantly: he gave me a demo of the latest rendition of Synthasite, which had seen quite a bit of work since my first post. I was impressed. The interface was beautiful, neat and easy to use, with drag-and-drop simplicity.

In many senses Synthasite is a simplified wordpress.com or blogger.com aimed at a broader internet user market. It also appears to be more than blogging, but plays in the personal website creation/page creator space too. A key feature is that it makes adding other web widgets to your site or blog easy. For example, you can add adsense, flickr, digg feeds and other components pretty easily, with a drag and a drop within your browser window. For power users this may seem obvious, as you can do these things anyway, but remember: Not everyone is a power user. In fact, if you think about it, power users are a small market when you consider a broader target market out there…

The revenue model clicks in via some of the widgets and components that can be added to your Synthasite blog or site. Synthasite is effectively an affiliate network which takes a cut of revenues for referrals to the various widgets that users add via the drag and drop interface. For example, Synthasite gets a referral fee for every user it signs up for adsense or perhaps a portion of the ongoing click revenue. This aspect was probably influenced via Vinny’s experience at incubeta, which specialises as a pay-per-click ad agency for various ad networks out there.

A key development for the future, which is sorely lacking in many online blog creation/website creation tools is a social network angle that somehow brings the Synthasite site creators and perhaps even the users together somehow. How this mishmash will work in a cohesive way is the big question, but there is something in it. Maybe this is already on the way?

You would bet that Synthasite will be a success. Vinny has an international profile, runs a big blog, has proven business success in Incubeta — and knows how to whip up hype and enthusiasm for the stuff he does. Moreover, this is not a project constrained by borders, but has a global outlook and strategy. Then there is also the small fact that US$5-million is behind it.

So, could Vinny Lingham be the Mark Shuttleworth of local Web 2.0 in the making? I guess we’ll find out in 2008.

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