Social Leverage, Social Proof and ‘Vertical is the New Horizontal’

I live and breathe Social Leverage .

I got started out making cold calls for a brokerage firm pitching Blockbuster and Compaq shares (R.I.P) and let me tell you…I love me some social web! Before the phone, nothing was harder than door to door. Before the door to door…strapping notes to a pigeon carrier was a bitch.

I can’t think/vision horizontal…if I could, I would have gobbled up my invites into Foursquare, Twitter and Zynga. It really hurts financially. It’s embarrassing at this point to know I missed these three, but it is not much different than passing on an Intel job out of grad school and all the trends in early tech I would have likely ridden.

I think vertically. It feels more manageable…less out of control. In the end, I am a control freak. I will never be first and won’t hang around to shut out the lights.

But I digress…

There is MONEY in verticals and no shame in them. If you catch big enough trends, a vertical investment could even become horizontal. In fact, the vertical may be the new horizontal. We have one dominant social network, a dizzying amount of social graphs to be sliced and diced, and a silly trust in the web. You need silliness to cross a chasm. Their was silliness in telecom in 1999. Without that silliness we would not have the cheap bandwith we have today.

Which brings me to AngelList, a subject of great debate this past weekend in the blogosphere.

I have been a big fan of AngelList from the moment I discovered it. I forget how to be honest, but it has quickly gathered momentum.

It is not because of any one person, though Naval and Nivi are insanely talented (here is a great interview with Naval). The general idea of AngelList is not new, but the TIME and technology is right. If the market crashed, this idea could indeed go back into hibernation. My bet is, we are finally at a ‘tipping point’ for this idea.

AngelList has the makings of a big vertical idea that could in fact get horizontal. It is already the best way I know to eavesdrop into the early stage market. I doubt it will be contained to just one segment of the market. From all the weekends writings on the subject, I like this part of Dave McClure’s ramble:

Angel List Fucking Rocks. Period. it’s the single greatest innovation in our industry in the last 5 years (aside from LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, & Quora) and it’s great for almost all participants. and while social proof can be abused / misused, so can gasoline… doesn’t mean you shouldn’t fill up your gas tank and go back to riding horses. if you want to effect change, either Engage Fully, or Compete. inaction/boycotts are rarely useful & should be largely be ignored.

Some serious truthiness from Dave.


  1. SteveD- says:

    Hi Howard, I saw you speak at UCSD a few weeks ago and was really impressed. Entertaining and actionable. And I’m glad to see your views on this topic. As someone who is looking at a solution for a vertical market with a clear path to revenue your comments were particularly appropo.

      • SteveD- says:

        Actionable insights delivered in an entertaining fashion. Priceless.
        Here are a couple of my favorite quotes from your presentation.
        In reference to the present preceived VC funding bubble “…an INSULT to Bubbles.”
        In reference to startup ideas: “attack the soft underbelly of an incumbent who can only bolt on social.”
        And, yes, I took notes.

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  3. jonathanjoseph says:

    Another great addition to the Angel List meme.

    “vertical could be the new horizontal.” That’s good stuff, Howard.

      • Peter Beddows says:

        I’m tempted to make a play on your use of the word “Mine” here in the much expanded context of your article in which “Mine” could be taken as describing an opening to opportunity that includes Vertical path/shaft leading to multiple Horizontal pathways to opportunities for striking gold/coal/profit.

        Bit of a stretch perhaps, but I certainly get your point Howard.

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  5. adamsmithforex says:

    I really appreciate with your share on this topic. I get more and more information from here.

  6. Chris Waldron says:

    It’s easier to build a brand within a single vertical. You avoid not being great at any one thing. Then, and a big if, your core competencies may translate well into other verticals. E.g. Golfnow may not have translated well into other verticals. My idea is to build a great product people will discuss and the horizon/horizontal will work itself out.

    P.s. Everyone should have to go door to door. The skills I learned while selling knives is college was invaluable to me now.

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  13. Jack says:

    At eighty I’m not up on current word usage. Would someone who understands the use of “vertical” and “horizontal” in this context please clarify them for me . Thanks.

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