Behance, Twitter, Tumblr, YouNow, Meetup, Skillshare, Wattpad, Kitchensurfing, Splice, Soundcloud, VHX, Etsy, and Kickstarter…what do all of these companies have in common? They have all built online spaces where creators can share their talent, interests, and passion with the world. One of the most powerful outcomes of an increasingly connected world, is the ability for people to reach out to others in ways that were never before possible on such a large scale, with relative ease. Distance is disappearing. Who you know is not as important as what you can do. The marketing hype machine is not as influential as a creator’s ability to communicate/display her message, passion, and mission. People are now interested in an authentic story about why someone does something, and who they are, rather than having an advertisement tell them why they should care about something.
The man who makes hand carved key chains, and used to only be able to sell them at his local flea market, can now reach people all over the world by joining a community of other creative people who value craftsmanship. Etsy makes this possible.
The stay at home Mom who bakes cakes for every child’s birthday can now choose to open a bakery by telling her story, offering supporters some treats, and most importantly giving them an inside look at the journey from dream to reality. Kickstarter makes this possible.
The independent filmmaker who successfully Kickstarted her first film can now easily sell her movie to millions of people without having to build an entirely new distribution infrastructure. VHX makes this possible.
An unknown artist named Lorde can upload her music without a record deal, and let the world hear it. She can then perform at the Grammys after becoming the biggest act in music. Soundcloud makes this possible.
A musician in Ohio can now collaborate with, and get feedback from other musicians in Paris, Tokyo, and Mumbai, without ever having to board a plane. Splice makes this possible.
The sous chef at that popular NYC restaurant can use her free time sharing her own dishes, while providing an intimate/unique experience for diners in their own homes. Kitchensurfing makes this possible.
An aspiring fantasy story writer who was only able to share her stories inside a journal, can now build a following of loyal and passionate readers, who anxiously await the next installment of her epic saga. Wattpad makes this possible.
The retired consultant who is a pro at excel spreadsheets can now supplement his retirement income by teaching hundreds of students the basics of spreadsheets, without ever having to step inside a classroom. Skillshare makes this possible.
The new mandolin player in town can find other bluegrass players by joining an already established community of passionate fans/musicians. Meetup makes this possible.
A comedian early in his career can test out his material on an audience with a few clicks, and even receive real time feedback. YouNow makes this possible.
The venture capitalist who likes to take photographs in his spare time can share his work with the world, and connect with other photographers to help him improve at his craft. Tumblr makes this possible.
The funny guy in your office can create an online persona, and post ridiculous things that his dad says, build a huge following, and get a TV show. Twitter makes this possible.
Designers all over the world can display their work, critique one another, and decide to collaborate on major projects together. Behance makes this possible.
Besides creating a platform for people to share what they are passionate about with the world, all of these companies also share an investor. Union Square Ventures has invested in all of the companies that I discussed in this post. In 140 characters USV describes its thesis as “large networks of engaged users, differentiated through user experience, and defensible through network effects.” When people are able to be authentic, share what they truly care about, and the technology enables them to connect with others, network effects become possible. Any service that is able to effectively create a community where both creators and consumers are able to have a great experience, while garnering a tremendous amount of value, has a chance of building something compelling. Platforms for passion will define the future.