MediaFile

No one’s getting rich building gadgets

June 28, 2007

WeatherGather a bunch of Web 2.0 geeks in a room and it’s not long before you hear the phrase “widget economy“ sneak into conversation. But what does economy mean when most developers of these compact little bundles of software joy have a hard time sustaining their interest by, like, uh, getting paid for the work?

Leave it to Google to figure out the funding arrangements.

On Wednesday, Marissa Mayer, Google’s vice president of search products, told the Searchnomics conference in Silicon Valley that her company has created a pilot program to offer modest financing to developers building widgets, or in Google parlance, Gadgets.

Google VenturesGoogle Gadget Ventures plans to grant $5,000 to creators of miniature gadget applications that Google wants to see developed further. This being a pay-for-performance culture, the developer assumes the up-front risk. All you have to do is build the initial application, place it in the Google gadgets directory and attract at least 250,000 weekly page views. You’ll also have to submit a one-page proposal to detail how you’d use your new-found cash to improve the gadget.

Reuters_Widget_gifIf you are feeling truly entrepreneurial, Google is offering seed investments of $100,000 to existing Google grant recipients to build an actual business around gadgets. For this, you need to submit a business plan that passes some sort of viability test.

Shy of the millions of dollars that traditional venture capitalists are looking to sell you, or the tens of thousands your neighborhood angel investor is ready to write you out of his checkbook, a new financing rung has been established. Think of it as starter funding.

Rather than entrepreneurs, Google is looking to pay graduate-level fellowships.

Of course, you can’t have an economy until you have a way to measure it. Two weeks ago, comScore introduced its Widget Metrix, designed to track the proliferation of widgets across the Web. The early leader here is photo slideshow creator Slide.com, which, in April, attracted a worldwide audience of 117 million unique viewers, or 13 percent of the Web audience, comScore said.

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