a16z Podcast: Welcome to the New Era of Commerce

Just as “social networking” is a bland term that doesn’t really capture the layers of what happens underneath (and on top of) social networking platforms, “crowdfunding” is a broader phenomenon than what the term and tools implies. Or so argue the guests on this episode of the a16z Podcast, Tilt co-founder and CEO James Beshara and a16z general partner Jeff Jordan with Sonal Chokshi.

Crowdfunding isn’t just about reaching a certain threshold to make something, but it’s also about “pre-commerce” or “pretail” — the next evolution in commerce, which involves the ability to suss out demand before production and sell directly to consumers. Crowdfunding is also about “social commerce” — the ability to not only build community, but trigger collective action towards some goal. There’s even a sort of Dunbar’s number equivalent for crowdfunding, the tipping point at which the momentum of this collective action takes over (hint: it involves the magic number of 34%).

Beyond crowdfunding, there are broader themes of economic change and behavior at play here — whether it’s people’s tolerance for waiting and buying something before it exists; a new type of scarcity and desire for experiential buying; or makers creating or co-creating things publicly, and even incompletely. All we know is that we’re at a watershed moment of sorts — as evidenced by car manufacturer Tesla’s pre-orders for its Model 3, which is not even going to be available for a few years. And yet…!