A few successful websites were built almost entirely through viral growth. The vast majority, however, started off by partnering with other, already successful websites. Even Google began by partnering with Yahoo. As superior as Google’s search algorithm was, it was very hard to get the masses to switch to a new search engine.
In the web 1.0 world (approximately pre-2004), integrating two web services involved lots of manual work, such as negotiating legal contracts and custom technical integration. Creating these kinds of partnerships is usually referred to as “business development” or “BizDev” (personally, I usually just call it “BD”). In the web 2.0 world, it became common for websites to create fully functional, self-service API’s with standardized legal terms. This made it possible to drastically reduce the friction of integrating services. My Hunch cofounder Caterina Fake coined the term “BizDev 2.0″ to refer to this idea (and of course Flickr was a pioneer of super robust APIs).
There is no question that removing legal and technical hurdles is a win for everyone (except lawyers). However, unless your service is extremely high profile and its value is easily understood, it still needs to be marketed to potential partners. Many websites won’t consider using a self-service API until they’ve seen it working on other sites with measurable results. So how do you overcome this particular kind of chicken-and-egg problem?
During his interview process, Hunch’s Shaival Shah, said something that struck a chord with me: he didn’t want to be called “VP BizDev” because, he said, a good BizDev person makes BizDev irrelevant. The idea is to create a number of BizDev 1.0 partnerships while simultaneously building and marketing a full service API. If you can do BizDev 1.0 with some number of (ideally high profile) websites and demonstrate that it is valuable to them (ideally quantitatively), you can then scale your service BizDev 2.0 style. Maybe this could be called BizDev 1.5.
Shaival wrote up a much more detailed post on self-cannibalizing BizDev that is well worth reading.