It’s pretty rare that you get to be present at the start of something potentially huge.
It's rarer still when everything about it - from concept, to idea, to funding, to execution - screams "This is going be huge" at you from launch.
And it’s endangered species territory to be experiencing all of this in Asia.
But last night I was privilege to be witness to one of those zeitgeist moments when Starcount.com was unveiled at the Singapore branch of celeb uber-lounge Pangea.
Basically speaking, Starcount accesses all of the publicly available data from the 11 biggest social networks in the world, crunches the numbers through some insanely robust algorithms and comes up with – well pretty much anything you want.
Did that blow you away? Ok, let me add a few numbers to this equation then. Actually just one will do.
Starcount.com is designed to crawl through the public data of 1.5 billion social accounts across the globe, yes 1.5 billion! It'll be mining information about who, where, why and what. Taking keywords, mentions and shout outs and running them through a server that’s probably the size of Texas.
Then off the back of that, you can run lists and top tens of almost everything from popular footballers to the biggest brand of biscuit online.
It’s a phenomenal concept, and nothing approaching this scale has ever been tried before. I can’t imagine how many sleepless nights the team must have had leading up to launch.
So as ever in the online industry, the question is: “Ah, but how will they make money?”
Believe it or not, this should be one of the easier paths to monetisation.
As well as the obligatory who is the most popular person in the world (naturally the award went to Lady Gaga) and associated money spinning awards ceremony in Singapore in 2013, the potential revenue streams are endless.
The next phased roll-out of the platform will see personalisation of lists. That means you and me.
Would you pay for data that showed you definitively who the most influential and popular people are in your peer group?
If you are a company looking to get into social or even just learn about your customer base, there’s a tonne of information there ready to be sold to you. That’s got to be potentially worrying for the Radian 6’s of the world.
And if they start taking on ad partners, sponsorships, rolling our regional awards ceremonies, with the potential reach they have, the sky is the limit.
Where they really score highly is in their research. Starcount has done its homework and its not just the big friendly Western networks that get invited to the party.
Chinese mega network Weibo is one of the major sources, fellow behemoth’s Renren and Youku, join Japan’s Mixi and Russia’s massive VK site. This really is a merging of the most popular social sites in the world, not just the biggest ones in English.
And that’s what leads us onto the most interesting part of the whole equation. They’ve chosen to be in Asia. Their office is just up the road from mine (and I’ll be sure to be making friends there!) and they’re planning to shift the whole operation lock, stock and barrel in the next few months.
This has the potential to be one of the biggest sites around in 24 months time. So it’s a testament to the new economy of Asia that they’re over here.
It’s for a few reasons. First up, the Singapore government is actively courting excellent tech people and companies to come over and help create a genuine hub for online. They want to start bringing real innovation to Asia and it’s working a treat.
I had a long chat with one of the brains behind the operation, Brian Southward, who confirmed to me that Asia’s rising tech profile was one of the reasons behind their decision to base themselves in the Lion City.
Second is the huge number of insanely qualified people in this region, all with a genuine tech upbringing and third is the audience.
Take a good look at the list of 11 networks they’re drawing content from. Notice any patterns? That’s right. Five of them are Asian. Yes. Five of the world’s biggest social network sites are from Asia.
You’d have to be blind not to see the creeping Asian influence over the internet. It’s just that these guys are amongst the first to do something about it. Time will tell if their investment pays off.
Their first major event will be a global awards ceremony and associated two A-lister concerts in precisely one year's time, so I’m pretty sure I know the answer to that one.