I wrote this article after having been involved with — as employee, management, or consultant — a number of (mostly) Internet startups over the past decade. You see a lot of the same patterns and thinking no matter where you go and who you talk to. Even though the landscape of the Internet has changed significantly since 1995, much of the thinking behind what makes something successful online has not. As a psychologist, you’re trained to observe patterns in human behavior. I’ve learned to pair that training with examining patterns in company and Internet behavior as well.

Before you understand what it takes to create a successful startup Internet venture, it’s important to examine some recent trends in the online world. These trends help guide us in what may be a successful enterprise, long before we take the first step down the startup road.

In days of yore, say, oh, 3 years ago, websites were largely creations of either an organization or company, or an individual. There was a fairly well-defined line between these two types of websites, and rarely did they intersect.

This circumstance changed with the intersection of a number of trends and technologies, all centered around people being empowered by their own thoughts and ideas. Marketing and business folks call this “user-generated content.” This is typical business-speak for anything that the company or organization hasn’t created on their own.

Typified by blogs, podcasts, vcasts and such, such forms of creative expression allow people the freedom to say what they want, when they want, on their own terms. With millions of people blogging, however, most go unnoticed except to their own circle of friends and family.

But What if People Online Were Better Interconnected?

Enter “social networking,” the ability for technology to connect people to one another in ways not readily apparent in the past. For instance, say you have a friend who knows someone at a company you’d like to interview. You may not realize that friend’s connection, however, unless you mentioned the person’s specific name to your friend. Social networking allows technology to make these connections for us, without the actual messy social interaction traditionally required to make networking connections.