Jack Dorsey wrote a great piece about reconsidering the term “user” in the Internet ecosystem. I applaud this. “User” has become problematic because it is no longer sufficiently descriptive to have substantive value and contributes to confusion, as well. We review hundreds of new investment opportunities per year and the description by many companies of their “users” is always an area we have to parse very carefully. Is a “user” someone who pays? What does a “user” have to do to be considered a “user” (just visit the site, register with an email and password, take any specific action, etc.)?
I have seen the entrepreneurs we back evolve their use of designations to more specifically describe each type of customer of their company’s product. At Sittercity, a leading provider to parent’s for resources to find and manage childcare, Martin Clifford, the CEO, has created a set of designations that include registered parent subscribers, paying parent subscribers and sitters. At Kitsy Lane, the first Internet site that allows women to open and manage their own fashion boutiques and to sell through their social networks, the designations are Boutique Owners, Registered Customers, and Paying Customers. Additionally, the entrepreneurs and CEOs of many of our other consumer Internet and Saas companies have refined their customer terminology to be more descriptive. I applaud all of these entrepreneurs because they are thinking in a customer centric way and have already made the nomenclature of their organization focused on their customer.