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@ MidemNet: Interview: Ali Partovi, CEO, iLike: Mitigating Against Facebook Dependence

imageMusic fan network iLike sees little threat from Facebook’s musical ambitions – but is broadening its base just in case. Having acquired 20 million users in 14 months mainly through its Facebook app (two thirds of users are Facebookers), that base could be shaky if the social net, for whatever reason, decided to shut it out (MySpace did it with Photobucket, before buying it). But, still on stage after talking in a panel about music fans, iLike CEO Ali Partovi, told paidContent.org the growth strategy minimises dependence…

Dependence: “Yeah, there are risks, but the benefits to us consistently seem to outweigh the risks. You can mitigate whatever risk there might be by being smart. The things that have cemented our position are… maintaining some diversification so we’re not 100 percent Facebook – in fact, I would say more than half of our growth right now is off Facebook. About two thirds of our new users are coming from elsewhere – that’s because, in the last six weeks, we launched on Hi5 and Bebo – and we’re the number-one music provider on those two as well.”

MySpace deal: So, trying to broaden the base, next partnership targets are Orkut and MySpace. “With MySpace, we’re debating how much of our features to create there, mainly because we don’t want to fight MySpace on their own turf. They have terrific music features; we like to find places where we can create new value, not simply compete with somebody’s incumbent value. But there are a lot of things we do that MySpace doesn’t do, so we’re just trying to figure out how to carve out our features to create a symbiotic relationship with MySpace as we have with Facebook.

Risks?: “The reason Facebook is such a valuable company today is because they’re not just a website – they’re a marketplace, a place where other people can build multibillion-dollar businesses. If there’s even one example of people kicking somebody off out of malice or self-interest, that will deteriorate the trust in that marketplace – Facebook would lose a lot more than we would lose.”

Investment: Ticketmaster made a $13.3 million investment in iLike back in 2006 and got five percent. Any more VC expected? “We still have most of our cash in the bank that we’ve ever raised, we’re less than half through, so we’re not looking forward to that right now. We have had so much traffic growth that, if it continues, I suppose it’s possible we may need more cash before we get to profitability.”

Growth: How about rolling out iLike to verticals other than music? It won’t be soon. “We need to first be really successful in music – we’re still only one year old and I’d like to think we’ve been successful, but I think the challenges ahead are much, much bigger.”