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SVASE VC Breakfast with Hummer Winblad in San Francisco – Focus on Software as a Service

We’re in a deep recession, VC investments dried up, startups are shutting down and the World is coming to an end…  or not?

I’m just back from a very lively Under the Radar conference where 32 startups presented and the audience was full of VCs looking for the next investment opportunity.  Those who missed the UtR deadline, or just did not fit this event’s profile (Cloud Computing) will soon get another change at Launch Silicon Valley, co-presented by SVASE, Garage Technology Ventures and Microsoft.

In between these conferences there re are several smaller, more intimate events, like the SVASE VC Breakfast Club series.  After a long time I’ll be back moderating the next breakfast meeting this Thursday, April 30st  in San Francisco.  As usual, this will be an informal round-table where up to 10 entrepreneurs get to deliver a pitch, then answer questions and get critiqued by a VC Partner. We’ve had VC’s from Draper Fisher,  Kleiner Perkins, Mayfield, Mohr Davidow, Emergence Capital …etc.  This Thursday’s VC is Lars Leckie, representing the first exclusively software-focused venture firm, Hummer Winblad Venture Partners.

These breakfast meetings are a valuable opportunity for Entrepreneurs, some of whom would likely have a hard time getting through the door to VC Partners. Since I’ve been through quite a few of these sessions, both as Entrepreneur and Moderator, let me share a few thoughts:

  • It’s a pressure-free environment, with no PowerPoint presentations, live demos, Business Plans…etc, just casual conversation; but it does not mean you should come unprepared!
  • Follow a structure, don’t just roam about what you would like to do, or even worse, spend all your time describing a problem, without addressing what your solution is.
  • Don’t forget “small things” like the Team, Product, Market..etc.
  • It would not hurt to mention how much you are looking for, and how you would use the funds…
  • Write down and practice your pitch, and prepare to deliver a compelling story in 2-3 minutes. You will have about 8-10 minutes, the first half of which is your pitch,  but believe me, whatever your practice time was, when you are on the spot, you will likely take twice as long to deliver your story. The second half of your time-slot is Q&A with the VC.
  • Bring an Executive Summary; some VC’s like it, others don’t.
  • Last, but not least, please be on time! I am not kidding… some of you know why I even have to bring this up. Arriving an hour late to a one-and-a-half-hour meeting is NOT acceptable, but we’ve had too many such incidents, so here’s a new rule:  if you’re late by more than 20 minutes, you will not be allowed to join the session.

Here’s the event info page, and remember to register – the previous event with Hummer Winblad sold out in advance.

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Atlassian $timulus Package Inching Towards Finish Line

Quick update on the Atlassian $timulus drive I previously reported about:  at 2pm on the last day of the promotion, they are at $93K – the $100K donation is realistic… but they may need a little push.

So I decided to put my money (well, a little) where my mouth is and have just purchased 10 5-person  licences of Confluence, the market leading enterprise wiki.  Not that I can use them all – so I will find a way to give them away in the future.

If you want to help them donate $100K to Room to Read, you can do your part easily … and just as a reminder, you’re buying a $1,200 licence for $5.   What a bargain to close out the week. :-)

Update: With 3 hours to go Atlassian is just $2.5K short of reaching the target.  See coverage map at Mike’s blog.

Update #2: Ah, the drama of the last minutes:

$640 short of $100k… with 20 minutes to go, my maths says we’re just going to miss! :)
$590 short. Need $30/minute now… at least we did $35 last minute! :)
Just tipped $99,510… I wonder if we should just leave it up for 10 minutes extra, or does that seem dodgy?
Well… computer says it’s…over $100k!!
Woo! Woo!!! Dancin’ around the room. Atlassian Stimulus Package 400% of $25k goal. What a week. Simply staggering. THANK YOU EVERYBODY!
Atlassian Stimulus Package (preliminary) final total – $100,350 for Room To Read in 120 hours from 7284 _awesome_ startups and teams!!

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Atlassian $timulus Package Supports Charity. Two Days Left To Get Your (Almost) Free Confluence or Jira Licence.

This must be do-good-week.  Amongst all the talk about Ashton Kutcher’s challenge to CNN, how the follow-on Oprah show pushed Twitter to never-seen height, little attention was paid to the small fact that this initiative generated over $1 Million donations to Malaria No More.  Ashton started with his $100,000 check and was soon joined by Demi Moore, Ted Turner, Oprah and I don’t even know who else .. I lost count at $1M.   Hype aside, this is a major contribution to a good cause.

This week we’re also seeing a for-profit company, Atlassian drive to raise $100,000K for the benefit of Room to Read, an organization that builds schools, libraries in rural communities in Nepal, Cambodia, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Laos, Zambia …etc.  Doing good is in Atlassian’s DNA, likely coming from the co-Founder, who is a major Kiva Supporter.  His company had set up the Atlassian Foundation which donates basically 1% of everything:

  • 1% of company and employee time to Foundation projects
  • 1% of company equity to the Foundation
  • 1% of our products to non-profit groups

But wait!  This isn’t a post about charity only.  There’s a Deal in it for you!

The Atlassian $timulus package is a 5-day drive, during which you can get either Confluence, the excellent Enterprise Wiki, or Jira, the issue tracker – Atlassian’s first product that’s still an IT favourite  for $5 for 5 users.

Now I hear you ask: is that $5 per person per month?  That would by typical (actually low) pricing for most SaaS offerings.   NO!  It is:

  • A five-user licence (ie. $1 per person)
  • For a full year
  • For the full-featured entrerprise strenght products

My only regret is that it does not involve the hosted versions of these products.   But if it’s the downloadable, installable version, what’s this per year licence?  Most enterprise software is sold with a perpetual licence: you can use it forever.  But then the vendor pushes the (almost) mandatory maintenance fees to the tune of 20-25%, and major new releases every 4-5 years.

Atlassian does not play such games, their philosophy is transparency and simplicity. Software should be easy to learn, easy to use and easy to buy.  Hence the annual licence whish involves support. (Update: I misunderstood this part: the licence is a perpetual one, the additioal annual fees are for maintenance / support, and the are optional.)  And for comparison, the minimum annual licence for both Confluence and Jira is $1,200.

So Atlassian is essentially giving away $1,200 licences for free – but it’s actually a lot more.  This isn’t just your introductory price.  Customers who purchase during the $timulus week (only two days left) are locked in to their $1 per user price for the lifetime of the product, and those fees will be donated as well.   That goes way beyond giving up revenue – they can’t possibly provide support for $1 a year, so Atlassian is reaching into their pockets big time for years to come.

The initiative appears to be more wildly popular than they expected. The initial goal was to raise $25,000 for Room to Read, and they exceeded that target on the first day – hence the new objective of $100,000K.

Early this morning they were at 66% of the increased target:

Now, before someone thinks I am doing a paid commercial here: I am not receiving any form of compensation or incentive from Atlassian.  I simply like what they are doing.  A lot.

But I’m not naive.  This isn’t just charity.  It’s damned good marketing – in more ways then one.  First, as you may suspect is Brand recognition.

The second is perhaps less obvious: Atlassian’s initial product, Jira took several years to take off – the second, Confluence had much faster growth.  Part of their secret sauce has always been relying on a very loyal, very satisfied customer base, mostly IT-types who buy additional products from their trusted vendor.

So yes, Atlassian is seeding their market with thousands of free customers this week.  Which is fine, I’ve said before: you don’t have to be purely altruistic to do good.

Update: The Atlassian $timulus Package is now listed in Consumerist’s Morning Deals, along with Blu-Ray Discs and Casio Cameras :-)

(Cross-posted from CloudAve. To stay abreast of news, analysis and just plain opinion on Cloud Computing, SaaS, Business grab the CloudAve Feed here.)

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Two Days Left for Under the Radar Online Registration – Get Your Discount Here

We’re at the final countdown stage for the Under the Radar: Clarity in the Cloud conference – it’s coming up this Friday, April 24th, 8:00AM – 6:00PM @ the Microsoft Campus, in Mountain View, CA.  

If it’s named a conference, it has to have a keynote or a panel, and that’s what you get at 9am: the Buyers’ Wish-list Panel:

  • What are technology buyers are hunting for?
  • What cloud technologies have they adopted?
  • How you can get on their wish list?

But that’s where all similarity to a conference ends.  The rest of UtR is actually a giant Startup Launchpad – the American Idol of startups.  Except UtR won’t take months to declare the winners.  The finalists present in a rapid-fire format  – they are grouped in categories of 4 each, in two parallel tracks  and each presenter has about 15 minutes. They get grilled by the judges and audience, then all attendees get to vote  ( I wonder if they upgraded from paper ballots to SMS yet..) and at the end of the conference the winners of each category are announced.

UtR has a good track record of the participants getting funded – about half of them got funded or acquired in the past. (See more stats here.)  If we can believe InformationWeek’s Top 50 Startup list, this year’s roster will also be worth paying attention to:

           
          

          

                      

 

Then there are the Graduate Circle Companies – fomer UtR presenters, who are no longer truly “under the radar”, having proven themselves:

       

       

 

So if you want to be part of 2009 startup history, network with entrepreneurs, VC’s, media, corporate decisionmakers, join us on Friday.   CloudAve is a media partner for this event, several of us (Krish, Graeme, Raju and myself) will be there, and most importantly, we have a deal for you.  Use our VIP registration site for $100 off the non-member price.

If you can’t commit full day, drop by just for the afternoon (it’s Friday).  For the first time in the history of these events, you can now get an after-lunch pass for $275.

See you there!

(Note to PR types: thanks for all your interest, but I am not making advance appointments.  UtR is too vibrant, dynamic, there are too many interesting people to bump into to make such commitments – better go with the flow.  But it’s a small place, and several of us from CloudAve will be there, so I’m sure we’ll meet your startup clients anyway.)

(Cross-posted from CloudAve. To stay abreast of news, analysis and just plain opinion on Cloud Computing, SaaS, Business grab the CloudAve Feed here.)

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