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SVASE Event: How To Build A Lean, Mean, Global Operation From The Get Go

(reposted from SVASE)

The traditional model for startups of gaining traction in your home market and then expanding internationally is under extreme pressure. Some VCs say they only look at deals that come to them with well defined global strategies, and it’s no longer unusual for a startup to develop its technology in Israel, Finland or the UK, secure its funding in the U.S. and have its founders to be first generation immigrants from China, Europe or India.

Offshore? Onshore? Nearshore? Noshore?

VCs who once bragged about never driving more than half an hour to visit a portfolio company are jetting to Australia for optical engineers, Israel for security whizzes, India and Kazakhstan for brute software coding, South Korea for online gaming and Japan for graphics chips. And many say a global view is required just to keep pace with foreign firms quick to copy an idea.
• When does having a global strategy become a strategic imperative?
• How can cash strapped startups realistically address global markets without blowing up their limited resources?
• Is offshore product development really effective for a startup? Or is it just an endless wait for S/W that never quite works as you’d like?
• Do you really need to create different products for each international market?
• If you’re planning on operating on 4 continents, where does your management team reside?
• How important are international patents? Are they worth the time & cost?
• How do you gain traction in an unknown geography?
• What added value can the right investor bring to the party?


The Panel:
• Andrew Filev, CEO, Wrike
• Girish Gaitonde, Founder & CEO, Xoriant Corporation
• Faraz Hoodbhoy, Founder, EVP & CTO, PixSense, Inc.
• Peter Rip, General Partner, Crosslink Capital
• Sridhar Vembu, Founder and CEO, Zoho
Moderator: Peter Laanen, International Trade Director, Netherlands Business Support Office


WHEN:
Thursday, November 1
6:00 – 7:00 pm: Networking and hors d’oeuvres
7:00 – 8:15 pm: Panel discussion and Q/A
8:15 – 8:30 pm: Additional networking


LOCATION:
Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati (WSGR Campus), 950 Page Mill Road, Palo Alto, CA 94304

Register here.

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Another Mashup Bites the Dust – or NOT.

I already used this title, a little more then a month ago, and it’s no coincidence: back then I wrote about Gmap Pedometer, a handy little Google Map hack that allowed you to calculate the lenth of your planned hike. When all of a sudden Google Maps encorporated the same feature, that pretty much eliminated the reason for this mashup to even exist (although it still does).

It’s that time again: now that Google Maps went social, allowing user profiles, let’s spend a moment of silence in memory or of the mashup that has been doing the same for a long time: Frappr.

And remember: not all mashups get acquired by Google. Some just get assimilated. Resistance is futile. smile_sad

Related posts: Google Operating System, Screenwerk, Search Engine Land, TechCrunch, mathewingram.com/work, ParisLemon and Mashable!

Update (10/18): In this case I’m glad to be proven wrong: a day later, Frappr is acquired. Also read Read/WriteWeb and Mashable!

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Facebook Just Ain’t For Business, Get Over It (Business Needs Social Networking in Context)

I’ve stolen the first part of the title: Sam Huleatt’s best contribution to the New York Times article is giving it a new title that says it all. thumbs_up

The Facebook vs LinkedIn debate heated up again today, for the millionth time. The Facebook Fanclub’s recurring theme in comparing LinkedIn to Facebook is just how resume- and jobsearch-oriented LinkedIn is: go there, get what you want, then there’s nothing else to do there.

I’m sorry, but since when is this a complaint? Isn’t business all about having an objective and efficiently reaching it with minimum the time and effort? I suspect most of the LinkedIn “deserters” who switched to Facebook are independent types who have the time to hang around in Facebook, and are striving to enhance their personal brand.

Jeremiah’s Web Strategy Group is thriving which certainly helps boost his own brand. Robert Scoble wants to have more than 5,000 friends:

I think it sucks because it isn’t scalable and falls apart at 5,000 contacts. It pisses me off more and more every day because of that scaling wall.

Robert is a celebrity, and this is his fan-club. For the rest of us, I still believe less is more, (update: Doc Searls feels the same) and our online network should reflect our real-life one, instead of being an inflated collection of data records. We already saw the initial “link-mongering” on LinkedIn, but after a while things settled down, and the majority of LinkedIn users max out with 2-300 contacts, which is about the number of people you really, truly can know well. Now, somehow with Facebook all the netiquette is thrown away: I’m sure I’m not the only one flooded with invitations by people whose name does not even remotely sound familiar, and frankly, it’s frustrating.

I also fail to see the usefulness of seeing when my contacts watch a movie, pack for a trip, make coffee, or go to pee. This is a lot of noise with the sole purpose of gluing us to the screen (it works!), and made sense for on-campus dating, Facebook’s heritage, but let’s be real: how is this relevant to business? I’m not saying Facebook can’t be used for business at all – Jeff Nolan quotes a few examples:

Victoria Secret has a group for their Pink product line, 380k members and great interactivity, downloads, user generated content.

Ernst & Young is recruiting through Facebook and experiencing great results as a result of being connected with their candidates where they live.

So, yes, Facebook can be used for business, but these examples are all about external outreach, marketing, communication, recruiting. The point I’m making is, let’s not, while bringing everything Web 2.0 into the Enterprise 2.0 umbrella try to push Facebook to the corporate market – is has no value there. Let’s not equate Facebook to Social Networking, which is, and will be important for the Enterprise, but it needs context.

To illustrate my point, I’ll bring an example originally not “labeled” as Social Networking – oh, and the story has a Facebook-y twist, too.

ConnectBeam started their life as del.icio.us for business, but arguably they have developed into a business-focused social networking tool: in context, with purpose. Ironically, it was Facebook that drove ConnectBeam into this market in the first place.

Founder Puneet Gupta launched CourseCafe in 2005, with the intention of becoming for students’ academic life what Facebook has become for their social Life – in fact I called it “The Other Facebook” for a reason: We thought that while Facebook dominated 80% of students’ life, the fun part, there was room for CourseCafe to help organize the remaining 20%, their studies. They had a good product, received good reviews and started to get traction, spreading through several colleges. Ultimately Puneet became worried about potentially clashing with FaceBook, and at the same time he received interest from the corporate world, so he reinvented his business, this time focusing on the Enterprise.

The new business, ConnectBeam is social bookmarking for the Enterprise – but soon they took a new spin, expanding towards social networking. But doing it in the right way, in context. The context is finding co-workers who are likely engaged in similar activities to yours, or at least have similar interests, since they execute similar searches and are using the same tags you do. Their product is tightly integrated with Google’s Enterprise search, showing a combined result of what Google finds, what is tagged by how many people, and the list of users sharing that item or tag.

Tight integration to Google has become their “secret sauce” in terms of sales success, too: just about any large organization has already a Google (or Fast ..etc) appliance, a dedicated person with a mission and budget to spend on Enterprise Search – so in fact what they sell is “search enhancement”. ConnectBeam has only launched recently, but they already have Honeywell, CSC, Booz Allen Hamilton and other big names as paying customers.

They’ve come full circle: driven away from the college market by Facebook, now offering context-specific social networking, beating Facebook to the Enterprise. They will not get 40 million users, and Puneet will not become a billionaire, like Mark Zuckerberg (likely) will. They follow the good old-fashioned model: deliver value to businesses, who pay for it. That’s pretty good in my book. smile_wink

Update: Of course the “LinkedIn vs Facebook” and “Facebook Sucks” stories are all over TechMeme:

TechCrunch, All Facebook, vanderwal.net Off the Top, CenterNetworks, Workbench, bub.blicio.us, Scripting News, /Message, WinExtra, Insider Chatter, mathewingram.com/work, Thomas Hawk’s Digital …, even Mini-Microsoft (wow!), PDA/Guardian,

Update #2: The you-don’t-need-more-friends lobby by Robert Scoble. I still belive he does not have 5,000 “friends” but a 5,000 (or more) strong fan-club. When you have 5,000 contacts, it’s a Rolodex (a term Robert used, too), not “live” contacts. And I suggest you read the comments to my old less is more post – re. the same subject, even though it’s on LinkedIn.

Update #3: Pfizer teams with Sermo, the “doctors’ Facebook” – Nick Carr writes about another contextual social network.

Update (10/15): Getting (Anti-) Social, the Web 2.0 Way – @ Wired & TechCrunch.

Wow! I’ve became Doc Searls’ Quote du jour. I’m honored.

Update (10/26): Naughty “Business” on FaceBook

Update (10/28): Beginner’s 5 Step Guide to Using LinkedIn and Facebook

Facebook Isn’t A Social Network, LinkedIn Is

Aussies as Adults: an Enterprise Facebook Story

The Facebook Fad

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Wiki: the Beauty & the Beast. Usability & Functionality (Event)

Silicon Valley Web Builder will host a wiki-focused event tomorrow, Wednesday. While their first wiki event almost a year ago with JotSpot, Socialtext , Atlassian and WetPaint was more introductory, this time the focus will be on – surprise! – the contrast or harmony of Beauty- i.e. attractive UI, vs. the Beast – functional robustness.

The Moderator for tomorrow is Luke Wroblewski, Yahoo’s design guru who has authored a book on Web interface design principles titled “Site-Seeing: A Visual Approach to Web Usability” and is working on thee next one: “Web Form Design Best Practices”.

The Panelists are:

It’s definitely an interesting mix. Playing a bit with the metaphor, I’d say market leader Atlassian is known as the “beast”: whatever enterprise wiki functionality you can think of, their Confluence will likely have it.

Wetpaint got popular for the “beauty” – that’s why I called it the wiki-less wiki. It’s a most user-friendly self-publishing tool that allows anyone to create a site and transform it into an online community. Incidentally, the SV Web Builder site is built on Wetpaint.

Brainkeeper, a user-friendly enterprise wiki startup took me by surprise when they launched in January. Totally out of left field, they aim to be the beast like Confluence and the beauty like Wetpaint, with twists not seen in wikis, like workflow. I’m really looking forward to seeing how far they’ve got since launch.

MindTouch is transforming the Wiki from the Web’s best collaborative authoring tool into an open source service platform with a Wiki heart. Their Deki Wiki Hayes release is perhaps the most extendable Wiki tool available today.” I had to steal that line from Read/WriteWeb, I couldn’t have said it any bettr – oh, and congrat’s on reaching the 100,000 user mark!

Zoho is not a pure-play wiki player. Their wiki is just a part of a productivity/collaboration suite, and it shows. Beauty? The UI needs improvement, but this is the only wiki with not just simple a WYSIWYG editor, but a full word processor that writes true html, not wiki syntax. Beast? I think the emphasis here will not be on the standalone product, but how well it integrates with other Zoho offerings, supporting a flow-oriented world that matches how we think.

It will no doubt be an interesting event, so please check out the site details, and remember, admission is free if you register online, but $10 at the door. See you tomorrow.

Related posts: Laughing Squid, Lunch 2.0, Functioning Form, Mindtouch, Brainkeeper, Wetpaint, Zoho blogs, Centernetworks.

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Over Thirty You Are a Senior

Multiply, a social network aimed at 30-somethings, has just announced additional venture funding of $16.6 million” – reports Venturebeat.

“Social networking sites take notice of seniors” – says the International Herald Tribune.

Here’s the screenprint from Techmeme.

Now I wonder if I am a senior Thinking

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Romulan Attack Because of Microsoft Office

The Romulans attack the Federation for they can’t read the Peace Treaty sent to them in Word 2307 format… they only have Word 2303. A hilarious cartoon by Geek and Poke. Joke? Perhaps … or not.

Yesterday I attended a (so-called) Enterprise 3.0 event hosted by the MIT Club of Northern California. So-called, as nobody really used the term, other than the moderator, Sramana Mitra. The panelists politely put the title on their slides, and then distanced themselves from the concept, Google’s Jonathan Rochelle being most outspoken: “we did not even get to Enterprise 2.0, why 3.0 now?” (Update: read JR’s follow-up post).

That said, it was an interesting event, clearly focused on Software as a Service (SaaS). 3 of the 4 presenters came with PowerPoint decks – kudos to Microsoft’s Cliff Reeves who only had 1 slide. In the spirit of eating one’s own dogfood JR’s “presentation” was a public Google Spreadsheet.

Next came Captain Picard Sramana: her slides suffered the same faith the Federation’s Peace Treaty did: they were created in a different version, and could not be opened on the presenters’s laptop. Host Nicolas Saint-Arnaud made a heroic effort trying to download a converter, but failed, so Sramana could not show her presentation. This happened in a room discussing SaaS where at least two (well, one and a half) online presentation tools were represented: Google’s future presentation app by Jonathan, and the existing Zoho Show by Sridhar. With a Web 2.0 tool, there s no dependency on having the correct software version on your machine, there are no updates, patches (in fact there are, managed behind-the-scenes by the service provider) – your slides (data) are instantly available anywhere, anytime.

I somewhat wonder if this was an intentional ploy on Sramana’s behalf: after all we can talk all we want about the benefits of working on the Web, nothing delivers a punchline as forcefully as a publicly failed download/patch… or the Romulan nukes, for that matter. (Will they still use nukes in the 24th Century?)

(Side-note to anyone delivering presentations: don’t ever try to download and apply an upgrade publicly, on a projection screen. Murphy’s Law will apply)

Update: See Sramana’s Nuggets from the event, including the slides. She says it was not a ploy… (but I may just have given her an idea ;-) )

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Enterprise 3.0: Where Is It Headed? – Interesting Panel with the Wrong Title

I’m not a big fan of the whole 2.0 /3.0 theme, but I have to accept the fact that Web 2.0 and related concepts have become commonplace, everyday terms that today we’re taking for granted. Enterprise 2.0, on the other hand is far more debated. Definitions range from loosely saying “Web 2.0 tools in the Enterprise” through Harvard Prof Andrew McAfee’s “Use of emergent social software platforms within companies, or between companies and their partners or customers” to MR Rangaswami’s much broader synergy of a new set of technologies , development models and delivery methods that are used to develop business software and deliver it to users.” Then we have a set of attempts to simply “get to the point”, without long academic debate, like lightweight software, or Meet Charlie, a simple yet effective slideshow that personalizes the story.

One thing there is agreement about is that there is no agreement – in terms of a definition, that is… but that does not prevent us from attending conferences like Enterprise 2.0 or Office 2.0, and more importantly, businesses from embracing Enterprise 2.0 to varying degrees. It is happening, whether we have a “final” definition or not.

However, I really don’t think we’re ready for Enterprise 3.0 – not now, not ever. There are quite a few articles on the subject, but they all come from the same author, Sramana Mitra (except for two old ZDNet articles quoting Shai Agassi and JP Rangaswami). Sramana has certainly “cornered” the market – except there really is no “market” if she’s the only one using the term. Her definition: Enterprise 3.0 = SaaS + EE. What’s EE? Extended Enterprise:

The modern enterprise is no longer one, monolithic organization. Customers, Partners, Suppliers, Outsourcers, Distributors, Resellers, … all kinds of entities extend and expand the boundaries of the enterprise, and make “collaboration” and “sharing” important.

Let’s take some examples. The Salesforce needs to share leads with distributors and resellers. The Product Design team needs to share CAD files with parts suppliers. Customers and Vendors need to share workspace often. Consultants, Contractors, Outsourcers often need to seamlessly participate in the workflow of a project, share files, upload information. All this, across a secure, seamlessly authenticated system.

Sounds familiar? Of course, back in the 90’s this is what we called (Extended) Supply Chain. I’m not sure we need to create another label just yet. But if and when something is so significant that it deserves a new name, let’s get a bit more creative … I’m with fellow Enterprise Irregular Thomas Otter, who humorously ranted:

  • The car isn’t called horse 2.0.
  • The lightbulb isn’t called candle 2.0
  • Fax (Facsimile) isn’t called letter 2.0

If we are so innovative in the 21st century, the least we can do is to think of some new terms that inspire. Think ROBOT, Television, Velcro, Radio, even scuba (Self-Contained Underwater-Breathing Apparatus) … If this stuff is really that innovative then it deserves a proper word.

Back to Sramana and “Enterprise 3.0″: next week she will be moderating a panel discussion of the MIT Club of Northern California, with the ambitious title: Enterprise 3.0: Where Is It Headed?. Excerpt from the event description:

Collaboration, wikis, blogs and social networking are new tools igniting the enterprise market. Service based models are emerging as alternates to desktop software and enterprise servers. In March 2007, Cisco acquired WebEx for $3.2 billion, stepping in with a splash in the enterprise collaboration space. Meanwhile, Google has assembled a whole suite of word processing, presentation, and spreadsheet tools and just acquired Postini, an email management company. Microsoft has been adding collaboration and knowledge management capabilities to its Windows Platform and just announced plans to offer Web-based versions of its applications. Then, there are exciting startups that are offering alternatives.

This panel will explore the impact of Web 2.0 on the prosumer i.e. the individual user in the enterprise and the evolution and integration of office tools, communication and collaboration technologies.

Sounds vintage Enterprise 2.0, if you ask me.smile_wink That said, I think it’s an exciting subject, and they will certainly have a first-rate panel:

  • Tom Cole, General Partner, Trinity Ventures
  • Cliff Reeves, GM, Emerging Business Unit Team, Microsoft
  • Jonathan Rochelle, Product Manager, Google Docs and Spreadsheets
  • Sridhar Vembu, Founder, CEO, Zoho / Adventnet last minute change: the event site now lists Tim Harvey, VP Planning, Webex, Cisco Systems instead of Sridhar Vembu.

Whatever we call it, I plan to be there. If you are reading this blog, chances are you’re also interested in these subjects, so if you happen to be in the Bay Area Wednesday evening, perhaps I’ll see you there. Here’s the registration page. (Warning: the form is way too long, asking for way too much information – vintage 1.0 stylesmile_omg)

Additional reading: Open Gardens, Portals and KM, Anne Zelenka, Luis Suarez, the FASTForward Blog, Read/WriteWeb, Chris Pirillo, Fake Steve Jobs smile_tongue , just to name a few…

Update (8/21): as much as I hate this 2.0-3.0 labeling, I like Don Dodge’s new formula: Web 2.0 = web app + 2 founders + 0 revenue

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Blog Comment Systems Galore

What a difference (less than) two years make! Here I was complaining about losing half the conversation …. two months later three comment tracking services debuted: coComment , MyComments and co.mments. Of these three, coComment developed decent traction.

Fast forward a year or so, and we have an abundance of comment tracking / conversational tools: TechCrunch just announced Intense Debate:

…a souped-up blog commenting system that adds a lot of features for publishers and commenters alike. Installing the plug-in on your blog (WordPress, Blogger, and TypePad) adds threading, comment analytics, bulk comment moderation across all your blogs, user reputation, and comment aggregation.

TechCrunch mentions JS-Kit, SezWho, and Tangler as competitors. But on the very same day Fred Wilson announced another commenting system:

I am lending a new startup a hand by letting them showcase their new comment system on this blog.
I don’t know how much I am supposed to say about them, so I’ll stay silent on them for now.

Based on some similarities (at least at first glance) I thought it was Intense Debate skinned somewhat differently – but after all, there was a little logo leading to Disqus: another commenting/ conversation system.

Choices, choices … what’s a poor blogger to do? smile_eyeroll

Update: I’ve met – online – Josh from Intense Debate and Daniel from Disqus. The dilemma still stands (hm, should I say I’m intensely debating which one to try ;-)) but in the meantime I’ve found this video on Daniel’s blog. It’s absolutely off-topic, and absolutely worth watching (till the very end, or you’ll miss the point):

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FireFox Flocked: Feature Glut vs. Performance

Mozilla has released the scoop on Coop (sorry, couldn’t resist), a product that will incorporate social networking right into the FireFox browser.

This cannot be good news to social browser Flock (originally built on Mozilla) says TechCrunch. (Flock is another story on it’s own right: pre-release over-hype, underwhelming early beta, still waiting for a 1.0 product). Not everyone thinks Flock is .. well, *flocked*, for example Matthew Ingram and Mark Evans think the more competition the better.

But there is a bigger story here. The initial reaction on TechCrunch is almost unanimously negative – and it’s not the typical Arrington-bashing pile-on.

  • “I hope they offer a version without. I want a browser, not a social network.”
  • “I’d rather see them address the resource-hogging issues in Firefox. If social-networking features cause it to use any more system resources, I’ll need a freakin’ dedicated server just to browse the web.”
  • “It does sound exciting but why does Mozilla want to add further memory hogging features in firefox.”
  • “I don’t want anything more in Firefox until they stop it consuming 98% of my CPU cycles.”
  • “Firefox is still a resource hog. I’d rather see that fixed before it becomes a social browser.”

Clearly, users want their browsers to work reliably, fast, without becoming a resource-hog. I’ve said before, performance is a feature, and apparently it’s becoming feature #1 for many – yours truly included. I must be getting old, not getting this social “networking 24×7″ – heck, I don’t even watch Justin.tv smile_omg

Now, to be real, I’m sure (?) Coop will be an optional add-on, so those who don’t want it can continue with a more lightweight browser. But this mini-revolt at TechCrunch is a good reminder that the memory-hog issue has been present and largely unaddressed by Mozilla for years. I think it also offers a lesson to any software company: even your most religious fans/users can easily jump ship if either something better comes along, or you “flock” up badly.

Related posts: Startup Meme, Andy Beal’s Marketing Pilgrim, Infocult, Techscape, mathewingram.com/work, Mashable!, Mark Evans, Compiler, franticindustries, 901am, CenterNetworks, Between the Lines, The Social Web and more …