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3-year Old Millionaires

No, not talking about babies here, but two Tech icons who both reached the Million milestone around their third birthday.

TechCrunch, launched 3-year ago as Mike Arrington’s hobby blog had 1 million Feedburner subscribers for the first time last week.  Of course it’s no longer a hobby blog, but a blog network run by a professional CEO, supported by a growing blogger team.  Mike himself has become a Silicon Valley institution, his Atherton home Web 2.0 Central.

Congratulations, Mike!   And Congrat’s to the other 3-year old millioinaire:  Zoho.

When Zoho Writer launched three years ago it was the underdog compared to Writely (which later became Google Docs). But it improved week by week, was soon joined by Zoho Sheet, and one had to be blind not to see the benefits of a complete Suite on the Net.  Today Zoho has a million users, is recognized as a leader along with Google, has made inroads to the Enterprise (400K users at GE?  Not bad…), The Economist calls them the force that will Deflate IT… a lot of achievements in three years.

Once again, congratulations to both… and now the race is on: who will reach the 2 Million mark first? smile_wink

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DemoCrunch 2008

This year’s TechCrunch 50 Conference is planned to coincide with DemoFall, the (other) premium startup Launch event.

VentureBeat attempts to (well, sort of) explain it with scheduling, but make no mistake, this is a fairly open move against DemoFall, to establish TechCrunch50 as the premier startup launch event. There’s no question that TechCrunch can pull in just about the entire VC community – in fact given the audience pricing, $2000 early bird, and $3000 regular, it’s hard to believe anyone but VCs can afford to attend. Well, VCs and students, as those with a student ID can get in for $149.

The presenting companies will not be charged – that’s a huge differentiate vs. Demo. As I said before, you almost have to be already funded to be able to afford Demo’s fees. I leave it to you to decide which one is more startup-friendly.smile_wink

Of course they want a real launch show, so the one hard condition is that your product /service will have to be new (unseen) at the Conference. Several commenters are already complaining that they are launching before September, which automatically disqualifies them.

I have a solution for you “early birds”: come join us at Launch: Silicon Valley 2008 jointly presented by SVASE and Garage Technology Ventures. Five of last year’s 29 presenters received venture funding, in aggregate of $30M. That’s not $140M, but not too shabby, eithersmile_regular.

How to participate? If by June 10th, 2008 (the day of the event) you will have a product or service available, but have not been out in the marketplace for more than a few months, then send an Executive Summary of no more than 2 pages to Launchsv@svase.org. Submission deadline: May 9th, 2008. (Garage Technology offers a useful Writing a Compelling Executive Summary guide.) Last year’s 30 (actually, 29) presenting startups were selected from 170 submissions. For details – and attendee registration – check out http://www.launchsiliconvalley.org/.

See you there!

Related posts: bub.blicio.us, Valleywag, Jason Calacanis, SheGeeks, ValleyWag, News.com, Silicon Alley Insider, : WinExtra, CenterNetworks, mathewingram.com/work, BoomTown, The Drama 2.0 Show, Geek Gestalt, /Message

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TechCrunch in the Toilet

No, I am not implying that TechCrunch is bankrupt, or heading into their own Deadpool.  TC has all the signs of doing just fine, with 700K subscribers and loads of advertisers.  But they are in the toilet, nevertheless – at least in a certain toilet.

Online file-sharing and collaboration startup Box.net is changing the ancient habit of reading your newspaper in the toilet.  (Frankly I never understood this habit, personally I prefer getting out of there as soon as possible, but for many people it’s a true ritual.)   The company, which just a year ago was 4 guys cramped together in a two-bedroom live-and-work apartment has grown to 20 employees and picked up two rounds of funding.   Flush with VC money, they equipped their restroom with a flat screen that shows an auto-refreshing display of technology news from TechCrunch.  No more newspaper in the bathroom!

I can’t help but wonder about the screen position though.  For all I know, this is only for the guys’ entertainment, gals usually face the other way – is Box.net still an all-male team?  And, without getting into the very material details, even we boys only perform one “operation” facing that way.., and that’s normally the quicker one. (?)

Aaron, care to clarify? smile_eyeroll

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Morsels from the Crunchies, or Whatever Happened to Business Software?

Now that The Crunchies, the Internet Startup world’s equivalent of the Oscars are over, the winners announced, a lot of champagne consumed, let me go back to a few thoughts that have been on my mind throughout the whole show.

First of all, it was nice to see so many startups recognized, meet familiar faces again, and I join the chorus in thanking TechCrunch, ReadWriteWeb, VentureBeat and GigaOm for putting the show together. Special kudos to Om Malik for coming only three weeks after his heart attack.

Second, I can’t help but think that some of the categories were .. well, almost deterministic, leaving zero chance of winning for the “little guys” lumped together with a giant. Right out of the gate, the first category, Best gadget/device: iPhone, Kindle, Ooma, Pleo, Wii. C’mon, did anyone doubt for a minute the iPhone would win? Or look at the Best mobile startup, where the finalist were AdMob, Fring, Loopt, Shozu, Twitter. Oh, please, 3 relatively unknown names against Twitter, a mega-phenomenon… smile_sarcastic

The other thought I’ve been pondering ever since the show is whatever happened to business software? The Crunchies were yet another proof that “enterprise isn’t sexy“: this was all about consumer-glitz, with a few startups who cater to businesses. That said, at least there was an Enterprise startup category, and I was really glad to see my friends at Zoho win it. Although I wholeheartedly believe they deserve it, this was by far not a slam-dunk category, with Zoho and 37signals, which has a religious cult-like fan-base being the two chief contestants.

Perhaps the Zoho team felt a bit of extra satisfaction, given that 37signals originally questioned their viability, and called them copycats rather than innovators. Well, the innovation debate definitely ended a few weeks ago, when PC World picked Zoho’s Notebook as one of the 25 Most Innovative Products of the Year. While the Crunchies were clearly a popularity contest (with over 100,000 votes) PC World’s list was compiled by professionals. This list was notably full of gadgets, and the only other software products preceding Zoho were Google Gears and the Facebook API.

Back to the Crunchies, Enterprise category, 37signals and Zoho are diametric opposites in many ways: 37signals product philosophy is all about simplicity, “products that do just what you need and nothing you don’t” while Zoho believes in functional richness, and their customer service attitude is quite different, too. Yet I believe they are both good companies, and there’s a clear demand for their products, which is well proven by the hundreds of thousands of loyal customers. Neither of them are really Enterprise software companies though. 37signals caters for what they call the “Fortune 5,000,000″ and Zoho clearly stated their mission to be the “IT for Small Business” – not that a subset of their portfolio, the Office Suite could not become Enterprise-ready, but for now it’s not their primary focus. And focused they are …

I think the Crunchies used the term Enterprise quite liberally – I would have called this category Business Software. Now, if the names IBM, HP, SAP, Citigroup, Boeing, BMW, Shell, McDonalds, Pfizer sound familiarsmile_wink, I’m sure you agree that the company who claims these and others customers is truly an Enterprise Software company. Yet Atlassian ended up in the International category, to their bad luck, as they got paired up with Netvibes. The two are apples and oranges. Atlassian is a very successful company, but the people who buy enterprise software are not the types who hang out at the Web 2.0 tech blogs or vote for the Crunchies; Atlassian stood no chance against Netvibes, with their tens of millions of individual users, all potential voters in this popularity contest.

What do three so different companies, Atlassian, 37signals and Zoho have in common? All three are bootstrapped, fast growing, financially successful and follow the “old-fashioned” business model of making good products and charging for it. I could not help but think of these guys while listen to the announcement of the Best Bootstrapped startup category, decided between FriendFeed, PoliticalBase, ProductWiki, Techmeme, UpNext. Or while listening to the panel discussion moderated by Dan Farber, where Matt Marshall expressed his astonishment how far the ad-based business model propelled us, and was wondering if advertising as the only business model would work in the downturn (no R-word!). If we had to pick the survivors of a potential downturn, these three companies are certainly safe candidates. The good old business model of charging for your product, which, incidentally, your customers love works wonders. smile_regular

Of course there was a lot more to the Crunchies, but it’s been all more then adequately covered, and I wanted to focus on business software now. But…well, I am a guy and guys love cars… so I have to mention the Cleantech category, won by Tesla, makers of this beautiful electric sports car. The only problem is, the car does not exist yet, release date has been pushed out repeatedly, the company had to go back for repeat funding, just fired a bunch of people, including the VP Manufacturing, Lead Engineer if the motor team… but hey, why not give them the Award and keep on dreaming (about the car). smile_embaressed

Update:  Apparently I am not the only one questioning the rationale of some category assignments at the Crunchies; read CenterNetworks on user-generated content.

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CrunchFool

There’s a satirical post on BBspot about Apple offering $7K refund to early adopters of the Apple Lisa, the predecessor to Macintosh.

“I’ve felt bad about people who bought the Lisa for a long time. Anybody who bought one of the first Apple Lisas really got screwed,” said Jobs. “Now that we’ve got some cash, I think it’s about time we made it right.”
People interested in the refund will need to bring in an original receipt showing they bought the Lisa in 1983 and proof of purchase from the Apple Lisa box. Sales figures from that year show that if all people who bought the computer claim the refund, Apple could be liable for almost $70,000.

Funny piece … even funnier is the fact that CrunchGear appears to have bought it.smile_party

But don’t feel sorry for the Crunch team: they like fooling readers, too. smile_tongue

Update: Forever Geek almost bought it…

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CrunchGear Site All Messed Up

Yes, it is Apple Day, so I think it’s OK for CrunchGear to temporarily convert its main site to “Apple Live“.

CrunchGear will return to its normal format after the Apple announcement. This page will refresh automatically.

However, I doubt they intended to kill access to ALL previous posts, and that’s exactly what happened. Crunchgear is practically off-line, except of course the Apple Show.

Several of Crunchgear’s posts hit Techmeme today, including one where they have the LEAD STORY, yet even the permalink to those stories is a dead end: it’s Apple only for now.

But that’s not all, look at this screenprint. Do you find anything unusal? (hint: lower right corner)

Yes, of course I clicked “edit this entry” and nothing happened since it would require a WordPress logon, but as a user I shouldn’t be seeing that option at all…

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Lessons from the TechCrunch Wiki War

Mike Arrington’s TechCrunch Parties have become “THE EVENTS TO ATTEND” in the Valley – in fact not just in the Valley: last time around I remember participants driving up all the way from San Diego, and this time people will fly in just to be there. The last party as well as the next one this Friday both sold out within hours after the announcement, and a lot of readers felt frustrated:

  • Some felt that first-come-first-served is not fair enough with such a short notice (an hour or so)
  • Some publicly asked for special consideration to get in
  • Some proposed to pay for “tickets”
  • Just about everyone complained for the lockups in the registration wiki.

I don’t envy Mike in this situation. It’s his party, his house (well, at least for the previous events), it would be perfectly OK for him to have an invitation-only party. Yet he obviously wants to see new faces, so he opens it up to anyone, but then of course he can’t please all… This time around, for the seventh TechCrunch Party hosted by August Capital there was more than the usual rush: the registration wiki has become constantly locked up and Mike was forced to move RSVPs to comments on his blog, closing the wiki.

Mike received ample feedback on why the wiki was not the right platform to handle hundreds of almost simultaneous registrations, and several entrepreneurs seized the opportunity to announce new offerings. Central Desktop announced a free public event wiki, and since it’s a hybrid not-just-a-wiki solution, Founder and CEO Isaac Garcia claims they do not have lockup issues (they use a form with a database in the background). Zoho Creator would have been another elegant solution.

However, what almost no-one talks about is that this was not simply a technical glitch. Having been lucky enough (?) to wake up 4am the day the wiki opened I managed to register myself at exactly position #100 in the wiki, then observe the wiki-war that soon ensued. The major “sins” I witnessed were:

  • Individual users registering entire blocks (dozen or more) names
  • The same users sitting on the wiki (blocking), probably while coordinating with their buddies who else to sign up
  • Previously registered names getting deleted

One can perhaps justify registering others, although I don’t know where the reasonable limit is ( I only signed up myself), but deleting others is the absolute cardinal sin. Apparently fair play is a strange concept to some.

This raises another issue though: are these people not aware that wikis provide a perfect audit trail and what they did can easily become public? Or do they simply not care? Is getting in on the TechCrunch party worth being displayed on a virtual “hall of shame”?

This particular incident aside, I think the major learning here is the overall lack of awareness of a typical wiki’s capabilities and how to “behave” while using it. I know many who’d like the collaborative capabilities but are afraid of “chaos” and the potential lack of civility… in short a major ‘wiki war’ if they open up editing to anyone. Most wiki platforms offer technical controls to limit chaos: even consumer /community focused WetPaint introduced several security schemes in their latest updates, and enterprise wikis like Socialtext and Atlassian’s Confluence have for long had elaborate security schemes – heck, that’s why they are “enterprise”.

Just as important as the permissioning is the role of social- behavioral norms, which clearly are more common and more forceful in a corporate environment, where all wiki “contributors” work for the same company. “Ross Mayfield said that in four years of building wikis for corporations Socialtext has seen precisely 0 trolls and 0 instances of vandalism.” He also maintains a Best Practices wiki (hey, it’s the new skin!). Now, remember, it’s a wiki – you can contribute, not just read.

As for the TechCrunch Party, the guest list is currently at 738(!) and here’s a preview of who’s coming, courtesy of CustomCD.us. (who may have intended to keep this a surprise, but I found it anyway….)

Update (7/28/2007): Here’s another case of wiki “who done it”.

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Salesforceless.com

(updated)
Little did Jeff Clavier or Brad Feld know just how timely their posts on “Shared Nothing Architecture” would become in days now that the granddaddy of all on-demand software, Salesforce.com was partially knocked out for almost a day.

The Typepad outage that prompted Brad and Jeff write their piece was just storm in a teacup; this is the real thing, the Perfect Storm. Real business customers could not conduct their business for a day. That something like this would happen was inevitable, but didnt’ we all expect it in the form of a major Internet outage? After all, on-demand vendors are likely to do everything in their power to avoid such outages – or do they? In the case of Salesforce.com, the answer is probably a yes: Earlier this year, Salesforce.com announced it would spend US$50 million to set up redundant East Coast and West Coast data centers with rapid data replication and failover capabilities, an initiative it dubbed “MirrorForce.” (source: IDG).
That’s exactly the kind of commitment Brad and Jeff are asking for, and not all (smaller) providers can afford it. Not that they all should… their core competency being in developing innvative software, not running data centers, which should be outsourced to the “pros” like Vinnie Mirchandani pointed it out numerous times.

Back to our “Perfect Storm”, it will have an effect on the entire on-demand industry, since Salesforce.com is such an icon for this segment. SAP, Oracle etc… will no doubt refer to this “vulnerability” in their sales pitches. Rival NetSuite will not brag about it on their homepage, but their salesforce will likely be trained to point out to prospects why this could never happen to them …

What exactly happened is still unknown – which in itself is quite a customer communications fiasco on Salesforce.com’s part. I bet it will soon be fixed though: the company will come forward with an explanation of what happened, what they do to avoid it in the future, and what they do to accomodate their customers who suffered from the outage. My bet is on Marc Benioff – he will somehow manage to turn this fiasco into a PR victory.

Talk about communication, I am amazed the blogosphere is not abuzz with this story – in fact it’s hardly being mentioned, in sharp contrast to the recent Typepad outage. Isn’t this the type of imbalance Chris Selland and Brad Feld just complained about? Or is everyone out Christmas shopping? :-) Ohh… stores close soon .. gotta run now:-)

P.S. Salesforceless.com is a valid site – I just bought it. (not that I know what to do with it… )

Happy Holidays!

Update (12/21): Others on the subject:

Update (12/23): Unlike Salesforce(less).com, TechCrunch is not mission critical software, just an extremely popular blog, yet when they have an outage, Mike finds it important enough to go public right-away. Way to go!

Update (12/31): Reuters talks about Web Services outages, citing Typepad, del.icio.us … etc, not even mentioning Salesforce(less).com. Funny… Nice-to-have services appear to be more important than mission critical business applications?


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The Authentic Web 2.0 Validator

Forget checklists, playing the Web Bingo … go to the one-and-only automated Web 2.0 authentication tool (hat tip: Vinnie Mirchandani).

Here’s the verdict on just how compliant some blogs are:

  • techcrunch 8 out of 17
  • crunchnotes 2 out of 18
  • businessweek/the_thread/blogspotting/ 5 out of 18
  • battellemedia/ 2 out of 17
  • dealarchitect.typepad 14 out of 20
  • micropersuasion/ 7 out of 14
  • blog.softtechvc/ 8 out of 19
  • bubble20.blogspot 4 out of 19
  • ross.typepad/ 4 out of 16
  • sapventures.typepad 5 out of 16
  • horsepigcow/ 10 out of 14
  • Minding the Planet 6 out of 20
  • zoliblog 6 out of 15

Oh, well, the Web 2.0 workgroup must be 100%, let’s see:

  • web20workgroup/ 7 out of 18

How about some applications?

  • zimbra 3 out of 15
  • zvents 5 out of 18
  • writely 1 out of 20
  • sphere 3 out of 18
  • meebo 0 out of 14
  • loomia 6 out of 19
  • Goowy 2 out of 17
  • flock 4 out of 18
  • TailRank 5 out of 19
  • sqlfusion 2 out of 18
  • 24sevenoffice 1 out of 17

Search Engines? Wow, look at who has the lead:

  • google 1 out of 18
  • yahoo 3 out of 17
  • msn 4 out of 20

Surprising results from the “Old World“:

  • sap 4 out of 17
  • oracle 2 out of 19
  • ibm 3 out of 16
  • walmart 2 out of 18
  • ge 3 out of 19

All right, for all of you not happy with your own score … do you have a suspicion? Confirm or clear it here.

Then, perhaps, buy the T-shirt here. (Charlie, I’m expecting a fat commission check…)

Update (11/16) : The Great Web 2.0 Joke List