Under the Radar: Commercializing the Cloud – Apply to Present / Discount Tix Here

UtR-Iam-Going Under the Radar is Silicon Valley’s most established startup debut platform: a conference series organized by Dealmaker Media, covering business applications, social media, entertainment, mobility..etc.

This year’s conference in Mountain View, CA on April 16th will focus on Commercializing the Cloud – that’s a fairly wide definition, and one that perfectly mashes with our focus over @ CloudAve, so we’re proud to be Media Partners at this event. That means we’ll be covering it before, during and after, and if you decide the attend, we’ll get you in at a discount rate.

In this American Idol of startups typically 32 finalists are selected, who are grouped in categories of 4 each and each has about 15 minutes to present in two parallel tracks. They get grilled by the judges and audience, and at the end of the conference the winners of each category are announced.  A few years ago I participated in the pre-selection of startups, and I remember having checked out hundreds of companies to come down to the finalist set.  At the moment 19 finalists are announced:

AppDynamics, AppFirst, Aprigo, Cloudant, CloudShare, CloudSwitch, Conformity, CubeTree, Fonolo, GoodData, Layerboom Systems, Makara, MaxiScale, Neo Technology, NorthScale, Reductive Labs, RiverMuse, SaaSure and SendGrid.

This means two things:

  • A dozen or so slots are still open
  • The Selection Committee will likely sift through another 100+ applications to fill those slots.

So if you consider your startup a (future) leader in Saas | Collaboration | Business Apps | Development Tools | Compliance |  (and more!), don’t waste time, apply here to be a presenter.

A personal note: the roster so far is quite infrastructure-heavy, which I’m sure makes Krish happy… but as the dumb non-techie business guy, I’d love to see more Business Apps, too 🙂

Past presenters include: Heroku, Get Satisfaction, Marketo, Eucalyptus, Zuora,, Ribbit, Hubspot, Twilio, New Relic, CloudKick, Jive Software, and many more.  Many (54%) of the UtR participant received funding, some grew to fame, others disappeared… but disappearance is not always bad  – as is the case of 2008 Under the Radar graduate 3Tera, which just got acquired by Computer Associates. 🙂

And if you’re not presenting, you sure would like to attend 🙂 CloudAve readers get $100 off their tickets here!

Under the Radar is not only a great startup showcase, it’s perfect good networking and and deal-making forum in Silicon Valley. Stay above the clouds – see innovation in its earliest stages – and get deals done; one handshake at a time. Mingle with 350 VC’s, journalists and C-level executives seeking to find, connect and partner with startups who’s products, technology and teams fit strategically into their road maps.

Remember to use our discount – and see you there!

(Cross-posted @ CloudAve )


SaaS Accounting Gains: Now What Say You, McKinsey?

According to Goldman Sachs Accounting is now at the #3 spot in SaaS implementations, reports Dennis Howlett.

Not a real surprise, certainly not to Dennis’s readers, or those who follow Ben’s Accounting 2.0 series over @ CloudAve.

Still, seeing the numbers makes me feel good, given that I debated a short-sighted report by McKinsey a few years ago, when they predicted that Financial Applications would be amongst the last to move to the Cloud.

Eat crow, McKinsey 🙂

(Cross-posted @ CloudAve )


If it Swims Like a Duck and Quacks Like a Duck, then it Probably is a Duck. The Anti-SAP Duck.


Two SAP-related conferences will run literally next door to each other in Boston next week.  One, which I am attending is the SAP Influencer Summit where analysts and the media get to meet SAP execs – the other is what some of us quickly dubbed the Anti-SAP Conference.

The Sapience conference  is focused on “Alternatives for leveraging  your investment in SAP”.  Fellow Enterprise Irregulars Vinnie Mirchandani and Ray Wang will both be presenting – no surprise there. Vinnie has long earned the nickname Vinnie Maintenance (well, when he’s not Vinnie Merchantsmile_wink) for his crusade against bloated integration and maintenance costs, which “can make up 70 to 90% of TCO in an SAP shop” and Ray also has a track record of taking the customer side.  No wonder the two are now working together as Enterprise Advocates.

Are enterprise software fees outrageously high?  Probably… see my old post on how SaaS subscription can be half of only the maintenance component of traditional software’s TCO.  Do System Integrators, Consultants overcharge?  Probably … although let’s be real, they charge whatever they can get away with, i.e. whatever the market allows. Hence alternatives are good – SaaS, nimble, less expensive third party providers and even strategic client-side consultants like Vinnie and Ray who can make a decent living on advising customers on how to reduce their ERP TCO.  The market is all about competition and and market players have to take sides, no shame in that.

But then I don’t understand why Vinnie and Dennis Howlett are vehemently denying the anti-SAP nature of Sapience. I prefer to call it what it is – just take a look at the sponsor list:

It’s a who is who of SAP’s competitors – now let’s look at some of the Conference Speakers:

  • Craig Conway, PeopleSoft’s last CEO before getting swallowed by Oracle
  • Jan Baan, Founder of Baan, a “hot” SAP competitor in the 90’s
  • Paul Wahl who left SAP for Siebel, and took the creme of SAP’s leadership at the time with him

golden oldiesThey share one thing in common: all former SAP competitors but also representative of the very same “fat” business model they will no doubt speak out against.  They are joined by several former SAP Execs and current service providers.

Zach Nelson, CEO of NetSuite is a great competitor and one who does not miss a chance SAP’s fumbling with their own SMB SaaS offering, BYD offers him.

It’s hard to not see what the conference organizer, Helmuth Gumbel assembled here: the Anti-SAP All Star Band.  Oh, and let’s not forget how Dennis Howlett had introduced Helmuth: SAP’s feet put to the fire.

How about the timing?  If you believe it’s pure coincidence that Sapience coincides with the SAP Influencer Summit both in time and location, I have a bridge to sell you.  It’s just as “accidental” as Netsuite’s SAP for the Rest of Us Party was during SAPPHIRE 2006, right across the Convention Center.   Nothing wrong about guerilla marketing, but why be shy about it?

A conference designed to steal some thunder from SAP’s Summit, at the same time and place, sponsored and keynoted by SAP’s competitors, and it’s not “anti-SAP”?  C’mon… you know the quacks and all.smile_wink But don’t get me wrong: Sapience may very well be a healthy contribution to the SAP ecosystem – it just does not need any whitewashing.

You may also want to read the healthy debate that developed in the comments to Vinnie’s post.

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(Cross-posted @ CloudAve )


SaaS CEO on Improving Website Visitor to Trial User to Paying Customer Conversion

I don’t claim to be an expert in the area, so this is more a quick pointer then a real post. Well, too short for a post, too long for a tweet:-)

Duane Jackson, CEO of SaaS accounting provider Kashflow writes up his experience of using Google Analytics and Website Optimizer to fine-tune his site to increase conversion:

It turned out that of everyone that visited our registration page, only 45% of them actually went on to complete it. So over half of everyone that looked at our registration page sailed off into the sunset never to be seen again.
We’ve managed to gradually improve that to almost 70% by trying a few different things…

His conclusion:

I’m really pleased we’ve found the time and tools to do this. What really irks me is that we didn’t do this ages ago. I could sit down and calculate what our revenues and customer numbers would look like if we improved conversions like this years ago – but I’m scared to.

Every day that you’re not actively working on improving your conversion ratios is a day of lost opportunities.

You can do it, too at zero cost:-) Or if you want to turn pro level, you may want to check out HubSpot, the inbound marketing gurus.

(Cross-posted @ CloudAve )


Dubious SaaS Awards

SaaS Directory has announced September’s most popular SaaS companies.  The top 5 are:

September’s top 5 US winners are:
#1 – Gogrid
#2 – WebECS
#3 – CariNet
#4 – Rackspace
#5 – American Data Technology

That’s a strange list..or perhaps SaaS Directory has a strange definition of “SaaS companies” since the top 5 are all in the web hosting business. (ASP, anyone?).  Well, it triggered my curiosity enough to dig deeper and look at the full list.  I’m not picking on any business here, simply stating my own ignorance, but I have to admit I haven’t heard of Robson Communications, Younicycle, Apptix or Yuba, just to name a few.   But perhaps it’s just me, so I asked around on Twitter:

How many “SaaS” companies do you recognize in this so-called “most popular” list?

Here are a few responses:


Hm.. you tell me:-)


6 from former Industry Analyst and current SaaS Exec Chris Selland – should say something about the list


Ben makes a living writing about this stuff, and he only recognizes a third of these companies…

There’s one on the list I know by pure co-incidence: Vembu Technologies, whose CEO I happened to meet at his brother Zoho CEO Sridhar Vembu’s office (disclosure: Zoho is Cloudave’s exclusive Sponsor).  I guess it proves it’s an entrepreneurial family: but wouldn’t Zoho be a more recognizable SaaS brand than Vembu?

The more I look at the SaaS Directory, the more confused I am.  Or perhaps they are the ones quite confused?  Here’s their definition of SaaS Project Management:

SaaS is an effective project management tool which enables teams to work together towards achieving common objectives dramatically improving the overall user experience while offering increased flexibility

“SaaS is an effective tool”… LOL.  (By the way, for SaaS PM discussions you may want to read this thread, or Andrew Filev’s PM 2.0 Blog)

Clicking further I’ve discovered the SaaS Directory Forums – they all seem to be overrun by commercial  spam:


I rest my case.  Awards are a great way to recognize effort, success – but some awards can only harm a company’s reputation. As for the SaaS Directory – well, it’s a directory sans the SaaS part.

(Cross-posted @ CloudAve )


Mileage Calculator a Life-Saver @ Tax Time

What tax-time, you may ask.  It’s April 15th, at least in the US. Wrong:  Anyone can get an automatic 6-month extension, which means the real tax deadline is October 15th… closing in on me … ahhhh. No, I am not a procrastinator,  my tax forms are always almost done by April 15th and I pay my dues, but there is this one ugly thing I hate to do every year: calculating business mileage deduction.

The IRS requires proper documentation and I do have it .. well, almost: it’s in my electronic calendar, with dates, locations, purpose of meeting..etc, except for one thing: the actual mileage.   So every year the ugly process that takes several hour is:

  • export my calendar entries to csv format
  • massage them in a spreadsheet (fill missing data, delete non-business ones..etc)
  • manually look up trip mileage for every single line using Google Maps
  • plug in mileage, let spreadsheet calculate claimable $ amount.

It takes several hours, is the only reason why I wait till the last minute and then some.  But this year, it just dawned on me: this is so bad, someone must have come up with a way to automate the process (and if not, I’ll find a developer). That’s basically the mantra of Web 2.0: whatever your (productivity) problem is, likely millions share it, so someone must have come up with the solution.

In this case the magic comes from a very simple site: Mileage Calculator. It does not look like a fashionable app, in fact it does not look like an application at all – you might think it’s just a blog post writing about the real thing.  That’s because it was not created with the mindset of bringing it to market:

It was created by Ade Olonoh who used Google Calendar heavily to track meetings, but neglected to record his mileage for tax purposes. Sure, it would’ve taken him less time to figure out the mileage than create this tool, but that wouldn’t have been any fun.

So yes, it lacks the bells and whistles, pastel colors and rounded corners.  Here’s the one-and-only entry screen:

Yes, no more list, export /import, data lookup:  Mileage Calculator will look up your trips from Google Calendar, fetch the mileage information from Google Maps, presents you with a list and total, then finally saves it as a CSV file to be used in a spreadsheet.   Simple, yet a life-saver – a free one.

Now, after all the praise, let’s be a bit critical: what would it take to turn this into a product?  Fix two weaknesses:

  • It’s not particularly smart parsing address data: i.e. it does not understand “Moscone Center, 747 Howard St, San Francisco, CA‎”, it has to be strictly in the format of “747 Howard St, San Francisco, CA‎”
  • The ugly UI

With those two fixes Mileage Calculator could become a nifty little service, or perhaps a feature that SaaS accounting and tax providers might want to pick up.  In the meantime, it’s a useful little productivity tool.

(Cross-posted @ CloudAve)

(Cross-posted @ CloudAve )


SAP and Zoho Come Together

At least on screen… Zoho CEO Sridhar Vembu delivers his keynote @ NASSCOM, and what’s the background?  SAP Business ByDesign.


Business ByDesign: probably the best All-in-One SaaS suite NOT (quite) on the market today. smile_omg


MinTuit: What’s Next After the Intuit / Mint Deal

mintuit TechCrunch50 could not have asked for a better start:  they get to announce that personal finance startup Mint winner of the $50K grand prize @ TC50 two years ago just got acquired for $170M.

Great exit for a startup – not so sure about concerned users.   But the big question today is why it made sense for Intuit and what the future holds for Mint and its users.  The consensus is that first of all this has been a defensive move.  Mint started to bite into the Intuit / Quicken pie, and Intuit just had to stop it.

There is some irony in this deal: the playbook had been written by Microsoft, against Intuit.

Continue reading


Video Interview with SAP’s John Schwartz

NBClogo NBC’s Press: Here host Scott McGrew, TechCrunch’s Sarah Lacy and Fortune’s Jon Fortt interview SAP Executive Board Member John Schwartz in this two-part video. 

Schwartz came to SAP through their acquisition of Business Objects, and unlike many acquisitions where the “assimilated” CEO gets slowly marginalized, this one seems to have worked well. In fact John Schwartz is becoming somewhat of a front man, especially as his analytics become the growth engine SAP badly needed, with their traditional transactional system being somewhat stale.

Another interesting aspect is that while SAP now has a an On-Demand Tzar in ex-Oracle John Wookey, his team is still largely strategizing – while Schwartz’s  Business Objects is a showcase of a formerly traditional software company turning to SaaS aggressively.

Btw, this is not the first time an “acquired” exec catapults fast in SAP: the previous guy arguably started lower and raised to stardom fast… but he is now at a Better Place (pun intended).

Anyway, enjoy the discussion.

Part 1:


Part 2:


Btw, these videos have been online for a week now, but on the first day the were practically unviewable: watch for 3-4 seconds, then wait for long buffering… again… again. 

One Customer at a Time is a great principle – in Customer Care, not on-demand video. 🙁


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(Cross-posted @ CloudAve)


Google Replaces Beta Tag With Price Tag on Apps

Just a short note:

Guess who will welcome GooGreed with a big smile?  Zoho.

Update:  TechCrunch has the clarification from Google:

In experimenting with a number of different landing page layouts, the link to Standard Edition was inadvertently dropped from one of the variations. We are in the process of restoring it and you should see it soon. We have no intention of eliminating Google Apps Standard Edition, and are sorry for the confusion.

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