A quick write-up of my notes from the Wednesday keynotes at Web 2.0 Expo in Berlin. I've already covered Suw Charman-Anderson's keynote about e-mail on The Social Enterprise.
Saul Kline, Index Ventures
Saul Kiline gave us a quick, harsh dose of reality. "The weather looks pretty terrible," he suggested. "The Valley is downbeat."
Startups are "fighting an imaginary war, with a product but no money or customers".
Good companies can be started in hard times. Microsoft and Apple started in the 75/76 depression. Even now, the Dow Jones is four times higher than when Apple and Microsoft were started. Most of the great tech companies started in downturns.
However, there is a market out there. The time we spend online has changed radically in the last few years. Social sites have more minutes per visitor then the big three, even if the Microsoft/Yahoo/Google trio are slightly ahead in total numbers.
And there's help: there are lots of free resources to help startups
BUT we are facing a recession. Capital will not be backing people with good PowerPoints, but people who know what they are doing. Angels will retreat and there will be a focus on professional investing.
- Don't panic
- Bootstrap like crazy
- Make products people want
- Cut your costs.
- Get to break even as soon as you can.
Apologies for the lack of blogging here today - it's all been going to The Social Enterprise.
But I'm switching back to here for the gender issues seminar.
Stephanie Booth kicked off the session by getting the audience to think about situation in which they either had felt restricted by being a woman or, in the case of the men, had been glad that they weren't a woman because it would have been harder if they were. She also raised the issue of quotas.
Janet Parkinson presented some really interesting facts and figures about the gender bias in consumption and production of online services, which she did without slides, so I have nothing to crib the figures from. I'll get them from her later, hopefully. The main gist was that there are areas - like e-commerce, social networking and (to some extent) gaming, where women are a majority or a significant minority, while the producers of those sites are almost exclusively male. It seems to make simple commercial sense that more women be involved. Otherwise you run the risk of following the "make it pink" school of marketing to women, which is just patronising.
Lloyd, as the token male, raised a handful of ideas (as well as putting up pictures of what appears to be German testicle shampoo
and a large gentleman in a small French Maid's outfit - which made me think of Janet's point about men marketing to women :) - to illustrate them)
Suw suggests that sometime the fact that some many of the most high profile bloggers are men means we get caught up in their linking patterns. Do we challenge our own networks for bias? Or to see if we're exposing ourselves to a range of opinions.
raised the issues of events which are male or female dominated, and how male-dominated events can become off-putting to women. (Lloyd raised the issue of the sometimes les-than-rigourous hygiene amongst male geeks). The gender division possibilities of Geek Girl Dinners came up, but Lloyd pointed out that these are more female-friendly than female only, as men can attend if invited by a woman.
Other issues raised from the audience:
- The stalker aspect of some social sites can be off-putting
- Women not putting themselves forward for jobs even in environments that would seem to be female-orientated.
Given that one of the big themes of the conference has been the need for Web 2.0 start-ups to look to enterprise for revenue, so expect plenty of other posts to follow…
“There are times when markets are prepared to give entrepreneurs ridiculous money and times when their refusals are ridiculous,” he said.
“Right now we wouldn’t get the capital to start Fon,” he said. The company had needed investment to make the hardware that was part of the initial offering. “When we realised money wasn’t going to be available any more, I started to make the cuts,” he continued.
- There are distinct differences in national character which you need to take into account as you spread. The Germans use Fon to save money, the Japanese see it as an altruistic act.
- It’s essential to have a great team supporting him. He has an inability to do just one thing.
- Sometimes, though, he just burns out and takes two year vacations – particularly after downturns. I believe the phrase “lucky git” applies.
- The concept of a salesman is really bad in Europe, but we all need to be one. Product design is the other part.
His cousin was killed by Argentine Government, his family got refugee status in the States. Moved to Europe for a year 13 years ago. He is very happy here now. Europe is more fair and less brutal to certain citizens, especially the ones who don’t have medical care. Spain feels like a civilised version of Argentine.
Downstairs in the Community lounge we're having a roundtable discussion with Tim O'Reilly and the organising team.
Is Web 2.0 dead?
"Everyone took it to be a version number. It wasn't," says O'Reilly
People said the web was dead in the dotcom bust. 2.0 was to indicate that it was. It's the shift to the network as the platform. It's getting bigger. It's penetrating more of our lives. It's moving from PCs to mobile devices.
O'Reilly looks at what the alpha geeks are doing - like playing with sensors in devices like the iPhone - and finds a foretaste of what's to come in them. Are phones going to drive social networks? What do location services mean for us? Mobile applications are going to blow us away.
Jennifer Pahlka: "Two thirds of attendees are from companies of 500 employees or more. It's not just about startups." No, it's about the fertile mixing of the two. How can these things be used in the real world.
Tim O'Reilly: "Lessons from Web 2.0 are going to become more important for Enterprise 2.0 in the lean times. How can we leverage the wisdom of crowds to remake old businesses."
Online to Offline
Lloyd Davis asked about how Web 2.0 will help people with their offline relationships.
Brady Forrest pointed to aka'aki from yesterday's Startup Ignite. As privacy controls grow, you can more usefully meet and make connections. O'Reilly pointed out that it's not just about people you know - and gave the examples of crowd-sourcing his daughter's holiday destination, or arranging a Tweetup in a strange city.
Boyd's thesis was this: blogs are an unequal power environment. The blogger has control. Commenters can leave comments, but usually can't edit them or remove them. The blogger more often gains reputation from the comment than the blogger does. The rise of Disqus and CoComment have been a response to that.
In parallel, the rise of RSS means that fewer regular readers actually visit your blog, divorcing them from the commenting experience. The ability to recommend and share content through readers creates a further community of readers who are even more detached from the actual comments.
It's all about the collective action of a group of people who annotate and rate:
- Digg: human recommendation
- Techmeme: algorithmic analysis for linking behaviour of A-list bloggers.
Comments in these sites do not find their way back to the blogs. And the comments on blogs are all but invisible.
Now, "flow" apps, like Twitter or the Facebook status is a much more egalitarian environment. Boyd suggests that once you get used to these flow apps, it gets harder and harder to go back to blogs. Purely doing blogs/comments seems antiquated once you're used to the flow...
If the community all move to a flow service, you don't lose your friendships.
A second wave of defection. The first was the move from mainstream media to social media. The second wave takes us from blogs to the flow. We leave behind the feudal hierarchy of blog publishers into an environment where a blog post is just one more bit of content in the flow.