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Web 2.0 Expo Berlin: The Wednesday Keynotes

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.

Key advice:

  • Don't panic
  • Bootstrap like crazy
  • Make products people want
  • Cut your costs.
  • Get to break even as soon as you can.

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Web 2.0 Expo Berlin: Gender Issues

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. 

Steph talks

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

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. 
Ian 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.

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Dion Hinchcliffe on Enterprise 2.0

Dion Hinchcliffe

The final keynote of the day was given by Dion Hinchcliffe, who talked about the impact of Web 2.0 on the enterprise. Some of his presentation seemed to irk people who posted about it on Twitter, but I'll come back to that in a moment.

There were no real surprises in his preamble. Big, traditional companies struggling to get to grips with the internet, but they need to because 99% of people you want to access are there. And so are their competitors, and they have equal access. Traditional advantages like location mean nothing here.

"We've had [the internet] for 16 years, and only now are we getting a sense of how to win," said Hinchcliffe. "The rules are so different that there's a kind of congnitive dissinance about how much your business needs to change."

And this is where the controversy happened. He started talking about how to get Enterprise 2.0 ideas into your business.  "The easiest way to do it is to do nothing at all," he said. The ideas are viral and come in through the network."

Now, I thought he said "but not the best", but other people missed it, or I hallucinated it because both Suw and Andy posted tweets that disagreed:

Suw Tweets hinchcliffe

Andy tweets Hinchcliffe

(Suw's tweet, Andy's tweet)

However, whatever the level of importance he put on the idea, his suggestion was that these tools are so compelling that clued-up users will push them into work environment with or without IT's help.

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Giving Up E-mail for Social Software

Luis Suarez.Poor old e-mail, it’s taking a right old beating at this conference. In fact, one speaker has given it up entirely. Luis Suarez isn’t from a hipster startup, though. He works for IBM. Nine months ago, he decided that e-mail was making everyone else productive but not him. So he decided not to use it any more.

And IBM is a e-mail driven company – and a distributed one. He works for IBM Netherlands, he works from Gran Canaria, and reports to the US. That’s a modern business.

There were two reactions from his colleagues:
• You’ll be sacked in 2 weeks.
• Finally, somebody with the balls to tell the company to not use e-mail.
Nine months later, he still hasn’t been sacked. He’s down to 20 to 30 e-mails a week now, mainly calendering e-mails. Instead, he’s mainly using social software, to prove the point.

E-mail is locked, private and prone to the power games of the CC and the BCC, he suggests. Social software is more transparent, because most of your activities happen in public, or semi-public spaces.  Suarez wanted to make his working practices more transparent, and that’s important in the current situation.

The result? He’s more in control of how he works. He no longer fights the corporation on e-mail. He hangs out with his communities, getting the job done. Adoption of social software happens within communities.

“‘m more passionate about what I do, because I have a stronger feeling of community,” he says.

The 2 to 3 hours a day people spend on e-mail he’s spending in social tools with colleagues or customers. With customers, it’s Facebook and Twitter, for example.

“You guys need to be the ones challenging [the corporate culture],” he told the Web 2.0 Expo crowd. “Go where your communities are – and work with them. E-mail doesn’t give you trust, social tools do. “

Why Web 2.0 Matters to Enterprise

This morning, a select group of bloggers were invited along to a round table discussion with Tim O’Reilly, founder of books and conference company O’Reilly Media. He, along with conference hosts Jennifer Pahlka of TechWeb and Brady Forrest of O’Reilly, fielded questions from the bloggers.

This video captures some of the key reasons why Web 2.0 matters to businesses:


Web 2.0 & The Enterprise from Adam Tinworth on Vimeo.

Sorry for the typing noises. A large number of people attending the discussion were liveblogging furiously, myself included.

Why FreeConomics Doesn’t Work*

One presentation I was genuinely sorry to miss today (along with Lee Bryant‘s Niche Social Networks FTW) was Alan Patrick’s presentation on the Limits of Freeconomics. Luckily, he’s already posted the slides from his presentation:

The key message here is subtly different from the one that seems to permeate much of the conference. There’s an implication that Web 2. startups should be shifting away from ad supported models, because of the economic downturn and the steady drying up of ad budgets. But Alan’s point is deeper than that. What he’s illustrating in these slides is that the “Free” model was never, ever going to work for anything other than a tiny handful of companies. Simply put: there was never enough ad spend out there o support the number of companies who were relying on it.

And that brings us into a whole different ball game. What the credit crunch has done is expose the reality of a situation that was already there, rather than creating a new one. And that has profound implications for the sort of Web 2.0 tools we’ll see emerging over the next 18 months.

*For Everyone

Introducing The Social Enterprise

The Social Enterprise

For those of you who are following my Web 2.0 Expo posts, they’re not all on this blog. Yesterday, I kicked off a new blog for one of our titles, Computer Weekly, which looks at the implications of using social software in modern enterprises – or Enterprise 2.0, as many call it.
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…