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.
JP Rangaswami of BT Design went a little bit further in that direction, by outlining how social tools can usefully become part of our working practices - and even build on some of the existing ones.
Social tools enavble the communities within businesses to emerge. There are fewer figures of authority and it's more a peer space than the traditional heirarchial business.
And it's worth bearing in mind that communities are not mutually exclusive. You can be (and are part) of many communities, and (if you're lucky) many communities select you to be part of them.
Young people today are going to come into the workplace used to pervasive. mobile communications and they're not going to be impressed with the static, lock-down worsktations we have now.
"They're pre-trained not to think as stupidly as previous generations," said JP.
And you only get proper levels of productivity by loosening you grip on these tools. Instant messenging can be important because it's one of the few forms of communication where it's polite to be silent. "Are you still there?" has become part of the language of phones because mobiles drop connections. In IM it's not necessary, because there's a status, allowing you to see if people are online or not, or if they're busy, or away from their computers. In this context, e-mail has almost become snail mail - people become irritated if you don't reply.
So, public indications of what you're doing is useful. But in most companies, Outlook rules our lives, and it can tell you that the best time for this group of people to meet is this date. But it doesn't share or advertise that information beyond that group.
Compare that to Twitter where you can have a person to person conversation using the @username protocol, but it's in public. You can take it private if you want, through direct mesages, but the conversation is still captured in a useful form.
This isn't particualrly new - there have been forms of an activity stream or newsfeed since 2006 at least. But using these activity streams for aggregation of community activity is valuable. If you can share that data maongst working teams - or communities - you gain the benefits of the network effect.
Apologies for the lack of blogging here today - it's all been going to The Social Enterprise.
- 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.
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."
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.
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. “
This video captures some of the key reasons why Web 2.0 matters to businesses:
Sorry for the typing noises. A large number of people attending the discussion were liveblogging furiously, myself included.
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.