Box.net vs SharePoint on Highway 101

What’s going on in the workgroup collaboration and file sharing space in 2009?

If anybody drove southbound near Redwood Shores on Highway 101 (in Silicon Valley for those who are not local) lately, you would have noticed a big billboard put up by Box.net challenging SharePoint to a simplicity match.  This challenge was apparently launched during Enterprise 2.0.

Box.net vs SharePoint

Box.net vs SharePoint

ReadWriteWeb also has an article on this topic, titled The Gloves Come Off in The Box.net vs. SharePoint Challenge.  There are people who argued that SharePoint is much more feature rich while others argued that SharePoint is too complex (rightly so, I might say from personal experience) to the detriment of its users who are just trying to collaborate on some documents.

While this drama is going on, you might notice that there are other players in this space.  As Microsoft’s SharePoint revenue exceeds $1 Billion in FY2008, startups know that they can grow to a good size by just grabbing a small part of this growing file sharing / collaboration market.  At that point, bigger players such as IBM Lotus and Adobe may ride in and buy them up.

Here is another blog which provided some description on 13 other file sharing/sending services in this space: YouSendIt, Send6, TransferBigFiles, BigFileBox, PipeBytes, DropSend, MailBigFile, SendFile, SendThisFile, Pando, HotShare, Driveway and LeapFILE.   Though each targets a slightly different group of audience, there seems to be a lot of overlap even just looking at the names.  Thoughts?

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Twitter Tweets as the New Internet?

Is real time search of Twitter tweets a harbinger of a new Google?

At the SDForum International SIG Private Equity Panel this week, Jay Choi of Partech said that they look at the sea of tweets that everybody generates like the websites people create in the 90s.  He thought there is an opportunity to treat these tweets as data that you can mine for not just real-time search but also for generating trend reports, predictive analysis of opinions, supporting eCommerce, etc.  Partech has actually invested in that space.  He didn’t think Twitter is the big one but instead somebody using the tweet data would gain huge commercial success like Google did with the internet.

This is an interesting perspective which can lead to the possible emergence of a real time Google, among other things.  From there, there could be numerous commercial opportunities.  The ones cited by this Mashable post, 5 More Twitter Related Trends, might just be the beginning.

If this prognosis is right, then comparing Twitter to Google may be a little premature.  Any comments from the readers?

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IBM and SPSS predictive of further analytics M&A?

It looks like the consolidation of analytics vendors are continuing – IBM announced the purchase of public company SPSS today for $1.2 billion, less than 2 years after they bought Cognos for $4.9 billion.

According to other responses on the article on techcrunch, there were a couple more mergers recently in Europe with AG buying IDS Sheer and SAP buying up SAF of Switzerland (blog entry in German) as well.

This may be an indication that big software companies realize analytics software is a great services cash cow that they can milk for consulting revenues. After all, analytics is one of these technologies that needs to be implemented for your particular business and your set of data to drive your business decision making.

I hope beyond service revenue, these mergers are also driven by a recognition that enterprises are moving beyond reporting and actually taking advantage of the predictive aspects of analytics.  If true, this will indeed help companies  transform into intelligent business. Do you see that starting to happen in your space?

Along the same line, I am reading a book Smart (Enough) Systems by James Taylor and Neil Raden and hope to have more to say about the predictive analytics space later.

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Web 2.0 coming to a government website near you

I have been a big proponent of introducing Web 2.0 technologies such as RSS, Blogs, video, user survey, etc into enterprise software.  It is a little crazy if you think about it.  You use Facebook, LinkedIn and put all your crazy ideas on a publicly accessible blog but at work you are dealing with applications that look like they were designed in the dark ages – difficult to use and force you to jump through hoops to get anything done.

It looks like the Federal CIO Vivek Kundra agrees.  He has been trying to bring transparency to the federal government’s IT budget and now he wants to tackle usability of applications that the fed uses.  He also said data is no longer going to be nicely structured and relational, and the fed would have to start using some of the technologies already prevalent in the public internet to interact more effectively with common folks like you and me.

I for one would like to see how the fed picks up these innovations and put them to use.  The fed IT budget website is impressive and works better than what’s available in a lot of Fortune 500 corporations.  We have reasons to be hopeful yet.

The US Federal IT Dashboard

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A read of the Venture Capital pulse

I attended a Private Equity Panel organized by SDForum International SIG today in Menlo Park.  I was there to get a read of the PE and VC scene both in the valley as well as around the world.  Even though I spent most of my time around products, it is important to know where the “smart money” is going.  This information can have real impact on the choice of product and go-to-market strategies.

In the summer of 2009, it does not seem like the panel shares the overt optimism of the stock market of the last 3 months.  A few of the points that I recorded include

  • VCs will probably have another round of shrinkage in the next 3 or 4 years as “VCs die hard”.  They don’t immediately go away even if their investment strategy fails to perform.
  • There are more growth opportunities overseas, including Asia Pacific.  Investors are finding out that they can’t live in the US and invest successfully overseas.  This may lead to the shrinking of the VC presence in the US.
  • Some of the VCs are continuing to invest but startups need to show real monetization of their products and services to attract venture money.
  • Early stage VCs are reducing their risks by investing in later stage companies at attractive valuations in this economy.  Some VCs are seeing competition with later stage Angel investors for good opportunities.
  • Investors do not see what the next big wave is yet.
  • Clean Tech will require a much longer incubation period than software.  Investors may have to have a 10-year horizon to see the return on Clean Tech investments.
  • An advice for startups is to build for the global market first and then optimize for local markets.  The US is no longer the “must have” 1st market for Israeli companies.

This is by no means a comprehensive list and I don’t claim to represent the opinions of the panel.  My personal take-away from the event is that there is still not much visibility into the next big thing (or the next bubble, depending on your perspective).  However, if you are planning to start something, be sure to have a good monetization strategy in your business model.  It is even better if you have real revenues.  Otherwise, you aren’t going to have much luck with securing investments.

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Business Intelligence or Intelligent Business

A recently blog by Josh Healan of DataForge said that many companies failed despite having invested heavily in expensive software (e.g. SAP). I think he correctly pointed out that software, including Business Intelligence applications, cannot tell the executives about future disasters if they choose to run their business intelligently.

There might be a few reasons why businesses fail to execute despite their heavy investment in SAP, Oracle or ‘put your vendor name here’.

  1. Data unavailable – The applications they bought were not designed to provide intelligence to help the executives make decisions.  They were merely designed to support individual transactions without considering the strategic goals.   Ask you vendor to provide the functionality or implement your own BI against it.
  2. Executives fail to grasp the importance – The business intelligence and analytic applications tell the executives that something is up, but the executives fail to understand how these data points impact their business.  There is no substitute for an intelligent leader.
  3. CPM treated as one time project – Corporate Performance Management is a process, whether it is implemented using Cognos, Hyperion, Business Objects or some other products.  If the executives do not revise the goals as things change and manage the business to the new goals, the software investment would be for naught.

Spending money on ERP, CRM or Business Intelligence applications does not automatically make an intelligent business.  In my days of managing a BI product for IT organizations, I often asked the customers what business decision or process they wanted to optimize.  If they did not know, no amount of BI investment would help them execute better.

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Which online payment service?

There are 3 online payment services out there that many websites use to receive payments, namely Paypal, Amazon Payment Service and Google Checkout.  APS came to the scene later than Paypal but was ahead in providing APIs that other developers can easily integrate with.

According to Ben Parr on Mashable, Paypal just launched Paypal X and Adaptive Payments.  Look like this is a pretty big step forward for Paypal with respect to matching APS’ external integration capability.  Paypal will probably remain the largest player in this space for some time to come.

Instead of reinventing the wheel and redoing the comparative analysis that others have done so well, here are a few links to the good work already published on the web:

Facts aside, if given a choice, which online payment service do you prefer?  Vote away!