Hal Riney, 1934-2008

Hal Riney passed away yesterday. The well known and highly regarded ad-man may not be a household name but if you grew up with television advertising in the 1980s and 90s, Riney’s voice is familiar to you. Riney was also responsible for putting San Francisco front and center with New York as a creative advertising center.

Incrementalism and The New New Thing

Sometimes my best thinking takes place in my garden where in the mindless routines of yard work I am free to meander through any range of topics and ideas. Last Saturday was just such a day.

I wrote recently about VC loss of attraction in Web 2.0 and the thing that was frightening about that thought was the inability to answer the basic question “what’s next?”. The Valley thrives on the new new thing (possibly one of the most poignantly titled books ever) and with every turn of a generation there is an awkward moment where we’re just figuring out where we’ve been but have yet to see where we are going… right now is that moment.

Despite the recriminations about the term “web 2.0” the fact is that it has come to symbolize a set of characteristics and expectations about service-based computing. It’s also come to refer to the blurring of the line between consumer and business applications, with much of the energy around new business apps being driven by a consumer, or maybe better said “individual”, path to adoption. But these attributes are now part of the ordinary fabric that all companies attempt to embrace.

Bryan Stolle, Agile Software founder currently with Mohr Davidow, says software investing is the new black and solving business problems is where it’s at. Somewhat confusingly, he then goes on to list trends that have little to do with business processes, like SaaS as an appliance and new development environments in the cloud. He broke no new ground and even though I have a lot of respect for Bryan, his op-ed did nothing to convince me that enterprise software investing is on the verge of a renaissance. Enterprise software suffers from a self-inflicted wound as a consequence of an inherently unscalable sales model if you aren’t one of the big bracket companies.

As I survey the landscape of consumer and business focused software and service providers I am struck by how much incrementalism there is at the moment. Something like Twitter is ground breaking in terms of break out adoption, but what about the other 10,000 startups? There are few bold “ah-hah” ideas, lot’s of social this or that, and mostly a bunch of companies hoping to draft on the perceived success of a few gorillas. Will we suffer through yet another “year of the mobile web” or “the semantic web”?

The above is not a criticism, just an observation. There is a lot of capital sloshing around and venture capital will no doubt continue to flow to these companies in the hopes that a few will rise to the top and get acquired. With the melt down in non-VC private equity I am sure that institutional investors will surge back into VC with abandon and this will prop up the Valley for the foreseeable future, but I’m still left with the uncomfortable question of what’s next? When Facebook doesn’t deliver world peace, and FriendFeed fails to be better than sliced bread, what will we do?

More on this topic (What's this?)
A freemium MVNO — can it work?
Web 2.0 and Lending Club
VC's Search for the Next Big Thing
Read more on Web 2.0, Venture Capital (VC) at Wikinvest

Artist Profile – Jacques Vesery

This guy is amazing. Jacques Vesery is a Maine-based wood turner and carver who accomplishes detail and realism that goes beyond what conventional wisdom suggests is possible. The former Navy submariner displays a keen eye for the forms of nature while applying a deft touch with a rotary grinder and a wood burning tool to achieve highly refined details in his pieces.

I love turned and carved pieces and believe that these disciplines are the pinnacle of the creative woodworking spectrum. With enough patience and technical skill, anyone can do casework and furniture pieces, but having said that I don’t wish to dismiss these craftsman either because technical proficiency is but one aspect of the craft. I guess my point is that turning and carving at the level that Vesery does it depends on raw artistic ability combined with massive technical proficiency and that’s pretty rare.

I have yet to acquire any of his work but anxiously look forward to the opportunity to do so.

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Enterprise RSS Day of Action, April 24th

Obviously NewsGator is supporting this, but so are a number of our competitors. The purpose is to draw attention to RSS in the enterprise as a foundation technology, focus on customer successes, tactics and pitfalls, and lay out the broad array of products and vendors in this space.

April 24th. Pass it on.

The purpose of the Enterprise RSS Day of Action on the Thursday 24th April is to help raise awareness for the potential for Enterprise RSS. This wiki will provide Enterprise RSS champions with materials and information they can use to run their own awareness campaigns inside their own organisations.

[From enterpriserssdayofaction » home]

Yahoo! — Putting the “Open” in OpenSocial

Great news for Yahoo and even better news for OpenSocial, possibly even eclipsing the coup that was getting Myspace in. Given the momentum that OpenSocial has right now in terms of container support, it’s hard to imagine that much will happen to slow it down this year. Competing initiatives, like Insoshi, just don’t have the geography coverage that Google does and in that absence of homegrown initiatives at any of the big container partners, it’s likely they will throw their full weight behind OpenSocial.

I ran into Kevin Marks last night at a social event and we talked a little about this. I would look for the emphasis to shift to app developers and marketers who wish to add a social aspect to their projects and are increasingly realizing that just “being there” is not enough of an answer. For app developers, there needs to be a focus on lowering the cost of porting from one platform to another, and one container to another, which is often assumed to be a freebie.

For those of my friends who’ve been wondering what I’ve been so heads-down on lately, I’m happy to finally share the news that Yahoo! has announced support for the development of OpenSocial, by working with MySpace and Google to set up an independent foundation for its long-term stewardship. I hope this will turn out to be OpenSocial’s best “container” yet.

[From Greg Cohn’s Weblog : » Yahoo! — Putting the “Open” in OpenSocial]

Woolly Mammoths

My friend Jim Fisher pretty much sums it up insofar as traditional enterprise software sales is concerned. I have often said, and written here, that customers have gotten better at buying software than we have at selling them software, but at the same time question what it is that we replace this system with then buyers fully understand that the current model benefits them and are thus reluctant to accepting change. Maybe at the end of the day it’s less about a new sales model and more about wringing costs out of everything else in order to afford the cost of sales and still deliver a decent margin?

The day of the enterprise software sales person is over. The idea of closing the multi-million dollar perpetual software transactions by flying around the world, doing major wining & dining and closing the deal in the Red Carpet Club has gone the way of the Wolly Mamoth. The adoption of the SaaS model, Sarbox, and new corporate procurement procedures have changed forever the way business applications are, and will be, acquired. The fat cat 1k sales guy is only relevant in software companies with revenues north of one billion. Small companies thinking that they can justify a business plan by adding enough of the $1.5 million dollar quota carrying relics are doing nothing but a disservice to their investors.

[From jimfisher.com]