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In the Startup Trenches

Found this photo on a USB key this morning.  Testing out RFID technology at a Del Monte Foods warehouse in Pittsburgh, PA, while in the heydays of R4 and not too long before our acquisition by VeriSign.  Standing alongside me is Charles Landry, still the best Client Delivery exec I’ve ever worked with – I went to sleep every night with 100% confidence that Chas had a handle on every client, team member, and project plan.  Now Chas is crushing it at Syniverse, and I couldn’t be happier for him.  And yes, I was young – 32 – but not 14 as the photo might suggest…

@Scobleizer Reviews Focus.com

 Great post from Robert Scoble today with a strong review of Focus.com.  Without a lot of hype, Focus quietly delivers highly targeted content, data and expertise for business users (and yes, we’re an investor in Focus.com).  Check it out.

Social Collaboration

Great post today by the folks at Central Desktop on the “State of Social Collaboration.”  Isaac (CEO) was at our dinner last week, and does a terrific job of expanding on a few of the key themes from GGV’s Q2 CEO dinner – going well beyond the stats I quoted in my earlier blog post about the dinner. The post also has a very cool graphic (thumbnail at right) worth checking out on the history of social collaboration.

Appirio Acquires Infowelders – Welcome to the Team!

Congrats to both the Appirio and Infowelders teams on what looks to be a terrific combination, announced today.  Infowelders brings a terrific team, more than 250 customers, and a really strong presence in the MidWest to Appirio.  We couldn’t be more excited to have you guys on board!

More on Social Commerce

If you liked my post on Social Commerce in Action, read the recent post by the folks at Eventbrite re: stats on social commerce: “Social Commerce: a Closer Look at the Numbers.” We’re not an investor, but I am a fan of Kevin and the Eventbrite business.

Cloud Computing: The Outlook is Bright, According to Top CEOs

We hosted our quarterly CEO dinner at Marche restaurant in Menlo Park on Wednesday night.  The topic this quarter was Cloud Computing (intentionally broad), and as usual we ended up with an amazing group of executives from some of the country’s best cloud computing companies.  We had a lively conversation and more than a few barbs thrown.  The highlights:

– Our guest speakers were Tom Fisher, CIO of Successfactors (GGV portfolio co.), and Brian Lillie, CIO of Equinix.  Thank you both for participating.  My favorite quotes from each:

Tom: “We pay an exorbitant amount in annual fees to incumbent vendors for licenses, etc. and would love nothing more than to see a lot of those dollars flow to new players.”

Brian: “We have a cloud-first policy.  For any new strategy, concept, etc., we look to use cloud-based apps and technology as a default.”

– Our Associate Adam Altman organized an iPad survey (using PollDaddy) at the dinner.  A few highlights from that survey:

+ 90% of attendees said they believe their customers are going to spend A LOT more on cloud technology in 2011 than in 2010, “I’m seeing aggressive spending trends.”  Consistent with what we are seeing in our portfolio, as well as the market at large.

+ 53% of attendees have raised >$15M in venture capital.  Not surprising, given the enterprise focus of most cloud companies.

+ 60% of attendees feel hiring is harder than usual and/or a major challenge right now.  As I’ve written in other posts, this is a major challenge in Silicon Valley right now.

+ Only 16% of attendees worry about competition from large incumbent vendors.  68% worry most about competition from emerging companies and startups.

+ 58% of attendees feel cloud startup valuations are “high, but justified given the potential.”  We certainly agree, and it’s why we’re constantly putting new money to work in this space.  Additionally, 74% said they believe valuations will be richer in 6 months than they are now.  We’re all for it…

It takes guts and a lot of optimism to run a high growth company in a competitive space like cloud computing, so our survey results are not surprising.  I do have to agree, however, with John Dillon, CEO of EngineYard, who said to the group “I’ve been around the block for a few cycles.  This one is going to be even bigger than anyone in this room believes.”

Thanks to all who attended.  We’ll do it again soon.


Social Commerce In Action

Buzz phases like “social commerce” get thrown around way too frequently these days, but we often miss it when micro components of a macro trend are taking place before our very eyes.   So – what is social commerce?  Here’s a great example.

A friend of mine – Ed Zimmerman – is a world-class wine nut (an understatement) and someone whose recommendations on wine can be trusted to the nth degree.  Thus, when he tweeted last night that he was fired up for the new release of a great wine from a small boutique producer in Napa called Zeitgeist, I reply Tweeted that I’d love an intro.  Got the intro this morning, signed up on the Zeitgeist web site, and bought some wine.  Simple.  Zero marketing effort/customer acquisition cost on the winery’s part, zero friction to get me signed up, and if I like their wines I’ll be a customer for life.  I’ll also probably visit the next time we’re in Napa (hopefully soon).

This is one of the reasons why we are seeing a massive surge in new e-commerce models many are calling “E-Commerce 2.0,” and it’s brilliant.  When customer acquisition costs drop to near $0, and you gain quality customers who are referred by other quality customers, the e-commerce flywheel can really get rolling.  I get 10 emails a day from wine lists I subscribe to, and I rarely buy.  I get one Tweet from Ed, and boom – I make a purchase.

Another reason we’re an investor in Buddy Media and are constantly on the lookout for other companies riding this new wave.

How many people might read this post and buy some Zeitgeist wine (the flywheel keeps cranking…)?

(Today’s)Thoughts on Entrepreneurship

Read this post on VentureBeat today which highlighted LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman’s 10 Rules of Entrepreneurship from a presentation at SXSW this week.  In short, he makes some great points – worth reading.

I would highlight, though, that I think the mental challenges of entrepreneurship are harder than the strategic or tactical ones.  As I’ve said many times to people who tell me “I’m going to start a company” – it’s not all Facebook and Zynga outcomes, SXSW parties, and quick M&A flips.  I (somewhat jokingly) suggest – “Try flying to a random small city in (pick your state) for 4 days.  Stay at a Holiday Inn/Red Roof Inn (pick your favorite low-cost hotel).  Rent a cheap compact car.  Drive around and knock on the doors of some local companies and pitch them on something – anything.  Call your wife each night and tell her you think you’re doing something cool, but it might not work, and you have no idea if you’ll make any money doing it.  Cap the night with a $10 budget for dinner.  Get up and do it again.”

It may not translate well in a blog post, but the point I try to make – it’s the hard work, late nights on the road and unknown territory that really challenge an entrepreneur – not the board meetings, VC pitches, and parties at SXSW.  It’s hard to explain unless you’ve been there.

My buddy Will Price linked to a post by Tim Ferriss which has a great graphic that I think does a great job of illustrating the emotional rollercoaster that entrepreneurship creates.  I highly recommend reading Tim’s post.

You can also click here to read Will’s recent post (after announcing a new round of financing) about how rewarding the experience of running Flite/Widgetbox has been for him personally.

Focus.com CEO Scott Albro: “Are Technology and Productivity Gains Quashing the Jobs Recovery?”

Good article by (GGV portfolio company) Focus.com CEO Scott Albro today on Forbes.com.   I agree with many of Scott’s points, and one need look no further than to compare the technology job market in Silicon Valley – which is red-hot and companies are routinely competing aggressively for top hires – and say, a small manufacturing-oriented city in the Midwest.  I haven’t spent a lot of time in the Midwest, but from what I can tell, unemployment continues to show no signs of abating.  Focus has a unique perspective in that it can routinely sample or poll its user base – composed of roughly 1 million monthly visitors, most of whom are executives with small and mid-market businesses.  Will be interesting to see if Scott is right, and “this time it’s different.”

On another note, I do have to wonder how much Scott paid Forbes to put the line “Scott Albro: Too Productive?” below his photo!

Congrats to Will and team – Widgetbox Raises $12M

Always love it when I see good things happen to good people.  My good friend Will Price and the team at Widgetbox (now Flite) announced their new round of financing today – $12M from General Catalyst and Sequoia.  This story has all the makings of a great entrepreneurial turnaround – broken model, team perseveres, finds new model, explodes into new category and becomes a terrific growth story.  Really fired up for the guys at Flite!  Oh – and the pic here is of Will catching a monster steelhead on the Klamath river in November 2009 with guide Craig Nielsen and myself (a bit fuzzy due to snow/rain on the camera).  Not relevant to the fundraise or the company, but a cool pic so I thought I’d throw it into the post!

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