Thursday, November 09, 2006

Workday -- An "Old School" Launch

Earlier this week, Workday -- David Duffield's newest company -- launched. There was a lot of anticipation for this launch and I have to say, I was disappointed. And I wasn't the only one.

I haven't seen the offerings themselves so I can't comment on how good (or bad) they are. My disappointment is with regards to what I have seen on their web site and how they seem to be marketing themselves. It seems so "old school" to me. Workday talks about offering a new generation of on-demand "enterprise business services" but their approach to marketing them is very much old generation. As an example, they don't offer any free trials on their web site. Free trials are very much standard fare in this age of on-demand solutions and open source software. Apparently, they are working on this but they missed an incredible opportunity to take advantage of the PR they have received around their launch.

Workday has a very experienced -- and high profile -- management team so getting early business shouldn't be too difficult for them, but I think they should update their marketing approach, or else it is going to be a very long "work day" for them.

Is Second Life the Next Generation of the Internet?

I recently had dinner with my very good friend, David Burk of Clear Ink. David started Clear Ink -- a digital marketing agency -- about 12 years ago before the Internet was a mainstream component of all of our lives. At dinner, he was gushing with excitement about Second Life. He sees a parallel between the current activity around Second Life and the activity he saw around the Internet in 1995.

Having never participated in Second Life, it was difficult for me to appreciate his enthusiasm but I made a mental note to keep an eye in this area. Well, it wasn't very long -- maybe a week -- before a Reuters reporter announced he was going to report on events within Second Life. Then, articles began popping out here and there about the growing popularity of Second Life. And then yesterday, I read this.

Enough said. I'm creating my Second Life avatar tomorrow.

UPDATE: Here is a column by David Kirkpatrick of Fortune on Second Life.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Funding Software Companies Ain't What It Used To Be

Over the last few months, I have been perplexed at the amount of money that continues to be raised by -- and given to -- start-up software companies. In the late '80s/early '90s, I was fortunate enough to be at start-ups like Sybase and Business Objects. In those days, you raised as much money as you can because the sky was the limit in terms of your potential valuation via an IPO. These days, however, the potential liquidity events for a start-up are much more limited. Chances are, if you are a "successful" company, you will be acquired before your valuation is $100M; IPOs are rare events. If this is the case, why do companies continue to raise lots of money? For each additional round of financing, the bar becomes higher in terms of achieving a valuation that will make everybody happy.

In addition, it doesn't require as much money as before to get a company off the ground. I recently had the pleasure of working at JotSpot and the company's co-founder and CEO, Joe Kraus, has a much quoted blog entry on this topic.

There seems to be a fundamental disconnect here. Liquidity events are rare and when they do occur, they are for relatively low valuations. Companies don't need a whole lot of money these days to get started. Yet, as a part of their model, VCs want to give lots of money to start-ups, in hopes of hitting that "home run". Something has to give.

Well, it looks like things are starting to change. An article in the NY Times sums things up pretty nicely.