2012 meet 2002… I think you’ll like each other

imageI read today that Facebook is criticising Apple and Google for failing to adopt HTML 5 quickly enough on iOS and Android. I guess Apple and Google know which side their bread is buttered. They both know that the key to having a successful platform is having great apps.

Enabling developers to target all mobile OSs with a single code base is great for developers but terrible for platform owners. First off you lose any competitive advantage from having the best apps, and even more importantly in the mobile world, Apple and Google forfeit the 30% tax they charge on App Store / Google Play sales.

Of course we have been here before. Back around 2002 Microsoft was using anti-competitive practices to kill off competing browsers with the aim of ensuring all the best apps remained only on the Windows platform. Ultimately that didn’t work of course. The regulators got involved and developers built for the browser and W3C standards anyway.

Ultimately the same will happen on the mobile platforms I’m sure. Interesting now though is that the tables have been turned. Microsoft is the minnow with lots to gain by disrupting the established players. It’ll be fun watching this one play out.

CubeSocial Selected for Seedcamp London

Seedcamp logo

We’ve just heard… CubeSocial is one of 20 tech start-ups selected for Seedcamp London! Smile The event takes place next Thursday 11 August.

During the event, we get five minutes to showcase our business to a range of entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, lawyers, accountants and other experts, followed by an afternoon of expert mentoring and coaching.

Becoming a Seedcamp London finalist is great recognition for everyone involved here at CubeSocial and follows on from last month’s listing as a Company to Watch in the Thames Valley 250. We hope the day itself brings us more good news.

Wish us luck!

Building for the Valley – Bootstrapping tips from Tweetmeme

I posted this up on the CubeSocial blog yesterday, but thought readers here might be interested too…

Nick HalsteadYesterday Linda and I were guests at an excellent Thames Valley Innovation and Growth (TVIG) event “Building for the Valley”.

The session was delivered by Nick Halstead, CEO and founder of TweetMeme.

As a TVIG-sponsored start-up ourselves, we were fascinated to hear the story of Tweetmeme’s growth from being one of the first TVIG start-ups “when it was just Nick and his heavily pregnant wife in a cupboard” (!!) to a globally known brand, with 15 staff, handling more web hits than the BBC.

It was a story of rapid growth on a bootstrapping budget, and an inspiration for all budding entrepreneurs. Here are some of the takeaways:

On Networking

Don’t go to a networking event unless you can get a list of attendees beforehand. When you get the list, run it through LinkedIn and choose your ‘targets’ deliberately. Time is too valuable. Don’t leave networking to chance meetings. Have a maximum of one beer all evening: this is about business not partying.

On Marketing and PR

Become a reference point for your industry. Bootstrap your PR.

When Nick started Tweetmeme he blogged every night, then nagged friends and other bloggers to read his posts: “we have never paid a PR agency”. Nick explained that it helps to have a consumer focussed element to your portfolio because these tend to get more press.

Blogging means that you get to lead the conversation; the traffic you get translates into customers; you become a reference for news stories; and you get asked to speak at events.

On Public Speaking

Public speaking = free PR, but don’t be tempted you use it to advertise your product. Instead give useful information. (Don’t sell, educate). Build your reputation and integrity, and the (interested) attendees will become customers over time. A side benefit of public speaking is that you are more prepared and confident when you have to pitch to investors.

On Recruitment

Avoid recruitment agencies. Hire straight from university; only “bedroom coders”; pay them in options – “they must believe in the dream”.

On Investment

Getting investment has the biggest learning curve. It takes up 90% of your time. Keep the deal simple – complex terms tend to drive the wrong behaviours in leadership team: “with hindsight we would have given more away for simpler terms”.

How Cloud Computing Changes the Economics of Software Architecture

I’ve been thinking a lot about architecting software applications for the cloud lately – particularly for Windows Azure, as that’s the platform we have chosen to build CubeSocial’s SaaS solution on.

Lots has been written about the impact of PaaS and IaaS services like Amazon Web Services and Windows Azure on software architecture.  I’ve seen plenty of commentary arguing that architects need to change the way they design systems to consider the platform billing model and on-going costs.

But is that really a change? In my opinion, it’s no different to what we architects have always done – only in the past the cost considerations were different. It was about numbers of servers, software licences, software versions etc.

I believe the cloud computing model changes our approach in a much more fundamental way.

I see the shift that is happening right now as the modern equivalent of what happened when Windows went from 16-bit to 32-bit.

Freed from the memory limitations of 16-bit computing we all stopped optimizing our Windows code, as there were simply so many system resources available to play with… it was effectively limitless.

Cloud computing platforms bring the same philosophical shift to web applications.

Yes, I could spend time architecting for the billing model. I could spend money getting programmers to performance tune their code to reduce billing charges. But that doesn’t mean I should.

Let me ask you this: Why spend 50$ an hour on getting a programmer to tune their code, when instead I can pay Microsoft or Amazon another $50 a month and throw another web front end at the problem. Then, instead I can have my developers doing something much more useful to the business: adding new product features more quickly than the competition so that I can sell more and make more revenue.

And that is the true economics of cloud computing.

Smart Viral Marketing Technique for Small Legal Practice

image I was forwarded an email today from CM Murray, a solicitors practice (law firm for US readers) in the UK, that had these two links in the footer of the email:

Little Book of Redundancy

Little Book of Employment Law

The links point to two fun, educational and beautifully presented, pocket guides to the areas of law that CM Murray specialise in.

Now I am in no need for an employment lawyer right now, and hopefully I won’t be for a long time, but if I ever am, I will certainly remember CM Murray.

My one tip: they should get these posted up on SlideShare and Scribd right away to get them under the noses of as many people as possible.

Well done to all involved.

Thoughts on Enterprise 2.0 and Corporate Culture Change

Lawrence Liu wrote in Key success factor for Enterprise 2.0: Finding new roles for middle management

…Enterprise 2.0 technologies enable people who are doing the “real” work within organizations to bypass their middle management and connect and collaborate with each other directly as well as update and engage upper management directly. By cutting out middle management, the savings are not only in the salaries of those individuals but also in the time and energy expended by their subordinates and upper management to interact with them. Yes, middle management is the tangible overhead in many organizations that Enterprise 2.0 can eliminate!

I too believe this change will come, and that the flatter organisations of the future may well resemble the consulting organizations of today – the likes of IBM Global Services, McKinsey or Microsoft Consulting Services (MCS), where until a few moths ago I worked. 

Lawrence goes on to argue that a manager to report ratio of 1:30 is impossible, but in MCS that is exactly what it was.  Managers were not your traditional manager though.  They were not responsible for giving reports work to do.  Instead a resource pool operated with resourcing managers identifying staff with the right skills mix to quickly staff-up and tear down projects.  Consultants had to proactively go about managing their career, promoting themselves and finding their next job.  This, I believe will become the new model of the corporation in a Web 2.0 world.  And the fact of the matter is this model exists today in many consulting firms. 

But the impact and change brought about by Enterprise 2.0 will not be without pain.  MCS went through plenty when they made the change some 3 years ago. A lot of middle managers DID have to find themselves new jobs.  And it was VERY painful. 

If you are interested in the cultural impact this new world of work will bring, Tom Peters has written some good stuff on the topic of working and thriving in this kind of workplace.  The best place to start would be his Brand YOU article in Fast Company.  An absolute must read for anyone in the professional services industry.

Somewhere between the Millennium Bug and Sarbannes-Oxley

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Should social networking sites be banned in the workplace?

Somewhere between the Millennium Bug and Sarbannes-Oxley corporate IT stopped being an enabler, and started being a gatekeeper. We started distrusting our employees and and restricting what they could do. IT came to believe that its primary purpose was to stop staff doing ‘dumb’ stuff that could expose the organisation to risk.  Of course this is part of their role, but not their primary one.

We now end up in the crazy situation where in many organisations it is easier for staff to collaborate with each other using consumer-focussed Internet sites than using internal IT systems.

The madness has to stop.

Taking advantage of social networks both internally and externally can be the ultimate competitive advantage. Too few companies are agile enough to spot potential and do something about it. The smart companies will embrace Facebook and their like. And not only that. They will coach employees on how to get the most out of these new tools – for the company’s advantage: getting to know your customers better, crowdsourcing new ideas, marketing your services, attracting new hires, or many, many more things.

Corporate IT’s role is to enable the business to be more productive, more efficient, more creative, more dynamic and more profitable whilst helping the business understand the risks and mitigate them.

And the reality is this. If corporate IT doesn’t change, the business will just go around them, and they will find their jobs sooner, rather than later, outsourced to a data centre in the cloud somewhere.