Enterprise 2.0 Vendors: Mutual Respect, Friendly Competition


One of my favourite parts of this week’s Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Boston was the time I spent with other vendors in the space.

This segment of the technology industry attracts sharp minds who are intrigued by the same difficult problem: How can technology make workplace collaboration more effective? The answers require experts not just in technology, but in ethnography, human factors and psychology too.

Last night our VP Gordon Ross discussed the writings of Richard Sennett with Michael Idinopulos, a deep thinker from SocialText with whom I’ve engaged in lively online debate. We also talked about some of our common problems as vendors, such as figuring out the best way to explain comprehensive software suites in terms that the target customer appreciates. Are we enterprise collaboration, chaos management, Facebook for the enterprise or social intranet software? Is “social” even a good word to use?

Michael, Deb Schultz and Gord in deep discussion

Shortly before that, we were guests at an event hosted by Aaron Fulkerson and Isaac Garcia, CEOs of MindTouch and Central Desktop, respectively. Aaron introduced Darren to the noted Open Source developer Miguel de Icaza, creator of Gnome (Miguel is famous in geek circles). Aaron showed me his MindTouch tattoo (don’t worry, it’s on his calf), and we talked openly about a large bid that we’re competing against each other on. Isaac shared his advice on server farms as we move towards a hosted version of ThoughtFarmer.

I attended the Jive “New Way” briefing on Monday and enjoyed the free chocolates :-). Jive puts on a flashy show, and their new executives are seasoned presenters. I have to say, though, that there are too many men in suits at Jive for my liking. It was comforting to see their soon-to-be-very-wealthy co-founder and CTO, Matt Tucker, doing network configuration on the Macs at their booth. He’s still a geek.

Percentage of execs in suits apparently peaks around $100M in revenue

Lawrence Liu, now of Cisco and formerly of Telligent and before that, Microsoft, told me that all these software packages are overbuilt and 5 to 10 years ahead of where the customer base is at. We discussed ThoughtFarmer’s forthcoming SharePoint 2010 Connector, and he said there’s a lot of money to be made riding Microsoft’s coattails — if you don’t mind being their lackey.

Gord, Chris & Darren
Gord, Darren and Chris at the ThoughtFarmer booth. Photo by Jordan from Traction Software -- another friendly competitor. Thanks Jordan!

Rather than avoid or resent my competitors in this space, I like to embrace them. They’re great people with great ideas that I can learn from. And as Isaac said last night to the guests at his event, “This is a huge market. There’s going to be a lot of winners.”


Join The Discussion

  1. Bryan Robertson

    Sorry Chris, you’ll need to update the graph, I wore a suit today.

  2. Chris Yeh

    Why do you think Jive was the most besuited? I’m curious about what you think their motivation was.

  3. Lawrence Liu

    Chris, for some vendors, it’s all about the front-end presentation (marketing). 🙂 It worked great for Apple in the consumer market, so why not for enterprise software, too? 🙂

  4. Mark Fidelman

    It appears all one needs to do to be successful is to dress up a little. Then to be really successful, throw away the tie.

  5. Gia Lyons

    I love that graph. Love it. It was great to meet you in person Chris! Thanks for being so classy.

  6. Spencer

    >>Aaron showed me his MindTouch tattoo (don’t worry, it’s on his calf), and we talked openly about a large bid that we’re competing against each other on<<

    I would have just loved to have been a fly on the wall for that conversation…not the tattoo conversation, but the other part…

  7. Chris

    @spencer heh, maybe “talked openly” is a stretch. we didn’t do any price fixing or anything… 🙂

    @gia any chance of seeing tony in an enterprise octopus costume at the next conference?

  8. Pankaj

    Simple logic. If you ride a bicycle to work you’re poor. But if you have a Mercedes at home, and you ride a bicycle to work you’re cool :).

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