The kind of entrepreneur I like

Last week we were in Boston and met up with Mukesh Chatter, CEO of MoneyAisle. People ask me the kind of conversation I like having. This is it. A new business that I hadn’t heard of that is adding real value. A smart executive who can explain how it works clearly, cleanly (it lets you buy investment instruments like certificates of deposit through a reverse auction with 80 banks. The price you get is a lot better this way and it also is aimed at taking Google out of the advertising picture). Good story for the turbulent economic times we’re heading into.

I’m off to fly to New York tonight to meet the world’s top designers. More on the other side. Any other entrepreneurs like this? Drop me a line.

Exclusive video: SocialText brings enterprise Facebook and Twitter to wikis

Socialtext is making big news all over the Web this morning. Here’s a rundown, later in the post I’ll talk about why. I also have an exclusive video of Ross Mayfield, founder of Socialtext demonstrating the new features to me.

Ross Mayfield, for my cell phone camera last night, explains the changes in this 18-minute video.

Ross Mayfield, co-founder of Socialtext, writes on his blog “Hello Socialtext 3.0!”

BusinessWeek: Socialtext 3.0: Will Wikis Finally Find Their Place in Business?

Webware: Socialtext co-founder: Enterprise Twitter isn’t enough.

eWeek: Socialtext Signals Marks Wiki Provider’s Move into Enterprise Microblogging.

Dawn Foster notes the move of Enterprises to social.

Zoli Erdos says “Socialtext Becomes Really Social.”

ZDNet: “Socialtext enters Twitter for Enterprise sweepstakes.”

TechCrunch writes “SocialText 3.0 blends Facebook, Twitter, and the Enterprise.”

So, why are these changes important? Because they bring the social features that many people have gotten to know on Twitter and Facebook into the Enterprise along with advanced wiki functionality.

Is this bleeding edge stuff? Yes, for the enterprise it is. And Socialtext is already seeing some big “Fortune 50” pickup.

I can hear the critics now: “who needs another Twitter or Facebook at work?” But if you watch the video, you’ll see why these features make a new kind of collaboration possible.

It’s nice to see Socialtext succeed, they hosted the first Barcamp in their offices and now they are pushing ahead of the world again.

Economic Idiocy

Louis Gray nailed it last night when he wrote that there are no experts in this financial crisis.

In the past 18 hours I’ve read literally thousands of posts and have done almost nothing but hang out on FriendFeed. I’ve seen a LOT of idiocy. And these are supposedly from the smarter, more educated people around. People who I’ve had a beer or two with and who I count as friends and fellow Americans.

I almost went through and cut and paste the worst of it from my FriendFeed stream, but it won’t help to make people feel bad or get into arguments now. The damage has been done by our idiocy (both in creating this crisis) and in deepening it by not fixing the credit crunch (also our idiocy).

Now, what happens when people stop buying things? Like it or not, our economy is based on credit. And the way banks work is if you save one dollar, they lend out a lot more than one dollar, which gives the banks scale. Also makes them go under if they make too many bad loans, like they did, or people take money out of the banks, like we are (billions were pulled out of Washington Mutual in the last few days before it failed).

What happens next? Economy goes into stall. Why? If people with good credit can’t get credit to buy cars and houses and expand their businesses, they stop doing those things (it’s made worse by the psychology that we’re in right now, which is to hoard, hoard, hoard and not buy things). When we stop buying, companies start showing losses. People get laid off. They file for unemployment. Ahh, so we’re going to pay anyway, only this payment will go on for years until we figure out how to get car manufacturers and real estate agents and so forth back to work.

It’s enough to make me scream.

The downside of this new media world is that you’ll hear a lot of opinions. Which one is right? I’m not always right. In fact, I’m often wrong. But I’ve counted on YOU, the audience, to help me correct that when I’m off in the deep end. Now, though, I’ve seen so much idiocy that I’m not even sure of my audience anymore. That’s how deep our loss of confidence in each other has come.

I find I’m becoming a lot more like Andrew Keen. That scares the shit out of me. Why? I find I’m looking to experts and elites more and more, because the crap I’m seeing out of all of our mouths is just so, um, wrong. As my history teacher back in the 1980s used to say “the masses are asses.” This is shaking my belief system pretty thoroughly, because I actually do believe that a decentralized system is stronger than one with one guy or gal in the middle controlling everything. But for a decentralized system to work we have to 1. be smart and 2. believe in each other. Those two things are proving to me to be pretty trying right now.

I liked what David Brooks had to say in the New York Times this morning. He said “I’ve spoken with several House Republicans over the past few days and most admirably believe in free-market principles. What’s sad is that they still think it’s 1984. They still think the biggest threat comes from socialism and Walter Mondale liberalism. They seem not to have noticed how global capital flows have transformed our political economy. We’re living in an age when a vast excess of capital sloshes around the world fueling cycles of bubble and bust. When the capital floods into a sector or economy, it washes away sober business practices, and habits of discipline and self-denial. Then the money managers panic and it sloshes out, punishing the just and unjust alike.”
We’re in wild economic times. What should be done now? I’d still do the bailout, although that will lead to inflation and a devaluation of our dollar. We have to choose between that, or really high unemployment, which will lead to devaluation of our dollar as people file for unemployment in a few months anyway.

One thing I’d love to see is more people joining in on FriendFeed to help pull out the high value bits and provide more sifting to find both the rotten strawberries in the marketplace of ideas, as well as find the really juicy apricots. I’m doing just that on my feed of “Likes” and “Comments” there, so you can see what I’m pulling out of the 3,400 people who are feeding stuff to me.

If you have a feed that you’d want me to listen to, please let me know.

More idiocy to come, I’m sure! Hopefully we’ll all survive. 🙂

Salesblogger prepares for downturn

I met Scott Schnaars yesterday on my tour through Palo Alto. He’s a 15-year sales veteran of the tech industry and is working with Ross Mayfield at SocialText. He told me he’s already been video blogging to other salespeople about how to get through the bad economic times. I watched tonight. It’s not Wine Library TV, but it caught my attention. The name of the blog? Beyond Snake Oil.

Any other corporate bloggers out there who are giving good tips for how to ride out the economic turbulence we’re going through?

Silicon Valley prepares for financial storm of century

I was walking around Palo Alto yesterday afternoon, visiting startups to see what the mood is. One scene stuck out for me. I was walking to my car with Tapulous CEO Bart Decrem and a friend of his ran into us in the street and said “nice job getting funding last month.” They make apps for iPhone, including my favorite Twitter iPhone client, Twinkle.

It was said in the same tone someone along the Texas coast might have been met after getting nice new storm windows right before a big hurricane rolled into town.

Over at Zuora in Redwood City I talked with Tien Tzuo, CEO. They are shipping a new system that enables subscription-based businesses to easily be built. He used to be head of strategy at Salesforce and talked to me about how Salesforce weathered the previous storm back in 2001. That’s a common theme I’ve heard as I walked around the valley last night. Most of these leaders have been through a pretty brutal downturn in 2000-2003. He said it was pretty lucky that Salesforce only had to lay off about 10%. They had plans sitting around to expand a lot right before 9/11 hit and Tzuo said that if they had put those plans into place things would have been a lot worse.

It’s learnings like these that are serving entrepreneurs well as they batten down the hatches and prepare for the financial storm of the century (even though they are all hoping it just turns out to be a mild little storm, off camera you can see in their eyes that they are expecting the worst).

Over at SocialText’s offices (which is where the first BarCamp was held, so the offices hold some significance to many geeks around the world) founder Ross Mayfield is holding a brave face. He’s preparing for a launch tomorrow morning of a major new suite of services aimed at enterprises as he shifts his company away from just doing wikis to doing something a lot broader. More on that in the morning after the embargo ends (although on their Web site they are already talking about SocialText 3.0, so you can get a sneak peak now).

All of the companies I visited, in fact, are shipping new products/services that they hope will help them get through the storm. One thing I felt after visiting with these companies and the leaders who run them is how optimistic I felt. They all know a big challenge is heading toward them, but they are entrepreneurs. As Bob Ackerman, famous VC, told me, entrepreneurs are a little crazy and love a good challenge.

Over at techVenture, a well-known Silicon Valley recruiting firm, CEO Fadi Bishara said he had tons of clients who were hiring and wants to hear from anyone who is a developer or an executive in web software.

One last datapoint: I’ve been listening to KGO Radio (San Francisco’s top rated talk radio station) a lot lately and I’ve heard a couple of business owners say on radio that their credit has already been shut down. I can’t verify that, so if you have stories of how your business is being affected by the credit crunch, please let me know here, or offline at

Good luck preparing your business for the storm of the century, we’ll be watching and reporting from the front lines on University Ave. in Palo Alto, CA.

Half an hour of mobile goodness

Last Friday I had Sumit Agarwal, product manager on Google’s mobile team on my show, which is about how the Internet is changing work, WorkFastTV. Damn, that guy knows his mobile!

In half an hour we run through dozens of things you can do with your cell phone. This is my favorite WorkFast show so far, because I learned a ton of stuff that I could do with my cell phone that I didn’t know about. How many of these things are you using?

We didn’t just talk about Google stuff, either. What else do you do with your cell phone that we didn’t talk about?