Letter To IBM

Dear IBM:

Congratulations on your recent acquisition of Kenexa for $1.3B. The HCM application market has been steadily heating up and with SAP’s recent acquisition of SuccessFactors and Oracle’s purchase of Taleo, this looks like a good counter move.

Your announcement coupled with the recent news that Apple has become the most valuable company in the world prompted me to write this.

As I thought more about Apple and IBM and their respective positions in the current technology markets, I realized just how different the two companies are today from two decades ago.

Twenty years ago, when I worked for Apple as a young engineering director, IBM was “the” business information technology brand. Apple was nowhere – except in niche areas such as graphic design.

Under Steve Job’s leadership, beginning with his return to Apple in the mid-90’s, Apple emerged from near oblivion to become one of, if not ‘’the’, most powerful consumer – and business – technology brands.

Today, Apple’s products are used pervasively by people – at home and at work -  throughout the world. Apple has become the leading mobile platform developers target for consumer and business applications.

IBM, in the early 90’s, was faced with its own set of challenges stemming from poor financial controls, lack of innovation and other issues. Gerstner is appropriately credited with solving these and his successors – Palmisano and Rometty – have continued that success.

Now, IBM’s stock is at a near all time high, more than doubling over the past 3 years.  The Company invests in all the right buzz areas: Cloud Computing, Analytics, Mobile, etc. Wall Street is singing IBM’s praises.

Yet, in spite of all outward appearances, I respectfully submit that IBM may be headed toward another very rocky and challenging stretch of waters.

How Will Salesforce Adapt to the Next Platform Shift: Mobile Computing?

I posted an article on TechCrunch last Friday. The title of the article was “How Will Salesforce Adapt to the Next Platform Shift: Mobile Computing?”

The purpose of the article was to point out that every decade or so a new computing platform emerges. Market leading incumbents typically have the most to lose when these shifts occur and typically have the most difficult time making the transition due to legacy architectures and revenue streams dependent upon preserving the status quo.

Are You Capitalizing Upon Your Social Media-ness?

I had a great meeting with Bindu Reddy last week. Bindu is the CEO of MyLikes and the former head of product management for Google Apps. Her husband and co-founder of MyLikes, Arvind Sundararajan, is the former tech lead for AdSense.

The premise behind MyLikes is simple: we are more likely to trust the recommendations of our friends, colleagues and advisors more than we trust consumer ads and the opinions of people we don’t know (with the exception of Hollywood celebrities and sports stars because, of course, we all know they are completely believable, role models for our children and extremely well educated – sarcasm intended).

Who Are You Building Your Business Applications For?

I have had the privilege of meeting with many early stage business software CEOs and teams over the past 5 years since moving from an operational role to an investing role.

Each of these teams is passionate about the products they are creating. However, many, in my personal opinion, share something in common that may prevent them from growing their companies as fast as they might otherwise.

Most are so intent on building their products for and then marketing/selling to daily practitioners they forget about creating a version of the product or a set of features in the product for the people who aren’t likely to use the product very often, or at all; the people who must approve the expenditure.

Back To The Future….

I recently had the opportunity and pleasure to speak on a panel held at Oracle HQ in Redwood City, CA. It was a small conference – sponsored by Oracle – and attended by current Oracle ISVs to discuss the issues of converting and/or building a SaaS business. The panel was moderated by Kevin Dobbs with Montclair Advisors .

Joining me on the panel were Byron Deeter, a GP at Bessemer Ventures and Joel York, CMO at Xignite. I really enjoyed the panel members and the audience interaction and was reminded again just how bright the people are throughout Silicon Valley and how fortunate I have been to work in an industry where the US still continues to lead the rest of the world.