It’s been a while since I made my last post. A number of people have actually noticed and asked, “What’s up?”
In fact my youngest daughter said, “Hey dad, you didn’t make the Forbes’ 10 Best Venture Capital Blogs for Entrepreneurs“. She works for Salesforce in Product Marketing and reads this stuff.
“Yea…thanks for pointing that out,” I said as if I hadn’t already seen the article and been contemplating on how to boost my ratings for next year.
She said, “You need to post regularly if you’re going to win these things, you know.”
I said, “Thanks for the marketing advice.” Having adult children who aren’t afraid to point out your failings can be extremely annoying. I need to remember this the next time I look at revising the Will.
I had thought about making some sort of lame excuse about “being busy” but the truth be told I just haven’t felt compelled to write a new post until now.
When I first started this blog 5 years ago, I said I wasn’t going to post anything unless I felt I had something substantive to comment on. And, as I went back through the posts I have done, for the most part, I think I have lived up to this original commitment. Although, a few of you have pointed out that some of what I have had to say is “a waste of digital ink”. Unquote.
Still, I feel compelled to continue with the blog. You have to put yourself out there and risk the negative comments in order to learn from others. Not always pleasant but I think it’s worth the trade-off.
So, what compels me to write this post is to solicit feedback on a recent deal I’ve done — one of 3 which has kept me busy and not making blog posts.
The deal I want to talk about is a new start up called Biba.
The CEO of Biba is Carlin Wiegner. Carlin was also the CEO of CubeTree (a previous investment of mine) which was acquired by SuccessFactors in 2010. SuccessFactors was purchased by SAP and CubeTree has become the undercarriage of SAP’s social strategy and is now called Jam.
Carlin’s big idea, and it’s a bold one, is to build a Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) company — one that is built on top of AWS and uses an entirely different business model — that will enable people and companies to seamlessly move from a variety of communication services such as: conference calling, video, screen sharing, messaging and chat.
Today, if you want to collaborate/communicate, you must either purchase/use a variety of discrete services that are not unified, such as: Intercall for conference calling, Skype for video, Webex for screen sharing, etc. and as you move from one service to another you must set up an entirely new and different session. Or, you can invest in a Unified Communication (UC) system – such as MS Lync or Cisco Collaboration – and invest 10’s of $1,000’s – even $1M’s– in hardware, software and the personnel to run it — even then, many features of the UC system only work as long as each member of the session belong to the same company.
This past Sunday TechCrunch posted an article titled, “Lync, Azure, Office 365 And the Shifting Center of Microsoft’s Gravity” where it states that MS Lync brought in $1B of revenue to Microsoft in FY2013. So, clearly companies are investing in their employees to provide better communication and collaboration.
My thesis for making the investment in Biba is as follows:
1. Market — This is a large and addressable market that has 2 large incumbents (Cisco and Microsoft) that have antiquated business models and architectures that are ripe for disruption. There are other providers of discrete services and these represent 10’s of $1B’s in market opportunity.
2. Team — Carlin is a fantastic product executive and has built several fantastic product teams and delivered commercially-successful products (e.g. Brightmail, CubeTree)
3. Technology — Biba is building a brand new technology stack (from VOIP codecs to cloud-based back-end server utilities) that could not have been produced even a few years ago.
The initial offering from Biba is focused on conference calling — other services will be added over time. The app is “free” and individuals can sign up themselves and invite others to use the service. However, getting individuals to use the service and then converting that usage into paid subscriptions from companies is a different matter.
This is a raw start up with zero credibility in corporations. Communications/collaboration isn’t something companies just turn to anyone to do. Communication vendors must demonstrate viability and reliability — “4 9’s” and “carrier-grade” are de rigueur.
So, my question to you is as follows:
If you were going to counsel the company on how to win corporations over (think about Box.net or Evernote — or Salesforce in their early days), what advice would you give to Carlin and his team?
The company – and I – have several ideas but I bet you may have some we haven’t thought of.
I look forward to your feedback.