The Next Big Thing You Missed: Email’s About to Die, Argues Facebook Co-Founder

email_overload This is an interesting article about Asana. Certainly solving workflows inside the company’s walls is a good problem to solve.

However, I don’t see the battle that he is talking about as being about email, as painful as it is. The real opportunity is enabling knowledge workers to better coordinate their activity to get things done, better and faster than ever before – whether that is a project, recruiting people, sourcing knowledge, etc. Much of this activity happens with people outside of the walls of the company – with a knowledge worker’s work network. Those are people as nodes on a network – presently via dumb email – but should really be done through smart connections and communications. Mobile is certainly an enabler to solve this problem, and then let email go by the way of paper mail.

Software will not eat retail, but will massively transform it

Eating-the-WorldMarc Andreessen in his article that retail will completely die is directionally correct, but rather than software “eating retail” per his “software is eating the world model”, it will enable a very powerful and personalized mobile-enabled retail experience that will blow away the experience of just buying goods online from the computer on your desk.

Think of the future of retail more like the Apple retail store model, powered by a compelling & personalized mobile-enabled shopping experience. Less inventory, more experience in the store and at its surroundings, much more known about the consumer while they are shopping and most importantly before they walk in the door.

The mobile computer in your pocket, combined with location transmitters and information sensors surrounding the spaces around you, and a powerful data engine with personalization capabilities will enable shopping and all of the activities that could surround a shopping outing to be fun and entertaining.

The benefits are great – excellent social experience with friends while buying goods, and the goods that you need right away are available, the rest can be delivered home. You can wrapper a shopping outing with food & entertainment with friends and super convenience through a tailored experience. Along the journey you will receive personalized offers and rewards, be navigated directly to the products you want to buy, learn about relevant deals and specials, earn rewards points, find interesting activities to do, be able to locate friends around you and gather for entertainment and dining, receive advice from friends & experts, compare products and services, sort purchases for immediate take-home or home delivery, and make the final purchases. And each visit adds to your profile, making future visits more compelling, valuable and entertaining.

That is a much better future than just sitting by yourself and buying every thing online from your computer!

Putting the World in the Palm of Your Hand

world-in-palm-of-handsAppconomy continues to plow ahead on its mission to map the world’s people, places and things to simplify people’s lives with mobile apps. Apps powered by Appconomy will serve people globally across their daily activities in the physical (non-online) world such as shopping, healthcare, entertainment, and transportation. Our apps are highly local – as local as the products in a grocery store only 5 meters away from you – and contextually aware – knowing what you are looking for and predicting what is interesting to you at any time and place. This is a giant mission, and every bit as big or bigger than Google’s mission “to organize the worlds information and make it universally accessible and useful.” What’s more, we have established an early technology advantage with indoor location services – with highly accurate indoor positioning capability that is independent of the mobile smartphone operating system. This has been a result of some amazing innovation by our team and partners.

Last week, we filed a first closing of our bridge financing, the proceeds of which will enable us to continue to rollout our platform in physical retail formats across China while we proceed to close an upcoming Series B financing. For those that have followed the Appconomy journey so far, you already know about our strategy of launching first in China. This strategy is every bit as big and bold as our mission. My co-founder and colleague at Appconomy, Steve Guengerich, recently wrote about China here, which highlights why we chose this dynamic country for our launch strategy. Doing so has not been easy as a foreign founded company, and the road to foreign founded company success in internet and mobile services in China is paved with many failures.

However, despite these poor odds, we are off to an amazing start. This early success is surely enabled by our strategic alliance with our amazing partner in China, Neusoft Corporation and their incredible talent and leadership team. Our JinJin mobile loyalty product is live at over 90 merchants and 1,000+ locations, and our mobile smart shopper app is live in Shanghai with Carrefour, the world’s second largest retailer to Wal-mart, providing first of its kind indoor location and navigation services that are already “wowing” Carrefour shoppers in Shanghai. The latter is generating compelling consumer engagement metrics and is rapidly attracting the world’s leading fast moving consumer goods advertisers and other major retailers. You can find a very good overview of the emerging traction of our platform in China and the apps it powers at Technode here.

All of this has been achieved on relatively little capital relative to the the size and scope of the mission and strategy of the company and the necessary integration with the physical world, which takes capital and clever partnerships to achieve. We will add further fuel to the fire with capital in our Series B financing and leverage with upcoming strategic alliances.

In the coming weeks and months we have several new announcements on deck as we rollout this platform in China and beyond. Stay tuned to our journey, and Appconomy is coming soon to empower you with the world around you, right in the palm of your hand!

Riding Giants – On to the next big enterprise wave

In tracing back my career over the past 13 years since I graduated from business school, I realized three constants have existed. First, I have either worked for, or started companies that designed and built software that served enterprises, including businesses and public sector entities. Second, each of these entities have been highly entrepreneurial, whether a pure startup (iMark.com and Kalivo), an acquisition driven strategy (nGenera / Moxie Software), or an emerging growth company (Trilogy Software). Third, and most critically especially because of the second constant, I started or joined each at the beginning of an emerging technology wave – including front-office automation, Web 1.0 ecommerce, and Web 2.0 social software.

A new technology wave is upon us, and some would call it a true tsunami. This is indeed the biggest and most profound shift in technology that I have seen in the past 13 years as it relates to its potential impact on enterprises and individual workers. The shift that is upon us is the shift to mobile, which will drive a panoply of enterprise mobility challenges and opportunities, and most importantly for those enterprises and individuals that play it right, tremendous value creation potential.

It is with this backdrop that I have decided to found a new company with a focus on the next technology wave that will impact and drive value for enterprises – mobility. The company that I have started is Appconomy. It is founded with a firm belief that “The Apps are the Economy“, meaning that increasingly we are going to find that all that we do that drives the economy, from purchases, to stocking shelves, to processing raw material inventory will be handled by apps on mobile devices in the hands of individuals. This is the wave of the future, and it will have a profound impact on individual productivity, enterprise profitability and global economic performance. Appconomy will play a leading role in this new wave.

With this change, I am moving on from Moxie Software (formerly nGenera), where I have been for the past four years and where I am a co-founder and shareholder. Moxie is a leader in the heart of a current mega market in enterprise social software. It is a wave that I got in front of back in 2006 with Kalivo and nGenera. The company is in great hands with an excellent leadership team and a phenomenal set of product offerings in customer engagement and employee engagement. I’m proud of the work I have done there, including the teams and people we have acquired and hired, the partnerships we have established, including IDEO, the IDEO-designed Employee Spaces product we built, and our re-branding from nGenera to Moxie Software. While I will be primarily focused on driving value with Appconomy, I also continue to serve Moxie Software as a consultant and strategic advisor, and as a member of the company’s strategic advisory board.

That is all for now. I am pumped up about this new market opportunity and hope that you will choose to follow Appconomy, and more importantly use our upcoming apps!

Achieving the nirvana of end-user pull in enterprise computing

I recently did a briefing with Josh Greenbaum of Enterprise Applications Consulting on nGenera’s new collaboration platform for social business, called Spaces by nGenera. Josh and I had a great conversation about our unique approach to this market with this product, centered around having created a compelling user experience geared to drive end-user adoption.

Josh recently blogged about our conversation and makes a compelling point – SharePoint is a strong development environment, and it has a developer advantage in the market. What SharePoint does not have is an end-user advantage, like Excel had / has. With Excel, in many cases the end-users were the model developers and that led to the high degree of stickiness. The end-users felt a certain degree of control over their application and the ability to modify it at any time. I faced this in a prior startup which was selling an enterprise collaborative forecasting offering – the key requirement we found was the ability to export the models from our application to Excel. This was a huge barrier to adoption and Josh’s point came across very clearly to me.

With SharePoint, the IT departments are the ones in control of building the applications, and SharePoint has a distinct advantage with the IT department and developer community for collaborative business applications inside the enterprise over any other platform today. The end-user just needs solutions, and does not care so much about what platform was used to deliver them. To the degree IT can deliver adequate applications to the end-users in a timely manner, the end-users will be satisfied enough to NOT create a groundswell of support for a different platform. For some percentage of applications, this will be the case and SharePoint will be used.

However, with collaboration platforms, meeting some percentage of user cases in the long haul just does not work. These platforms thrive on increased usage and adoption in a viral way. The game is changing with enterprise applications for social and collaborative business uses. Bad applications with poor user experiences can no longer be forced up on end users. Today, there are simply too many choices, and end-users will gravitate to the choice that allows them to be most effective in doing their jobs and meeting their performance expectations. Witness Yammer’s adoption success as a use case. This social and collaborative business software market operates by a pull model. In the prior push model, the path of least resistance was to take whatever IT gave you as an end-user – in most cases, like financials and HR, it was required for the company to actually operate (try missing a payroll!). In the pull model, the path of least resistance is the application that is easily available and best suited for the job, as decided by the end-users.

This end-user pull will not happen overnight. It begins by addressing use cases where SharePoint applications are not being or cannot be provided by IT departments – where “good enough” won’t do or cannot be delivered. For example, the case of a collaboration environment for a company to interact with one to many partners or external vendors is a good example of a SharePoint weak spot. It is also a good example where an end-user can take control over the application needed to address their need and one where a compelling user experience (simple, intuitive, zero-training, and integrated with existing workflows) will make a compelling difference.

As end-users get experience with new application platforms like Spaces, demand will grow for these types of solutions over the more rigid SharePoint applications through end-user pull. This also leads to a developer advantage for the new platform as the user base grows and developers find an attractive market for creating templates, themes, and plug-in applications for these new generation platforms.

I too agree with Josh that the new generation application providers need a strong capability as teachers as well as application development expertise. Read our recent Flash Report and listen to our recent Webinar “Enterprise-wide Engagement by Design” for an example of how nGenera does this.

We are entering a very liberating decade in corporate computing for end users!