Phil Sim

Web, media, PR and… footy

When good ideas go bad

I’m on a traffic rush tonight, so I’m just going to keep writing till I fall over…

I mentioned Trumba in the Fools post and I wanted to go into a little more depth because for me, these guys were the perfect example of a company who just didn’t follow the money.

Trumba had rocket fuel. Even before this whole Web 2.0 thing really got going they’d raised $8 million. They had a GUI to die for. They were getting rave reviews from press that matter because they had a great Web 2.0 twist in a really, really big product category. AND most importantly their model had great scope for ‘network effect’, that is, the ability to share Trumba calendars with friends, families, colleagues meant that Trumba users would not only encourage others to sign on, but with each new person who came on board the network became more valuable and effective.

Yet, Trumba and their VCs who tipped in a whole-lot-a-dollars didn’t follow the money. They didn’t go, let’s look at the market. Who’s making money from calendar apps. Who’s paying for calendar apps today.

If they had of, they would have seen that consumers don’t pay for calendar functionality. Pretty much, Microsoft has a monopoly on the calendar market with Outlook and that’s primarily because it’s part of the Office bundle.

So, Trumba set itself with a task of trying to convince a market that has never really paid for stand-alone calendar functionality before, that it now needed to start reaching into its pocket and start forking out the green stuff.

Had it instead followed the money, it might have noticed that there are a whole bunch of people paying for calendar functionality. Just about every portal, just about every intranet, every piece of CRM software has calendar functionality that they’ve had to pay their developers or external developers to build. Trumba should have set itself with being the calendar inside every online application in the planet. It should have been built from the ground up as a white label application, easily deployed and integrated into whatever you were building. (And yes, Trumba lets you publish a calendar to the web but for all the really, cool Trumba goodness you still need to work from with inside the Trumba calendar itself).

I almost begged Trumba for this functionality. If I could have integrated Trumba into our MediaConnect and ITJourno portals, I’d have done so in an instant. There’s about a thousand or users so straight off the bat. Had they landed a similiar deal with a company like Salesforce.com, which has nothing but a rudimentary calendar in their app, then there’s hundreds of thousands of users in one foul swoop. There are squillions of vertical portals and online apps with calendars integrated into them.
And that’s when the network effect would have really started to have taken hold. If I used a Trumba-powered calendar at work and my missus’ could have signed up for free to a personal Trumba calendar that we then could have shared with each other, it’s something you’d do without even thinking. By now, Trumba should have had gazillions of users all sharing, publishing and interacting with an online calendar in ways that people have never used calendars before. That in turn would have opened up any number of revenue-generating opportunities, online advertising being the very most basic and obvious strategy.

I don’t know how many users are paying the 40 bucks-a-pop that Trumba charges. What I do know is that when Google’s CL2 hits the market they’re job will get infinitely harder. Surely, Trumba knew this day would come. Surely, Trumba knew they had a window of opportunity and had to build barriers to entry with the time-to-market-advantage they had.

I’d love to have seen the business plan that got them the $8 million. I’d love to know how they thought they could convince people to pay for something they used to get for free. I’d really, really like to know how far up the chain my request for a white-label version of the whole Trumba kit-and-kaboodle got up the chain before someone decided it was a dumb idea.

I hope Trumba are doing ok. I think they’re gear rocks. I know they’re strategy has evolved and will probably keep doing so. I just believe they missed a killer opportunity because they simply didn’t follow the money…

Filed under: Online Calendars

3 Responses

  1. Tony Meurer says:

    An excellent comment on the central question of monetization. There’s more making the same mistake. Hope they didn’t sign up for a long lease on very prestigious office space [see Gaping Void’s post]

  2. Ted Johnson says:

    We agree. Chasing the consumer with a pay-for service wasn’t a winning strategy. Yesterday we announced a refocus on businesses and organizations that need to
    communicate event information. See the press release or the updated web site.

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