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. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Online Calendars

Poor Web 2.0 fools

Is it starting to become obvious to people yet, that 99.9 per cent of these Web 2.0 consumer plays WILL die?

TechCrunch reviews the upcoming Google Calendar. If you valued one of the squillion of Web Calendering apps on the market at $10 yesterday, write them down to a cent today. They’re all gone.

The only play that had a chance in this market was Trumba. Of all the Web 2.0 plays that SHOULDN’T have tried to build a revenue-generating business off the bat, it was Trumba. They could have used their speed to market and the network effect that was inherent to their approach to build a massive user base that would actually have some value now. Glad it wasn’t my $8 million they raised.

30 Boxes. Pfft. I said on launch it was a dog. Now it’s a dog with fleas. And what was that calendar with the stupid name? Sponge something? Can’t remember. Stupid and forgettable, that’s a neat trick. As I said at the time, their one innovation – the English-language parser – would quickly be replicated by others and guess what, it’s in Google. Bye bye, whatever your name was.

The primary problem for all these Web 2.0 startups is many were built on the assumption that it would be easier for a Google, Yahoo or Microsoft to buy rather than build. But, as you can see from some of the details leaking out about Google Calendar and some of the other things there doing most of these new add-ons are highly integrated into their existing apps. Not meaning to say I told you so (okay, yes I am) but as I said in my GMail: One app to rule them all post, all of this stuff is going to work together and as such its far easier to build than buy.

In fact the only way most of the Web 2.0 companies have any value is if they have sticky user-bases. That’s why Flickr, delicious (I refuse to do the dot thing), etc were acquired. You can clone just about any of this stuff in a matter of months but you can’t clone tens of thousands of passionate users.

Meanwhile, I was really glad to see fellow Aussie Nik Cubrilovic who has done a stellar job for TechCrunch while Mike Arrington has been away talking about some of the latest developments at Unfortunately, doesn’t tend to qualify as being “cool” in Web 2.0 circles probably because they don’t have tags and they’re making too much money. That’s so old school.

However, when the gazillion web startups with no business models have all died it will be companies like who will be left standing tall. Funny thing is for all the new business models that have been floated none have innovated where it counts – the revenue model.

I’m working with a company at the moment that has red-hot technology in a red-hot market and has what I think is red-hot revenue model too. The company founder thought much the same thing but on trying to raise capital to push ahead, kept getting the same message – you’re not Web 2.0 enough.

Here’s one of his rejection slips: “We would be interested in going further with this if you were conviced that building a lightweight web service was the key to your succes, but it seems like your end goal is still the [old-fashioned, proven revenue model]* and that makes it not our sweet spot. Let us know if your strategy changes.” (* Our description of the term in brackets.)

This VC is a complete and utter twit. However, unfortunately after getting this same message over and over, the founder went about trying to develop a “lightweight web service” (read no revenue-model consumer play). As far as I’m concerned the founder had it right all along. Why? Because his solution came out of a real customer need. He’s built it based on real problems, real feedback from real people who are prepared to pay real money for a real solution. We’re now looking at a channel model (gasp, shock, horror, weren’t all resellers supposed to be disintermediated by now) based on his original premises. I think he’s got a home-run on his hands with a concept that is really core to what the whole Web 2.0 movement is about. But because the VCs can’t put it in a nice, little neat Web 2.0 box he’s been passed over time and again.

I can guarantee one thing. He’s going to be around a lot longer than any calendar app. Unless of course Google buys him first.

Filed under: Google, Online Calendars, Web 2.0

30 Boxes is the Bee’s Dick

The Om, The Scobleizer, The Hawke and all The Others think that the much-hyped 30 boxes is the bees knees. The Squash thinks its the bees dick; ie it falls well short of satisfying.

OK, on the upside. It looks OK, although I like Trumba’s visuals better. The free text parser is cool, but it follows SpongeCell and I suggest that functionality is going to be a part of every single online calendar within the next few months. Tags are good but mandatory in every new online app. And well, that’s about it for me on the positives.
Supposedly, all the cool stuff is the social networking gear. Well, I’m out of luck. I’ve got no friends. Well, no friends who I know of that are using the 30boxes and I’m not going to spam them to suggest they should. Again, I think Trumba nails the multiple calendar idea better than anyone.

One thing I can tell you for sure is that 30 Boxes is going to have to think harder about how it can show off the app’s goodies “out of the box”. Or people aren’t going to be persevere long enough to find out.
However, I think the bigger problem is a calendar is never going to be your social networking hub. Call me a self-centred Nigel but I don’t really care enough about what anyone else is doing that I’m going to want to overlay their diary on mine. I certainly don’t want to use a calendar as the basis for checking out the Flickr photos and blogs of all the friends I don’t have.

No tasks. No ability to drag and drop an appointment. And the only view is a Monthly calendar! I’ve never set any calendar I’ve ever used to Monthly view.

Sorry, I don’t get the hype. Can’t understand the fuss. There’s no business model there. And it’s even going to be hard to flip because of the monthly view and it’s reliance on big screen real estate which means that it’s going to be near impossible to tie into other applications.

Filed under: Online Calendars

Calendars aren’t stand alone apps

A lot of excitement around about 30 Boxes right now. Om says its the GMail of calendars. Thomas Hawk says Best Calendar Ever!

Scoble wants Microsoft to buy it, WordPress Matt is digging it (as in the old fashioned sense of the word) and Stowe has also joined the chorus.

Problem is – calendars aren’t stand-alone apps. For a calendar to work properly it needs to be integated into the rest of the stuff you do – that’s why it’s a part of Office. That’s why they’re a part of That why’s they’re a part of just about every corporate intranet on the planet.

If you’re an individual, a calendar that exists in a silo outside of your e-mail and particularly your tasks is always going to be hamstrung. You should be able to drag an email across to a date and have it automatically populate a calendar entry. You should be able to take a task and allocate time to it across you coming week and of course deadlines show up automatically.

But as limited as that is – a calendar has to be a part of your corporate workflow. Whether it’s a CRM application, a project management application, a bug tracking system or whatever the primary app that you use at work to keep track of where you and the team you work on is at, your calendar needs to be a part of that.

Yet, in this era of syndication, stylesheets, mash-ups and web services, why are so few, if anybody is, concentrating on letting corporates, portals and so forth integrate their offerings into other larger projects. And these are people who will actually pay!

Maybe, that’s the problem. God forbid any Web 2.0 applications actually generate revenue.

Filed under: Online Applications, Online Calendars

F*cking awesome technology, shame about the name

I’d like to give two awards to SpongeCell, an AJAX calendar that got written up in TechCrunch today called SpongeCell.

The first awards is our F*cking Woeful award. SpongeCell? Dudes, that is truly an inherently bad, bad name, but it’s an even worse name for a calendar app. If there’s a single person out there able to guess that SpongeCell is a calendary app then I’ll let Kiera Knightly give me a spongebath (Hey, what can I say I’m risk averse…)

Mind you, if you thought SpongeCell was bad then wait for the tagline – “the absorbful calendar”. OMG.

Why does every Web 2.0 company feel the need to invent a new verb. Just because Googling has entered the public vernacular, everybody now wants to create or reinvent a verb. Sure, it worked for Digg and quite clearly it rocks for Squash, but for most of you peoples, it just sounds dumb.

So guess what? On SpongeCell you can “sponge”. (You’re still thinking about Keira aren’t you. Stop it, now) The great pity is that the act of sponging is one of the coolest things I’ve seen on the Internet for a very long time. Not quite as good as a Kiera Knightly spongebath but pretty damn tops nevertheless.
Generally, the act of adding a calendar entry sucks. You click on enter, add a subject. You pull down some drop boxes to add the start date and end date, whack in a location and press save. You’re constantly back and forth between the mouse and the keyboard and its just a right-royal pain in the neck. A couple of AJAX calendars have tried to make that easier by letting you simply type an appointment straight into a time slot on your calendar, which is nice.

But not as nice as SpongeCell. Say you want to have a meeting with Squash tomorrow at 10am. You simply go to the SpongeBar (a place where you can enjoy a spongebath while sucking back on a beer? Unfortunately not) and type “Meeting with Squash tomorrow at 10” press the sponge button and it gets translated into an event.

That’s not even the really cool part. You’re on the road, you meet an old buddy and you decide to hook up tomorrow night at 7pm. You simply pull out your mobile and text message or email to the generic address and it’s added. Magic. Or you text message or email the words “Next” and you get your next appointment. Send Today and you get today’s appointments.

Now that’s F*cking Awesome. Amidst all the Web 2.0 hype and hoopla you seldom see the technology being used to do really simple things like making a simple act like adding a calendar entry or retrieving calendar information this natural and intuitive.

BTW, the Sponge guys are having a release party. No word as to whether it will feature sponge baths, Kiera Knightly or more crap branding. Incidentl, the company’s media release notes that the four-person team behind the product includes the president, a chief scientist, a chief technology officer and a chief architect. Bet you’re so surprised there was no chief marketer!

Filed under: Online Applications, Online Calendars

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