• B2B Integration, Available to the Little Guys at Last. Acquisition, funding and bootstrapping


    Lots of interesting happenings in the B2B integration space – some funding, an acquisition and a little battle aiming to bootstrap its way to stardom. Recently IBM announced its acquisition of Sterling Commerce – Colleague Ray Wang does an, as-always, excellent job of giving a quick perspective. Some key points from Ray’s post: On May […]

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  • On Bootstrapping. And Big Bucks. And Organic Growth


    Recently there have been a few posts about growth through funding and growth through organic means. Tony Hsieh from Zappos told his tale of woe about the expectations of VC’s in terms of good exits. On the other hand, Sridhar Vembu, Founder of Zoho (disclosure – Zoho is exclusive sponsor of CloudAve) wrote an excellent […]

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  • On Startups, and Influence, and Messaging


    I’ve spent over a month in the past three in the US, split between three different trips for different events, and over this time I’ve met with dozens of startups, many of who are from outside the US and are making their first tentative forays into the US scene. I’ve had conversations with a bunch […]

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  • Integration is Good… When You Actually Do It (Part Two)


    A month or so ago I wrote a post critical of the integration one vendor had made with the Google apps marketplace. Yesterday I was perusing Twitter when I came across this tweet: I’m actually a user of Xero…

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  • A Tale of Two Generations – Sage Languishes while Financial Force Innovates


    Software is undergoing a generational change – I thought I’d pull out an example to show what the old generation is doiing and contrast that to what the “cool kids” are doing. I was interested to read Dennis Howlett’s…

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  • There’s a Reason It’s Free – Get Over It…


    I’ve been mulling this post around in my head for quite some time now – an eight hour flight across the great Australian Desert seemed as good a time as any to finally put pen to paper (fingers to keys?) and write this post.

    We’ve been hearing much lately about privacy concerns with free services – hardly a day goes by that we’re not regaled with tales of the dastardly deeds of Facebook, Magnolia, Blippy or some other service that is free-to-customers.

    It seems people are carefully avoiding making the only distinction that makes any sense to me: that of paid vs free services. While I know it’s seriously uncool to question the cool kids who build applications with no idea of how monetization will occur, but I can’t resist. Yes, building an application in the cloud is cheaper/easier than in the old days. Yes, scaling an application is quick and easy. Yes, pre configured “building blocks” can be bought off the shelf.

    But having said all of that – this stuff still costs money. Quite simply – an application that is scaling in terms of users or load, and that has no source of dollar, is facing a complete disconnect. Sometimes some things are either purposely or accidentally omitted in that case.

    Some cases in point…

    People are surprised when Google (via Buzz) or Facebook socialize information about us that we didn’t think would be socialized. Go figure? Both these services have a business model that (at least in part) is fueled by the aggregation and dissemination of bulk information about users. While particular cases can be written off as mistakes – fundamentally these guys are about making information pervasive – don’t believe that YOUR information is excluded from this aim.

    Blippy, the somewhat bizarre site where people can link their purchases via credit card. Recently Blippy had a privacy issue where some people’s credit card became searchable and turned up on Google. It gives an interesting twist to the view of one of the founders of Blippy, Philip Kaplan who says:

    We think that many things used to be private only because there was no way to share them

    Interestingly enough in the Blippy case, recently as reported in the NY Times:

    Amazon actively blocked people from linking their Amazon accounts to the Blippy site, citing security concerns. Blippy recently offered a workaround, asking users to link their Gmail accounts, so it can skim their inboxes for Amazon receipts. Amazingly, Blippy says that thousands of users took this step.

    Don’t mistake – their is fundamentally a difference between a paid, and an unpaid application. There is fundamentally a difference between an application targeted for business users and one for the consumer market. Forget this differentiation at your peril.




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  • Contextual Gadgets – ManyMoon Unlocks Google’s Value

    Image representing Manymoon as depicted in Cru...

    Since the Google Apps marketplace launched, I’ve been a little disappointed at the somewhat limited integrations that have been created by apps on the marketplace. While I’d love Google to have an even richer common set of data, there was little use made of the data that is currently provided.

    All that is changing with the introduction of contextual gadgets, and right now ManyMoon the social productivity tool, is releasing it’s take on what that means. A contextual gadget is quite simply a gadget within an application that unlocks some functionality in another app.

    In their case, the Manymoon Gmail contextual gadget enables users to track and complete projects and tasks directly within an email. Once a user adds the gadget, it can intelligently update tasks and projects with important content and contacts from within emails.

    ManyMoon is understandably bullish about what the marketplace is doing for them, Amit Kulkarni, CEO of Manymoon reports that over 1,000 new businesses that use Google’s applications sign-up for Manymoon through the Google Apps Marketplace each week.

    This is the sort of experience that delivers on the promise of the apps marketplace – take a look at the screencast below.

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  • Integration is Good… When You Actually Do It


    Recently at the SuiteCloud event (see disclosure) I attended a presentation looking at the NetSuite integration with Google apps. At the session a development company, Daston, showed off its custom built functionality that allowed for a one way creation of calendar and mail events hin NetSuite, from within Google applications.

    I watched the demonstration and was waiting for the secret sauce… only it didn’t come. When the demo was over I couldn’t help myself and asked the presenter, Mark Hill from Daston if perhaps that wasn’t a half done (or less) solution and whether it wouldn’t make a whole lot more sense to simply embed Google calendars or mail within NetSuite. The developer’s answer? “Could we do that?”

    I raised my eyebrows in the general direction of Scott McMullan who was presenting in his role of Enterprise Lead for Google Apps – McMullan diplomatically looked away – he knows me well enough to realize what I thought of that so-called “integration”. Anyway, McMullan proceeded to tell those present what the Google Apps Marketplace can mean for developers and end user customers – there were some good questions from the flow in relation to administration rights and data flows – nothing that regular readers of this blog would find surprising. McMullan did quietly admit that, despite being one of the launch partners for the marketplace over a month ago, NetSuite hadn’t actually yet finished its integration with the marketplace – a little depressing given the development that they have compared to other marketplace partners. Anyway…

    Later on the NetSuite staffer responsible for the Google Apps Marketplace integration was discussing the roadmap for that project. All he could tell me was that “at this stage” the integration was for no more than the Single Sign On aspects of the marketplace.

    I guess there’s a couple of aspects to all of this – firstly what is NetSuite’s rationale for being a part of the marketplace. Unfortunately is it was purely a marketing angle, they’ve missed the boat, it was the integrated partners on launch night who got the initial buzz of this product.

    Secondly it would be interesting to know if NetSuite actually sees value for its customers in the marketplace – clearly it’s been moving up the food chain in recent months, looking for bigger customers as it does – the Google Marketplace is primarily a SMB play and hence potentially irrelevant to NetSuite’s target market, secondly it could even be seen as damaging for NetSuite to be aligned with a marketplace such as this – it may harm their enterprise image somewhat.

    I put these questions to David Downing, CMO, NetSuite in particular the delay in getting the integration completed – his response was that “There’s no great mystery here.  We simply have other projects ahead of the Google integration and we will deliver support for OpenID-based single sign on in our next major release. 

    He reiterated that both the calendar and mail integrations have been done through the Daston group, mentioning that they’re a NetSuite SuiteCloud partner. This raises a few questions about the forced loyalty that netSuite has to its partner organizations – I came away less than impressed by Daston’s implementation and am sure NetSuite themselves could do much better – but it’s not a good look to be eating your partner’s lunch.

    It’s a really interesting tension – that of the end user experience, keeping partners happy and balancing internal development work. It’s an area that these new cloud players who are now embracing the channel fully, will need to contend with in the months ahead – under the on-premise model with it’s glacial rate of product innovation it wasn’t so much of an issue – today, the advent of web apps and broad APIs makes it a critical one.

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  • It’s All About Support – Granular Is Good


    The other day I had one of those nightmare situations that only those who are similarly detail-focused (some would say retentive) as myself can appreciate.

    Now I’m a stickler for detail – it really offends my sensibilities when things aren’t stacked in order, when things don’t match and, most of all, when the numbers in my accounting system don’t add up.

    This post is a reaction to something I experienced with Xero, but could equally apply to anyone with an application that has to support the bane of all of our existences – end users.

    Most of my consulting work is in international currencies and, as such, I find it easier to use PayPal to wrangle the vagaries of a handful of currencies, forex fluctuations and complex fund movements. Luckily for me Xero has an integration with PayPal which automates most of what I do.

    Recently the PayPal integration went down – for some reason I was getting strange error messages in the PayPal bank account section of Xero. I flicked out a Twitter message to Xero asking what was up:


    Seemingly a natural enough question – what was wrong, how long would it be broken for and can you tell those affected once it was fixed. Xero is great at replying on Twitter (the OG stands for OrangeGirl, Xero’s community manager and the nicest person you’re likely to find in tech) and I got this back:


    Excellent – timely, honest advice and an indication of the intended course of action. Except of course that of the 15000 or so Xero customers, I’d wager that only a very very small percentage use the PayPal integration. I ruminated a little on that and, being one who likes to communicate my thoughts, flicked the ever-suffering Orange Girl another Tweet:


    To which (did I mention she’s long-suffering) Oragne Girl decently replied:


    The most that Xero was able to do was to send a mass-Tweet to all followers:


    Xero reacted perfectly to the situation and, after-all, it wasn’t anything critical. but the problem is that it’s inefficient and sub-optimal to send status updates to everyone that only affect a small proportion of users/followers. What we need is fine grained control over customer support – the ability to target status updates based on particular (and flexible) criteria…

    It’s an opportunity just waiting to be fulfilled – a third party application that mines an application database to provide vendors with the ability to fine tune customer communications…. There’s the idea, now over to a keen engineer to seize the opportunity and build something!

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  • Personal and Business Finance – Blurring the Lines


    I posted a year or so ago that:

    the distinction between personal and business finance is pretty blurred

    It was a call for micro and small business accounting vendors to offer a personal finance service in the acknowledgement that most micro businesses have an increasingly blurred line between personal and business expenses. As I said at the time:

    Almost all micro businesses I know use a personal credit card for business expenses – sure that can be solved via expense claims but that’s not really in keeping with the actuality. Similarly most micro businesses that require funding achieve it by using their personal equity to guarantee debt – again removing personal finances from this business finance model ignores this fact.

    I was pleased to see then the other day that Xero’s (see disclosure) new personal finance offering really addresses this issue in the most logical way – giving users the ability to post business expenses incurred on a personal bank account through to the business.

    It works like this:

    As a personal finance user, you categorize a transaction as a business expense and then you’re given the option to send a receipt to whichever particular organization it may relate to (yup – believe it or not people are involved in multiple businesses):


    You’re then able to choose the organization the invoice relates to and include some information in the description field:


    You hit Send Expense Claim and now a draft receipt will be in your business organization:


    Your transaction will also update inside Xero Personal to show that your claim has been sent:


    So simple but so enabling – it’s little things like this that can save lots of time and effort for SMBs. Of course it would be even better if one could split expenses – ie 30% of my power bill become a business expense. So many use cases, so little time….

    Friendly contacts have ensured that I’m part of the beta program – I’ll be taking it through its paces and, once it’s ready for roll out, I’ll post a detail review.

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