I attended the first speed networking event in Seattle this week and was pretty impressed. Take the speed dating concept and apply it to professionals. Before the event, I ranked my areas of interest, and they matched me up with 10 other professionals. Overall I was impressed. The people I met were professional, polished and knew why they were there. Most were actively looking to expand their professional networks and get new ideas. I know that I walked away with one or two new ideas, so it was worthwhile.

Check out Speednetworking for an event near you.

Seattle Coffee Houses – Pioneer Square

I hope to make this a regular feature documenting 3 great coffee houses in each of the many neighborhoods of Seattle. If they are on the list, they are worth checking out.

Zeitgeist, Cafe Umbria and All City Coffee are all in Pioneer Square. Great places for a meeting or First Thursdays Art Walk.

Cafe Umbria
320 Occidental Avenue South
Likely my favorite overall. Lack of WiFi keeps conversations down to conversations.

171 S Jackson St
Great place to meet. Everyone knows where it is. Can be crowded. Free WiFi keeps helps keep it popular.

All City Coffee
125 Prefontaine Pl S
A little further out from the hub of Pioneer Square, but great access to downtown. Large tables and upstairs provide great places to sit.

Seattle Skyline Wallpaper 2

My original post from May is proving popular. So here is another view from Kerry Park in Seattle

Seattle’s skyline from Kerry Park in the Queen Anne neighborhood is one of my favorite views of the city. This panoramic was recently taken on a cold, clear autumn morning with my trusty Xpan. Different light from a more southernly sun. For this weekend edition, I am making this wallpaper available for all now 8 (Count’em 8 daily readers. Thanks!) of my readers in 3 sizes. Select the link of the size you want below:

1600 x 555 Seattle Skyline

1280 x 444 Seattle Skyline

1024 x 355 Seattle Skyline

You can check out my entire portfolio at Salmon Bay Photography.

Solid read on Bootstrapping

Check TechFlash Guest post: Bootstrapping and the infinite runway by Hillel Cooperman. Solid read. Since the “at bats” phase is used, I like to think of Babe Ruth. He led the American League in strikeouts 5 times in 1918, 1923, 1924, 1927 and 1928. In 1927 hit 60 home runs, breaking his own record as the all-time single-season HR leader. The 1927 Yankees are regarded as one of the greatest teams ever. So you can have failure and success, but you have to take a bat in hand and get to the plate.

Babe Ruth from Baseball-reference.com
Batter Up!

Highlights from Cloudforce Seattle

Finally getting back to Cloudforce Seattle and the tons of info learned last week. The message was clearly that Salesforce.com is not just applications. Cloudforce Seattle was all about the platform moving to the cloud. I have a notion that there will be several “clouds” in the future. Clearly, Salesforce.com aims to be the enterprise cloud.

Taking an educated guess, but if I was employed by Salesforce.com I would see the cloud(s) through the following lens:

  • Amazon AWS: Raw horsepower for the cloud. BTW, a partner.
  • Google Apps: Powering the desktop cloud. BTW, a partner.
  • Windows Azure: Microsoft Redux. Not serious for the enterprise. Find every hole and angle to exploit.
  • Facebook: Pure social play. Not a competitor until they are a revenue threat.
  • IBM & everyone else: Legacy vertical stacks. Too many holes to exploit. Focus on Salesforce.com advantage for each opportunity.

The Cloud Model will adhere to 3 themes: Multi-tenant, pay-as-you-go and elastic. The cloud is multi-tenant. Period. That is the only way to scale and offer the elasticity that the model requires. Without multi-tenant, it is merely remote hosting of previous application server provider (ASP) models. Pay-as-you-go is an interesting concept. Gone are the days of large outlays of capital and then turn-and-burn for the ROI. The Cloud allows for modest investment upfront. You can try a service easily. The main objection has been and will be “lock-in”. Prospects do not like the notion that you will host and somehow own their data. The industry media has not helped this notion. The elasticity is the value in the cloud for both parties. The relative cost of adding more capacity to the customer is cheap and the price the customer pays for added capacity is as well. Make not mistake though, the old days of huge margin for enterprise software providers is long gone. Smaller Cloud providers will find themselves up against increased barriers to entry.

The business value proposition will be around 3 themes as well: No capital expense, modest operating expense and scales with your business. No capital expense has been, is and will be a huge selling point. Companies finance departments may not understand this concept. Capital budgets are different from operating budgets. How much operating budget is based on usage and a lot of customers will have difficulty with this pay-as-you-go concept. They want to plan usage and that in the past has been done on a capital outlay. Cloud customers will need to get better at capacity planning their cloud usage. Salesforce.com and other cloud providers will need to spend the time to educate that usage is the new pricing.

This does next to zero for the sales cycle though. It is still as long and laborious. I speak from experience.

Immediately post-Cloudforce Seattle, I had identified 5 highlights:

  • Visual Force, Model–view–controller (MVC) framework for custom user interfaces
  • Mobile Lite, Free (for most) Salesforce.com mobile application
  • Force.com Sites and Free Edition
  • Integrated Content Library
  • Genius, Think iTunes Genius for Salesforce collaboration

Visual Force provides an MVC framework for custom user interfaces as a service. MVC (Model, view, controller) is a standard framework for development. Since most user interface development is done through this type of framework, it is an advantage. Less re-tooling for development staff, less hurdles to clear from IT. The MVC framework carries over to Force.com Sites and will allow for a rich visual experience. Smart move.

Mobile Lite and the Mobile product has a mantra: “Write once, run anywhere” to iPhone, Blackberry and Windows Mobile. I have not been able to look into this further, but I know first-hand the difficulties of going cross-platform in the mobile space. “It ain’t easy.” Mobile Lite is a free for most versions of Salesforce.com and provides a lot of bang for Sales. It can take call logs from the phone and update Salesforce. What Sales would not want to have to make sure that his or her activity was logged? The mobile development angle on Force.com is intriguing and I will dive into that deeper.

Force.com Site and Free Edition were the stars of the event. If there was one point they wanted you to leave with it was Force.com Sites. From the impressive Starbucks/Appirio demo to the equally impressive GameCraze demo site by EDL Consulting, Salesforce.com wants to provide the world with the capability of customer facing systems on the same platform. Free Edition is a call to developers to an application vendors to test the waters of the enterprise cloud. The barrier to entry cannot get much lower than free. I would expect to see some interesting startups come from this.

The Integrated Content Library was just plain cool. It allows tagging, ratings, comments and search capabilities of market-facing content. Sales no longer needs to search for the best deck through hundreds of e-mail threads. A user can then assemble a custom deck for the opportunity. The real coolness is in the tracking of the sent content to the prospect. Sales can generate a custom e-mail through Salesforce.com to include a link to the newly created custom content. Tracking based in the e-mail and link will tell Sales, if the email and link have been opened. For Sales, this is pure gold.

Additionally there is a Genius feature that can best be described as iTunes Genius for Salesforce.com. It allows Sales to find experts within the company who have closed similar deals through matching criteria. Deal size, product or owner you name it. To work well, Sales must be disciplined which is difficult to at best. It will be interesting to see what customers Salesforce.com offers as “Super Geniuses”.

There has been a lot of press about this event being in Microsoft and Amazon’s backyard. This tour did not start and will not end in Seattle. Seattle was chosen for effect, no doubt. Salesforce.com means to be the enterprise cloud. Period. If I am right, hire me. If I am wrong, then I will be down to one reader — which will still not be my wife.

Happy Monday.

Best explanation for social media CRM to date

At Cloudforce Seattle yesterday, Salesforce.com gave the best explanation of why you need to monitor social media for CRM, especially in Support/Services.

Your customers have already moved there.

Do they go to Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn first to find answers? If so, how do you monitor and answer those questions? Are you able to create and reuse content? Being a Salesforce.com event, they demonstrated some impressive ways to monitor Twitter and create self-help content for use by CSRs and customers. If your customers are already there, you need to be there too. As the rapid rise of Twitter shows, you will have to be more nimble and react quicker in the future.

Cloudforce Seattle

Attended Cloudforce Seattle today. Tons of great information and still processing it all. Usual Microsoft jabs by Marc Benioff, but nothing you likely have not muttered yourself. Lots of love for Starbucks and Amazon AWS from the Salesforce CEO.

Some highlights:

  • Visual Force, Model–view–controller (MVC) framework for custom user interfaces
  • Mobile Lite, Free (for most) Salesforce.com mobile application
  • Force.com Sites and Free Edition
  • Integrated Content Library
  • Genius, Think iTunes Genius for Salesforce collaboration

I will dive into these and other topics when I catch my breath.

Starbucks recalling 530,000 coffee grinders

I caught wind of this story last night: Starbucks recalling 530,000 coffee grinders. I cannot imagine cleaning a device with spinning metal blades without unplugging it. There seems to be more to this story on the grinder recall.

I do strongly recommend grinding coffee at home. Freshly ground beans just make better coffee. I did use a blade grinder for years, but I was neophyte and foolish. Burr-grinding is the best and only way to go. The grind is more consistent. The use is simple. The mess is less. I have been using the KitchenAid Pro Line Burr Grinder for about 3 years. It is an excellent device. It requires minimal cleaning and does not make the mess that my old blade grinder did. It is expensive for a single use device; however, I would temper the price with the coffee spend each year. Your coffee spend is likely way more than the $160 price tag of the burr grinder. My spend for coffee at home per year is in the $500 range — easy. If you are effected by this recall, go get a real burr grinder. The replacement may make a nice gift.

KitchenAid Pro Line Burr Grinder KPCG100 @ Amazon

Cloudy in Seattle

Very interesting presentations on cloud computing at Seattle Tech Startups tonight.

Jeff Lawson of Twilio gave an en depth presentation on how his company is levering AWS, Rackspace and other providers to bring telephony into the cloud. I was very impressed with their architecture. Honestly, it is better and more scalable than many enterprise architectures. I say this with 15+ years in the enterprise space. Twilio has figured out how to deliver a very robust enterprise class system on Amazon AWS. If others are able to replicate the Twilio model, the cloud will thrive in the enterprise. He offered some insights on cloud advantages. First, the cloud gives you the opportunity to determine the optimal cost performance trade off. Second, the cloud is great for load testing. Third, the cloud is great for the often overlooked failure testing. Given that services can die in the cloud, the uncertainties force better, more redundant design. Twilio is very sensitive to uptime since they are a consumer and provider of cloud services. Jeff ended his presentation with a very funny send up of the most commonly asked questions on the STS forum. Keep your eye on Twilio.

Steve Marx from the Windows Azure team followed. Personally, I have only thought of Azure as a pure cloud application type offering, but in reality Windows Azure will play in the commodity/utility space of the cloud as well in the higher value services of cloud applications. Windows Azure will run a forked version of Windows 2008 Server that has been optimized for the Microsoft virtualization stack and bootup time. Aside from running Windows Server 2008, Azure will be a fairly open system allowing other databases and programming languages. MySQL will be supported as well as other applications that do not require administrative access to the server according to Steve. Impressively, Windows Azure will offer easy scalability and rollback features baked into the “fabric” of the offering. Ease of use could be a compelling point for customers. Look for the Windows Azure SLA and business pricing in November of this year. Steve demonstrated Windows Azure by setting up a web service that used Twilio. Nice touch.

When I leave an event like this and my mind in spinning with the possibilities, it was worthwhile. Tonight was no exception.

Some photo fun

Was playing around with some of the Flickr photo tools recently at Big Huge Labs. My personal favorite is the “Motivator” that allows you to create Successories-style posters. I have never been much of fan of that genre and my humor leans towards sarcasm. The Sumatran tiger at Woodland Park Zoo was co-operating on a recent trip, so I was able to come up with this gem.
Slice of bread?
Check out Motivator at Big Huge Labs.

Happy Weekend.