Sramana Mitra: Let’s talk about that topic for a second. You’re absolutely right. That is a platform that is going to be very difficult for a startup company to bring to market. What’s happening is that there are several camps that are trying to do that and don’t have a full solution yet. Salesforce.com has a stake in the ground on that front. Google has a stake in the ground. Microsoft has a stake in the ground. IBM and Lotus have a stake in the ground.
Lee Congdon: Zoho, perhaps, as well I would add to your list.
SM: Zoho has a stake in the ground, absolutely. It’s still not quite fully there. Everybody is missing something. For instance, Salesforce.com doesn’t have the documentation side, the Microsoft Office equivalent that Google has. Google doesn’t have Web conferencing or video conferencing capabilities. Zoho does have Web conferencing capability. So, my sense is that’s probably going to emerge out of one of the larger players. I guess WebEx, Cisco they’re going after that space.
LC: My understanding is they dropped their email offering a few months ago, but they’ve got their Quad offering. So, they’ve expressed interest in that space, you’re correct.
SM: Don’t you think that would be a dangerous area for a small company to go into?
LC: Fair enough. I probably didn’t answer your question about entrepreneurial opportunities. I would add to your list of concerns that you’re competing with the consumer offerings, which are effectively zero priced. As a consequence, even though some of the incumbents might provide a pricing umbrella, there may not be a lot of room, ultimately, if free is good enough for your firm.
SM: Yes, but free is good enough is not going to work in an enterprise.
LC: It’s not going to work in an enterprise, but it might work for the startups. You’re correct.
SM: But I’m talking about startups delivering solutions for enterprises.
LC: I understand. I think business intelligence and big data are probably terrific opportunities. Helping firms get a handle on how to think about structure and analyze large quantities of data that aren’t simply in the traditional relationship model. How do I gather lots of information from my customers, from my prospects, from my sales automation system, from hits on my website, from mentions on social media, and so on, and pull that all together in a meaningful way to start thinking about where the marketing opportunities are, where the product opportunities are, which prospects I should be talking to? I would think there would be many opportunities for entrepreneurs in that space.
SM: Yes. Let’s take a use case. One of the places where a tremendous amount of data is being gathered is in the social media portal – Twitter, Facebook and so forth. Who owns that data? If I’m in an enterprise and I have customer data, prospect data, brand data accumulating in Twitter and Facebook, do I automatically have the right to pull that data from Twitter, or do I have to pay a toll to Twitter or Facebook?
LC: I am not a lawyer. My understanding of many of those agreements are that technically, the person who entered the data owns it, but they have granted a permanent license to whatever firm is providing the tool in return for access to the tool. So, I’ll leave it to the lawyers to have the discussion, but probably, the firm mentioned in those tweets or blog posts or whatever doesn’t have any right to the data.
SM: Right. So, have you seen any offerings from the vendors’ side, whether small vendors or large vendors, being able to do this big data analysis on Twitter streams or Facebook streams and stuff like that?
LC: My assumption is a firm would need to strike some sort of agreement with the firm capturing the data. This has not been broadly discussed in the press as of yet, obviously because of privacy issues and so on, but I would certainly assume that the right commercial terms would be available to a startup to approach one of those providers that you mentioned, in a space that the firm assumed it would be exploiting the data, and make an offer.