Stephen from the SMH just gave me a heads up on Google Gears, an open source browser add-in that enables offline applications.
To start the ball rolling, Google has “Gears-enabled” its RSS feed reader, Google Reader.
This is a significant move from Google into the Browser. Very, very clever!Â The timing is significant, being well before Firefox 3.
The tech world will be all over this over the next few weeks to see how elegant the implementation is.
This is a very significant shot by Google. First out can create a standard. This is a race. You can imagine the scramble going on inside Microsoft today.
What do you think?YouTube on AppleTV
Another logical step in Google and Apple getting closer (Googles Schmidt is on Apples Board).
But the AppleTV is getting panned: Fortune: Apple TV A Dud
I tend to agree. I have a 36″ CRT (haven’t yet jumped on the flat screen bandwagon) I brought a few years ago and can’t easily plug in an AppleTV. It doesn’t make sense to require HDTV for low res pictures.
I hope they update the Mac FrontRow software as well so you can YouTube from there. That would be more useful. Looking forward to seeing how you search for keywords with the remote.
Apple shares up 30% since the iPhone announcement so who’s complaining.Surface
Was just sent this …
Wow, available end of the year in the US.Lunch with Claire
Senior Microsoft UK exec and good buddy Claire O’Halloran is down in New Zealand spending time with Xero next week. We have a tight schedule but would like to invite other New Zealand software companies close to working in the UK to come to a brown bag lunch on Friday to hear about partnering with Microsoft UK and the programs they have in place for international companies.
Places will be limited. Priority given to those closest to market. 12-1 sharp. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to come along.
Claire with warm up speaker in Hanoi last week.
Some background on Claire:
Claire has spent thirteen years in Sales, Marketing and Business Development in IT and Telecoms and has a substantial network encompassing public sector, private sector, media and academia.
For the past two and a half years at Microsoft, she has applied her energy and passion to creating a vision for growth for the software developer and independent software vendor (ISV) channel â€“ which has resulted in numerous best practices and awards.
With a remit to create a strategy for Partnering for the Future and â€˜next generationâ€™ partnerships, Claire has pioneered initiatives around off-shore development helping UK companies partner with others in SE Asia, gaining sponsorship from UK Trade and Investment and foreign governments. She is a spokesperson for Microsoft UK on Globalisation.
Her work with the Emerging Business Team, which actively partners with the Venture Capital community, focuses on helping â€˜high potentialâ€™ start-up and young companies from the UK and Overseas. Driving the Cross Border strategy, partnerships with Enterprise Ireland and Investment New Zealand have seen incremental business for Microsoft UK and overseas ISV partners.Thanks Wales!
Wow what a week. Great result at the end, but the real benefit was being able to spend time in market and start building relationships that are going to be so valuable over the next few years.
The week has been stimulating but great fun. I’ve laughed hard all week. The Welsh people are so like New Zealanders and I felt a real sense of sadness leaving new found friends.
Thank you Claire, Eleanor, Ian, Jonothan (red socks), Jackie, Vicky, Natalie, Steve, Mike, Andy, Meurig, Gareth, Robert, Tom, Gary, Darryn, David, Mark (I hope I haven’t forgotten anyone). I especially enjoyed hanging out with my South African Eyeslices buddies - Kerryne and Michael who I shall continue to be a WOMA for.
They are not selling eye treatment. It’s 5 minutes of me time. A better gift you could not give.
Each of the finalist companies had a fantastic program set up for them during the week. That takes a lot of work to organise. Thank you IBW. The companies that came to meet us sent senior staff and were very generous with their time and advice. Thank you. It was especially cool that each of the finalists found significant opportunities that will work for them.
My final impressions of Wales are these:
- How Wales is acting on a vertically integrated and coordinated strategy for economic development to transform themselves.
- Like New Zealand, the depth of relationships in Wales was notable. That provides competitive advantage for smaller countries.
- Their common sense approach to inward investment, creating a win-win for companies wanting to use Wales as their European launch pad.
- The level of sophistication of thought we saw right across the board. From the practical, pragmatic (and colorful) academics at Newport Business School - to the Technium incubators.
- The importance of infrastructure investment.
- How Rugby is an important cultural link between Wales and NZ. Xavier Rush is Cardiff Blue’s captain so NZ’ers are have good profile in Wales.
- Wine street in Swansea. An anthropologists dream.
Bottom Line. Wales has had to reinvent itself over the last 20 years. The Welsh Assembly Government has put strategies in place and is leading a transformation. It’s been a good week for Xero, but also a big week for thinking about what we have to do in New Zealand. The status quo means we are drifting backwards. Wales provides a very relevant case study for New Zealand, and a natural partner to help us Go Global.
For other New Zealand companies I would encourage you to engage with International Business Wales. This has been a very, very rewarding week for me.What is a Technium?
The Technium network is 9 themed innovation centers funded by the Welsh Assembly. They provide a starting point for new businesses.
A Technium is like a next generation business incubator.
My impressions of incubators I’ve seen to date are that they are fringe and for primarily high tech and risky new businesses (though fashion incubators seem to be going well in NZ).
The Welsh spin is that these types of new businesses are the norm rather than the exception. The Techniums bring incubation into the mainstream.
In New Zealand, when you start a small business you pretty much do it all yourself. Find some property, sign a scary 3-6 year lease (without any real feel as to what your company will look like in 12 months), get broadband in the building, buy equipment, build a presentation and meeting room, and try to find some people who have done it before to tap for advice. It is hard.
The Techniums are distributed around Wales, and provide a unified and integrated approach to assisting new businesses. They provide focus for growth services like Intellectual Property, Funding, Marketing, Recruitment and so on. They make it very easy for any new business to just on with their core operations. There have a program of moving you through as you grow and finally graduate.
Graduating tenants of the Swansea Technium have got coordinated and are building their own facility close by so they can stay in the area.
I’ve learnt a lot on this trip. For Xero market entry of course, but also seeing how a country like Wales has taken a coordinated and integrated approach to economic development. New Zealand can definitely learn a lot from Wales.Doing business in the UK (Day 3)
We had a number of good seminars back in Cardiff today around doing business in the UK.
It was interesting to find a bit more about the Welsh strategy to attract inward investment. 20 years ago economic development in Wales was focussed on increasing employment. They understood that the opportunities for relocating companies with several thousands of jobs at a time would eventually slow down. So the Welsh strategy is now to attract a higher value workforce, which is why they are focussing on Technology.
They have a very coordinated model. International Business Wales has outposts around the globe that look for companies that have potential - and encourage them in.
There are a number of agencies and programs that assist once you go onshore. The Techniums are a network of specialised incubators around Wales. This top to bottom integration through the programs is impressive and seems to be very effective.
Here are some points around doing business in England and Wales I took note of:
- Company law is very similar to NZ
- There is a new Companies Act (2006) that codifies Director duties
- There generally isn’t a standard form Office Lease (e.g. like Auckland District law Society Lease)
- UK Annual Leave increasing from 4 weeks to 28 days over the next 2 years
- Unfair dismissal eligibility comes after 12 months. This means Employers can dismiss Employees that do not work out in the first year. (Wouldn’t get away with that in NZ)
- You can set up a company in the UK within days
- VAT registration is compulsory at GBP61,000 in a 12 month period. Registration occurs within a week.
- UK is 60m people. 5th largest GDP in the world
- EU is 456m people, from the UK you can export to the EU market without hinderance
- English is the predominant business language and you can operate in the region with just English, though it is always good to be able to communicate in the language of the people you are doing business with
- Eurostat is a useful source for statistics and general data (www.epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu)
- European Information Centres (www.eic.cec.eu.int) will help you find partners
- There are many agencies available to assist you be successful
- The European Patent Office is not a fan of entirely software based systems unless they have a technical effect. Which means that you need to think hard about IP strategy for software. Method of Business patent claims are also normally excluded in Europe. Europe is very different from the US in this regard. Copyright is used for protection of software, databases and websites.
In the afternoon, we headed to the Business School at the University of Wales in Newport. Some notes:
- All countries are focussed on the Global Knowledge economy. No country has a differentiator here.
- It stuck me that in the few days I’ve been here, I’ve never heard the word Export. In the UK all talk is participating in the global economy. I think that shows how far we are away from our markets, and our international business maturity. Perhaps because of English history they are concerned that exporting would appear to be cultural imperialism
- There is an insatiable global demand for human talent
- The Higher Education market is set to triple by 2020. The UK will put themselves forward as providing HE for the Global Economy. Globalisation of (Higher) Education is an example of how Universities are gearing up to exploit the Global Knowledge Economy. Does this mean that we’ll send our kids to the UK to finish school in 10 years?
- WOM = Word of Mouth. WOMAs = Word of Mouth Ambassadors
- Big focus at Newport was digital infrastructure and exploiting the phenomena of Web 2.0. They have their own MySpace site with Communities, Blog Hosting etc. These guys got it.
Another busy day with some great meetings.
After we finished at the Technium in Swansea I went and drove around to Mumbles (thanks for the tip Steve). The beaches are really nice. So far it’s been blue sky and warm.
Swansea is built around a bay, with traditional cottages terraced up behind the city. It doesn’t compute for me how these 100+ year old cottages have glorious sea views. There is a neat contrast between the traditional housing that frames the city and the new architecture in the waterside re-developments.
The beach huts were interesting. Imagine the social hierarchy between the front row and the next row back.
I found the Navigation option that makes the drive arrow point in the direction of the car, not just North. Faith in German design restored.
Half way through the learning journey in Wales. Nothing like spending time in country to validate your thinking and find insights that are not obvious from afar.Blackberry 8800 locking
One of the joys of traveling is getting the new best phone before all of your work mates.
So I’ve been looking for a Blackberry 8800 or Curve. They are around but the stores I’ve been too have not had stock. Talking to the local phone expert he says that RIM is now locking all phones for carriers. So I have to wait until Vodafone NZ brings in the 8800. Groan. That does not appeal to my need for instant gratification.
But a quick google locates http://www.unlock8800.com, where you can pay to get phones unlocked.
Does anyone know how far the 8800 and Curve are from availability in NZ? Should I go through the unlocking saga? What does it all mean?Prioritisation
Alastair Grigg has been on the team now as COO for a month or so and has really helped us establish our processes as we scale up.
Ali discussed this at the SaaS conference earlier in the week and I thought it was worth sharing wider.
We are currently working on fairly rapid release cycles of 2-4 weeks. We are getting great feedback from customers and also have a roadmap that we want to make sure we keep progressing towards. For a given level of resources we have a level of capacity. Inevitably this leads to a prioritization debate which I can assure you is very good sport.
We physically manage this by having weekly Product Steering Group meetings where we review this feedback, customer queries, any support issues and sales team feedback.
Ali came up with a model that has really helped us with managing this process.
The work program for the current release we are working on and the release following is largely locked down and generally not open to changes unless there is a major need. This workstream then is largely a Project Management activity. We know what needs to be done and this is managed accordingly. This gives our development team a level of certainty on what they are doing.
The content of the next few release after that are where we have the debate about what comes next. This is Product Management. It is where we balance tactical and strategic initiatives by selecting the features we are going to work on and release. This is where the Priorization Debate occurs.
In order to make sure that we are executing our long term strategy we also record the basic themes of the Releases that are a few months out. This is Product Strategy which shapes the long term Roadmap.
As we add more resources we can introduce more parallel workstreams and accelerate delivery of the roadmap.Wales Day 1
The purpose of Welsh Government funding the Technium Challenge is to promote inwards investment into Wales. I’m really impressed by the Welsh team who have lined up an excellent week of activities meeting a number of companies and people that can help Xero enter the UK.
Already I’ve learned a lot about the UK market.
We were based in a Corporate Box at Cardiff Arms park for a lot of today. I’d love to be here when there is a game on. I thought it would be bigger as it handles 72,000 people, but it is really intimate. You are very close to the action. It must be great when the crowd is going full noise with the roof closed. It’s right in the middle of Cardiff so can see how the atmosphere would be special for the big games. Xavier Rush is captain of the Cardiff Blues so they are big fans of New Zealand around the park.
One of the highlights of the day was visiting an Incubator that assists companies with market entry into Wales and the UK. The program is the @Wales Digital Media Initiative. This place was really slick. Funded by the Welsh Government it was very inexpensive for new companies and an excellent first facility.
It made me think how token our knowledge economy aspirations are in New Zealand. Wales has gone past the talking stage and investing significantly in new economy businesses. All countries in the world see the opportunity for the Knowledge Economy. We have to invest just for parity. There is no doubt we are going backwards which made me feel slightly ill.
What also interested me was the success in companies going through the incubator. More than half had successfully graduated and were on their way to the becoming significant businesses.
I think our lack of success is partly be due my Valley of Death point. To reach significant markets we need to be exporters.
But as they have continued success there is more experience to help out the young companies.
Drove down to Swansea where I’m based for the next few days. Weather is excellent and both Cardiff and Swansea look like great towns. The hour drive down was tough as the lack of sleep kept in.
Met one of the other finalists Eyeslices from South Africa who have a cracker CEO who has her marketing nailed. She’ll be tough to beat. I managed to get some of their product so looking forward to some eye soothing in a few minutes.
It was a packed first day. The people and way of networking in Wales is very similar to NZ and they are very passionate about their country. The Welsh have got mobilized and are transforming their country to be more service based. The next part of their plan is to attract higher value work and workers.
If you thought I was fired up about Broadband investment before - wait until I get back.Leg to Wales
Flight from Hong Kong delayed a couple of hours. The 2nd leg to London is a biggie but I definitely prefer this way to transiting in the US.
I tried to get some sleep as once off the plane I had a 2 hour drive to Wales.
The flight in across London was stunning. A right turn over the London Eye and we could see all of the London landmarks as we flew up the Thames.
Hertz was infuriating. First the car I ordered didn’t have a GPS (as ordered). Managed to get an A6 which only has text based GPS and that didn’t work properly so thru my toys out of the cot and ended up in a Mercedes R320CDI. That’s their 7 seater for soccer mom’s. An hour and 15 later I was out of there. There was a big queue and lot’s of irate customers. For all their computerization they still take 15 minutes to check people out. You would think that someone would be monitoring branch performance for time savings. If you came after just a few people your wait was an hour. These are tired travelers. Look out!
Even though Hertz Gold seems to charge retail plus 10% it is convenient when it all works and you can go right to your car. If only they gave you what you ordered.
At least the GPS was map based but really badly designed as it orients North up, rather than changing based on the direction you are going. So if you are heading south the map is upside down. Coming off a day of flying and lacking sleep that was tough. It’s hard to turn your head upside down when you’re driving. Even the big manufacturers don’t seem to do Interaction Design of the basics.
Ready to burn my clothes after 30 hours of travel I stopped off at Steve and Becky’s place near Hook for a cup of tea and power shower. I can report to everyone that remembers the Brooke’s that they are well.
I had to drive through the country back to the M4. The first time I stayed in the UK out of London was a few years ago. Driving through the country lanes is an experience - but a tease. England is quite flat and almost all the houses have had years to grow big hedges, so you can’t really see the country houses. You just get glimpses. It’s like driving through a maze.
Back on the M4 and the the first thing you notice is that on the motor-ways the average speed is 75mph with the fast lane anywhere from 80-95mph. At less than 3000rpm in the Merc diesel you gooble up the miles.
Checked into the hotel. Broadband didn’t work. Room change. But they did have a trouser press. Yay! Finally get to a proper bed, 52 hours since I got out of the last one.Cringley on Google Universal Search
Another good Cringley column. I enjoy reading his take on big boy strategy.
Hong Kong transit
Universal Search is Google’s attempt to destroy its major competitors who, like Gorbachev in the waning years of the USSR, have to follow suit and start spending money they don’t have if they want to even appear to still be in competition with Google. This means for these companies more software development, more sweeps of the web, as well as the greater likelihood that among their top results will be pages located at Google properties like YouTube.
Landed in Hong Kong. Decided to take the west route to the UK rather right thru LAX so I could feel a bit more like a person.
The Hong Kong flight leaves at 11:30pm. Would you believe last flight Wellington to Auckland on a Saturday is 7pm. Thank goodness for Dancing with the Stars. Great to watch with a crowd.
Finally the International Lounge now has free wifi. Thanks Air New Zealand.
Fortunately met up with a couple of Ernst & Young Partners heading to Hong Kong. The three of us being fathers with preschool children so were all excited about the uninterrupted hours catching up on movies. We were all talk, lasted one movie and slept. Leg one over painlessly.
The guy opposite me took his shirt off to sleep. He got up, walked around, went to the loo - all shirtless. It’s great to be relaxed but surely that’s taking it a bit far. Thank goodness he didn’t go completely natural. You wouldn’t want turbulence with all that going on.
After all the TV advertising I was disappointed that my brand new, seal unbroken, 125ml tube of Colgate Total counts as a liquid. Who would have thought the events of a few in New York would reach into almost everyones daily lives many years later. Confiscated after a small and futile protest. Wonder what happens to it?
Pouring with rain in Hong Kong. Couple of hours and we’re off again.Gold Partner
We just completed requirements for being a Microsoft Gold Partner.
I was surprised that we were the first to be certified as a hosted solution provider in New Zealand. Cool!
I’ve spoken to a number of young companies who haven’t yet worked out the importance of partnering and formal industry partner programs.
For software companies operating on a Microsoft platform I’ve always thought it mandatory to quickly get to Gold Partner status. We did it at Glazier, AfterMail and now Xero. It is a lot of effort and of course means that you have achieved a level of certification that provides customers comfort. But there are some other major benefits.
Being a Gold Partner taps you into a global community of other Gold Partners, who may provide a first put of call if you have global expansion plans. We used this a lot at AfterMail.
Another huge benefit is access to joint marketing. It is important to work out how to partner with multinationals. Microsoft, or any large horizontal company, will have a marketing budget that you can only dream about. That spend will include case studies, thought leadership, targeted marketing, vertical events, product launches, mail drops - lots and lots of things. The secret to getting into that spend is working out what message that company has (and they may change each year), and how you can support that message. If a story helps them achieve their goals, they will pull you through so you get a direct benefit from their spend.
In Microsoft’s case the tickets to the game are Gold Partner status. Once you are a Gold Partner they will look after you. You get a much deeper level of engagement.
So if you are a software company working on Microsoft technology I urge you to make Microsoft Gold Partnership an objective this calendar year. A simple, measurable, goal. I imagine it would be similar for Oracle, Sun and other providers.Microsoft $US6b purchase
That’s a big number ….
The Budget: Good I think
“Who would have guessed years ago that this sort of ‘vertical consolidation’ would occur between the search/portal players and the ad networks,”
I’m normally more blue leaning these days but happy to take a chocolate out of every box and be socialist when it suits - especially a digital one.
I have to admit that my first reaction to Cullen’s Budget is positive.
- R&D tax credits are good. (This will need policing). I would have liked an export component in here as well so that we are not just focussed to playing with things, but actually generating export revenue. Still, this is a good step.
- Company Tax Rate drop to 30%. Good, though tightly related to the next point.
- Compulsory Super Scheme. Very good. Even though the net effect of the tax cut is largely negated by employee savings contributions I think this is very good for business as savings lead to investment. Businesses shouldn’t thrive or die on a tax rate change. But creating a culture of savings is something we just need as a country. Some will say that it is an additional cost on business but I think that salary levels will come to take into account these contributions and they will net out.
It really irks me when they say that Tax cuts cost money. If you decrease tax rates that may lead to more investment and potentially the net tax take may actually increase. It does not make sense that changing Tax policy has single direct effect on the total tax take.
In Export Year I would have liked to have seen more focus on exporting. We are too inwardly focussed as a country.
The new blue team under John Key has had good running for the last few months, but there is a lot for business to like under this so it will be interesting to see how they respond.
In summary, a positive step forward, but I’d like to see more focus on growing the size of the pie, rather than how it is sliced up.
What do you think?New airport tax
Anyone noticed there is no free time in the car park at Wellington Airport anymore?
I think it used to be free for the first 15 minutes and now it’s $3 for the first 30 mins. As you aren’t allowed to pick up from the top deck, every car picking up passengers now gets charged $3.
Clever. Maybe it’s paying for the free wifi in Koru now.
The WIAL giveth, the WIAL taketh away.Lo-fi digital stories
Crazy busy week, sorry for lack of posts.
I saw the efforts of our team and other companies in producing short, low fidelity, animations to tell a story at the Gold Awards.
There is a real art to this. Visuals helps cement communications. 42 Below uses this with humor for viral marketing. The same production skills can create stories, educate, lobby, entertain and mobilize.
When we think of what opportunities BroadBand and the Internet provide here is another great example where design firms from over New Zealand can create digital content for international consumption and provide exported services.
There are low barriers to acquire the skills and equipment to play in this space. It’s all about creativity.
Love to see more examples: Post links into comments.A gold night out
I was very proud to win the ‘Absolutely Creatively Wellington Ambassador’ award at the Wellington Gold Awards last night. Here is a photo for my mum …
There were 800 people at the event to celebrate Wellington business. Some great company video’s. I liked the one from ProjectX.