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Rainmaker Challenge Winners

If you were at Gluecon, you remember the demo pod winner: Rainmaker. When they took to the stage for the final keynote, their CEO announced a developer competition around using the Rainmaker API.

Today, they announced the winners: InstaGallery, Rainchecker and Enforcery. I've checked all three out now -- they're pretty cool, so be sure to take a look. And Enforcery, you're coming to Defrag as part of your first place victory, so congrats!

The 3 Scenarios for the Tech Bubble Ending

In the wake of the LinkedIn IPO, and some recent comments from Marc Andreesen, a lot of people seem pretty obsessed with whether there is or isn't a "tech bubble" - and, specifically, what that all means. I'm on record as calling the "bubble" an "expansion" (I was holding off on the b-word for a bit), but as the recent jobs data comes in and the macro-picture seems a bit murky heading into 2012, I decided to devote 60 minutes of walking to thinking through scenarios for how the tech bubble ends.

A couple of caveats:

1) I'm not an economist. True, I worked as a stock broker once upon a time, and held various licenses, and consider myself fairly knowledgable about public markets. But I'm by no means an "expert" in any sense of the word.

2) Most of what I'm fascinated with here is the effect on the startup ecosystem -- mostly because so many startups these days have something approaching zero experience or memory of what it's like when a bubble REALLY pops (2008/2009 didn't count, despite Sequoia's "Good Times R.I.P." press). When a bubble goes pop, there is no funding. You'd better be self-sustaining, or have a damn good plan for how you're going to manage your remaining capital to slog it out for 2-3 years.

In short, part of my exploring these scenarios is for my own benefit (more on that in a second), and part is because I hope that startups plan *now* for the eventuality of this (and take it into their fund raising process planning).

My benefit is simple: I run businesses in the tech space, and I like to have a working 3 year thesis. My thesis can change constantly, but I prefer to have some macro-framework that I think/work within (while validating or invalidating it against the outside world). Please note that others (some VC's I know) think *exactly* the opposite of this. Neither is good nor bad, it just is.

That said, some context:

1) My cursory look at bubbles (tech, housing, tulips, etc) would say that bubbles tend to last 4-5 years. Of course, the trick is figuring out when they start, and then watching markers along the way.

2) There's often a "bear trap" in bubble dynamics -- which is to say, a steep run up that precedes a sharp pullback, only to be followed by the asymptotic chart that marks the final days of the bubble. Knowing that the bear trap exists can be a valuable planning tool.

3) My brain works on analogies and cycles (history rhymes). So, when I look at the Netscape IPO in 1995 and the NASDAQ peak in 2000, that provides me with a crude (almost childishly crude) analog.

4) The dot-com bubble/bust of 1995-2000 involved the *public* (non-tech community) in a significant and substantial way, and that has it's own effects (which I'll talk about below).

Enough dithering around…the 3 scenarios for the end of the tech bubble (if you assume we're in one at all):

The End Early Bubble Scenario (Late 2012): This scenario assumes a bubble start date of roughly fall of 2008 (the financial crisis), and measures out four years (the minimum, cursory look, bubble timespan). I'd assume that this early end scenario would be caused by a larger economic downturn (double-dip recession) that drags down all of tech. Beyond that, I'd also say this the mildest of bubble popping scenarios. For two reasons:

A) The public isn't involved (largely) -- which is to say that not every 401k in the U.S. will be heavily invested in the 2012 equivalent of Webvan (though, hey, I could be wrong on this; see the recent GroupOn kerfluffle)


B) The bubble pop is largely regional in nature -- which means that the angels and startups in the Bay Area are the ones that get wiped off of the map; NYC a little bit, but not much; places like Boulder and Austin even less so. Reason: the bubble really exists there, and when it pops, that's where it'll hit the hardest.

So, in scenario 1 (the end early scenario), this whole thing never gets too out of hand, and when it pops the angel and startup communities feel it the hardest -- especially in the Bay Area (ie, companies receiving a crapload of cash right now via Andreesen-Horowitz, etc will somehow find a way to muddle through).

…which bring us to…

The End Mid Bubble Scenario (2013/2014): The scenario assumes one of two things -- either A) a later "start date" for the bubble (2009), or B) a longer bubble blowing period (5 years not 4). In that context, it then takes Scenario 1 and makes it bigger, badder and broader. The longer the time that elapses, the more that the geographic areas outside of the Bay Area get dragged into the bubble, and the more widespread the damage to the startup, angel, VC, and tech ecosystem upon popping. I think of this as the mid-line scenario.

The End Late Scenario (Fall, 2015): Assume that LinkedIn's IPO marks the beginning just like Netscape's did and you get to this scenario. In this one, the broader economy gets more time to right itself (this scenario actually assumes we avoid the double-dip in 2012), and as such, the public markets allow for more and more IPOs. Throw in a bear trap (a head fake slowdown in 2012), and assets begin seeking out the classes with the most bang for the buck - namely, technology. This scenarios assumes full-on public market participation similar to 1999-2000, and as such, also assumes a similar nuclear winter that was the 3-5 years following the NASDAQ peak (though one could argue some of that length was due to 9/11).

So, you've got your three timeframes and scenarios (2012, 2013/14, and 2015). What's a startup to do?

1. Plan your rounds in advance. I'd urge folks to remember that cash is king, and often "scaling quickly" can be overrated (if it assumes bang-bang fund raising cycles at ever-higher valuations). If you're a startup now, you're wise to at least have a plan for how you can either last 2-3 years or make it to profitability if the fund-raising spigot goes to ZERO starting in October 2012. Of course, if Scenario 1 looks not to be happening, then you switch plans for 2013/14, etc.

2. Understand the consequences of *other* people's actions. Even in private markets, the actions of other players have huge effects on your business. Billion dollar valuations skew things. IPOs warp perceptions. Reality bends. Stay micro in so far as you drive as hard and fast as possible to a solid customer base and profitability. I'm not saying don't raise. I'm saying have a "worst case scenario" plan on hand at all times that includes how you'd *radically* slash your burn, fire most of the people you've hired that are now friends, and get the ship right.

3. Pick your VC firm wisely. You want someone who has a sterling reputation for sticking with their entrepreneurs when the going gets tough. Their advice and experience will mean more to you than any dollar. Experience matters.

3. In the face of all of this doom and gloom, be an optimist. There is a smart way to contingency plan for the bubble popping, and a way to get through it. There's also a way to take advantage of it (cautiously, with history as a guide).

That was my walk this morning. That's the game plan I'm using as I plan out several businesses over the next few years. Will it stop me from chasing down opportunities? Nope. Does it scare me? Nope. Can I change my mind tomorrow if the data invalidates my thesis? Yep. But at least I've got a workable contingency plan. You should too.

Is LinkedIn the New Netscape?

I'm asking myself a question this morning: Is LinkedIn the new Netscape? Then I'm wondering if all of the 23 year old entrepreneurs know anything about Netscape. Although, honestly, the cribb notes will suffice: Netscape was the symbolic kick-off point for what became the dotcom boom (and bust). It IPO'd and no one had ever seen anything like it (as technology or first day stock performance). It was iconic. It still is iconic. And it opened the internet IPO floodgates.

So, as we stand on the verge of the LinkedIn IPO, and the raft of potential IPOs that could follow (Facebook, Zynga, Groupon, etc), the question is worth asking. Are we standing at a similar moment in the historical cycle?

And actually the question is important because it can give us a read on the current angel/seed/bubble madness that either is or isn't happening in the valley (depending on your perspective).

Here's the underlying context question (one I've batted back and forth with Paul Kedrosky via email for a bit now): If the U.S. economy is stabilizing, and the tech landscape is getting flush with cash (IPOs, M&A, financings), could we be at the beginning of another "super-cycle" in VC/startup land? In other words, could this bubble last another 3-4 *years* from this point. My answer is firmly standing on "maybe."

In that context, let me return to some predictions I made in December:

"4. The U.S. economy grows at a surprisingly strong rate in the first half of the year, then flatlines under spending, deficit, inflation worries: It should be noted that my main economic prediction for 2010 (”we finish the year about where we start it on unemployment, etc”) was spot on. So, in that glorious halo of correctness, I throw this out there — QE2 (the fed’s efforts) and the tax cut deal (aka, “Stimulus 2?) are a shot in the arm in the first 6-7 months of 2011. We’ll grow in the 3% range, and the stock market will feel good. By September/October, the talk will be focused so firmly on problems around the spending/deficit/and inflation rearing its ugly head, that things grind to a flatline, and growth settles down in the 1% range. Unemployment never goes below 8% — and, most likely, it goes above 10% again before going down."

So far, I'm nailing it -- though the prediction was hardly a stretch. My "gut" says that housing is firming up (starts, inventory); not "we're gonna sell houses," just firming up. My gut also says that things are steadying, and honestly, if we hold unemployment around 8% and give the housing market time to work off inventory -- well, things will be okay. So, assume 1.9% GDP growth - that is low because it has the strong headwinds of inflation and austerity measures to reduce the deficit. Bottom-line: the economy won't drag down the tech sector. If anything, the tech sector will see liquidity *because* it is the shining bright spot. Further, entrepreneurs/startups will be seen as the only real way out of this mess.

Next prediction:

"5. Tech IPOs return: LinkedIn, Zynga, Twitter, Facebook, Etsy, Groupon, Jive Software — 2011 will see the Tech IPO return. The accompanying liquidity events will send Silicon Valley into a frenzy rivaled only by those silly vampires in those Twilight movies. Talk of an “angel bubble” will ensue. It’ll be correct, of course — but in true Heisenbergian-fashion, the timing will be off. This bubble’s got legs (several years worth of legs). The “new tech bubble” will run well into 2013-2014. This is just the beginning of that craziness. [Corollary: Fred Wilson is the new John Doerr -- just go look at USV's portfolio.]"

"The timing will be off." Yep, I'm feeling that. Paul Kedrosky and I jokingly set June 15, 2012 as the top of the bubble, but my serious prediction thinks 2013 is the minimum timeframe on this puppy.

So, back to our question. If the U.S. economy sets up where it actually favors the tech industry (which it is, despite companies like Cisco and HP blowing it), and the timeframe on the "bubble" is longer than we think (which I think it is), then is LinkedIn the new Netscape? It's too early to tell, but man, it sure feels like it.

Bottom-line: This "bubble" probably has legs into 2014, and if history rhymes, we could be looking at another 4-5 years (2015-2016). Brace yourself. It's gonna get nuts.

Last Chance

Somewhere in this timeframe is where conference organizers start doing email blasts, blog posts and tweets that include the words, "last chance." As in, "last chance to come this year's greatest event for developers in the cloud." It's important that when using the words, "last chance," you also include a proper dose of hyperbole.

Of course, it's not actually your "last chance." You can register for Glue all week, or even walk in on the day of the show and register. Then again, if you're coming from anywhere other than Colorado, you probably wanna put a little forethought into coming - and since we're 9 days out - this is, practically speaking, getting pretty close to "last chance."

In either case, Gluecon is fast approaching. We're heads-down making sure that every detail is handled. If you're on the fence about coming or not, I hope you'll choose to come. The speakers are gonna rock it. The people are gonna be one hell of an interesting bunch. And the vibe is going to be unlike any other tech conference out there.

Last chance. ;-)

Who is Coming to Gluecon?

Right about this point in the conference organizing cycle, I like to look through the registration list and see who is coming. Now, anyone that's ever run a conference knows that a TON of registrations come in the last week -- and we're 11 days out. So, my looking is nowhere near complete, but it is fun.

Who is coming to Gluecon? 15 startups in the Demo pod area, the entire TechStars Boulder class, Venture Capitalists, folks from companies like Disney, CBS, AT&T, Level3, Google, Microsoft, and Time Warner, journalists from orgs like Forbes, CNN and ReadWriteWeb, analysts from places like Gartner, developers from ALL over (from Boulder to Boston to Orlando to Minneapolis to Austin to Seattle to Portland to San Francisco)....and, hopefully, you. ;-)

Join us.

Hard Choices

When I create an agenda, I literally spend 4-6 months of my life on it. I've already begun the outline for Defrag. I treat the process like I'm writing a script or a book. I begin with some loosely formed thesis, flesh that out into themes, and then attempt to gently lead the attendee in several directions. Of course, it's better than a book because it's a co-created experience with a nearly infinite set of possibilities. Still, by imagining it like a story (a trick my business partner and mentor Phil Becker taught me), I think I can achieve something with an agenda.

Hence, an agenda is like a child. I love every bit and piece of it. Even when it mis-behaves, I love it.

And yet, the question I get all of the time is "which sessions are you going to?" or some variation on that. That's an incredibly tough answer. Part of it is because my interests may shift by the day of, but even more so because....I love all of it.

With that rather long caveat, I can say this -- there are sessions that catch my eye. Not because they're better than others, but because of my specific background, etc. So, here are some hard choices -- what I'll be looking to learn more about (and a quick reason why):

"Lessons from the Failure of SOAP" (clay loveless): I was at the heart of the SOAP/REST debate back in my early SAML days, so this is really interesting to me.

"Building and Scaling a Startup on AWS" (Jeff Malek/Keith Smith): Jeff and Keith lived through the recent AWS outage; I'm curious about their perspective.

"What's Next for APIs?": What can I say? I have a weakness for all things API.

"Hooking Your Mobile Apps to the Cloud" (Scott Kveton): For me, mobile has always been a town in Alabama. I'm now convinced this cell phone thingy might be huge. Time to get up to speed, I guess.

"Securing REST APIs with OAuth" (Paul Madsen): I've heard tales that Madsen's a bad-ass. Time to find out.

"The Locker Project and Telehash" (Jer Miller): I'm intensely interested in what Jer's up to. It's an area that hasn't been solved after 10+ years of work.

"Social Analytics with MongoDB" (Patrick Stokes): I saw another preso Patrick gave. It's what convinced me to book him here.

"Bootstrapping Dynamo Apps with Riak" (Dave Smith): Dizzy's (aka Dave Smith) an old friend. I know I won't understand anything he says here, but I'm going anyway.

"An API for the Web of Things" (Rick Bullotta): I'm pretty interested in this "web of things" (especially since Craig Burton started talking about it again).

"Enterprise SaaS and Mobile" (Jeremy Glassenberg): Another session about a city in Alabama, what gives?

"Socializing between Enterprise Cloud Applications" (Monica Wilkinson): Monica's now at Socialcast, and I wanna find out how they're using things like activity streams.

Now, how hard were those choices? Incredibly hard. I wanna learn about ambient clouds and elephantDB and hadoop/cassandra and Hbase and and and....

I hope you'll join us and come make your own hard choices. It's not too late.

The Hotel Rate Expires

I feel like I've been droning on a bit about how different (read: awesome) gluecon is, and will be this year. So, I'm putting away my P.T. Barnum costume for a moment to just say this:

The hotel rate for Gluecon expires tomorrow. That means that at the end of the day tomorrow, having the best experience possible at gluecon (ie, staying at the hotel where the conference is located) gets more expensive. Ask anyone that's been to Glue -- the hotel, the hallway conversations, the environment are key.

So, if you don't live in the Denver/Boulder area, make sure to grab your hotel room ASAP. And if you do live in the Denver/Boulder area, make sure to join us as Gluecon brings the world's best and brightest in cloud, API and app development to your backyard.

A Family Affair

Let's say you've been to your fair share of technology conferences. Some were great, some were okay, some were just a flat out waste of time. Normally, things were a bit uneven -- a great session here, a great conversation there, followed by a vendor pitch in a keynote, bad wifi, no power outlets and crappy food. By and large, conference organizers are a good group of people (I've got friends that run conferences for big companies), so I'm certainly not slamming the hard work everyone puts in. But, yet, some conferences just have a different "feel" about them.

Gluecon (and Defrag and Blur) are really family affairs. My wife Kim and I run them. No teams of people. No managers to answer to. No bosses that have to sign off on something. If there's a problem, we fix it. If there's a detail, we obsess over it. If there's something that can be made right, we make it right.

I think (I hope) that shows through. If you haven't experienced a conference done the right way, I hope you'll join us at Glue. You won't regret it. And you'll never look at conferences the same way again.

21 Days to Gluecon!

21 Days to Gluecon!

I say that and experience simultaneous elation at the idea of having another gluecon, and trepidation inspired by the sheer volume of our "to-do" list for the show. And then I glance at the agenda....

From wrapped apps for mobile to the failure of SOAP to building and scaling on AWS (THAT should be interesting) to building low latency apps with node.js to hooking mobile apps to the cloud to "ambient clouds"; From OAuth to HBase to Solr to Cassandra to Hadoop; From Graph databases to Telehash to activity streams; From developer ecosystems to big data architecture to API providers; From hackathons to workshops to open bar evening receptions; From startups to enterprises to telcos to tech co's; From VCs to founders to developers to "enterprise IT professionals"; From awesome wifi to power outlets on tables to GIANT HD screens for presentations...

Are you getting a sense of it yet? If you're not coming, well.....I don't know what to say. And if you live in Colorado, are a developer and you're not coming - well that's just downright silly.

Do you need a ticket and don't have budget? Check out John Minnihan's contest for a free ticket.

Or, use "alu12" ("alu" for Alcatel-Lucent - our most wonderful community underwriter and partner sponsor) and take 10% off of your registration. But whatever you do - get your butt to Gluecon (in 21 days!)

P.S. The hotel room rate expires on May 10th, so be sure to grab your discounted room too!

Gluecon's Enterprise Track

The agenda is "complete." I put "complete" in quotes because as soon as we go to print on it, something will change (never fails), but for planning purposes, call it complete.

It's at this point that I like to imagine different "tracks" through the agenda. Obviously, with three-wide breakout sessions, and so many topics, the various possible tracks are many. But you can put yourself in someone's shoes and walk through things to see how they play out. This morning I'm thinking about "the enterprise track."

You're a director-level, technically-oriented enterprise IT guy or gal. Your company's already made the "we're moving to the cloud" decision, but a lot of the details around what that means are pretty sketchy. You know that moving "to the cloud" isn't the only thing you've got to worry about. Your (almost) bigger concern is how this effects the way you build and customize applications for your workforce -- especially in light of two trends: mobility and the consumerization of IT.

With all of that in mind, you decide to come in for Tuesday afternoon's workshops (May 24th) to get an in-depth, four-hour tutorial on a specific topic. You choose the one about building a standards-based private cloud because you're not totally up to speed on SNIA's recent work around the CDMI standard, and this seems like a great way to hit the ground running.

Morning 1 takes you through the keynotes -- from Chris Hoff's rapid-fire approach to cloud security to Laura Merling on data models to John Musser on the state of the API marketplace. And now you're staring a gauntlet of breakout sessions in the face.

You start with Clay Loveless on the failure of SOAP because the whole SOAP/REST thing still bothers you a bit. From there, you move to the "finishing school for API providers" because you have this sense that you're about to have a lot of APIs and no real idea what that all means in practice. Then, it's on to a session on "integration as a service" (wouldn't that make your life easier?), and into listening to a startup talk about hooking mobile applications up to the cloud (you know that's coming, and you're not looking forward to it).

That's a packed afternoon, and you're glad that you get to slide back into keynotes --one on developer ecosystems and one from Mark Suster, who seems like a really smart venture capitalist. You finish the day off by having a few cocktails and popping your head into the hackathon (which seems like it's just getting started, so you hit the sack).

Day 2 arrives and it seems like the agenda is only picking up speed. You start with Marten Mickos (who you've always wanted to hear speak, move to a great presentation on performance monitoring, and see Terry Jones give a really interesting talk on write-able storage. Then you're back into breakouts (they start earlier today).

Access Control is a huge issue, so you start with a session on REST APIs and OAuth. From there you hit a session on Hadoop and Cassandra, a case study on MongoDB, a session on building apps on top of Riak and a presentation on Graph Databases. You just primed yourself for that big data/NoSQL project that you know is coming later this year.

Your head's spinning, but it's time to pick your last two breakouts. You opt for one on managing large file transfers, and cap it all off with a talk about activity streams and cloud applications. Finally, you end with a Keynote presentation by a guy that does all of these incredible data visualizations from information from places like Facebook, and then see the demo pod company that was voted best in class (You didn't even mention all of the stuff you learned from the companies in the booths).

Two days. More developer information than you can shake a stick at. Mobile, APIs, cloud standards, OAuth, Hadoop, Cassandra, NoSQL -- you're loaded up and ready to get home so you can absorb all of this.

Gluecon: I hope you'll join us.