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Webmission08 – What a cracker!

Apologies for taking so long to write about the fabulous webmission08 tour to San Francisco. Having completed, it feels like an event that occurred months ago. The premise of capturing a daily journal did not quite happen as planned except on Day 1, thanks to JimL, OliB and the team keeping all of us very active, day and night. People have asked me what I got out of the tour! Some were very critical of web mission as they thought it was waste of tax payers’ money. If you read the small print, each of us paid for our flight, accommodation and incidental expenses, and tax payers’ money was not part of the equation. More about this later. Others were curious to know and learn from my experience. Let’s first try to capture some of the action, and then perhaps you can make your own judgement about the value brought by such events:

Day 1 – 19th Saturday

Like most of the others, I joined web mission from London instead of taking a separate flight from Manchester to San Francisco. This allowed valuable networking time, especially with Ashley from Shiny Media and Edie from Spectator as we all sat next to each other. Stupidly, I mentioned web mission to US Immigration and they homed in on "mission", which meant that I was sent to secondary processing. Unfortunately undressing and a full body search was not part of the secondary processing. Few simple questions after, I managed to join the coach to Clift Hotel.

We arrived at around 3pm and after a quick shower StewartT and I head to a nearby Starbucks to meet none other than legendary blogger Om Malik. It just turned out that Om was putting final touches to a conference he plans to run in summer followed by an European Tour. We spoke about European Start Up scene, funding, edocr, etc (as you do!). His advice was: concentrate on European market.

Around 7:30 pm, the first of many parties started, held by TechCrunch at the Clift with Etelos, Inc. Etelos was represented by Jeff (CEO), Shel and Danny. Within 5 minutes of Jeff introducing his business proposition, Jeff and I shook hands to establish a partnership. Today, we are in the process of exchanging NDAs, with the hope of signing a Channel Partnership Agreement within weeks. Etelos will most likely become our first Channel Partner. I will write more about Etelos later on.

After more drinks thanks to Sun Microsystems, we continued networking till the early hours, which is crucial if you are on a trade mission such as this. All in a day’s work…

Another advice I got was from MikeB of TCUK: stop fxxxxxx about …events and get on with edocr. A valid point, but NS20 gives me a lever to leverage, which has already born fruit.

Day 2 – 20th Sunday

Day 2 started with youngsters (David of GroupSpaces, etc) participating in a local mini marathon, which I did not take part in. Then we took the coach to Jim Buckmaster’s house. Jim is a very tall guy and standing next to him, I felt even shorter than I was. Jim runs Craiglist, which is considered as a very successful web 1.0 business. Jim and his lovely companion Susan were kind enough to lay a fabulous brunch and drinks for us.

The Auctomatic guys who moved from Oxford to Silicon Valley two years ago to join Y-Combinator and having recently sold their business for several million dollars were there, as well as the family of Michael Birch, the founder of Bebo. Michael is in the process of selling his business to AOL for US$850 million, making him the most successful British Web 2.0 entrepreneur.  Michael’s brother Paul Birch also joined us as part of webmission08 with Paul Walsh from Segala. There was also a fringe group, which all together made the webmission08 participants to well over 50. Imagine 50 people networking together for a solid week, day and night. Such networking is bound to lead to great initiatives. Watch the press.

For some bizzare reason, we could not find a taxi, so Stewart, AndrewY and I ended up walking all the way to the Clift. With jet-lag kicking in and exhausted from the walk, I missed Brian Soli’s party (which was not part of the webmission08). Brian was a guy I wanted to meet, but perhaps on another time. Brian comes highly recommended by Yuuguu (AnishK) and ShareNow (DavidI). Brian also does PR for Docstoc (another player in document interactivity space). Strangely, Docstoc and its CEO, JasonN started following me on Twitter. Now they have access to my thought process. Jason announced recently of raising their second round of funding, a cool US$ 3.25 million.

Day 3 – 21st Monday

We took the coach to Oracle in the morning. Whilst various clever people spoke about the greatness of Oracle, two things continue to fill my mind, these being:

  1. How can Oracle help me achieve our vision, e.g. generate revenues and profits? I call this sell-to and sell-through strategy (picked from BT).
  2. How can Oracle help us differentiate and achieve sustainable competitive advantage? This is not simply saying how great Oracle database is.

Whilst listening to others, I started Twittering about my thoughts (as you do!). Few people picked my tweets including SAP and Oracle evangelists, which all together made interesting conversation. My Twitter followers started to increase, which is always a good sign. Later I learned from DavidR from Oracle who was part of webmission08 that they have noticed my thoughts. I met David last summer for the first time, and my first conversation with him went horribly wrong. I was hoping David would have forgotten it, but it was not meant to be. Talking about making lasting impressions! And in this case, it has made the wrong impression. Whatever I do, David will always measure me with his first impression. However, I noticed his attitude relaxing towards the end of the web mission, perhaps he was getting tired! Whether I will be able to do anything with David and Oracle, time will tell, as I believe time is a great heeler (not always though). David also felt that my continuing attachment to EIPP is causing confusion. Will talk about this later on.

Our next stop was Google. Having signed a NDA (supposed to be normal procedure), we were asked not to publicly speak about what was discussed. So I cannot talk about it other than say I did not learn any secrets. Two thoughts crossed my mind, but I refrained from speaking, one around edocr and the other to do with EIPP. Remember my Eureka moment on EIPP (Cracking the e-invoicing conundrum – finally!), which I blogged about before. If you are in the process of developing the next generation EIPP product, this is what I suggest you do with respect to Google.

Develop the product with Google and offer it free to smaller companies. Monetise it through ads by placing ads on the invoice and share the revenues with Google. This is the only way to dominate the market. You will never ever be able to achieve sufficient traction without a partner such as Google. Guys, please think outside the box. Having a great product along is not sufficient to achieve traction. If you want to know more about this, I could be hired on hourly rate through evigon Ltd (sorry no web site yet). Serious parties only, make sure you have a budget before engaging me. By the way, did anyone get a chance to read ebdex’s business plan, specification, etc through edocr yet?

You might be interested to know Oracle has its own internal social network, which has partially been opened. But Google claimed to be using mailing lists instead of social networks.

I also had a private meeting in Palo Alto with the luxury of traveling back by train. People say they are immune to the so called credit crunch (I certainly feel it, in permanent credit-crunch mode since starting ebdex in Nov 2004) due to San Francisco being a wealthy area. I bet they begin to feel it now with petrol prices rising up around the globe.

We took the coach in the afternoon to Second Chance Tuesday event sponsored by HSBC with fire side chat – Jim Buckmaster interviewing Michael Birch. It was perhaps the most comical yet serious interview I have ever witnessed. Michael turned the interview around and was having a laugh at Jim, vice versa. I assume Jim and Michael are good buddies. It was a great event. Came back to Clift followed by more drinks. We met June who used to present at Channel 4, but only realised this afterwards. Also met Peter Cashmore, CEO of Mashable. I have been complaining about lack of British startup coverage on Mashable. Pete promised to correct this (I am yet to see any results though). Pete and I hooked up through Facebook and Twitter.

This is getting too long, so I am going to split this into another blog post. Above is really meant as a reminder for me, hence going into lot of depth and including discussions perhaps you would not expect to read.  Will thank the organisers in the third post, and perhaps fourth post on outcomes for edocr (and me, if any!).


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