Acquisition Is The New Black – Is The Entrepreneurial Economy Back

Has anyone else noticed this trend of late? It appears as if corporate acquisitions have become the new black.

Nokia, for example, have acquired Bit-Side, Cellity and Plum so far this year. The Finnish mobile company is now reportedly targeting the London-based travel social network Dopplr.

After a hiatus, Google is also back in the M&A game. CEO, Eric Schmidt told Reuters Television:

“Acquisitions are turned on again…and we are doing our normal maneuvers, which is small companies. My estimate would be one-a-month acquisitions and these are largely in lieu of hiring.”

Google Acquisitions and Investments

Google acquired On2 Technologies last month and reCAPTCHA last week. MeetTheBoss has a subway-style map of the company’s acquisitions (thanks TechCrunch) – this may prove useful if you are trying to figure out their M&A strategy.

After a break of almost a year, Adobe turned on the spigot last month with the acquisition of start up Australian hosting and ecommerce company, Business Catalyst. They then fronted up for a billion dollar deal by acquiring Omniture, a web analytics business.

How can we forget Oracle’s billion dollar acquisition of Sun Microsystems last month.

Microsoft’s only acquisition so far this year has been BigPark, a Canadian interactive gaming company. Before this deal they had last made an acquisition this time last year.

IBM has kept up a steady pace in recent months acquiring Exeros Assets, a data discovery software company in May, both statistical analysis software developer SPSS and source code analysis company Ounce Labs in July and Singapore-based analytics and optimisation business Red Pill Solutions this week.

So, what does this mean for entrepreneurs and their financial backers?

Investors typically focus as much on the potential exit as they do on the team, the technology and the market when they are deciding whether to bring a company into their portfolio. Knowing that the corporate development VPs are once again actively scouting for deals for their companies will be comforting to venture capitalists and their limited partners. They will become more active in growing their portfolios again.

As a result the entrepreneurial economy or ecosystem will be sufficiently lubricated to begin grinding its gears and tending towards a state of equilibrium.

Mapping Minds: Google Trends Meet Twitter Thoughtstream

Two of the most powerful tools for currently mapping how humanity thinks are Google Trends and Twitter Search.

I whipped up an analysis of Google versus Twitter on Google Trends and the result put Twitter far ahead in our collective consciousness. This is a really useful tool for tracking across a timeline, with clear pointers to inflection points, but it does nothing for point of origin or realtime tracking.

This is where Twitter’s Search function shines. I did an exercise last week in which I tracked a number of key words on Twitter. “jobs” not surprisingly brought up a bunch of results, mainly from job board feeds, “Sydney” alerted me to a number of interesting events taking place in the city, but the clear topic du jour was the “iPhone” – the amount of traffic on Twitter related to this device was enormous.

Imagine if we could mash up these two tools, and extend their reach beyond Twitter’s audience – this would be an extremely powerful way for marketers, politicians and many others to map our minds.

Hattip to Erick Schonfeld for getting me thinking about this.

iPhone App Development Grows Up: Goldminers and Litigators Arrive

Last year the flavor was Facebook’s F8 Platform. This year it’s been all about iPhone apps. Fast followers, like Google, with Android, and RIM are emulating Apple’s app store, but the defining moment(s) that point to the platform having reached a stage of nascent maturity are twofold:

* firstly, the Sydney Morning Herald has cottoned on to the fact that there is good money to be made from developing apps – I’ll let you read the piece written by Asher Moses for yourselves, but I suspect/hope the developers will now descend on this new vein of “easy” moola;

* secondly, an iPhone developer has taken on Coors in a litigation over a beer drinking app emulation that users the iPhone’s tilt motion. Brave move, I wish Hottrix luck and hope their law firm is taking this on purely on contingency.

It will be great to see more developers tapping into these mobile app stores, but the key will be in keeping up the quality in the apps.

Y Combinator-Backed Omnisio Is YouTube’s First Post-Google Acquisition

Omnisio has been acquired by Google as YouTube’s first acquisition since they were themselves acquired a few years back. You can listen to the recent Metarand Unplugged audio interview with the video annotation startup’s CEO, Ryan Junee, here – in it we talk about the company and their journey through Paul Graham’s Y Combinator program.

Besides Ryan and his two fellow Aussie co-founders, Paul must himself be over the moon — from woe to go this must’ve been one of the quickest exits for Y Combinator. Atherton-based Omnisio launched in March 2008.

The best part – Ryan is a committed serial entrepreneur and I fully expect we’ll be hearing more great things from him in the near future.

While Ryan did not disclose to us the quantum of the deal, Michael Arrington has surmised it as being in the $15 million range.

Google Search 2.0 = Digg Plus Friendfeed

The following video sourced from TechCrunch outlines a possible next iteration of Google Search. It’s very interesting to note the inclusion of Digg-like vote up/down features as well as on-search comments and profiling a la Friendfeed.

Should Google go ahead and implement this new feature set it will make search an order of magnitude more social.

Is Google’s Lively A Second Life-Killer?

It’s almost a year to the date since I decided not to move forward with my virtual world startup Yoick. We were building what many fervently hoped would be a Second Life killer.

But our approach had been more focused on creating cosy spaces that were interoperable between 2 and 3d. The vision also involved an open-architectured platform with a closed commerce engine so users could buy and sell virtual and other digital goods through our system (Facebook‘s F8 Platform launched some months after we had constructed the blue print for this architecture and has become a great proof of principle for this model).

It was a hard decision to make, but considering the trends and the trajectory we were on I knew we would intersect the timeline at a point that wasn’t sufficiently ahead of the market to be a winner.

You see, many of the big corporates were diving into the virtual world arena, many with the wrong approach, but a few, the few that really mattered were chasing the same space we were.

Today we would have been venture backed, have built up a head of steam and burn rate that required refuelling and yet still have been too early to have released enough of a product to ensure sufficient traction to see us through a true gorilla entering the market moment.

Stage right: enter Google with their cosy spaces,
virtual world product – Lively.

The LA Times has a good write up:

Unlike popular virtual worlds such as Second Life, Lively doesn’t require you to download new software. All you need is a browser plug-in. The service is also more distributed than Second Life: Its rooms will live on Web pages on Facebook and other sites, so you might stumble across them when browsing the Internet. Rooms can be private spaces, with entry by invitation only, or open-topic rooms, where you can meet people interested in discussing topics you love, like Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Aniston or Google. It also ties into other Google services. You can stream YouTube videos into your virtual living room or post your Picasa pictures on your walls.

It’s definitely not a Second Life-killer. Sorry Michael Arrington, I totally disagree that this sucks for Second Life. It is a completely different genre — for one this is not a single, charded or otherwise, virtual world and for two it is targeted more at a mass market audience.

It does suck however for the other startups who were targeting this space. Many of them will have to totally rethink their go to market strategy. The glass half full view is that Google’s entry legitimizes the genre, but this will not be sufficient to assuage follow on investors…

Google Launches A Distributed Media Cavalcade

The entertainment industry has to date taken somewhat of a field of dreams approach to creating content – build it and they will come.

But Google, which up until this point has avowed not to be a content player, is taking a different approach that leverages its existing adsense infrastructure beautifully.

Rather than creating a new comedy series and hoping the audience will come, Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane has teamed up with Google to distribute his new comedy series exclusively via the web.

Seth MacFarlane’s Cavalcade of Cartoon Comedy will be syndicated to sites that are determined by the Adsense system to be the right profile for the demographic the series is targeted at. Cavalcade video clips, with a variety of pre-roll, banner and other ad formats will be streamed instead of static Adsense ads.

This Google Content Network is both a brilliant way of leveraging an existing infrastructure and a great example of a distributed content model at work.

[via NY Times]

Flushing The Data Portaloo: The Looming Portability Squareoff With Users

How close are we to true data portability? It depends who is asking the question as to how it gets answered.

As one of the chief catalysts for the current wave of discussion and (some) action, Chris Saad, points out none of the current high profile implementations are completely true to the overall understanding of portability.

Writing on his blog, Chris sees Facebook Connect, Google’s Friend Connect and MySpace’s Data Availability as important first steps. They are the first shots across the bow to the industry that a data portability battle is coming.

That battle will involve a squareoff between the user: me, you – and the networks collectively.

I like Chris’s address book analogy:

DataPortability is about a different social contract – a contract more closely resembling the one found in the email address book.

My address book is my own. When you email me, or when you communicate with me, you are revealing something about yourself. You define a social contract with me that means that I can use your information to contact you whenever and however I like – I could even re-purpose my address book for all manor of other things.

If, however, you violate that trust, either directly or indirectly, you break the social contract and I will tend to not deal with you again. We can not perfectly engineer these sorts of contracts into systems – we can try, but in the end social behavior will be the last mile in enforcing user rights.

Also, the dichotomy between who ‘owns’ the data is false. In my mind there is shared ownership. While you use a service, it is a shared custodianship of the data. By giving the service your data you’re getting something else in return – utility. In many cases free utility.

You personally, however, have shared (and overriding) ownership over your data. This has been declared as universally true by all the vendors I’ve spoken to.

The question is not one of ownership though, it’s one of control. If you own your data but can’t control it as you choose then ownership is a mute point. Further, the question is not one of if you own it, but rather how much of it you own.

For example, do you own your friends profile data since you have access to it via the social tool you are using? Or have they only granted you access within that social context and under that social contract. These considerations blur the analogy of the purely personal address book.

So where does this leave us. The industry continues to engage in discussion and analyse the meaning of both data portability and the current implementations. As long as this dialogue continues the looming squareoff will remain just that – looming. We are in a honeymoon period in which users are coming to grips with their rights and freedoms and comparing the various networks to determing whether and to what extent they are being violated.

For now, data portability continues to have relevancy and I do not believe our rights have been flushed away. However, I would encourage all players to listen very carefully to the conversation going on.

As I’ve said many times: the Internet giveth, the Internet taketh away – and it can do both with blinding speed. This is especially relevant for Facebook, given the current meme around its intentions started by Umair Haque.

UPDATE: Robert Scoble has a sound analysis of the situation, after an initial misunderstanding on his part. Have a read, the best part is him putting his participation on the Gillmor Gang on mute, having a shower and then coming back on the show. I know it’s been hot in the Bay area the last few days, but this is hilarious and about all the GG seems good for – cooling off.

[Picture courtesy of willgrant]

And Coming In Third, Here Comes Google

TechCrunch has broken the news that Google intends following MySpace’s Data Availability and Facebook’s Connect with an Open Social product called Friend Connect.

Similarly this will be a set of APIs for Open Social participants to pull profile information from social networks into third party websites.

Perhaps if Google had played nice with Open Social all along they would not be third to market and other players would’ve followed Open Social more closely.

[picture courtesy of squarewithin]

Enterprise Goes Social: Write Once, Run Anywhere

on-demand-solutions-for-salesforcecom-appexchange-from-appfactor.jpg

A lot has already been written about Google’s Open Social initiative, which you can read elsewhere. Besides the boon for developers in general, the other big winners out of this write once, run anywhere approach will be enterprise. In many respects business has been lagging consumer adoption of the 2.0 phenomena, but no more.

Open social also means open enterprise as evidenced by the way in which Theiko‘s AppFactor is tapping into Salesforce (per Scott Blodgett) :

Our application, which will be free, is meant for customer facing professionals to visualize how their organization has touched a given customer. All of the raw data is available in Salesforce.com but is generally only available through reports. More importantly it’s not very easy to figure out who knows the customer best. OpenSocial makes it possible to visualize and drill into the nature of customer relationships.

Using the OpenSocial APIs we’ve built a tag cloud representing interactions between a given customer (Salesforce.com Contact) and a given organization.

Terence Russell has echoed this sentiment, pointing out that Open Social may give rise to the advent of an era of maturity for business apps.

It will indeed be interesting to see how quickly other SaaS players pick up on this.