IT Business

Ok, I’ll admit that I chose the title to see if I can give my buddy Scott a heart attack. Don’t worry, this message is not about SPAM and it’s not funny.

The Leave

I’ve been somewhat disconnected from the core OWN businesses for about a week now which has given me some fresh air to contemplate exactly what our next move is and how committed I am to it. In order to tell you where we’re heading, allow me to tell you where we’ve come from.

My Take On Business

My parents are immigrants. The way immigrants make money is simple: “Hey, look at all that money those people gave to those people. How can I get some?” That in a nutshell is how OWN came to existence – I saw how much money people were willing to part with for Internet presence (so I started web hosting) and how when people are sufficiently annoyed by SPAM they will pay to get rid of it (so came ExchangeDefender) and how much it costs when they go down (LiveArchive) and how much people genuinely hate IT costs (so came our hosting/cloud revision in 2007 – for those of you that remember, I called it “The Lucy’s Sail” and outlined what you see today in a few articles on this very blog).

It’s a simple concept – find out where people are successful and find a way to fit in.

But… things have changed my friends.

Things like redundancy, in the words of my latest hire:

“it’s not a good word, it means that something is unneccessarily duplicated – but from reading your material it sounds like it’s a good thing?

Ouch! I think she’s 23. Which is the age of people starting businesses out of college.

Things like redundancy, clustering, failover, etc are a foreign language to them much like things like “legacy” and “Novell” were to me when I was starting my business. No, I was never impressed by someone who bragged about their Lotus 1-2-3 or how heavy their laptop was. Move aside geezer, take your stack of floppies over and let me show you this Internet thing.

That was 1997.

It’s been about 13 years since, I’ve built a multi-million dollar software company and a Ferrari Fund that will likely buy me a new model in every color for as long as I live and am stupid enough to spend money on cars. (P.S. Thank you for all your money!)

Life is good.

But solutions have to evolve.

Now, the complicated part:

Not all things evolve. Some die a horrific extinction.

Our current business – that of selling expensive technology solutions to people who appreciate the old way of doing business (relationships, global redundancy, failover, clustering, commercial licensing, etc) is coming to an end.

I will go on record in saying that I do not believe Microsoft Exchange will be the dominant messaging platform 10 years from now.

So, that leaves a bit of an awkward taste in your mouth when you say it.

It certainly leaves your employees a little uneasy.

But, at the end of the day it has to be said and something has to be done.

If there is one thing I believe…

You can’t ignore threats. Just because it threatens me, doesn’t mean I can ignore it because someone else will go for it. Inevitably, everyone else will go for it.

There is being right. And there is being broke. I’m trying to find the middle 🙂

The Honest Part

Part of me (and part of my company) believes that pursuing Microsoft and Google down the path of platform destruction is dangerous for two reasons: 1) With tight margins, value is destroyed and sacrificed for operational efficiency and 2) Who needs Own Web Now if they can get Own Web Now Lite for the third of the cost?

Both are valid concerns.

Allow me to address them as honestly as I can.

To make things cheap, you sacrifice value. However, the value being sacrificed is clearly something people are not interested in to begin with. The most successful companies on the Internet never publish a phone number. It doesn’t hurt them. So, is a human being that can help you a value or not? I’d argue that it doesn’t matter – if you don’t care about that, you will not pay for it – so it’s not a value after all. There is a long list of awesome and really incredible stuff we do at Own Web Now – but we work with Fortune 500, government, health care, financials and worldwide organizations. What we value will soon not be what the people demand.

There will be attrition if we devalue ourselves. Same response as the above: If people choose a solution with less “features” or “value” then our offering that means our offering didn’t actually have a “value” or “features” worth paying for. It’s a simple supply & demand argument.

What I’d really like to say is..

When competing against yourself, you’re trying to buy stuff you’d sell yourself.

When you look at a competitive offering, the natural fear is that it would cannibalize your revenues and destroy your company.

So there are two options: 1) Do nothing and eventually lose anyhow or 2) Do something and win less.

The math becomes very simple: Run things into the ground or make less money over longer term.

In one scenario, you end up with $0, in the other scenario you end up with something more than $0.

In the meantime, since you are competing with more than yourself only one of those outcomes is certain – the one in which your empire falls.

Bottom Line

I don’t know that Microsoft, Google, Amazon, etc are right.

I don’t know how committed I am to building something that’s not the “best thing, ever”

I do know that I’m not willing to surrender to any of them.

I also know that no matter how high the fear and uncertainty may be, I see my current attitude towards all this in the same way old people look at Facebook. The same way they can’t visualize the world without Quickbooks and the abomination that is a device that doesn’t back itself up every night is perhaps the kind of a tone my new hires get from hearing me.

And in all seriousness, I don’t want to grow up to be a CPA (not that one, I love her) of the technology world that can only offer a solution because of government regulation and clients sense of fear.

It’s time for something new.

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