Data Storage Booming

WSJ writes:

Computer users all over the world are becoming digital pack rats on a colossal new scale, overflowing their files with data and saving them for a long time. That’s creating a bonanza for the $23 billion data-storage hardware business, long a dull backwater of the computer industry.

In a digital age, the global appetite for archived information is growing: from high-tech body scans in hospitals to giant databases at retail chains, and even endless camera angles from a single ballgame. Once it’s stored, the information can be kept indefinitely in case it has future value.

Fueling the storage boom are new regulatory requirements, the proliferation of capacity-hogging video records, and high-speed Internet lines that let an emailer attach a dozen pictures of his or her new baby. “Storage is just at the beginning of an explosion of things to soak it up,” says Chris Stakutis, an IBM engineer and co-author of the book “Inescapable Data.”

Inform

The New York Times writes:

A Web site is being introduced today that will not only let you find articles on the topic of your choice from hundreds of newspapers and magazines, it will also alert you to all the other news accounts floating around cyberspace that have any connection whatsoever to anything you read.

The site, Inform.com, developed by Inform Technologies, a New York start-up, will perform information-delivery feats that its founders claim no other Web site can match. The question is whether the average reader will want to follow the spectacle.

At first glance, Inform.com resembles so-called news-reader services like Yahoo News and Google News, which can be customized to hunt down stories related to, say, technology or entertainment.

But Inform goes further, scanning every news article from hundreds of well-known publications (and some blogs), then creating an index of important elements in the article. So as a user reads a WashingtonPost.com article about Sandra Day O’Connor, for example, Inform offers a short list of related stories about the justice and other people, places, organizations, topics, industries and products mentioned in the text.

Web 2.0 Valuations

Umair Haque writes:

…the reason Web 2.0 is important is in it’s future value.

The fundamental hypothesis of most of the people backing Web 2.0 is that it’s special because it’s going to be the consumer interface to many 2.0 markets. Media is one example that I’ve analyzed to death. Another one in whch interest is accelerating is Applications (viz, Zimbra, Google Office, etc).

Why is this? Fundamentally, it’s because Web 2.0 techs make info liquid and plastic. They let it be be frictionlessly unbundled and rebundled. That, in turn, enables convergence on multiple levels.

This is why the consumer value prop is so strong – Web 2.0 is not just the infrastructure for the digital home, but also for the digital lifestyle (viz, Media 2.0 + mobility), digital productivity (Apps 2.0), peer production (Consumer Goods 2.0, etc).

Google’s Free Lure

WSJ writes about the impact of Google’s free services:

Google’s announcements in recent weeks indicate that the company’s online advertising network could have a far-reaching impact on companies whose businesses are outside Google’s traditional turf. In effect, the tremendous revenue stream Google enjoys from ads subsidizes its entry into new lines of business, which in turn can generate more ad revenue. Some industry executives point to voice calling, cellphone service, console videogames, premium TV programming packages and digital music as areas where Google or its partners could supplant fee-based services with free, ad-supported ones.

“There are times when advertising does a better job than traditional business models at monetizing” services, says Marissa Mayer, Google’s director of consumer Web products. She describes the simple calculation, which Google did early in its existence, as to whether a company can generate more revenue from advertising than it can from charging fees to its users. In Google’s original business, it estimated the potential revenue from ads far outweighed what consumers might be willing to pay annually for its Web search services. Now, Ms. Mayer says, Google is trying to help book publishers, video content owners and others tap online ad revenue and make similar calculations.

TECH TALK: Bootstrapping a Business: My Experience

A friend recently asked me a question: How does a product-focused start-up bootstrap itself? How does it not get caught into the services trap? This seemingly innocuous question made me think back to my career as an entrepreneur and reflect on a challenge facing a large number of early-stage companies with ambitions of building products out of India.

I have faced three different challenges in my life when starting up. The first was when I returned from the US in 1992 with a colleague with a dream of building one of Indias premier software companies in five years. We never got too far. We tried to do products (first, a multimedia database, and then, an image processing software) and balance that with taking up projects from the US and India to get the cashflows going. This split personality didnt help. As the product sales didnt happen, we got more and more into taking up local projects to make ends meet. A couple years after our return to India, we realised that we werent going to make it. This was not the dream company we had wanted to create. It was time for a reboot.

That was when IndiaWorld was born. This time, I wanted to make sure we focused on one thing (the Internet) and also ensure that we kept the money coming in. I did need a small initial investment to get things going. The business model on the Internet wasnt very clear then (in 1995). I tried subscriptions to a content site, and then eventually made it free eighteen months later. Advertising had not yet taken off. What got the money coming in was services to corporates in the form of website development. As we built and hosted the websites, we managed to persuade companies to start investing in advertising and we had our portals to provide them with an end-to-end solution (and good margins for us). Over time, the website development business got increasingly competitive, but by then the high-margin advertising business had taken off.

Now, as we look at emerging areas like software-as-a-service and enterprise mobility, we also have an existing business in messaging, which combines product sales, support services and related services. This time around, capital is not a constraint. So, as we seek to grow these twin businesses, we need to think about building an organization with the right processes in place. While IndiaWorld had 20 people at its peak, I can already see our current business growing from the current strength of 60 to about 200 in a year. It will require a very different mindset to build this business from the one we had in IndiaWorld. The scale of operation is already much larger, and the ambitions far greater. My focus now is to ensure that we build the right team in readiness for the journey that lies ahead. This is not a game I can win on the strength of just my vision and early start.

So, that is the story of three different businesses with three different strategies for bootstrapping. In entrepreneurial ventures, every company is different and thats what is so fascinating. Building things from scratch where none existed is what excites me. I see the future as an instantiation of someones vision. So, why cant it be ours? And to create tomorrows world, bootstrapping a business right is very important.

Tomorrow: A Little History