Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Waning Days of the VP of Marketing

Note: This is a guest post I contributed to the Flite blog ( and reposted here. 

Technology and obsolescence have always done a ruthless dance with each other. That’s why the best technology watchers know that it is as important to forecast when trends will die as it is to predict how long they will flourish. If you happen to maintain an obsolescence calendar, then you should add a particular person to it: the VP of Marketing.

That’s right, start clearing out that corner office.  The traditional VP of Marketing belongs to a dying breed, and technology is driving this.
With urgency, companies are changing the way they engage with their customers. Engagement is more social, and increasingly happens in real-time. A recent study from Chadwick, Martin Bailey, involving 1,433 consumers, showed that 50% of them are more likely to make a purchase after viewing tweets from a company. Meanwhile, comScore reports that 82% of global Internet users use some form of social network.
Deeper dives into bigger data are driving engagement strategies, and titles are toppling. Vamoose goes the VP of Marketing, and in come the VP of Social Media, the VP of Data and Analytics and a new kind of CMO.
The pace of interaction that companies have with their customers has grown exponentially in the past several years. Meanwhile, the fluency requirements for effective marketers bear little resemblance to the tapes that play in the head of the traditional VP of Marketing.  The companies that we believe in used to look for people who played those tapes. Now they don’t.
Mail-based marketing is going through an electronic renaissance. Not only has paper-based collateral diminished, but email collateral is driven by ever more sophisticated platforms. Capable of producing very customized email newsletters, spitting out precise analytics, and steering readers to embedded video content, campaign management tools from companies such as eDialog and Yesmail require experts to optimize their capabilities.
Meanwhile, video is driving a siege on the written word, with epic repercussions for marketers. The new leaders will be fluent with today’s affordable, approachable and sophisticated video platforms, applications and tools. They will produce persuasive, customer-facing online video content themselves, work with business partners on video-based narratives and use platforms such as VideoGenie to tap into customers’ passions through user-generated videos.
The new leaders will be fluent with engagement marketing platforms such as Marketo, and will run campaigns that change with real-time events, as handled by tools such as Flite (Disclosure: Hummer Winblad is a venture partner of Marketo and Flite.) These leaders will empower their advocates through Influitive. They will be buyers of big data analytics and make data-driven decisions in unprecedented ways.
My prediction is that the average age of the head of marketing in organizations will drop by a decade or two, very quickly. It’s not enough to know that the new platforms exist; it’s about having experience with them in your DNA. The new marketing leaders will have grown up on the new, social platforms.
In large and small organizations, they’re already arriving.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Software Defined Networking - Incoming Disruption

Trends and Opportunities in Software Defined Networking
At Hummer Winblad, we spend most of our time focusing on the software space. Within software, Software Defined Networking (SDN) is an area that we are particularly bullish on at the moment. A lot of interesting companies are emerging that are challenging the silicon oriented networking dominance using creative SDN solutions. Imagine a world where you can have the software innovation cycle sitting on top of one of the most important pieces of the infrastructure world; networks. Servers have been virtualized, storage has been the next category to fall is networking. 

It is early in this trend, but if the attendance and excitement at the Open Networking Summit this week is any indicator it will be a very fast moving market. Attendance has tripled since last year and my guess is they will need a new venue for next year.

Challenges to the Cisco Networking Dominance
Cisco has dominated the commercial networking sector for a long time and is a fantastically competitive company. With their acquisition of Linksys in 2003 they have expanded to dominate the residential and small business markets as well. This has typically meant that users of Cisco and Linksys networking hardware were limited by the features built into their devices through proprietary firmware and hardware. This is also true of the hardware provided by many other networking manufacturers. Cisco used to stay well clear of the other technology areas and work well with partners like server vendors. This is changing and forcing everyone to rethink their alliances. Dell has added over 1000 networking engineers in the last year because of this shift. Cisco’s dominance, coupled with operators’ desire to control network flows themselves prompted a new era, and standard…
…Enter Disruption: The OpenFlow Standard
The OpenFlow standard originated at Stanford University, and was founded by Nick McKeow­n and some of his colleagues. We first heard about this from the postgraduate work of one of the founders of a company we funded in 2001 called Voltage Security. Guido then went on to start BigSwitch in the OpenFlow space. The standard was created in reaction to a general frustration that companies like Cisco and Hewlett Packard were essentially “walled gardens”. It was not easy for network technologists to control the flow of data and information through networks. With OpenFlow, McKeown and his colleagues were able to circumvent Cisco and HP hardware to optimize and establish their own desired network flows.

OpenFlow was the pioneer in SDN, and it officially launched as a networking specification in 2008. It was hailed as one of the top 10 emerging technologies in 2009, and paved the way to the Open Networking Foundation in 2011. As of 2012, OpenFlow can be installed on a list of commercially available routers.

Changes in the Data Center

Using software defined networking such as that provided by OpenFlow, a network administrator can quickly implement changes to an entire network or specific segments by writing code which can modify the logical map of the network within the software. This means that network administration can be done remotely, including making changes to the physical network through software. What once required a technician to physically move a cable from one port to another can now be done through software. This is similar in scope to virtual servers and the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud.
The New Networking Alliances

The development of software defined networking has created new alliances between various networking companies. Currently, Cisco, Juniper, HP, NEC, T-Mobile, Ericsson, and NNT DoCoMo are working with OpenFlow to set the standard for software defined networking. These new alliances will hopefully lead to greater innovation at a pace that looks more like software than 2+ year silicon cycles.
One thing is for certain – SDN will be a widely adopted standard in the near future. I cant say for sure that it will be OpenFlow, or if it will be 2013, but there will be some fantastically interesting and big companies that are created in this technology wave. We are still at the early stages of SDN, and exciting things are bound to happen in the space.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

C100 Guest Blog

Here is a link to a recent blog post from me that originally appeared on the C100 website titled

C100 – The Not-So-Secret Canadian Entrepreneur Organization

I am deeply honoured to be stepping in as co-chair of the C100. It is an amazing organization that Chris Albinson, Anthony Lee and other Canadians have worked tirelessly in their free time to build. I wanted to write this blog post to give you a little of the reasons why I'm excited…I will start with a quote from our founding co-chair, Chris Albinson as I think this should be our new C100 motto…

“This is beyond owning some podium. It’s about claiming the podium as ours, painting it red and white, crushing it, and sprinkling the dust into the eyes of our competitors. And not apologizing ever.” [see the video here]

Me and Chris Albinson at the 3rd Annual CEO Tech Forum.

The C100 is going to help make the next billion dollar Canadian tech company. We are going to show people that Canada has the smartest engineers on the planet and founders who run circles around their brethren. I believe this strongly enough that I’ve already invested in two, Brian Wong from Kiip and Joshua McKenty from Piston Cloud. I’m encouraging teams I work with to build out engineering organizations in Canada the way other tech giants like Facebook, Zynga and others are doing. We will do it by being bold, by breaking some rules and by working together. Lets make it so the next great canadian tech acquisition is about a canadian company buying up US companies…I was just at the Digital Puck Growth Stage event for Canadian tech companies and there are some clear candidates for this role including Freshbooks, A Thinking Ape, Vineyard Networks, Intelliresponse, and many more. We are on a roll.

I want the next Canadian who visits the valley like I did 15 years ago to have a team of Canadians rooting for their success and helping them along the way. When I moved here, I might as well have been from somewhere in the Midwest…there was probably a better organized group of founders and tech folks from Minnesota or some far flung eastern European country than from our great homeland. That’s changing, and I’m excited to be a part of it.

I am joined in this pursuit by a fantastic organizing committee and sponsors who share the vision of building something great. We couldn’t do this without the people at KPMG, BDC, SVB, PageMill Partners, Sheppard Mullin, EDC, SDTC and many others. The Canadian Consulate, especially Thierry has had a huge hand in pulling the group together. The C100 is off to a rocking start thanks to the leadership of Chris, Anthony and Atlee. To be clear for everyone, Chris isn’t going anywhere and is as dedicated to C100’s success as he ever was. We are fortunate to have him remain on the Organizing Committee and heading up a few of our important initatives. Here are some amazing stats over the last two years: 

30 Events Organized
100+ Charter Members
 2500 People in the C100 Network
 3000+ Entrepreneurs attended C100 Events
 $417M venture investment into C100 companies
 $3B in exit market cap including Radian6, Kobo, Rypple and many others.

 I believe it's working. The organization is an all-volunteer army of Canadians who care about Canada. We are still a toddler as far as an organization and have lots more growing to do.

 I want to work with people who when they use all the famous start up quotes like ‘hockey stick revenue projections’, ‘skating to where the puck will be’, etc actually give (to use the tragically hip line) a f$*k about hockey. Or at least name a hockey player beyond Gretzky.

 So, I’m sneaking into the arena to put a loonie under the ice, and I’m asking you to skate hard with me. Lets have some fun and build something great together. Go Canada.