First rule of first principle thinking, do not use first principle thinking when a mental model is available

Category: web2.0

gushing about slideshare

    One of the few things that I had seriously missed writing about in my blog absence was about slideshare.  I liked the service the very instant I looked at it and resolved that I MUST write about it the first chance I get to down to do any  writing on my blog. Back then when it was released I could not use it much but recently I got to play with it quite a bit and I liked it all the more.   By this time there has been a lot that has been said about it and probably what I write in this post may not be something new but still I am going to write about it as I love slideshare so much 🙂

The first thing that struck me when I started using it was what took it so long far something like this to come up.

Powerpoint was an accidental innovation and  it is  a form of new media type though it is never thought of that way. I don’t know who was the original creator of powerpoint but I think powerpoint is  one ingenious piece of innovation by itself though we all love to hate it. It is been long known that value of any media increases when it can be shared, co-experienced etc. And this is the important fact that was not thought about in the context powerpoints and that’s the key value add of slideshare. Some of things that really stand out is the feature of making the product inherently viral in nature (easy sharing in blogs), marketing it as the  “youtube for powerpoint”. Overall it leveraged a mix of market,networks &  communities to create value.

With slideshare being so well recieved the usual suspects like Google, Yahoo & Microsoft (GYM) would have long since fired their products division to build their own version of it. IMO this should not be cause of worry to slideshare as they are much ahead of the GYM in this game. The service has inherent networks effects built into it thus leading to a clear first mover advantage working in favour of them. So the best bet for any of these big players would be to acquire slideshare but from what I can say about the team at Uzanto they can grow this into a great independent business by itself. Given this it would be very exciting to watch out what unfolds in this space.

Slideshare picked a very important need which nobody else thought of addressing and built a great solution at a very low cost, marketed it extremely inexpensively and positioned themselves startegically very well amongst billion dollar/pound gorillas in a niche which could turn into a great beachead. IMHO entrepreneuers like me can learn great lessons from this and I would also say it is another great example of getting real.

Having said it all here some of my thoughts which I think could make slideshare stronger and better.

  • Should add capability create powerpoints on slideshare of itself. (MS should run scared when this day comes and thats exactly why I think MS should be the strongest contender for slideshare)
  • Or even before that allow ability to remix from uploaded powerpoints ( this one would be a huge value multiplier IMO ). For example I can create a new presentation from using the slide 2-6 of one powerpoint combined with slide 1, 3 9 of  another powerpoint. Well this would raise the ugly head of property rights issue which could become quite a bit of challenge but then is’nt that the real fun/interesting part of the media revolution that we are living in today.
  • Though I said powerpoint is an ingenius innovation but one has to admit that it is a crippled form of media , it is an inherent property of powerpoint and that is why I referred earlier that we all love to hate it. So giving some solution to fix that would just raise the bar extremely for the service. Let me elaborate this a little bit, any form of media (be it telephone, SMS, movies, radio, video, print ) can be broadly divided into three categories based on their modes of communication and different forms revel at different modes. These three modes are ‘information transfer’, ‘story telling’ & ‘presence’. Powerpoint was designed to excel at information transfer in a group context but they are real hits when they are used in the story telling mode. Folks like Guy Kawasaki, Cliff Atkinson got famous as presentation zens because of their techniques & tips  on how to use your ppts effectively in the story telling mode. To cut the long story short it is fairly obvious powerpoints are not suited for ‘presence’ but is predominantly used for ‘information sharing’ but if designs can be added into slideshare which can turn into a great storytelling tool in addition to oiling the existing ‘information sharing’ functionality then it would be even more wonderful.

To sort of sum up Slideshare might not reach the extreme(crazy) heights of what youtube did the reason being quite obvious which has to do with nature of medium involved. The power of video (presence & story telling) is much stronger than that  of powerpoint ( information sharing & possibly story telling)  but there is no doubt in my mind  that slideshare would go on to become one very big hit and I  wish them all the best 🙂

Is Web 2.0 bubble being burst elsewhere and what can India learn.

First there was kiko which was bought by Tucows a few days ago for 250,000$ and now another a so called web 2.0 company (HuckABuck) is listed on eBay with its current highest bid is about 9300$. Now Is this a burst of a bubble or the end of the web 2.0 era. Moreover Is there some lessons that India can take from this which is now entering the web 2.0 fray.

Bubble

My opinion on these companies is fairly straightforward, these companies can’t be called 2.0 in truest sense. No I am not arguing semantics here, my point is that these are merely features and none of them have fundamentally created new value which is required to be called a 2.0. Features don’t create big business but rather they naturally chart their course to get attached the product that they are a feature of (or should’nt it be the other way round). Now kiko is a feature which fitted naturally into tucows and they have had a more than fair return. Bubbles are condition when there is a market failure due to multitude of reasons. So this is certainly not a bubble but market at its work and hence HuckABuck would find the right buyer for the right price too.

Coming to India and web 2.0 my general observation has been that India is typically about 36 months behind the valley in any of the trends (Europe is generally 18 months behind valley). This happened during the dotcom days and now the same with web 2.0. With the recent business world article on web 2.0 entrepreneurs we could say that web 2.0 has entered Indian mainstream. The web 2.0 trend had started in US around 2003 and it got fancy name coined by Tim O Reilly in 2004.

Now what is that we can learn from web 2.0 that has happened in Valley and Europe so far. One thing that is certainly undeniable is that there are some fundamental changes that are happening. (See my opinion on web 2.0 & mobile 2.0 on top right side bar) During this tumultuous times we could either choose to build features (call it web 2.0 or not) for becoming a part bigger platforms or build some innovative platforms and unlock great value. To be very frank I am not way too impressed by the list in the BW article, though I have not tried any of the service listed there but one look at most of them will tell you that they are like what Bazee was a few years ago. No doubt that they may walk their way to riches but then they have quickly look out for their Ebay (or GYM). Kanwal Rekhi when I met him once had an interesting name for such Bazee kind of companies, he called them YAFO(yet another fad opportunity) companies. But then India does not have ( & may not have for a while) any incentive to fundamentally innovate. As one of my VC friend sums up very nicely why would anyone risk his neck when he can make huge money by just sitting on a couch and tapping a few buttons.

The reporter from BW did not seem to do thorough research on web 2.0 and hence did not cover couple of other significant players in India, two of my top picks would be the Ashish & Gaurav from tekritisoftware (ourmedia.org that they built a while ago is more 2.0 than you could know) & cleartip.com ( I just can’t stop gushing about these guys, infact they should add a caption to themselves – ‘Clear the pain from booking a Trip’)

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