In Align the interests of: 1. Users and 2. Investors., Dave make a radical yet sensible case for users becoming investors. It’s very consistent with what we’re learning from Scoble plus FriendFeed turning into Friendfeed minus Scoble, which Dave wrote about in Scoble, your blog still loves you, and to which I added a comment that included this:
|The only publication on Earth that’s all Robert’s is his blog. That’s where his soul is, because he can’t sell it.|
|…We’re back to first principles now. Users and developers, diggin’ together. Working on stuff that will survive the deaths of companies — and of bright ideas that can’t live anywhere but inside companies that own roach-motel environments that can be sold or shut down tomorrow.|
The problem with living in most VC-funded company environments isn’t just that they keep us from living elsewhere (which is bad enough to begin with). It’s that the environments are like houses built to flip. The main idea isn’t to build a great house, but to sell it. It was a lesson I unpacked here in 2001:
|When the “internet economy” was still a high-speed traffic jam somewhere back in 1999, I was at a party in San Francisco. Most of the folks there were young, hip “entrepreneurs”. Lots of all-black outfits, spiky haircuts, goatees and face jewelry. I fell into conversation with one of these guys–a smart, eager young chap I’d met at other gatherings. He was on his second or third startup and eagerly evangelizing his new company’s “mission” with a stream of buzzwords.|
|“What does your company do, exactly?” I asked.|
|“We’re an arms merchant to the portals industry”, he replied.|
|When I pressed him for more details (How are portals an industry? What kind of arms are you selling?), I got more buzzwords back. Finally, I asked a rude question. “How are sales?”|
|“They’re great. We just closed our second round of financing.”|
|Thus I was delivered an epiphany: every company has two markets–one for its goods and services, and one for itself–and the latter had overcome the former. We actually thought selling companies to investors was a real business model.|
Dave take this another step by suggesting that any company whose first loyalty is not to its customers or users is a risky prospect. And that user ownership is a good fix. I agree.
It’s not that we have to blow up everything that came before. It’s that we need to build a new kind of enterprise: founding a People’s Software Company whose first act is to IPO and pool the financial resources of users who believe there is a gap in what Silicon Valley is providing using their old models for corporate structure.
This is definitely in alignment with what we’ve been thinking about and working on with ProjectVRM. And, as with the project Dave wants us to think about here, it’s hard to see the need if you’re looking at the world from the vendor’s side of the demand/supply relationship.
Yesterday Jim Sinur posted Escaping the Zombie Zoo with Better Customer Facing Processes, in which he writes,
|Why can’t I have my own portal that understands me and all the companies I work with and the processes that I use on some frequency? I do like online banking and my bank’s website is somewhat intuitive. Paypal is not too bad either, but why can’t I create a menu of processes I want in stead of organizing favorites? This menu remembers me and all my passwords. I can give it instructions like calculate my net worth as of a certain date and it does it for me. I can tell it to pay certain bills that coordinate with my 15th of the month income check instead of having to rely on credit cards that expire and banks that you can’t control well.|
|I want a “Process of Me” where companies can allow me to customize my processes and interface.|
What Jim wants is VRM — a way he can manage vendors, rather than just have them managing him. Vendors should adapt to his needs and processes, rather than the reverse, which is what he complains about earlier in his post, and that we all live through every time we have to whip out a loyalty card to interact with some vendor in a lame, exclusive and non-user-driven way.
After Jon Garfunkel replied with a pointer to ProjectVRM, Jim asked, “Which vendors are supporting this or is it a grass roots movement?”
What Dave proposes is one way to remove that distinction.
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