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August 29, 2005 / jnolen


Changes are afoot, dear reader. A new sense of excitement has been running through the tech community this past year, about which I wrote back in March. I've been watching new technology (or old tech put to new use) break out at a rate I haven't seen since 1996. The level of collaboration among those in the community reminds me of those days, as well. I read about new startups debuting every other day; some getting funded, some getting acquired, but mostly small teams of dedicated developers trying to do something innovative with this raft of technologies that we've decided to call Web 2.0.

Truthfully, I'm more enthusiastic about the possibilities than any time since 2000. Here's why:

  1. We have the benefit of the lessons of recent history. The pain of the bubble is still fresh in many of our minds and I think we will be (slightly) more cautious because of it. Furthermore, most companies (with the exception of Vonage) don't have the same land-grab mentality that so characterized the late nineties, and consequently seem to be spending at a more measured pace.
  2. The cost of entry for web startups is rapidly approaching zero as Joe Kraus, CEO of JotSpot, wrote recently. The limiting factor is changing from how much money you can raise to how quickly you can execute on your idea.
  3. We have learnt important lessons from the open source movement in the last few years. And we are applying those lessons to areas far beyond the development of code. I can now talk realistically about Open Companies which are changing the way they relate to their customers over the broad spectrum of their business. Open Companies are serious about engaging in a conversation with their customers and about fostering a mutually beneficial ecosystem around their products.
  4. We are beginning to recognize the power of small teams. 37 Signals is doing a great job of marketing the "less is more" school of software development. This is a value that has long been fundamental to great technology startups, from Steve and Woz in their garage to Larry and Sergey in their dorm-rooms, and I am coming to better appreciate its power.
  5. There is massively more information available about all aspects of technology and business. If the internet has fulfilled its early promise in one area, it is the democratization of information. Imagine that you're a college kid who has a great idea and thinks he can turn it into a startup. You have ready access to advice about software development from top-notch developers like Joel Spolsky; you can learn about the venture capital process from practicing VCs like Fred Wilson or Brad Feld; you can learn about the business side of startups from people like Paul Graham or Joe Kraus; You can learn about goings-on inside your larger competitors from people like Robert Scoble or Jeremy Zawodny. These are just a few of the folks that I have benefited enormously from reading. The resources are available for people to educate themselves.
  6. Location is less important. Silicon Valley is still the undisputed center of the industry, but we are now able to forge connections and build relationships more easily over wider distances. People with good ideas can find an audience despite living outside of the Valley, or even outside of the country.

The stage is set. Opportunities abound, and I feel that it's time to make a move. Over the last several months circumstances have been slowly aligning. Exciting things have been happening for me: unfortunately, I haven't been able to talk about them. But the time has finally come when I can speak, and I couldn't be more excited. Come back tomorrow and I'll fill you in on the first part of my story.

(See part 2 and part 3)

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