Mix09 <3 Your Web

PDC is less than a week away, and it appears that the Mix team is busy announcing plans for Mix09 in Vegas.

MIX09Logo

Agenda & Speakers

There is a great list of the usual suspects and the some new faces including:

Restyle & 10k Smart Coding Challenge

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Do you hate the style of the Mix site? Change it. Use your own CSS and images to ReStyle the Mix homepage. This is a great opportunity for local web designers to create a new experience. 

TenKLogoDownload

Inspire the world with just 10k of code.  It reminds me of Stuart Butterfield’s 5k competition. It’s a great chance to win a conference pass, hotel accommodations and a gift card (money) for time in your Vegas.

What could you create for the Web if you only had 10 kilobytes of code? It’s time to exercise your minimalist creativity and get back to basics – back to optimizing every little byte like your life depended on it.

 

Both of these challenges have the same prize:

One winner will receive a pass to MIX09, hotel accommodations and a Visa gift card. Other great prizes are to be announced. Official entry requirements, procedures, rules and restrictions coming in November.

What: Mix09
When: Wednesday, March 18, 2009 (all day)
Where: The Venetian Hotel

Las Vegas, NV   USA

A Microsoft venture fund

Kevin Merritt has a great suggestion for creating a Microsoft venture fund. This is not new, I wrote about my displeasure with the proposed Yahoo! deal back. Kevin has thought about a YCombinator-esque microfunding model.
  • A three person team comprised of Ray Ozzie, Don Dodge and Dare Obasanjo would be the investment committee.
  • Anyone can submit a 10-slide business plan. No NDA protection, which is the norm in the VC industry.
  • Plans are reviewed once a quarter. Those that make it through the screening are invited to a 90-minute in person demo and pitch.
  • At the end of the 90-minute demo & pitch, the three-person Ozzie/Dodge/Obasanjo investment committee makes an immediate decision. It’s pass/fail. You’re in or you’re out. American Idol style. You’re going to Hollywood or you aren’t.
  • If you pass, here’s what you get: an investment of $100,000 cash plus $25,000 per founder, but never more than $175,000;  all the Microsoft software you need; unlimited, free use of Microsoft’s cloud computing infrastructure for 3 years; mandatory office space for up to 5 people for the first year in either the Redmond or Silicon Valley Campus; all the non-sense administrative support services that typically saps a startup, a collegial environment working with other Microsoft funded startups.
  • In exchange, Microsoft gets: 10% of the company in common stock with no special preferences or rights; your commitment to exclusively use Microsoft development software and operating systems for 3 years, other than with written exception by Microsoft; your commitment to deploy your software to Microsoft platforms first (i.e. if you build a mobile app, it has to run on Windows Mobile before iPhone).

That’s it. Quid pro quo. Startups need cash, tools, infrastructure and elimination of noise and distraction. Microsoft needs access to innovation and a future generation of folks building software with Microsoft development tools and to be run on Microsoft platforms. My bet is that Microsoft will flat out buy some of the companies during their year of incubation. And if you assume each startup will have 3 to 5 people, even the ones that fail will produce a good stream of folks who could easily become employees. Microsoft probably already spends $50,000 per hire anyway, so it’s not really costing them much if anything at all.

Oh, there’s one more important twist to help stem the tide of people leaving Microsoft to found companies or join startups. Microsoft employees in good standing having spent at least 2 years at Microsoft can quit their job and can be admitted into the incubator program with only a single approval from the investment committee. No business plan, pitch or demo are required. You’re in. Your prior contributions are your ticket. How many young entrepreneurs-to-be are willing to put in two good years at Microsoft just to get into the incubator program? I think more than a few. It’s a VC spin to the army college fund. It’s the Microsoft future entrepreneurs fund.

This is a great, well thought out plan for putting $25M to work. The biggest questions for me are: how does the model scale around the world? What are the implications with respect to existing anti-trust agreements and funding companies?  What are the areas, much like the Y Combinator 30 ideas, that are part of the initial investment thesis? It feels like without a clearly defined investment thesis that this is really a public relations campaign with entrepreneurial leaning technologists.

Congratulations Bryce

Bryce JohnsonWow, Bryce and W.R. and Veronica and Sadie are all moving to Seattle. Bryce announed yesterday his big, exciting news. Bryce is joining the Microsoft Dynamics team as a User Experience Designer. This is phenominal and sad. As a Microsoft shareholder, the value of the company has increased. Bryce has done fantastic user experience design for enterprise software deployments for many years at Navantis. He has helped solve complex business rules and software conditions for clients like the City of Hamilton, Microsoft Canada, and others.Bryce will join a contingent of Canadians in Redmond including:

However, it is also a sad day. Bryce is leaving Toronto (Toron-o, watch the video for details). Bryce was one of the driving forces behind InteractionCamp and EnterpriseCampToronto. He is a co-conspirator with Kaleem, Matthew, Audrey, and me for the UXIrregulars.  Bryce has been a tireless support of the community efforts and a great friend to have a bourbon or two with.

Congratulations Bryce! Microsoft is lucky to have a designer of your calibre in their cadre.

Anniversaries

Today is my 1 year anniversary at Microsoft Canada. I’m guessing there are a lot of unhappy gamblers in the pool. It’s been a fun year. May and June are always full of surprises and changes, fortunately this year the changes were much less scary and exciting. Less scary.  Anybody remember DemoCampToronto6? Unfortunately I don’t, it has been 2 years since the infamous BarCampER where I had the misfortune of having a heart attack. So I look forward to making it through May without any surprises.

And it’s been 1 year since I joined Microsoft. Can you believe it? Hopefully you didn’t loose too much money on the pool.

The Year in Review

SxSW 2008 - 148

I attended a lot of conferences and events this past year. It felt like I was on the road a lot.I had a great time meeting people, hearing about what you were building and your mixed reactions to Microsoft. Some very positive. Others much more negative. I shouldn’t be surprised at the distribution of reactions and responses, but I think I was most surprised by the positive. I hadn’t really expected to become the public face of Microsoft Canada at many of the events. And I’m pretty sure that providing real-time bourbon-fueled support wasn’t in my employment contract, but apparently if you buy me bourbon I’ll provide substandard support. I haven’t spent a lot of time in the Microsoft ecosystem but I’ve been introduced to great people like John Bristowe, Mack Male, Derek Hatchard, Colin Bowern, Mark Arteaga and others across Canada. I continued to meet folks in the *Camp sphere including Vincent & Phillipe, Patrick Lor, Cam Linke and others. And best of all, I keep getting to see my friends and acquaintances around the country (you know who you are).

Places to Go, People to See

Community Participation

Jon Udell asked that we hold off evaluating his joining Microsoft:

Wait until the evidence is in, then decide for yourself. I’ve been in this game for a long time. I think my record of pragmatism and agnosticism speaks for itself…

Well it’s now been a year. And I want to know what you think? Good? Bad? Otherwise?

What can I do to make the next year awesome for you? the community?

Startups on .NET

I’m not alone is wondering about where are all the .NET startups, Sasha Sydoruk wrote ASP.NET startups. I asked about startups building on .NET (though, from a survey design perspective the link was lost in a long, deep post). My friend Aaron is building on .NET and Mono, check out Mindtouch‘s DekiWiki. Geoff is building Moonlight with Miquel and the team at Novell. Don Dodge, Lynda Ting, Dan’l Lewin and the Emerging Business Team write an excellent blog for early-stage companies in the Microsoft technology sphere at Microsoft Startup Zone. There is a growing list of Canadian companies, now that former Toronto VC Lynda Ting has joined the EBT in Silicon Valley.

Lots of these companies aren’t sexy but they solve real problems for real customers and generate real revenue. And that is sometimes a much harder problem.

Are you building something on .NET? Drop me a note.

What would you do with $44 Billion?

Forty four billion dollars! It’s a huge sum of money. It’s a lot of money to pay to create Pepsi (apparently I prefer Coke). Others have provided their analysis of the deal. There is a mad rush to create a true competitor to Google in the rapidly growing online advertising market and now that a combined Microhoo/Yahsoft which would have created a set of highly trafficked sites and a huge amount of ad revenue, it is now off the table.

Cash. Stock. Debt. It doesn’t really matter because $44 billion is a lot of money. It’s more than the combined venture funding in the US in software since 2002! The actual amount according to PricewaterhouseCoopers MoneyTree is closer to $31B. Interestingly, angel investors in 2007 put $26 billion into 57,120 ventures according to a study by Center for Venture Research at the University of New Hampshire!

To hell with a $10 million dollar Facebook Application Fund. Never mind a $100 million dollar iPhone Fund. What about a new huge software fund aimed at funding new solutions on the Microsoft platform?

Going on an acquisition spree seems to make a lot of sense, Kara Swisher calls it Project Granola, but imagine the power of creating MicroBook, FaceSoft AND all of the other properities already out there. Digg. TechCrunch. GigaOM. LinkedIn. Meebo. The list is almost endless. Building a open media ecosystem to compete with Google, Yahoo and others. What about investments in non-North American properties? It’s a great time to be building media properties. It’s not the first time that it has been suggested that Microsoft could benefit by encouraging entrepreneurs to build successful media businesses.

With the $30 billion left over, it could be like Christmas in July for the geeks and venture firms of Silicon Valley. But Microsoft could scoop up a lot of good stuff, even if prices are high.

Here’s a list: LinkedIn. Digg. Flixster. Slide or RockYou. Veoh. WordPress. Sphere. Sugar. Some international stuff. And more.

Then, some noted, Microsoft would have to give massive financial incentives to those entrepreneurs to stay and thrive. Most importantly, it would have to keep its Redmond hands from interfering.

Time to take the lessons from building a successful software business, and see if the proceeds can be used to build an online media business(es).

The Platform is the Core

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Live Mesh was launched yesterday at Web2Expo in San Francisco.

Our design goals for Live Mesh are to have…

  • …your devices work together
  • …your data and applications available from anywhere
  • …the people you need to connect with just a few clicks away for sharing and collaborating
  • … the information you need to stay up-to-date and always be available

I’m really excited about Live Mesh as a platform. It really is one of the first services above the level of a single device. The integration of experiences across devices is really interesting and important. I started to realize the power of creating a device mesh when I switched from my Blackberry to a Windows Mobile device and Microsoft Exchange. I am able to access my email service using my Palm 750, my Mac Book Pro running Entourage, my new Dell m1330 or my old Thinkpad x60 running Outlook, or when I’m connected over the web running Outlook Web Access. The devices are really irrelevant to me, what is most important is my data. My contacts. My calendar. My email.

Live Mesh is an early platform that allows the abstraction of data and data synchronization with applications, the web, and the cloud. It is a platform for developers to begin building the next generation of applications for the web, devices, rich clients, gaming platforms, media devices, etc.

  • Services Are the Core of the Platform – the Live Mesh platform exposes a number of core services including some Live Services that can all be accessed using the Live Mesh API; these include Storage (online and offline), Membership, Sync, Peer-to-Peer Communication and Newsfeed.
  • Same API on Clients and in the Cloud – the programming model is the same for the cloud and all connected devices, which means a Live Mesh application works exactly the same regardless of whether it’s running in the cloud, in a browser, on a desktop, or on a mobile device.
  • Open, Extendable Data Model – a basic data model is provided for the most common tasks needed for a Live Mesh application; developers can also customize and extend the data model in any fashion that is needed for a specific application.
  • Flexible Application Model – developers can choose what application developer model best fits their needs. .

Mike Zintel, from the Live Mesh team, describes the locus of control is with end users. People are given a platform where they have the control over the devices, the communication, the storage and the membership to the network.

The mesh is the foundation for a model where customers will ultimately license applications to their mesh, as opposed to an instantiation of Windows, Mac or a mobile account or a web site.  Such applications will be seamlessly installed and run from their mesh and application settings persisted across their mesh. The device ring inside of the Live Desktop is a simple visualization of the mesh, and provides a view of all devices and current device availability. The Live Mesh platform provides the ability for applications to connect to any other device, regardless of network topology (network transparency), within the mesh. This infrastructure enables the Live Mesh Remote Desktop experience today.

It is a great way to start to build above the level of a single device. Being able to abstract devices, membership lists, connections between devices, and then an underlying pub/sub infrastructure for awareness and sync is a very empowering framework. I can’t wait to start enabling more of my personal data between my devices (namely music, videos and photos shared between my laptops and music players, and if I’m lucky my TiVO because I can already share from my Mac to my XBox360 via Rivet or Connect360). Ewan Spence covers the hackable power of the underlying “RSS and XML derived data exchange”. This looks like a really good first direction for a Software+Services platform that enables developers beyond the context of a single device.

As Live Mesh is a limited Technology Preview, but it is a great start to building cloud connected applications.

For more information, go to LiveMesh.com. For more Live Mesh coverage: