Every conversation starts the same way:
Q: “so why are you here?”
A: “well you know when you are trying to ….”
Or variants there-of.
I was at Tech Crunch Disrupt in Berlin, talking to startups,
trying to feel my way back into the startup world, after a couple
of years with Tropo spending ever increasing amount of my time with telcos.
To be fair, I was in Berlin to give a workshop on WebRTC to telcos, as a guest of
the Rich Communications Summit at the kind invitation of Alan Quayle. I mentioned
to Mike Butcher that I was in Berlin and he expressed disbelief that I didn’t know Disrupt was on. (The old me 5 years ago would have known).
Talking to Dave McClure at the after party, I tried to sum up the difference between the events.
There were 2 things
that stood out for me. The first was the sheer optimism and enthusiasm at Disrupt, as opposed to that at RCS where there was an air of what can best be called nervousness.
The second was the way that innovations were described.
The startups all started by describing the user’s problem and how they addressed it. At RCS the starting point was always how the product would fit into the network, and only later (if at all) was any user benefit explored.
The telcos haven’t got used to their new role in the world – or even worked out what it is. To get a feel for the degree of failure to grasp the chance, look up the market capitalization of a European telco as compared to (say) Google. 6 years ago Orange was the same size as Google. Now it’s a 10th the size.
Their moment to try and become part of the user-facing internet has past. The telcos blew it. Their fate was sealed when they focussed more on what governments and their regulators want than their customers. They are, as I said over dinner at MWC this year, “on the wrong side of history”.
The interesting question is: Who will fill the gap they leave?
Perhaps Gondolas are like voice-minutes – echos of a glorious past ?
WebRTC is heading into this battlefield. So far the standards groups have managed to dodge the issue by leaving the whole matter of signalling as an exercise to the implementor.
My first impression was of having arrived on the set (or in) an early George Lucas film (THX 1138) – it was very white, white sofas, white carpet, white ceiling.
Perhaps as a result of this thought, I was on the lookout for signs of a dystopian future.
There really were plenty to be had.
The lesson here is “Data Trumps Intuitions” . Although if I’m honest we also picked our business model because it was easy to explain to some local risk averse VCs. They didn’t give us the money but we stuck with that plan.
My guess is that Skype had a change of heart between the project’s announcement and beta. So Skype deliberately hobbled SFA. What were they scared of ? Openness I think.
Users from all three of the ‘islands’ in the VoIP world (SIP, Skype and GoogleTalk) could all participate on an equal basis in a conference about VoIP. Not only that, but their IM messages were also exchanged freely, all with the correct attribution.