09.09.09 at 09:09 the CEO Day 2009 started in Berne. While our CEO unfortunately had other commitments, I had the pleasure to join the event and to meet many friends and new faces in the Swiss Start-up scene. During the day there were interesting workshops around “Winning in Sales”, “Team dynamics” and the opportunity to meet the industry. At 4pm there was a Venture Leaders ceremony, where all participants of the Venture Leaders course 2009 in Boston were awarded a certificate and I – having been the proud team captain - had the chance to express the great benefits of this event in a short speech to the audience. The main benefits I highlighted were 1) practicing our pitches hundreds of times, 2) visiting companies in Boston that are great role models for us young entrepreneurs and 3) the fantastic team spirit among us participants.
Here some impressions!
Top left: Philipp Antoni from Biognosys, Beat Schillig from IFJ, Samuel Halim from Nanograde, Jürgen Weder from Neuropie, Pascal von Rickenbach from Streamforge; Top right: Evgeni Miljutin from PiezoSens, Mario Vögeli from Arktis Radiation Detectors, Zoltan Nagy from FemtoTools; Low left: Jazzband accompanying the apéro; Low right: Matthias Sala from Gbanga, Mario Vögeli from Arktis Radiation Detectors.
Top left: Barbara Yersin from Minsh, Beat Schillig from IFJ; Top right: Pascal von Rickenbach from Streamforge, Sadik Hafizovic from Zurich Instruments, Jürgen Weder from Neuropie; Low left: Daniel Leutenegger from Stemergie, Michael Friedrich from Aïmago, Lukas André from Affentranger Associates; Low right: Lukas Fischer from guzuu, Arnaud Bertrand from HouseTrip.
Top left: Birgit Coleman from Swissnex San Francisco, Martin Bopp from CTI, Marie-Jeanne Juilland from CTI; Top right: Christian Hirsig from Atizo, Greg Ovalle, US Business Angel, Hon Luu, US Business Angel, Niklas Östberg, Swedish Business Angel; Low left: Erik Fischer from syndc, Sven Rizzotti from syndc; Low right: Mario Vögeli from Arktis Radiation Detectors, Herbert Bay from kooaba, Marc Bernegger from amiando.
The last two years have brought Amazee to Bar Camps, Blog Camps, Startup Camps and most lately the Government 2.0 Camp in Berlin. It took place yesterday at the Hertie School of Governance and featured an interesting mix of government employees, researchers, web pros, journalists, you name it. The bottom line: The biggest challenge for e-government - ranging from administration to participation - is not technology but the cultural resistance of the public sector. The fact, however, that about 40% of the participants were civil servants proved that Germany is taking quite some interest in the latest developments in the US. Way to go!
Luckily I also heard the second part of Toni’s speech, which was amazing as well! Here two interesting and remarkable statements:
Every employee has full access to all live systems and the source code. So everybody in the company can change a feature and immediately release it. It takes 30 seconds to change all 1200 servers and another 30 seconds to fix a bug that has just been released! And by the way: there is ONE system engineer administrating all 1200 servers. ONE, let’s call him superman.
Automattic is a fully virtual company. Until a while ago they had no office, now they officially have an office in Pier 38 San Francisco, but the employees do not work there. There are some in San Francisco, but most the people are spread all over the world and therefore even the guys in San Francisco don’t work in an office to not break with the rules of being a fully virtual company. They never have any meetings, which saves lots of time. The only time they meet each other physically is at their bi-yearly event somewhere on the planet. They collaborate over IRC or the P2 theme for Wordpress.
The virtual company thing made me think. I wondered whether a virtual company could also be an option for Amazee. The answer is clearly no. One of Amazee’s core strengths is the dedication of our team, the positive culture, strong identification with Amazee and the great working environment. I can tell from myself and also often hear from the team members, how happy they are to come to work, exchange ideas, joke around and be together. At the moment we have six people living in Zurich and three people commuting from other Swiss cities to Technopark Zurich everyday (by public transportation of course!) . They all have the option to work from home, but they don’t. I guess working at home is not as rewarding and does not provide the same identity as working together in the office.
It needs a very special corporate culture to have a successful virtual company and I really admire Toni for running such a great company. Anyhow, as long as there is Amazee I don’t want to work for any other company and I would never aim to change our little cozy Amazee gem office for the virtual world.
Maybe my team members have a different opinion – feel free to comment ;)
Doodle CEO Mike Naef and Automattic CEO Toni Schneider
The interested crowd
Don't know what Wordpress is? Well, right now you're looking at an installation of this really great blog software. Personally I enjoy using Wordpress since I guess 2003 when I started my first blog. And when Amazee decided to switch from Drupal (as a blogging software) to another solution, it was very clear to me that we'll go for Wordpress. As I haven't had a look at a Wordpress admin screen for quite a while – the last time was maybe in 2005 – I was really overwhelmed by all the tweaking they did in the meantime, while still keeping the core clean, fast and simple.
That's also one important thing Toni Schneider – Swiss rooted very congenial CEO of Automattic, the company behind Wordpress.com – emphasized in his speech yesterday: Keeping the core of the software slender and provide additional functionalities as plugins. However, if some features really prove to be used by a majority of users, they can also be included in the main package after a while.
But it was not only about the geeky tech stuff. Toni also told us a lot about life in the Silicon Valley 20 years back from now, about his experiences with either very small or totally bloated companies and about how open source business models work – of course he used Wordpress as an example.
So what's important to know: Wordpress is not only a very popular open source blogging software that everyone can install and use for free (Wordpress.org) but also a world's top 20 website hosting more than eight million (!) blogs (Wordpress.com). While their basic service is free, users can pay for a variety of upgrades starting with an ad free blog, an own domain and going on with highly customized solutions for big customers who generate high traffic loads as for example CNN. Though not everyone liked their business model at first – some people couldn't understand how you can give away the software you're earning your money with for free – it proved top be a great success over the years. Open source as its best!
Unfortunately I had to leave because my duty was to hunt down an evil spammer who misused our platform, so I missed the second part of Toni's speech about being a VC. More about this part of the speech as well as some pics in a soon to come blog post by Dania – stay tuned! And thanks to doodle, ch/open and Technopark Zurich for organizing and enabling this event!
Tuesday evening we had a special marketing chuchi (=our Zurich meetup for marketing topics for startups) in the Amazee office. Andreas Von Gunten, a Salesforce CRM specialist from the company PARX, gave us an intro into CRMs. What is the benefit for a Web startup to use a CRM such as Salesforce? How can I manage my clients, users, press contacts, etc? What are the first steps to get going? How much does it cost?
My biggest take-away from the session was something Andreas pointed out that is actually quite obvious: Implementing a CRM is not just buying a software and using a tool. It's a decision to put the client in the center of the company's activities - all the time. I definitely know the next important tasks on my to do list!
Last night we had another UX Chuchi meeting in our secret underground Amazee office. UX stands for User Experience and Chuchi is Swiss German for kitchen. At the Chuchi meetings we like to hear about other people's businesses and scrutinize the living daylights out of them. All of this of course goes down in very civilized and constructive ways. Yesterday it was our turn and Gregory presented the Amazee case. With about twenty people from the web scene present it sure was an intense evening. We heard a lot of things we knew we needed to change, but also received a lot of new input, which will certainly influence our future development processes. Thanks, everybody for attending and for your input!