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!
This morning, Miss Swissmiss, Tina Roth Eisenberg, invited creative people from the Zurich, um, creative scene, to attend the first ever Swiss Creative Morning. The series of Creative Mornings usually runs in New York, where Swiss-born Tina works as a designer. She has made a name through blogging as Swissmiss and of course, the turn-out was huge. Everybody came, although Tina admitted that she had not thought so. Keynote speaker and host of the morning was Daniel Freitag, one of the two cool Freitag brothers who produce the hip bags of the same name. He talked a little how he and his brother came to designing bags from used truck tarpaulins and how this sort of fits in with the cradle to cradle theory. Daniel came across as a very sympathetic guy and the Freitag plant, where the Creative Morning was held proved to be a very cool location. Thanks to Tina for organizing and to the Freitag crew for hosting. I certainly hope this wasn't the last installment of this event.
[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="The conference corner"][/caption]
[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="The conference corner – an old truck tarp construction"][/caption]
[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="The stocks of tarp"][/caption]
Please excuse the poor quality of the pictures, iPhone's Achille's heel, you know.
Yesterday evening the first Techcrunch Award “The Europas” took place. Shortly after 6pm people were standing in line to enter the trendy event location Delfina. Once inside, everybody grabbed a glass of Champagne or a beer and started networking.
The event started at 6.30pm with a short intro by Mister Techcrunch Europe Mike Butcher followed by six short pitches by relatively unknown competing startups. The most impressive pitch was by only 18-year old James from GigLocator.
After the pitch competition there was a panel discussion on “Where is Europe standing and going”. The speakers were Stefan Glänzer (last.fm), Michael Birch (Bebo), Brent Hoberman, Tariq Krim (Netvibes, Jolicloud), Sarah Lacy (Techcrunch).
After a short refreshment and networking break the real highlight of the evening started at 8.30pm: the awards!
The first exciting category was Best Bootstrapped Startup as I was holding thumbs for my friends at Doodle. The awards presenter always mentioned the second place (“highly commended” and of course the winner. Doodle made second place and soup.io won.
The next exciting category was Best Social Innovation because Amazee was a finalist! We didn’t make it to the top, but also made second place right behind Mendeley. Also good ☺
Further (almost) Swiss (almost) winners were Amiando, who made the second place in the category Best Web Application or Service and Poken who won in the category Best Real Life Gadget. Congrats to all!
You can find all the finalists and winners here:
All in all the evening was perfectly organized, full of great people. Apart from the panel, personalities such as Craig Newmark from Craigslist, Robert Scoble and many more showed up at the Award Ceremony. As you see below I also met a lot of nice girls of other startups!
The evening was great fun, I was able to make interesting new contacts and am quite proud of the second place of Amazee and the good Swiss rankings!
Unique in it's kind, the Venture Summit brings together the Swiss high-tech venture community for 24 hours of intense networking and exchange. Amazee was represented by me, Dania, and here are some impressions.
The Venture Summit 2009 event started last Friday at 12h00 in Interlaken Ost, where about 70 participants gathered to spend the following 24 hours together. The program was a surprise: no keynote, no round table. Innovation and entrepreneurship through networking, action and fun!
We were welcomed by the organizing team with drinks and sandwiches and learned about the program. After a bus ride to Grindelwald we continued the way up to the summit via the Kleine Scheidegg (where our basecamp was) and further on to the Jungfraujoch. There we did a snowshoe-walk on the Glacier, which was great fun, but unfortunately quite gray and really cold. Arnaud didn't seem to mind the cold too much and was in a great mood - even in his short pants.
The evening program was simple: Apéro, Dinner and Blues Party until the early morning hours with lots of talking and networking.
The following day started about 2 hours after the party: wake-up call at 4am to start our sunrise hike to Lauberhorn! The weather was gorgeous and the views fantastic.
Another few minutes walk down the hill and we were served coffee and a small breakfast at the start of the famous Lauberhorn ski race.
Shortly before the end of the event the"Networking Cup" was given to the best networker of the event. And the winner is Alexandre "Sandy" Wayenberg!
It was a great event, I met lots of friends and interesting new people and hopefully made some contacts that will support Amazee in the journey of becoming the best social collaboration platform! Thanks a lot to the organizers Jordi and Beat from venturelab and IFJ and especially to the sponsors Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year and Gebert Rüf Stiftung.
I'll be back at Venture Summit 2010!
My trip to Boston with the Venture Leaders 2009 is over. It was fantastic and I just want to share a few impressions of our MIT Campus Tour. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is a private research university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States. MIT has five schools and one college, containing a total of 32 academic departments, with a strong emphasis on scientific and technological research.
Joost Bonsen gave us great insights during our tour through the campus. Joost is member of the Global Board of Directors of the MIT Entreprise Forum, Co-founder of MIT Innovation Club and TechLink, Host of the weekly TV Show "HigTechFever" and much more - those who have seen his business card know what I mean.
He showed us the architectural highlights...
... and pointed out some remarkable achievements at MIT and important moments in the history of the university.
MIT is an impressive place, check it out whenever you're in Cambridge or Boston!