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Friday, July 27, 2007

The Teqlo Adventure, early days in the development off an Ocean liner

“The boiling of the ocean begins with a single puddle.” by Peter Rip,

Todays post is by an early stage VC from http://www.crosslinkcapital.com/ a VC based on the West of of the USA, it is a warts and all look at one of there companies, it talks about the growing pains for a IT based start up. This is not a company looking for a way to survive, but it is a Tug looking to become an ocean liner....

The Teqlo Adventure
Few VCs admit to their misfires, though misses are more common in this business than hits. One of the reasons I write this blog is to add some transparency to an all too opaque business of private equity. It has been a while since I talked about Teqlo.com here. Some of you may be aware there have been some changes recently. Others may have been to the web site recently and said “huh?”
I figure the only authentic thing to do is to talk about this again, even when it is in an ambiguous period of re-birth. This ugly period is a re-tooling of the premise of the business to give it more clarity of purpose. It’s not fun being in the sausage phase.
First, let me admit we went down a mashup rat hole. We have a general technology for snapping together web services. "Because they can" is an insufficient answer to "why do people want to create mashups?" We failed to commit to solve a specific problem for a specific market, preferring instead the broad appeal of generality. This has changed.
No one led us down this rat hole. We led ourselves. When we realized we had to make a radical shift, we had to reignite the fire with limited fuel. We made personnel changes because the fuel demanded it, not to penalize or blame anyone. So we did the right thing. We cut, refocused, questioned everything, and sharpened our edge.
The first thing we did was toss out any pretense of solving everyone’s problem. There is an old proverb that I just invented for this situation -- “The boiling of the ocean begins with a single puddle.” We had to define our puddle. So we did.
A friend of mine told me a few weeks ago that Snapfish is driven by a product team that thinks a hypothetical mom named Emily is their user. Their design mantra is What Would Emily Want? We went out and defined our Emily.
The next thing we did was develop a hypothesis of the ways in which web application integration would please that Emily i.e., what is her pain? What is she trying to do? What web services does she use to do it? And how does she cope with using 3-5 discrete web applications to get something done? What does she do now? Then we went out and talked to a small army of Emilys. Arrgh! This will strike everyone as obvious and necessary. It is. And we hadn’t done it before because we were too busy building.
Along the way we re-learned something. Name your user. Ask her what she wants; she will tell you, and often she will surprise you. So we did and they did. One clear consequence is that you will see more emphasis on a configurable application, not a bucket o'widgets that snap together. Leading with "it's so easy to build what you want" is like making a diet fun – it is still a diet, no matter how much more fun it is. You only do it when you must.
So now the Company is heads down executing what we think is a re-jiggering of the basic components. We are packaging to solve a problem - not all problems. Nor are we packaging to provide “examples” of how you can use Teqlo to solve a problem. Nope. We have picked a customer, listened to what they want, and are hacking away to get to market.
We now have an Emily in mind, a clear sense of who our natural distribution partners are, what’s in it for them, and how this little puddle becomes a pond and then a lake. We dream of an ocean, but are navigating the puddle.
I'll tell you this much about the new direction - Web-based workflow. Teqlo is ideal for making a pre-packaged process made from web applications and stitching them together to get something done. There is no market for Cut-and-Paste, but Cut-and-Paste is the wow factor in Microsoft Office. There is no market for reconfiguring web applications, but reconfiguration is the wow factor in workflow for specific problems. Without giving away the punch line, I'll point out that workflow is what's missing from the world of on-demand software.
The site itself has not changed. It is still as confusing as it ever was. That is not important, yet. Over the next few [weeks] [months] the site will begin to molt. We will shed the mashup cocoon and emerge as very different butterfly. (We may even re-brand the site to clarify what this new application is.) This butterfly will not offer you the universal promise of integration of all web applications. This butterfly will promise a specific user community a way to meaningfully improve the way they use the Web in their daily lives. And if we do our jobs well, it will also be clear how we make money, not an insignificant question.
Of course, it might still be wrong, but that's the adventure in adventure capital.

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