Where are we headed? Enterprise 2.0?

I was at the Longworth Venture Partner conference in Boston yesterday. If you have had the chance to go and have not, I would recommend it. Its a concise use of time and they do a good job of covering the high points of what we are going through and are headed toward.

I have always liked Paul Margolis’s style, since he was an investor in my first company Syntra/Clearcross. He is very direct yet helpful. If he doesn’t understand or doesn’t like something, he will tell you, but in a constructive way that helps you refine your thinking, pitch, etc.

The conference had excellent presentations and panels that covered the whole social networking trend and its influence on the enterprise market, strong plays in their current portfolio (e.g. Constant Contact, of which I am a big fan), and an excellent presentation by Paul Deninger at Jeffries Broadview on what is really going on in the exit markets both here and in Europe.

This note is on the question of Enterprise 2.0. As 20 year guy selling enterprise software, I pose a question I usually heard from VC’s — Is it a feature or a business?

The pundits on the panel were unclear. On the one hand, they noted that the enterprise transaction market is locked down by the big players, SAP and Oracle. Little innovation, lots of linear improvements and no future for startups.

On the other hand, they suggested that there were huge opportunities for a new class of apps to handle business processes that were not covered by the big 2 or 3. But the examples they gave were of apps with no associated business model – blogs and wikis.

I am sure corporations will use them. Pantero was an early an active user of Confluence for the entire Pantero customer portal experience — faq, bug tracking, user documentation, etc. — as well as all internal company documentation — hr, etc.

But there is no money in these products. Perhaps offshoots and variations on them or apps built on them, but the general category is already commoditized. So until we start seeing these offshoots, the category Enterprise 2.0 is in search of products.

Which brings me back to the notion that enterprise software providers will have to be come enterprise content providers. The technology platforms of wikis and open source is already commoditized. leaving only content (business process, unique data, etc) as the area of differentiation.

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