Raw milk and SAAS for small business

A glass of milkImage via Wikipedia

“Hmmmm…this tastes different, grassy, is it safe?”. Hey, it was my first time sampling certified raw milk. I was a little wary.

The guy at the farmer’s market reassured me, “well, it’s only good for a day or two, in my opinion, if you keep it cold. Some people try to keep it too long, drink it, get a little tummy ache, and never come back”.

It made me think about some of the small and mid businesses that I advise on SAAS. We are talking here about companies with 10-300 employees, 5M-50M per year in total revenues. I have been slowly building this client portfolio as more of these small operators in technical verticals are being screwed by enterprise software companies. These folks need alternatives.

Some went the SAAS route before I came around to help them. Raw milk baby – get a bad cup and you may never try again. SAAS. Shame. Some of these folks, despite being really fine IT professionals, really didn’t understand the difference between a hosted solution, a managed server, a grid service, and a platform as a service.

Now, I’m no savior, no magician. I just try and use my head to carefully think through what services will work, what the trade offs are, and if these projects will align with the client’s long goals.

One prospective client that had my bid in their maybe box had just gone through the very recent S3 outage. Another vendor, really just a glorified Web Developer (no flies on them), set up a proxy to S3 to back stop this very client’s POS gateway storage. For archived credit receipts, it was really quite clever and economical (for the price) and it did what the jobber said it would – save them from having to maintain and continuously¬† update a SAN, for a while. (BTW, their old SAN never had a minute downtime but was a headache to operate).

They just didn’t think it through, they pulled the plug on the aging, local storage array, tested the S3 proxy, and went live. They could easily have created another proxy or some kind of sync client for the EDI data on the old array that would have caught up the data in the slack periods, but the vendor was in a hurry and told the client that S3 was, “an invulnerable service”.

Well, I don’t have to tell you what the fallout was. My older quote had some SAAS services and I got a call right away from the client. They asked me if there was a strategy for using these services safely.

I referenced that section of my quote (it was always there!), and we talked about Raw Milk, how good it was (lower cost, better average reliability), how you gotta keep it cold (always have failure scenario), and how one bad dairy shouldn’t color your experiences going forward.

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The Problem of Wanna

Scott Karp is a famous blogger. I am not. But, his post on the struggles of the newspaper industry, and how this relates to GM‘s last ditch effort to innovate with their Volt project, is very good reading.

That’s a long sentence. I’m not a good general writer, I’m more of a technical marketing and research type. The article, however, grabbed me, because I once worked in the electric vehicle industry. My experiences at a small, secretive Israeli EV startup, was very similar to my misadventures in trying to raise capital in Sillyclone Valley for a faltering independent mobile dispatch venture called, ThruDispatch.

Mr. Karp conjoins GM’s monumental myopia (ignoring anything having to do with advanced drive trains) with the newspaper business’ total lack of a new media game plan. I see the common thread – It’s called, “Wanna“.

Over the past 10 years, a parade of inventors and young alternative drive train companies signed NDA’s with GM, hoping to get a foothold. They came from all sectors of the component, engine, and fuels industry, with patents galore, and some of them were indeed astounding; hopefully one day a book will be written. One company had a a fully tested AC drive train that could also power your house or sell back excess power to the utility grid. But we never heard about them, because GM didn’t wanna.

In the midst of the Web20 semi-bubble of 2005-06, I wrapped up a six month contract at a Sillyclone Valley R&D lab, and took to the road to pitch a plan for a really innovative, user driven, mobile dispatch venture for independent automotive servicers. Thousands of potential Nextel subscribers were surveyed, all had agreed to pay a decent monthly fee, and a prototype had been in place for a while.

But, if the business plan or pitch didn’t have the words “social network, video, or Facebook App”, there was no getting past the gates of Sandhill road. They didn’t wanna.

Now that we are on the threshold of what will surely be a blood bath of failed, ad-supported YAVSS and YASN ventures, in the midst of an IPO desert, will the equity come around to wanna?

Will they wanna invest in services that working people of the middle class will pay to use, rather than the chimera of free and ad supported services that are doomed?

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