Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Bickel Business Review 2011

I like to spend a bit of time looking back at the year each December.  I'm happy to report that all of my various business adventures have moved forward since last year.  My family is also happy that I did not take on any new projects this year!

Overall, it was a year where strategies that were put in place in 2010 started to reap benefits and all of the companies "grew up" a bit.  None of them are fully grown by any means, but there is a sense of maturity in each.

The other big trend was just a total focus on the Cloud as a delivery and a business model.  My view is that tech companies are founded on the technology, and developing for the Cloud changes things drastically.  New versions go up each day.  There is no need to support old releases.  This changes the development, QA, and support processes a great deal.  It has the effect of faster cycle times, a requirement for new automation, and if done right, significantly lower costs.

CloudBees - 2010 was about building the technology team.  2011 has seen that technology team deliver mature and robust cloud services, and Jenkins has basically kicked ass (I am so happy for KK).  


While PaaS is still in early adoption mode, we are seeing strong growth in small apps and have even gotten to the point where we have a couple of six figure customers.  This means our infrastructure has become big enough and our processes mature enough to start to bring real economic savings to customers.  We rolled out pricing change for our Jenkins in the Cloud services and should be rolling out the Java PaaS side pretty soon.  This will mean that the Cloud becomes a "no brainer" for anyone doing Continuous Integration or developing and deploying Java apps.  You simply can not buy raw hardware and load it with open source software for less than we can.  This is going to bring big changes over the next 3-5 years to the enterprise software market.


As a company, we grew beyond the raw technology foundation.  The key to a company's success (as long as you have solid technology and are in a good market) is the people.  We added Jim McLaughlin as VP of Sales, Andre Pino as VP of Marketing and Steve Harris as VP of Products.  I've been lucky to work with Andre and Steve in the past.  What strikes me as I sit in team meetings is the rare combination of experience, maturity and drive this team has.  We are lucky to have the business team that will make sure our transformational Cloud offerings bring real value to customers.  In addition, we solidified our technical advisory board as well as our corporate board and balance sheet with a great Series B fundraising that brought an additional $11M into the company.  It should be a kick ass 2012!

eXo - This is a company on the cusp of making a major move forward based on the new cloud offerings that started coming out this year (Cloud-IDE) and will continue into this coming year as the entire platform becomes cloud enabled.  This means we will enable both ourselves and our customers to shift from the old business model of open source / enterprise software into the new Cloud business model.


We also saw our business double in 2011 thanks to the efforts of our new VP of Sales, Yann Aubry, and his team.  There was also expansion beyond our strong partnership with Red Hat with new relationships with VMWare and an expanding partner ecosystem.  Given the new offerings coming out we are quite excited about 2012.


The thing I like most about eXo is the fact it is a glimpse into the future of how companies will be organized.  Development teams are in France, Ukraine and Vietnam.  Tunisia is home to a sales team, support team and consulting team.  It was so exciting to see Tunisia lead the Arab Spring revolution this year and seeing the excitement of Oualid and the whole team.  France and America both have sales, marketing and product management responsibilities.  Benjamin has been a visionary in terms of using social and collaboration and reporting tools to keep this distributed team in sync and producing simply amazing amounts and quality of technology.  Without getting too mushy, I think this type of cross-cultural team will move the world forward to be a more peaceful and equitable future.  I also must admit I love going to Paris for board meetings ;-)

Metaverse - This company may have matured the most in the past year.  The transition was caused when Doug Kerwin went on his honeymoon and read Tony Hseih's book on Zappo's.  Doug has done basically what Tony did with his company.  He went from worrying about investors and valuation to worrying about his customers and employees.  Instead of trying to come up with the latest "get rich quick with new stuff" the focus shifted to doing the little things right to satisfy customers and employees.  The results have been very rewarding in terms of company morale, customer satisfaction and (surprise, surprise) financial results.


I love visiting Metaverse where tens of thousands of shipments happen each month, generated from literally thousands of websites (they provide the art backend for online stores like Macy's, Sears, Kohls, Office Max, CafePress and others).  As I have said in the past it is a technology company that has automated processes for a seamless and highly efficient system.  As an e-commerce company they have been a leader in what many others are finding out about a Cloud process.  Making changes across thousands of web properties on a daily basis in baked into the DNA of this company.  When I think about old line companies, it will be very difficult to compete with this new breed.

Moorestown Running Company
  - We are in the middle of our fifth year, and it looks like this will be a very long term business.  We became profitable last year and we have grown 7% this year and delivered another profitable year.  What I love most is how the store has become a part of the culture of Moorestown.

There was a nice article in the local online paper about the store.  It did a good job of explaining how happy I am to be able to work with Joe, Ralph, Ed, Colleen, Mo, Becca and Dave to deliver a place for the running community in our small town.

The big addition this year were the coaching services Colleen and Ralph expanded.  Ralph also started up a side business by buying an Alter-G machine.  This enables runners to run at a lighter weight for training or recovery from injuries.

RunSignUp.com
 - At the end of 2010 I decided to invest more into this new business as the first year results were very promising.  We have a seen a 5X growth in registrations, and it looks like it will just keep growing very quickly over the next year.  Jordan has been on a full year now and makes sure our race directors, timers and runners are happy.  Our development team has grown quite a bit, and we have just added a couple more part time college students from Villanova.

We are the up and comer in this market leveraging our new cloud-based architecture to move past the old and unfocused Active.com.  I was not able to spend much time on this business in 2011 as it was an important year at CloudBees in particular.  I have started to focus more on this business for 2012 and am very excited  about the coming year!


And finally, my big achievement for the year was recognized by USAirways...  

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