Thursday, July 28, 2011

Public Telco Software Provider Makes a Run

Admittedly, I was skeptical when telecommunications software firm BroadSoft filed an initial public offering just over a year ago.

I’ve done business with the company, and Strategic Communications Group (Strategic) developed the initial concept and editorial strategy for BroadSoft’s corporate blog, themed “Broadband Ignite.”  It’s a good company populated with talented professionals.

My skepticism was based on two fundamental (and related) concerns about their business: 1) although they are a dominant provider, BroadSoft’s market (telecommunications carriers) is relatively defined and niche, and 2) as a result, they would have difficulty dramatically scaling their revenue to meet investor expectations.

I sure was wrong about BroadSoft’s prospects in the public markets.  After languishing a bit after its IPO, the stock went on a run jumping from $7 to more than $50 a share.  It currently rests in the mid-30s.

Jim Tholen, BroadSoft
Last week, I attended a presentation from BroadSoft’s CFO Jim Tholen to the Association for Corporate Growth’s (ACG)National Capital Chapter.  Here are a couple of quotes from Jim that resonated with the audience:

--It’s important to play offense even in tough times.

--There is still magic in being a US, venture-backed technology company.

--VoIP is no longer a science experiment by Vonage.  It’s the technical path of choice by most telecommunications providers.

--Entrepreneurial organizations are defined by never being satisfied.  We break the safety of success.

--We have an acquisition strategy, rather than a strategy around acquisitions.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Call for Tech Exuberance

Fortune Magazine’s July cover story entitled “Don’t Call It the Next Tech Bubble…Yet” is a must-read for anyone who plays in or supports the growth and development of the US technology community.

Contributing writer David Kaplan ponders the sustained viability of the current rush of Web 2.0 IPOs and venture capital funding within the context of the psychology that is now defining Silicon Valley and Wall Street.  He concludes:

The consensus is that there remains sufficient fear in the marketplace -- be it on Sand Hill Road or Wall Street -- to prevent exuberance from becoming totally irrational. For there to be a bubble, the wisdom goes, greed must overcome fear. And for the moment fear still rules, which means the memory of 2000 lives.

Image Source:  Fortune
While I understand Kaplan’s rationale, what scares me about this current financial frothiness is that it’s based on unrealistic investor expectations.  For instance, LinkedIn is trading at 750 times its estimated 2012 earnings, while the rest of the market stands at 12 times forward earnings.

Now consider real estate site Zillow’s arrival last week in the public markets with an IPO that jumped 120 percent on its first day of trading.  After leveling off a bit, the stock still trades 79 percent higher than its initial listing price.

Last time I checked the residential real estate market that Zillow depends upon remains flat and lifeless.

Personally, I’m putting this fear aside because the continued long-term success and global leadership of our country’s technology, biotech, science and engineering communities is based on big bets.  And it takes money to fund that betting.

If Zynga, LivingSocial and Groupon can each potentially raise$1B from the public markets…amen.   Put that money to good use through investments in technical and product development.

These Web 2.0 dynamos will serve as a breeding ground for innovation, as well as the creation of the next generation of entrepreneurial, executive and engineering talent.

Let’s be realistic, yet embrace a healthy shot of exuberance.      

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

It's All in the Power Statement

We live in a world of sound bites, preferably 10 seconds or less in length.

This “give it to me quick” mentality is the foundation of Twitter’s success.  You get 140 characters, that’s it.

This challenges communications professionals to articulate often complex issues, trends or themes in a succinct manner.  Beyond tweets and status updates, this extends to concisely constructed blogs posts, traditional media relations, marketing collateral and other thought leadership materials.

How you say something is often just as important as what you say.  Personally, I refer to a high impact message as a power statement.

Here are two examples from this week of power statements in action:

1.  We scored a 30 minute informational interview for Strategic Communications Group (Strategic) client KippsDeSanto with an influential trade magazine.  KippsDeSanto’s managing director was incredibly effective conveying complex themes in a simple, engaging manner that the editor chose to develop a profile article from the phone conversation.

2.  I then came across an interesting read in Computerworld about outgoing Federal CIO Vivek Kundra’s presentation to a team a President Obama’s top science advisors.

Rather than expressing concern about the influence of a select set of systems integrators on the federal government’s adoption of technology, Kundra characterized these companies as an “IT cartel.”  It’s no surprise that power statement captured the headline.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Why is Google+ a Winner? (Hint: it has nothing to do with features, functionality or users.)

Thanks to an invite from long-standing client (and friend) Leif Ulstrup at Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC) my profile on Google+ is now live.  I’ll poke around the community later this week to assess its viability and potential applications for Strategic Communications Group’s (Strategic) clients.

My time this morning in Google+ land got me thinking about the company’s multiple forays into social networking.  A lot has been bantered about by journalists, analysts and bloggers about how Google has struggled to define its social play.

The company’s chairman acknowledged earlier this year that the responsibility for Google’s social failure resides with him.  Plus, CEO Larry Page clearly articulated social’s importance to the company’s health by tying employee bonuses to defining and executing a successful strategy.

Yet, even though social-oriented services like Google Wave failed to attract much in the way of interest or adoption, I believe the time and resources the company has put behind these ill-fated efforts was well invested.


Because these initiatives serve as a distraction for swiftly moving competitors like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

As my colleague and partner Chris Parente recently pointed out to me, Google is entrenched against well heeled competitors in a multi-front war in social, mobile, browser, enterprise, local and, of course, search.

Regardless of the technical smarts and dollars Google can put forth to fund its growth, it is simply unrealistic to believe the company can achieve a leadership position in all of these areas.  In many instances, Google should be thrilled with any offering that delays and distracts its competitors from effectively executing their plan.

Google+ is bound to be a winner regardless of how many users sign up.


UPDATE:  Just came across this article in Computerworld that validates my view:

Google+ May be Making Facebook Nervous

Friday, July 8, 2011

From Blogger to Columnist: New and Timely Articles

I continue to do a fair amount of writing for business publications and industry-oriented online communities about social media, public relations, marketing communications and corporate strategy.

In fact, I'll soon be adding to my resume another columnist position for a relatively new and exciting publisher that is focused on serving the information needs of top-line executives in the Washington, DC business community.  The topic:  issues, best practices and trends related to personal branding in a professional environment.

Here are links to two of my recently published columns: 

Washington Business Journal 

If you find 15 minutes with your company’s marketing and sales collateral leaves you pining for a dose of Novocain, imagine the reaction from your customers and prospects. That’s right…they won’t read it.  This presents an opportunity for the company bold enough to embrace a more customer-friendly approach to communications. All this takes is adherence to what I like to refer to as the three “Es” of marketing and sales content creation – engage, educate and entertain.

For more than 90 years, Pitney Bowes has dominated the mail business through a broad portfolio of metering, addressing and pre-sorting hardware and software solutions. Yet, as the preferred means of communication shift towards digital channels and social networks, the company has had to rapidly evolve its business.

Helping lead this evolution is Pitney Bowes Government Solutions (PBGS), the company’s Lanham, Maryland-based public sector business line.  PBGS president Jon Love sat down with GovWin to discuss his career, how he’s positioning the company in the government markets and how PBGS is partnering with GovWin members.

Monday, July 4, 2011

A Holiday Reminder About Social Connections's all meaningless without the personal bond forged in a true relationship.

I was reminded of that today at my neighborhood's holiday parade and cook-out. 

Sure, I'm connected with many of my neighbors in online communities.  Yet, that doesn't replace catching up live and in-person for even 15 minutes.

Happy 4th of July!

Each block in our neighborhood creates a float to drive in a parade.

Neighbors working together to add signs and streamers.  That's social, right?

Many floats had a pirates or Harry Potter.  A reminder that content must be entertaining.