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For 2012 never a better time to be in B2B technology

shooting stars by Jasen Miller
A shooting star used to inspire fantastic prophecies. Even though we’re more pedantic about our astronomy these days, three shooting stars should get us asking questions.

I present three shooting stars – apparently unrelated, but otherwise significant, events and pieces of news that proclaim a similar destiny: The enterprise software space is gonna get sexy in a hurry.

Shooting star #1

Business Insider (the publisher behind Silicon Alley Insider) announced that they were starting a new part of their site called SAI: Enterprise to focus exclusively on enterprise software. They cited cloud computing and consumerization of IT as the two trends that will turn enterprise software into a billion-dollar darling.

Bubble buster: Some may draw into question the foresight and authority of Business Insider.

Shooting star #2

The NY Times recently ran a peculiar article that started by praising one B2B technology start-up, then went on to gild the lily of a rapidly expanding B2B space taken as a whole. Says the Times:

While skyrocketing valuations for social networking sites like Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook have kept Silicon Valley investors betting heavily on the next social start-up, investors are increasingly looking at companies that build software for other companies.

Bubble buster: To this ex-PR, the article had the whiff of being placed (by Splunk) and the B2B story was a weak hook to tie Splunk into a broader narrative.

Shooting star #3

Marc Andreessen (the Andreessen of Andreessen Horowitz) recently gave an interview to Cnet editor Paul Sloan that suggested that innovation in verticals would bite at the heels of ecommerce giants like Amazon. Not wholly a B2B story, Andreessen’s verticals story would play well in B2B, where tech companies strive to get traction in verticals.

Bubble buster: Andreessen applies his thinking to smartphones, which many B2B tech companies seem reluctant to seize.

These three omens signal a revolution in B2B technology; they also portend a change in how these companies will succeed.

The New York Times and Silicon Alley Insider both make a clear case: The way enterprise software is bought and sold is undergoing a radical change.

As they New York Times piece put it: “Instead of aiming at the golf-playing chief information officer, the company took a quirky name and zeroed in on the culture and tastes of everyday I.T. employees, the ones who actually had to use, and program around, enterprise software.”

The crazy idea that begins to emerge is this: B2B companies who want to succeed in the future may have to do real marketing. Imagine that: Fewer ass-slap enterprise software buyers and more rubber-road enterprise software buyers. Fewer white papers. More user reviews.

Consumerization of IT, cloud computing and (forfend!) social business are all driving enterprise software to a funky future where small companies with great ideas can slay the enterprise giants of yesterday. But first of all they’ll have to speak directly to buyers, lots of them!, and play to the different needs of widely varying verticals.

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