Datamation Lists Mindquarry as Bleeding-Edge Open Source Company

Datamation just published an article entitled Ten Bleeding-Edge Open Source Companies:

Firms that represent the future of open source, from start-ups to established enterprise plays. We look at strategy, funding, and management.

The article also sheds a light on Mindquarry and IMHO, they paint a realistic competitive landscape and identify the main challenges as well as potentials for Mindquarry.

We see a lot of potential in our unique and compelling business model, which can be described as “Web 2.0 meets Open Source”. We (will) offer Mindquarry packaged as

The combination of these is a huge competitive advantage. For example, users of our upcoming SaaS offer can potentially also use Open Source clients for Mindquarry (e.g. to manager their tasks offline) developed by our community (e.g. for their PDA or Mobile Phone).

Sandro and Stephan on Tour in California

01052007116Just uploaded some pictures of our trip to Monterey, LA, SF and our first day.

Stephan already wrote a bit about our trip and I won’t add anything to that, because I really don’t like blog posts where people write about all the problems they had on their plane or train or car or etc. ride.

You can find the pictures in my Flickr collection for this trip. I will be adding some more pictures in the next few days until we’re back home Sunday – just keep an eye on the collection for updates.

Meet me in SF, LA or Monterey May 1-5

Together with Mindquarry’s CEO Stephan Voigt, I’ll be attending Red Herring Spring in Monterey, CA. We’ll fly to LA April 30 and plan to be in Monterey May 1-3. It looks as if we’ll be in San Francisco a few hours during May 1st and definitely at May 4th. Back in LA May 5th to fly back.

If you’re around and would like to meet, drop me a line: sandro [dot] groganz [at] mindquarry [dot] com.

Freedom of Collaboration

Mark Shuttleworth says:

Iâ??ve long believed thereâ??s a general phenomenon that underlies the free software movement. Itâ??s â??volunteer-driven, internet-powered collaborationâ?.

I’d call it “freedom of collaboration”.

This freedom will eventually spill over from public collaborative environments such as public SVN and CVS repositories or Wikipedia to corporate collaborative workspaces, simply because it results in more efficiency and better results. Freedom of collaboration within and between businesses is at the core of what constitutes the Enterprise 2.0.

The aim of Mindquarry’s Open Source collaborative software is, to allow all sorts of knowledge workers in various types of organizations to work just like Open Source developers or Wikipedia editors in modern teams. We bring them the freedom of collaboration. Yep! 🙂

Questions You Ask a PR Agency

My search for a PR agency in the USA for Mindquarry has lead to some good results. I am waiting for feedback from some promising potentials. Below is the Q&A I sent to them.

Some of the questions should be answered by your marketing strategy which you hand out to your PR folks. Nevertheless, with a young company like Mindquarry, your marketing strategy is likely to change while you introduce new products and gain new experiences. Hence, I want a PR agency flexible enough not only to shape a story and message with you, but also to keep an eye on how the results of a PR campaign impact your general strategy.

Use the list at your own risk 🙂

Profile of PR Agency

  • Where do you see do Mindquarry and your PR agency fit well together?
  • Why can you help us best to be successful? What’s special about you, what’s your PR “trick”?
  • Do you see critical aspects, anything where you or Mindquarry need to adapt to work together smoothly?
  • How big is your company: How many employees, how many customers?
  • Please name all Open Source clients and your team members who work(ed) for them.
  • Please name your 5 best known customers and your team members who work(ed) for them.

Profile of Mindquarry

  • How would you describe the profile of Mindquarry?
  • What are strengths and weaknesses?
  • How would you position Mindquarry in your PR, what’s the core message?
  • Do you see a large disadvantage in Mindquarry not yet having an office in the USA? Which interim solution would you suggest until the office is in place?

General PR Approach

  • What would be the general PR approach you’d suggest to gain visibility of Mindquarry? Starting with social marketing / community evangelism then moving towards “traditional” PR? Or mixing it right from the start?
  • Please list the minimum actions you would perform to ensure the success of Mindquarry PR.
  • How long will it take, to achieve the goal?

Focus Groups

  • Please give us an idea which focus groups you would address and the reasons why?
  • Also, who are the focus groups you would leave out, why?

Channels and Collaterals

  • Which channels would you address?
  • Which magazines/journalists would you approach? Where do you want to see a news or article appear?
  • Are there in general conferences or trade fairs we should not miss?
  • Should the PR be in sync with our appearance at events or is this less important?
  • Any bloggers you have in mind whom you could ask to write about Mindquarry?
  • Do you think http://www.mindquarry.com is ready for the upcoming PR campaigns? What would you urgently change?
  • Do you plan to make use of http://www.mindquarry.com within your PR? How?
  • What kind of marketing collaterals (e.g. brochures) should Mindquarry provide or adjust for your PR?

Resources and Costs

  • How many of your team members would be involved in Mindquarry PR?
  • Will we have a dedicated point of contact? How much of her time would this person allocate to us? Who would assist her?
  • What kind of help would you need from Mindquarry?
  • A rough estimate: how much would the minimal PR cost?

Controlling

  • How would you benchmark the success or failure of your Mindquarry PR?
  • How would you correlate it to sales figures (conversion)?

User-Centered Design

Sketch of Mindquarry 1.1 GUI

My colleagues at Mindquarry have done a great job in planning the new graphical user interface (GUI) of the upcoming version 1.1 of Mindquarry Collaboration Server. Instead of long fights about believes on what users really want, they simply did usability testing.

Mindquarry’s Chief Architect Alexander Klimetschek blogged about the approach and the results. His slides about User-Centered Design (UCD) for Mindquarry provide a good summary.

That made me think about those Open Source projects with Web- or Desktop-based GUIs out there who think they can survive without usability tests. Maybe they think that their community will provide enough valuable usability feedback to them? I think this is a wrong assumption, because that community will most likely consist of developers.

Developers are patient and used to software quirks. Quite the opposite, end users are impatient. You usually got one shot lasting 15 minutes to convince them that your software is useful. Of course, developers can provide indirect end user feedback, because they set up software for them. Yet, that’s like a Chinese whisper.

Hence, go out and ask your potential users what they think. This is the most direct feedback you can get and the best and fastest approach towards a useful software product.

Mindquarry Seeks PR Agency in USA

The major goal of Mindquarry’s marketing strategy for 2007 is to reach a high visibility in the North American (NA) market. To achieve this goal, Mindquarry seeks a PR agency located in the USA.

Requirements:

  • located in USA
  • record of successful PR campaigns for Open Source companies
  • excellent contacts to leading IT media and stakeholders
  • staff member(s) with good reputation in IT blogosphere

Matches with your PR agency? Please contact me: sandro [dot] groganz [at] mindquarry [dot] com.

About Mindquarry

Mindquarry was founded in the summer of 2006 by three graduate students of the Hasso-Plattner-Institute in Potsdam, Germany. The founders set out to build better tools for knowledge workers,the result – Mindquarry, the Open Source Collaborative Software for file sharing, tasks management and Wiki editing. For a fast startup, Mindquarry got financial backing through the Hasso Plattner Ventures; Hasso Plattner being a co-founder of SAP. More information about Mindquarry is available on the Internet at www.mindquarry.com.

Defining An Open Source Marketing Strategy

1 week ago, we had a meeting of the executive management team of Mindquarry where I presented the envisaged Mindquarry marketing strategy for 2007. Let me share some of the basics with you which you should not miss in your marketing strategy presentation.

Focus Your Activities

The most important aspect is of course to focus our marketing activities. It’s very critical especially for startups to do this right. For example, Mindquarry had a German Web site until recently, in parallel to the English version. We dropped it, because we will focus on the international market in 2007 and the visionaries as well as early adopters. These groups usually understand English very well. Getting rid of translations in this early phase of our business will allow us to concentrate on basic marketing activities.

Define Your Niche

It was also important to define the niche of Mindquarry well. We decided to go for “Mindquarry, the Open Source Collaborative Software”. As you can see at our Web site which got relaunched today, we added this to the logo in the header. Wikipedia and a good friend of mine helped me to sort out the niche.

The niche implies that Mindquarry is a new product in a new market, as the term Collaborative Software is not yet as widely known as for example Enterprise Content Management or even Operating System. It is of course a challenge to position our product well, especially because it addresses a rather new market in the Web 2.0 space. Open Source can certainly help us to achieve a high visibility.

Organisational Success Factors

I identified two critical organisational success factors for our marketing:

  • Coordinate well between sales, marketing and development from the early days. Otherwise, business and product development will lack behind.
  • Coordinate marketing campaigns between teams with the goal to push a message out to the market at once.

Remember that you will also have to address your community, which will include developers of other companies as well as their marketing and sales personnel. Hence, take care of internal and external coordination.

Marketing Style

Mindquarry is a Web 2.0 company, hence we will also do a lot of social marketing. This means, we will heavily make use of communication tools such as blogs, podcasts, Wiki, etc. This includes that I will happily share with you what’s going on within marketing at Mindquarry (as I do here). My vision is to make Mindquarry’s marketing a public project to some extent, where Mindquarry asks for feedback before or after we implement something. For example, you might have guessed that our CEO does not quite like the green download button 🙂

Marketing Execution and Deliverables

Don’t forget to think about what you are actually going to do when you define a marketing strategy, for example:

  • your team resources and how you would like to grow the team
  • events you plan to attend (trade fairs, conferences, etc.)
  • collaterals (brochures, business cards, etc.)
  • the infrastructure you need to manage marketing (task manager, file sharing, etc.)

Coaching

Especially in an Open Source company, marketing is a lot about coaching your colleagues in doing marketing themselves. This includes how to do good customer or conference presentations, how to write a nice blog entry, etc. In the end, if you give to your colleagues, you will get back from them – and this is what will keep the wheel turning and ensure a good coordination between marketing and other teams.

Of course, marketing coaching also includes your Open Source community. There will be externals who will approach you because they plan to write an article about your product. Help them and offer to review their text!

Check out Ian’s excellent entry A Marketing Model for Open Source for more on Open Source marketing strategies.

Defining Commodity Features of Open Source Software

Open Source software is often being referred to as commodity products. This is particularly true for OSS databases like MySQL or PostgreSQL. Developers of such systems can heavily make use of defined standards. In this case, it’s the various SQL standards. These standards define the general functionality set your product should have. They help you define the commodity features of your software.

The question is: where do you get your software requirements from if the OSS product you are developing cannot rely on any or only a few standards?

Let’s take a look at two other types of OSS products: Enterprise Content Management (ECM) and collaborative software. I used to work for an Open Source ECM vendor until recently and just started to work for a company offering Open Source collaborative software. Hence, I might be able to provide some useful information.

For ECM vendors, there exist a few standards in different areas of ECM. This is because ECM comprises a very broad set of functionality, e.g. content editing, workflow management, document management, accessibility, etc. Yet, these standards cover only a small fraction of what makes up a full-fledged ECM system. In fact, ECM is very much about customer-specific implementations and integration of legacy systems. It is a lot about experience, best practices.

Hence, a successful Open Source ECM project can define the set of commodity features by listening to its:

  • customers
  • partner companies
  • developers and users community

These groups have different impact in different OSS ECM projects.

For example, eZ Publish is equally influenced by all three of them. At Alfresco, there is massive know-how of customer needs, simply because they have John Newton on board, co-founder of the very successful proprietary Documentum ECM. It will be interesting to see how eZ Publish and Alfresco will compete in the future. This will largely depend on how well the eZ Publish developers react upon market needs and on how fast Alfresco can grow its Open Source community. It’s actually not black and white, because customers can be a part of your developers community.

Before I talk about the interesting aspects of commodity features in collaborative software, one more note about highly standardized products: Of course, the MySQL developers need to also think of market needs. They first implemented the very basic features which made their RDBMS useful for simple, yet common scenarios in Web development. Standards do not free you from deciding which ones to implement first, but they help you to save time collecting all the potential features.

Now about collaborative software: Most development here is based on best practices. The interesting point is: these best practices are mostly already available in the Web. To be more precise: in the Web 2.0. At Mindquarry, we implement collaborative software which includes a Wiki, task and document manager (conversation tools for email and instant messaging coming soon).

Where do we get our basic ideas from? Well, from Wikipedia, Jabber, Bugzilla, etc. Mindquarry’s commodity features are out there in the Web and have been tested by a lot of users for several years. With Mindquarry, the trick is not about simply imitating an already existing and proven software infrastructure. It is about connecting the various bits and pieces of social software into one coherent infrastructure which you can use e.g. in your Intranet.

The point is: You can see the difference between the Web 1.0 and the Web 2.0 also in how OSS vendors define the commodity features of their products. An RDBMS is largely a Web 1.0 tool. It has at least one foot in the old days, when companies fought about software standards. Social or collaborative software is Web 2.0, you can find and influence its standards in the Web by providing efficient and rich user experience.

Of course, Web 2.0 standards rely on Web 1.0 standards, but the Web 2.0 is more about best practices and de facto standards on the user level compared to logical definitions of standards on the developers level. Again, the reality is not black and white. Take a look at MySQL’s and PostgreSQL’s ANSI92 SQL-defying LIMIT clause. It’s a best practice approach and shows that OSS developers always listened to their developers community just like Web 2.0 developers today listen to their users.

From 17 000 to 500 000 Google Results for "Mindquarry"

On Friday last week, Germany’s biggest IT news site Heise News wrote about the first public release of the Mindquarry Open Source teamwork software. Another big German IT site, Golem, also wrote about it.

This brought the Mindquarry Web servers almost down to their knees due to traffic caused by downloads of the Mindquarry software. At Friday, we had around 100 gigabyte changing owners caused by 2500 downloads, 7000 unique visits and 30 000 hits.

1/3 of the traffic has been caused by the two German sites, with 25% of visitors coming from Heise, 9% from Golem. The biggest share, about 28%, actually came from StumbleUpon, 5% via del.icio.us, 33% from various other sites.

The aftermath of the release PR can best be seen in the Google results when searching for “Mindquarry”: Before Friday, it was 17 000, right now they are at 500 000.

Update: Forgot to mention that Lars also blogged about the release PR aftermath.