Business & Technology Nexus

Dave Stephens on technology and business trends

Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category

Life Back at Redwood Shores

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I’ve been back in the saddle for a little over 3 months. The Sun acquisition is moving along & we are up to our ears in interesting challenges. I wish I was in a position to share more. One item I can share is Oracle’s improvements on the environmental side – from 100% compostable containers for food, auto double-siding printing, etc etc. It’s fantastic.


Written by Dave Stephens

02/25/10 5:33 PM at 5:33 pm

Posted in Opinion

It’s Oracle

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After getting Coupa off the ground many of my friends and colleagues predicted I would return to Oracle.

They were right.

I loved working at Oracle the first time around. And now that I’ve co-founded my own enterprise software firm I feel I have much more to contribute.

It should be interesting to watch how Oracle navigates the disruptive on-demand software movement, how “Fusion” is received in the marketplace, and how their first foray into computer hardware fares.

But I will do more than watch. I’m ready to roll up my sleeves and help.

Written by Dave Stephens

11/14/09 7:49 PM at 7:49 pm

Posted in Opinion

Commoditization & “High” Technology

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Is any software company out there truly deserving of being called “high” tech any more? What happens etymologically when upstart high tech companies compete over the span of decades & commoditize space after space after space. At some point shouldn’t we stop associating them with the “high” part of high-tech? And when do software firms in those spaces sink down low enough to be called “low” tech? (If you’re thinking CA, you’re not alone) :)

Wordplay aside, doesn’t it seem like the price of many types of software technology is headed towards zero?

A friend of mine in the venture community argues yes. He summarized his view this way: “It’s really hard to build new software technology and then convince people to ascribe value to it. These days, it’s better to instead use software technology to sell people things they already ascribe value to.”

I’ve been wondering whether there is data to support his point of view. In fact, the first few paragraphs of this post have just been sitting in WordPress while I looked around.

Just today I stumbled across an analysis of SuccessFactors that was worth a quick look. Here is a link to the article, entitled: Success Factors: Going for Break-Even Rather than Revenue Growth?

The assertion the author makes is “Increasingly, it looks like SAAS providers will have a tougher and long winding road to sustainable profits and continuous top-line growth.” I hope it will turn out that newer enterprise software vendors will find a path to profitability through reducing the cost of customer acquisition. But the days of being able to claim “it’s a land grab, take share now & profits later” seem to be drawing to a close in this particular software technology space.

Because the cost of developing software is racing to zero every bit as fast as some markets commoditize, it does seem possible to find nooks and crannies of high margin businesses. But these businesses, it would seem, will be more and more specialized & therefore the prospective markets will likewise be smaller.

There does seem to be another path to profitability besides the choice to serve niche markets: outsourced services.

More on that later.

Written by Dave Stephens

10/29/09 8:14 PM at 8:14 pm

Posted in Opinion

Leaving Coupa

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Well, the news of my separation from Coupa has begun to circulate.

I imagine anytime a founder leaves a company it’s tough. It certainly was for me. But as Steve Jobs once said, if you wake up too many mornings in a row not feeling passionate about what you are working on, you need to change what you are working on!

I continue to have confidence in Coupa, its product, and its mission. I’m very proud of what the company has accomplished over the past few years. I believe in Coupa’s management team, respect Coupa’s investors, and think the Coupa solution is the best on the market for automating and controlling indirect procurement for the mid-market.

As for what’s next for me, it just may be a very long (think Forrest Gump) bike ride. And after that, we shall see..

Written by Dave Stephens

10/3/09 10:11 AM at 10:11 am

Posted in Opinion

Transfigured Open Source

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A few years ago, Linux appeared to be headed towards dominance in the server OS market. At the same time, MySQL “broke out” and seemed on its way towards making databases free. At layer after layer in the technology stack, open source was cool & moving forward.

So much so that vc-backed companies formed and grew taking traditional enterprise software or technology areas and professionally building and running open source project versions.

Here in 2009 the scene has changed. It feels very different.

For open source software companies expecting customers to choose to “pay” for “free” software, the bait-and-switch mindset which was so inevitable is more exposed. Imho, this is a good thing, as it frees the open source movement from a moral gray area where companies offered products for free but were incented to somehow cause those products to need other services or support to make them complete & functional.

Microsoft’s server OS seems to be faring better than expected vs. Linux. And Oracle has been very active, acquiring InnoDB (the jugular of MySQL), offering enterprise support for RedHat Linux (exposing the lack of intellectual property in RedHat’s business model), and then swallowing Sun to take Java & MySQL in full.

This leaves us in an interesting spot, where we seem to have only 2 viable technology stacks left – one from Microsoft and the other from open source + Oracle / IBM. IBM has growing gaps while Oracle seems strengthened in the enterprise.

As a fan of Ruby on Rails and other script-based languages, it will be a telling 2010 to see whether the market will consolidate around .Net and Java or whether choice continues & the tools market remains fragmented…

Written by Dave Stephens

07/25/09 9:17 PM at 9:17 pm

Posted in IT, Open Source, Opinion

The Coming $19B “Obama Flood” in EMR Software?

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My wife is a family practice physician. Her clinic, FINALLY, is installing an electronic medical records system. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve felt sick to my stomach while walking through her clinic looking at wall after wall of floor-to-ceiling files. It’s an in-your-face visual reminder of the information silos that prevent physicians from understanding a patient’s condition holistically & achieving better patient outcomes.

That’s why I’m a pretty big fan of Obama “calling the US healthcare system out” on being antiquated and ill-equipped to meet the needs of patients. From petty bickering keeping physicians from establishing common standards of care and treatment, to their all-to-often allergic reponse to technology, the time has long-since come for change.

And change does indeed seem to be on its way. In  fact, the mandates for change seem to be translating into a $19B “Obama Flood” of business for EMR software vendors and implementation specialists. And since often these systems are implemented (even at a small clinic) for more than $100K USD, there’s a lot of money about to change hands in pursuit of a much-needed modernization of our healthcare infrastructure.

I’ve been intrigued, as a procurement guy, how clinics and hospitals and other points-of-care are going about choosing their new systems. There seem to be a good number of website “lists” of EMR software systems available – and I think that’s a good thing. But I wonder if decisions like these are made more through face-to-face referrals from sources of trust. Even if so, some basic research by IT staff and clinic managers can ensure that organizations find the system that offers the best value and best matches their requirements.

How to buy complex systems in an opaque market, where vendors do not necessarily disclose complete information about their capabilities or their price, can be quite challenging. If you are currently researching an EMR system for your point-of-care facility, what are you doing to make sure you’ve found the right one?

Written by Dave Stephens

02/16/09 12:53 PM at 12:53 pm

Google Set To Bid On Spectrum

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Back in late July I wrote a quick entry about Google’s interest in the wireless spectrum auction to be conducted shortly. It’s here.

Marguerite Reardon has a write-up over at C|Net that makes some interesting assertions about how Google might use the spectrum should they win. It’s worth a read. The synopsis is that Google would shy away from becoming a nuts-and-bolts wireless operator and instead use the spectrum as a platform – enlisting a broader market & the inevitable competitive forces that come with it rather than going it alone.

It’s hard for me to see this as anything other than an insurance policy against all the advertising dollars moving from computers and laptops to phones. Just like the gphone specification & application foundation. But even without the altruism, it’s smart business.


Written by Dave Stephens

11/17/07 3:05 PM at 3:05 pm

Posted in Opinion