What Today’s Revolution in Publishing is Missing

There’s something beautiful about handwriting that we’ve never been able to capture on the Web. Handwriting has style, a uniqueness to each writer and also an ability to capture the evolution of thought with crossed out words, carats and interjected clauses and margins full of edits. The image above is my favorite from Emily Temple’s curation effort of a series of famous authors' manuscripts on a Tumblog. I was thinking about how much differently this blog feels to a reader than the above draft of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Hound of the Baskervilles.

The Antidote to Burnout is Progress

Andrew Dumont wrote about his grueling schedule at a startup and the lessons on “Avoiding Burnout” which spurred a torrent of comments on HackerNews. For me, the most interesting comment is this one by Daniel Ribeiro who quotes Isaac Yonemoto: Burnout is caused when you repeatedly make large amounts of sacrifice and or effort into high-risk problems that fail…You effectively condition your brain to associate work with failure… The best way to prevent burnout is to follow up a serious failure with doing small things that you know are going to work.

Building Content Strategy by Segmenting and Analyzing Twitter Followers

To answer that question, you have to look for examples of the best storytellers. The best storytellers are the television studios. They divide the day into different segments to reach different audiences. Morning: news. Midday: soap operas. Evening: Nightly news segues into primetime sitcom. Late night: news segues into comedy. An entrepreneur told me a few weeks ago, when we where talking about how to build a blog audience and I had asked him how he thought about content strategy.

Design’s New Frontier: The IRL Era

When the neologism was popularized in 2004 by Tim O'Reilly, the words Web 2.0 captured a desire for the web to become interactive. It was a description of a movement towards social media and engaging users on the web. But more than an idea, it carried a design aesthetic which focused on the user, user experience and engagement. After all, users wouldn’t participate on a hostile site. We’re no longer in the Web 2.

Out of My Depth

“What’s the difference between a string and a String?” I asked on the first day of my engineering internship at a startup. That comment drew some sighs from the other engineers in the cube. The pit in my stomach confirmed what I already knew - I was out of my depth. I had never programmed in Java before that day. And there I was, a Java engineering intern at this startup.

The Twitter Game, Google’s Bin and Other Force Multipliers

When I started at Google, I began working in the AdSense Online Sales and Operations team. The demand for AdSense was overwhelming and we received tens of thousands of website applications each day asking to be granted permission to run Google’s ad product on their websites. Sometimes, automated approval systems would reject an application based upon strong spam or fraud signals. But thousands of applications each day demanded additional human judgement.

SaaS Business Model Competitive Advantage Revisited

What is SaaS? We seem to need to ask this question every couple of years, because the answer is a bit of a moving target. It was simple enough when SaaS was merely software applications pushed through a Web browser, but now we have to contend with the cloud, mobile and even social. Recently, Scott Maxwell of OpenView partners sparked an interesting debate on the topic on LinkedIn that got me pondering it again. I’ve weighed in on the “What is SaaS?” question before, however, every time I encounter this debate, I can’t help feeling that it skirts the more important issue: Why SaaS?

saas business model why


When trying to create a successful SaaS business model, being SaaS is interesting, but doing SaaS is essential. It’s far less important that your SaaS business model meet the exact definition of SaaS, than it is that your SaaS business model creates sustainable competitive advantage through SaaS. Why be SaaS in the first place? Why not just be software? At any rate, this recent debate got me to re-reading some of my old blog posts on the topic and I realized that they were very text heavy and could use an upgrade. So, in this post I revisit the topic of “Why SaaS?” with a short visual tour of SaaS business model basics.

SaaS Business Model Economics

At the risk of repeating myself, I will repeat myself. The only difference between software and software-as-a-service is that SaaS is delivered over a standards-based network called the Internet. Therefore, all new economic value and competitive advantage must flow from this difference.

The SaaS business model creates competitive advantage in two Internet enabled flavors:

  1. Lower costs from…
    • Network automation of labor-intensive services and business processes
  2. Economies-of-scale from aggregating customers via the network onto a uniform infrastructure
  3. Differentiation from…
    • Reengineering business processes and service delivery through network automation
    • Network effects enabled by customer-customer interaction

Yes, it’s a mouthful. So let’s look at some pictures.

saas business model competitive advantage

Competitive advantage in the SaaS business model comes from leveraging the customer-vendor network connection to reengineer business processes and service delivery, while building a large customer base to create economies-of-scale and network effects.

Network Automation in the SaaS Business Model

SaaS begins and ends with the Internet. The first impact the Internet has in SaaS is to connect the customer to the SaaS business through the product. Let’s think about that for a minute. How many products do we use everyday that can make this claim? Continue reading "SaaS Business Model Competitive Advantage Revisited"

Activity Based Pricing: When Is It The Right Choice for Your Startup?

Pricing is taxation. A pricing plan taxes some element of a product’s use. For a startup, choosing what to tax and how to tax it can be one of the most perplexing decisions because the tradeoffs between usage and revenue aren’t always clear. Activity based pricing or usage based pricing is one of the more common pricing plans in utility computing and software these days. Need to spin up another server immediately?

The Android-First Social Network

Do social networks have a killer distribution or engagement advantage on Android that cannot be replicated on iOS because of Android’s openness? Will we see an Android-first social network of real scale in the near future? I think it’s a real possibility. Open platforms enable faster experimentation and more innovation than closed ones. New engagement models can be created, tested and refined much more easily on Android than iOS and Facebook’s newest mobile product could be that first example, despite its initial struggles.