Yammer CEO and Founder David Sacks said to me in an interview this past weekend that SXSW is showing that suddenly enterprise technology is sexy.
Sorry, I don’t buy it. The enterprise is as sexy as a humming rack of servers. That may be sexy to some, but it sure doesn’t match the allure of all the beautiful things on Zaarly or the penthouse apartment on Airbnb.
Instead, the story here at SXSW is more about the presence of people and companies who are building the new way we live and work. Social has lost its hot-air hype. More so, people are now thinking how apps can work for people to help them get their work done or see more complex data in a more accessible way.
Yesterday, I talked to Hank Laber, the founder and CEO of a company called gonna.be. The service visualizes your future plans. Add the events and it displays them on a map. Use the slider and the map changes according to what people are doing over the span of a few days or weeks ahead. It moves the idea of the calendar into a different space, beyond rows and columns and into a visual experience.
Laber showed up at our Office Hours with three forks in his pocket. I’m not sure why but it seemed to fit the character. Hungry startup CEO? He’s young and built an app that appeals most of all to his peer group. It shows your friends plans, concerts, events — you name it. But Laber wanted to ask me if gonna.be had the potential to be an enterprise app. There are potential applications, such as showing a group’s travel plans, meetings, etc. Instead of pulling up a calendar, why not look it up on a map?
Laber is the classic example of what SXSW offers the future of the enterprise. New thoughts about the way apps and data can change the way we view the world but also as tools to help get the work done.
There are lots of anecdotes about how SXSW has become a place for people to talk about the enterprise. But it is really irksome to use the term “enterprise” at all. The talk here is not about data centers, and thank goodness for that. Instead, as Pervasive CTO Mike Hoskins said to me today at lunch, the enterprise is more about data, with the apps serving as a lightweight cover. I think that nails it and sums up many of the conversations I’ve had in Austin these past few days.
As for Sacks, he has a tough job. Attaching Excel and Word files to an activity stream is not exactly sexy. But it does show how companies like Yammer have changed our perspectives about the monolithic world of the enterprise and the direction it will take as data begins to determine how well an app fares in the marketplace.