Google does not render resistance futile David 18 Aug 2006

75 comments Latest by Brian Graves

From the ashes of Kiko, Paul Graham reads that Google is unstoppable. That all hope is lost when fighting big G on its home turf. That resistance is futile:

The best solution for most startup founders would probably be to stay out of Google’s way.

What a depressing conclusion from a man who has inspired so many and gives hope to those who dare challenge the incumbents.

No. Don’t run, don’t hide. Be different. You can’t outdo Google by trying to match them point-by-point, but you don’t have to. There are other, better ways to fight. Compete differently.

Naturally, all examples are different, but we launched the Backpack calendar late in the game. After Gcal, Kiko, and many others. We even dared hide it behind a pay-to-play wall (starting at $5/month).

Guess what? Paying Backpack subscriptions are up about twenty percent in just the three weeks since launch. People are writing us about how they switched from Google Calendar to Backpack, even though they have to pay. They liked our take on a calendar better. That doesn’t take anything away from Google’s Calendar — it’s a fine product — but it’s not the only one ever for everyone in the whole wide world.

Obviously Backpack is more than just a calendar, so it doesn’t perfectly compare, but this example does provide a data point in the opposite direction. Google does not win by default in any territory it enters.

But even more troubling than the fear of Google is Paul’s abdication of power:

They tried hard; they made something good; they just happened to get hit by a stray bullet.

That leaves the Kiko developers without recourse, predestined by fate to suffer at the hands of the G overlord. How demoralizing!

Don’t believe it. You’re not governed by fate. You can react. Kiko’s demise is sad for the parties involved, but it does not spell the end of innovation in calendars or any other area Google might enter now or later.

75 comments so far (Jump to latest)

Phil 18 Aug 06

I read the Kiko announcement with a little bit of envy (40 thousand page views?) and annoyance. It seems like they’re just throwing in the towel. I obviously don’t know the whole story, but if you’ve got happy users and a product to improve seems like you oughta be going for it a little more. It sounded wimpy to me.

“There are other, better ways to fight.”

Keyword for me: FIGHT. Thanks for being kick-ass.

Dave 18 Aug 06

Great post. I hope the Kiko team reads it.

Jon 18 Aug 06

The problem is not Google, is their product, it basically suck, the UI is not intuitive, they didn’t get it.

Daniel 18 Aug 06

Wow, that’s really encouraging.

Two buddies of mine and I are on the precipice of giving up after having seen the existing competition in a market we’re about to enter.

But this reminds me that we can a) do it different, b) do it better, and c) do it our way.

Thanks David.

Dr Nic 18 Aug 06

I think your new calendar customers - in part - may have switched from GCal to Backpack, for the same reason users may have switched from Kiko to GCal: integration with related services. GCal with Gmail. 37cal with 37backpack.

The results of a survey of your new customers would be interesting to see if this is the trend.

Rob 18 Aug 06

David,

The “Backpack Calendar” link in the post doesn’t work. Just thought you’d like to know :)

ramanan 18 Aug 06

Graham’s post was much more doom and gloom than the posts by the actual people invovled in the project. For example, the UI guy for Kiko does not think Google destroyed their service.

Dharmesh Shah 18 Aug 06

I agree with your points. PG’s take on the situation was much more doom and gloom than I would have expected.

I also find it ironic that Google (the company whose path we should stay out of) was in itself a late-comer to the party and kicked ass in the face of established competitors.

Jamie 18 Aug 06

I used Google’s calendar just for the novelty in it. Truth be told, I am still very old school using a paper calendar hanging from the pantry door in my kitchen. Backpack calendar UI looks great BTW!

Harb 18 Aug 06

I gotta agree with Dr Nic. If you had JUST a calendar, it wouldn’t have worked as well. I think it actually supports one of Paul’s points: fighting integration is hard. But if you can integrate your products(well), you’re swimming downstream instead of across or upstream. It makes it easier and more tempting for customers who use one of your products to use more of them.

Anonymous Coward 18 Aug 06

Guess what? Paying Backpack subscriptions are up about twenty percent in just the three weeks since launch.

Not all those are a direct result of adding a calendar, and 20% says shit about how many people are using it. Both are misleading.

Jehiah 18 Aug 06

ditto what Harb said. (and what i believe was pauls *real* point)

You managed to make all your products better by the way backpack calendar integrates into your overall suite of products.

Google managed to win off that same type of synerge in their products, but it was womething Kiko just didn’t have… at all aparantly.

Had the calander been your first app you might not have survived either, as it is I would consider you to be an established company; not a startup anymore. (though you are still a small company).

DHH 18 Aug 06

The Backpack calendar is actually part of Backpack. Just like the reminders section is. It’s not a separate product, there’s no “integration” going on between existing properties.

Surely, there are other interesting products out there that can combine a calendar in novel ways with other areas of value. The push back in this post is against the notion that you shouldn’t try to compete against Google in areas where they are. We’re providing a data point saying that’s exactly what we did with the Backpack calendar and that it worked out quite well for us.

Richard White 18 Aug 06

As a Kiko team member I’ve been trying my best to beat back the “Google owns you” and “Web 2.0 is dead” tidal wave with my own takes on what really happened:

http://height1percent.com/articles/2006/08/18/actual-lessons-from-kiko

Bottom line: Google wasn’t the reason for our demise.

Bill P. 18 Aug 06

Preach it David! Well stated…

It’s not often I’d disagree with PG, but I’m on your side for this one.

bleh 18 Aug 06

also, making aggressive use of ajax and javascript are fine, but don’t fall into the trap of starting with doing javascript hacks/tricks and thinking “what kind of product can we build with this?”

instead, start from the user experience you want to create and then use the appropriate technologies necessary to deliver that. the code is only a means to an end.

all the javascript fetishism i see is annoying, and i think kiko displayed some of it as well.

JP 18 Aug 06

One reason Kiko failed as a product is that they, in my mind, treated their users badly. Unanswered emails and a support forum (Google groups, btw) that was hardly ever updated.

Unhappy users + not so great app = 0% market share.

Richard White 18 Aug 06

@bleh: If it wasn’t for the car load of family in the driveway waiting on me for our Yellowstone vacation I’d love to challenge what you wrote, but I there is that car so you’ll just have to take my word that you’re wrong :)

Noah Winecoff 18 Aug 06

And the crowd cheers!

Dr Nic 18 Aug 06

@Richard - I assume we should “stay tuned for more rebuttal” :)

Bret 18 Aug 06

It seems the success of the Backpack calender seems to bolster Grahams argument about the tight integration strategy used by the big 3. So perhaps you actually agree with him.

Narendra 18 Aug 06

Well said! One of the reasons 37signals is kicking ass is that there is nothing like a *paying* customer to sharpen your focus and to hone your product. Google has no such urgency, nor do they have a cohesive product strategy that fosters such an urgency. As such, they can easily be outdone by talented and focused software businesses.

At 30Boxes, we are enjoying a grace period in trying to innovate and create a new genre of apps that emphasize the social aspects as much as productivity. If it weren’t for the decreased cost structure in starting a web business we wouldn’t have the opportunity to succeed because the other critical factor is time. It takes time to build distribution.

The short happy life of Kiko was not even one year, far too short a period to have a reasonable expectation of stand alone success. If anything, they are a lesson in dangers and allure of “built to flip.”

Brandon 18 Aug 06

I used to be like that. I’d have an idea, and then when I saw the competition, I’d give up. I think you guys have hit it on the head. Screw the competition, if you’ve got a great idea and passion for it, go for it. Whats exciting to me is that in the internet world, things are always shifting. Its fun to know that somewhere right now, there are probably a group of 2 or 3 people that are saying google’s got it ok, but we know how to make it great and we’re going for it. Same goes for the offline world too. If that weren’t the case, then we wouldn’t have so many restaraunts around. Differentiate, innovate and share your gospel with the world. There’s more than enough people to go around.

Alex Bunardzic 18 Aug 06

Three cheers for DHH!

I myself am one of the casualties of google calendar. This then hits the nerve with me.

I’ve had to drop my bread-and-butter project in April this year because the business partners pulled out after seeing google calendar.

Up until then, the calendar was up for grabs. At least in the mind of the business analysts.

But I’m with David on this one. I think google calendar falls short. Way short. It’s not even close to where our vision of the web-based calendar has been four months ago.

There’s plenty of room for improvement. Even Backpack calendar doesn’t deliver the punch I know for a fact is waiting to happen in the calendaring space.

Alex

Another anonymous 18 Aug 06

I find David’s arguments unconvincing while PG is spot-on. If Kiko’s product was fundamentally a
calendar with a couple of extra bells and whistles,
then they ARE in effect directly competing with Google and all the other big players. Sure, you can have
a small niche of truly dedicated paying customers
this way but as a business model it still sucks.

Jough Dempsey 18 Aug 06

“Google does not win by default in any territory it enters.”

Doesn’t it? Isn’t Google’s market share (or rather, user base, since its service is free) many times greater than 37Signals?

Maybe the 37S definition of “win” differs from the standard, but the sheer number of Google Calendar users and income that Google may generate from advertising therein is likely much greater than Backpack signups. Neither Google nor 37s publishes data on how much income various products generate, so this is just a guess, but I’m wondering in what way other than quality does Backpack Calendar “win” in regards to Google’s product?

JF 18 Aug 06

Sure, you can have a small niche of truly dedicated paying customers this way but as a business model it still sucks.

Mr. Anonymous, it sucks why?

JF 18 Aug 06

Jough, Google doesn’t define our success. We do. “Winning” isn’t a zero sum game. This isn’t a 100 yard dash or a boxing match or a F1 race. It’s building a sustainable business. There’s lots of room for lots of those.

We don’t have to match Google’s userbase, or even have 1/10th of Google’s userbase to be nicely profitable and build a sustainable business.

That is success to us. Being able to provide a great service to our customers, follow our vision, generate enough revenue to build a sustainable long-term business, and enjoy doing the work we do everyday is a success to us.

So far so good.

Pat Matthews 18 Aug 06

Yeah, I’m not sure how you can call this model crazy, but maybe that’s why you stay anonymous. I agree 100% with this post. There is plenty of room for differentiation from companies like Google. You don’t need as many users as Google to be successful (everyone defines success a little bit differently, but even generally speaking, my statement still holds true). And you don’t have to differentiate with just software either. In fact, companies that make service a major component of their business model are likely to prosper in any market, including software, Web 2.0, or whatever you want to call it… and luckily for us smaller guys, service is something Google, Microsoft, and most others simply aren’t good at providing.

This really isn’t a debate in my opinion. Google is a winner, 37 Signals is a winner, and lots of other companies can win with great products, great services, great leadership… you know, the things that all companies need to succeed in this world.

I bet nobody that runs a successful company would say that 37 Signals is a loser. You can tell who runs successful companies and who spends time talking shit on blogs.

Randy 18 Aug 06

As a long time paying user of Backpack, I was excited to leave GCal and switch to using backpack’s new calendar.
(I have also used 30boxes)

Unfortunately, I soon learned how much I missed the many features of GCal and I switched back…

Things I missed:

Repeating events
iCal importing where you could read associated notes
Faster loading when switching dates
Better use of screen real estate
Flexible time settings for reminders on calendar

I hate the fact that I was not as pleased with bp calendar as I was hoping that would be as it would help justify my 9.00 per month cost to them.

But I am so displeased that I am even thinking of dropping backpack and going with writely:GCal:RemembertheMilk as a free approach to Writeboard:Calendar:Reminders

I haven’t made up my mind yet, but so far, I really like writely and RemembertheMilk has a lot of features that work better than the reminders portion of bp.


JF 18 Aug 06

Sorry we couldn’t make you happy, Randy. Good luck finding the right combo for you.

Re: recurring events, we’ll be adding those in a bit.

Devan 18 Aug 06

Good post David. This is a good reinforcement of ‘not giving up in the face of adversity’.

Perhaps ‘giving up’ is a little harsh, but it at least encouraged me to rethink strategy in the face of what initially seems insurmountable odds placed in the way by competitors.

Good to see you guys have strong belief in what you do, and back it up with action. Dont ever ever change!

Cameron Barrett 18 Aug 06

I am in the middle of developing a RoR application that will take advantage of calendaring. My hope is that whoever buys Kiko open sources it so others can use it as the foundation for a Rails-based calendar application.

We are actually planning on building in a lot calendar export features via the various available APIs. This is bcause our core functionality is not calendaring. If it were, we’d be in the same situation as Kiko, competing against gCal. Instead we will offer our users the ability to export to any online calendaring system that offers an API or supports the iCalendar or vCalendar formats.

random8r 18 Aug 06

Why does anyone need to fight at all, anyway?

We can have some customers, and google can have some customers, and so on - seriously there are enough customers for everyone!

Devan 18 Aug 06

Well said random8r. We have been doing a lot of rethinking re: the mental paradigm of scarcity vs the mental paradigm of abundance.

Basically, the scarcity mentality = limitation, and you tend to get locked into a conflict situation and fight for every dollar or percentage of market share.

The abundance mentality model is in a nutshell what you said - there are _plenty_ of customers/money/time etc. in the universe and if you open yourself up and act with this in mind, then there will be success aplenty…

Not an easy transition to make, but very worthwhile…

Shaun Inman 18 Aug 06

When Google released Analytics for free, every blog and their brother shed a tear for poor, poor Mint. It’s now been almost a year since Mint’s launch—8 or so months since Analytics’—and Mint is still selling strong. More proof that Google doesn’t automatically dominate every market it enters.

Randy 18 Aug 06

in fact, some companies seem to be moving into areas google has neglected. for example, become.com is superior to google for shopping. and, metaglossary.com is quite a bit better than google’s define function.

James 18 Aug 06

I think the biggest conceit here is that a lot of people still think free == better. Just because google products are free, some people think they are “good enough”. These people aren’t the ones 37s is targetting; they target those that appreciate quality, and as such are willing to pay for it. Another point is that google seems to want the world, whereas 37s is content with a portion of it. It may not make them billionaires, but they seem to have a contented group of paying customers. That at least pays the bills.

FredS 18 Aug 06

I’m surprised you guys don’t offer a super-package that combines all products into one monthly cost.

Bob Aman 18 Aug 06

Not much to say other than that I completely agree. I was actually surprised by Paul’s post.

Deepak 18 Aug 06

.. and some of us are using both. GCal is still more useful for me, and is where I consolidate all my calendars. Backpack calendar fits well with my GTD style use of backpack, but in terms of usability GCal is still the best I have seen (and it looks great)

sweentjguy29 18 Aug 06

The way to beat Google, like any other company or product, is to compete with it. Build a better search engine. Offer similar products and services. Market cheap unobtrusive text ads. Keep your design interface simple, but powerful.

Anonymous Coward 18 Aug 06

I too was really looking forward to the Backpack Calendar but I don’t see any reason whatsoever to leave my Google Calendar. I still love what I get out of Backpack for $5/month but I was expecting a lot more from the calendar.

Chubbs 18 Aug 06

Come on guys, Google didn’t “beat” Kiko, they beat themselves. Their business model is freemium, which doesn’t pay well. David, your company is great at making software that actually churns profit (probably quite a bit). Your Backpack calendar is a “feature”, not an entire business model.

You can’t sell a free calendar, that’s the issue. They should have focused on that.

Irene 18 Aug 06

I can’t get over the fact that you have completly taken Paul Graham’s article out of context. Following the somber comment you have chosed to respond to, he sais very clearly “The good news is, Google’s way is narrower than most people realize.” In fact, the entire last paragraph is a hopeful one exemplifying that there Kiko developers have moved on to better things with a new web 2.0 idea that google will not have any interest in.
Since you missed the entire point of Paul’s article I highly recommend reading it again; there is plenty of hope in it.

Jason 19 Aug 06

Google is not invincible. Youtube anyone?

zheng 19 Aug 06

It’s a question of market: is there a real market for an online calendar for consumers? Would Kiko succeed if Google didnt come out with a calendar? I am not quite sure.

Personally, a web calendar service for businesses would be a better market to approach.

Nathan Bowers 19 Aug 06

Y Combinator explicitly builds to flip. Google built their own calendar so Kiko lost their biggest potential buyer and became a hot potato for other buyers in one stroke. It sounds like Kiko made some serious mistakes too, but there is no reason they couldn’t have turned it around, except that they no longer fit the Y Combinator model.

Mike 19 Aug 06

You have totally misrepresented what Paul Graham said by only quoting the first part of what he essentially said. The rest of it was along the lines that Google is unstoppable “…at the things Google is good at, but there’s plenty of room for startups in the rest of the space.”

riteoff 19 Aug 06

DHH:

This is a shameless piece of self-promotion, by mis-interpreting one small part of what Paul Graham said. Well done.

Ryan Heneise 19 Aug 06

Every single post by David or 37signals on *their own blog* has to have somebody complaining about “shameless self-promotion”. I’m sick of hearing about it.

riteoff 19 Aug 06

It’s okay to promote yourself as long as you’re not doing it dishonestly at someone else’s expense. In this case, Ycombinator or Paul Graham’s expense. It just makes you guys look bad and damages your credibility.

Cheers.

Scott Teger 19 Aug 06

There is no need to get out of the way of a bigger competitor. A major player involved in something means the market is huge and worth going after. In fact, we always like to see a big guy involved when doing research - it validates the industry.

Goncalo Fonseca 19 Aug 06

Everyone should learn something from 37signals… maybe, some just don’t know how…

DHH 19 Aug 06

In my mind, Paul’s point is not softened one bit by adding the disclaimer that we should only flee from Google at the things they do well. Oh, gee, thanks, we can have the bread crumbs that they left at the table?

So because Google is involved in email, maps, rss readers, calendering, statistics, spreadsheets, and doing well in those areas, they’re off limits to off-limits to most startup founders? Hogwash. There’s plenty of space in those areas for innovation.

Sure, you might have one big buyer less on your hands and VCs might be scared to touch you, but so what? You’re building to please a sustainable group of customers, no? Not just to flip, right?

Paul Graham is a great writer and a fantastic speaker. I have no beef with his person. I respect what he has accomplished. I’m not trying to promote anything off his back. I just happen to disagree. Strongly.

And if I had any doubt that I was getting the tone right, I think Paul’s own follow-up comments in the reddit thread underscored the theme. One guy states that “Every entrepreneur has to be thinking about revenues and profits.” and paul replies:

Really? Do you suppose YouTube is spending most of their time thinking about profits? And yet a prominent VC who came to speak at YC recently said “If you’re a founder of YouTube and you come into my office, I’ll pour your coffee.”

If you claim that revenues should be the first priority for a web startup, rather than getting lots of users, give us an example of a site that became massively popular and didn’t either (a) get bought, (b) figure out how to make money from their traffic, or (c) happen to die from a lawsuit.

To me, this is just as gloomy. That these are not the days to think about revenues and profits, but rather just a race for eyeballs. I’m reading this as “if you catch a lot of eyeballs and avoid Google, there’s gold at the end” and I don’t agree. I don’t think that’s a good business strategy.

But again, maybe YouTube will strike it rich by a healthy buyout. Maybe Paul has some YC’s that can do the same. In that case, good for them. The first bubble did good for a handful of people too, but I don’t think it was a prudent pursuit regardless.

Jason 19 Aug 06

First I’d like to point out that the Kiko folks were interested in working on other things and are already funded again… it’s not exactly like they just gave up because they couldn’t compete, though that definitely helped.

I think that competing with google is definitely possible but the article is right, matching them feature for feature is not going to work. Google is a big company with tangled alliances and commitments to their own products and this is where startups really have an advantage. Google is stuck on the GMail, GTalk, Google Video, Google Base platform and is not likely to interoperate with anyone else. As an example, GMail has a GTalk component built in that doesn’t entirely suck, but it’s never going to be able to keep up with meebo.com because it’s GTalk only. Cross-posting a video to YouTube from Google Video will never be possible and accessing your Google Calendar through a very open API won’t be possible because that would mean that you can leave.

All the characteristics of large companies that Paul Graham has pointed out again and again are present to a degree in Google, they just hide it better than others.

Jay Contonio 19 Aug 06

Hmmm….
http://www.tuaw.com/2006/08/19/google-notifier-for-mac-released-formerly-gmail-notifier/

With this an repeating calendars…maybe I switch back to gCal…

Bob Aman 19 Aug 06

Google Calendar didn’t kill Kiko. I’m pretty sure Kiko killed Kiko by making a product that didn’t actually work. Every single computer and browser combination I ever tried with Kiko failed miserably. But even if they had made a working product, Google Calendar still wouldn’t have been responsible for the demise of Kiko. No… Gmail was almost certainly a much larger factor. Or more specifically, Gmail + Calendar.

David Demaree 19 Aug 06

Another factor in the BP calendar’s success (as well as Gcal’s): it’ll display existing calendars syndicated in iCal format.

I keep business events in my domain-hosted Google calendar, then I subscribe to those events in Backpack, where I keep basic personal stuff it doesn’t make sense to jot down in my business planner. I end up doing most of my calendar browsing in Backpack, cause it’s simpler and works far better in Safari. So I can keep events wherever I like, and be able to see all my calendars from either service.

I’d be very curious to see stats on how many Backpack calendar users have remote calendars coming from Google.

Anthony Papillion 19 Aug 06

I think that, while Mr. Graham has some valid points, he misses the major one here that anyone reading the Kiko partners post about the affair would/should realize: Google *did not* kill Kiko. The partners of Kiko killed Kiko.

By their own admission they didn’t focus on the core product, they didn’t pursue proper marketing, and they didn’t really hae a passion for their product anymore. Those things have nothing to do with Google or its entry into the online calendering market. It has to do with poor business performance from the Kiko team.

sandhill 19 Aug 06

I agree with Bob Aman and the other posters around the web who state that Kiko didn’t actually work. I was never able to get it to work on any combination of computer + browser, either.

And by not work, I don’t mean that the UI was bad or quirky, I mean that nothing even showed up on the screen.

In regards to DHH, I’ve never totally understood the “Getting Real” philosophy. The whole point of VC funded startups is that you can build something new and interesting and try to figure out how to monetize it later, without losing your shirt. VCs have money to spare - if something hits, great, if it doesn’t, well, who cares. So a bunch of rich guys in Atherton lose .01% of their net worth. Big deal.

If Google had to figure out how to monitize search BEFORE making an awesome search engine, it never would have never gotten off the ground.

To me, thinking about “revenues and profits” is gloomy, not thinking about eyeballs and interesting applications. If you are stuck thinking about revenues and profits from day one, you are stuck making boring products like FogBugz, BaseCamp, SourceGear, bla bla bla, zzzzz.

riteoff 19 Aug 06

Very interesting Sandhill. I think you nailed it in Paragraph 3-5.

Aristotle Pagaltzis 19 Aug 06

I found Paul’s analysis surprising, since I read it after [Richard White’s own post-mortem](http://height1percent.com/articles/2006/08/18/actual-lessons-from-kiko), wherein he says Google Calendar was neither a surprise nor a concern. They saw it coming, they adapted their strategy, and their customer base actually grew more after the GCalendar release. Richard writes that the 30boxes launch surprised them more than GCalendar.

What I get from the post-mortem is that they blew their chance of making a great first impression, burdened themselves with a huge featureset, and subsequently burned out. So they turned their sights elsewhere. It was not even a real demise, they just got bored and decided they wanted to do something more exciting. To talk of Google killing them is… well, kinda ridiculous.

Jough Dempsey 20 Aug 06

“We don’t have to match Google’s userbase, or even have 1/10th of Google’s userbase to be nicely profitable and build a sustainable business.”

That was pretty much my point, Jason. David’s post intimated that Backpack Calendar had more users that Google and was beating Google in the online calendar area (market?) when that of course isn’t the case at all. He mentions people leaving GCal for 37Cal. I’m sure there will be more defections to 37s as people find that they like the integration with the other areas of Backpack that GCal doesn’t handle.

But that isn’t a win over Google - it’s just a win. Google still wins. You guys win. Everybody wins. Your user segment doesn’t overlap that much.

However, Backpack Calendar is not the core of your business - it’s a feature of a larger application. For those who compete on a feature-for-feature slug-fest with Google, the big company who gives away things that some start-ups are trying to sell can put a huge damper on sales and wick-away their customers.

I really didn’t intend for that many hyphenated phrases there.

The better application/service doesn’t always win. Look at areas where Microsoft is the market leader. Is their OS the best? Doubtful. Their office suite? Maybe. But they win because they snuff out their competition by giving away the goods.

Remember Netscape? They used to actually sell their browser. Heck, even Opera is free now. Microsoft made browsers free. Anyone who didn’t give them away couldn’t compete, no matter how superiour their offerings.

John Topley 20 Aug 06

David’s post intimated that Backpack Calendar had more users that Google and was beating Google in the online calendar area (market?) when that of course isn’t the case at all.

How did you manage to arrive at that conclusion from David’s post?

Danno 20 Aug 06

Meh.

Google’s not going to do everything, just what their engineers want to do and what they think would be really useful to a lot of people.

The Calendar is pretty obvious, email, chat software, message boards, I’m suprised there isn’t a Google IRC client/service yet, to be honest.

There’s a lot of space out there for web app innovation. I don’t see why anyone should make yet another Calendar, especially if it’ll just be essentially identical to Google and 30boxes etc etc’s offerings.

I want to see people creating new applications that can interface with these using ical feeds and rss and so on.

Jack Shedd 20 Aug 06

“We don’t have to match Google’s userbase, or even have 1/10th of Google’s userbase to be nicely profitable and build a sustainable business.”

Absolutely brilliant point, and one far too many folks miss when talking about competition. The web has millions upon millions of potential customers available to any company. Build a product worth using, and you’ll find users willing to use it. Kiko didn’t die with 0 users. It died without enough to reach “a critical mass”. Which was an issue with their approach, not their technology or market.

e.j. 20 Aug 06

sandhill: In regards to DHH, I’ve never totally understood the “Getting Real” philosophy. The whole point of VC funded startups is that you can build something new and interesting and try to figure out how to monetize it later, without losing your shirt. VCs have money to spare - if something hits, great, if it doesn’t, well, who cares. So a bunch of rich guys in Atherton lose .01% of their net worth. Big deal.

ill just throw this out there. 37s’ philosophy is fine. though it is one born from a recession, when VC’s did NOT have money to spare. they like to put it into a sentince as if they have bottled lightning, but tend to gloss over that they did alot of build up (the blog, the team) while no one cared. now they are in a position that cannot be bought by attending their seminars and buying their books.

now that VC money is flush, its the time to try “new and interesting” things as you said. kiko could have reconceptualized their business and grinded it out, but if you are in a incubator, why bother? they are on to the next big idea with a new pile of cash.

random thoughts…

paul gram pushes his philosophy to get more kids thru yC

37s pushes their philosophy to sell books and get press.

google makes free sh*t to sell adwords.

kiko kinda sucked anyways

Ben Darlow 21 Aug 06

Interesting stuff, but David:

“The best solution for most startup founders would probably be to stay out of Google’s way.”

Isn’t that basically the same as saying “There are other, better ways to fight. Compete differently.” ?

I don’t think Paul Graham’s post was doom and gloom, personally. I think he was quite realistic and accurate about the reasons Kiko has failed - tight integration with a webmail service for which they already have a decent number of users of the appropriate technical background - but saying “stay out of Google’s way” seems like sensible advice to me.

Competing on level terms would be suicidal, and I think that’s what Paul is cautioning against. Just as you yourself did in Getting Real when you talked of MS Project being ‘the gorilla in the room’, and Basecamp being the ‘anti-project’. The question here isn’t so much how could Kiko have created a different calendar tool that could co-exist with Google Calendar, but whether such a product even needs to exist. There’s only so many ways you can make a calendar…

Kris Tuttle 21 Aug 06

Calendars and related software are still so primitive we will be working on them for years to come. Everyone builds new ones before any of the “difficult use cases” are tackled.

If somebody really does build a sustainable model with the intelligence and incentives to keep building it we will eventually get a calendar-oriented set of functions that deals with the advanced use cases we need. (Automation, directed time allocation, event discovery and so forth…)

Kyle Posey 21 Aug 06

@Jason:
First I’d like to point out that the Kiko folks were interested in working on other things and are already funded again… it’s not exactly like they just gave up because they couldn’t compete, though that definitely helped.

I sure hope this isn’t true. Any company that spends less than a year with a product, only to retire it to move onto another more profitable product is doomed for failure. Why? Who here wants to rely on a company who constantly changes focus because the grass is greener on the other side? I sure don’t.

Blake P 21 Aug 06

In response to Sandhill’s “VCs have money to spare - if something hits, great, if it doesn’t, well, who cares.” Are you serious? No one ever got rich in the first place with that attitude. If they didn’t care, then why even work?

Anonymous Coward 23 Aug 06

@e.j.:

“paul gram pushes his philosophy to get more kids thru yC”

What’s that supposed to mean? YC is an AWESOME opportunity for the founders. It doesn’t matter if the actual business takes off or tanks. Experience is worth a million blog comments espousing supposed truisms.

Also, you don’t necessarily have to drink the koolaid to hang out at the party, if you know what I mean.

Brian Graves 25 Aug 06

I wonder if Robert X. Cringely is a Signal Vs. Noise reader. Check out the last part of this week’s column. It talks about online video (YouTube and Grouper) but the ideas apply to other software as well:


Of course, the biggest challenge of all is finding a way to make money from this content business, but here Google is again rising to the task. Or at least appears to be doing so, as CEO Eric Schmidt revealed earlier this month that the search giant plans to bring targeted advertising sales to the $74 billion U.S. TV market. This idea, which appeared to shock many people, was covered in considerable detail here back on January 5th. You can bet, though, that the Google solution will be intended as much to nudge the platform off the airwaves and onto the Internet as it is to make money from TV.

Resistance is futile.

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