I had a great time talking to a group of Stanford kids yesterday as part of a VC quick-start program where teams compete for spaces in a summer program that gives them office space and a bit of guidance toward building a company that they can then pitch to VCs at the end of the summer. Sort of like an entrepreneurial boot camp.
Let me state that these kids (and man did I feel old) are smart. Book smart, socially affable and well aware of how you become an entrepreneur in the Valley. They also are smart enough to recognize that developing software is a different game than it was 10 or even 5 years ago.
Only one group was developing code that would be installed as opposed to delivered as a service. The "enterprise" team didn't have much of a choice as their product was more software infrastructure/plumbing than it was a service.
As I drove back to San Francisco I thought through why the enterprise is really pretty boring, even if it pays better than anything else. Note that all of these words are mine and that we didn't cover this too much in the discussion.
So why does the new generation eschew on-premise enterprise software?
Enterprise software is slow-moving -- It's been argued that innovation in legacy products occurs on the fringe. This is exemplified in open source, where developers scratch their own itch as well as in software as a service, where Salesforce and other companies found weaknesses in customer delivery.
Installers, maintenance and professional services -- Unless you have experience already with any of these things they are not interesting. I'm not sure they are interesting even if you have experience (they're not, I'm being nice). Every VC will tell you that "pro serv" is not a good business model.
Colleges (and grad schools) don't teach software history -- The only slightly negative thing I can say is that the kids weren't terribly well-versed in software history. Of course, as good Stanford folk they knew every VC and were obviously aware of big companies. But they really didn't care. No one coming out of school today is looking toward behemoths for new ideas or even technological breakthroughs. That said, the enterprise is where the money is.
Basking in the warm glow of VCs -- Ask a recent Stanford grad about venture capital and odds are they can rattle off three or four VCs who spoke at their classes. Ask them who wrote Unix or where it came from and you get blank stares. I suppose it all comes down to what you want to retain, and the Valley is constantly reinventing itself but I miss the days when Dennis Ritchie was a star.
Enterprise = old people -- Sitting in a room as mid-thirties guy with a bunch of young twenty-somethings, I felt old. And not because the group was updating their Facebook status (they weren't) but because they weren't carrying any of the enterprise baggage that so many of us are saddled with.
When you think enterprise software do you think high degree of innovation or cumbersome and expensive?
My discussion with the group was eye-opening and makes me think that the Valley and venture capital, while certainly due for a correction, will continue to churn out great new technologies. My only regret is not forcing them all to give me stock in their new ventures.
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