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Follow the Sales Guys

Want to build the next big personal productivity application, communication platform or X?  Follow those that have the most to gain from it.

With any new technology, the users on the forward edge of a trend are the people who stand to benefit most.

Follow the sales guys

Those that benefit most from improvements in personal productivity are sales people. Sales jobs have the clearest correlation between personal output and compensation among any role inside a company.  This direct correlation leads to millions of sales people across the web searching for any edge they can find to increase their sales (and therefore their compensation).  Make twice as many calls in one day – make twice as many sales.

Jawbone, Blackberry, Xobni, Virgin America’s WiFi enabled flights – all of these products helped sales people be more productive.

I like building stuff for sales people because of how clear their incentives are.  To understand a man, understand his incentives.

Follow the marketers

The people that benefit most from improvements in communication technology are marketers.  In no other role is success more closely tied to getting your message heard by more people.  Get your message heard by twice as many people – drive twice as many visitors to your product/website/store.

Twitter, email, Facebook – whether it be marketing a product or marketing themselves, the people that have the most to gain from new communication technologies are marketers.

Want to build a new startup in the personal productivity space? Listen to the sales guys.  Want to build the next big communication platform?  Get to know some marketers.

I guess this is all just a corollary of knowing your customer.  But I thought it was important to break it down just the same.

What do you want build?  Who are you following?

Our 3rd Revenue Line in 4 months

I had to write about tonight’s announcement because it is a little bit nostalgic for me – tonight we launched our Salesforce extension, which is a premium service that connects Xobni (and Outlook) to

I’m proud of the team for launching three business models in the last 4 months (if you didn’t see the other business models, check them out here and here).  We spent the first three years of the company putting together the vision, conceiving a product people would use on a daily basis, raising the money to build the product, hiring the team to build the product, and getting that product into the hands of 3 million people.  It is exciting to finally be at the point where Xobni is making money.  I never thought it would take so long.

Tonight’s announcement is the first monetization our web services extensions (although for the next few months during the beta period, we won’t be charging for it, so get it now salesforce users!).   This is cool (1) because we’ve been excited to monetize our web services extensions since we added the first free ones: linkedin, facebook and hoovers.  But this is even more exciting (2) because rarely do things from your early business plans make it to fruition, but this did.   I dug up our old business summary from 2006 (which I won’t share in its entirety here), but here are some of our early thoughts:

Xobni Relationships will be adopted by power networkers and salespeople.  It will become part of their relationship management tool set.  A professional version will contain all the functionality of Xobni , plus advanced features such as integration into  Our enterprise product will contain all of the above and aggregation of a group’s data.  With integration, a sales manager can view the aggregated sales activity of his team as a feed in his Xobni sidebar.

And while I’m at it, here is the conclusion of the business summary that does a good job encapsulating Xobni’s vision still today

Email is the internet’s last bastion of underused data.  Google organized all of the web’s information by making search work well.  But there is more information in email than on the web.  How many kilobytes of web page data did you produce in your life?  Far less than the megabytes of email you’ve written.  *Even though there is more information in email, it is underutilized.*

An email also contains richer information than a web page.  It contains usage, trend, relationship, and time data which extends beyond the email’s content.

Xobni organizes and displays this data in useful ways.

Fortunately for Adam and I, I didn’t post a lot of the stuff from the original business plan that was far from being accurate.   Especially the parts about when we would launch stuff.  Boy were we off on that.

Update:  While I was writing this post, our launch got picked up by MG at Techcrunch.  Read more here

Starting Is The Hardest Part

A few weeks ago I completely ruptured my right Achillies tendon.  I will be spending the next 3 months doing very little other than sitting behind a computer, book, or tv (likely in that order).  So, it happens to be a perfect time to start a new project: this blog.

I’ve been meaning to start a blog for a long time – but I’ve been so busy working on Xobni that it has been tough to get the free time to write outside of work.  Fortunately, I recently hired a great new head of communication that will be taking over responsibility for the Xobni blog – a responsibility I’ve had for over 3 and a half years. Hopefully this will open up time for me to write more on my personal blog.

Like any new project the hardest and most important part is actually getting started.  So, I’m starting today. I don’t know where this will end up.   I’ve got a good idea for where it will start, but I know it will change.

The Idea

I like to surround myself with makers – people that do stuff.  I wrote a blog post about a few of these friends 3 years ago. My friend Trip from Scribd encouraged me to post my article on his website.  It has now been viewed over 19 thousand times.

I also really like meeting new people and listening to their dreams.  A lot of entrepreneurs come to me these days asking for advice on product, marketing, building a company, and inevitably raising money.

So I’m starting out with the theme of Matt Brezina & Friends for this blog.  I’m going to write about the people I meet and the things they are making as well as about projects I’m working on.

I’ve never been one to spend time with a narrow group of friends. I usually find myself spending time with a broad range of friends with a myriad of backgrounds.  So you’ll just as easily find me writing here about new bands following their dream,  software companies solving new problems,  non-profit entrepreneurs solving the world’s problems, or even my oldest buddy spending a whole year as a “full-time friend.”  I think I’ll write about that last guy first – he has an incredible story.