Essential MediaTECH 2008, morning

Essential MediaTECH – Hotel Russell 11th December 2008

Doug Richards opened with a quick discussion of how difficult it can be to extract valuable information from large amounts of corporate data and present that to businesses who value it in a commercial way.

Calum Murray discussed how they had had to get lawyers, analysts and VCs to agree on just 100 MediaTECH companies in a quick but democratic manner. Those companies were chosed from the information mentioned by Doug above. Since we are one of the companies chosen, it seems invidious for me to comment on the process or the outcome, but, on balance they appear to have done a reasonable job of picking a blend of companies and sectors.

As at ETRE, Calum and Doug were reasonably confident about the investment and MediaTECH environment. I say reasonably confident, as the challenges of maintaining growth in MMOs, monetising web services, developing search until it becomes useful. While reasonable, Calum was no Chicken Licken – the sky is not falling on MediaTECH right now.

What we are looking at today is “where is value coming from in MediaTECH in the next couple of years?”

Michael Nutley from New Media Age was not really going to surprise anyone by saying NMA supported New Media, but he said it well.  He went further – he was positively enthusiastic about it, and pointed to his driver of growth which is “hybridisation” as opposed to “specialisation”

Neil Hutson of Microsoft said a lot about the new Microsoft Cloud Solution called Azure.  I would repeat it, but it is all available on their site, which is here. I’ll be waiting for solid answers to the vexed questions of EU Data Protection on MS US based Azure servers, and the pricing policy before I dive any deeper. (Those who have reverse DNS checked Moviestorm will know that we are already hosted on Amazon S3/EC2 so I should declare that conflict).

What was interesting was the  new Microsoft developer and entrepreneur focus through schemes like DreamSpark and BizSpark

The WebStart up panel  had a great vibe. I’ll try to summarise:

1 – You should start up where you can. Where you live is fine. Europe is OK, London is easiest and the UK has a large market. If you can move to the Bay Area you should, and you should start there if you can. What is critical is that you concentrate on your first geographical territory, then make sure you reassess it at the moment that you move into your next strategic environment,

2 – Certainly the UK has the best infrastructure for web and mobile and has a great financial infrastructure as well. If you want to start anywhere else: try Germany, France, Spain, Poland and the Nordics – and in that order). I would add that you will probably need 5 years to be accepted into a new business community, and you might want to get that done before you try to start a company there.

3 – Breaking out of the first EU base is the hard challenge. While the USA is the obvious target, you may need a whole new team and strategy to get there. You will need help and you will need a major partner to get the leverage to attack the size of that market.

4 – Asia is a whole new world of pain. None of the start ups on stage expressed a view of how to tackle it. I would say “franchise to a partner there when you can, or move there and learn the language. No short cuts to operating in Asia”.

5 – All agreed that spreading yourself too thin was a sin – stay focused, stay local, stay away from the travel round robins if you can.

5 – Going back to the Cloud – the interesting point was that the cost savings from new licences, the Cloud and the drop in hardware capital costs appeared to be being soaked up by rises in salaries. While I have a slightly different experience of the cost function, I have also noticed the vastly increased burden of regulation.

Future gazing, which we all love to do, yielded the following gems:

– Focus on subscriptions and microtransactions where you can. One creates lock-in and is good for raising finance against, the other creates rapid cash flow and unlocks the long tail.

– Advertising models, outside of mobile, are not very helpful right now.  Getting advertising requires a sales channel and a sales force –  start ups tend to be too small to do that properly.

There were some company presentations, which I will cover separately, and a panel session which I spoke at. I'll probably have to ask someone else to blog what I said, as I was not able to take notes, blinded as I was by the spotlights…

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