… people take potshots at you with no basis in fact at all. It sure feels good for Zoho to be the poster-child for what “ails” Web 2.0. To quote from a Wired interview with the Uncov blogger Ted Dziuba:
Wired: How do you personally differentiate between what’s worthy and what isn’t?
TD: You know you’re a bullshit company when your core technology is Ajax. If the business is every widget under the sun conglomerated into this giant application, there’s no real technology there. There’s no noteworthy computer-science problem being solved. The Ajax stuff is pre-written. You just have to go to the libraries and put it all together.
When Gmail came out — and Gmail is a pretty kick-ass product — it was like, “Ha! Ajax for dynamic web apps! We can use it for everything!” So now you have companies like Zoho, for example. Their sole goal is to take every desktop app that ever existed and reimplement it in Ajax with no added features or functionality. It irritates me as an engineer that companies with no engineering merit, first off, are getting funded and, second off, are getting bought out.
OK, where do I begin? On the “irritation about getting funded”, a nano-second worth of research (as in this Google search) would have shown that Zoho is part of AdventNet, a company that has a 11 year history of profitable organic growth. As in, cash-flow positive.
No added features or functionality? No engineering merit? Ted should go out some more. I bet he has never heard of Zoho Creator. And the last time I checked you could not do simultaneous real time collaborative editing in MS Word. And did I mention Zoho automatically keeps versions of your documents? This is not to say that we offer every feature in MS Office, but we do offer enough differentiated value that hundreds of thousands of users find us useful.
I am actually gratified Ted picked Zoho as the example here. There has never been a technology revolution without its share of skeptics and cynics. I bet 25 years ago, Ted would have insisted that all this new-fangled PC thing was a bubble, and nothing will ever hold a candle to the mainframe. We need people like him, to keep us all honest.
Now, I have to admit that I believe we are in a bit of a mini-bubble in web 2.0 . Just as the mega-bubble of the late 90’s produced its share of real companies along with a lot of fluff, this mini-bubble has both good stuff and bad. The market will determine who survives and who disappears, and without telling you where I think Zoho will be (you can guess ;-)) I can say that AdventNet was very strongly exposed to the previous bubble, being a major supplier to the optical networking companies of that era, of which there were, like, 200 in silicon valley alone. I suppose we could definitively say we survived that bubble – without any external funding whatever. The engineering resources that were working on optical networking software ended up doing all kinds of cool stuff, one part of which is Zoho.
Trust us, we wouldn’t be doing it if we didn’t have the money to fund it (there are no sugar-daddies here!), and if we didn’t believe there is a viable long term business model here. Anyway, thanks Ted; we still love you for remembering Zoho!
Update: After I made this post, I came across a TechCrunch post on Yossi Vardi. I was very fortunate to meet Yossi at the TechCrunch40 event – he is a truly inspiring man; there is a certain basic human quality about him that drew people like a magnet. He gave his time liberally. During the panel discussion, Yossi quoted a speech of Theodore Roosevelt which I found appropriate in this context:
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.