I’ve chosen this topic as my first subject to write about because I’m really trying to understand what this new buzzword is about and I’m getting the feeling that I’ve been doing it for years now. But I actually also don’t think that Web 2.0 was that new as I already joined ‘Asianavenue’ in 1997, a very early community for Asians across the world. Yeah it might sound cheesy, but during my student years I was really trying to find more connection with my ‘Asianess’. I guess being away from my homeland Vietnam, living in Holland in Amsterdam-region alone, being quite shy and wanting to talk with girls drove me to this community. And of course I was a wannabe as many asians were on it. I can even remember my nick ‘hansome’, of course a shamefully typo (yeah I was really desperate in those times). So yeah, I was a computer nerd who thought that some online flirts would help me out with my low-self-esteem issues. But it all turned out great as I have a relationship with a very hot Vietnamese girl for 11+ years already, soon to be my wife, born and raised in the Netherlands. This intermezzo is getting to long, so I already was an ‘early adopter’ of communities. But of course the need for the community wore off when I started to have a steady relationship and became a junior founder in Componence.
Imho the only thing new about Web 2.0 is the new technologies like AJAX and Adobe Flex that made user experience just a lot better on the web. I truly think Web 2.0 became a buzz word because a certain amount of people, maybe also a new generation and the availability level of broadband, were just ready for it. A number big enough for trendsetters to recognize and to introduce as a trend. But I think early adopters of internet in the 90’s have always naturally felt the urge to connect with people online. Even the ‘De Digitale Stad‘ (=Digital City), being the first internet provider in Holland, had somekind of a community concept in the 90’s.
So the concept of communities imho as always existed since the launch of internet, the speed of internet and new UI technologies now just made it more acceptable and pleasant to be adopt it more widely. As being a early adopter I eventually tagged along with Tycho Luyben, really a internet freak, and Chris Gobel, a lucky IT entrepreneur, to start Componence-DDS, the predecessor of Componence. So we started with 2 simple principles:
- let’s reuse software as much as possible and let’s make money doing that
- let’s work with development resources outside of The Netherlands because they’re a lot cheaper and the average motivation level is a lot higher
In that time IT offshoring / outsourcing was not certain a good thing as the first customers that I served with Componence were PvdA (Labor party in The Netherlands), FNV and CNV (largest groups of unions in The Netherlands). But now with the lack of IT labor and further globalization, also they’re accepting foreigners to do Dutch jobs. So in that time we had systems like Bugzilla, ICQ and mail that were the core systems for our work with our first partners in Ukraine. In March 2002 we were able to release our first ECM / Portal product called ‘Appserver’ based on the co-operations we had with a team of 6-7 Ukrainians. All the co-operation was digital, we never saw face-to-face untill late 2004. Even with our latest unit in India the first face-to-face encounters were last March, after working with them for 2,5 years.
Imagine, we’re talking about the time of the internet bubble (2003-2004) where Componence kept on growing as our Ukrainian partners grew to +/- 30 people at that time. Our own growth was 1441% in our first 5 years, getting us the 84th place in the Deloitte Fast Technology 500 in 2006 and the 13th place in the Deloitte Fast Technology 50 in The Netherlands. And currently I’m really proud to say that Componence has 4 offices across the Netherlands, Ukraine and in India and we will expand more in the future. Some might think that we probably have a lot of money and investors, but we don’t, our starting capital was 50K Euro and current turnover is 3.4 MLN Euro. I guess Enterprise 2.0, community of people working together to generate professtional value, helped us to achieve this as according to Wikipedia Enterprise 2.0 can be defined as:
“The term ‘enterprise social software’ is a general term for describing this class of tools. As of 2006, Enterprise 2.0 is a catchier term sometimes used to describe social and networked changes to enterprise, which often includes social software (but is not limited to it, nor to either social collaboration or software); and Enterprise Web 2.0 sometimes describes the introduction and implementation of Web 2.0 technologies within the enterprise including those rich internet applications, providing software as a service, and using the web as a general platform.”
So that’s why I think Enterprise 2.0 existed already in the beginning of this century, we’re just really slowly adopting it. But it’s because we’re humans and we need hypes and buzzwords to get enthusiastic about things. I just was lucky to encounter the right people with the right mindset across borders to work on the same professional goals.