12 Hours; 2 Conferences; free mints; my day with the New New Internet

john_crupi.gifOn Wednesday, I pulled the tech equivalent of a double header – attending ExecutiveBiz’s “the New New Internet” panel Q&A in the morning and the 2008 Southeast Venture Conference later in the day.

While no one seems to be able to agree on precisely what Web 2.0 means, the three panelists for the ExecutiveBiz morning event – Google’s Mike Bradshaw, Reedreed.jpg Overfelt from Mural Ventures and John Crupi of JackBe – were probably as well positioned as anyone in the Greater Washington area to give it a shot.

Overfelt set the pace of the discussion, postulating to those in the room that the traditional sales & marketing model is all but buried. Today, he added, organizations must respect and understand the wisdom of crowds, and how to integrate this dynamically social feedback into the sales & marketing process.

Bradshaw addressed that while the consumerization of the New New Internet may be underway, it is just beginning to penetrate the enterprise. Part of the challenge for Web 2.0 proponents, Crupi echoed, is to demonstrate its business value to the C-Suite.

But where the conversation steered, in large part aided by questions from the packed room, demonstrated that an element of Web 2.0 had permeated the enterprise. It was a theme that would follow me throughout the day as I shifted to the Southeast Venture Conference later that day: Software as a Service (SaaS).

Overfelt could not restrain his enthusiasm for how web-based services – driven by the needs of end users rather than IT mandates – were positively touching most aspects of the enterprise, from human resources to sales force automation and professional services. And while Federal agencies may not be diving head first into SaaS, Bradshaw indicated that some internal Agency champions were starting to emerge.

The discussion and Q&A lasted an hour, but you got the sense it could have lasted six. The questions and statements peppered panelists from around the room, with many speaking of the promise and challenges associated with SaaS and other aspects of the New New Internet.

While dozens of presenting companies at the Southeast Venture Conference offered their predictions – and pitches – in the hours following the morning event, the day started much as it began. Wednesday’s closing keynote was delivered by Jim Steele, president of Salesforce.com. While the ExecutiveBiz morning event captured the promise building around SaaS, Steele delivered the goods.

His company is considered one of, if not the most successful SaaS stories around. The on-demand CRM software company now has 41,000 customers – ranging in size from multinational enterprises to small businesses – and offers concrete proof of SaaS’ viability in the enterprise. The timing of Steele’s keynote was fortuitous, as his company announced blockbuster earnings minutes before he took the stage.

At the conclusion of his keynote – understandably giddy about the firm’s 4Q results – Steele said he’d be heading over to the bar for a celebratory drink and offered anyone in the audience to join him.

Soon perhaps, Steele will be just one of many raising a glass to toast SaaS – and the New New Internet.

Brian Lustig is co-founder of Lustig Communications, a Rockville, MD-based communications firm that works with growing technology and government IT firms. Lustig is also a contributor to local business and industry publications.

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