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OpenAjax Alliance Authors: Lori MacVittie, Chris Pollach, Yakov Fain, Maureen O'Gara, Elizabeth White

Related Topics: CEOs in Technology, OpenAjax Alliance News, Facebook on Ulitzer

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How To Launch a Successful Technology Start-Up

Serial entrepreneur Coach Wei shares his experiences and thoughts

Q. As the technology commentator who coined the phrase “the AJAX wildfire”  less than a year after Jesse James Garrett’s seminal essay, what was it precisely that made you so certain that AJAX was going to spread Web- and world-wide? How did you know it was no mere fad?

Coach Wei: Since 1996, the dream of a high performance, richer, interactive and continuous web experience has haunted me. I wrote one of the first AJAX applications (AjaxWord, http://www.ajaxword.com) in an attempt to figure out how to achieve “Web 2.0.” In 2000, I left my job to start Nexaweb (http://www.nexaweb.com) and help make this new generation of web experience a reality. In 2003, Nexaweb released one of the first Rich Internet Application platforms, which currently powers 7,000 enterprise deployments of mission-critical applications.

Q. Still on the subject of names and industry segments, how would you distinguish between “Web 2.0,” “Enterprise Web 2.0”, and “Enterprise 2.0”?

CW: “Web 2.0” is an umbrella term that covers a new level in terms of the user’s experience of web applications and the life experience due to the deep penetration of the Internet into our society. The rise of AJAX and its ability to deliver continuous high fidelity applications typifies the “Web 2.0” user experience, while consumer sites such as Facebook, YouTube and MySpace exemplify the life experience. Their impact on our business lives is going on quietly behind the scenes and, I predict, it will create even more of a transformation than it has for the consumer sites.

“Enterprise Web 2.0” refers to the adoption of “Web 2.0” into the business arena. Beyond the obvious collaborative solutions like blogs, wikis, social bookmarking and social networking, “Enterprise Web 2.0” brings a fundamental computing paradigm shift that can only be compared to the changes from server-centric computing via mainframes, to client-centric computing via the PC/desktop, and back to server-centric computing in the form of Web 1.0. The “Web 2.0” computing architecture is neither server-centric nor client-centric; rather, it is an “architecture of partition” (see this) that enables developers to choose the right architectural partition for applications (see this).

“Enterprise 2.0” pertains to the collaborative aspects of “Enterprise Web 2.0”: blogs, wikis, mashups, etc. There is no reason that “Enterprise 2.0” should be restricted to these aspects only.

Q. Tell me a little about the role of the OpenAjax Alliance in the AJAX story so far…

CW: The OpenAjax Alliance (OAA) (http://www.openajax.org) is an organization made up of over 100 members (most of them corporations, but there are a few individuals too) with the mission of standardizing AJAX development. OAA is probably one of the fastest growing organizations in software history, expanding from a handful of members to over 100 in just 18 months. Many members are competitors in their corporate lives, but within the context of OAA they all work to accomplish widespread adoption of AJAX.

Without OAA, the evolution of AJAX from a “geek’s secret weapon” (as it has been for years) to a mainstream technology powering Web 2.0 would take five times longer to achieve.

Q. Nexaweb is a proponent of the OpenAjax Hub 1.0 (OaaHub 1.0). I know that, as with all prior AJAXWorld conferences, it will hold its own meeting to coincide with AJAXWorld 2008 East in New York City next March. Is it really true as I have heard that there are as many as seventeen different Ajax toolkits participating in that meeting?

CW: Yes, you can see the list at: OpenAjax Hub 1.0 and InteropFest (see this). As you can see, OAA has made significant progress since the inception of (OaaHub 1.0) twelve months ago.

Q. What about Mobile AJAX? Will we finally be hearing more about that in 2008 do you think?

CW: The iPhone has reasonable support for Mobile AJAX, which is a big step forward. There is no doubt that we will see more progress on Mobile AJAX in 2008 and beyond. In fact, it is my belief that mobile computing will really get interesting over the next few years with the emergence of newer devices and mobile AJAX, both of which would be further bolstered if service providers were to increase accessibility to their networks.

Q. Talking of 2008, if the peak between two adjacent IPO markets is about nine years, then the coming year might see some biggies. What are the characteristics, in your view, that the next major IPO companies and offerings will have in common – or will they each simply be unique, as VMware (say) was unique?

CW: VMware is truly unique; that’s evident simply by looking at its valuation. As of December 20, 2007, VMware was valued at $35B. That being said, I do expect some biggies in 2008. However, I do not see an IPO peak, and believe it is all contingent on the highly successful IPO of a company like Facebook. If Facebook goes IPO in 2008, we’ll see a lot of IPOs in 2009.

Q. When you asked in your recent piece "Why Isn't Facebook Built in Java?" did you have any idea that it would be read by more than 27,000 people at SYS-CON.com alone and generate 75 feedbacks?

CW: Apparently people do care about this question! I was thrilled to see the number of replies and learn that so many people have pondered the same topic.

Q. As well as IPOs, 2008 will of course be a(nother) year of startups. What advice does the founder of a mega-successful startup like Nexaweb give to young technologists about putting a toe in the water?

CW: Thank you for your kind words. This is a great topic and my hope is that others can learn from my experience. Ten years ago, I was as a poor graduate student naive enough to start a company at the bottom of the “dot-bomb” burst. I learned so much coping with the “nuclear winter,” raising $18M in financing, working through all the challenges associated with the market, dealing with investors and everything else I only wish that I had known all this before I got started.

It sounds cliché, but the most important thing I learned over the last 10 years, is to believe in yourself. For young technologists, this specifically means that you do not have to listen to nay sayers if it goes against your own judgment. Trust your intuition. Chances are no one knows your business better than you.

In this industry, I cannot stress enough the importance of decision-makers having a strong technology background. The reason is very simple: in this industry, technology is business. Technology and business are so intertwined in this industry that no sound business decision can be made without a strong technology foundation. I greatly admire Mark Zuckerberg for publicly saying something to the effect that “everyone at Facebook needs to know how to code.” Of course, he doesn’t mean that literally; rather, he is giving credence to the insight that “technology is business.”

So to the young technologists, believe in yourself. Don’t be misled by “business preaching.” If you know how to code well, you should have the capacity and the foundation to handle all of the other things.

More Stories By Jeremy Geelan

Jeremy Geelan is Chairman & CEO of the 21st Century Internet Group, Inc. and an Executive Academy Member of the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences. Formerly he was President & COO at Cloud Expo, Inc. and Conference Chair of the worldwide Cloud Expo series. He appears regularly at conferences and trade shows, speaking to technology audiences across six continents. You can follow him on twitter: @jg21.