“My longest sales cycle has been two hours,” said Fulkerson, co-founder and chief executive officer of MindTouch of San Diego (DEMOfall 06), the developer of the open source enterprise wiki interface DekiWiki and its platform – Dream, a Distributed REST Application Manager.
Fulkerson is the young company’s only salesperson.
Having a relatively easy time selling into enterprise IT groups in large organizations like the U.S. Department of Defense and big companies such as The San Diego Union Tribune, Federal Express, EMC, Microsoft, Fujitsu, and British Petroleum is convincing Fulkerson that wikis “are moving into the mainstream of the IT enterprise.Wikis aren’t a disruptive technology anymore.”
Since its first product release last July, MindTouch has sold its support services to 300 companies, while its free DekiWiki application has been downloaded about 400,000 times, including more than 211,900 times at SourceForge, an online open source market.
Enterprise IT analysts, The 451 Group of New York, in a January 2008 survey of 2,081 IT and business professionals noted only 20 percent of respondents said they currently use wikis to improve employee collaboration and productivity with another 4 percent planning on using them this year.
Of those surveyed,only 30 percent held IT enterprise jobs, the rest were senior and middle managers, doctors, scientists or other knowledge workers overwhelming from the U.S. Other industry analysts, including Gartner, have projected wikis will be used by about half of the world’s enterprises by the end of 2009.
Fulkerson concedes that while MindTouch is seeing IT adoption of its tools and platform, “business users (like marketing and finance departments) are not there yet. The drive is to create easier to use tools for them.”
Kathleen Reidy, 451 senior analyst and author of the report New Social Order, believes the social software market is still formative and fragmented.
“Customers are willing to look beyond their installed tools to find new ways to improve communication and collaboration. Experimenting with wikis and blogs certainly appears to be worth the effort,” said Reidy.
“Changes to the level of interaction available on the public Web have made blogging, commenting, tagging,and creating and ranking content everyday affairs, and this is changing user expectations of how enterprise applications act,” she said.
“Large vendors are moving in fast, and are mostly relying on internal development at this point to add social software capabilities to existing or add-on products.”
The young wiki market is crowded with venture-backed start-up companies and giants like Microsoft (SharePoint), IBM, and Google. Reidy estimates about a third of the current wiki vendors offer products based on open source code.
MindTouch doesn’t position itself against wiki tool makers such as Socialtext, Eurekster, eTouch, PBWiki, TWiki, Google JotSpot (DEMO@15), MediaWiki, or Atlassian’s Confluence, rather because of its combination of tools and platform, MindTouch sees its competition as SAP’s Collapse Server, BEA AquaLogic products, and IBM Lotus Connections.
“It’s all about providing the connective tissue to the enterprise so IT people can kick ass,” Fulkerson said.”And it’s about helping IT get value out of their SOA (service-oriented architecture) investment.”
Christopher Keene, CEO of WaveMaker Software of San Francisco, recently noted in his blog The Keene View that companies like WaveMaker, MindTouch, and Alfresco represent the second generation of social networking open source applications for the IT enterprise and are using a strategy opposite to the first generation companies like MySQL, JBoss, and SleepyCat.
Early open source companies were project-driven and created communities first and then struggled to develop a successful business model. This second generation “started with a commercial focus and are now working to create vibrant communities,” Keene noted.
One way MindTouch engages its growing community is by making a small donation to the Electronic Frontier Foundation or the member’s favorite nonprofit that whenever someone submits code patches, bug reports,extensions, or translations. “It’s about building tribe and making them feel good about contributing,” Fulkerson said.
MindTouch recently upgraded DekiWiki beyond content management into a full-featured application platform that can host mashups and execute code. It also introduced new features that allow several people to edit the same document simultaneously.
Deki Wiki is a collaboration platform for creating mashups with Web services, widgets, legacy systems, and other Web 2.0 applications on the Web or behind the firewall.The new version of DekiWiki supports Microsoft Silverlight, Microsoft ADO.NET Data Services (code-named “Astoria”), and new Windows Live services for enterprise wiki users and mashup makers.
MindTouch also introduced Wik.is, a new free online-hosted offering of Deki Wiki for enterprise teams, workgroups, and power users who need an online tool for sharing information, creating dynamic reports, and building complex mashups of disparate applications.
A user registers at Wik.is and instantly creates a new Deki Wiki site for authoring and sharing content. Wik.is is free with 100MB of storage, unlimited users, unlimited pages, unlimited access to the API, and is without advertising. A “Pro” upgrade is available for US$99 a year and unlocks 10GB of storage and full site customization.
In addition, MindTouch in January added open-source leaders Larry Augustin and Matt Asay to its board of advisors.
Augustin invests and advises early stage technology companies, and was founder of and chief executive officer of VA Linux (now SourceForge) and Asay is vice president of development and general manager of the Americas for Alfresco Software Inc. of Palo Alto, Calif. and the U.K.. MindTouch’s other advisor is Doug Levin, president and chief executive of BlackDuck Software Management of Waltham, Mass. and author of CEO Blog.
MindTouch, which employs 12 people, is self funded and is currently is trying to raise about $5 million for a series A strategic investment round, Fulkerson said.