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User-Generated Content Comes to Businesses

At Venture Summit East, companies look to move social technologies into businesses.
April 9, 2008

This morning at Venture Summit East in Boston, I talked with Tony Perkins, founder of AlwaysOn, the company that puts on the event, about the trend of user-generated content moving into the workplace. Increasingly, companies are finding uses for social networking, blogging, and mashups (which are online applications that combine data and tools from different websites). IBM, for example, released more information yesterday about IBM Mashup Center, the company’s software designed for making business mashups, adapted to the level of security companies require. GoingOn, a company with which Perkins is also involved, is an example of social-networking technology designed to include features of interest to businesses, such as e-commerce and advertising management.

Perkins suggests that businesses are relying more on these tools in part because people who grew up using technologies such as IM have now started their careers and are bringing their favorite online tools with them. Michael Rhodin, general manager of IBM’s Lotus division, expressed a similar opinion earlier this year at Lotusphere in Orlando.

Perkins sees this move as the next wave for Internet companies. While consumer startups can be built with increasingly low initial investment, Perkins says things work a little differently in the business world. “You have to build ultrareliable infrastructure for your service, because companies can’t afford to have a system break down and not have access to their information,” he says. He adds that marketing to businesses can be more challenging than getting early adopters to try out a new Web service for fun.

Northeastern companies stand to benefit from the transfer of consumer technologies into businesses, Perkins says, suggesting that the traditional hard-technology expertise here will prove useful in adapting technologies to the levels of security and infrastructure robustness required by businesses.

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