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SLX: The Opportunity Ahead

October 1, 2009

slx_logoFor the past several months, I’ve had the privilege of consulting with Sun Microsystems on the Social Learning eXchange (SLX), which I helped  launch to market with the rest of the SLX team back in June 2009.     It’s been one of the most rewarding experiences of my career for a number of reasons:  the great team (first and foremost), social media and social learning focus of the product, the entrepreneurial spirit of the whole venture and opportunity to start something exciting and new (which fits my personality quite nicely for those who know me), and finally, on a more granular personal level, the fantastic opportunity to refine my marketing skills, particularly around web marketing, social media, inbound marketing, and overall go-to-market planning.

There are so many people I’ve enjoyed working with on SLX:  the team at Sun Microsystems (more on them below), the team at PR 20/20 ( @paulroetzer, @keithmoehring), New Media Campaigns (@newmediaclay ), Hubspot ( @ddonlan), and all the press, bloggers, and analysts I’ve worked with who cover social media, social learning, collaboration and online video.  I’ll look forward to continued these relationships in the future.

As I move onto another opportunity, I wanted to reflect a bit on my experience with SLX and why I think it has a bright future:

  • The SLX team– If there is one thing that I’ve learned in my 13+ years working (especially in high tech), it’s the importance of working with good people.   Nothing is more important than working with a team that is smart, hard-working, and trustworthy.  This describes the SLX team to a tee.  Charles Beckham, the CTO of Sun Learning Services and the prime-mover behind SLX, is one of the smartest, most innovative people I’ve worked with and clearly understands how to create and sustain a business.  The folks he’s assembled on the SLX team are also top-notch:  Brynna Donn, who handles the product strategy is someone to be reckoned with.  This is the second time I’ve had the chance to work with Brynna, and have come to appreciate even more the leadership and grit she brings to the table.   Paul Casanova is someone else on the SLX team I’ve been impressed with– he was the chief advocate and evangelist for SLX and understands the practical use of the product to build community– not something that many folks can do.  The rest of the team– Mike De Loia, Jan Hendrik Mangold, the whole contingent of developers in Russia, have a strong understanding of how to build a quality product.  Without a doubt, the people are the greatest asset behind SLX and one of the reasons why it will flourish.
  • The product offering– SLX fills a unique gap in the marketplace:  providing a rich media platform for the business enterprise.  Yes, there are lots of online video products out there for businesses, but most focus on marketing to consumers or creating a web property that serves as a ‘content exchange’ or consumer sharing site (many of which do not have a viable business model).  Few provide a solution specifically targeted for within the organization– helping large and smaller business alike to connect employees, partners, and customers to solve internal problems associated with more effective social learning, marketing communication, and more productive collaboration.  There’s truly a gap in the marketplace for such a solution, and SLX provides a fantastic solution to fill this gap. One of the best things about SLX is that is is PROVEN.  (It has also one numerous awards for excellence among industry experts, particularly within social learning circles).  Sun Microsystems used it (and continues to use it) internally for large scale use:  thousands of users worldwide, who have viewed and downloaded thousands of pieces of content, including through mobile devices.  The challenges Sun has solved with SLX are the same challenges that every enterprise faces:  helping sales people get the information they need to close deals, on-boarding new employees and training existing ones, assisting leadership in communicating with employees and partners, and helping marketing organizations delivery consistent and farther-reaching messaging and product information.
  • The market opportunity– The social media, and in particular, the online video part of the market continues to grow and shows no signs of slowing down.  It’s not just in the world of consumer video:  The exciting part is that most businesses haven’t figured out quite yet how to effectively use online video as part of their internal operations.  This translates into massive opportunity for a product like SLX.  As video technology becomes increasingly easier to use and more integrated into how people collaborate and communicate, the opportunity will only continue to grow.  SLX will be ready to tap this growth as well as play a lead role in making it a reality.

While the opportunity for SLX is certainly a large one, it won’t be an easy path to navigate (it never is)– there will be questions around how it will fit in as part of Oracle’s product set post-acquisition of Sun and how to best capitalize on the market opportunity ahead.  However, those are surmountable challenges.  The hard questions for SLX have already been addressed:  having a quality, competitive product that’s proven;  market validation as demonstrated by a strong pipeline of interested customers; and a strong team dedicated to making it a success.  With these foundational components in place, taking it to the next level will not be a cakewalk, but increases the likelihood of success substantially.

I’ll look forward to seeing SLX succeed wildly and will be remain it’s biggest fan.

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