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Hi, I’m Brad Feld, a managing director at the Foundry Group who lives in Boulder, Colorado. I invest in software and Internet companies around the US, run marathons and read a lot.

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Contact Management Tools For Google Apps: Rainmaker and WriteThat.Name

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I’ve recently discovered two awesome tools for helping me manage my contacts in Google Apps. One is a TechStars Boulder company called Rainmaker and the other is a Paris-based company called Kwaga that has an app called WriteThat.Name.

I’ve got a large address book in Gmail (> 11,000 contacts). I get numerous new inbound contacts on a regular basis from people reaching out to me and Google automatically puts their email address in Google Contacts, which is cool. However, it doesn’t put any additional info – either from the email body (which often has contact info in it) or from other sources like Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook – which often has a lot more contact info, including a photo.

Let’s start with WriteThat.Name. Once you tie it to you Google account, it automatically scans emails, parses out any contact info it finds, and automagically adds it to the contact record. I’ve been looking for this for a very long time (over a decade) – I’ve never understood why Microsoft didn’t build this into Outlook. Sure – there have been plenty of plug-ins along the way, but nothing that “just worked” invisibly in the background. WriteThat.Name does – beautifully. After using it for a week for free I paid for it. I met the CEO Philippe Laval at lunch the other day in Paris and gave him a big hug. Do yourself a favor – try it.

The next app is Rainmaker. This is from one of the TechStars Boulder teams from this year that is just killing it. You connect it up to your social networks and your Google account. You can then selectively, or in bulk, “make it rain” on your contacts where Rainmaker will use all the magic it can to enhance your existing contacts using whatever information it can find. Like WriteThat.Name, this information is going directly into your Contact database, enhancing it dramatically.

While there is a lot more that can be done, both of these applications make good on the promise of “my computer being smarter than me.” I find that I spend almost no time in my Contacts entering data and updating it any more. All the stuff I need is there – all the time – and I can call, email, IM, chat, txt, or whatever I want without having to search around for the info.

One last hint – before you crank up any program that you give write access to your Google App data, make sure you use Spanning Backup to backup your Google Contacts, Calendar, and Docs data (we are investors in Spanning Cloud Apps, the company that does Spanning Backup.) While I’ve had no issues with either Rainmaker or WriteThat.Name, better safe than sorry!

Current Fascination With Google+

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Jeff Clavier is hanging out with Amy and me in Paris for a few days. We had an incredible dinner last night at L’Arpege - we’d been there once before with another friend (Ed Roberto) about five years ago and it was even better than we remembered it to be. We got home five hours after we started dinner which included an epic cheese course and two dessert courses.

Jeff’s been spending a lot of time on Google+ as have I and many of the VCs and tech early adopters that I know (my VC Circle is my largest circle.) Google+ is rumored to have reached 10m users already and show no sign of slowing. My experience with it has been fascinating – I didn’t do much beyond set up my account, figure out the right login approach since I use Google Apps and Google+ doesn’t yet work with a Google Apps account, and put up a few posts. I’ve got 1400 followers already who presumably simply auto-discovered me via Google’s algorithms (they do have a great social graph already given all the Gmail emails and address books.)

Recently I wrote a post titled Rethinking My Social Graph. I’ve struggled to get my Facebook social graph in order (3000 friends later – lots of acquaintances, not that many friends) and pondered how I use LinkedIn (promiscuously – I link with pretty much anyone). Twitter has been my ultimate broadcast tool and when I think about Google+ vs. Facebook, I realize that the power is the “follow” model vs. the “friend” model.

Facebook has become not that useful for me because while it’s the friend model, I’ve treated it as a follow model. As a result, there isn’t that much intimate communication on it for me, or if there is, it’s completely lost in the noise of the people who I’m acquaintances with. I’ve tried to solve this by sorting them into Lists but there are two problems. The UI for doing this is awful / tedious / excruciating and the control over what you do with lists is weak, especially in places where you really want the control (such as the news feed).

In contrast, Google+ nailed this with the follow model, letting anyone that is interested in what I have to say follow me, while I only follow people I’m interested in. While this is the Twitter model, you get much finer control over both consumption and broadcast through the use of Circles. Now that I have enough activity on Google+, I’m starting to understand and see the impact of this. Oh – and I guess I should start calling it G+ like all the cool kids do.

As Jason and I are about to launch our new book Venture Deals: Be Smarter Than Your Lawyer and Venture Capitalist I’ve been once again thinking about communication and promotion via social media. My experience setting up the blog and twitter feed for Startup Marriage reminded me how easy it is to get the tech set up, but how challenging it is to get engagement. And my investment in Gnip is showing me the continued geometric expansion of social data across an ever increasing number of platforms.

Get ready – I think we have now finally “just begun.”

I Love Google’s Style

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Today Google announced that they had now raised the limit on number of contacts to 25,000 (from 10,000) for all Gmail users (including Google Apps users.)  Boom – done – deployed for everyone – and announced in a short and to the point blog post.

70 days ago I wrote a post titled Dear Google, I Have More Than 10,000 Contacts where I bitched loudly about this problem. I have about 6400 actual contact records and the other 3600 had been autofilled by Google’s magic “create a new contact record whenever you respond to someone” feature. This is a great feature as I get 100+ emails a day from people I’ve never communicated with before who I respond to. Suddenly, I couldn’t add any new contacts at all.

Impressively, Google Entreprise Support responded immediately to me. I learned that this issue was high on the priority list and being worked on. Several weeks ago, I was contacted again and let into (under NDA) an early adopter program to test out the new feature. Magically my contact limit was raised and everything worked as planned. And then today they rolled it out to every single Gmail user. Wow.

While I’m psyched with the feature, I’m really impressed how Google handles stuff like this. No one at Google was defensive about the issue – they just addressed it directly. No one said “we don’t support that” – they said “we are working on it.” No one made a big deal about it – they just did it, tested it, and rolled it out. For everyone.

Well done Google.

Dear Google, I Have More Than 10,000 Contacts

Comments (270)

I just received the “amusing email of the day” from Google. I feel like I’m in one step forward / one step back with Google Enterprise Support. If you read my two recent posts on this, you saw that I started by saying that it’s Time For Google To Get Serious About Enterprise Tech Support and I followed up with My Increasing Love Affair With Google Apps.

A few days ago, I realized that Google was no longer allowing me to enter new contacts. When I checked Contacts in Google Apps, I saw I had exactly 10,000. That triggered some neuron in my brain to fire at which point I did a – ahem – Google search and quickly found that the Apps limit is 10,000 contacts. I complained to Ross (our IT guy) who sent Google the following email:

One of our users has hit some sort of limit of 10,000 contacts – we need this increased as this user needs more than 10,000. Can you let me know how to increase this limit?

Early this morning Ross got the following response.

Hello Ross,

Thank you for your message. I understand that you are inquiring about the Contact limit per user for a Google Apps for Business account.

This is expected functionality at the moment and we suggest that you remove some of the contacts that you don’t use to free up some space on your account. You are not able to increase this amount, however if you would like you can submit a feature request for increasing the amount of Contacts each user has. To do this please follow these instructions

1. Login to your Google Apps account.

2. In your dashboard, scroll down to the very bottom on the screen and you will see a link called ‘Suggest a Feature.’

3. Click on this link and you will be able to fill out a feature request.

I hope you found this information useful, Ross and thank you for your understanding.

Dear Google, no, this is not helpful. While part of me fantasizes about never meeting anyone again in the future that I’d want to put in my Contact database (that’s the introvert part of me), my business dictates that I meet lots of new people every week. And CardMunch is relentless about munching their business cards and putting it in my Address Book (or – well – Contact Database). And – you are now the source repository for all of these dudes and dudettes!

I can’t imagine any particularly good reason why 10,000 would be the limit, or that I couldn’t simply pay you money (I will!) to get 20,000. Yeah, that seems like plenty – how about 20,000? Yeah, I know, we’ll never need more than 64K of RAM in a computer.

My Increasing Love Affair With Google Apps

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At Foundry Group, we have now completely switched to Google Apps. This started in August when I decided to Try Gmail For A Week. Five months later I am ready to declare this experiment a complete success.

As every day passes, I find a new magic happy thing that ties my life together better. Today it was Google rolling out a bookmark importer for Delicious.  Amy and I have been heavy delicious users, although I stopped a while ago when it was uncertain what delicious’ future was. Amy kept asking me what the long term solution was now that we are on Google Apps – it turns out that the answer is “import your Delicious tags into Google Bookmark and keep on going.”

About once a week I’m stymied by something, but the +1 each day nets out to +6 for the week. That’s fine for me – I figure out a work around and usually, voila, as if the $GOOG could read my mind, the thing that didn’t work right or didn’t exist suddenly appears.

Yesterday’s magic was finally connecting up my Youtube account (which was connected to my personal Gmail account) to my Google Apps account. Ahem – it did exactly what I wanted it to and now my Youtube life is smooth and happy again.

And even when I publicly criticize Google, they react amazingly well. A month ago I wrote a post titled Time For Google To Get Serious About Enterprise Tech Support. Within an hour of it going up, I got an email and a call from the head of Google Enterprise support. We talked through the issues, he acknowledged certain weaknesses, talked about what they were doing to improve things, and listened carefully to my very specific feedback on a few things. He connected up with our IT guy (Ross) and they spent some time going through our experiences. Again, he listened to the feedback. And we’ve seen real improvements based on what we told them. Oh, and now that we are through the migration, we almost never need support.

If anyone still doubts Google’s intention in the enterprise, you shouldn’t. Count me impressed.

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