Thoughts on Socialwok

SocialwokI‘ve been a really bad friend these days.  Apart from putting off my farewells to friends and business contacts I’ve made over the past 3 years, I’ve also put off my friend Ming’s request for my thoughts on his latest project for the past 3 weeks.  Since I was on leave, I decided to give Socialwok a once-over, as promised :-).

Socialwok is a stealth-mode venture that provides an Enterprise Social Application Platform where organizations can collaborate using rich media like video, pictures and website links.  They can also manage on this platform their social media interactions on social networks such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.  This tool’s currently in closed alpha – Ming informed me they’re testing it with several social media aces and couldn’t grant me a trial account as yet, but still wanted to know what I thought about it.  I’m certainly no social media ace, but I’d still give it my best shot!

Sounds like Socialtext but works like a Cooking Wok!

I was fortunate to have met Eugene Lee, CEO of Socialtext on one of Infocomm Investments’ forays into Silicon Valley last September, received a presentation on the company and as a result have a smidgen of understanding of the space that they’re in.  When Ming first mentioned Socialwok to me, I behaved like any VC would, and binned Socialwok into the general Socialtext space.  On closer inspection, these 2 Enterprise Collaboration Tools are quite different in execution.

While Socialtext tries to be the all-encompassing ‘Swiss army knife’ Enterprise Collaboration Tool for small, medium and even large organizations with its intra-organizational social networking, wikis, blogs, messaging, worksheets and dashboards, Socialwok positions itself as an extra-organizational aggregator and connector of social media tools, enabling groups to collaborate and share information between themselves, or extend their presence (through the content they share) in a coordinated fashion to multiple networks.  Without testing Socialtext and Socialwok, I’d speculate (based on what I’ve seen) that these 2 tools could even highly complement each other at some point down the road.  Social media-savvy marketing departments of companies would love to lay their hands on a tool like this.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

The skeptic in you might think – how does this differ from Facebook Groups?  Well, not very much, except in-browser review of embedded media (for now).  Without seeing more of Socialwok and learning about Ming’s plans, any extrapolations I make will be unfair.  Ming’s a smart guy, so you can count on him and the rest of his team putting in effort to differentiate Socialwok further.  After all, it’s only in its closed alpha testing stage.  I shall reserve judgement until I play with the beta/final product.

Parting (Wok-fried) Food for Thought

Some final musings as follows:

  • Go-to-market: Standalone platform launch and concurrently, integration with Force.com?
  • Business models: Freemium vs SaaS – I think Socialwok would need mass adoption, as the majority of people aren’t really savvy with Social Media and may not think they are obtaining their ROI even from a SaaS service.
  • Capital requirements: The good thing about Web 2.0 start-ups is that they don’t really need heck of a lot of money and people (for quite a while).  Don’t come to me and quote the gazillions raised by Silicon Valley Social Media start-ups.  I still feel many of them don’t really understand the phrase ‘cut your burn’ – totally capital inefficient imho.  It might not be that difficult for Ming to raise money if he’s smart about his milestones and being frugal, hence limiting downside risks sufficiently to tempt the more risk-averse and the less social media-savvy Asian VCs to give Socialwok a shot at what they want to do.
  • Exit: Most likely an M&A play, but then again, it’s still early days!

For more information on Socialwok, check out the following resources:

About James Chan

James Chan is an entrepreneur, investor, geek, photographer and husband/father based out of Singapore. Apart from frequent travels to Vietnam, Myanmar and Indonesia for work, James can also be found online via his trusty 15" Retina MacBook Pro or iPhone 6+.