Brad Feld

Month: August 2004

I put this in the “only in Alaska category”, although it’s a brilliant idea that I’m sure will catch on in Atherton, CA with a slighly higher entrance fee.

A couple in Anchor Point, Alaska (15 miles from us in Homer, where my wife Amy lived until she was eight) is running an essay contest where the prize is their house. The entry fee is $100 and a 100 word essay that starts “If I could do anything I wanted …” The owners will select the top 100 essays and a panel of independent judges will pick the winner and the runner up. The deadline is August 25, 2004, although the owners reserve the right to extend the contest for up to a year if they don’t get enough entries (they need 1,100 to get to the $110,000 investment they have in the house.) They also reserve the right to cancel the contest and will send back $99 of the $100 if they do this to cover postage and handling.


Return Path just issued an Email Delivery Index research brief based on data they collected from 16,000 email campaigns representing 3.4m email messages over a four month period. They discovered that the best day to do an email campaign is Monday as delivery rates can be up to 10% greater.

Apparently much of Google’s IPO information will be disseminated via email. The expected concern about emails being blocked and spoofed immediately come to mind, as I’m sure all the phishers are out in force trying to figure out how to scam people on the back of Google.

We’ve got several companies in our portfolio – specifically Return Path and Postini – that are doing great work to try to address all the problems surrounding the email ecosystem. It’ll be fascinating to watch how the emails concerning the most visible IPO of 2004 get handled given the radically different approach Google is taking.

Google should definitely ask Morgan Stanley to send out the first batch of emails on a Monday.


StillSecure’s new product – Safe Access – just got an outstanding review in the August issue of Information Security. The punch line of the article is:

“Safe Access’ agentless architecture is brilliant and simple to deploy. This endpoint security solution gets straight “A’s” for enforcing policies to keep infected and vulnerable PCs off the network.” – George Wrenn, Information Security Magazine

The explosion of spyware, adware, and insecure client software (e.g. Windows XP, IE) has brought intense focus on endpoint security. StillSecure came up with a unique, agentless way to provide this security, building on the vision and expertise from their other great products, Border Guard and VAM. Anti-virus and anti-spyware products help, but if you don’t have your entire network locked down (which usually implies either high security overhead or limited end-user functionality) or control over the folks accessing your network (e.g. home users, remote users, visitors), these products are difficult to keep updated, hard to manage, and often annoyingly slow to use. Given how insidious the various attacks are and how quickly they morph, having an agentless solution is a great approach. It’s technically difficult to create software that works this way – StillSecure has come up with a product that addresses this problem in a unique, exciting, and cost-effective way.


Sushi in Anchorage

Aug 09, 2004
Category Places

My friend Paul Berberian – the co-founder of Raindance Communications – flew us from Homer to Anchorage for a sushi dinner tonight.

Paul and his friend Paul Wareham were up at our place in Homer, AK visiting for the weekend. They flew PaulB’s Cirrus SR-22 up from Boulder, CO – it took them 15 flight hours over three days. We had a great weekend hanging out and showing them around Homer. Originally we were going to fly to Valdez for lunch, but the weather was shaky and Valdez is a tough airport to land at.

We decided to head to Anchorage for sushi since we don’t have any sushi in Homer (one of Homer’s few weaknesses as an ideal place on the planet.). We left the house at 5:30pm, drove the five minutes to the airport, and were in the air by 6:15pm. We dinked around some near Homer looking at Grewink glacier across Kachemak Bay and then headed to Anchorage. We landed at Merrill Field 45 minutes later, cutting over three hours off the normal drive time (four to five hours).

We met up with Amy’s friend Jon Zasada who runs the Boys and Girls Club of Southcentral Alaska and went out to Peter’s Sushi Spot. Our sushi starved bodies hadn’t had a feast since mid-June so – at the risk of having a rocky stomach experience on the way back – we pigged out. We finished things off with Alaska’s best local ice cream – Hot Licks. Yum.

We headed back home and touched down in Homer at 10:30pm. While I’m not a great small plane flyer, we had a pretty magical evening. The view from the plane at 3,500 feet was unbelievable – the beauty and scale of Alaska is even more dramatic by air at this altitude. Dinner was awesome, and the whole idea of round tripping to Anchorage to have dinner with friends in five hours is very cool.


VC Clichés

Aug 05, 2004

The two guys that work with me in Colorado – Chris Wand and Seth Levine – are visiting me in Alaska this week. We started joking about all the ridiculous things we (VCs) say on a regular basis. At the risk of exposing “super secret VC information”, I thought I’d write up a few of these phrases along with what they actually mean.

Oh – and on the topic of “giving away state secrets”, Matt Blumberg has a great post up on How to Negotiate a Term Sheet with a VC. This is a must read for anyone doing a venture financing. Matt – thanks a lot – look for my upcoming post on “How to give one of your star CEO’s a pay cut.”

Sales

  • We need to clarify our messaging: Our customers and prospects (and probably our employees) have no fucking idea what we do. This usually also means the VC doesn’t know what the company does.
  • We need to do a better job of filtering our sales prospects so we don’t waste our time on bad leads: Our marketing / demand generation sucks – we’re not targeting the right prospects. This is often a result of a nice pipeline, well presented and formatted, but with no resulting sales. Sometimes this is a marketing problem; sometimes this is a sales problem: often it’s both.
  • We need to strengthen our sales pipeline: We’re doing a crappy job in sales, but I’ve decided to be nice today either (a) because I’m in a good mood or (b) I don’t want to demoralize a team that knows it’s having trouble bringing it home. I put this phrase in the “yellow warning flag” category – you usually don’t get to hear it twice (unless your VC is a very blissful person).

Management Team

  • You need to focus on your core business fundamentals: You guys have no clue what your priorities are. This is a cliche born out of frustration that often leads up to a more serious discussion with the CEO about the systemic problems in the business (or more specifically, why the business is melting down.)
  • You need to get alignment among your management team: This one means two things: (1) One or more people on your team suck and need to go and (2) You – as CEO – are doing a sub-par job of leading the charge – and it shows.
  • You need to upgrade your management team: If you have the ability to read between the lines, this often means “if you don’t fix your management team, we’ll focus on ‘fixing’ you.”

Term Sheet Negotiations (Ode to Matt Blumberg’s Post)

  • We bring more than money to the table: Uh – yeah. What would that be again?
  • That’s an industry standard term: Hint – there are no industry standards in the venture business.
  • Don’t worry about pre-money – we’ll take care of you later: Did your mom ever says, “Honey – don’t worry about the water – c’mon in, it’s not too cold.”?
  • Don’t focus on percentages: This is kind of like saying to a 747 pilot “don’t bother paying attention to where the runway is – just land where ever you want.”
  • Don’t worry about that term, we’ll never actually enforce that: Um, right.

Reasons to Pass on Investments

  • It’s not in our sweet spot: I’m still looking for my own personal sweet spot – maybe that’s why I’m so sarcastic feeling today.

Today was a perfect Alaska day. Amy and I have friends up to our place in Homer (Chris, Seth, and Ed) – the five of us went bear watching today.

We chartered a plane from Smokey Bay Air. The five of us crammed into a Cessna 206 for the 30 minute flight over Cook Inlet to Lake Clark National Preserve. As we approached land, the Iliamna Volcano loomed large (10,016 ft). We landed on the beach – which was a first for all of us (but apparently the 9,342nd time for the pilot who appeared to do the landing with his eyes closed.)

We got picked up by our guide Drew in a 12 wheeler (a four wheeler with two “passenger sleds” attached.) Drew took us to our base for the day – the Alaska Homestead Lodge. We met the owners (and our hosts) James and Shelia Isaak who quickly served us an amazing kippered salmon lunch.

After lunch, we piled into the 12 wheeler and headed out to find some bears. It was a magnificent, sunny, pleasant day so we all settled in with high hopes. The first two bears we spotted were far in the distance (a half mile away) out on the tidal shelf. We watched them for a little while, but then went looking for more that we could get closer to.

We hiked along the Johnson River for a while before coming across a 7 ft, male bear (450 lbs, 5 years old.) We tracked alongside it for nearly an hour, coming as close as 50 feet as he ambled down the river. Everyone talks about how amazing bears are, but there’s nothing quite like being right on top of one. He was aware of us, but seemed to be blissfully unconcerned. Eventually he wandered out of range, and we regrouped and went looking for another one.

We saw two more before heading back to the lodge and realized we were being spoiled. Drew told us that there are 50 bears living in a 5 mile radius (approximately 75 square miles) and we’d seen five of them in three hours.

The gang dumped me off at the lodge where I took a nap and then polished off Rain Fall while they went out looking for more bears. They came back a few hours later – unsuccessful – but happy nonetheless as they got to see a bunch of gigantic killer silver salmon jumping around (ok – they weren’t “killer”, unless you are an insect.)

We finished off the day with an awesome dinner at the lodge. Our plane came (landing on the beach again – whew) and we flew home.

We’re all sitting around talking about the day. It was perfect. If you are ever up this way, I highly recommend a day bear watching at the Alaska Homestead Lodge.


On Thursday of last week, IBM announced that it had acquired Cyanea. James Chong – the CEO at Cyanea – is taking a senior management role at IBM, as James will be running the Application Management Group within Tivoli. As part of his new role, he will be integrating the various application management technologies that IBM has through Tivoli, their recent acquisition of Candle, and the acquisition of Cyanea.

We’re extremely excited about this deal. Cyanea has been one of the most successful early stage software companies I’ve ever been involved with. They shipped their first product within 9 months of being funded and in their first year of product shipments became one of the top providers of APM products.

IBM was an initial investor in the company and James had engineered a very substantial OEM agreement with IBM. We were in the final throws of closing a significant Series B financing when IBM made an offer for the company. James, the team, and the investors struggled with whether to go it alone or be acquired – IBM ultimately made it attractive enough for us to choose the acquisition route.

While I didn’t make our original investment in Cyanea, I took over responsibility for the company when Bill Burnham left Mobius. Bill wrote a good post on the APM market after the transaction was announced – I recommend it if you have interest in the players and technology in the APM market.

Between IBM’s acquisition of Cyanea, IAC/InterActiveCorp’s acquisition of ServiceMagic, ePartners merger with EYT, and solid July performances from a number of my portfolio companies, it was a busy but satisfying July.


Adventures in Tokyo

Aug 01, 2004
Category Books

Amy and I go to a different foreign city every year on her birthday. Last year it was Rome; this year it will be Tokyo.

Even though I spent six years working with or affiliated with Softbank, I never managed to make it to Japan. So – this will be our first trip. Once we decided to go, I emailed Jenny Lawton and asked her to send me a typical stack of Tokyo tourist books.

She included a couple of gems, including a book by Rick Kennedy of Tokyoq called Little Adventures in Tokyo: 39 Thrills for the Urban Explorer. I’ve gobbled this one down (ignoring the several other “here’s what to see and do in Tokyo books” – I’ll leave those for Amy to look at.) Instead, I’ve learned about kohdo (incense cerimony), kyudo (archery), tea in temples, the Shinjuku Station Rush Hour, pachinko, hydroplane races, retro Tokyo, banana splits, skiing inside, miniature formula-1 racing, and a bunch of other off the beaten path things to do.

I expect this will be a weird trip.