Brad Feld

Month: February 2005

Jim Lejeal has written a great post on Working With Microsoft.  Jim is CEO of Oxlo – one of our companies – and was previously co-founder and COO of Raindance (now publicly traded on Nasdaq – RNDC – I was one of the first round investors).  Microsoft is a key partner of Oxlo’s (all of Oxlo’s technology is based on Microsoft technologies – including Biztalk and Sharepoint) and Microsoft was an investor in Raindance.  So – Jim’s had plenty of experience in this sandbox.

I’ve been a long time Microsoft partner and advocate – going back to my first company (Feld Technologies) which was in the first class (around 1990) of Microsoft Solution Providers (I still have the plaque with Dawayne Walker’s name on it somewhere).  Many of my current investments – including Commerce5, ePartners, Gold Systems, Newmerix, NewsGator, and Oxlo – have deep relationships with Microsoft and extensively use Microsoft and .NET technology as part of their products and services.

I’ve learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t work with Microsoft over the last 15 years.  Jim’s advice is worth reading.

Today, NewsGator announced a broad European partnership with VNU.  NewsGator is partnering with VNU to distribute both their consumer and enterprise RSS services throughout Europe, with an initial focus on UK, Germany, France, Holland, Italy, Belgium, and Spain.  This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone following NewsGator and RSS as JB Holston has extensive experience in Europe and RSS and blogging are expanding very rapidly throughout Europe (George Bush even visited Europe the other day – wow – Europe must be relevant).  VNU – the leading IT media company in Europe – is in a great position to leverage RSS and help accelerate adoption throughout Europe.

Yes – one more post on The Gates (but still in the humorous category).  My friend Doug DeAngelis, the CEO of Lynx System Developers, sent me this link to The Somerville Gates (an installation of The Gates in Somerville, MA).  Considering Somerville in relation to Manhattan, I think this is at an appropriate scale.

Tom Evslin – the founder / CEO of ITXC (public, and then acquired by Teleglobe) – has written two great posts on An Entrepreneur’s View of Venture Capital.  They are here and here – well worth any entrepreneur’s time to read.

Dave Jilk forwarded me the Jon Stewart segment on The Gates (click on Piles of Sheet). “The Gates will do for New York what the West Wing did for Washington D.C.  Or – what the band Asia did for that continent.” (Stephen Colbert, aka Ted Hitler, Senior Conceptual Art Correspondent.)  Expectedly great stuff.  “I used to think $21 million dollars could be used to achieve something noble – like, um, I don’t know – build a hospital wing.  But The Gates has caused me to recontextualize my notion of what $21 million dollars can be used for – in this case redecorating a bike path.” (Ted Hitler again).

Book Review: On Bullshit

Feb 21, 2005
Category Books

I must have a fascination with books with the word bullshit in the title, as On Bullshit by Harry Frankfurt is the second I’ve read in the last twelve months (the other one was Another Bullshit Night in Suck City).

Frankfurt, a Professor of Philosophy Emeritus at Princeton University, has written a delightful half-book (half-book =< 100 pages). In this book, Frankfurt proposes to “begin the development of a theoretical understanding of bullshit.”  You know you are in for a good time when the first sentence of the book is “One of the most salient features of our culture is that there is so much bullshit.”  Frankfurt asserts that even though bullshit is all around us, “the phenomenon has not aroused much deliberate concern, nor attracted much sustained inquiry.”

Given the massive proliferation of blogging, this seems like a highly relevant topic to explore, as anyone that reads blogs knows that bullshit is everywhere.  The basis of Frankfurt’s discussion is that lying and bullshit are different constructs, as a liar cares about the “truth-value” (e.g. the notion that what he is saying is false) while the bullshitter doesn’t care about the truthfulness of the statement or idea he is discussing.  Frankfurt suggests that “bullshit is unavoidable whenever circumstances require someone to talk without knowing what he is talking about.  Thus the production of bullshit is stimulated whenever a person’s obligations or opportunities to speak about some topic exceed his knowledge of the facts that are relevant to that topic.” 

Sound familiar – or is this just more self-referential or recursive bullshit?

Ban Bullets

Feb 20, 2005

I’ve written before about how most powerpoint presentations are miserable and gave some specific suggestions on how to make them better if you are presenting to me (or any other VC).  I read today on Cliff Atkinson’s blog that adding text to a screen in a powerpoint presentation that is identical to the narration harms the ability of the audience to understand the information.  If you remove the text, information retention increases by 28% and information transfer increases by 79%.  This is no huge surprise if you are a follower of Seth Godin’s methods to Avoid Really Bad Powerpoint – Seth’s actual article is here.

Historically, I’ve restrained myself when someone puts up a slide with bullet points on it and then proceeds to read the bullets.  I always have the urge to shout “shut up – I’ll just read it”, especially since I process information much better by reading then by listening.  It’s the same urge that I used to have as a kid when I sat in the synagogue during high holy days and wanted to jump up and shout “but I’m not sure god exists.”

I’m not going to restrain myself anymore.

Book Review: Nightwork

Feb 19, 2005
Category Books

I spent seven years of my life at MIT.  I ended up with two degrees, an addiction to caffeine, the ability to do several things at once even when massively sleep deprived, a deep understanding of the phrase IHTFP, and an appreciation for a good hack.

I’ve spent the last two days in Cambridge and Boston showing my 15 year old nephew Drew the sights.  We wandered around MIT, hung out at the Media Lab, got some demos from several of the researchers being sponsored by the Deshpande Center (and got to play with powered joint braces and the HexFlex nanomanipulator), ate lunch at the Other Side Cafe and breakfast at Sonsie, counted the Smoots on the Mass Ave Bridge (ok – Harvard Bridge), shopped at The Coop, ate dinner at Legal Seafoods, hung out in the Museum of Science, checked out the new Stata Center (Dr. Seuss would be proud), visited my fraternity (ADP), saw the location of my first office (Feld Technologies – 875 Main Street, Cambridge), wandered past NetGenesis’ first offices (56 Rogers Street, Cambridge), and walked the Infinite Corridor.  It’s been a blast playing tour guide, revisiting some of my old favorite spots, hanging out with Drew, and starting to teach him how to program computers in Logo.

We tried to take a quick trip to New York to see The Gates today, but Logan was completely screwed up, all the computers at the Delta and US Airways Shuttle were down, the lines were 100’s of people long, and – well – it just wasn’t going to happen. 

So – we did more MIT, eventually picking up a copy of Nightwork, the definitive book on the history of hacking at MIT.  I remembered a couple of the hacks, including the infamous Harvard / Yale game that MIT won and the police car on the dome. The book is 40% pictures, 40% commentary on hacks, and 20% essays – and is a delight for anyone that’s either been involved with MIT in any way (including being on the receiving end of a hack) or finds hacking amusing.  It’s an easy read – and well worth being a coffee table book.

Maybe someone hacked the Delta and US Airways computers.  Or – maybe they are just incompetent.

True Art or Fake

Feb 18, 2005

If you are struggling with whether The Gates is true art, I recommend the following test sent to me by Dave Jilk.  I got a 75% – which means I’m merely a pretty good guesser.