Brad Feld

Month: March 2005

I was totally fried from my week so I stayed away from my computer all day yesterday.  I had a fun breakfast with Lucy Sanders of NCWIT and Krisztina Holly of the MIT Deshpande Center, got a massage, and then laid on the couch and chewed down two books.

The first was Guy Kawasaki’s The Art of the Start.  Like all of Guy’s books dating back to The Macintosh Way, it’s a must read for all entrepreneurs as Guy continues to pile on anecdotes and lessons that everyone can learn from.  And – in a move that is after my own heart, he spends the better part of a chapter explaining how to make better powerpoint presentations

Adhering to my cycle of “two books of mental muscle followed by one book of mental floss” (ok – I don’t adhere to it – it’s merely a goal) I took on The Innocent by Harlen Coben.  My friend Jenny Lawton who runs Justbooks sends me piles of advanced manuscripts and makes sure I get every one of Coben’s the second they show up in her store.  Coben is one of my all time favorite mental floss writers – he’s deep, dark, romantic, twisted, violent, and logical all in one package, creates great characters, and always has some nerdy stuff in the mix.  His books automagically come together in the last few chapters so they are simply a rapid romp through exotic brain candy for a couple of hours.  Yum. The Innocent didn’t disappoint.

In this month’s Wired: Start: I Got Accepted at Google! article, the authors state that “for the classes of 2001 to 2004, getting into a corporate campus was harder than graduating summa cum laude from MIT.  No wonder Google has been having so much trouble hiring lately – there IS NO SUCH THING as summa cum laude at MIT so – if they are looking for MIT summa cum laudes, they are fishing in a pond of the empty set.

I’m chairman of the National Center for Women & Information Technology.  A lot of my friends ask me why an organization aimed at women has a guy as chairman.  I respond by telling them that NCWIT is not a women’s issue focused organization (although I’d still be supportive if it was) – it’s all about the long term negative impact on innovation of the gender imbalance that currently exists in the IT industry, especially on the technical side – which obviously involved both men and women. 

Lucy Sanders – the CEO of NCWIT and ex-CTO of Avaya Labs – is much more articulate about it than I could ever be.  She has a great interview in Saturday’s Rocky Mountain News that describes the issue clearly, including the following sound bites:

  • Goal of NCWIT: Gender parity in the IT work force in 20 years.
  • Evidence of Today’s Situation: Only 16% of high schoolers taking the AP Computer Science test are girls.
  • Why Does This Matter?: Men and Women bring different creative skills to the innovation table and we need both in the invention of technology.
  • What Does NCWIT Plan to Do?: First – build a national community around the issue and figure out what’s really going on.  Then, create alliances, build community, mobilize for change, and use effective practices based on research results.

NewsGator launched their NewsGator Media Platform product – a private label RSS service for the media industry – today.  NewsGator Media Platform is based on NewsGator Online and Media News Group and the Denver Post have announced that they are NewsGator Media Platform customers.

Having seen the demos of NewsGator Media integrated into other sites, all I can say is that it’s stunning (of course – as a NewsGator investor – I’m biased – but it is stunning).  Every major media company should / will have private branded RSS aggregators as part of their web infrastructure – if you are part of a major media company, you should look at the NewsGator product as it lets you do this today.

I’ve seen a couple of posts about it already – Rok Hrastnik has a post up on Lockergnome where he totally gets it.

I love my Toto Washlet S100.  But – my friend Scott Moody just sent me an email that has made me lust for something new – the Toto Neorest 600.  According to Wired, following are a few of the features of tomorrow’s paperless office.

  • Integrated bidet: An adjustable, targeted spray plus a warm-air dryer means the end of toilet paper.
  • Smart Flush: Sensors in the bowl detect the amount and type of waste and adjust water volume for each person and every flush.
  • Sleek design: Computer-modeled curves and wider trapways mean better carry-out of waste and a cleaner bowl.
  • Clever seat: The lid raises as you approach; sensors under the seat detect whether you sit down – and the seat goes up if you don’t.
  • Health monitor: A lab-on-a-chip checks waste for cholesterol levels and scans for signs of illness. Results are emailed to medical technicians.
  • Better plumbing: A link to the household mainline, combined with a sophisticated array of valves, allows less water to do the same work.

When I was a kid, whenever my mom said something like “Brad, you sure do have a mouth”, I’d usually respond with “You better fucking believe it.”  (which usually elicited a grimace from her, but I know she was laughing inside). 

I love giving talks, speeches, and being on panels (although I hate sitting in the audience listening).  I gave one in the fall at the 30th Annual Venture Capital Institute – a multi-day conference that’s one of the key “professional education” events for the VC industry. I always ask for feedback from event organizers after any talk I give or panel I’m on.  Sometimes it takes a while for the feedback to make its way to me – I finally got the VCI feedback the other day.  As I read through my talk specific feedback, I was rolling on the floor with laughter from the specific comments (I’ve italicized the ones that really got me) – they say more about the “style” of the VC industry than anything I could ever dream up.  So – rather than try to describe it, here they are.  Enjoy.

  • Just went a little bit too fast.
  • Although one of the best instructors of the program – with excellent delivery & content – I’d encourage the Institute to make it clear what is & is not appropriate language. I found Brad’s inferred style fantastic & nothing offensive – but some may, especially in the southeastern U.S.
  • Obviously a very dynamic speaker.
  • Dress is disrespectful.
  • OK.
  • Subject content may have been a bit too much of a “war story” recounting but brought valuable bits of info to light and addressed issues and options well.
  • A breath of fresh air with great experience to share.
  • Just a fabulous speaker – really enjoyed the “learnings” he shared from real deals.
  • Instruments used not really applicable to our market.
  • Very good.
  • Poor time management.
  • The best so far – actual cases very helpful.
  • More time or probably less slides.
  • I thought Brad’s teaching technique and personality was a great change.
  • Could have spent more time on term sheet.
  • Should have allocated more time to this topic.
  • Take time for IPO discussion.
  • This presentation was helpful, especially the examples of how exits occurred in his experience.
  • I would have liked this to be longer – it would have been nice to learn the rest of this presentation.
  • Entertaining speaker.
  • Case studies were excellent (and helpful).
  • Liberal use of the “F word” detracted from the presentation.
  • Knowledgeable speaker; would appreciate more examples of problematic exits & pitfalls.
  • Great candor in describing the industry. Perfect choice!
  • Nice T-shirt!
  • Some terms were beyond my knowledge level (liquidation preference – carve out…). I’m new in the business & will learn from my firm. A little crass and sloppy for my taste (in this setting). But clearly a very intelligent businessman with practical common sense – a guy I’d invest in & with.
  • Great!
  • Outstanding.
  • Bad language.
  • Try to stick to schedule. Useful format & detail. Slightly long-winded. Too much time spent on relatively easy concepts.
  • What happened to dress code? Too cute! Is this really the presentation VCI wanted? Language was offensive. Good material but inappropriate presentation.
  • Brad was terrific, all-around. Very concise, informative and honest.
  • Certainly unique but good, memorable presentation.
  • Great content. Having more detailed back up slides would be helpful as take-away’s.
  • Very practical/useful discussion.
  • Good job at describing very rich information. Very open and responsive.
  • Very graphic – held my attention.

Mom – you should be proud – you’ve raised a graphic kid (my mom’s an artist, so I’m sure she won’t miss the double entendre).  And – if Tom Peters says “fuck” in public, surely it’s acceptable in business at this point.

Tuesday afternoon I went through the Terminal C entrance at San Jose Airport.  I got to spend five minutes with 16 of my friends from the TSA.  16?  There was no line (there never is at San Jose Terminal C), two machines in operation (I’ve never seen more than two in action), and 16 people in TSA outfits mulling around.  My TSA greeter barely spoke English – I had to ask him what he was saying (he wasn’t really saying anything, just mumbled at me about a laptop or something).  I took off my jacket, shoes, emptied my pockets, took out my laptop, put my drink in the basket, and made sure I held on to my board pass (which was just checked by airport security 30 yards earlier).

As I walked through the x-ray machine, I looked around and noticed 12 of the 16 TSA dudes just hanging around. The post x-ray greeter looked at my boarding pass again and scribbled on it.  Two of the 12 people doing nothing were talking to each other about whether or not you are supposed to cut a pita pocket in half (huh? – seriously – this conversation continued as I put my shoes back on and managed to last at least two minutes).  One of the nothing-to-do-TSA-people was on what was clearly a personal phone call next to a sign that said “heightened threat level.”  Two other nothing-to-do-TSA-people were playing some sort of slap hands game with each other and laughing hysterically.

Even FDR – the great TVA master – would have been bummed out by the behavior of these TSA folks.  I definitely felt like I was only getting 12.5 cents on my tax payer dollar today (Amy just told me that my tax dollar actually goes to pay interest on the debt).  Where is Jack Bauer when you need him?