I hooked up with Dan Bricklin last week when I was in Boston. I met Dan in the mid-1990’s when he was starting up Trellix (which I was an early investor in). I still remember the day I cracked open my copy of Visicalc for the Apple II (I think it was copy 200–something. It was the actual copy used in Triumph of the Nerds as Dan didn’t want to risk losing one of his few remaining copies. We got it back eventually from some Oregon Public Radio dude, but that’s another long story.) I adore (and worship) Dan – Visicalc and my Apple II had a huge impact on my life as it was an integral part of my first real introduction to computers (beyond a high-low game I wrote on some mainframe somewhere and a day of APL in front of a Frito-Lay computer with my Uncle Charlie.) I remember /SL and /SQY like it was yesterday. Of course, this led to a thousand hours playing Ultima and Choplifter, but that was more an issue of lack of self control as a teenager.
Dan has been spending a lot of time thinking about Open Source issues over the past year. He’s written extensively on it and just created a video called A Developer’s Introduction to Copyright and Open Source: Why a Lawyer is a Developer’s Friend (eek – lawyers – scary). Given all the issues surrounding Open Source licensing and copyright issues these days and based on the synopsis, Dan’s video looks comprehensive and highly relevant (I’d expect nothing less from Dan.)
Dan promised that my autographed copy is on its way. You can buy an evaluation copy here and a corporate training edition here. And – no – I don’t get a commission on this one – just karma points. Maybe Dan will also send me an autographed copy of Dan Bricklin’s Demo Program (I lost mine in a move somewhere.)
Dave Taylor – a Boulder-based entrepreneur and blogger – has created a half day workshop for business executives and entrepreneurs who want to learn how to use blogging in their business. New West Network – in which I’m an angel investor – is a sponsor and the agenda looks interesting and relevant. If you want to get up to speed on business blogging, this looks like a content rich and reasonably priced ($175) event that’s being held at the Boulder Outlook Hotel on 5/5/05 (ah – fun with numbers) from 9am – 12n.
Ah – it’s spring time and all of the writers who crank out summer mental floss books are seeing their books hit the stores now. Stuart Woods new Stone Barrington novel – Two Dollar Bill – is out. Stone is my hero – an ex-cop turned “legal problem solver” (e.g. the law firm he’s associated with gives him the weird shit they don’t want to deal with) who gets laid constantly by the female protagonists but always manages to get involved in something that messes up his relationships. In the middle of the mess that is his personal life, he takes endless rafts of shit from his ex-cop-partner Dino (who is the son-in-law of a big time mafioso and – try as hard as he can to not end up being pegged for a cop – wears black rubber shoes, white socks, and eats donuts on stake outs.) Oh – and each book has a bad guy problem that Stone and Dino get mixed up in and inevitably have to solve through lots of car chases, stake outs, explosions, kidnapings, random killings, and eventually a complex plot twist.
I covered a lot of mileage this week – Boulder to Dallas to Palo Alto to Boston to Boulder – and decided that I deserved a Stone Barrington novel for the flight home from Boston (instead of email or something heavier, such as Friedman’s The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century.) $29.50 later (the book and a powerbar for the flight) and I made four hours disappear.
While Amy and I are involved in and support a number of non-profits, I limit the number of non-profit boards I sit on at any one time to a total of three as I’ve seen way too many “passive non-profit board members.” While this might be good for the person’s resume, ego, or the non-profit’s external perception of involvement from meaningful people in the community, it’s just not my way – if I’m going to sit on a board, I take it seriously and give it the energy, time, and attention it deserves.
Currently I’m chairman of the National Center for Women & Information Technology and on the boards of the Colorado Conservation Trust and the Watershed School. NCWIT and CCT both released radically updated websites this week. If you are interested in either organization or have looked at their sites in the past, it’s worth a refresher.
Google Ads have started appearing in select RSS feeds on a trial basis. This has been long anticipated, is a completely logical extension of Google AdSense, and – while some people may fight ads in RSS – it’s an inevitable part of the RSS ecosystem.
Feedburner announced today that they support Google AdSense in feeds. Feedburner already supports Yahoo! Search Marketing (fka Overture Advertising) and Amazon Associates as part of their “commerce services” – it was straightforward for Feedburner to incorporate Google AdSense into this. While the publisher (e.g. you, me) needs to set up Google AdSense and be invited into their Google AdSense for RSS program, once your Google AdSense ID is approved for RSS, you will be able to immediately turn this capability on in Feedburner with minimal configuration.
As Dick Costolo – the CEO of Feedburner – mentioned in a post about the financing round we led, Feedburner’s core competency is managing complexity with regard to RSS feed management. While setting up Google Ads on a web site is pretty straightforward (but still requires some technical understanding), it gets a lot harder to modify your RSS feed to include Google Ads. Feedburner makes it simple, lets you have more flexibility (e.g ad frequency, category optimization, ad formatting), and handles all the weird issues that Feedburner has learned about my managing a large number of feeds (e.g. feed read/unread problems when you insert ads, ad formatting in different RSS aggregators).
Last week, NewsGator announced that they had raised a new round led by Masthead Venture Partners. This brings the total amount raised by NewsGator to over $10 million. David Beisel – an associate at Masthead who worked on the deal – has an extensive post on why they decided to make the investment. Rather than repeat what David said here, check out his post on why he likes Masthead’s NewsGator investment.
In addition to all the obvious reasons I’d be excited about this (additional capital, strong validation of NewsGator’s position in the market, more hands on deck to help build the company), I’m particularly happy to have the opportunity to work with Rich Levandov – the partner at Masthead who is joining the NewsGator board. Rich and I worked together in the mid-1990’s when we were “Softbank affiliates.” At that time, Softbank had started aggressively investing in US-based Internet companies and the initial team at Softbank roped in a few people – including Fred Wilson, Jerry Colonna (fka “the Flatiron guys”), Rich, and myself in an “affiliated” role. We did investments with Softbank and were an extension of the initial Softbank team. Rich had two very successful investments with Softbank – Art Technology Group (Nasdaq: ARTG) and Personalogic (acquired by AOL).
This affiliate relationship ended when a group of us – including me – decided to raise the first Softbank Technology Ventures fund – which was a Softbank “sponsored fund” (independent of, but still affiliated with, Softbank, who became one of our limited partners.) Rich opted not to join this fund and while we stayed in touch, we didn’t make any investments together.
At the beginning of this year, Rich gave me a call asking about NewsGator. We had just closed a round and were not looking for additional money (or investors) as the company was well funded. However, I got excited about the idea of working on something with Rich again and he quickly got engaged with the NewsGator gang. The normal VC process ensued with both sides getting to know each other and it quickly became clear that Rich / Masthead would be a big addition to the team. We reached terms that made sense for all parties about a month ago and quickly closed the deal.
While the team at NewsGator has spent some time on this financing, they have a huge pipeline of new things coming in the next 90 days. For a taste of the stuff we are doing with traditional media companies, take a look at the demo of News Hound, the new Denver Post News Aggregator.
Last summer, I decided to read all of Stephen Frey’s books. Most were good, a few were not so good, but it was clear that Frey was becoming a better mental floss writer with every book. His books are about Wall Street, power, intrigue, finance, and most recently private equity. As a managing director at a private equity firm, he speaks from experience.
Thanks to Stephanie Miller from Return Path who sent me a copy of Frey’s latest book, The Chairman, as a gift. I thought it was his best one yet and a great start to the “summer reading extravaganza” that’s in front of me.
thrilled excited about the progress StillSecure has been making. Raj Bhargava – the CEO – and I have done five companies together in the last decade (going back to our first one – NetGenesis) and I love working with the guy. StillSecure had an awesome year last year, but Raj saw an opportunity to meaningfully expand StillSecure’s footprint by building out a “security management platform”, rather than a series of “security point solution products.” StillSecure is starting from a position of having several of the best and hottest products in the segments they play in, so expanding the footprint to be more of a platform is a logical step.
StillSecure VAM – the “vulnerability management” component of the product line provides a superb stand alone vulnerability remediation product. However, StillSecure went a step further and built a VAM Integration Framework to be able to incorporate VAM into any existing IT infrastructure and rather than serve as a stand alone product, it becomes the central command and control center for all vulnerability–related activities.
Today, StillSecure announced two vulnerability scanner connectors – one for ISS Internet Scanner and one for eEye Retina. If you are an existing ISS or eEye customer, you can now integrate it with the StillSecure VAM Framework and use the two products together, leveraging existing investments in the ISS and eEye products.
You’ll continue to see this “platform” theme from many of my companies – I like the way John and Rich describe it and its a natural strategy for many of the things I like to invest in.