Month: May 2005
Nike – as usual – is trying a bunch of marketing and branding things in and around blogs. I got a note from Josh Spear who runs a blog he refers to as “the pulse of cool” who was chosen by Nike to participate in their online / blogger shoe design contest.
Josh put up a white and yellow design which you should go vote for. His is the white and yellow sneaker called “The Spear.” Josh is in second place, no doubt helped by his own use of his blog to get the word out.
Seth Levine has a great blog post on getting a job in the VC business. I get asked this question via my blog about once a week – Seth has done a nice job of giving me a URL to reference for the answer to this question.
Simultaneously, NewsGator Online just launched RSS feeds for job searches in partnership with Work.com. You can now set up a feed with filters by job category, state, city, and job title. Job postings are automagically delivered to you via RSS into your NewsGator Online newsreader.
No Seth, this is not a hint.
For all you 24 fans out there, Jason pointed me the 24: Season 4 Life Expectancy Chart. Priceless. Of course, if you aren’t a 24 fan YET, you can get started in – well – 24 hours – with 24 – Season One. And – if you are a real masochist, try out 24 – Season Two and 24 – Season Three over Memorial Day weekend – you can take your time and watch 48 hours over three days.
To demonstrate how truly committed I am to the cause, I managed to convince Amy to let me change our flight time on Monday from Chicago to Washington DC so we could get there in time to watch the grand finale live.
NPR had a magnificent segment on the new Star Wars Family of Home Health Care Products for all you veteran Star Wars fans. The product line includes:
- Jedi-nase – attack your seasonal allergies at the speed of light
- Grow-bacca – full body wookie hair
- Oil of Yoda Anti-Aging Wrinkle Cream – “Wrinkles have I, not anymore. Buy you this now.”
- R2D2ED – for erectile dysfunction to help the force be with you for up to four hours
and many more, including the Skywalker Walker.
My friend Dave Jilk just put a copy of Howard Anderson’s MIT Technology Review article “Good-Bye to Venture Capital” on my chair (I thought it was quaint that he put a xerox copy of the magazine article on my chair instead of emailing me the web page – maybe he was trying to tell me something.)
Howard was a founder of Battery Ventures and then YankeeTek Ventures. I met him for the first time in the early 1990’s when my first company (Feld Technologies) did some back office network / software work for Battery. I met him again recently at the MIT Sloan School Dean’s Advisory Council meeting (I’m on the MIT Sloan DAC – among other things Howard is the William Porter Distinguished Lecturer at MIT’s Sloan School of Management.) It was great to catch up – albeit it briefly – and his mindset during our conversation was very similar to what he talks about in the article.
Howard is saying something that a number of veteran VCs are saying – there are too many VCs in the market, too much VC money trying to invest, and a completely lack of irrational expectations, which are a requirement for the long term success of VC investments. Howard asserts that a structural change has taken place, rather than a cyclical chance – VC’s thrive on cyclical changes (e.g. buy low, sell high), but structural changes (e.g. the rules are different) causes a real problem.
Yeah – the markets are rational again – but isn’t that just a cycle (I smiled as a wrote that – at least they aren’t irrationally horrifying anymore like they were in 2002.) While I don’t agree with everything that Howard says, the article is definitely provocative for anyone that is a student of, participant in, or investor in the VC business.
I’m stunned. It’s 11am Colorado time and there are already 200+ posts listed on Technorati about NewsGator’s acquisition of FeedDemon. It’s amazing how the word spreads and it is fascinating to read the feedback (both positive and negative), speculation, and rants (good and bad) about this deal.
I’ve noticed several negative comments asserting that “this was driven by the VCs.” While I’ve clearly been involved in NewsGator’s strategy (and Fred has some flattering words to say on the matter), JB and Greg have been driving the strategy and execution of this business (as a VC, I get to “be helpful”, hopefully in a more productive way then the IRS when they show up and say “we are just here to be helpful.”)
Early on in my exploration of RSS aggregators, I came across FeedDemon (how could you miss it – it’s the clear leader of the Windows Desktop aggregators.) I played around with it, liked it, and kept my eye on it. As my Feedburner subscribers increased and I started to have enough subscribers where my data meant something, the position of the top aggregators became clearer (following are my top 6 as of today: Bloglines, NewsGator Online, FeedDemon, My Yahoo, NetNewsWire, and NewsGator Outlook – hint – if you add up NewsGator Online, FeedDemon, and NewsGator Outlook, #1 is still Bloglines (by a little) but the gap between Bloglines / NG and everyone else is huge.)
In the fall as we were crafting our long term strategy – especially around RSS in the enterprise, the idea of a desktop client kept coming up. We had a unique market position with our Outlook client, but as we laid out our enterprise strategy, it was clear that some users wanted a desktop client. As we speculated on the future use case for RSS, item level synchronization became a critical item and we started thinking about how best to do this across all the various aggregators (duh – think like a platform – build an API dudes – get it together.) So – we started working on the API and Greg reached out to Nick to integrated FeedDemon and NewsGator at a sync level (arguably the version that was integrated was pretty light weight.)
At some point in a conversation that Greg, JB, and I were having, one of us (I can’t remember who) said something like “why don’t we approach Nick and see if he’s open to joining forces.” Greg called Nick and you can read about the rest of the story on Greg or Nick’s site. This deal would have never happened if (a) Greg didn’t have the vision he had, (b) Greg wasn’t able to articulate the vision, (c) Greg and Nick didn’t have deep respect for each other as technologists and competitors, and (d) we weren’t collectively (including Nick) able to paint a long term compelling vision for NewsGator.
I’ve seen a couple of posts speculating that Feedburner and Technorati are next in line to be acquired by NewsGator since they share an investor (me). While Feedburner, Technorati, and NewsGator are all complimentary and are discussing a variety of ways to work together, I think it would be a dumb idea to combine these companies. As an investor, I’ve placed my bets on three companies that are the current leader in each of their segments (Aggregator: NewsGator; Feed Management: Feedburner; Search: Technorati). You can argue about how you define the specific segments, but these are mine (the one I missed that I wish I had an investment in is the CMS segment.) I’d much rather try to create three separate platform companies that are complimentary then jam them together into one big mess and fight the battle on three fronts.
There’s a lot more coming, but this is our strategic move of the day. Nick – welcome aboard.
I’m an early stage investor, so it’s unusual for me to make a late stage investment. I made one last week in Klocwork, where I led a $10 million investment with existing investors Pequot, USVP, and Cisco.
One of the areas I like to invest in is companies that build software to help companies build software (more commonly known as IT Management as an umbrella over lots of sub-segments, including ALM, IDE, SQA, and Security). In 2001, we spent some time working with a few entrepreneurs we knew trying to put together a pre-production source code “static analysis” product. At the time, post-production code security / SQA tools were becoming the rage (e.g. the rapid rise of Mercury Interactive), but no one was concentrating on finding the security issues pre-production (or at the source code level.) We weren’t able to pull something together – we just couldn’t convince ourselves that we had something fundable. Eventually, we bagged the project, which happens when you are an early stage player.
At about the same time (2001), Klocwork was spun out of Nortel by Pequot Ventures. Four years later, they’ve made spectacular progress and are the clear leader in this segment. As the issues around security continue to increase, Klocwork’s relevance has also increased as the root cause of many security issues are buried in millions of lines of source code. Klocwork has a highly effective and well proven (through numerous customers) approach to this problem.
Rajeev Batra – a principal in our California office – had been following Klocwork for a while. As the round spun up, he roped me in because of my other investments in and around the IT Management segment (including Rally, Newmerix, and StillSecure). I felt in love with the team in our first meeting I had with them and we quickly moved to a deal.
The deal was a competitive one, so we moved quickly once we decided to take the plunge. It was five weeks from my first meeting to the time we closed, although Rajeev had been working on the deal for a while. My experience with the Klocwork team during the deal process exceeded my expectations and – while there’s always a honeymoon period on new investments – I feel really good about this one (and hope they do about me.)
No – this is not porn spam. This is an example of the how the web can be used to expose things.
As you may be aware, United is working with the bankruptcy courts to invalidate a portion of its guaranteed pension plans. Five current and former United Airlines flight attendants – aged 55 to 64 – have joined forces and created a calendar called “Stewardesses Stripped (of their Pension?)” The goal of the racey 14 page calendar is “to create national awareness to the naked truth that no retirement fund is completely secure and that there is a definitive crisis in the pension guaranty system.”
The sexual irony of the calendar is clever – the picture on the site is captioned “Are your butts covered? We thought ours were too!” In today’s PC world, this is definitely a shot across the