Month: August 2005

Aug 31 2005

6000 Feet Is Not Sea Level

We’re back in Boulder after two months at sea level.  My first run of the fall was a bitch – a minute a mile slower than at sea level.  Altitude really does matter.  But – it was a beautiful one on Dowdy Draw in the mountains just outside of Boulder.  Altitude, dirt, rocks, bright blue sky, altitude, cows (which normally I’m scared of, but these were very polite and got out of my way), cow shit, sweat, and altitude. 

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It’s good to be home.  August was my best running month of the year since January so I’m finally confident that I’m over the nagging injuries I’ve had all year.

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Aug 31 2005

Salesforce.com and RSS

Charlie Wood has a great example of enterprise RSS up and running in his Spanning Salesforce application.   He’s gotten good buzz around it, even without putting out a press release.  Consider it an early example of combining RSS with an API to get data enterprise data from a hosted application via RSS.

Simultaneously, Ryan Martens pointed me at the new Salesforce.com CRMSuccess.com blog.  Built on top of Typepad with the feed by FeedBurner, this is an outstanding example of an enterprise blog that highlights a specific application (in this case – Salesforce.com) as well as “best practices” for this application (in this case – CRM). 

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Aug 30 2005

Summer Books – 2005

My goal this summer when I was at my place in Alaska was to read a book a day. I didn’t make it, but still covered a lot of ground by reading 28 books in the 60 days we were there.  Following is a short synopsis with ratings from 1 to 5 (1=sucks, 5=awesome) with the books segmented by category.  If I’ve reviewed the book on my site, I’ve linked the rating number to the review.

The best book of the summer – uncontested – was Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close.  I highly recommend all of the books I rated as 5’s.  All the 4’s are also must read if you are into the topic.  The rest are hit or miss.

Biography

Business

  • FAB: (5): The “personal fabricator” will be to innovation what the personal computer was in the 1980’s.  Read about the today’s version of the future of custom fabrication.
  • Economics of Innocent Fraud: (4) John Kenneth Galbraith’s short treatise on a very contemporary topic – fraud.
  • Jim Cramer’s Real Money: (1) Don’t waste your time – watch CNBC’s Mad Money instead.

History

Literary Fiction

Mental Floss

  • Killing Rain: (5): John Rain solves problems and gets laid – with grace.
  • How I Paid for College: (5): Absolutely hysterical.  I picked it up randomly at the Homer Bookstore – a high school senior’s romp through – well – teenage stuff (sex, drugs, rock and roll, parents, college, money, sex).
  • Metro Girl: (3): Janet Evanovich tries a different set of characters – it’s pretty good.
  • Eleven on Top: (1): I think I’m done with Stephanie Plum.

Philosophy

Reference

Science Fiction / Fantasy

Happy reading!

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Aug 28 2005

MIT’s Entrepreneurial Ecosystem

Yesterday, I wrote about my day exploring entrepreneurship in Fairbanks, Alaska.  Today, while reading MIT’s Technology Review (the paper copy – in the bathroom – where all paper magazines should be read) I came across a very timely article titled The Entrepreneurship Ecosystem.

One of my recommendations to the folks in Fairbanks was to rally around the University of Alaska Fairbanks as a focal point for entrepreneurial activity in the local community.  I used the examples of Route 128 / Cambridge / Boston (MIT, Harvard, BU) and Silicon Valley (Stanford, Berkeley) as examples of major entrepreneurial communities that grew up around great universities (Ed Roberts covers this issue extremely well in his seminal book on entrepreneurship titled “Entrepreneurship in High Technology: Lessons from MIT and Beyond.”)

The Tech Review article summarized – very effectively – the entrepreneurial ecosystem at MIT and how it works.  The print article also included the following links to resources at MIT that don’t seem to be included in the online article.

While this isn’t a comprehensive list of the MIT entrepreneurial ecosystem, it’s a good start.  It’s important to recognize that many of these organizations have been around for a long time, have ebbed and flowed in popularity and influence, but have clearly demonstrated staying power in the entrepreneurial action surrounding MIT.

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Aug 28 2005

Tori Amos Covering I Don’t Like Mondays

I just had a run where I used up 100% of what I had. I had a great run yesterday (1:15) in Anchorage on the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail.  I decided to go 1:30 today on The Homer Spit and ended up going 1:45.  I was DONE when I was done.  I came home, took a shower, and laid down in bed.  Two hours later I got up.  My eyes are puffy.  I feel completely zoned out.  It’s a wonderful thing.  Highly recommended.

During the aforementioned run, I listened to a couple of Coverville podcasts (my current favorite show – fortunately there’s 125 or so out so I’ve got plenty to catch up on) on my iPod Shuffle. I was about 4 miles into my run when an incredibly haunting version the Boomtown Rats’ “I Don’t Like Mondays” came on.  This is Tori Amos at her absolute best, singing one of my favorite songs, in a way that makes you feel like you were almost there when 16 year old Brenda Ann Spencer opened fire on an elementary school across the street from her San Diego house in 1979 (ok – maybe it was that I was 4 miles into a run that – well – cooked my brain.)

Bonus tracks on this podcast include Lyle Lovett covering the Grateful Dead’s “Friend of the Devil” and Alanis Morissette covering the Police’s “King of Pain.” For those of you that want to sing along, here are the lyrics.

The silicon chip inside her head
Gets switched to overload.
And nobody’s gonna go to school today,
She’s going to make them stay at home.
And daddy doesn’t understand it,
He always said she was as good as gold.
And he can see no reason
‘Cause there are no reasons
What reason do you need to be shown?

Tell me why?  I don’t like Mondays.
Tell me why?  I don’t like Mondays.
Tell me why?  I don’t like Mondays.
I want to shoot the whole day down.

The telex machine is kept so clean
As it types to a waiting world.
And mother feels so shocked,
Father’s world is rocked,
And their thoughts turn to
Their own little girl.
Sweet 16 ain’t so peachy keen,
No, it ain’t so neat to admit defeat.
They can see no reasons
‘Cause there are no reasons
What reason do you need to be shown?

Tell me why?  I don’t like Mondays.
Tell me why?  I don’t like Mondays.
Tell me why?  I don’t like Mondays.
I want to shoot the whole day down.

All the playing’s stopped in the playground now
She wants to play with her toys a while.
And school’s out early and soon we’ll be learning
And the lesson today is how to die.
And then the bullhorn crackles,
And the captain crackles,
With the problems and the how’s and why’s.
And he can see no reasons
‘Cause there are no reasons
What reason do you need to die?

Tell me why?  I don’t like Mondays.
Tell me why?  I don’t like Mondays.
Tell me why?  I don’t like Mondays.
I want to shoot the whole day down.

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Aug 27 2005

Entrepreneurship in Fairbanks

Earlier this summer I was invited up to Fairbanks, Alaska by the Fairbanks Economic Development Corporation to talk about entrepreneurship.  I decided to swing up to Fairbanks at the end of our Alaska trip to check things out.  Amy grew up in Fairbanks and we’ve been there plenty of times to visit friends, but I’d never gone with view toward the entrepreneurial activity going on in town and really had no clue what was going on.

I was hosted for the day by Charlie Walker – the executive director of the Fairbanks Economic Development Corporation – and his intern Olga – a wonderfully smart student at University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) who grew up in Russia and has a dream / vision of starting a venture capital firm in Eastern Europe. 

After a 5am run (I somehow convinced myself that it’s never really dark in Fairbanks in the summer and – even though it was pre-dawn at 5am – I had a super run) I was picked up by Charlie and Olga.  Charlie immediately apologized that he was going to be tangled up all day in a “political thing” that had come up – it turns out that the Mayor of Fairbanks was trying to fire Charlie and – if unsuccessful – effectively shut down FEDC.  While I probably don’t have the whole story, it sounds like classic small town politics that ultimately hurts the town. The issue being raised is one of conflict of interest over $28,000 so it’s getting plenty of local air play.   I told Charlie not to worry about me and go deal with this issue in front of him as I was sure that Olga could help me out for the day (which she did a superb job of.)

We started off at a 7am at the Fairbanks Sunrisers Rotary Club meeting.  Now – I’m not a Rotary Club kind of guy, but I go where they take me, and had a nice time with this group.  I gave a short talk on entrepreneurship and venture capital, listened to the various announcements, and smiled a lot.  I got a pen as a speaking gift which I’ll add to my Rotary Club pen collection (I now have two of them.)

Olga then took me to Rogers Software Development which appears – at 25 people – to be the largest software company in Fairbanks.  Rogers has a proprietary software product for barber shop / beauty salons and appears to be on a tear as they’ve leapfrogged a number of incumbent companies with older applications (DOS and Windows / non-Internet).  They’re growing 100% yoy, have 5,000 customers, are self-funded, clearly profitable, and – well – exactly what you’d expect from a scrappy 25 person software company.  Fun, surprising, and delightful.

We then wandered over to the Office of Electronic Miniaturization (OEM) at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (although OEM is off campus on the second floor of a Wells Fargo building.)  OEM is a DMEA (US Government Defense Microelectronics Activity) sponsored electronic miniaturization program composed of a design development and production facility – the giveaway that it was started in the Internet-bubble is its website – www.silicontundra.org. The program includes a 1,500 square foot class 10,000 clean room which is located on the UAF campus.  The building OEM is located in also houses the Nanook Tech Accelerator – an attempt to build a local incubator (which is the source of the conflict issue that is causing Charlie and FEDC so much grief.)  OEM was funded about 5 years ago and was supposed to be self-sufficient by now but isn’t (although they continue to make progress toward the goal, including a new recent deal with Tessera Technologies).

Lunch was at Pike’s Landing and included Wayne Marr (the Dean of the UAF School of Management), John Dickinson (the CFO of OEM), Cynthia Adams (the CEO of GrantStation – which appears to be the second largest software company in Fairbanks), and Terry Aldridge (consultant to FEDC who is part of the conflict of interest issue described above.)  We had a vigorous conversation about entrepreneurship and venture capital, which predictably started off with the question “Do you think venture capital will come to Fairbanks?” to which I responded “that’s the wrong question – you should be asking what you can do to accelerate entrepreneurship in Fairbanks – the money will follow the activity.”  I liked Wayne, John, Cynthia, and Terry and the fried halibut burger was great.

I finished the day with a talk to about 50 people at UAF on venture capital and entrepreneurship. The first hour was standard stuff, but the second hour got exciting as we started talking about how entrepreneurship can grow in a modest sized town (85,000) like Fairbanks that doesn’t have much of an entrepreneurial culture.  Fairbanks is fortunate to have a huge intellectual asset in UAF (which is the premier science / technology school in Alaska.)  Fairbanks is also the northern-most major city in North America (at least I think it is) which gives it another unique characteristic that it could capitalize on.  A recurring negative theme was the difficulty of keeping young people in Fairbanks after they graduate from college due to a perception of limited opportunities as well as a hatred of the brutal winters.  I spent much of the time focusing the group on several ideas that I thought they should pay attention to if they wanted to expand entrepreneurship in Fairbanks:

  1. Determine your unique competency and concentrate energy on it.
  2. Rally around UAF – use the university as a focal point for all entrepreneurial activity in the area.
  3. Celebrate the successful entrepreneurial companies – make sure that Rogers, GrantStation, and others are visible to the community.
  4. Build peer groups of entrepreneurs and make sure they the community builds a culture of both giving and getting as part of generating a positive feedback loop.
  5. Don’t be discouraged – entrepreneurship is hard – you have to work at it.

Overall, I had a very stimulating day.  While I don’t expect I’ll be doing any investments in Fairbanks any time soon, it was fun to explore entrepreneurship in a town like Fairbanks.

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Aug 26 2005

Deshpande Center Spawns Nine Companies – So Far

I’ve written enthusiastically about the Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation at MIT in the past.  I think it’s an awesome example of a university program that funds novel, early-stage research, connects innovators with the business creation infrastructure – including VCs and entrepreneurs – and actively helps new startups to be created out of fundamental early stage research.

As the Deshpande Center enters their fourth grant cycle, they just released the data on what happened with research teams that they have funded to date. 

  • 44 teams have been funded since 2002
  • $4.9m of grant money has been awarded
  • 9 companies have been formed
  • $23m of angel and first round VC funding has occurred
  • 7 other teams are forming new companies and actively raising money

This is an incredible hit rate – 20% of the teams have already started companies and 36% of the teams that received grants have either started or are starting companies.  Congrats to all these teams, Charles Cooney (MIT Professor) and Krisztina Holly (Deshpande Center Executive Director), and Desh and Jaishree Deshpande who underwrote the program.

As an added bonus, if you want a quick trip through my blog archives, take a look at a reason why scientists and engineers end up on the wrong side of the value equation.  The Deshpande Center is working hard to modify the outcome of this equation.

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Aug 25 2005

Room 214

I love numbers.  Consider it one of my weird predilections.  I’m in Room 214 in a hotel in Fairbanks, Alaska tonight.  When I told Amy my room number, she said “what a great number.”  The reasons are:

  • 21 is the first two digits
  • 14 is the second two digits
  • 7 is the sum of all three digits
  • 2/14 is valentines day

Yes – I know we are a strange, bizarre, and twisted couple.  But – isn’t that what makes it fun?

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Aug 25 2005

VC’s Pitching To VC’s at Microsoft’s Professional Developers Conference

Larry Gregory has put together an interesting VC panel for the upcoming Microsoft PDC in Los Angeles in mid-September.  Rather than the typical VC panel – where we get to sit in front a room for of people and prognosticate about whatever we feel like (regardless of whether or not we have a clue) –  Larry is going to use the panel as part of an innovation exercise around Microsoft Vista.

The panel description is as follows:

Venture Capital Workshop: Incubating New Ideas:  Compete for the best Windows Vista-based solution idea and hear what leading venture capitalists find compelling. Enterprise developers can voice their interests and hear how the startup community is approaching those areas today. ISV developers can test new solution ideas and understand the venture capitalist perspective on viable business opportunities. Come prepared to participate, have fun, and win prizes!

We’re going to break up into seven subgroups (Business Intelligence, Collaboration, Consumer, Infrastructure, Mobility, Security, and Verticals/LOB – I’ve got Collaboration), with each group coming up with ideas around their topics.  The VC in each group will then pitch the best idea to the balance of the VCs.  I expect each panel (minus the pitching VC) will be pleasantly brutal to their cohort.

I doubt the prize will be a free copy of the Google Earth upgrade.  Whatever it is, I expect it’ll be fun.  I’ll be there – hunt me down if you are at PDC and want to say hi.

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Aug 25 2005

Dear Palestinian Bomber

In today’s “direct mail databases are broken” category, the Huffington Post has a short piece titled “California Man Receives Credit Card Offer Addressed to ‘Palestinian Bomber’”  Of course, the person who received this (Sami Habbas) has been a US citizen since the age of 3 and served in the US Army.  When he called JP Morgan Chase about it, he was greeted with “Yes, Mr. Bomber, what can we do for you?”  I guess the call center “judgment filter” is broken also.

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