Brad Feld

Month: October 2005

Ross Carlson – who is my “IT guy” – loves to play with toys even more than I do.  I suggested that he start writing some of them up and I’d post them on my blog.  He’s started with a tame one which happens to be my toy of the month also (Nano – sweet) – look for the wild, wacky, and esoteric nerd toy reviews to start to appear occasionally.

Recently I (Ross) was lucky enough to get an Apple 2 GB iPod Nano (so was Brad). I’d seen the ads, read the reviews, and was really looking forward to finally getting one. This would be my third iPod (Brad has N where N is a large number) – I’ve also got an Apple 1 GB iPod Shuffle that I use for data and to boot Linux (oh yeah and music too) and an Apple 40 GB iPod. I wasn’t exactly sure how I’d use this iPod but after seeing it I knew I wanted it. I was right.

When you see pictures of it you know it’s going to be small. Hell, it’s thinner than a pencil. You don’t really get how small it is until you hold it – it’s amazing. Like many Apple products, once you see it you have to hold it and once you’re holding it you can’t put it down. So, ok, it’s thin but what else? It’s obvious that having a color screen is nice – but it’s more than nice. Remember back when the first color cell phones came out and we all thought it was kinda silly? Everyone quickly realized that the huge benefit of color isn’t necessarily that it’s color (which is great don’t get me wrong) but that you can read it so much easier. That’s what’s great thing about the Nano screen – while it’s not super high res it still looks great making everything so much more readable.

Sound quality is what you’d expect from an iPod – excellent. The Nano includes the same ear buds as all previous iPods. Navigation is just like previous photo iPods. The new smaller click wheel with the big center button is easy to operate making accessing everything a snap. Syncing with iTunes for music and photos is easy – even though I hate iTunes with a passion. So far I haven’t found any third party software for the Nano like I use for my other iPod and my Shuffle.

Ok, so I love it but I’ve got to hate something right? Scratches. If you haven’t read about the scratching problems (here, here, here, here, or here) then keep reading – and read carefully. Due to all the scratching issues I’ve read I haven’t removed the protective sticker that came on it and I haven’t used it much yet (only enough to write this review). It’s sitting in my 3rd generation doc right now (ah Apple, smart enough not change the dock connector for every model) waiting for the protective case I ordered. Order a case for it when you order the Nano. One other minor thing – the headphone jack is at the bottom, not the top. This isn’t that big of a deal but the top would be better. The problem is the thing is so thin they couldn’t fit the screen and the connector at the top.

The Nano is what you’ve come to expect from Apple iPods – it’s great looking, great sounding, easy to use, and amazingly small. If you’ve been considering a smaller sized portable player this is probably it. It comes in 2 GB and 4 GB versions, holding 500 and 1000 songs respectively. Highly recommended.

I don’t usually pay much attention to Online Journalism Awards (and such things) but I’m proud of Jonathan Weber (co-founder and editor in chief of The Industry Standard) and his team at New West Network who just picked up two awards this weekend:

  1. General Excellent in Online Journalism (Small) for their New West Network
  2. Enterprise Journalism (Small)  for their incredible article on Sex, Money, and Meth Addiction in Kalispell, MT

I’m an angel investor in New West Network – it’s a small media deal (not a VC-oriented deal) – but Jonathan has created something that’s editorially relevant, becoming very popular, and has a unique approach to media in the “new west” with coverage in Missoula, Boulder, Salt Lake City, Boise, Albuquerque / Santa Fe, Northern Idaho, Aspen, Durango, Bozeman, and Columbia Gorge.  If you live in, visit, or care about any of these cities, I recommend you subscribe (and it’s easy via RSS).

Congrats Jonathan and team

Mahna Mahna

Oct 31, 2005

It’s a beautiful morning in New York and my brother Daniel started it off with an email to me about Mahna Mahna.  His daughter Sabrina was eating a banana this morning and he started singing Bahna Mahna to her after I managed to get Mahna Mahna stuck in his head a few weeks ago at his birthday party.

This all started on Coverville which played the awesome Cake version of it on Episode 90.  Daniel dug up an original Sesame Street Mahna Mahna and a Dr. Pepper Mahna Mahna commercial (go to the Media Gallery).  I dare you to play them and then try to get this out of your head.

The question is “what is a Mahna Mahna?”  The question is “who cares?”

Eric Olson has started a venture/entrepreneur oriented podcast called VentureWeek.  He recorded the first episode on Thursday night which included me, David Hornik (August Capital), David Cowan (Bessemer), David Sifry (Technorati), David David (David’s), JB “David” Holston (NewsGator), and Dick “David” Costolo (FeedBurner).

Eric did a nice job dealing with the large and somewhat unruly crowd and we had fun as we tried our hardest to mock ourselves as we talked entirely too much about Web 2.0.  The best line was from Cowan: “If you are a known child molester, you have to explain why you are hanging around the playground.”

Scott Maxwell – a managing director at Insight Venture Partners – has started a blog.  I’ve gotten to know him through our time together on the Microsoft VC Advisory Board and can comfortably state that Scott is one smart dude (fellow MIT grad – Ph.D. in MechE and MBA from Sloan).  He’s got fantastic insight and – as a later stage tech investor – brings a somewhat different point of view to the table than early stage tech VCs.  I expect Scott’s blog will be well worth the time for both entrepreneurs and VCs to read.

Well – I gave Fred 36 hours to put up a post about the fun we had at dinner with Wikipedia and – since he hasn’t yet – you’ll get it from me.

Once a year, Return Path has a board / management retreat (from Thursday noon to Friday 2pm) that serves as our October board meeting and annual planning session.  It’s one of – if not the best – board meeting I have each year.  Matt and his team do a superb job – very effectively using this meeting to pull together their proposed annual plan, present it in a setting where we can tear it apart (constructively) and give real time feedback, which then gives them a few more months to lock down the plan, budgets, and comp structure for the next year. 

In addition, we spend plenty of social time as a team, including dinner and some event (last year bowling at Chelsea Piers, this year pool somewhere that I punted on because I was wiped out and wanted to go back to the hotel room and lay in bed with Amy).  Dinner is always a lot of fun – this year we did it at the Turkish Kitchen.

After about an hour, someone suggested that VCs were shylocks.  Someone else suggested that – no – they were shysters.  There was some debate about the difference, resulting in my whipping out my Sidekick and going to Wikipedia.  Fred – bless his intellectual heart – actually remembered that the word shylock meant moneylender and came from a Shakespeare play (thankfully he didn’t remember which play).  I regaled my friends – via Wikipedia – with the story of Shylock from Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice” while only being moderately defensively when asserting that VCs were neither con artists nor were they the NATO reporting name for the R-5 theater ballistic missile.  Of course, when I returned to the hotel room and asked Amy the difference between shylock and shyster, she simply started reciting Merchant of Venice to me.

We couldn’t stop there.  I can’t remember who suggested it (it couldn’t have been me – probably Greg Sands from Sutter Hill) but like all overaged peurile boys (oh – and several of the women at the table joined in) we started looking up swear words on Wikipedia.  Remarkably, their definitions are rich, detailed, and include a wild amount of historical context, including one that we fondly referred to throughout the next day as the “violation of the taboo of incest.”

Who says board meetings can’t be fun?

On Be(come)ing Agile

Oct 27, 2005
Category Writing

My friends at Rally Software have started a corporate blog called On Be(come)ing Agile.  Ryan Martens – the founder of Rally – introduces the blog and explains the zen-like journey to Agile that inspired the name for the blog. 

Rally’s On Demand Agile Software Lifecycle Management solution is being enthusiastically embraced by a wide variety of ISVs and corporate IT shops that are either using or considering Agile software development methods.  If you want to be known by your friends as a Scrum Master, have run out of white papers about Agile Software Development to read in the bathroom, or just want to build better software systems, wander over and take a look.

The Milestone Group just published an interview with me in their quarterly newsletter.  I answer questions such as:

  • Am I long or short on Google?
  • Will 2006 be the year of Microsoft?
  • Will the software industry become commoditized?
  • What will the Internet deliver in the next five years?
  • How can startups find things that the big players won’t compete on?
  • What advice would you give an entrepreneur starting a company today?
  • What competitive venture fund would you invest $10 million in?
  • What’s the most unique deal you’ve been pitched in the last six months?

Watch out The Great Carnack, may you rest in peace.

Have I mentioned lately how much I love my Verizon BroadbandAccess Wireless Service (EVDO)?  As I sit here in Boston’s South Station waiting for the late night train to New York, I marvel at how I used to exist on this planet without this.