Brad Feld

Month: January 2006

Jonathan Schwartz – the president and COO of Sun – just posted on his great trip to Sun Mexico and raved about their recent performance.  He posted a picture of “the winning team” – my first reaction was “where are the women?”  I know Sun is a member of the National Center for Women & Information Technology Workforce Alliance so I was a little surprised.  I decided to dig a little more and discovered that two of twenty three senior execs are women and two of nine directors are women.  Unfortunately I had no easy way to go any deeper in the organization – it’s certainly conceivable that there is a higher ratio of female engineers at Sun than female executives – although if history is a guide this probably isn’t the case.

I’ve been involved in NCWIT not because of an innate desire on my part for gender parity, but because I’m a strong believe that if the U.S. wants to continue to be competitive in IT and computer science 20 years from now, the dramatic gender split that currently exists needs to be gone – for multiple reasons, not the least of which are the fundamental issues of design (if 50 percent of your users are women, don’t you want 50 percent of your designers to be women?) and supply and demand (there simply aren’t enough men to satisfy the growth of the industry.)  I recognize the irony of this statement in the context of a photo of the Sun Mexico “winning team”, and while I think of Sun as an international company, it’s clearly headquartered in the U.S.

To continue to be relevant in the long term, Sun has to out-innovate a number of fierce competitors and they should be using all of the weapons at their disposal.  While I can imagine a typical response of “Brad – get off your soapbox – quit being a feminist – no room for that here”, I hope someone high up at Sun is actively thinking about the long term gender dynamics in the IT industry and how this can positively impact innovation.  It’s an interesting challenge and I can assure Sun that some of their most aggressive competitors are not just thinking about it but taking aggressive steps to take advantage of the idea.

Confronting Reality was awful.  The celebrated authors of this book – Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan – should consider confronting the reality that the world does not need yet another tepid, uninspired business book that tries to create a “simple” construct (in this case, the notion of – tada – a “business model”) to “confront reality” and improve you business.  The construct is lame.  The examples, while somewhat interesting (EMC, Cisco, Sun, Home Depot, 3M, and Thompson) and by far the best part of the book, are still incredibly light weight stories of the transformation these companies went through recently.

I don’t know why I keep buying and reading business books like this.  They are usually such a profound disappointment.  I got suckered into this one because my favorite quote from Atlas Shrugged is Nobody stays here by faking reality in any manner whatever.”  Unfortunately, this time Bossidy and Charan faked me out.

Earlier this week I was enjoying myself at an Oxlo board meeting (the food was “ok” – at least there was food) and I realized that a number of people in the room were folks that I had met randomly. I’ve had a long standing “random meeting” policy – I try to set aside time to get together with people that are referred to me by someone I know. While I don’t do coffee, breakfast, lunch, or other time consuming things, I’m always happy to spend 15 minutes meeting someone for the first time, hearing their story, and seeing if I can connect them up with something I’m involved in.

A year or so ago I realized that the endless context switching between random meetings and all the other stuff I did was disruptive.  So – I started doing “random days.”  Twice a month, I schedule a day in the office where I fill it up with as many random meetings as I can.  I space them apart by 30 minutes and aim for each interaction to be 15 minutes long.  If we get into something profoundly interesting, it stretches to 30 minutes.  Since I started doing this, I’ve gotten rid of the endless daily interactions that are “random” and end up having a great, super stimulating day where I meet 15 to 20 new people in a very efficient (for me) context.

As I pondered the folks that I work with today that I met “randomly” I smiled and realized this has been working very well for me over the past 20 years.

Earlier this week I wrote that Tim Wolters – CTO of Collective Intellect had starting posting on terms associated with VC financings.  Yesterday – Niel Robertson – CTO of Newmerix (who just closed a follow on to their Series B financing) just wrote an extensive post about his experience with early stage venture financings.  Great insight from the entrepreneur’s point of view (in the case that you are sick and tired about hearing about things from a VC point of view.)

If you are into 24, Slate has an excellent interview with Michael Loceff – one of the key writers for the show.  Thanks Rick.

I’ve been to zillions of board meetings (and lunch meetings) over the past decade.  The food at 98% of them is shit. 

We had a board meeting at FeedBurner today.  Lunch was – nope – not “yet another soggy sandwich.”  Dick and crew treated us to Thai food – yum. 

It took virtually no extra effort (or cost) to shift from “generic unhealthy roast beef and ham sandwiches that the vegetarian board members (me) had to avoid and settle for a bag of potato chips instead” to “sumptuous, fun, exciting, hot, spicy, and stimulating food.  Oh – and NO cookie plate laden with 500 calorie bombshells that no one wants but those with poor impulse control and sugar addiction (like me) can’t avoid gobbling down.

The next time you have a board meeting, be creative.  Feed us something fun and healthy.  Make me jump with joy when I see the food.

As part of my running habit, I typically run on a treadmill in the winter when I travel to a cold city (it’s just a lot easier than schlepping warm clothes around and finding my way around a strange city in the dark.)  I woke up in Chicago today, headed downstairs to the “fitness room”, and spent some time on the treadmill.  Usually I’d watch a movie or MTV, but neither was happening on the TV attached to the treadmill so I ended up being stuck with CNBC.  Closed captioning was on because of the little sign on the TV that said “get headphones from the front desk” which was five floors below me and I was already a minute into my run when I figured out that a headset wasn’t going to magically appear (I guess I wasn’t the first person to be perplexed that there were no headphones easily available.)

CNBC was a comedy show this morning.  I never watch Squawk Box (or CNBC for that matter).  Joe Kernen – the anchor – could give Jon Stewart a run for his money.  When setting up his interview with the CFO of Xilinx who’s stock was trading down 5% after their earnings release yesterday, Joe said something like “Xilinx makes field programmable gatorade.  If you want green, you can have green flavored.  If you want orange, you can have orange flavored.  I have no idea what a field programmable gate array is – I just like saying it.”

Later in the show, after Becky Quick interviewed a smiling talking head about the a lawsuit filed by The Center for Science in the Public Interest against Kellogg and Viacom about junk food advertising aimed at kids, Joe once again went on a rant saying “but – I don’t want to tell my kid no when he asks for those fatty french fries – because I want a fish filet sandwich.  Where are the pop tarts – give me a pop tart.”

To top it off, I think the person transcribing the closed captioning must not have spoken very good English (or didn’t know how to type, or was stoned) – the text streaming across my screen (i.e. “Moto rollover” for our friendly neighborhood Chicago-based cell phone manufacturer) was more fun than my morning Suduko puzzle.

A few days ago a Technorati watchlist for Quova turned up an article by The Register about their November 2005 circulation numbers.  While The Register announced that they crossed the 4m unique threshold for the month (as audited by ABCe), I was more excited to see them quote their distribution of readers by country according to Quova. 

While this is a very simplistic use Quova’s technology, it made me think back to the mid-1990’s when I was on the netGenesis and I/Pro boards and I first pondered the analog analog of magazine circulation as applied to the web.  At the time, this was really hard data to pull together with any accuracy, especially at the geography level, and I remember talking about different approaches beyond simply parsing HTTP_REFERED to get the country code in the URL.

At the time, we weren’t even thinking about content localization or fraud detection.  I was just excited by the pretty pie charts that showed distribution of visitors by country.  We’ve come a long way in a decade.


Jan 19, 2006
Category Technology

Yesterday Oracle has a major set of presentations around its new Fusion platform to help celebrate the Fusion project’s one year anniversary.  The headline for the event was “Oracle is halfway to Fusion.”  This is a huge deal as it’s the base for Oracle’s integration of a number of disparate products and technologies from the acquisitions they’ve done in the past two years (PeopleSoft / JD Edwards and Siebel being the most notable.)

Niel Robertson – the CTO at Newmerix – watches this closely as the consolidation in the ERP / packaged application market is a key driver of the opportunity for Newmerix.  I asked Niel what he thought and his quick response was:

Imagine if Microsoft came to you and said the following: “We know you like MS-Office. It has some great features. But we really think next gen of OpenOffice is the way to go. Hey, its standards based. And you can extend it with your own functionality. And look, we have this totally cool OpenDoc format. And, we took the best features of word, wordperfect, framemaker, PDF, and anything else you have and we sort of merged it all together. Well, some of the features won’t be there. Like sub-bullet points. They didn’t make it. And track changes will work totally differently. And folders in outlook won’t be able to be organized the same – but pretty close. But hey, its open. And oh yeah, we’ll give you some tools to convert all your word, PPT, outlook, excel, etc.. over. But you can’t bring anything based on a template (like PPT slides) or any custom formatting you have done in your documents and tables of contents in PDFs won’t work anymore. But don’t worry, all word processors and office tools go through a 7 year evolution – it’s totally normal.”  Now take this conversation and consider how many word, ppt, pdf, excel docs you have alone. Then consider rolling this out to 45,000 people in your organization. Ahhh! It’s a total mess.

It kind of reminds me of Microsoft’s Project Green.  Expect more on this from Niel on his blog.