Brad Feld

Month: June 2006

I generally hate conferences and do my best to avoid them.  However I find myself thoroughly enjoying Gnomedex 6 (which Amy refers to as the “conference for short nerds” (Chris – she might be talking about you)) for the second year in a row.

Chris Pirillo and his fiance Ponzi put on a high energy and very entertaining conference.  It’s in what’s now becoming “classical unconference” format – rather than lots of presentations with commercial bents, people get up for 30 minutes and lead “conversations” of the audience of 400 or so people.  Susan Mernit – now of Yahoo – just got up to talk about “sex and relationships” (instead of widgets and microformats.)

It’s been a romper room of interesting people so far today. Michael Arrington started the day off with – well – I’m not exactly sure what his theme was, but there was plenty of arguing.  Dave Dederer – one of the founding members of Presidents of the United States of America – led a discussion on revenue models using the music industry as a guide.  John Edwards (yes – our friend the politician) got up and held his own nicely in a discussion where political topics were (mostly) forbidden.  Werner Vogels – CTO at Amazon – led a discussion about Net Neutrality.  Steve Rubel talked about PR, advertising, and toilet paper.  Marc Canter held forth on being open open open.  And now – Susan is talking about sex (some guy – trying to promote his wife’s blog – inadvertently just said “and my wife – well – I’ll pump her” – freud is definitely present.)

Great energy, stimulating discussion, highly interesting, and lots more to go today and tomorrow.

Amy and I have been strong supporters of the expansion to the Denver Art Museum (the Hamilton Building.)  I think Daniel Libeskind has designed an awesome building, Lewis Sharp (the director of the Denver Art Museum) has shown incredible vision and leadership, the team at the Denver Art Museum has done an unbelievable job, and the extended Denver community is in for a real treat when it opens on October 7th.

I’ve been on the technology advisory board with Ron Cooper, the COO at Adelphia.  Bruce Wyman, (DAM’s director of new technologies) and Timothy Standring (DAM’s deputy director) hosted a private tour of the museum for me, Ron, Ron’s wife Beth, and my wife Amy last Friday as a “thank you” for our help and involvement.  While the project has a way to go before it’s finished, what we saw was amazing.

The building is remarkable.  There is an extensive web site talking about all aspects of it – following is my lame attempt at an interesting photo.

We saw a few galleries that had been installed.  The inside of the building is as innovative as the outside.  The exhibit space is tremendous, and the collections are really powerful.

Dinner afterwards at Barolo Grill was superb.  Thanks Bruce and Timothy for a great evening – I’m extremely excited about the coming new addition to the Denver arts and culture scene.

If you are a CEO or a VP of Sales, you should read Will Herman’s great post titled “Just Say No To Weighted Average Sales Forecasting.”  Will’s a very accomplished CEO of both private and public companies, has spent many years managing “the sales number”, and has a very straightforward message about sales forecasts.

Halfway to Homer

Jun 29, 2006
Category Places

It was a magnificent (and very full day) in Seattle today.  Amy and I have left Boulder behind until mid-August.  We’re enjoying a spell of perfect weather in Seattle while I jam through a final wave of stuff in the lower 48.  Running on Alaskan Way at 5:30am is – well – as good as it gets if you have to run on a road (since it’s sea level).  Oh – and the “Sexy Fries” at The W Hotel are unbelievably great, as are the milkshakes at Daly’s

Paul Kedrosky has a great article up on PE Week Wire about Venture Capital Best Practices.  His conclusion – “There are no best practices in venture capital.  You’ve either got it, or you don’t.” 

Greg Reinacker – NewsGator’s founder and CTO – has a two part roadmap post up.  His first post summarizes what NewsGator has been up to over the past 18 months.  His second post talks about where NewsGator is going with their products. 

I’ve heard plenty of chatter lately about the fundamental differences in enterprise software between shrink-wrap software, appliances, and hosted (or SaaS) software.  Most VCs I know have fallen in love with SaaS – often without understanding the fundamental economics of the SaaS model (“trendy is good – thank you SFDC”.)  Others are convinced there will never again by any life in enterprise software – which is just fine with me as I love a counter cyclical trend (e.g. enterprise software is my friend again – but don’t worry, I’ll stay away from the “marketing automation” vertical.)

I’ve got a lot of experience with each delivery type (Rally provides SaaS, StillSecure provides shrink-wrap and appliances, Klocwork and Newmerix provide shrink-wrap, DataPower (now part of IBM) provides appliances, and the list goes on and on. 

NewsGator provides all three – shrink-wrap and appliances have been shipping for several quarters (and Greg interestingly points out that most of our customers are more interested in shrink-wrap software rather than appliances) and has announced (and is about to release) a Japanese version of the SaaS enterprise product with US and European language versions coming soon.

I’ve been involved in more than my fair share of “should we do another type” conversation, especially going from SaaS to shrink-wrap (“but our clients want to deploy our software behind the firewall”) and from shrink-wrap to appliance (or vice versa).  Given the architecture of NewsGator’s products, we are able to give our clients the ultimate choice.

Interestingly, Symantec has recently decided to ditch their appliance products.  Their assertion is that with the growing oversupply of excess underutilized server hardware in corporate IT shops, why would you want another rack mounted box that’s dedicated to a specific task?  An appliance is certainly interesting to part of the market – which is why NewsGator provides it that way – but unless you are doing something specific in silicon, or need tight integration with the underlying hardware, shrink-wrapped software – especially with today’s virtualization technology – is often a better and more cost effective choice.

I’m looking for recommendations for headphones for running.  I’ve been using some from Sony for a while – they are ok, but I’m having some trouble with how the right one fits (I guess my ears are different sizes – how exciting.)

If you have any suggestions for sport headphones, can you leave comments here?

A few days ago I wrote that there wasn’t enough talk about failure.  I had an awesome run tonight in the mountains behind my house and pondered – among other things – some of my early failures.  As my mind wandered and I tried to keep from stumbling on the rocks, my thoughts drifted to my first software company – Martingale Software.

I co-founded Martingale Software in 1984 with three fraternity brothers.  Three of us were second term freshman (me, Andy Mina, and Sameer Gandhi) and one was a senior (Dave Jilk).  After Martingale failed, Dave joined Viewlogic Systems as their first non-founder employee and – after having success there – went on to start Feld Technologies with me (which succeeded.)  After college, Sameer had a strong run at Oracle in the late 1980’s, then spent some time at Broadview, before joining Sequoia Capital, where he’s been since 1998.  I’ve lost track of Andy.

Martingale’s mission was to write software for the Apple Macintosh computer.  We were all in love (at least I was) with the first Mac and thought there’d be a huge market for software for it.  Of course, we had no idea what kind of software we were going to write, how to market and sell it, or when we were actually going to find the time since we were all going to MIT full time.  We ignored those challenges and just barreled ahead.  We were all excited about the idea of simply starting a company.

As with most good stories, this will be a multi-part post so you can digest it in quick chunks.  I’ll try to have at least one lesson in each post, although you might have to work a little to find it.  In this case, the first lesson is that our excitement about starting a company dominated – not surprising for a bunch of undergrads, including three freshman.  We were wrapped up in the notion of “starting a company”, not in the idea of what we were actually going to do.

Death and Life

Jun 27, 2006

I’m two degrees of separation away from two people that died tragically yesterday.  I’ve been thinking about it on and off all day.  Both were friends of very close friends of mine.  One died in a plane crash – he was in the prime of life, a huge success, and apparently a very happy person.  He was flying his new plane with an instructor – they crashed and both died.  The other was a young mother who was out for a bike ride with her daughter.  A truck lost control and ran her over.  I’m not sure what happened to the daughter.

The cliche “every moment is precious” has rung true for me all day long.  I’m going to go hit the trail and enjoy a run in the mountains and then spend a nice quiet evening at home with Amy and Stephanie Plum.