Month: February 2007
My dad (Stan Feld) has been talking about the electronic medical record for as long as I can remember (probably 30+ years.) As a kid, some of my early computer projects were trying to write a program that had some semblance of addressing this – well before I had any grounding in (or understanding of) databases, user-centric data entry (um – the “web” anyone?), or distributed data (um – the “Internet” anyone?)
When I finally learned what a relational database was (about 24 years ago – Btrieve was the first database that I mastered – yes – I’m old enough to have started with an ISAM instead of an RDBMS.) I got excited about the idea of building an electronic medical record. I’m sure part of this was to please my dad – but part of it was because it seemed like such an obviously useful thing.
Over the last 24 years, I’ve watched numerous people and companies fail miserably at this. In my first company, we did some consulting to a few larger health care organizations (really “multi-group medical practices and a few hospitals) around this but nothing really emerged, other than a couple of customer patient management systems that really had very little to do with the patient’s medical record.
30 years later Stan is still talking about it. His post yesterday titled Electronic Health Record Part 2 continues a theme he’s been on for most of his career. I’m sure there are plenty of other doctors out there that say something like “I believe a patient should be responsible for his / her medical history”, but I know my dad has been saying this to his patients since the day he started his medical practice. My dad tells you how to solve the Personal Medical Record side of this equation today for $15 but goes much further by detailing the issues around The Complexity of the EMR Issue.
Over the last dozen years, I’ve seen many entrepreneuers and many business plans that proport to create a universal electronic medical record. I still don’t have one and I know there isn’t a ubiquitous approach for this. You’d think that with all the money that’s spent (and wasted) in our health care system, we’d be closer to a solution.
If you are an entrepreneur that is working on this problem and you want to hear the issues from the belly of the beast, I’m sure Stan would be happy to talk to you.
Last night at dinner Howard, Jason, Amy, Elizabeth, and I were discussing the JetBlue meltdown from last week (that continues today.) The most bizarre thing to me was the relatively weak response from David Neeleman – the CEO – who is known for being outspoken, direct, and clear minded even in a difficult situation. This morning’s New York Times finally has a strong quote from him in which he says he is mortified after fliers are stranded.
In this article, Neeleman shows he is very aware how badly JetBlue has screwed up dealing with this situation. The article states “Mr. Neeleman said he would enact what he called a customer bill of rights that would financially penalize JetBlue — and reward passengers — for any repeat of the current upheaval. He said he would propose a plan to pay customers, after some amount of time, by the hour for being stranded on a plane.”
In addition to finally speaking up, Neeleman is quoted as saying “I can flap my lips all I want. Talk is cheap. Watch us.”
Shortly after reading the NY Times JetBlue article, I came across Sagi Rubin’s post titled A great startup CEO comparable in which he reminded us of the management greatness of Winston Wolf.
“So, pretty please, with sugar on top, clean the fucking car.” I sure hope Neeleman has a Winston Wolf on his team to help him deliver on his promises.
When I first met Dick Costolo – the CEO of FeedBurner (well before I had invested in FeedBurner), he had a blog called SomethingICantRemember that had a hysterical “what would I do if I was CEO of Disney” post. Over the last three years we’ve become really good friends and business partners. I’ve learned a huge amount from Dick and his partners – and not just about feeds.
Relatively early on in our relationship, Dick stopped blogging. He’s a classic always working entrepreneur and blogging quickly fell to the bottom of the pile as FeedBurner started its incredibly rapid growth curve. Amy and I have had a few nice dinners with Dick’s wife (who I’ve nicknamed Tiffany – hi Tiffany) and I can only imagine her rolling her eyes whenever Dick says something (at 2am) like “I really should start blogging again.”
Apparently the effort that Jason and I have put into Ask the VC has motivated Dick to start a blog named Ask the Wizard. If you know Dick, you get the sarcasm here and – if you don’t know him he gives you a hint with in his Welcome to Ask the Wizard post where he says “and it also brings to mind the Wizard of Oz, in which unsuspecting Dorothy only realizes too late that the Wizard is just another jackass with stage lights.”
If you are an entrepreneur (at any stage – including an aspiring one), wander over to Ask the Wizard and subscribe. At the minimum Dick will have you chuckling whenever he posts and says something like absolutely correct like “If you find yourself reading this and thinking “There’s no way I can pitch everything about my product in only 8 slides”, I assure you that you are wrong. Nobody wants to sit in a room and read data-packed powerpoint slides with pull quotes from Gartner Analysts that describe your market as being a 9 bazillion dollar industry in 2012. Get a short pitch deck together that tells a story.”
One of my favorite CTO’s (Tim Wolters – CTO / co-founder of Collective Intellect) is on the road fundraising and has some posts out on the process and terms he’s starting to see as they move from foreplay to term sheet. Me and VC is a great quick rant on feedback (“why would you even meet if you knew geography would be an issue?”, Term Sheet Terms: On Good Terms is a setup (hopefully) for some additional posts on Term Sheet terms, and Travails of Travel is a priceless post channeling whatever anyone who has been on the road recently has been feeling (including yet another example of the business value of a Slingbox.)
Since I’ve been working with and investing in Internet-related companies, I’ve always been fascinated with what creates a community. Most of my investing activity has been around the infrastructure side of this problem – most notably companies that create the Internet substrate for creating, engaging, and managing community. Occassionally I’ll venture into a company that is trying to do something with an actual community.
Recently, my head has been in this in two dimensions. I’ve got a couple of “substrate” investments, including Me.dium and Lijit. They started in different places but addressed a similar problem. As they have evolved, they are diverging even more, but helping me really understand two sides of a very complicated issue.
The stimuli for thinking about both of these came from my realization – mostly through playing with MyBlogLog and talking to Fred Wilson – that I already had an actively engaged community on Feld Thoughts (yes – that would be you.) My playing around with coordinating the FeedBurner VC Network helped me understand the dynamic even better. But these were all self-referential communities – ones that were oriented around “Planet Brad” (I like to describe my own little world – the one that I’m at the center of – as Planet Brad – to distinguish it from the real universe), rather than ones that I joined because of affinity.
I’ve had a couple of investments around actual communities, including Judy’s Book, Enthusiast Group, and Dogster. I’ve learned different things from each of these, but the most from Dogster about how a high affinity community actually grows. When I first heard of Dogster, my reaction was probably the same as most investors (“social networks for dogs? That’ll be a dog.”) Wrong. Ted and his gang get it and are masters of Planet Dog (and Planet Cat). They’ve got a great quick presentation up that they did at CommunityNext titled Community Is Your Most Valuable Asset that is worth a look if you care about any of this stuff.
If you don’t, just remember that for those of us with mild dyslexia (or compulsions), we occassionally confuse dogs and gods, which occassionally turns into a really religious experience.
Yum. Snowcrash anyone?
I’ve been investing in Internet-related email stuff since 1995. I still remember when I got my first Internet email address (email@example.com) back in 1994 – shortly before I figured out I could set up email on firstname.lastname@example.org. Email has evolved in some amazing ways over the last 12 years while at the same time standing still in others (thanks Mr. SMTP – both directions.)
In 2000, I started noticing spam again. I think the first time I heard “spam” was in college – one of the guys in my fraternity (John Underkoffler) loved to do all kinds of bizarre things with spam (except eat it) – at some point in the mid 1980’s I learned what email spam was. Between 1995 and 2000 I occasionally got some spam, but it usually just pointed me to an online porn site which was still a novelty at that point in time.
I can’t remember what eventually slapped me in the face, but one day I woke up and realized that spam was going to be a huge problem. A gang of us got together (me, Chris, Ryan) – all who had done lots of things with email – and we ended up making two investments – Return Path and Postini – that addressed different parts of the spam issue (and have both been extremely successful, exciting, and well run companies that I’m proud of.)
When I started blogging in 2004, it was obvious to me that comment and trackback spam would be a problem. So far almost all the solutions to “blam” (my word for “blog spam”) have been weak and similar to several of the early and not particularly durable solutions to email spam. Akismet moved things up a level, but still has its share of issues, especially when faced with a new type of attack. Oh – and the attacks so far are very unsophisticated (although getting more so quickly.)
Today, I noticed Rick Klau’s (from FeedBurner) post on Salesforce.com spam. It’s great and has a lot of details about the issues he is facing in his Salesforce.com fight with spam along with details about his current solution. It’s a little surprising that Salesforce.com doesn’t view this as “their problem”, but then again Microsoft said spam would be gone by 2004.
The endless war against the Internet Axis of Evil continues. Where is Jack Bauer when you need him?
The MIT Enterprise Forum has an annual program called Venture Capital Outlook. If you are in Colorado, you can see a 40 minute digital presentation of this from MIT/Cambridge and a panel of Boston-area VC’s followed by a live panel of Colorado VCs discussing the same questions, namely the trends from 2006 and what they see happening in 2007.
The Colorado–based VCs (in the flesh rather than digitally rendered) are:
- Jason Mendelson, Mobius Venture Capital
- Catharine Merigold, Vista Ventures
- Kyle Lefkoff, Boulder Ventures
- Chris Scoggins, Sequel Venture Partners
If you are interested, you can register online. The coordinates for the event follow.
Date: Wednesday February 28
Time: 5:30-7:30pm (doors open at 5pm for networking)
The Main Auditorium, ATLAS Building
CU Boulder Campus
18th Street and Euclid
Boulder, CO 80302
$25 General Admission
$15 MIT Alumni Club & Ivy League Club Members (and their guests)
$20 MIT Graduates & CTEK, CIK, CSIA, DTP, TiE, YEO (and their guests)
$10 (cheap) for CU/DU/CSU MBA or Law students
Paul Kedrosky has an excellent summary of Mark Gilbert’s theories of modern finance using the two cow metaphor. He ends with his own special version for the venture capital industry.