Brad Feld

Month: July 2007

In my never ending – often Don Quixote like – quest against absurd software patents, I must pause in the midst of my day and give a standing ovation to Judge William Schwarzer (San Francisco – Federal) for dismissing a lawsuit from Friskit Inc. against RealNetworks citing the Supreme Court’s April ruling in KSR v. Teleflex.

I hope this is the first of tens of thousands of dismissals as a result of KSR v. Teleflex.  For those of you studying along at home, the WSJ summary of the KSR ruling is: “In KSR, the Supreme Court rejected a “rigid” application of existing tests for obviousness in favor of a more “expansive and flexible approach” that would give judges more discretion. If a person of ordinary skill in the relevant subject area would “be able to fit the teaching of multiple patents together like pieces of a puzzle” then the patent is obvious, the Supreme Court ruled.”

I love this description.  I’ve always felt obviousness with regard to software (and software patents) was easy to define, but many lawyers, courtrooms, and owners of obvious patents disagree with me.  Maybe we should simply adopt Supreme Court Justice Stewart’s definition of pornography for non-obvious software patents – “I know it when I see it.” 

Runners like to talk about their “personal best” times.  I ran the San Francisco Marathon on Sunday July 29 and turned in my personal worst – 5:14:20.

Now – before you say “5:14:20 – that’s barely running”, remember that I ran 26.2 miles.  I ran the entire way only taking short breaks (usually 15 – 30 seconds) at the water stops to make sure I slurped down enough liquids.  My personal best is 4:05 and my typical time is around 5:00, so it’s not that bad, but it was a painful marathon.

A few things conspired to reduce me to the “marathon shuffle” for the last eight miles (vs. the usual four to five at the end.)  First, I wasn’t planning on running this marathon.  My friend Katherine McIntyre had been training for it and two weeks ago I put together a solid 14 mile trail run and a solid 10 mile run back to back and decided to tag along and be her running buddy (e.g. “I promise you’ll be able to beat me.”  My next planned marathon was in October, so this was more of a fantasy excursion for the weekend (if you define fantasy as running for five hours and then limping around the rest of the day.)

Next up – the Golden Gate bridge.  I’ve driven across the Golden Gate bridge but I’ve never run it.  It sucked – cold, foggy, rainy, crowded, and lots of noisy smelly cars.  At the turn around at Vista Point (around 7 miles) I just wanted “off the damn bridge.”  I did miles 1 – 7 at an 11:30 pace (my goal was 5 hours so this was right on pace.)  I cruised through the half marathon point at a 11:00 average pace.  That means I did miles 8 – 13 at a sub 10:30 pace.  Way too fast for a five hour marathon. 

Here’s a picture of me just before I blew up at mile 18 – somewhere in the Haight (thanks to my friend Ben Casnocha who had to run out on the course to get my attention.)  I look a little tired but pretty good.  By the time I got to Divisadero I felt like I’d been run over by a steamroller.

Last problem – the day before routine. 

That would be the Harry Potter 5 / Live Free or Die Hard double feature at the AMC Van Ness.  While I spent much of the day sitting on my ass like you are supposed to, I ate like crap during the day.  Stupid.

It was a difficult marathon in all respects.  I’m not alone – some of the other stories coming back are similar.  I think this is one that seduces you with the flat start and downhill segment between 7 and 13 and then destroys you on the back half.  Oh well – it counts – at least that’s another one down.  Nine down, 41 to go.

I’ve loved the phrase “open source hardware” from the first time I heard it from Peter Semmelhack, the CEO of Bug Labs.  It made me think “software” which is exactly what Peter was trying to do.  Bug Labs is starting to emerge after a year of hard work – Fred Wilson has a short post on it explaining that it’s about software/services and Dave Winer has a great post summarizing the dinner he was at last night where he got introduced to Bug’s stuff.

The phrase “open source hardware” has expanded some into “an open, modular, consumer electronics web services + hardware platform. Designed for the general audience, not just the technically inclined, BUG is intended to bring to the world of hardware gadgets what the Internet, open source, XML and web services have brought to the world of software and media.”

Like all great platforms there is a clear “enabler” component – this time it’s the hardware which – even as a software guy – I can deal with and relate to.  Everything about the software is intended to be open source and driven by the community.  Fundamentally it’s going to be a hardware and software hackers delight – no more legos for me.

I’m really psyched that my friends at Union Square Ventures and Spark Capital are investors here.  I’m a small investor and have been cheering loudly from the sidelines. Fred describes it as their most “out there” investment.  Maybe, but in the category of big or nothing ideas, it’s a big one.  My Ph.D. advisor and academic Yoda – Eric von Hippel – must be smiling.  I imagine a bunch of my fraternity brothers, including Colin Angle and John Underkoffler can’t wait to get their hands on it.

My friends Larry and Pat Nelson of interviewed me last week.  The word of the interview appears to be “significant.”  Feel free to play bozo bingo and count the number of times I refer to something as significant. 

I covered a bunch of stuff – exits, “web 2.0 or whatever”, several TechStars companies, Facebook, and Donkey Kong.  Even David thought is was great (but was it significant?)

Andrew Hyde – a new friend and the creator of Startup Weekend – has a great post up today that all entrepreneurs should read for that warm moment of identification and inspiration. 

It starts off with “I look a drink of my coffee this morning, took a breath, closed my eyes and had a nice moment. Things are going well, really well. Unbelievable fairy tale well. “  And it gets better.  Andrew has a beautiful rant on the “state between broke and funded” that describes the adventure he’s on.

Facebook Email Sucks

Jul 26, 2007
Category Technology

I’m an email junkie going back as far as I can remember.  It’s by far my favorite way to communicate. 

I’m utterly and completely baffled that Facebook email (ok – “Inbox”) is so poor.  No forward a message.   Can’t add people to a thread.  No way to sort or manage the messages.  And now Facebook apps are customizing the email form with message bling.  Gack.

Now, before you tell me “that’s not how Facebook works” I know that.  However, more and more of my new Facebook friends (those of the between 30 and 45 age group, mostly tech nerds but some others) seem to be enjoying sending me emails on Facebook.  I’ve started cutting the page with the Microsoft Snipping Tool and forwarding it back them via email to continue the conversation.

At least my friend Jared Polis and the gang at Confluence Commons are trying to build a solution to this.  Hurry up guys – this is silly.

Fat Credits

Jul 25, 2007
Category Random

On the heals of G.E. Unveil[ing] Credit Card Aimed at Relieving Carbon Footprints I’m looking for someone that is willing to sell me some fat credits. 

I’m running the San Francisco Marathon on Sunday on a whim to hang out with my running buddy Katherine McIntyre as well as to give her someone’s ass to thoroughly kick.  I wasn’t planning on running marathon #9 until October when I have one planning in Bar Harbor, Maine, but I’ve had a good stretch of long runs the past two months and feel like it’ll be relatively easy to crank out a marathon at sea level (where “relatively easy” means “only a moderate amount of ridiculous pain – emotional and physical – during the last six miles.”)

However, I’m a little heavier than I want to be.  I had a goal of being around 190 for the Bar Harbor Marathon but I’m hanging around between 210 and 215.  Anyone that has ever run 26.2 miles knows that dragging around an extra 20 pounds is – well – a drag.

So – I’m looking to buy some fat credits.  I only need 20 pounds worth and I’m willing to pay via cash or paypal.  I’m interested in a good price, so if I’m not happy with what I find, I might do a reverse auction or even see if I can pick up some cheap on the Fat Exchange – European Division (FEED).

I’ve also got some Cynical Credits for sale today.

Got an iPhone?  Want to read your feeds on it?  Try the new NewsGator iPhone reader. 

As one of my partners who uses NetNewsWire said, “wow!” (ok – he said “holy shit”, but “wow!” seemed more appropriate.)  And – of course – it automagically synchronizes with your NewsGator Online account (and any other NewsGator products you use, like NetNewsWire for all you Mac people.)

SharePoint and RSS

Jul 24, 2007
Category Investments

I love things that are like chocolate and peanut butter.  Microsoft has embedded RSS throughout SharePoint – NewsGator’s new Social Sites product (built on top of NewsGator Enterprise Server) makes it tastier than a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup (did you know those things were created in 1928 – more useless trivial to fill your brain with.)  As a happy user of both of these products (and an investor in one of them) I’ve advocated adopting the slogan “two great tastes that taste great together.”

If you want to learn more, Rob Koplowitz from Forrester Research and Greg Reinacker from NewsGator are doing a free webinar titled “Increasing SharePoint Value with RSS” on July 31st at 2:00 EDT.