Month: July 2007

Jul 23 2007

Rally Races To The Top of the Colorado Growth List

My buddies at Rally Software were just named the fastest growing company in Colorado in the “Small Company” category by the Denver Business Journal.  Last month they were named the fastest growing company over $2m by the Boulder County Business Reporter.  According to official measurements, Rally grew 13,378% between 2004 and 2006.  Congrats guys.  100% growth between 2006 and 2007 will be just fine (but don’t relax.)

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Jul 23 2007

Who Says Nerds Can’t Dance?

Todd Vernon – the CEO of Lijit – went on vacation last week.  While searches continued to happen, the gang from Villij got together with the some of the Lijit folks and they worked on a new top secret project.

Yeah, well.  I’m not sure that’s what he meant when he said “keep up the good work” before heading to Paris.

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Jul 23 2007

What Was Your First Computer?

Last Thursday when I was in New York I swung by Steve Rubel’s office and hung out with him for an hour.  We caught up on a bunch of stuff but managed to squeeze in a short riff about our first computers (yes – we were talking about how old we were – which is not that old, but it feels like it now that we have Facebook accounts.)

Feldface

That’s me – as a 40 year old – with my first computer – an Apple ][. The actual one – with some software that I wrote running on it (yes – those are five menu options, numbered “1. “ to “5. “)  It cost about $3,000 total, which included two floppy drives, an Integer Card, memory (it had 64k), Pascal, Visicalc, and a couple of games.)  I eventually got a copy of Beer Run to go with Choplifter.

My second computer was an original IBM PC.

  Ibmpc1.jbp

I can’t remember how much memory it has (not much) but it came with two floppy disks.  Again, $3,000 or so.  One day I got a Tandon 10MB hard disk (ST506 compatible – anyone remember that?) and thought for about 24 hours that my life was complete.

My first laptop (er – portable) was a Compaq. 

Compaq1 Compaq2

I also had a Mac 128k and a Lisa.  Reflecting on the whole thing is a little scary to me.  Especially since each of them seemed to cost about $3,000 (except the Lisa which was closer to $10,000.)

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Jul 23 2007

Google Apps Active Directory and LDAP Sync

We had a TechStars picnic at my house yesterday afternoon.  Given that there were 30+ software nerds hanging around, a little teeny tiny bit of the conversation was about computer stuff. 

One of the conversations was about Google Apps vs. Microsoft Office with a big focus on Enterprise Gmail vs. Microsoft Exchange.  I’m a heavy Exchange user (one of the things that prevents me from getting serious about using a Mac) but I’ve been paying a lot of attention to Google’s action around enterprise email on the heals of its acquisition of Postini

I poked around a little this morning and found google-apps-for-your-domain-ldap-sync on Google Code (Google’s open source site.)  The features include:

  • synchronizes users from Active Directory or openldap into Google Apps
  • detects new and exited users automatically and changes Google Apps accounts accordingly
  • handles user id / account renames automatically
  • handles attribute updates automatically
  • keeps track of changes and only propagates deltas (to allow syncing every 10 minutes for example)

It’s a brilliant move that Google has open sourced a “package for synchronizing Google Apps for Your Domain with an LDAP server.”  Cross-platform / cross-application data synchronization is one of the most challenging parts of enterprise proliferation of a lot of the cool stuff that has emerged in the past two years.  While it’s not sexy, it’s critically important and its fascinating that Google is taking an open source approach to some of the integration points.

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Jul 23 2007

Patent Reform Progress – Baby Steps

I am anti-software patents.  Lest you think I’m simply a reactionary, I’ve been thinking about this since 1987 when I started studying sources of innovation under Eric von Hippel at MIT as my research in a Ph.D. program which I never completed.  For the last 20 years, I’ve thought that copyright and trade secrets were adequate IP protection for software.

Fred Wilson’s VC Cliche “patents are like nuclear bombs, you just got to have some” has been my business philosophy – until the nonsense around software patents gets resolved and disarmament begins, the weapons stockpiles will continue to grow unchecked.

Last week The Patent Reform Act of 2007 passed the U.S. House Judiciary Committee.  Don Dodge from Microsoft has a good summary of the major provisions of the act (primarily market test for damages; new patent review / mediation process; first to file.)  While my proposal of simply abolishing software patents is good fantasy, it’s satisfying to see some baby steps being made to address patents.

I’m more fascinated with the Peer-to-Patent experiment that is being done in conjunction with the USPTO.  250 patents are undergoing a peer review process primarily focused on prior art (and the efficient peer submission of it.)  After signing up, I got an email that tells me what I get out of it as a reviewer:

  • Share your knowledge and expertise with the United States Patent and Trademark Office
  • Work with the community, not alone, to research a patent application
  • Spend a few minutes evaluating the relevance of research to claims
  • Help others to participate by moderating an application
  • Network with innovators in your field
  • Get noticed for your participation
  • Share in the really great feeling that you’ve done something good for science and innovation

While I put a few of these in the cute category, after poking around for a few minutes I encourage anyone that’s interested in patents to create an account and participate in this project.  There are eight applications currently under review:

  • User selectable management alert format
  • Register tracking for speculative prefetching
  • Cooperative mechanism for efficient application memory allocation
  • Database staging area read-through or forced flush with dirty notification
  • Stack tracker
  • Method, apparatus and computer program product for providing status of a process
  • Off-line economies for digital media
  • System and method for migrating databases

While I expect the arguments and struggle over software patents to continue for a long time, it’s fun to imagine a world where this actually works effectively.

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Jul 22 2007

Calling All Bloggers – Get Lijit

I love companies with a clear mission in life.  FeedBurner’s was “we will do all kinds of wonderful things for your feed.”  Lijit’s is “we will do all kinds of wonderful things for search on your blog.”  Lijit’s goal is simple:

Replace

Search1 

with

Search2

The new Lijit home page is up and it’s simpler and clearer than ever to add Lijit Search to your blog.  Just enter your blog URL into the “Want a Wijit?” box and you’ll be up and running in a minute.

Search3

Lijit even now has Facebook integration.  Let your Facebook friends search all of your content (your blog(s), delicious tags, YouTube videos, Linkedin data, StumbleUpon stumbles, Twitters, and so much more) from within your Facebook page.

Search4

Try it.  You’ll like it.

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Jul 21 2007

The Dark Matter of the Blogosphere

I’ve been fascinated with blog comments since I started blogging.  The “blogging is a conversion meme” is a long standing one and the notion of engaging a real community around a blog is fascinating and a lot of fun.

However, the blog commenting infrastructure sucks.  While data entry is fine, authentication and identity are miserable (anyone can be anyone just by entering a name), conversations are generally impossible to manage, blog spam is pervasive, and tracking conversations is difficult.  Oh – and comments are rarely indexed so they have become the dark matter of the blogosphere. While there were some early attempts like TypeKey, nothing really stuck.

Wouldn’t it be nice if the comments – one of the most pervasive examples of user-generated content on the web today – actually were organized in a broadly useful way?  Or if identity was actually managed, so you could look and see all the comments that Brad Feld made, regardless of which blogs they were on.  Or – if you could search horizontally across all blog comments for topics like you can with the blogs themselves.  Or you could rate comments and give them authority based on reputation? 

Why is the comment infrastructure so different than the blog infrastructure in the first place?  Joel Spolsky has a great rant on it and Dave Winer has some clear thoughts on it. Mark Andreesen quickly turned off comments on his brilliant new blog.  Fred Wilson expressed the opposite perspective – “Comments are where it’s at in blogging.”  And on and on it goes.  Just like theoretical physics or politics – everyone has an opinion and they often conflict or – better yet – worlds collide.

Over the past year, I’ve made a few early stage investments in companies that address the comment infrastructure.  While they are still all young, they are addressing different parts of the problem and I’m learning a ton from each of them.  Intense Debate – one of the TechStars companies – is about to launch with a full replacement system for comments.  BigSwerve is working on indexing all of the comments everywhere.  Lijit is waiting patiently for the right data source to include within their search infrastructure.  And TrustPlus is well positioned to address the authentication / trust part of the equation.

It feels like it’s time to shine some light on this dark matter.

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Jul 21 2007

Misquoted – Again!

At least this time it wasn’t me – it was my partner Seth Levine.  In Seth’s post titled Setting the record straight he discusses a USA Today article in which he is quoted about TechStars and Y Combinator.

When I read the article (I got several copies of it immediately after it came out via my search feeds on “Seth Levine” and “TechStars”) I burst out laughing.  My first thought was “boy – Seth is going to be embarrassed and annoyed when he reads this.”  I knew that the quote was wrong – in fact – it was about 180 degrees wrong.

I sent Seth a friendly note (as friendly as partners who love to tease each other can do) and suggested he write a post with his point of view since I expected if any of the TechStars guys read it they’d be confused, especially since Seth has been a big supporter of a few of the TechStars teams.

Seth intelligently ended with a lesson I learned a long time ago after being misquoted for the 4,327th time.

I will not do interviews over the phone. I will not do interviews over the phone.
I will not do interviews over the phone. I will not do interviews over the phone.
I will not do interviews over the phone. I will not do interviews over the phone.
I will not do interviews over the phone. I will not do interviews over the phone.
I will not do interviews over the phone. I will not do interviews over the phone.
I will not do interviews over the phone. I will not do interviews over the phone.

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Jul 21 2007

iPhone Smoothie

I finally found a use for my iPhone – an iPhone Smoothie.  Priceless.  (Thanks Jason.)

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Jul 21 2007

Harry Potter Fanatics Unite

Shelfari is running a great competition called Seven Days of Harry Potter.  The grand prize is a signed first edition of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.  First prize is five tickets to see Harry Potter and The Order of The Phoenix.  Second prize is a broomstick.

As you know from reading this blog I’m a huge reader.  I tend not to be a trendy reader so it surprised even me that I’ve loved the Harry Potter books (as is Amy.)  Today is the day it begins again.  I’m pretty sure I know what I’ll be doing tomorrow.

And – for all you readers out there, the New York Times has a fun article today titled C.E.O. Libraries Reveal Keys to Success.

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