Brad Feld

Month: September 2007

Today EchoStar announced that is has acquired Sling Media for $380 million in cash.  My partner and 2007 travel buddy Ryan McIntyre is smiling tonight as he crawls into bed and reflects on another great deal on the heals of his successful investment in Postini (acquired in July by Google for $625 million.)  I’d recommend that he snuggle up to a Slingbox, but I’ll restrain myself.

Ryan has written a nice essay on the story of his experience with Sling Media.  The Sling team – led by Blake Krikorian – has created a great company and a superb set of products.  I knew I was in love when I turned over my first Slingbox and noticed a little sticker with the phrase “Lebowski” on it.  Sling packed an incredible amount of innovative software (and a tiny bit of hardware) into a plastic box that was mostly filled with air.  The magic was in the software (dynamic video-stream-optimization technology called Lebowski) which reinforced our view that “it’s all about the software.”

Guys – awesome job.  EchoStar – you guys just made a really smart purchase.

I love a good rant and Dave McClure has a doozy up titled VC’s & Tech Lawyers: Innovate, Automate, Simplify.  Several years ago when Jason and I wrote our Term Sheet series, I often thought to myself (and often out loud) “why is this so complicated?” (ok – there were some adverbs used as modifiers in the sentence as in “why is this so X Y complicated?”)

In addition to a delicious rant, Dave has some good suggestions for all of us.  Anyone doing a seed or light Series A round (< $1m) should read Ted Wang of Fenwick & West’s article Reinventing the Series A for some additional ideas. 

While Amy and I were sitting in the San Francisco Airport reading the Sunday NY Times, we came across an article titled Looking for Inspiration in the Melting Ice.  It discusses a great new exhibit at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art titled Weather Report: Art & Climate Change.  BMoCA is one of our local gems – if you happen to be in Boulder, swing by the museum on 13th Street and check out the exhibit.  Have lunch at The Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse while you are at it.

Parallel Universes

Sep 21, 2007
Category Technology

I’ve been in a few parallel universes recently and am noticing it happening more and more.  I like parallel universes – it always smells like opportunity to me (plus I get to see how another “species” lives.)

The parallel universes aren’t just technology-based, but they often inform how I think about stuff.  For example, my recent time in Italy on vacation was a completely parallel universe to my current time in the US bouncing between Boulder and Silicon Valley.  And my day in Silicon Valley yesterday was another dimension of this (compared to the rest of the US.)

Even more specifically, I spent the day on Microsoft’s campus in Silicon Valley, which is a parallel universe to the rest of (a) Silicon Valley and (b) the contemporary software startup industry.

We can get even more granular.  I’ve spent the last 58 minutes (since I woke up) waiting for Outlook to finish synchronizing itself over EVDO (namely my deleted and sent items folders) since I forgot to do this on my high speed network at home.  Two weeks of not turning on my laptop (one week of being home and using desktops and one week of vacation) resulted in 100 godzillabytes of deleted data (which I don’t care about anyway since I don’t keep my deleted email) that now wants to sync itself over a small pipe.  Simultaneously I’ve been using OWA on the [very slow] web just so I can do email while Outlook is spending an hour fixing itself (feel free to substitute Gmail for OWA.)

Don’t even get me started about Facebook and my social graph which happily lives in Outlook.  I noticed that I have only logged into Facebook a couple of times since I got back from vacation – and that was mostly to check that nothing had happened except another 30 friend requests (ok – I played with J-Squared’s Glitter and looked at the Defrag Connector.)

I wonder if I’ll stumble into a wormhole tonight at dinner with Amy.


Sep 20, 2007
Category Writing

Those last two posts could have been subtitled “Vacation makes me verbose.”  I guess limiting myself to 140 characters is what my Twitter account is for.

Alex Iskold, the founder and creator of Adaptive Blue, has a long and helpful post up titled Semantic Web: Difficulties with the Classic ApproachI have a small investment in Adaptive Blue (Union Square Ventures is the lead investor), love what Alex is up to, and relish anything that comes out of his brain.

W3C Semantic Web Layer Cake (outdated)One of my investment themes for the past 24 months has been in an area I’ve been calling “The Implicit Web.”  Adaptive Blue is in this theme, as are companies like Lijit, Me.dium, and TrustPlus.  Read Alex’s post for a classical definition of the problem (including his post The Road to the Semantic Web.)  Or feel free to wallow around Wikipedia’s description (including a couple of great examples and lots of acronyms and a nice picture of the W3C Semantic Web Layer Cake.)

I have a simple way of describing what I mean by Implicit Web.  The data on the web is a complete mess and getting worse every millisecond.  While I can go to Google and type something into a little box that helps me find stuff, I want “my compute infrastructure” to get smarter about what I care about, who I trust, what information I want more of (or less of), and to help me discover new relevant stuff – automagically.  These are computers after all – they should be able to figure this out for me – based on what I’ve done (and what people I trust have done.)

Easy concept.  Really hard problem.  Really really hard problem.  With many different dimensions.  And huge implications over a long period of time (since the underlying infrastructure – “the web” – will just continue to get more and more complex every – er – millisecond.)

Part of the way I think through stuff like this is I try to hang around, talk to, challenge, and learn from the smartest people I can find.  I also “do stuff” – include using different products and technologies to address my own special problems.  A year ago a guy named Eric Norlin suggested that we do a conference to tackle this – Eric’s been working on it since and in November we’ll have the Defrag Conference in Denver for two days.  I’m not a conference guy but I’ve learned a ton from watching Eric put this together (and he’s a master at it.)  He’s got his own point of view about what’s important and what’s not – his latest post The devil is in the details hits a lot of little things that impact the quality of the experience at a conference.  If you are interested in the semantic web, the implicit web, or just hanging out with a collection of really smart people, come play with us.  Oh – and if you are a Facebook guy – check out the new Facebook “Defrag Connector” to find out if any of your friends are going (hmm – finding out automagically in advance if any of my friends are going to a conference by clicking on a button – how novel!)

While I’m pimping things I’m involved in, Lijit just did a new release with excellent new stats and lots of little bubbles everywhere.  If you are a blogger and still haven’t installed Lijit as your search engine, do your readers a favor and try it.  If you are a data junkie like me, you’ll love it.  If you are not a data junkie, still install it since your readers will love it.

Finally, in an attempt to “make the Internet the Safest Place on Earth”, my long time friend (and Feld Technologies employee #3) Shawn Broderick has launched TrustPlus.  I doubt anyone will remember the TLA that I was using to refer to the Implicit Web before I figured out that “Implicit Web” was a good phrase – but TrustPlus is the “T” in TAR.  Take a look at TrustPlus and help Shawn help you.

Ahhhh.  That felt good.  In my ongoing commitment to my marriage, I give Amy one solid week a quarter of uninterrupted “Brad / Amy time.”  This quarter I handed my handheld to her as we boarded the plan in New York on Monday the 10th and she returned it to on Monday the 17th when we disemarked in Minneapolis.

We had a glorious and much needed vacation together.  2007 has been an intense year so far – one that I’m very pleased with – but has demanded (and required) unyielding focus.  Amy has been amazingly patient with me but some serious together time was in order.

We spent a great week in Rome and Venice, but enjoyed the semi’s and final’s of the US Open with my brother and his wife before we disconnected completely from our daily life.  We love to watch tennis and Amy rewarded us with unbelievable seats (row 3 for the semis; row 8 for the finals.)  Federer (and the entire experience) was magical.  We even enjoyed the trips back and forth on the #7 train.

We’re huge Italy fans so Rome and Venice were fun, although I don’t like boats so Venice was a little tough at times.  Vacation for us is a lot of eating, sleeping, relaxing, reading, doing some husband/wife stuff (feel free to use your imagination), sleeping some more, walking around, a few runs, and a lot of chilling out.  No computers.  No cell phones.  No work.  Rome and Venice, especially the superb San Clemente Palace, provided a great environment for this. 

As usual, we both consumed about a book a day.  My list – which is heavily slanted toward Italy and Venice this time – follows.

Japan and the Internet Revolution – I’m not really sure how this ended up in my reading pile.  While a lot of it was dull and tedious, it has a few fun sections, including about a dozen pages on Softbank, Masayoshi Son, and a handful of things I saw first hand between 1996 and 2000.

Category 7 – I needed some fiction after that one and picked this up in the airport in Amsterdam.  The subtitle “It’s The Biggest Story in History” set the stage.  Pretty good – especially if you are curious about how a weatherman (Bill Evans) would construct a novel about the world’s worst storm and the evil genius that creates it as it is about to wipe out New York City.  Good mental floss.

Italy: A Short History – I’ve never been good at geography and I’m even worse at history.  After reading this book, I realized how completely clueless I had previously been about the history of Italy.  This was a great primer and should be read before you head over there – superb context in an easy to consume package.  Man that place has had a lot of governments.

Growing Up Guggenheim: A Personal History of a Family Enterprise – I love the Guggenheim.  While one of my unsuccessful dotcom-era investments was one curiously called (and rated a paragraph in Peter Lawson-Johnston’s memoir), the experience did not diminish my fascination with all things Guggenheim.  We went to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice (wow! what a collection) and I picked up this book while I was there.  Lawson-Johnston tells a good story.

Since the Layoffs – Time for some more fiction.  I spent an afternoon by the pool at the San Clemente Palace and polished this one off.  Iain Levison is fucking hysterical.

The City of Falling Angels – While I inadvertently saved the best for last, I should have read this before I went to Venice rather than on the plane on the way home.  John Berendt wrote a beautiful book that uses the backdrop of the Teatro La Fenice Opera House fire of January 29, 1996 to describe Venice in intricate and glorious detail.  I rarely think of a book as “luscious” but that’s the best word for this one.  Yum.

I’ve been back for about 48 hours and am finally caught up just in time to head to San Francisco tomorrow.  It’s great to be back on the grid, but it was superb to check out for a week.

Jonathan Schwartz – the CEO of Sun – has a superb blog post up today titled Thank You, Network ApplianceApparently Network Appliance has sued Sun for patent infringement and rather than hide behind his lawyers, he’s taking on the battle on the front lines on his blog.  Way to go Jonathan.

Tags: patents

Phil Weiser, my good friend, professor of law at University of Colorado Law School, executive director of the Silicon Flatirons Program, and co-conspirator on several things told me about two job openings at the University of Colorado’s Interdisciplinary Telecommunications Program (ITP). In my ongoing quest to help any reader of this blog find new cool job opportunities, I humbly serve them up here.

The two openings in the University of Colorado’s Interdisciplinary Telecommunications Program are for a Faculty Director and a Senior Instructor.   ITP is the nation’s first program of its kind, has a 30-year track record of success, and possesses an active research faculty with a dynamic and international student body. Plus – you get to live and work in Boulder.

If you are interested, take a look – or if you know someone that might be interested, pass it on.

Tags: colorado, cu+boulder, telecommunications