Month: October 2007

Oct 25 2007

Smiling Founders

BusinessWeek has a web slideshow running called Big Tech Buyouts.  It profiles the founders of 10 Internet companies that have been acquired this year.  Three of them – FeedBurner, Sling Media, and Postini – are companies we were investors in.  Everyone appears to be smiling.

Notice the abundance of gray hair (or in Dick Costolo’s case, no hair.)  I realize this is shameless brogging, but it’s fun sometimes.  And I’m really proud of these guys and the companies they helped create.

Oct 25 2007

Thanks Dad

I just caught a post my dad wrote today titled Birth Of An Entrepreneur: Brad Feld.  Totally unexpected – it made me smile a big smile.  My dad knows me well, remembers my antics from when I was a kid better than anyone (except maybe my mom and my brother), and tells great stories.  Love ya dad.  Thanks for making me.  And thanks for investing that extra $1800 in an Apple II in 1978 – it has paid off well for both of us!

Oct 25 2007

Get Ready For Selling To The Enterprise To Be A Big Deal Again

Eric Norlin – the organizer and host of the upcoming Defrag Conference (Denver – Nov 5 and 6 – hottest ticket in town since the World Series will be over) has a great rant up titled Cycles, Juxtapositions, and Predictions.  Midway through the rant, he says:

“Putting it all together, here’s what I’m thinking: Bottom line — Tech innovation is about to get very focused on selling to the enterprise.”

He goes on to say:

“And here’s how it all relates to Defrag: I see a lot of the companies in the “defrag space” (including a lot of our sponsors) starting on the consumer-side of things. I also see nearly all of them making the shift toward the enterprise.”

My regular conversations with my CIO friends, including The Architect, confirms this point of view.  Large corporate IT has digested a lot of the innovation from the last cycle and is preparing for adopting and incorporating much of the consumer side innovations we’ve seen explode on the scene in the past two years.  Enterprise 2.0 anyone?

If you haven’t signed up for Defrag yet, register and come join us to engage in the conversation and help us figure this out.  Enterprise people welcome.

Oct 22 2007

Red Sox Win Before The World Series Starts

Well – that was predictable.  Rockies Blow Ticket-Sales Tech; World Series Next?  About 30 minutes after Rockies world series tickets went on sale online (the only place you could buy them) their systems crashed.  According to the Rockies Press Release, under 500 tickets were actually sold.  The MLB ticket vendor – Paciolan – claims that the traffic (8.5m hits in some unspecified period of time) took down all their North American customers.  Oops.  Glad I was wearing my Red Sox jacket around town today.  Maybe the Rockies should consider outsourcing the whole shebang to StubHub!

Oct 22 2007

TechStars, Boulder, and the Rockies

I just wandered down to Seth’s office to see if he managed to get tickets to the World Series.  He asked everyone in the office to fire up the Rockies website and keep hitting refresh until someone got on to the ticket buying site.  No luck – and Seth has a big frown on this face – but he’s still cuddling his Red Sox jacket.

The Boulder Daily Camera has a great wrap up story on the TechStars experience this summer.  Of course you have to have a stupid login to be able to read it – but at least it’s free.  Oh – and yet another TechStars company got funded – this time it’s SocialThing.  Congrats guys!

Finally, I’d be doing all the people in the world that eat things a disservice if I forgot to mention that Kimbal Musk’s restaurant The Kitchen was written up in USAToday as one of the 10 great places to break bread and make friends.  Now that our office is in downtown Boulder, I occasionally have days where I eat two of my three meals at The Kitchen.  I know Kimbal and his co-founder Hugo are pleased.  As am I.

Oct 22 2007

Your Revenue Forecast Is Wrong

I received several questions in response to my post titled The Purpose of Numbers on a Y Axis and my followup post titled The Lack of Numbers of Y Axis Doesn’t Disqualify You.  One of the questions prompted a rant in my brain that often spills out of my mouth when I’m on the receiving end of an early stage pitch.

The question is: “what kind of numbers would actually get your attention on a revenue chart for the first 12 months of business (or would income / cash flow be a better measure?)”  Before I answer the question, I want to add an explicit qualifier – this answer applies to early stage software / Internet startups – think a few people, an idea, and maybe a prototype.

The answer is – none.  I’ve seen around 4,387,215 financial models for startups.  I’ve invested in over 100 companies.  As far as I can remember, not a single revenue model was anywhere close to accurate in the first 24 months, other than the ones that said there would be $0 revenue.

Now – I invest in software / Internet companies – the vast majority of which don’t make any money in the first year or two.  But – the principle scales beyond year 1.  I can’t remember a company that I have been involved with that had an accurate view of its revenue dynamics until at least the third year.  The vast majority of companies were well below their initial expectations (which isn’t necessarily bad); a few demolished their expectations (on the upside.)  In either case, the conclusion is the same: Your Revenue Forecast Is Wrong.

I’m not suggesting that the right answer to the question posed above is “don’t bother with a financial model.”  Rather, I’m suggesting that your financial model is going to be incorrect and a credible early stage investor is going to know that before you sit down with him.  It’s actually a good test – if your potential investor immediately digs into your financial model before understanding how your actual business works it might be a good signal to you that he doesn’t understand how a startup software company evolves.

As a result of my assertion that your revenue forecast is wrong, I’m less concerned about the absolute numbers and more interested in understanding how you think about them.  I’m also very interested in how you see the expense side of the equation growing over time since that is the piece you ultimately have control over.  However, I don’t want to spend any time on this until I understand what you are trying to accomplish with the business and whether or not it is in an area that I believe I’d be interested in investing in.  Especially because whatever you have forecast and are presenting to me will almost certainly be wrong, although not necessarily invalid.

Oct 21 2007

StubHub Seriously Has Its Act Together

Within 10 minutes of the end of the Red Sox game, I got the following email from StubHub.


I’ve also received several emails in the past 24 hours from folks looking for Rockies / Red Sox tickets.  I officially don’t have any – my best suggestion at this point is StubHub!

Oct 21 2007

Big Brains and Multi-Touch Tables

BrucebrainI’ve got my share of friends who I think of as “big brains suspended in something” (where the typical instantiation is human form, but I often imagine them as something else.)

My friend Bruce Wyman – the Director of Technology at the Denver Art Museum fits nicely into this slot in my brain.  Bruce has done some amazing things by himself – or with his very small team – during his time at the Denver Art Museum. 

Whenever we get together, we often rap about stuff like Human Computer Interaction, one of my current investment themes.  Fortunately, Bruce is not all talk – he actually goes out and builds stuff – often from scratch.  Take a look at his Touch of the Brush Tables currently on display at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta as part of the Inspiring Impressionism exhibit that is coming to Denver in a few months.

Note the hardware and hacker-like setup – combined with a Mac and a bunch of magic special software that Bruce and his gang put together.


Oct 21 2007

I Support ??? Dennis Kucinich?

Amy started out my Sunday morning with the Select A Candidate Quiz from Minnesota Public Radio.  I’ll leave it to her to decide whether or not to say who she selected (but it was a surprise to me).  So – I figured I’d take it also. 

Given that I don’t know who Dennis Kucinich is, I was perplexed by how strongly I matched him.  Now that I’ve read his story, I get it.  My top five were Kucinich, Richardson, Gravel, Dodd, and Edwards.  Clinton and Obama were tied for #6 – I disagree with them on Iraq, Immigration, Social Security, Energy, and the Death Penalty.  It’s no surprise to me that the Indians (I mean Romney, McCain, Gilmore, Huckabee, and Brownback) are in the cellar. 

Go Red Sox.

Oct 20 2007

The Relevance of Programming Languages

The subtitle of this post is “Wow – that boy can write.”  If you found my post titled CTO vs. VP Engineering to be relevant to your universe, grab a cup of coffee and wander over to Niel Robertson’s post titled Do Programming Languages Matter Anymore

I’ve worked on various companies with Niel over the past decade, including NetGenesis, Service Metrics, and most recently Newmerix.  In addition to being a phenomenal CTO (confirmed by Tom Higley – Niel’s partner at Service Metrics), Niel can write an essay like very few others.  This one covers his view of programming languages, how they fit in SAP’s world, and why SAP (and others) should “integrate a CLR runtime engine native in the application server (or at least have a three legged stool of ABAP, Java, and CLR-based runtime).”

If you aren’t a software developer (or an exec at a software company), you probably won’t care – other than to get a sense as to how a CTO should integrate programming, english, reasoning, and writing skills (plus you’ll get to learn why CLR matters.  For the rest of you – especially those of you that think “Microsoft is dead”, this is an important essay that helps uncover one more reason why large parts of Microsoft’s long term technology strategy are brilliant (and possibly unassailable in the medium-term.)