Month: July 2009

Jul 18 2009

Inside Zynga

My friends at Zynga just put up a short video on the YouTube Zynga channel titled Inside Zynga which is an intro to their company.

I’ve never been involved in anything like Zynga – Mark Pincus and his team have created an amazing company. They continue to add people to the team at an incredible rate.  If you are in the bay area and interesting in joining one of the fastest growing Internet companies on the planet, give them a shout.

And – as a practitioner of “using the products my companies create” – feel free to friend me on Facebook and join my mafia (I’m level 132 if you need a strong wingman) or become my neighbor on FarmVille (I’ll send you a Duck.)

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Jul 16 2009

RFID Makes Running Marathons More Fun

When I ran my first marathon in 1983, I remember carefully filling out all the information on my race number so that when I crossed the finish line the race organizers could actually figure out my time and place.  I can’t remember, but I don’t think any computers were involved; I believe it was entirely a manual process.  Maybe there was an Apple II and a copy of Visicalc or dBase II somewhere behind the scenes, but I doubt it.

2009 Seattle Rock&Roll Marathon

This is a photo of 25,000 people running the inaugural Seattle Rock ‘N’ Roll Marathon last weekend.  Each of them is wearing a tiny ChronoTrack D-tag which contains an RFID chip made by Impinj

Now, if you’ve ever run a marathon (or any organized road race), you know that the timing systems have made huge progress in the past decade.  Runners in big races now talk about “chip time” which is the actual time you ran the race; the time it takes from the point you crossed the starting line to the point you crossed the finish line.  No more adjusting your “time” for the 2 minutes and 33 seconds it takes to get across the starting line (or – if you are a back of the pack starter like me, the 10+ minutes it occasionally takes.)

However, if you are like me, you hate the fucking two ounces of plastic you have to tie to your shoe, or wrap around your ankle, or weave into your shoelaces.  It’s uncomfortable, unbalanced (two ounces on your right ankle over 26.2 miles is actually noticeable), and super frustrating when it doesn’t work. Then, when you get to the finish line, you have to get it off your shoe (usually with help from a race helper person) and give it back!  Blech.

The RFID chip approach completely changes the whole dynamic.  It’s light weight (imperceptible), trivial to attach to your shoe, and you can keep it because it’s extremely inexpensive.  Plus, I find it awesomely cool to wear an RFID tag while I’m running (and use another product from a company in which I’m an investor in a way I hadn’t expected.)  Fun!

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Jul 16 2009

Disrupting the Conference Call Market – Again

Yesterday, Gold Systems released their new Conference Server.  This is a new conference call product built on top of Microsoft Office Communications Server. 

I’ve been a user of conference call services since the early 1990’s.  I remember when you had to set up a conference call in advance with an AT&T operator, get a unique dial in number, pay a ridiculous fee for the entire experience, and worry about how much the bill was going to be as you anxiously sat on the call and listened to people go round and round about whatever topic the call was about.

In 1997, I was a seed investor in a company called Vstream.  While it started off as a video streaming business, it evolved into one of the first “reservationless conferencing” systems.  After several name changes they settled on Raindance, incorporated web collaboration into their products, built a meaningful and profitable business, went public, survived the Internet bubble, and were ultimately acquired by West Corporation.

When Raindance launched its reservationless conferencing service, I remember it being a huge breakthrough.  I got this little credit card like thing with a unique conference call number (8006333) and a pin.  I could set up a conference call by telling people the 888 number to dial into (888-742-8686 – god, it’s absurd that I can remember this shit – I need to do a major garbage collection routine on my brain) and giving them my conference call number.  At the time, this was super magic unique; today it is commonplace.

Reservationless conferencing rapidly accelerated the growth of the conference call market on one dimension while web collaboration accelerated it on another dimension.  As this was happening, the telecommunication costs dropped steadily.  I vaguely remember the cost per person per minute on a conference call being north of $0.30 at one point; at each board meeting we talked about the number being smaller ($0.15 was a big moment).  Of course, at $0.30 / minute the margins were absurd; at $0.10 / minute, not so much.  While this was happening, the whole Free Conference Call movement emerged so in some cases the price was theoretically free (note the important use of the word theoretically.)

I left the Raindance board in 2002 so I missed what I expect were endless conversations about the impact of VoIP on the whole shebang.  Fast forward to 2009.  We are all really comfortable with reservationless conferencing.  So comfortable in fact that we probably don’t notice that you can do what used to take a data center full of gear and pipes on a high end server today running Microsoft Office Communications Server.  Oops.  Hi Mr. Disruption.  Welcome back.

If you want a quick feel for whether this is cost effective for you, take a look at Gold Systems’ ROI calculator to see what your savings over your current approach would be.  And – if you want more info on this, contact my friends at Gold Systems.

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Jul 14 2009

TechStars: Episode 7: Baby Steps

Well – that run didn’t happen.  Sometimes you just need a nap.  Badly.  Late night + very early morning = nap.  Yummy.  Ready for more.  In the mean time, here is this week’s TechStars Boulder: The Founders episode.  Special guest appearances by Rob Hayes of First Round Capital and Rollie Cohen, the news TechStar.

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Jul 14 2009

Never Mind The Valley, Here’s Boulder

I’m in LA today taking a break between a board meeting and a dinner meeting.  I’ve got a few calls and am then going running somewhere, although I haven’t yet figured out where that’s going to be since I’m deep in downtown LA.  While I was stalling before putting my running shoes on, I stumbled onto a video on ReadWriteWeb today that made me homesick.

Never Mind the Valley, Here’s Boulder from ReadWriteWeb on Vimeo.

I think I’m going to give Micah the new title of Ambassador of Boulder.

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Jul 13 2009

Urgent Need for Colorado-based Java Contractor

If you are an independent contractor that is a Java stud, email me.  I’m specifically looking for someone with familiarity with Vignette 7, Weblogic 9, Javascript, Ajax, and .NET web services.

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Jul 11 2009

Some Tech Articles for You on a Saturday Morning

As many of my friends are cranking through the TripleByPass bike race and I prepare to go for a long run in the mountains near my house in Keystone, I thought I’d leave you with a few tech blog posts and articles I read this morning.

Too Much And Not Enough: Eric Norlin (Defrag) has a nice short piece on a phrase I’m hearing a lot these days. 

CrunchUp Live: Real Time Search Panel: More of “too much and not enough”.  Kimbal Musk’s (OneRiot) has the money quote of the panel: “Drinking from the firehose is a ticking timebomb.”

Has enterprise software has always been terrible? Gnip’s Eric Marcoullier says yes: Always one for a pithy quote, Eric Marcouiller (Gnip) got one in during his 30 minute panel (with 7 panelist – eek – just about enough time for one question for each panelist) at TechCrunch’s Real-Time CrunchUp.  The real idea is that Consumer Internet is now setting the expectation for how enterprise software should work (e.g. the UI / UX is so much better).

Ok – enough of that real time shit, time for some other stuff.

Technology Going Downhill: Great story about a mountain bike crash, some dislocated fingers, an iPhone, and presence of mind.

Welcoming Andreessen Horowitz:  The gang at True Ventures has a great essay on early stage entrepreneurship that ends with “If you are an entrepreneur today, this is an historic time to chase your dreams. With over $1 billion in fresh seed capital in the very early stage market, what are you waiting for?”

The Fine Line Between Informing and Spamming Your Followers: Fred Wilson talks about how he inadvertently spammed his 27,162 followers on Twitter, why that sucks, and how he tries to deal with it.

Playful New Ways to Waste Your Time: It’s fun to see how the mainstream media perceives the dynamic of social gaming.  I assure you that my endless time spent in front of FarmVille and Mafia Wars is research, since I’m an investor in Zynga.

Ok – time for that run.

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Jul 8 2009

Dead Pixel in Google Earth

I love the blog 3 Quarks Daily.  The best part is that I don’t have to read it – Amy obsesses over it and sends me all the stuff she knows I’ll like (at least a half dozen a week – sometimes a lot more).  Today’s (actually from March 30th) is a magnificent work of art by Helmut Smits tilted Dead Pixel in Google Earth 2009.

Dead pixel in Google earth

Absolutely fucking brilliant. 

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Jul 8 2009

Naming Colorado’s Tech Scene

I suck at naming things.  I named my first company “Feld Technologies” (yeah, that was super creative, but I bet it made my dad proud.)  I learned an important lesson from that one – when things go wrong people call for Mr. Feld and yell at him.  Better to name your company Costolo Technologies if your last name is Feld.

I then went on to name another company I co-founded – this one that was one of the first email service providers (in the mid-1990’s we referred to this as “publishing email”).  Guess what we named it?  If you guessed “Email Publishing” you are now demonstrating your strong deductive reasoning skills as they pertain to my completely lame naming skills.

At some point, I took myself out of consideration for naming things.  I take no responsibility for any company names after 1997.

A year ago I learned that the “tech scene” in Colorado was referred to as “ICT” or “Information and Communication Technologies”.  This happened during my activity with the Colorado Governors Innovation Council while we were trying to  convince people (successfully) that the software / Internet industry is a key part of the economic activity in Colorado. A side note: we succeeded – as Governor Ritter has recently stated ICT is now the fifth pillar of economic development in Colorado, joining bio, aerospace, tourism, and the new energy economy.

As part of this, I discovered that ICT is a popular TLA in government for referring to software + Internet + communications.  Fortunately, very few people outside of government (except for the government affairs people at tech companies) use the phrase ICT or even know what it means.  I commented several times (especially after endlessly referring to it as CIT) that it was a terrible name.  When asked what I’d call this sector, I responded with “I suck at naming things.”  Kettle – pot – black.

Some of my friends have started talking about a better name for “the Colorado Tech Scene”.  After encouraging them to please please please not use the word “Silicon” in the phrase, I proceeded to bow out of any real discussions about this as “I suck at naming things.”  Recently a group of them got serious about figuring out a name and the guys at Rocky Radar agreed to take the lead on crowd sourcing suggestions.

So – if you have any ideas, send an email to nameCO@rockyradar.com or tweet it with the hash code #nameCO.  Help us replace ICT with something other than CIT.

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Jul 7 2009

TechStars: Episode 6: All Around The World

I spent the afternoon today at TechStars Boulder in the Bunker meeting with about half of the teams.  I’m delighted with the progress they are making – everyone is really cranking and a few companies are just crushing it.  This week’s episode of TechStars: The Founders is dynamite and includes a trip to Amsterdam and a quick spin through TechStars Boston.

I’m bummed I missed tonight’s Boulder Denver New Tech Meetup where a handful of the TechStars teams gave five minute demos, but I was busy indulging myself at Frasca while learning about flower abortions.

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