Friday, May 26, 2006

Wikipedia + Google Maps

I love Wikipedia. It's my pick for the best content online. Now, thanks to the recombinant economy we have WikiMapia. It applies the anybody can contribute model to an annotated version of Google Maps. Fun stuff.

Thanks to Lifehacker for pointing it out (see post).

Pimp my Weblog

Open casting call for anyone who can elevate this blog from ghetto to supperfly. Will pay in beer, link-love, or bling. Hit me up at Haislip at g mail dot com.

Open to try a new pub platform too. Would love to CMS-ify this thing.

PE Blogger Blackmailed

Anonymous bloggers rock, especially when they write about stuff we all care about. One of the best is Going Private, who is now getting pushed around by a reader who threatens to out him. I'm impressed by the cool way Going Private handles this business by publicly reminding his readers that blackmail is a felony (see post). Nice.

Web2.0 (tm)

O'Reilly decided that next-generation, AJAX-enabled, Internet applications should be called Web2.0 and it was good. Now it's bad to use his term without recognizing it as a registered trademark. He's gotten at least one VC-blogger pissed off (see Jaff Clavier's Software Only).

For those not in the 53,651, here's a definition of what Web2.0 is all about (see wikipedia).

Can't Knock the Hustle

Bill Gates and Jay Z.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

VC -->Mayfield on India

I spoke with Yogen Dalal at Mayfield this afternoon. We had an interesting discussion around a recent article by Private Equity Week's Daniel Primack. More on that tomorrow.

I asked him why we weren't seeing too many early-stage investments going into India and what if any plans Mayfield had for capitalizing in the country.

His reply, verbaitim:

We expect India to create early stage companies much in the way Israel has. We haven’t seen too many of those kinds, that satisfy worldwide market needs, as the Indian technical and entrepreneurial community is just getting started. The talent has for the most part been involved in “outsourcing” to IT departments in corporate America and Europe or working in R&D labs for US companies like Intel, Oracle etc. These entrepreneurs will discover problems that need solving and will start their own enterprises to do so. The same thing happened in Silicon Valley 30 years ago with Fairchild and HP…

But there have been a few – Tejas, Ashok Narasimha’s company, etc. We expect to see more over the next few years. Raj Kapoor, Robin Vasan and I are looking at this space and working with cross border VC funds and other Indian VCs in Silicon Valley to explore these kinds of investments and I am sure we will do one soon.

The difference with China is that the Chinese internet infrastructure is more advanced and therefore there is the need for Chinese startups that satisfy the China market. India is a ways off and the kinds of things that have been successful have been BPO and low tech infrastructure deals which haven’t been part of our strategy.

VC -->Breakfast with Warren Weiss

I met with Warren Weiss of Foundation Capital this morning at Mike's Cafe in Menlo Park. I had french toast and it was tastey. Mr. Weiss's firm emphasizes operational experience and Mr. Weiss has run several public companies. Foundation is currently working on a $595 million fund, raised in 2001. He calls venture capital a "CEO Detox Program" because the best VCs supposedly come out of management.

The firm has recently pushed into cleantech, even though most of the people investing in the sector these days seem to be untested VCs. One of the underlying currents of all the companies they have seems to be taking the idea of a network and pushing it to nontraditional applications. A word on the firm's companies and what they're doing:

Silver Spring Networks -- has partnered with GE to provide a Tivoli-like network management system and software for the utilities such as electricity delivery. It has developed a lot of IP around radio networking for these applications.

EnerNoc -- I've written about this company before. The basic idea? Regulate energy supply and demand to allow big-box stores and other power consumers to give electricity production or capacity back to the grid when it is needed somewhere else. I know this sounds a lot like Enron, but it's more about providing information to potential producers about current market demand for power. "There's plenty of power out there, you just have to find it," Mr. Weiss said. "Chips, bandwidth, storage, all gets cheaper. In fact, there's even free software out there that's not too bad." Energy, on the other hand has been getting more expensive.

Dust Networks – An RH 100 company. Mesh networking for communications between sensors in buildings. Modern buildings monitor lots of things, such as temperature, and those sensors are wired through the building to a control center. Imagine the cost of wiring a new building, or retrofitting an old one. In-Q-Tel is also in on the deal.

Novazone -- The company has figured out how to use Ozone (O3) to purify water and disinfect fruit and vegetables. The company sells not only the gas, but software to control the release and flow of Ozone for different applications. Mr. Weiss got wind of the deal via the Keiretsu Forum.

SiBeam -- Makes chips for short-distance communications between laptops and projectors, for example.

Sensicore -- Water testing and monitoring delivered via a distributed network. Again, I’ve written about it before.

Some other quick thoughts: Podcasting might make a lot of sense as a collaboration tool within enterprises. Why should patients have to put up with a mess of wires when they need to be monitored at hospitals. Foundation has not only an Entrepreneur in Residence program, but also a tech swap deal with HP Labs. Mr. Weiss has been working with Dick Lampman there.

Foundation was behind the sale of Peribit to Juniper. Juniper paid $380 million and Peribit had $40 million in 12-month trailing revenue. Mr. Weiss doesn't think Juniper paid too much, citing the fact that Peribit was doubling revenue at the time it was bought.

VC -->Early Stage Comeback

Late-stage deals dominated the second quarter, but I've noticed more early-stage investments in the dealflow in the last couple weeks, but it's always nice to hear someone else say it. I recently talked with Evangelos Simoudis at Trident about investing at different stages. Read the full interview at RHDotCom.

Q. What caused last quarter's strong shift to late-stage?

A. There has been a lot of discussion of the venture funds that invested in the tail end of the Internet [boom] which didn’t do well at all. One of the reasons they didn’t do well was because they invested at high valuations and the companies didn’t go anywhere. Now they have to talk to their institutional investors about their track record, and the track record for early-stage was not very good.

Q. So it’s just face saving?

A. It’s not just face saving, where the investors said, “Oh my God, that didn’t work. Let’s try something else.” If you want to see the whole chain of effects, you have to go back to 2001, when a lot of corporations cut down their budgets, so they were not buying as many wares from the startups.

They had bought a lot of things during the late nineties. Now all of a sudden, they weren’t buying anything. Similarly, consumers curtailed their purchasing. As a result, many companies did not do well at all.

Q. So if the action is in late stage now, does this mean early stage is doomed?

A. Early-stage investing is going to come back. We’re at a much better place now than we were 18 months ago. You routinely hear about early-stage companies getting funding. But more importantly, you’re hearing a lot more about exits. This will whet the appetite again and cause people to return to early-stage investing.

TECH -->Better than Caffeine

CX717 promises to reverse the effects of sleep loss. The drug is a type of ampakine, which acts on a chemical receptors involved in cell-to-cell communication between neurons. Open channels mean clear thoughts.

Imagine a sleepy brain as a city street with the stoplights turned to red. When a thought comes to a light, it has to sit and wait for it to turn green. CX717 is like joy-riding through the city in the middle of the night with the windows rolled down and never hitting a red light, or at least that's what the monkeys who took it said.

DARPA has gotten involved and is apparently working on making it into something it can feed pilots instead of uppers.

Monday, August 22, 2005

SECURITY -->From the Shadows (again)

I hate to post on the same thing twice, but if you haven't checked out From the Shadows yet, you should. I'm still totally amped about this project. It's television via internet protocol with a highly-nerdy twist.

Box 5.0, available via this website, deals with beermaking. Mmm...Beer. It's hard not to salivate when watching the show, where the Flexilis guys take the Anchor Steam brewery tour. Watch beer being made, drunk, and analyzed by a bunch of techno-experts (aka nerds).

One of the best parts of the video is the time-lapse photography of beer being brewed. It looks a lot like the weather maps on tv.

The second half of the show is all about how to do it yourself. A halmark of the ground-breaking show.

"Now that I'm making beer, I wish I'd paid attention in chemisty and biology," says Craig Baker, of the Culiver Home Brewing Supply shop, who has a tatto of a hops fine around his bicepts.

One weird thing that the everyone in the video can't seem to ignore is the relation of hops to marajauna. Go figure.

One of the great things about John Hering is that he wears Sperry Topsiders.

After making beer, the crew gets uber-geeky, by talking to the operators of The idea: beer regulation pouring via linux computing. It regulates temperature, pouring, and will allow for international beer-drinking competitions. The kegbot will also keep a running log of one's blood-alchocol level. This "promotes responsible drinking." It also allows one to set up user-accounts for beer consumption, to track spending and, user permission levels. Mike Wakerly is in charge of the project, and he has some mad sideburns (chops).

From the Shadows is still very campy/nerdy. It has a way to go, but should not be ignored. These guys are on the forefront of a movement, and the small stuff tends to work itself. But before you VCs start salivating, know that Mr. Hering et, al, have enough cash flow to finance their show as is. Read about it soon in Red Herring Magazine.

WINE -->Smoking Loon

In the world of cheep-ish wine, it's hard to pass up Smoking Loon. A Napa vintage, the Loon comes with a deep yellow label, highlighted with red trim. The label will tell you the stork of Jake, who nobody seems to have understood. Jake laughed a lot, and smoked a lot. A loon, if you will.

The chardonay is delightfully smooth, the pinot nior is appropriately smokey, and the cab-sav does not overpower one with tangy-ness.

I have yet to visit the winery, but its on my list. As is the company's viognier.

VC -->IBM Taps VCs to Beat Microsoft

This story quickly devolved into a good, old-fashioned spitting match between industry giants. I loved every minute of reporting it. On the Left: IBM's Drew Clark. On the Right: Microsoft's Dan'’l Lewin.

At issue? Big Blue's move to develop a panel of VC advisors. I teased this story on Friday. I was hoping to get these guys into an all-out fist fight, but Silicon Valley decorum prevailed (again). It was a special pleasure to meet Mr. Lewin, who is Princeton '76.

Mr. Clark:
Mr. Clark said Microsoft has been trying to bully VCs into avoiding investments in open source. "To us, that's a new low," said Mr. Clark. "It's gotten to the point where I think they're scared they're going to lose the best and brightest innovations. The VCs aren't buying it."

Mr. Lewin: "What he says is absolutely ridiculous," said Dan'l Lewin, Microsoft's vice president of .NET business development. "We provide great incentive structures tied to win, win, win: customer, company, and Microsoft. We don't do anything to dissuade anybody. We just market and evangelize what we do."

VC -->VC Funds Jump 165% in Q2

Investor optimism in venture capital helped U.S. venture firms add 62 percent more to their coffers in the second quarter than in the year-ago period, making it the best three months for venture fundraising in nearly four years, a study released Monday said.

Venture Capital firms in the quarter raised a total of more than $6.1 billion vs. $2.3 billion in the second quarter of 2004, according to the study by VentureOne. It was the most lucrative quarter for VC since the last quarter of 2001.

Read the rest of the story Here.

Chart comes from VentureOne data.

The most interesting thing in this story is that 40 percent of the new money went to sub-$100 million funds. Does this signal a resurgence of early-stage?

VC -->Flying Spaghetti Monster-ism

It's hard not to like a religion based on such a tasty food. We have Bobby Henderson to thank for the newest net-trend of Intelligent Design via Flying Spaghetti Monster. Mr. Henderson employs a pirate-global-warming regression as a persuasive argument for his new religion, where God is a flying set of spaghetti and meatballs.

The amazing thing here is not the astounding revelation of marinara and meat-balls, but the scads of money Mr. Henderson is apt to make from tee-shirts, mugs, and bumperstickers sold through Cafe Press. Cafe Press is one site in a burgeoning online industry for converting creative design into cash flow. Think of it as blogging for tee-shirts: it's super easy to put whatever dumb slogan or brilliant new religious revelation into mass production. VCs have been super excited about this. Kleiner Perkins recently jumped behind Cafe Press competitor Zazzle, for example.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Books -->Change in China

I enjoyed reading this book. It's a good view into how China is changing and what it will take to bring the sleeping dragon up to speed. Ian Johnson, a WSJ guy, is really bright and the book shows that he's done a hell of a lot of reporting. Kudos to him.

You can hear Mr. Johnson interviewed on the NPR Program To the Best of Our Knowledge, by following this link.

VCs seem to want to be in China in the worst way. Consider Baidu's big win. The question to consider: how can a Silicon Valley VC parachute into the Middle Kingdom and find the startups that nobody else is seeing?

VC -->Israel-U.S. Tech Trade

Israel and the U.S. both get a lot out of trading. Israeli high-tech exports to the U.S. increased 11 percent in the first half of this year, according to the Israel Export Institute, and are expected to top $3 billion by the end of the year. One company looking to capitalize on U.S.-Israeli relations is OpTier. The Israeli company recently raised $9.5 million in a third round of venture financing. Earlier this year it started selling its transaction tracking program to inside the U.S. OpTier founders Israel Mazin and Eli Mashiah, made millions in 1998 when they sold security software firm Memco to Platinum Technology for $550 million. Pitango Venture Capital, Carmel Ventures, and Lightspeed Venture Partners all participated.

Read the original RH Stories here and here.

INTERVIEW --> Dow Jones CEO Peter Kann

Last year I had the good fortune to spend an hour with Peter Kann, the CEO of Dow Jones, which publishes of The Wall Street Journal. I've excerpted the best parts below.

Peter Kann started working for The Wall Street Journal after graduating Harvard University in 1964. After more than 175 articles, and a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting out of Dacca during Bangladesh’s separation from Pakistan in 1972, Mr. Kann was promoted to publisher, and later Chairman and CEO. Ten years after taking the helm, the economic wave that carried the company’s advertising crashed; terrorists flew jetliners into the skyscrapers right outside of their office building; and criminals captured and killed Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl as he reported in Pakistan.

Q: What was it like riding out 2001?

A: “I think each in a different way was kind of a shock,” Kann says, “The bursting of the bubble and so on was probably a predictable one. The only thing that was unusual about it perhaps was the timing and the suddenness. We wrote and others did too, that this couldn’t go on indefinitely. To me, that one has had a certain set of financial consequences for our customers and for us, but in the long run the bursting of a bubble is not such a bad thing.

“September 11th, was, and here I point out that I was not here that day, I was actually in Hong Kong so I had plenty of colleagues who were, but I was not, that was obviously an enormous shock. I think there were probably several reactions beyond the shock. One was ‘thank god that none of our employees were killed or injured.’ That was remarkable given how close many of them were to it, across the street. So I think there was some sense of shock and horror and some sense of thank god we didn’t lose colleagues. And then there was a sense of: ‘okay, even in this kind of crisis, what can we productively do?’ And what people could do, other than ensure their families that they were alive, at least alive, was to get out the next day’s newspaper. Or In the case of Newswires, keep newswires or journal online operating.

“So you wound up with hundreds, some of them acting quite independently because communications were shaky, doing their jobs, and all kind of coalescing around a core mission of ‘let’s get the paper out.’ That had less to do with leadership, in a conventional sense of a boss saying ‘do this do this do this’ than it had to do with hundreds of people knowing their jobs very well—reporting, editing, or technology support jobs, or facilities jobs—and doing them under very adverse conditions. I think the result the next day and the days beyond was, a lot of institutional pride in what people accomplished that day.

“The third crisis if you look at it that way, the murder of Danny, that was certainly shocking, it was so totally senseless and barbaric. I’m not sure that one can find any uplift at all in that. It was a terrible tragedy, and not I think, a preventable one. And I don’t know there’s no real conclusion anyone can draw from it, other than there’s real evil in the world and he was a victim of that.

“All of that said, I think the institution, the company, the newspaper have come out of this difficult period certainly with our values intact, with our quality intact, with our confidence looking forward intact. It’s not a period one would want to repeat, but it’s a period we got through, and we’re emerging on the other side of it. We look ahead with a good deal of confidence, and I think there is a greater to look ahead than look back.”

Q: What’s the future of The Wall Street Journal?

A: I have been a consistent advocate of continued investing in the future of the newspaper for readers and also for shareholders ultimately.

“We launched this whole set of changes that we called ‘Today’s Wall Street Journal.’ We did that right in the middle of an ad recession. Some people might have thought that it was a little fool hardy.

“We were making these changes for the long term, for the long-term benefit of readers, and advertisers and shareholders. You don’t try to time that to play to some particular quarterly earnings target. And I think that was the right decision and that’s the way one ought to try to run companies.

“There are certainly short term pressures and you have to be conscious of those, but there are also longer-term opportunities and you have to be willing to invest in those. If you only do one, you’re not doing your job.

“We took a significant risk in doing a paid-subscription online model. It was seen as pretty gutsy and running in the face of the conventional wisdom of the time. It makes no sense that we’re going to charge customers $175 for a certain body of propriety, high-quality information in one form and then give all that and more away in another form just because someone says, ‘gee, that’s a free medium.’

“That was really kind of an old fashioned view; that if we believe what we are producing has real value, and we obviously do, then let’s behave consistently. The content’s what’s key, the fact that you deliver the content in a different form shouldn’t mean that the content thus has to be free.”

Q: Does producing top-quality content hurt your profitability?

A: “I don’t think they actually conflict. Certainly not in our publishing model. If you invest in the best possible journalism you can, and we can define best in various ways, but at the very least, the most accurate, the most reliable, the most authoritative, the most relevant to the interests to of our audience, then the money will come.

“And how do get the best journalism? Primarily by hiring the best people you can and then maintaining the highest standards you can and assuming that the most important asset we really have is trust, trust with the readers. And if that’s the primary focus, and you do that well, you wind up appealing to and attracting a loyal audience of, in our case, high-demographic individuals.

“And it is that audience we’re actually selling to the advertisers. It’s that quality of that audience and that audience’s relation with the paper: Trust really in it, reliance on it, and it’s the quality of the audience and the environment of trust that we’re really selling to the advertisers. And advertising, here as on almost every publication is the primary driver of the financial results, the secondary one would be the subscription revenue.

“But assuming we’ve done the first two things well, provided the quality and integrity of the content, attracted the right kind of audience, sold that effectively to the advertisers, it’s the advertising revenue that can then be reinvested, or at least some portion of it that, in further improving quality or enhancing the publication for the readers.

“It sounds a little simplistic, but that is our publishing philosophy and when you get into down cycles, as we’ve been in, you try to find ways a whole variety of ways in the short term you can save money, and reduce costs, and operate more efficiently.

“But we did not include on that list of things, doing anything that would in any significant way impair the quality of the content. Because that’s not a tradeoff worth making. Other publications may have a slightly different way that they look at this, but I think ours has worked pretty well over a lot of generations.

“In a very short-term sense, I’d say the conflicts are actually less between quality of news and profitability, they tend to be business decisions you choose to make or not make for the shorter term or the longer term.

“For example: In a difficult add environment a lot of publications negotiate their advertising rates. So you say, in effect, “what will the advertiser pay” and we’ll ask what they’re willing to pay. Or another way they do it is, “gee, we don’t really drop our rates, what we do is give advertisers who are willing to buy five pages, we’ll give them five free pages.” Well it amounts to the same thing, right?

“And we’ve not been willing to do those things, just as the news department has a set of integrity values, so does our ad department. The advertising is worth what we say it is worth on a published rate card. That rate card includes certain discounts, if you advertise more, than the per-ad price is going to be less. If you have to run more ads, the price may be less than if you run fewer ads.

“But all that is published information and that’s how our sales people sell. So does that they occasionally lose an account, yes, because some other publication comes along and says, “We’ll do it for half price.”

“Our view is that that’s not fair. We don’t actually want to be whispering to one advertiser, “psstt, despite what the rate card says, we’ll give it to you for 40 percent off. But don’t tell the advertisers.” Because I don’t think it’s very good business integrity

“There are some decisions like that that in a short-term sense are fairly gutsy.

“I don’t think there’s a fundamental rub between editorial quality and profitability and that even includes running tough reportage on companies that are important in a business sense. We’ve done it for 100 years. I think companies understand it, that we do honest journalism, that if you advertise, it doesn’t mean you’re going to get any favoritism.

“For that matter, our directors understand it, a lot of them have run or run big companies they join our board and they understand that the reporters are not going to be intimidated by the fact that the CEO of American Express is on our board and whatever he/she writes about American Express.”

Q: Are good journalists born or made?

A: “There are certain qualities that most people who wind up being good journalists have that are somewhat innate. I’d say curiosity. A journalist needs a genuine curiosity about all kinds of subjects. And he or she has to wake up in the morning wanting to learn more. An ability to reach closure is another one. If someone has no ability to close down on knowledge on a subject, they may wind up being a great academic, but they’re probably not going to be a great journalist. Whether you’re doing daily or weekly journalism, there is a cut-off point. You have got to get it out.

“An ability to think clearly and succinctly is pretty basic. A natural ability to write helps, but someone can be a good natural writer, and if they don’t think clearly, they’re not going to be a very good journalist. On the other hand, if they think clearly, if they can boil down a lot of interesting thoughts and information into a ‘the point of this story is,’ and express that simply and succinctly, then whether or not they are great writers actually is secondary.

“So another way to say that is: If you think of stories as, a little like, take-offs and landings, the editors can do a lot to improve landings, they can tighten up wording, and they can move sentences around and they can make something a little more literate but if the story on take off doesn’t has a clear point to it, then it’s unlikely its going to have a happy landing anyway.”

“This is something I try to say to young reporters who join the paper: Take satisfaction in actually being a conveyor of useful, relevant news and information. I don’t think it is really the reporter’s job to be a crusader, or a prosecutor, or an ideologue, or a debater.

“What a reporter’s job is really about is using his or her best judgment to decide on what is important and what is relatively less important, to talk to as wide a variety of sources as one can, to try to keep probing for the truth as best one can determine it, and then to write in a way that is accurate, relevant, accessible, and fair. There’s a lot of satisfaction in doing that well.

VC -->Trident's Sygate Sale

Trident Capital scored its first win on its security portfolio when Symantec scooped up Sygate. Sygate sells software that can control access rights to sensitive corporate networks. When installed on a laptop, its program will scan the computer for viruses, download patches, and make sure that it won’t infect a corporate network. Trident Capital has become a major backer of several security startups. Led by partners Don Dixon and Peter Meekin, the company has backed startups such as AirTight, Thor Technologies, Qualys, and TriCipher. “We think we have the best internal team on security of any venture fund and we have one of the best portfolios,” says Trident’s Howard Zeprun. The firm hired consultants such as Howard Schmidt, a former CSO at eBay and Microsoft and a retired White House security advisor, to give guidance on security trends. But with so many VCs looking make money on the security trend, the rest of the portfolio will face a lot of competition.

SECURITY -->Your Privacy

When I spent most of my day covering security issues, I used to get a lot out of Adam Shostack's blog. The guy has been all over consumer privacy rights and data breaches, going back to Choicepoint. He was like a personal RSS for me with his Choicepoint Roundups. I got a chance to hang out with him at the RSA conference in San Francisco.

VC -->Powell 2.0

Less than a month after General Colin Powell joined Kleiner Perkins, his son, former FCC chairman Michael Powell jumped into private equity, signing onto Providence. There has long been a revolving door between government and the investment industry. Providence Equity has about $9 billion under management and has invested in about 80 companies since its founding 15 years ago. Its portfolio includes such companies as Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Freedom Communications, American Cellular (the parent of Cellular One), PanAmSat, and VoiceStream Wireless. Pegging technology to abide by regulations on everything from television signals to line-sharing is increasingly important for startups’ success. That’s how former FCC chiefs Reed Hundt and William Kennard landed at Benchmark Capital and the Carlyle Group, respectively. Watch out for Providence to make investments in later-stage companies in new communications technologies, companies such as Vonage.

VC -->Old Bugs, New Drugs

Ask any hospital doctor: the only thing scarier than an HMO is a rapidly-mutating infection that can rip through a hospital ward and is resistant to antibiotics. The threat from evolving germs is a big public health issue. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, tuberculosis, gonorrhea, and malaria are just some of the diseases that have become hard to treat with existing antibiotics. Mpex Pharmaceuticals recently bagged $32 million in second-round financing to develop molecules that inhibit bacteria’s ability to become resistant to antibiotics. Backers included SV Life Sciences, HBM BioVentures, Aberdare Ventures, and others. Mpex, based in San Diego, is hoping these compounds will significantly improve the action of existing antibiotics, some of which enjoy sales of more than $1 billion annually.

Read the story by Anna Petherick.

NEWS -->Happytimes

If you forgot to take your Prozac, checkout Happynews dot com. The Internet site, reported on by NPR's On the Media, is committed to only reporting pleasant, uplifting news.

These guys must be former business journalists. The organization's mission statement is:

"Real News, Compelling Stories, Always Positive" is what you'll find on We believe virtue, goodwill and heroism are hot news. That's why we bring you up-to-the-minute news, geared to lift spirits and inspire lives. Add in a diverse team of Citizen Journalists reporting positive stories from around the world, and you've got one happy place for news. We hope you enjoy our site and welcome your feedback.


VC -->Shorts&Longs

Reading VC blogs is in education in itself. Jeremy Levine, of Bessemer Venture Partners has shown his stripes as a banker. He's begun "Shorts & Longs" a quick take on what he thinks is Hot or Not. What has Mr. Levine decided to go short on: Videoblogs and the French Economy.

VC -->Podcasting Goes Mobile

A lot of the digital avante guard are excited about podcasting. I've heard podcasting described as blogging for audio. The idea is that anyone can easily record and mix his or her own radio-style program or commentary. That program is then distributed, via the Internet, to anyone who wants to download the music file and listen.

The term "podcasting" originates from the words "iPod" and "broadcasting." Thanks to Apple, iPod has become the defacto term for anything involving digital audio. Apple has embraced the trend and is trying to capitalize on it.

Now others are trying to capitalize on it as well. Blinkx, for example, is trying to index podcasts and make them searchable. Venture capitalists are jumping on the bandwagon as well. Podshow, a new venture that hopes to be a podcasting portal that aggregates, delivers, and tries to help people create podcasts. It's picked up $8.85 million from Sequoia, and Kleiner Perkins, as well as Adam Curry, the father of podcasting. Liz Gannes has written about it on RedHerring dotcom.

Add Odeo, which just got cash from Charles River Ventures, and a group of angels, including Ed Zschau, a former professor of mine at Princeton.

Now, Melodeo, a startup up in Seattle, has launched podcast delivery to mobile phones. The company is trying to capitalize on the explosion of mobile phone adoption, especially in the developing world, where iPods haven't quite managed to invade yet. The company has raised $9.5 million from Intel Communications, Ignition, GF Capital, and Voyager Capital.

I have a lot of questions about how these companies plan to make money. Perhaps more interesting for investors, are we gearing up for an iBubble?

OBITS -->CTY Founder Dies

Dr. Julian Stanley, the founder of Johns Hopkins’s Center for Talented Youth (CTY) program died Friday, August 12.

Dr. Stanley founded the program in 1979 to force the hand of high schools that would not advance their academically precocious youth. The idea? Sift smart kids by standardized tests then give them the chance to cover a year’s worth of academics in a three-week summer program. The schools would have to advance their brightest when they came back from the summer already knowing everything that they were expected to learn that year.

From the JHU site:

At the outset of Dr. Stanley’s work in the 1960s and 70s, educators were widely skeptical of claims that a mathematically gifted child could master a year’s worth of Algebra 1 in a three-week residential program, or that a 12 year old might know Calculus.

Reading this on the site was a little stunning: what they described actually happened to me.

As a third-grader, I had problems with multiplication tables. After tears at the dining room table over flash-cards, my Dad told me about all the wonders of math. Its binary reasoning can be very seductive, especially when touted by the man-god that is every boy’s father. Hard work and a little help from Kumon Math (Mr. Standish, the administrator of the Williamsburg chapter, RIP), brought me up to speed. More work put me ahead and it wasn’t long until I was taking fourth-grade math.

I had a wonderful and nurturing fourth-grade teacher (Ms. Hunter) who got married (and became Ms. Murray). But the ring required her to move away and I found myself in the hands of a less-competent teacher the next year. Half-way through the year, I moved up to Mrs. Flynn’s fifth-grade class.

When word got out that I had skipped a grade, it precipitated the ire of my new classmates. They struck back with all the ferocity and mean-spiritedness children can muster. That afternoon, at the walk&talk track that circled near the school and provided us with a recreation similar to recess, the children chanted “Send Him Back,” thrusting tiny fists in the air as they strode around the track.

The echo of their combined voices still bounces around in my head just shy of a decade and a half later. I’ve been praised many times, but the simple, cheep cruelty of childhood stays with me.

I continued to advance academically, and continued to win the enmity of my peers. I can’t say how this made me feel. To transpose the emotion of an adult onto the experiences of a child is fair to neither he, nor I. My memory offers up some degree of numbness, a dulling of experience that can only be likened to the experience of a nerve pinched so many times that the brain no longer registers feeling.

Going to CTY was an awaking for the 11-year-old me. Here at Goucher College I was around thinking people—a community of like-minded nerds who were willing to accept me. My mother has described the same experience, when speaking of leaving the parochial colleges she bounced through before finally sticking to Columbia University.

I’ve lived twice as long now as when I had when I first went to CTY. It’s too tempting to transpose my analysis on the younger me. More than anything else, CTY was fun.

I first went in 1993 (The Florida Marlins were just about to join the National League) and subsequently went in 1994 to Hamilton College, in 1996, and 1997 to Franklin and Marshall.

Attempting to chronicle all that I remember would be tedious to read. I’m going to try to synopsize twelve weeks across four years into a bulleted list. If you weren’t there, skip to the bottom:

Playing Ninjas / Bizarre Love Triangle—the boxer dance / The CompSci kids who always wore bathrobes on Tuesday / Feather, who wore a frog on her head / Passion Fruit last morning ceremony / Saturday Carnival (multiple marriages) / Ultimate Frisbee / Dances: it’s the end of the world as we know it / forever young / The Circle Game and variations thereon / Throwing acorns / Talent Shows—Hamilton ’94 best Pachabell’s Cannon / 90 / Herkimer Diamond Mines / Sugar High—double Adams / Gabe’s Altoids / Memory books with tears.

I’ve forgotten most of the joy that I knew at CTY when I was young. Fortunately, my friends will be quick to chime in.

More than a decade since I started CTY, I find myself still running into CTYers years out. At Princeton I ran into John Jannarone, for example. We ended up at the same eating club for a while. Kara Lowentheil and I caught up in New York City, before she left for Harvard Law School. Lorraine Liang and I met up during her last year at Columbia University. She’s looking at medical schools now, while working on her Master’s.

Life is long and the world is small, and you keep running into the same people over and over again. I have no doubt that I regularly deal with other former CTYers that are yet to proclaim themselves.

I can’t say what I enjoyed most then. Now I am most fortunate for those friendships forged in the fire of high-powered academics.

Dr. Stanley’s program allowed me to advance academically, there’s no doubt of that. After a summer of algebra, I could skip ahead to geometry during seventh grade. By age 13 I was studying calculus. The program gave me a jump on my academic career, something I desperately wanted then.

The program gave me memories until my welcoming hands overflowed and people slipped between my fingers and events evaporated off the top. And a decade later, as the little pool grows smaller the residue becomes sweeter and sweeter. I cup my fingers tighter and push my hands together because I don’t want to forget.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

SECURITY --> From the Shadows

I'm totally amped about John Hering's From the Shadows. Hacker TV over Internet Protocol for the avant-guard of technology. Mr. Hering is going to do some very cool stuff. On top of being a multimedia mogul (mini-mogul) he's an expert in all things radio-frequency related. Red Herring will be coming out with a Q&A I did with him soon.

EVENTS -->Hunter S. Fireworks

When Hunter S. Thompson blew his head off with a shotgun in his kitchen and all my j-school buddies sang encomiums of excuse and praise I bought Fear and Loathing and read it cover to cover.

I invested in the Modern Library edition of the work, which included Strange Rumblings in Aztlan and The Kentucky Derby Is Decadent and Depraved. I was fortunate to see all the Ralph Steadman illustrations that accompanied the original publications as well.

I read the book on the plane to New York City, which stopped through Las Vegas. Reminders of my last trip to Sin City romped through my memory as I enjoyed Mr. Thompson's prose.

I had been in Vegas eight months before, covering Black Hat/Defcon, the biggest hacker conference in the world. There I met the likes of Dark Tangent, Priest, and others the former director of technology for the NSA. Going to Defcon was a little like a high-tech binge drinking contest, where I was a freshman of tech surrounded by seniors chugging down information and vomiting up jargon. It was the biggest nerd-party I had ever been to, and being Vegas, did involve a little drinking. At one point I found myself behind a makeshift bar mixing drinks that would have clinched my stomach in knots. It seemed a sort of poetic justice that I should be the vehicle for excessive imbibing for those who had poured information into my brain until it couldn't take anymore.

I was getting DDOS by the intelligence and knowledge of those around me. DDOS is, of course, a hacker term that stands for a Distributed Denial of Service attack. It's what happens when you get a thousand computers to simultaneously target a single web-server with queries and information. The server tries to handle all the requests until it can't. Imagine one waitress trying to serve dinner to all the people in a football stadium. It's a great way to crash computers.

I learned a lot from the folks there. A big thanks should go to Nico at Montara Mountain, who coordinates a lot of the show.

Although my experience at Defcon made me feel a little like a Gonzo Journalist, I knew I would never be the participant in a story coming out of it.

Perhaps the most striking thing of Mr. Thompson's book is the overt brutality of it. The big jawed creatures of Mr. Steadman's pictures really drive this point home. I suspect that most of the book is a rebellion against the counter-culture an attempt to bridge the atrocious excesses across generations. I don't know.

Mr. Thompson's family has decided to give him a hell of a sendoff. They've mixed his ashes into fireworks and will blow him up, through a 150-foot high cannon, reports.

Friday, August 19, 2005

EVENTS -->From Need to Know

Each week, The Red Herring Staff pulls together a list of events of goings on for the coming week.

This one actually looks worth going to:

Listen to entrepreneurs and VCs whine about the exit market. The exit market is just fine, for good companies with consistent earnings. Growth companies, also known as unprofitable companies, have had a hard time recently. Go there to meet IntelCapital’s Rohini Chakravarthy and Ezra Perlman of Francisco Partners.

SECURITY -->DeepNines

I recently met with Dan Jackson, the president of DeepNines Technologies. He was nice enough to come to my office and update me on the company. They've been getting a lot of attention since Blackhat blew the doors off the Cisco Router Vulnerabilities, covered nicely by WiredNews' Kim Zetter. I covered them back in January. DeepNines is doing cool stuff and I think they'll do well. The company is backed by Scott Maxwell, who's also behind eEye Digital Security and recently made a lot of cash when Quest bought Imceda.

PR -->Headscratcher

The Red Herring sometimes gets strange notes from public relations people. Here's a pitch from the questionable side of sanity, received today:

Subject: Is There Ever a Time to Kill?

Yes when a device might have sensitive information on it that would land your company on the wrong side of the story in the Wall Street Journal, defect to your biggest competitor or leave your corporate network exposed to the latest diabolical mind that learned how to pick your employee's car lock and take his laptop PDA Smartphone.

That is the time to kill.

And merciless a company must be if it is to protect itself. It's a eat or be eaten world out there, and we (the consumer) are sick and tired of reading another headline about how some company didn't do the right thing and protect our information.

We're fed up so kill! Kill! Kill!

And if you want to talk to a company that helps corporate America be the hitman of these rogue devices who are free to do their damage, let me know I can hook you up.

VC -->Story Tease

A little teaser for an upcomming story.

What do Richard Frank, David Liddle, Ann Winblad, Jo Taylor, and Lip-Bu Tan all have in common?

Find out Monday on Red Herring dot com.

VAULT -->Old Strokers

If New Jersey is New York City’s hangover, Colonial Lanes Luncheonette & Lounge would be the perfect place to work it off. The low lighting, the comfortable chairs, and the sound of 16-pound balls crashing into groups of ten, three-pound, six-ounce maple, nylon-covered pins can be strangely soothing, like being by the ocean.

The lanes sit off Business Route 1 in Lawrenceville, far enough away from Princeton University to miss the college crowd and far enough away from Trenton to miss the city crowd. The gray sky matches the gray parking lot. The once-white sign says, “Colonial Lanes,” but has lost the “i” in “Colonial.”

Walk past the first 32 lanes toward the far end of the building, past the young black kids playing a makeshift game of soccer on the concourse with a yellow ball the size of an orange, past their older relatives high rolling on lanes 13 and 14, past the group of Down syndrome bowlers, and towards Larry.

“You’ve got to meet Larry,” a friend told me, “he’s the big dawg.”

Larry Cabell stands behind the main counter, which looks like a converted bar. A swinging wooden door separates the outside world from the shoe rentals and the cash register. Cabell weighs at least 230 pounds, with bleached blond hair and matching eyebrows that seem almost incongruous against his black skin. His left forearm sports a tattoo of a rose and the three class rings on his right hand shine like trophies. Cabell is the proprietor, the resident pro, and the last of a dying breed of bowlers.

When something goes wrong with the lanes, people look for Larry. “Drives me nuts,” he says, “every time there’s a full moon or it rains, brings ‘em all out.”

“Hand me the stick.” Cabell has a deep voice somewhere between Barry White and Isaac Hayes. He tries to fish a wayward pin in the gutter from on top of the pin-setting machine for lane 13. The stick consists of a broom handle with two prongs at the end. Cabell pokes the stick out through the lane face and spears the neck of the floundering pin.

When the pins go down, they feed from a conveyor belt to a cycling belt, housed in a painted iron circle that looks like a red clothes dryer. The circle would be big enough to step through if you could avoid getting hit by the positioning arm that pivots from slot to slot, feeding the pins into their positions.

“It wasn’t recycling right. This here is the nine slot. The nine is the last pin to feed in. When it kicks in, it flips a switch and resets the rack. Right now it’s not feeding and causing a pin backup.” Resetting is the last step of the pin process, when the feeding arm finishes slotting the pins and the rack takes them from their horizontal rest to standing attention on the lane.

Balls slam into pins, sending them into the whir of the large machines. Cabell swings himself out of the apparatus, knocking his cell phone off his belt. He folds stiffly at the waist to pick it up. “The first 12 are 50 years old,” he says, “they put them up in 1952. Thirteen through 32 came later, then they put up the last 32 to get 64.” Cabell points as he walks past 14 through 32, emerges from behind the lanes, and heads toward the front.

Cabell steps behind the rentals counter and settles onto his elbows. He produces a pack of Marlboros and lights up. “I’ve been working here for three years. Before that, I was a Lieutenant in the Department of Corrections, but I’ve been a bowler for 32 years.”

“This here is Lou,” he nods toward Lou Balestieri who is perched on a barstool smoking. “We’re both 55 years old. We can’t generate the ball speed the new guys can. We had hard rubber balls when we started, not the polyuerathane composite stuff you see people using now. They’ve moved from long oil to short oil, and the new materials cause them to come in at a fierce angle. Lou and I, we use the old Stroker style instead of the High Revolution. But today’s conditions make it harder for us.”

Proprietors determine bowling conditions by applying oil to the wooden lanes. A sixteen-pound bowling ball hits the floor with a force of over 2000 pounds per square inch. To prevent damage to the wooden lanes, proprietors put down oily conditioner to help the ball slide and dissipate the impact force. The 60-foot long, 42-inch wide alley can be oiled in different patterns, each yielding different bowling conditions.

Most lanes use the flat oil pattern, where proprietors spread the oil across the lane evenly, increasing in concentration as it moves from the back end, where the pins stand, toward the foul line, where the bowler stands. Almost all alleys have a dry back end so that when a rotating ball moves from the oiled surface onto the un-oiled maple panels, the increased friction causes the ball to torque off its original rotational axis and start curving. This gives the bowler the ability to get a good hook at the tail end of his roll.

When Larry Cabell bowls, he gets a good hook at the tail end of his roll. He gets the kind of hook that makes your mouth sag and your eyes bulge. He gets the kind of hook that makes you stop what you are doing and wonder if Kepler and Newton were wrong about planetary motion and that some distant, highly polished black asteroid might be hurtling toward Earth and just when it looks like it will miss us, it hooks – Wham! “I just put the ball out there – put it in the hands of the bowling gods and hope for the best.”

Once Cabell lets go of the ball, the gods wait for three painful seconds before they reward him with the applause of falling pins, or more often, the frustration of trying to pick up the spare. “It’s frustrating and fun at the same time. It’s personal. People come out here to relieve some tension, they kick the ball return and flip obscene gestures at the pins. It doesn’t relieve any of my tensions.”

When Larry Cabell comes within four feet of the foul line, he becomes a different person.

The awkward lurch in his step, the belly too big for his body, the old man – Gone. All that remains: the left foot, the right foot, the slight lean, the right arm coming back, the left arm stabilizing, the left foot planting, the left arm swooping out, the right arm swinging forward, and the release, punctuated with a little “pop” from the suction of the finger holes. Just when the smooth ball looks perilously close to the edge, it hooks in and smashes into the unsuspecting pins. This is what being a Stroker is all about.

When Cabell bowls, he types the name Cobra into the scoring computer. Why? “Cause of what you saw just then,” he says, smiling as the pins topple down, “you never know when I’m gonnna strike.”

But he strikes less now than he used to.

Different oiling conditions favor different bowling styles. Moving from long oil to short oil does not favor Strokers like Cabell, who throw more underhand than the high-revolution Crankers, who try to get over-top of the ball to get extra spin.

Cabell retreats to his position behind the counter, sets down a red plastic ashtray, and brings his cigarettes back out.

Balestieri coughs. “Best ever? Gotta be Earl Anthony.”

Cabell chimes in, “Ya, I saw him roll up at Curtis in 1972 at the Great Adventure opening in Garden City. He was smooth and consistent.”

More of the Marlboro. “Now Dick Webber’s pretty good and his son Pete ain’t bad, but he’s not a thing like his dad, he’s hotheaded, a showboat, likes to get the crowd worked up. Did you see he shot 299 last night?”

Balestieri looks disappointed. “They show it on ESPN? I didn’t know it was on.”

There’s a family on lane 35 that needs help with the setup machine and they look toward Larry. He stubs out his cigarette.

“Will the old Stroker style ever die? Sure – you’re looking at the last ones who use it.”

Thursday, August 18, 2005

SECURITY -->Pete Lindstrom

Heard from Pete Lindstrom this afternoon, which was nice. He's a little older than he looks in this picture (notice, it's in black and white), but I liked it better than the headshot he's using now. He has some interesting perspectives on recent deal flow in the security space:

Symantec-Sygate is most interesting as Symantec wakes up to Microsoft's attack on antivirus and Cisco's new threat with NAC.

Intel-Sarvega matchup makes sense. Sarvega is doing tcp-stream-based operations on xml data. It is clear that web services and service-oriented architecture are the wave of today, so Intel wants a piece of the action. without chips, xml/web services has real performance issues.

Protegrity/KavaDo is an interesting matchup. protegrity has only recently been reborn after its death a few years ago. the world is finally ready for database encryption, so their prospects are high now. kavado is one of the grandfathers of the web app firewall and vuln scanner space. From what I understand, they have been shopping themselves around for a while. The match is not completely obvious, but web security technology will be useful for protegrity as they build out their solution. (You may recall that F5 recently bought Watchfire's web app firewall (was Sanctum) and killed it.

VC -->Ga-ga for Google

Call it the second coming of Google. The company's decision to do a secondary stock offering for $4 billion was brilliantly covered by Mike Cohn. The move has touched off speculation that it might be gearing up to buy Baidu. DFJ made a killing on the Chinese search company when it found itself holding something like 25 percent of the pre-IPO shares.

PR -->Headscratcher

I got this weird pitch in the email today. The names have been obscured to protect the innocent.

(NAME) is an entrepreneur and his hobby is making employees and customers entrepreneurs like him. He is head of one of the most well-known e-commerce companies, (NAME: NASDAQ LISTING). He lives and breathes entrepreneurialism.

It all started when, as a young boy, he slipped while playing on railroad tracks in suburban Minneapolis. A railroad worker saved his life by applying a tourniquet (made from a t-shirt). (NAME)'s leg was amputated below the knee. This near death experience was like giving him the Star Wars' "Force" to put his life in high gear -- from starting a company in college developing software for Mercedes owners to locate hard to find Mercedes to, today, making his middle management entrepreneurs with weekly "checks and balances" meetings, discussing their self-starting decisions.

(NAME) has developed a program called (NAME) that puts resellers in business the same day as their own e-commerce entrepreneur reselling products from (NAME)'s 3,000 clients.

VC -->All in the Family

Silicon Valley incest is nothing new. Venture capitalists invest in people they used to work with, have known before, or come recommended by a friend. But what happens when business becomes personal?

Consider doctors. They are forbidden to operate on members of their own family, except under the most-dire circumstances. The reason? Emotion would choke execution.

How susceptible are investors to the same type of problem?

In the movie Get Shorty, John Travolta plays a loan-shark-turned-movie-producer named Chili Palmer. (James Gandolfini plays a bodyguard, clearly working his way up to crime boss). There's a scene in the movie where Mr. Travolta is explaining to Danny DeVito's character how to act like a loan-shark:

TRAVOLTA: Look at me.
DEVITO: I am looking at you.
TRAVOLTA: No, look at me the way I'm looking at you.

Mr. Travolta's character goes on to explain that to a loan shark, the person on the other end of the loan is nothing more than an entry in the accounting book. The loan-shark looks at the debtor and thinks, "I own you."

I don't mean to say that all venture capitalists are blood-thirsty, compassionless accounting machines. Equity investing requires incentives to align. The entrepreneur gets stock options to ensure he has the company's best interests at heart. The investor works to open doors for the entrepreneur, helping to ensure his own return.

In the movie, Chili Palmer becomes successful by determining what other people want and helping them get it. He helps the deadbeat producer make a good movie. He helps the washed-up stunt man get back into the movie business. All the while collecting a big return on his movie investment and winning the loyalty of those around him. He's the consummate sales man, offering his targets a vision of a better life. He's the consummate leader, calling on his associates to rise above themselves. All they have to do is follow along.

The movie, now a decade old, is a study in business management, but investors should take away something more. VCs have to sit somewhere between loan-shark and push-over. It's a strange sort of double-book-keeping accounting: empathy must balance interest, caring must balance good business sense.

That's why it's always strange to see a company where management and the investors are related.

Red Herring recently got a letter from Peggy Liu, recommending software service company Augmentum for our Red Herring Asia 100 list. Ms. Liu cited the strengths of Augmentum: experienced leadership, good hiring practices, and strong ties to U.S. VCs. She also disclosed that she was apt to be a little biased, her father, Dr. Leonard Liu is the CEO.

At the bottom of her email, she wrote her name and under that, Mustang Ventures, implying that she was speaking with the weight and authority of the venture firm that invested in Augmentum. And in some respect, I suppose she was. Her husband, Rob McCormack, is the managing partner at Mustang. Can a general partner in this position act in the best interest of his limited partners when it comes down to brass tacks?

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