Monday, July 31, 2006

CVS and FOSS


This weekend, I was lucky enough to spend many hours at the local bookstore. Browsing. Reading. Browsing. Reading. I have too many hobbies and too many interests. Just touching on a few of them keeps me pretty busy at the bookstore. Browsing online is great and all, but it's really not as enriching as browsing the shelves. Perhaps I'm old school (I'm 42 years old), but I grew up in a time when you had to physically go to the library to research anything and everything. I spent a lot of time at the library. A few lucky families had an encyclopedia, but they were usually way out-of-date. And, as such, my fascination for real books was formed.


Anyway, while browsing the geek book section, I flipped through Perspectives on Free and Open Source Software by Michael Cusumano, Clay Shirky, Joseph Feller (Editor), Brian Fitzgerald (Editor), Scott A. Hissam (Editor), Karim R. Lakhani (Editor). They had some very nice words to say about CVS:



Adoption of CVS among Open Source projects is near total, and the concepts embodied in CVS have clearly influenced the open source methodology. CVS can easily provide universal access to users of many platforms and many native languages at locations around the globe. The practice of volunteer staffing takes advantage of CVS's straightforward interface for basic functions, support for anonymous and read-only access, patch creation for later submission, and avoidance of file locking. CVS has been demonstrated to scale up to large communities, despite some shortcomings in that regard. The protocol used between client and server is not a standard; however, CVS clients have followed the user interface standards of each platform. In fact, the command-line syntax of CVS follows conventions established by the earlier RCS system. A separation of policy from capability allows a range of branching and release strategies that fit the needs of diverse projects. Frequent releases and hierarchies of release quality expectations are facilitated by CVS's ability to maintain multiple branches of development. Peer review is enabled by easy access to the repository, and is encouraged by email notification of changes.



As a contributor to the Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) movement, I chose never to monetize CVS. That was my choice. As such, it is references like this and recognition like receiving the 2003 USENIX STUG Award that make me proud of my contribution and its 17 years of service that it brought to Free and Open Source Software development.


Many thanks to the authors of Perspectives on Free and Open Source. Keep up the good work, and keep spreading the word.


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Sunday, July 30, 2006

Golfing and Venture Capital: Not So Different!

This weekend, my girlfriend, Amy, gave me a new driver for my birthday! Yeah, I know... Nice girlfriend!

I purchased a set of TaylorMade rac OS2 irons last year and have been playing pretty much exclusively with the irons since. Playing with just irons has its advantages in terms of accuracy, but on the big courses, it's nice to get that extra 25-100 yards off the tee. OK, OK. But what does this have to do with Venture Capital? Stay with me...

So, I settled on a TaylorMade R7 Quad driver. With Saturday coming to a close, we race over to a nice executive course, Deep Cliff Golf Course in Cupertino, CA. We tee off late at 5:30pm. The first hole is a short Par 4, dog-leg right, playing 271 yards from the Blue tees. I pull out the new driver with great anticipation.

















































































Hole123456789Out
Blue Tees2711361281641652241181062541566
White Tees24212111714615016095882321351
Yellow Tees2001059011011214748631731048
Par43333433430
Handicap3151311917175

A swing and a shank. Hey, it's a new club and we're not playing for money. That's a mulligan. I tee up another ball. Visualize... A swing and connection. The ball flies long, fades beautifully along the dog-leg, and appears to have rolled up onto the green! When we arrive at the green, the ball is sitting pin-high about 20 feet from the hole. Two-put for a birdie. I'm thinking that I like my new club! This could be the start of a beautiful and prosperous relationship. Let's do it again! I love golf.

You golfers out there know where this is going.

The rest of my round was OK overall. The new driver gave me one more beautiful shot on the back nine, but there's much work to be done. Most of my other shots gave me so-so returns (1x-3x my money) and a quite a few were complete disappointments (0x-1x my money). There were moments when I wondered why I even play this damn game. I hate golf.

Then, I remember the beautiful fade on the 271-yard drive that gave me an opportunity for Eagle. That one returned 15x my money. It takes just one of those on every 9 holes that I play to keep me coming back for more, to keep me pulling through the utter disappointment shots. Golf is a hits game, not unlike Venture Capital.

The analogy ends here. Venture Capital allows for way more utter disappointment shots than golf would ever tolerate. There are penalty strokes in VC, delivered by unhappy Limited Partners. But, delivering a shot that makes the highlight reel and changes the world makes it all worthwhile. I think I'll play another round.

-Brian

PS: Golf is really not a hits game. This weekend at the U.S. Bank Championship, Corey Pavin showed us what it's like to play a perfectly consistent and accurate game without hitting the long ball. Brilliant. There are VC's that play a consistent and accurate game as well, getting so-so returns (1x-3x my money) on many portfolio companies. There's nothing wrong with having a more consistent VC game - the LP's just want a great return on their money. Unfortunately, when we think of the game of golf, we remember Tiger Woods and his 390-yard drives, not Corey Pavin and his perfectly executed tourney play. Same's true in the VC world.

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Venture Capital FAQ Series

Over the next few months, I would like to give my perspective on the following topics related to the Venture Capital (VC) and Private Equity (PE) industries. To the uninitiated, this asset class can be somewhat confusing. It's good to dig in and fully understand the business of Venture Capital and some of the things that motivates VC partners and drives their behavior. I will touch on aspects that will hopefully be of interest to both entrepreneurs and investors alike. Much has already been written about these topics, and I do not intend to reproduce all of that here. Instead, I will just add some of my color commentary, for what it's worth.

Please leave a comment below if you'd like me to consider others. I will try to cover one topic per week.



  1. My experience with the Venture Capital and Private Equity industries

  2. VC Firms and VC-funded Startups: Not So Different!

  3. What is an Entrepreneur in Residence (EIR)?

  4. What is the difference between Venture Capital and Private Equity?

  5. What does the future hold for Venture Capital as an Asset Class?

  6. What is a Limited Partner?

  7. What is a Private Placement Memorandum (PPM)?

  8. Do VC's only buy Preferred Shares?

  9. What is the VC's Business Model? How does the VC firm make money? How are the individual partners compensated?

  10. How big is the Venture Capital industry?

  11. What are some good Venture Capital related sites?

  12. How does an Angel investor differ from a VC investor?

  13. What are Warrants? Am I under arrest?

  14. What's the difference between a Seed and a Bridge?

  15. Should I take VC money or bootstrap my business?

  16. What is a Fund of Funds?

  17. What is a Venture Partner?

  18. What is the difference between General Partner, Partner, Director, Managing Director, Principal, and SVP/VP titles?

  19. Is a Seed investment different than a Series A investment?

  20. What is a Term Sheet?

  21. What does Participating Preferred mean?

  22. What is a Liquidation Preference?

  23. What is Internal Rate of Return (IRR)? Does it matter?

  24. What is Net Asset Value (NAV)?

  25. What is the downside risk of being a Partner at a VC firm?

  26. Why do some VC's like to syndicate a deal and others don't?

  27. What's the difference between a fund-based VC and a budget-based VC?

  28. How do corporate VC's differ from traditional VC's?

  29. Is Venture Capital really a hits business?

  30. What is a tranche, why are they done, and should I be worried about accepting such terms?

  31. What is a Leveraged Buyout (LBO)?

  32. What is "Pay To Play"?

  33. All Money is Green, Right?


Note: I do not intend to address these topics in this order. Nor do I expect to cover every topic. Some topics are big enough to require multiple posts. Let me know what you would like to hear about and I'll factor that into what I choose to write about this week. Also, please send your ideas and thoughts on these topics to bb@brianberliner.com as I work on a number of these in parallel.


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Friday, July 28, 2006

Google Launches Open Source Code Hosting Service

I made my first contribution to the Open Source community back in 1989 when I contributed CVS to the Free Software Foundation. That was before we started calling it "Open Source". CVS is the backbone of Sourceforge.net and has been home to over 100,000 Open Source projects, has more than 1 million registered Open Source developers, and serves up more than 19 million unique visitors each month. CVS has stopped being maintained and Subversion takes its place - the natural evolution of Open Source projects continues. SourceForge has owned the mind-share for Open Source developers for many years, but the service has not given the developers everything they need for full software lifecycle management.

At OSCON, Google announced that they have put together a service, similar to SourceForge.net, that can be used for hosting Open Source projects. Enter Google Code. It has built-in support for Subversion access (controlled through a special password that appears to be linked to your Google account, so they can track what you're downloading) and issue/defect tracking. It's pretty darn basic now, and a new Open Source project would definitely be better served by using an existing service (like SourceForge.net or Trac). Hopefully, Google will continue to enhance this and build out a whole set of hosted capabilities, like:

  • Project Management

  • Requirements Gathering

  • Release Management

  • Packaging & Distribution Tools

  • Integration with Eclipse

  • Automated Test Harness


A hosted service with full software lifecycle management will do very well and win the mind-share of the 18 million Open Source developers out there.

Ars Technica has done a nice review. Slashdot and TechCrunch are talking about it. Mad Penguin covers more of the technical details. I'm all for activities that ease and support the development of the Open Source community. My thanks to Google for giving back to the community.

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Thursday, July 27, 2006

Superman Returns at the IMAX Dome: A Most Uncomfortable Experience

This past weekend, I saw my first move, Superman Returns, at the Hackworth IMAX Dome Theater at The Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose, CA. Now, that's a super-sentence.

I'm a big fan of IMAX and the IMAX Experience. The more immersive the movie-going experience, the more I enjoy it.

So, why see Superman Returns in IMAX format? This document shows why IMAX format (15/70mm) is better then that old, crusty 35mm format. Yeah, I get that - more bits is better. Sure. But, when displayed on the Dome screen, it's just too wide. When text is displayed across the widescreen movie (think beginning of Star Wars), you had to literally move your head through 180 degrees of motion to read each line. Ugh. Something was lost in the translation to the Dome. It's not a viable experience for a widescreen aspect ration movie. Regular IMAX (without the Dome) - absolutely! I'll save the Dome for star-gazing or for films built for the Dome (not widescreen).

Finally, unless you can get there very early and wait in line (it's all General Admission), you will not get a seat that is both high up and in the center. These are absolute requirements for watching a letterbox movie at the Dome. We ended up about half-way up and halfway to the left. We had to basically lay flat in the seat and cram our necks up to see the images. Not good. The two best seats in the house are directly in the center, behind the projector, second row from the top. They even have extra leg room. Get those and you're golden. Miss those and you'll want to be as high and as close to center as possible (so, get there early and pay your dues waiting!).

What I liked about it:

  • The sound system of the IMAX Dome was phenomenal (a mere 13,000 watts of wrap-around digital surround sound)

  • The movie itself was pretty good (and I would recommend it), even though the scene where Superman was man-handling the kryptonite rock didn't seem believable (did I just say that?)


What I didn't like about it:

  • Extremely uncomfortable, due to the Dome shape of this particular IMAX theater

  • You could actually see the seams of the IMAX Dome when the background image on the screen went white or light blue - completely losing the illusion of immersion that IMAX is trying to give you

  • The Dome caused the images to warp if they were sufficiently far to your left or right - also not good for the illusion of immersion

  • It's just too expensive at $13/ticket given the very limited number of seats that would be good and comfortable.


Enjoy the show!

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Tesla Roadster gets Wired

Great article in Wired magazine this month about the Tesla Roadster all-electric car. Drool. Where do I send my check?

These guys have done a fantastic job. It's a "green muscle car". There are a ton of (rich) people that would like to go low-emissions, but don't want to give up performance and turning heads. The price is too high for the masses, but the car has great styling (by Lotus) and an excellent range (250 miles). I especially like the use of "commodity" lithium-ion batteries (unfortunately, it appears to have 11 sectors of 621 lithium-ion cells, which seems like a lot). Expected retail price: $80,000.

I hope the company took some videos of "The Making of the Tesla Roadster". That would make for good documentary viewing. Turns out the VC community was not exactly interested in funding this in 2004 (either that, or Elon Musk was unwilling to share), but VantagePoint Venture Partners co-led the $40M Series C, announced on June 1, 2006 (VentureWire Professional sub required).

What I like about it:

  • "Zero" emissions

  • Using "commodity" lithium-ion cells

  • 0-60 in 4 seconds. Yikes!

  • Killer styling

  • Team did a nice job outsourcing/partnering with other companies to build key components


What I don't like about it:

  • I don't yet understand how often the 6,831 lithium-ion cells need to be replaced. Can you factor that cost into the 1-cent-per-mile fuel cost for me...

  • Does the purchase of the car include the installation of the 220-volt 70-amp circuit in my garage? I guess if you have to ask, you can't afford it...

  • I'd prefer a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) to the 2-speed manual, but that's a minor nit

  • Um, when does it qualify for the HOV Carpool Lane stickers in California?


Nice innovation. Best of luck to the Tesla Motors crew. I look forward to seeing them address a broader commuter market one day.

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CVS under Mac OS X

Here's a link to 97 Open Source projects that integrate CVS with Apple's Mac OS X operating system. This comes from MacForge.net. According to the site:
MacForge is your source to find open source projects out on the net that work on the Mac, or are likely to work on the Mac. Thanks to MacForge, there's no need to sift through huge listings of open source that you can't use.

A great resource for us Apple Mac users. Enjoy!

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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

N.A.D.D. - Nerd Attention Deficit Disorder - I’ve Got It!

If you are in the business of developing software, you should be reading the most excellent Rands In Repose blog. Rands (not his real name) is an excellent writer and makes the topics of software engineering and project management quite enjoyable. I'll get to some specific examples in the future, but for now, I wanted to point out that I think he has diagnosed one of my "disorders".

It's NADD - Nerd Attention Deficit Disorder. This paragraph struck home:


Stop reading right now and take a look at your desktop. How many things are you doing right now in addition to reading this column? Me, I've got a terminal session open to a chat room, I'm listening to music, I've got Safari open with three tabs open where I'm watching Blogshares, tinkering with a web site, and looking at weekend movie returns. Not done yet. I've got iChat open, ESPN.COM is downloading sports new trailers in the background, and I've got two notepads open where I'm capturing random thoughts for later integration into various to do lists. Oh yeah, I'm writing this column, as well.

Also, this:
My mother first diagnosed me with NADD. It was the late 80s and she was bringing me dinner in my bedroom (nerd). I was merrily typing away to friends in some primitive chat room on my IBM XT (super nerd), listening to some music (probably Flock of Seagulls -- nerd++), and watching Back to the Future with the sound off (neeeeerrrrrrrd). She commented, "How can you focus on anything with all this stuff going on?" I responded, "Mom, I can't focus without all this noise."

Great stuff, and fun reading!

I think I have a mild and "mostly under control" case of NADD. I also think people with NADD, and the ability to control their affliction, make excellent entrepreneurs. However, entrepreneurs need to be focused and need to make steady progress towards their goals and objectives. If NADD gets out of control, an entrepreneur can be like the dog with 10 bowls of food in front of it that died of starvation because it kept running between the "bowls of opportunity", never stopping to feast and finish it off.


As an investor, I spend my time multi-tasking across a handful of known companies each week PLUS seeing a handful of new companies each week. A touch of controlled NADD, and the fact that each company is usually quite interesting, make the job extremely enjoyable for me, and productive for the entrepreneurs and executives that I work with.


Rands ends with:


Oh well, embrace your handicap.

Good advice.

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Jason Mraz at Villa Montalvo - July 24, 2006

Last night we enjoyed a fantastic concert performance by Jason Mraz (his Wikipedia entry) at the Montalvo Arts Center in Saratoga, CA. Jason started the concert solo with just his guitar in hand, launched into a 30-minute song which featured nearly every aspect of his style. Then, eventually, we got to applaud. Nice.

Another blog entry here (I saw the "Rod Stewart" look-alike as well).

Note: Pictures were allowed at the concert


We're members of the Montalvo Arts Center, so we get first crack at buying the tickets. As such, we were able to secure seats 7 rows back, dead center. Being at eye-level and center made for a very enjoyable experience. Villa Montalvo is a beautiful outdoor venue. It was a balmy 85 degrees F when the concert began, but very pleasant as the concert wrapped up 2.5 hours later!

Jason is clearly returning to his acoustic and coffee-house roots. He will be releasing an acoustic CD this fall. His voice is so good, smooth, and versatile, that it is really just another instrument on the stage. Technically solid.

The part that blew me away was when Jason, in the middle of a song while he was singing, turned off his guitar's amplifier, tuned it, then turned the amp back on. I don't understand how you can tune the guitar while singing. Damn talented people!

Thanks, Jason, for a very enjoyable evening.

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Google Maps for Mobile now has Live Traffic!!! Yow.

Pinch me. Am I awake or just dreaming? Google Maps for mobile just released a new version that includes Live Traffic. Living in the Bay Area just got a lot less painful. This is almost a poor man's version of Garmin's excellent line of FM-based and XM-based GPS devices.

Other sites that covered the story:

I recently purchased a brand new (and unlocked) Nokia E61 smartphone. I really like it and will post much more about it soon. In searching around for killer applications for it, I stumbled upon Google Maps for mobile. Even though the Google Maps for mobile download claims that it might not work on the phone, don't believe it. It works like a champ. I absolutely love this application.

What I like about it:

  • Brings high quality maps & directions to your smartphone

  • Excellent user interface

  • Does maps, directions, finds businesses

  • Extremely fast downloads of map information

  • Now overlays traffic as well

  • I love this application


What I don't like about it:

Sorry to be so over-enthusiastic about this, but the folks over at Google really did a nice job with this application and they deserve the praise.

PS: Please do not use this while you drive. Get your directions, check the traffic, then modify your route. Do not mess with this while trying to watch the road. Buy a Garmin product for your car instead.

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Monday, July 24, 2006

Technorati Turns Three - I’ll Take Alliteration for $300, Alex

Technorati enters the terrible threes, undergoes a major upgrade - and I (mostly) like what I see.

As a new blogger, one of the things I just did as part of getting things started was to sign up for Technorati, include it in my ping services, and include rel=tag tags in each of my (new) posts. Next, to upload a headshot to the site.

Dave Sifry, CEO of Technorati announces the upgrade here. Michael Arrington of TechCrunch comments here.

It appears that I am currently ranked 750,889 on the Technorati rankings:


That's interesting, since I pretty much have no content today, and they claim to be tracking 50 million blogs. This implies to me that there are 49.25 million other blogs that are in a sadder state than mine. That would be a sorry state of affairs for the blogosphere, and if it's true, how many blogs actually matter? I'll continue to track this and let you know as I move up or down the ranks.

Back to Technorati... Dave and the team at Technorati were definitely ahead of the curve three years ago. That's usually not a good thing for a startup - you'd much rather be riding the wave. They started out servicing the burgeoning blog community and have watched that community grow to 50 million blogs. Impressive growth, but hardly a big market (yet). I love the "freshness" of searches on their site. They need to continue to innovate and improve the speed of their searches. The upgrades look to be a good step in the right direction.

Unfortunately, I just got one of these:


That's a good news/bad news story. Good news is that they are getting a ton of traffic. Bad news is that they can't handle it all. That's pretty unacceptable for a search firm, especially after announcing improvements in their infrastructure. Google has shown this to be an infinitely scalable problem.

What I like about it:

  • First to market; leader in this space

  • Tag mining using rel=tag innovative and simple

  • The did a great job with the UI in the latest relaunch - well done!

  • Particularly happy with the new "Discover" section

  • "Freshness" of the search, ordered by date of post

  • Currently ranked 248 in the Alexa Traffic Rankings

  • 50M blogs and greatly improved Alexa rankings in last 6 months

  • They appear to have the brand recognition for blog search


What I don't like about it:

  • No real lock on the blogosphere; they get pings just like anyone can get pings

  • Improved Alexa rankings may suggest more indexing and less user traffic



    • Would Technorati comment on the traffic distribution for robots vs humans?



  • Failure to complete my search!

  • It was a lot easier to tell my Mom to go to blogsearch.google.com than to try to spell out t-e-c-h-n-o-r-a-t-i-.-c-o-m for her.


Technorati has done a nice job in the last 3 years. Congratulations, team!

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Transparency

Blog Transparency can be scary.

So, I've decided to add a bit of transparency to my life. I spend a good chunk of my week networking with people in my line of business and people interested in like-minded pursuits of happiness. Perhaps this web-based venue will allow me to me expand the reach of that network by allowing you, the reader, to get to know me just a wee bit better. I'll let you decide if my transparency is enough to convince you to contact me. Ball's in your court.


I know I'm a bit nervous about this endeavor. Especially out here where everyone in the world can participate in the conversation. By "transparency", I mean "sharing your thoughts, opinions, and selected events of your life openly and freely". Some of the things that cause me to be a bit worried about my personal Blog Transparency include:



  • The Internet is an amazing archiving machine (see also: the Wayback machine). Before you start blogging, should you have to listen to some kind of Blogger's Miranda Rights? "Anything you write can, and will, be held against you in whatever public forum we deem fit".

  • Where do you draw the Transparency line? How transparent is too transparent? How personal is too personal? There are a lot of phishing predators out there. By including personal details (like my age and the events of my birthday party, say), it would seem that I will be exposing myself more than others.

  • What happens when I say something stupid or, rather, forget to say something smart? What happens when I unknowingly offend someone? What happens when I make a spelling or grammar error (there are likely 4 or 5 in this first post)?

  • When should you write about rumor and conjecture you hear on the streets? When should you not write about something?

  • I'm not a writer and I don't play one on TV. I'm much better in person. Really. The "me" that you see here is but a small, and in many ways skewed, sampling of the "me" that I actually am.

  • I don't know if I truly have the time to devote to this activity and to keep the quality of the posts high enough for your enjoyment (I am a slow writer). Let's get started and see where it takes us...


In the final analysis, I don't think any of that stuff matters - I can figure it out along the way. In fact, it is because of that stuff that Blog Transparency is important. Being truly transparent means that you don't have to "spin" or pretend to be someone that you aren't. It means that people see all sides of you - the good, bad, stupid, and the ugly. If someone decides to contact me after reading about some of my not so pretty sides, it means that they actually want to converse with me and not just the external face that most of us project to the world. This makes the contact more valuable to all parties. Transparency improves my network in both quantity and quality.

Ultimately, transparency is truth. Truth matters.


Many have blogged about the value and importance of Blog Transparency. Some examples:



My blog is about things that matter to me. Some of those things include:

  • My family, friends, and loved ones

  • Venture Capital & Private Equity

  • Technology Trends

  • Entrepreneurship

  • Open Source Software

  • Cooking

  • Books

  • Mountaineering & Hiking

  • Motorcycles

  • Golfing

  • Photography

  • SCUBA Diving

  • And, of course, Electronic Gadgets


I hope you will find an occasional nugget of interest to you.

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