Friday, September 29, 2006

A California Garage

I walked into the Toyota dealer yesterday and walked out with a shiny, new 2007 Toyota Prius. It's white and it's loaded. Not my color of choice, but they had one on the lot, there was confusion about whether it was a dealer demo model or not and amidst the confusion, I claimed it as mine! The guy next to me put a deposit down and waited 6 weeks for his.


When you buy a car off the lot, you get whatever colors and options that they have. When it's a hot item, like the Prius in California, you often get no choice at all, even if you place an order in advance. Place a deposit, get a call in 4-8 weeks that says they have a car similar to what you asked for, but not exactly the same, and if you'd be willing to take it or keep waiting. Ah, free markets at work. I love it.


The garage now looks like a California garage:



The Porsche Boxster next to the 2007 Toyota Prius next to the Yamaha FZ1 motorcycle (upper left, behind the fridge). That's two convertible speedsters and one emission-friendly car. I will let you know how it goes with the white whale. Call me Ishmael.


So, is it still possible to get the California HOV stickers for the hybrid cars that I wrote about here and here? Not likely. This report says that as of September 12, 2006, there were only about 6,000 stickers left to hand out. When I called today, there were only 1,500 stickers left. The very nice lady on the phone at the DMV indicated that there had been discussion about adding 25,000 more stickers to the program, but those talks have seemed to stopped. By the time I get my license plate, they will likely all be gone. That's OK.


California.


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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Wired on Gizmondo

Anyone that knows me well knows my simple tagline:
Life is a collection of stories.

Well, the folks at Wired Magazine, in the October 2006 issue, have written a great story about the demise of Gizmondo and the rampant corruption surrounding the players. It's hard to believe that the tale is real. Gizmondo plowed through some $382.5M of sustained net losses while trying to build a handheld gaming device to knock off Sony and Nintendo. They were completely unsuccessful, but that's not the story. The story is behind the scenes, in the past, present, and future of some of the key players in the company.

Am I reading fiction or non-fiction here? It's so well written, and so unbelievable, that it's hard to tell. I love it. A great read.


Randall Sullivan does an excellent job telling the long, sordid tale, and unwinds the story all the way back to the Uppsala (Sweden) Mafia, a wrecked Ferrari Enzo traveling 194-mph on a stretch of Pacific Coast Highway just north of Malibu, guns, self-proclaimed anti-terrorist units, multi-million dollar salaries and bonuses, majority ownership in a modeling agency to ensure plenty of beautiful young women at their parties, mansions, yachts, and it goes on and on. Very entertaining.

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Sunday, September 24, 2006

Merrill Lynch PE CFO Conference, Day 2


I was at the Merrill Lynch Private Equity CFO Conference last week and wrote a bit about the first day here.

Key topics of particular quality and interest to me on the second day included:

  • Jerry Borrell, Editor in Chief, covering Private Equity investing in Asia, The Middle East, and India. Tons of good information, but I never received a copy of the slide pack, the fonts were too small, and my eyes were too weak to capture it all. I'll see if I can get and post the slide deck.

  • Shane Goudey and Jim Fulton of Cooley Godward covering Fund Terminations: On Death and Dying... Wind-down & End of Life Fund Issues. These guys know their stuff. They talked about Fund Dissolution, Wind Up, and Liquidation. Dissolution events include such things as Term Expiration, Key Person Events, No Fault Divorce, and For Cause Termination. Excellent talk.

  • John Nuttall of First Columbus Investments gave an Introduction to the London Stock Exchange & AIM which was quite good. I had thought of AIM more as an alternative funding vehicle, but the stats are showing it to be a particularly liquid market for small cap companies, and one that is significantly cheaper than NASDAQ. Get this: AIM has had a "93% increase in the total market capitalisation over the past 12 months to $137bn." And this: "In 2005, AIM raised $17bn compared to $12.3bn on NASDAQ." First Columbus can help VC portfolio companies navigate to the right Nominated Ambassadors (Nomads) to assist with the whole process. If I were a poetic man, I would argue that AIM is almost creating a market for micro-Angel or super-Individual investors wanting to get a piece of earlier-stage companies. Hmm...

  • Charles Noreen of  ComVentures, Grace Chui of Doll Capital Management (DCM), and Teresa Heller of Comerica held a Roundtable: CFO Spotlight. Veteran CFOs & Service Providers Address Topics Relevant to Today's Financial Officers. This ended up being a very lively discussion with lots of audience participation, as they presented the results of a CFO survey they asked participants to fill out. As an indication that VC is rebounding, Grace pointed out that DCM took 1.5 years to close Fund III, 5 months to close Fund IV, and just 6 weeks to close Fund V, the most recent fund. Are things getting better for the best firms? You bet.


Next year's event will be September 19-21, 2007, in Torrey Pines, San Diego, CA. See you there!

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Friday, September 22, 2006

Merrill Lynch: Surf’s Up!

I had a great time at the 16th Annual Merrill Lynch Private Equity CFO Conference this year, as always. I've spent a lot of time (15 years!) in my career on the Entrepreneur<-->VC connection, but only since 2003 have I started learning about the VC<-->LP connection (or, perhaps, more correctly stated as the GP<-->LP connection). Turns out, there are a ton of similarities, and I learn more about the nuances of fund accounting, life-cycle, and the Business Model (and "product") of Venture Capital firms each day.


The event attracted about 140 firms, from VC to PE to Service Providers.


It's always fun to hang out with the CFOs and Controllers of some of the best firms in Venture Capital. And, they can be found at this event. These are the folks who diligently take care of all the details of running the VC business. They deal with a different set of issues than a usual CFO of a VC-funded startup. While the title of the event says "Private Equity", it is clear that this event draws more from the Venture Capital specialty, which allows the material to be better targeted.


A key part of the event is a selection of fun networking activities set up by the Merrill Lynch Venture Services Group (who do a very nice job with the conference -- at a very reasonable price). I was fortunate enough to go surfing (for the first time!) with 19 other conference attendees from firms such as: Focus Ventures, Elevation Partners, Willowridge Inc., Merrill Lynch, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Pinnacle Ventures, US Venture Partners, JP Morgan, RR Donnelley, Tam Ventures, HRJ Capital, and Caltius Capital Management. Surfing is pretty darn hard. Especially for a "dude" over 40, like me. Here's a picture celebrating the fact that there were no deaths or serious injury:



Of particular note on Day 1:



  • The Endowment & Foundation Perspectives -- A Panel Discussion on the State of the Private Equity/VC Asset Class, with John Dado of Cooley Godward Moderating, John Powers of Stanford Management Company, Jennifer Urdan of Cambridge Associates, and John Jenks of The James Irvine Foundation speaking.

  • PE Market UPDATE: What Your LP Is Thinking, But Not Saying, co-hosted by Dan Frank of Cooley Godward and David Larsen of KPMG.


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Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Nokia E61 Firmware Upgrade Released: Blech


New firmware has been released for my Nokia E61 smartphone. Symbian Freak has a good list of what's new and changed. And, the best part is that you can upgrade the firmware yourself using their PC Suite and your USB cable. Great instructions located at the E-Series Blog.

My upgrade went smooth. Unfortunately, you have to find a Windows PC in order to do the upgrade. Once that hurdle was complete, I found the upgrade process to be excellent. I backed up my Phone memory to my SD card before the upgrade and restored after the upgrade. You will get most things back, but many applications will still need to be reinstalled.

Unfortunately, the upgrade was not completely satisfying:

  • I still have problems with IMAP email from Dreamhost. When I contacted Dreamhost about the issue, they said that IMAP IDLE works great to Dreamhost from their Treo, so it must be my device. Is anyone else having problems getting push email onto their Nokia E61 from Dreamhost?

  • I have 1828 Contacts on my phone. It now takes 30 seconds to open up a contact to find out their phone number or address. This is really unacceptable.

  • Unfortunately, I now have to press the Blue button to get numbers in applications. While this does make sense at some level, it means that I can't do single-handed number entry into applications. This used to work great for the Web Browser and Google Maps for Mobile. Now, the usability is very poor. Who wants to use two hands just to access the Web Browser shortcuts? Any way to lock the number pad on a per-application basis?


Note that if you use iSync with Mac OS X and follow my backup/restore instructions above, iSync will attempt to re-sync all of your Contacts and Calendar entries again. This didn't cause any serious problems, but you may be presented with conflicts to resolve.

So, it's a mixed blessing.

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Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The Long Tail of Book Reviews


I read Chris Anderson's The Long Tail book so long ago and it is only now showing up on the blog. When it comes to reviewing the books that I read, for some reason I flash back to junior high school and the task gets put on the back-burner. I'll try to be better. :-)


Anyway, this book was both classic and good. Chris is an excellent writer and captures the material very well. The book had just about the right mix of depth and breadth and I didn't once feel that Chris was just putting words down to fill up the pages -- creating "throw weight", if you will, like many authors tend to do (myself included). Read it. I really enjoyed it.


The book showed up on the New York Times Non-Fiction Top Ten Best Sellers list. Would that make it a hit? As I learned from the book, hits are very rare in the book publishing industry. This one is well deserved. Congratulations!


Enabling commerce to happen in the Long Tail can make the difference between a nice business and a Big Business. The Venture Capital community cares about building Big Businesses. This matters. Some random thoughts on this book and the VC industry:



  • "Seen broadly, it's clear that the story of the Long Tail is really about the economics of abundance -- what happens when the bottlenecks that stand between supply and demand in our culture start to disappear and everything becomes available to everyone." And: "Bottom line: A Long Tail is just culture unfiltered by economic scarcity."

    To me, this is what's most interesting. This is the first time in history that we have started to remove significant friction around some fundamental supply-and-demand economics. Fascinating stuff. And, the stats certainly show that the hits are still where the big money is made. However, the revenue from the Long Tail is certainly surprising everyone. It is not insignificant.

  • "Google, for instance, makes most of its money not from huge corporate advertisers, but from small ones (the Long Tail of advertising)." And: "Google aggregates the Long Tail of advertising (small- and medium-sized advertisers and publishers that make their money from advertising)."

    Google is not a search company. They are an advertising placement company. They've built a pretty good engine for matching advertisers to Long Tail (user-generated) content and share the profits with those users that are driving hits. I love it. Google does not have an architectural lock on the Long Tail constituency, though. That's their weakest link. More later when I review The Search.

  • "But even stars make flops, so the studios, labels, and networks employ a portfolio approach to spread their risk. Like venture capitalists, they spread their bets over a number of projects, investing in each one enough money to give it a fighting chance at becoming a hit."

    Certainly gets you thinking about The Long Tail of Venture Capital, doesn't it? I've been spending a fair amount of time thinking about this myself. And, in some ways, I think it is starting to happen, and there are some parallels between what we see in the movie studios and what is happening in the startup/VC community. In the studios, we see (previous) mega-stars like Mel Gibson and Tom Cruise, who have personally amassed sufficient capital that they can fund their own projects and bring them to the masses (now, don't get me started on those two fellows here -- we're keeping this about the changing business models). It's getting cheaper to create a movie product (almost the democratization of the tools) and the big names can attract the required distribution and marketing to pull it off now. The established studios probably don't like that. Oh, well.

    In the VC world, we see something parallel happening. Folks like Perry Wu, formerly of ComVentures, have amassed sufficient capital that they can fund their own projects and bring them to the masses. It's getting much cheaper to incubate a startup, and Perry is wise to bring the ones that interest him to market (definitely a democratization of the talent and tools). The established VC firms may not like that. Oh, well.

  • "In an age of abundance in the form of everything from Moore's law (the observation that computer price/performance doubles every eighteen months) to its equivalent in storage and bandwidth, this is a problem."

    Sorry, Chris. Stick to marketing. That's not what Moore's Law say, and appears to be a pretty common mis-conception. I'm surprised the editors missed that one.

  • "Although there may be near infinite selection of all media, there is still a scarcity of human attention and hours in the day. Our disposable income is limited." And: "Infinite choice equals ultimate fragmentation."

    Aha! At last we find that there really is Economics 101 at work -- it has just moved to a different place. The game that is now afoot is battling for our attention in a somewhat friction-less world. Whoever gets our attention, and the ecosystems they build around that, is the one that makes the money in our new economy.

  • "More than 724,000 Americans report that eBay is their primary or secondary source of income, according to an ACNielsen study in 2005. [...] On average, each eBay-based business employs nine staffers, and almost half of those businesses earn more than three-quarters of their income through the site. It's the ultimate small-business aggregator."

    THAT is a Long Tail business. One in which the constituents can make enough money to survive, or to feed their ProAm passions.

  • KitchenAid section: About the only part of the book that I hated. There's no (business-model) long-tail there, only selection beyond what we're used to. Delete it.


Enough from me. Go read the book and make your own conclusions. It will get you to think.


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Merrill Lynch Private Equity CFO Conference 2006


I'll be hanging out at the Merrill Lynch Private Equity CFO Conference the rest of this week. The 16th Annual event is at the Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel in Dana Point, CA. I was fortunate enough to be at last year's event in Scottsdale, AZ, and I look forward to this year's equally spectacular location.

If you will also be there, please look me up or drop me an email.

If you will be surfing... I'll be the one spending more time in and under the water than on top of the board.

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Friday, September 15, 2006

My Portfolio

In a fit of Blog Transparency, I thought it would be fun to create a logo page of the companies that I have invested my money, time, and effort into, and show their results. I limited the list to private companies in which I purchased stock. I'm quite pleased with the result. It's interesting to note the doubles -- companies that showed up twice: EMC, Mohr Davidow Ventures, Sequoia Capital, and NEA.

I will capture this page here shortly and try to keep it up-to-date.

Update: Table removed from this post since it was out-of-date.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

You Can Pay Me Now, Or…

If you've spent even the smallest amount of time talking to me about software development, you know that I am a big time "You can pay me now, or you can pay me later" kinda guy. With Software Quality, if you have not paid in advance, you will certainly pay later -- and the price will be much higher than if you had just paid up-front.

I'm one of those types that puts significant value on the Quality Assurance department of any software development shop. So, I appreciated seeing the post at OnStartups: Business Geeks: Automated Software Testing as Competitive Advantage. The key here is "Automated". There's really no way to build a scalable software business if you do not invest in good software engineering practices, combined with automated testing.

Most startups (and, heck, even many big, established companies) do a crappy job with their Software Quality Assurance programs. Why is that?

  • Most CEOs and VPs of Engineering do not understand its importance. Oh, sure. They all say that "Quality is Job 1" or whatever, but when push comes to shove and the product "needs" to be shipped, quality is the first thing that is sacrificed. Executives feel that they can always patch the product later. That's a fine approach, it will just cost you a lot more.

  • It's very hard to build a QA group with rock-star programmers. Often times, junior engineers will be hired into the QA department. They will grow there, but the first chance they get to create "product" code, they will try to transfer out of the company or, worse, quit and move on to a different company. Organizations need to reward QA programmers with equal career paths as their code-writing counterparts.

  • QA is not factored into the early planning of a software product release. Software teams will spend tons of time fighting over requirements, scope, features, modules, partitioning the teams, outsourcing, private APIs, public APIs, usability, configuration files, installation, upgrade, etc. Frequently, however, the automated test suite is not given its proper attention. If you miss it while planning, you will miss it while executing. While you are doing your product design, you need to be doing your test design.

  • Most organizations have no structured software development lifecycle. If you don't know when a product can transition from Alpha to Beta to GA, or when it's time to release a patch vs a hot-fix, or when to release a dot-release vs a dot-dot release, or when its time to do a major release, or the criteria by which you EOL a product -- then how do you know when its time to test? And, if you haven't invested in "Automated" tests, then you will be paying a pretty significant price each time you send something out to a customer.

  • The testing cycle is often the last thing before product ship. Most companies treat testing as something that happens as the final "certification" that allows them to release the product to customers. That's very bad. Testing needs to be the first thing that is done. The only way you know you are "done" is if the test suite passes.


At my last company, Cassatt, we have a rock-star group of software developers and QA engineers. We instituted what is referred to in the Agile software arena as a "Test First" software philosophy. How does that work? The developers specify the unit tests at the same time that they specify the design and the interfaces. They code the tests first, then code the module. When the tests all pass, you know you are done. This gives the QA department the ability to look beyond the unit tests and focus on multi-unit, simulation, stress, code-coverage, and GUI tests. It requires rigor and structure, and a management team that believes in the Pay Me Now form of software development.

You can Pay Me Now.

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ZDNet on TechCrunch Winners & Losers

Dan Fraber at ZDNet has posted a nice summary of the Web 2.0 Winners and Losers, as seen through the eyes of TechCrunch's Michael Arrington.


Arrington was presenting at The Future of Web Apps Summit conference. From the article:



Winners (got acquired): Writely, del.icio.us, Userplane, Flickr, Weblogs, Inc., Myspace, Bloglines, Truveo, Grouper, Skype, Newroo

Very good bets: Digg, Facebook YouTube, Photobucket, Zoho, Stumble Upon, Popsugar, PlentyofFish, Netvibes. Mike said
[if] he could be an executive at any of the companies, it would be Digg, which also drives 20 percent of TechCrunch traffic.

Ones to watch: Jobster, Riya, Zillow, Flock, Sharpcast, Rocketboom, 1-800-FREE411, oDesk, Second Life, WordPress



Arrington has been on the forefront of the Web 2.0 space over the past 15 months.


Of the ones that haven't yet been acquired, I really like PopSugar (make that Sugar Publishing, Inc.), Digg, Zillow, and Second Life. I also really like Automattic (if that's what he meant by Wordpress).


Arrington also announced that TechCrunch will add a new blog to the list, focused on the Enterprise market. Good news for me, as that's my sandbox. I'll see you over there.


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Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Ask Brian: CVS, Open Source, and Startups Today



DEAR BRIAN: This is Michael, founder of Photoblog.com. I'm starting an online blog, folksonomy.org, where I hope to post interviews of prominent figures in Web2.0, investing, programming, and more. Would you be willing to answer a few questions? Here they are:

  • What inspired you to code CVS?

  • How do/did you feel about CVS being adopted by the open source community and watching it grow?

  • What are the biggest differences you see between the internet startups today, and the startups during Web 1.0?

  • Do you think we're in a new internet bubble?


-- MICHAEL FROM FOLKSONOMY.ORG, Bay Area, CA

DEAR MICHAEL FROM FOLKSONOMY.ORG: I'd be happy to answer your questions!
NOTE: Michael's post on folksonomy.org is: Interview with Brian Berliner.

1) What inspired you to code CVS?

I wrote CVS precisely because of a core need that my software development team had. I was working for a company called Prisma Supercomputers in 1988. We were trying to build the world's fastest scalar supercomputer using GaAs technology, running the SPARC instruction set, and built on top of SunOS (the days before Solaris). In the software department, we had a bunch of programmers that were making some significant changes to the SunOS kernel, all at the same time. This was 1988-1989, and Sun was largely a Workstation company at the time. They wanted to build the big servers and get the high margins, but really hadn't figured out how to do that yet. SunOS, as a result, was a Workstation-tuned operating system. The kernel jockeys at Prisma, myself included, were working hard to scale SunOS up to the speeds and performance demanded of the world's fastest computer. And, we were stepping on each-other's work, or having to wait for a file to be unlocked in RCS before we had a shot at editing it. We were a startup and had no time to be less than optimally efficient.

So, I went to my boss, Mike O'Dell (who since went on to be Chief Scientist at UUNET and is now a Venture Partner with NEA), and explained the problem. I asked for 2 weeks to dig in and solve the problem. He granted it (Thanks, Mike!). Given the limited time that I had, I opted to start from a "public domain" solution called "CVS" done by Dick Grune in 1986. It was about 2,000 lines of shell script that did the basics of adding concurrency on top of RCS within a single directory. The project had not advanced in the 3 years since release, but it gave me a good jumping off point. I wrote about 6,000 lines of C code in those two weeks to implement the core CVS that folks have used over the last 17 years. Interestingly, the core concurrency piece of the shell script version (which was brilliant and ahead of its time), ended up being 239 lines of shell script code. My version of it, in C, weighed in at 289 lines of code, and I only recall extending it to handle directories (making CVS recursive was one of the killer feature additions), and fixing some logic. I also added a bunch of capabilities that weren't in the original shell script version, including recursive directories, modules, branching, tagging, code bulk import, operations on the repository itself, tracking your modifications to third-party source code, logging, hooks for third-party tools, extreme performance upgrades for scalability, flexible merging, checkout and diff using flexible dates, and patch generation.

You can find more on CVS here.

2) How do/did you feel about CVS being adopted by the open source community and watching it grow?

The original shell script version that I used as a model for CVS was already in the public domain. As a result, I could have done anything I wanted to my version of CVS, including making a commercial version. However, in the spirit of the Open Source movement (which, at that time, was really the Free Software movement), I chose to maintain the copyright myself and to license CVS under the GPL. Of course, to do this, I needed the permission of my management team. This time, it was Rob Kolstad who pushed Prisma to, as the company was being shut down, give me the rights to the work and let me put it under the GNU project (Thanks, Rob!).

CVS would not have been as successful had it not been a key part of the early Open Source movement. I nurtured CVS, part-time, for a couple of years past the first release. Jeff Polk helped me rewrite the internals of CVS during this time - he was a better programmer than I would ever be. Our rewrite allowed for lots of other contributors to extend CVS, now that it was as pretty inside as it was outside. User contributions included lots of portability fixes, which increased CVS adoption, as well as some key features, like the client-server support, which allowed for CVS to enable distributed development to happen on a very grand scale. You could say that CVS was a key component of the Open Source movement and its success. Sourceforge.net currently has over 120,000 open source projects using CVS (8,000 projects are using Subversion, the follow-on to CVS, and I am a big fan of Subversion).

I'm thrilled about the part that I, and other CVS contributors, had on Open Source and software development in general.

3) What are the biggest differences you see between the internet startups today, and the startups during Web 1.0?

It's easier to do an Internet startup today than in the Web 1.0 days. The software tools are better and cheaper, hardware is cheaper, outsourced data centers are available and standard, global developers are writing really good code now and it's easier to distribute development around the world. The entrepreneurs today are more focused on solving a true need. Google and Yahoo have established web-based advertising as a viable bootstrapping revenue stream - we didn't fully understand how to "monetize eyeballs" in Web 1.0. Open Source tools have really enabled a lot of this. And, we're just getting more mature in how we are allowing for the "architecture of participation". In Web 1.0, most people didn't fully understand the Web and what it could do for them or their place in it. Now, people spend enormous amounts of time on-line, doing good, building their reputation, contributing content. The Web 1.0 greed machine was not good for building enduring businesses. I don't see that now (yet).

4) Do you think we're in a new internet bubble?

I covered this topic in my post, Web 2.0: 24 Minutes In Heaven: "I was up-close and personal during the first Internet Bubble. Are we in one now? Absolutely not. Not even close. Yes, there is a ton of VC money out there right now, but the IPO markets are largely closed, except for the best companies, which is how it should be. The M&A multipliers are reasonable for the most part (yes, there are some amazing exceptions, but there always will be). VC’s are over-valuating some of their investments today (both Series A and follow-ons, which I will cover shortly), which is bad, but it does not appear to be out of control. Compared to what I saw in 1996-1999, I feel very good about the industry as a whole right now. It’s a good time to be an investor and a good time to be an entrepreneur."

This post is part of The "Ask Brian" Series and is held to the same legal considerations as described therein.

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XenSource Keynote at LinuxWorld

Peter Levine, CEO of XenSource, did a Keynote address at LinuxWorld last month. He did a really nice job (I am a mountaineer as well, so I appreciated the slide deck... Peter: Let's go climbing!). The video is now available. Some comments below.
At XenSource, we believe that virtualization ought to be a ubiquitous feature of every system and pervasive in all IT operations. And so, our agenda as a company is really to make sure that virtualization shows up everywhere. That the principle that there's a hypervisor across all systems such that we can unlock much of the value in IT today.

Completely agree. This is the right way for XenSource (and VMware) to be thinking about the problem. Go big or stay home. Hypervisors everywhere provide for the best underlying management layer to break the ties that bind business processes to physical hardware today. Low-level virtualization enables this to happen. You could almost argue that this is a "winner takes all" market. Whoever owns this layer owns a very big business. VMware certainly has a significant lead today and would be the easy one to pick as the ultimate winner. I like a market with underdogs, however. This will be fun to watch!

To get to ubiquity, thinking out 5-10 years, you can almost imagine the hypervisor being shipped as part of the hardware itself. My view of how this may play out:

  • Step 1 was for Intel and AMD to support hardware-assisted virtualization. Done, finally. XenSource argues that they just need a paravirtualized OS and the hardware-assisted virtualization is not required. I disagree. Customers don't want paravirtualized operating systems. They want a "standard" OS (however you define that). Also, I believe that hardware-assisted virtualization is fundamentally required to make all this play, and be secure, in the future. The good news is that this change is happening now, thanks to Intel and AMD. From a technology perspective, I like AMD's approach better, but that really doesn't matter. Check this box and let's move on.
    Advantage: None.

  • Step 2 is for companies like XenSource and VMware to offer hypervisors in software that provide for that common layer of OS manageability. Getting there. Xen has a different approach than VMware, today, and they argue that their approach is the only one that will work and scale downstream. That's the bet. I'm not convinced. I would agree that Xen is better technology and a better architectural approach. But, that is not what is required to win in the market. VMware ESX + hardware-assisted virtualization is "good enough".
    Advantage: VMware.

  • Step 3 is for Intel and AMD to build the hypervisor into their servers. That's how customers would like to consume this technology. It will not be "ubiquitous" without this happening. OK, this is the 5-10 year part. In the end, I think of this stuff as just another part of the BIOS (nasty word). The "hypervisor" is the next generation of what you get when you order a server from Intel and AMD. Unfortunately, the BIOS and boot environment is not one that has historically accepted such a technological change. I.e., odds are slim that this actually happen in the 5-10 year window. If the hypervisor becomes truly ubiquitous, then the value, as expected, is provided by the management tools that manipulate. AMD will lead here, and Intel will follow. VMware is better positioned today to form these partnerships, but XenSource absolutely has the opportunity to beat them. XenSource has added some key BizDev folks with the additions of Peter and Frank Artale, so it's theirs to lose.
    Advantage: VMware (but too early to call).


So, lots of work for both teams. VMware gets my nod today because they are generating cash like crazy (and the related market domination that comes with that). It's very hard for XenSource to overcome their momentum, but they could do it through some key business development activities in the next 18 months. XenSource should know where the schmoozing will have to happen by now. XenSource will not win based on their technology. Let the games begin!

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Sunday, September 10, 2006

I Hate Spam: Trackback Edition

Just saw Tom Evslin's post on Trackback Spam: Trackback and Kudzu. I'm a fairly new blogger, so I got thrown into this whole comment spam, trackback spam, trackback denials, comment denials, trackback reviewing, comment reviewing, pingbacks, etc. All I really want to do is get an automatic trackback to the article that I write. That rarely happens for me. And, what's up with Typepad Trackback URI addresses? You can't derive them from the article URL. It's enough to make your head spin.

Anyway, Tom describes how he is trying to overcome the problem of spammers hitting his trackbacks. It's a battle you can't win by reviewing posts. Period. Don't even try.

However, I'm on Wordpress and signed up for the free Akismet service. Stats from the Akismet site:

  • 188,126,901 spams caught so far

  • 1,458,600 so far today

  • 92% of all comments are spam


It works great. I can have trackbacks and comments wide open. Akismet catches the spam for me. Occasionally, something is marked as spam that is not, but it is definitely the exception. Most of the good conversations get through. And, I don't have to spend hours each day fighting spam instead of adding to the global conversations.

Tom's on Typepad. I don't know if bloggers that use Typepad can sign up for Akismet or not. If they can't, then they should consider switching to Wordpress and signing up for Akismet.

Of course, I did this article with a Trackback to Tom's original post. We'll see if it shows up!

Bottom line: Let's all support Akismet and get trackbacks and comments open for humans and closed for spammers!

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Friday, September 8, 2006

Ask Brian: 5-Year Pro Forma Projections?



DEAR BRIAN: I am founder and CEO of a startup and we are preparing our investor presentation for raising a Series A round now. All is going well with the pitch so far, but I'm confused about what to put for the 5-year revenue projections. I've never raised money from a VC before and I'm trying to strike a balance between showing the phenomenal upside potential of the company while not setting the wrong expectations - five years is a lot of time and a lot of things can change along the way. If I show the optimistic numbers, which get really big really fast, I'm worried that it will look unbelievable. If I show the pessimistic numbers, I would certainly exceed expectations downstream, but I'm not sure I can get funded because it doesn't look like a big business. What really worries me is whether the VC will use this document against me when raising Series B or Series C if the company's performance does not match the slide. -- PERPLEXED PRO FORMA PERSON, San Francisco, CA

DEAR PERPLEXED PRO FORMA PERSON: Seeking venture investment money is certainly an exciting time in your company's history. Congratulations for making it this far!

The bottom line for most of my advice is to first and foremost be true to yourself.

Don't create an investor pitch that is full of things that you think the VC wants to hear or see. That's not fair to yourself or to your investors. It is true that VCs want to invest in something that can build to be a big business, but they are really making an investment in you first and the business second. They know that 5 years is a long way away, but the pro forma income projections slide shows them a bit about both you and the business in a single slide. It is an important slide and you are right to give it its due consideration.

VCs are very good with numbers. An investor pitch is filled with numbers. When you get your chance to present to the entire partnership of a VC firm, you will find that someone in the room knows something about every one of the numbers in your slides. One partner will ask about your market sizing (TAM and SAM), one will ask about your pricing structure, one will ask about the revenue split with your partners, one will ask an extremely detailed question about your technology, manufacturing process, wireless range of your device, milliamps consumed, yields, or the guage of the wire you're using. These guys are numbers guys. They ask you these questions to understand, very quickly, how much you know about your business and how you respond is what's key. They know bullshit when they hear it.

So, on the pro forma income projections, just put where you, personally, want to take the company and what you, personally, based on your experience, fully expect to deliver over the coarse of the next 5 years. Put down your goals for the company, not what you think their goals are. If there is no match, much better to know that now instead of later (when you are being fired). If you stick to being true to yourself and your investors, always, things will go much better.

The VCs get that there are caveats and risks associated with every single number in your slide deck. What's important is that you can talk authoritatively about the numbers, backed by actual experience of yours or through case study references of others. They will want to hear you reason through the numbers. How you got there, assumptions you made, what made you think the assumptions were reasonable, other companies that had similar revenue ramps, why you grew sales faster than engineering in year 3, etc.

So, to your question on whether this document will come back to bite you in later rounds of funding. My experience with good VCs says that it will not. You will be having monthly Board meetings. You will be communicating openly and honestly with your investors before, during, and after the Board meetings. You will be keeping them informed always. You will be transparent with them. You will enlist them to help you work through the new risks and challenges and competitive threats that arise along the way. If you do these things, you will be creating a new set of 5-year pro forma income projections for Series B. Be transparent, open, and honest and the rest will work itself out. Manage your Board and your Investors appropriately and the business will thank you for it (as will your spouse).

This post is part of The "Ask Brian" Series and is held to the same legal considerations as described therein.

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The “Ask Brian” Series


Over the last 18 months, I've been spending a lot of time giving out a lot of free advice. Now, mind you. Free advice is probably worth exactly what you paid for it. Stuff that you read about in this blog is free advice and my opinion. It will not be tailored to your particular situation or company. This forum is not the place for the deep dialog of discussion that has to happen for truly useful advice.

As an Executive Coach, Board of Advisor member, and Investor, I do give out advice that is rewarded by cash and/or equity. Contact me at bb@brianberliner.com if you want to have a more meaningful and prosperous relationship.

Nevertheless, I find that I get the same questions over and over. There are hundreds of generic topics and questions about Venture Capital and Entrepreneurship that I can answer in generic ways. Better to answer the questions once, here, then point people to my perspective on the topic. I'm no Dear Abby or Ann Landers. This is more like "Dear Geeky". I call it "Ask Brian". Why? Because that's my name.

Submit a question via email to me using this link.

Now, the legal stuff.

I do not guarantee an email response to all questions, or that I will answer your question on this blog, or that I will answer your question in any kind of timely fashion. My clients always come first.

Please phrase your question in a way that I can cut-and-paste it directly into my post and give yourself a cute, anonymous, tagline at the end if you like (including City/State or Country). See some of the other posts if you want an example. Questions that don't have a cute, anonymous tagline at the end will be assumed to be public and you will be granting me the right to use your name and location in my response. Include enough background information that I, and the readers, will have sufficient background on the topic to give you a reasonable response. Questions that do not give sufficient background will be too hard to answer in any useful way, so they will be put at the bottom of the queue. I reserve the right to edit your question to make it appropriate for the audience (if it is public and has your name associated with it, I will ask your permission first).

Finally, I make no claims as to the reliability of my answers, and assume no liability for actions that you take as the result of advice that you read here or in any other forum related to me. You are on your own. Good luck to you. As I said, this advice is free and comes with absolutely no warranty.

The "Ask Brian" Series is covered under the Creative Commons license described below:

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 License.

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Web 2.0 and Porn?

Just ran across this post in the My Way, The Entrepreneur Network, which I am a member of. I enjoy a post with a good title. This one has that, and some good content. What more could you ask? From the folks at OnStartups, check out:



Why Web 2.0 Is Like Pornography



Don't get too excited. There are no pictures with the post.


Paul Graham also has a good Web 2.0 article. My recent post was: Web 2.0: 24 Minutes In Heaven.

Mobius Venture Capital Getting Hammered in the News

Lots of negative press swirling about Mobius Venture Capital's demise:

Yeah, so... what's the big deal?

VCs shut down under-performing startups all the time.

LPs should be shutting down under-performing VCs more often.

Frankly, I was surprised that I didn't see more VC shutdowns in 2005 and 2006. I really thought that the Limited Partners would band together and hand out a clear, collective, slap on the wrist of the VC asset class. Once again, I was wrong. It didn't really happen - certainly not to the degree I expected. There simply seems to be a lot of money that wants in to this asset class. Supply and demand. Econ 101.

When the VCs shut down a startup, does that mean that the executive staff were all losers? Nope.

When the LPs shut down a VC, does that mean that the general partners were all losers? Nope.

Timing applies equally well to VCs as it does to entrepreneurs. The only difference is that a VC has Limited Partners that are making a 5-year to 10-year commitment to the VC, while the entrepreneur typically only gets 6-18 months runway. That's a pretty big time difference and, I wonder, if a VC firm could find a way to make much shorter-term commitments to their LPs (like 2-years) if that would be something that the LPs would appreciate and select for when deciding where to put their money? Hmmm... Got me thinking about Business Models as applied to the VC industry now... Ahem. That's my NADD. Back to Mobius.

Without question, Mobius closed a pair of funds, back-to-back, that were too big. Niall Kennedy notes that "Mobius raised a $630 million fund in 1999 and a $1.25 billion fund in 2000." With $1.25B in their later fund, if they were getting the usual 2% management fees, they would have a $25M annual fee-based budget to run the firm, find the investments, and grow the businesses. That's a lot of fee money, to be sure - certainly a larger budget than most startups would typically expect to receive. But, that is the usual and customary Business Model for a VC firm, and the LPs all agreed, right? I don't know...

What gets me is that, by mid-2002 the writing was clearly on the wall that the investment frenzy that we expected in 2000 was in fact quite dead. I.e., the investment thesis for the fund (not just Mobius's, but everyone's) was shown to be wrong. So, why didn't the VCs that took too much money on an incorrect investment thesis just lay the cards on the table with their LPs at the 2002 LP Annual Meeting and put forth a vote to scale the fund size back (and the fees proportionately) to something that works for the remainder of the fund investment term? The WSJ article does point out that Mobius lowered the fund size - from $1.5B to $1.25B, but doesn't say when that happened. That, clearly, was not a big enough cut.

A startup company has monthly checkpoints with their investors.

A VC firm has annual checkpoints with their investors.

Another order-of-magnitude time difference for us to ponder...

So, what does all this mean for the Portfolio Companies of Mobius? I think it's actually good news. Mobius most likely still has a butt-load of capital to call for follow-on investments. I see that Technorati and FeedBurner recently upped. Other Portfolio Companies should definitely take the time to talk to Mobius about accelerating their next round (if it makes sense to the business, of course). Naturally, Mobius can't just drain that money in follow-on investments ASAP - it has to maintain the proper fiduciary decision-making.

So, what does all this mean for new companies seeking a first-time investment from Mobius? I doubt that Mobius is doing any new investments. I would stay very far away. There's plenty of other money out there.

And, when do the fees run out for Mobius? Anyone?

How does Mobius plan to sell their interest in their ongoing Portfolio Companies after the fees expire? Something that can happen is that there is a bit of cherry-picking that goes on and a GP will take some of his Portfolio Companies with her/him to their next VC firm, whether she/he starts it from scratch or joins some other one. Sometimes the VC syndicate for a portfolio company will buy it out. I would expect Brad to take Technorati, FeedBurner, Rally, Postini, and NewsGator to his next gig (whoever he's been writing about). Comments?

Brad Feld is the most vocal and well-written of the Mobius GPs. We all read his stuff. He has been Talking About Failure of late, which prompted me to write about it as well. I look forward to Brad's retelling of the story.

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Thursday, September 7, 2006

Amazon EC2 Killer Apps - Meet 3Tera

Earlier I wrote about Amazon's new Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) and some of the Killer Apps needed from a virtualization management perspective to really get it to take off. Let me add one to the list.

Back in August 2005, I came across 3Tera through a conversation with my buddy Adam Messinger (then of Gauntlet Systems and recently acquired by Borland). 3Tera is a software company building virtualization management software for what they call a "Grid Operating System". I don't like the marketing message (the "grid" word really makes me twinge), but I do like the progress the company has made from a technology perspective in the last 12 months. Well done! Take a look at their Flash-based product demonstration to see what I'm talking about.

3Tera comments on the Amazon EC2 solution in their blog.

For me, it is the combination of 3Tera's AppLogic and Amazon's EC2 that is most interesting. Adding virtualization management that includes the ability to plug in firewalls, load balancers, web servers, app servers, database servers (and whatever else you desire) in a typical N-Tier IT web-based fashion, as 3Tera has done, really makes it a lot easier to deploy truly real and scalable applications. The logic is simple:

  1. Amazon's got the infrastructure and a start on the provisioning management software, but doesn't have anything more.

  2. 3Tera has got some decent looking (I've never touched it) software for building the higher-level blocks of a real application, but could never build such an infrastructure.

  3. Seems like a match made in heaven. Amazon... Make them an offer!


Now, that doesn't seem likely - Amazon could certainly build out the management pieces itself over time. 3Tera's configuration GUI looked nice, but I didn't see anything for run-time scaling during production (though, arguably, that part is pretty easy to tack on if they don't have it now).

However, for my money, I think 3Tera has got better prospects than being acquired by Amazon. I don't like their current business model, but I'll save those comments for them directly.

Note: Jon Udell does talk of 3Tera in this week's InfoWorld, including a quick clarification that the 3Tera business model is, indeed, not the same as Amazon's EC2.

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SpiralFrog: Not How People Want To Consume Music

I applaud the folks over at SpiralFrog, EMI Music Publishing, and Universal Music Group for trying to set the music free. SpiralFrog has done an excellent job building an ad-supported and DRM-controlled distribution mechanism that sits somewhere between legal licensed subscription services, like Yahoo Music Unlimited and the hordes of illegal P2P-sharing sites (no need to name them here).

TechCrunch covers how it works, so I'll not go into that here.

I have little doubt that revenue will be generated by the partnerships that SpiralFrog has already successfully put in place (props to their BizDev team). At this point, however, I'm wondering if ad-supported DRM-controlled music is, in fact, a big business, and if this approach will really matter long-term. The more cynical side of me could see this as a desperation move on the part of the labels to find some revenue and leverage for their music portfolio at any cost. But, really, how much revenue could this drive once SpiralFrog takes its cut?

So, what's the innovation, and does it really give the major labels a better connection with their customers? Isn't that really at the heart of where the major labels need to go... NOW? I get the feeling that this partnership is not focusing on getting closer to the consumers (you don't do that by putting flashing ads in their face).

Checking in with my favorite, and most-geeky, band, The Barenaked Ladies, we find what they think about this.
On a totally unrelated note, have you heard about SpiralFrog yet? It's Universal Music's attempt to deal with the new world of music, and it seems downright bizarre to me. Basically, they're saying you can have all this music for free, but you can only keep it on your computer and one other device. That kind of maniacal need for control is what will be the death of major labels. If they continue to stop people from listening to music in the way they want it, people will continue to make other choices. I think that labels need to stop the restrictive and manipulative use of DRM, and, frankly, we should legalize P2P, and have it properly licensed from the ISP level (sure, the ISPs will complain, but, let them complain).

I'm with those guys. But for now, back to revenue.

So, today, I can sign up for 2-years of the Yahoo Music Unlimited To Go Service at this link for $119.88 - that's about $5/month for all-I-can-drink subscription to their music library, including the right to transfer the music to my portable music player (it's half that cost if I just want to stream it to my PC).

So, Yahoo has established that it's pretty darn cheap to legally distribute a pretty big music collection as a subscription service to customers (yeah, you don't own the music, but the price to extend your subscription in 2 years will be significantly less then anyway). Is Universal Music Group and EMI Music Publishing making money in the face of this? Probably not a lot. If the Yahoo model was working, they wouldn't need to be out there slapping ads around each song.

Oh, we forgot to tell you.

SpiralFrog and Yahoo Music Unlimited don't work on the iPod.

That's fine if you only really care about addressing 20% of the market. Not a big business.

Guess what? DRM-free music works on 100% of the market.

If the major labels really want to free the music and truly do believe that they can build big revenues around ads, then they should build a non-DRM-controlled solution for that (which is really not hard at all).

But, what do I know? I'm just a customer.

I use an iPod and won't be using either of these services. My money stays in my bank account for now. Imagine how much money you could make if you gave your customers your product in the form that allowed them to most easily consume it? Remove the friction and the revenue will follow.

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Tuesday, September 5, 2006

Search And Rescue, Death, and Failed Startups

This really is about startups. Hang with me a moment.

There has been some recent talk about failed startups, including Brad Feld's Talking About Failure post, 52 Reviews 5 Reasons for Embracing Failure post, John Battelle's Failure to Fail post,  and Andrew Fife's Key Lessons From Cryptine Networks Failure post. I've been around a long time, so I've seen lots of success and lots of failures. I'll be writing about those in the future. For now, here's something completely different.

I spent 7 years doing volunteer service for a top-tier Search and Rescue organization in Colorado: El Paso County Search and Rescue. It was a fantastic experience. EPCSAR covered the region of Colorado that included Pike's Peak, a very accessible 14,000-foot mountain that extends 3,000-feet above the tree-line. I learned a lot about things you don't learn about at work. That experience enhanced my life in some profound ways:

  • Search and Rescue does much more than Search and Rescue. We spent 20% of our time doing missions and 80% of our time training (classroom and field) and doing preventative search and rescue education within the community.

  • I became a Wilderness EMT so that I would be prepared medically for the patients I may encounter.

  • I learned how to be a leader in the field, reporting to the Command structure at base, and how to be a productive component of the Incident Command System that we would put in place when calling in for help by other agencies (like Police, Fire, or other Mountain Rescue Association teams) when we needed additional resources - NOW. It worked amazing well for building very dynamic teams of hundreds of assets (people) within a short period of time (hours) - and kept everything functional and communicating.

  • I participated in about 30 missions per year during my tenure.

  • While I did get to ride in helicopters on very rare occasions, 99.999% of the time is spent slogging through the brush to find or get to the patient. It's not at all like what TV depicts.

  • Helping people matters. The work those volunteers do every day makes a difference in many families.

  • SAR Dogs are amazing.

  • Above all else, your personal safety and the safety of your team always come first.

  • I was personally first to find people that were lost, personally contributed my part to saving a number of lives, and was personally first to find people that were dead (my first real up-close experiences with death).

  • It's actually very hard to die out there.


So, what do I mean by that last point?

For that, we need to review the events that lead up to each mission, and the resolution thereof. In addition to the debrief we would do following a mission, there is a fascinating publication that releases each year by the American Alpine Club called Accidents in North American Mountaineering. From the book: "Through analyzing what went wrong in each situation, ANAM gives experienced and beginning mountaineers the opportunity to learn from other climbers' mistakes. From inadequate protection, clothing, or equipment to inexperience, errors in judgment, and exceeding abilities, the mistakes recorded in this book are invaluable safety lessons for all climbers."

This is my personal observation. What is striking to me about these accidents and other search and rescue missions is that, in general:

A mishap in the outdoors is almost always the result of a sequence of mistakes - very rarely is it just doing one thing wrong.

In the Search and Rescue context, that means that we may see sequences of errors like:

  1. Team did not communicate their plans clearly in advance to all members

  2. Team starts later than their plan due to unforeseen glitch in the morning

  3. Team sees bad weather approaching from the West, but decides that they are close enough to make the summit before it hits

  4. Team still chooses not to retreat even when weather turns significantly worse and they are exposed above tree-line

  5. Team finally retreats at an unsafe rate of speed, and one member gets hurt in the haste

  6. Team seeks shelter from the thunderstorm under a large rock

  7. Lightning strikes nearby causing a ground strike...

  8. There are thousands of these stories, but the key point is that a significant number of mistakes are made well in advance of the event.


Again, this is my personal observation. I believe the theory applies to VC-funded startups as well:

A failure of a startup is almost always the result of a sequence of mistakes - very rarely is it just doing one thing wrong.

Startups fail not because they do one thing wrong. It's never just the CEO or just the Board or just the Engineering team or just the sales team or just timing. It is often all those things. Sometimes its a team that should not have taken VC funding in the first place (Mistake #1) which causes a huge collection of subsequent mistakes to be made simply because of that, and the end result being bankruptcy. Had the team chosen to bootstrap the business, it may have ended up being a perfectly good small business making $5M/year and cash-flow positive supporting 25 employees and their families.

In the VC-funded startup context, that means we may see sequences of errors like:

  1. Team did not syndicate the deal to the proper VC's for the market and ended up with an inexperienced Board member

  2. Team had a first-time CEO that was great at managing up to the board, but had no idea how to manage down, build the executive staff, motivate the employees, or operationally execute

  3. Team hired poorly because of the large in-flux of Series A cash and expectation of Board members that the organization can scale quickly to meet the product demand

  4. Team executed according to plan for the most part, but decided the plan was unsound before getting anything to market, switched the plan to a whole different but "adjacent" market ("I thought we were a software company and now we're shipping blade-servers?")

  5. Team chooses a new market that appears easier to deliver a product to, but ends up addressing a market that is indeed too small to support a VC-funded business, and has a skill mismatch in the organization now

  6. Executive staff members begin to exit the company - it's no longer a big business opportunity and they took a small percentage of equity because it was supposed to be big

  7. VC Board finally replaces the CEO with an operationally experienced CEO that doesn't fully know the market, but is smart and experienced and can figure it out

  8. Board doesn't remove the original CEO from the organization and instead puts them in some "background" job on the executive staff and she/he continues to disrupt

  9. Team raises more VC money, since they had to to get the new, experienced CEO on board, and the slog continues; it feels like a reset to the employees in the trenches and, since they're engineers, they're smart enough to figure out that they've burned through a lot of cash; the best ones begin to exit as well

  10. Team makes thousands of excellent decisions and builds some amazing software along the way, but in the end, the market remains small, the VCs become tired, and the company exits with an M&A transaction that is not exactly a needle mover...

  11. There are thousands of these stores, but the key point is that there are a significant number of mistakes that are made well in advance of the event.


When startups fail, people will always spin a story and point the fingers. Revisionist history is always at work. That is, simply speaking, just part of the process of failure. Accept it and move on.

Now, startups that succeed... Well, stay tuned for a whole 'nother story!

Update: Matt Marshall of VentureBeat is interested in using the second half of this story, specifically, the comparisons of outdoor sequences of mistakes that lead to death with sequences of mistakes at startups that lead to failure. So, please contact me if you would like to contribute your startup story and we can possibly co-author something for VentureBeat!

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Friday, September 1, 2006

Entrepreneur27 Tastes Great, Less Phil’ng

I scored an invite (thanks Noah!) to the Taste Off 2006 event hosted by Entrepreneur27, Bottlenotes, and TechCrunch yesterday evening.



Pictured (left to right): Patrick Chiang of Lightspeed Venture Partners, Michael Ghaffary of Summit Partners, Michael Arrington of TechCrunch, and Brian Berliner (me).


It was a really fun event. About 62 folks were on the list - roughly half VC/Investors and half Entrepreneurs. Much more intimate than some of the big TechCrunch-style bashes that I had attended at this same location (Michael was kind enough to open up his home in Atherton for this event - many thanks!). And, Noah Kagen did a nice job organizing the event and bringing in the folks from Bottlenotes to add some flavor and fun.


Bottlenotes is something like the Netflix of Wine. Or, maybe the eHarmony of Wine. They match your personality and wine preference (and your rating of past wines) to what you might like in the future, and send that to you each month. A nice twist on the usual, and one-size-fits-all, "beer of the month club". I wish them well. They made the event fun by putting us randomly into teams and having a wine tasting contest with prizes. Unfortunately, I only scored 5 out of 6 on the Wine Taste quiz, so I went home with just a buzz.


Even though the event was limited in size, I still didn't get a chance to talk to everyone. But, I did enjoy some good conversations with entrepreneurs from Box.net, Doostang, Socialpicks.com, TellMe Networks, Photoblog.com, PixPulse, and a few that I can't talk about yet. Final observations:



  • Entrepreneurs are getting younger, or I'm getting older. Likely both.

  • There was a good amount of "picking my brain" going on by the entrepreneurs, which is a good sign. I've been through what they are going through multiple times and am happy to help them navigate their journey.

  • The startup excitement vibe continues to increase in the Bay Area.


Update: Other nice write-ups from Entrepreneur27, SF Chronicle, PixPulse Blog, and Tom Cole's Consuming Ambitions (which I vote "Best Writeup" of the bunch). Photos by Dave McClure, Michael Zhang, and Michael Arrington.


Unfortunately, nobody named "Phil" was there.


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