Month: June 2006

Jun 14 2006

Blink – There’s A New Art Gallery In Boulder

Amy and I love art – especially contemporary art.  We were long term patrons of an art gallery in Boulder on 1011 Pearl Street called Maclaren Markowitz Gallery.  The gallery – after having a successful run for 15 years – started to have tough times as the economy started to tank in 2001.  To try to be helpful, we became investors in the gallery and were able to help give it a few more years of life.  While it could have continued to limp along, at some point everyone was tired and the primary owners decided to close the business and move on with their lives.

We’ve continued to be tangentially involved in the local Boulder art scene, mostly through our relationships with several artists that we love, as well as the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art and The Dairy Center for the Arts.  When a few folks – including one of the old managers at Maclaren Markowitz – started talking about opening a new gallery – we were enthusiastically supportive.

Blink

Blink Gallery started to come together and – at some point – we decided to join the small investor base and be directly supportive of the creation of this new gallery.  With a stroke of luck, they were able to get the “old Maclaren location” at 1011 Pearl Street and have done a great job of updating the gallery space to a contemporary, edgy feel on almost no budget.  The two founders of Blink – Susan Knickle and Pam Gonacha – have worked tirelessly to get Blink up and running.  If you are in Boulder on Pearl Street, stop by and take a look at the new gallery in town.  Their formal opening is on Friday, June 23rd from 6pm – 10pm – I’m sure they’d love to see you (and don’t forget to bring your checkbook.)

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Jun 14 2006

CEOs That Are Introverts

Often there’s a perception that to be a successful CEO, you need to be an extrovert.  Media and pop culture reinforces this – we regularly see people that are comfortable in the spotlight and equate them with the model of success.

I’ve always had a number of CEOs and entrepreneurs that I’ve worked with that are introverts.  While they are comfortable being in a public forum, they prefer to be either alone, with their family, or in small settings.  My wife Amy has often told me that I’m a closet introvert (nope – this doesn’t mean that I like to hang out in closets) – while I spent a lot of time in group settings (and am comfortable in this environment), I much prefer to either be alone, be with Amy, or have dinner with one person or a couple.

One of my introverted CEOs sent me a great article from USA Today titled “Not all successful CEOs are extroverts.”  It has some good nuggets and real data in it.  The punch line – in one of the studies, it was concluded that “the study found that the charismatic CEOs make more money, but make no difference to corporate performance.”

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Jun 13 2006

Board Meetings – Do The Formal Stuff First

I’ve been to a zillion board meetings (ok – let’s guess between 1,000 and 2,000 assuming 10+ / month for the past 12 years.)  While the food is usually lousy (but not always, as I’ve seen a marked improvement since I wrote my Board Meeting Food Is Usually Shit post), I’ve found a more troubling pattern than just bad food.  The official business of a typical board meeting is back end loaded.  Specifically, items such as the ones that follow will come at the end of the meeting.

  1. Approve Minutes From The Last Meeting
  2. Review and Approve Option Grants
  3. Discuss Any Committee Matters (such as Audit, Compensation, Nominating, M&A)
  4. Discuss and Vote On Any Other Matters Requiring a Vote

There will always be some things in the voting category that might require an extended discussion.  While a CEO’s tendency will always be to use the bulk of the board meeting to set these issues up, if you have an engaged and informed board, it’s much more productive to carve out specific time without the setup to discuss the specific issues that require a vote.

The problem with these items coming at the end of the meeting is that there is never enough time allocated to them.  Even the most anally retentive CEOs can’t keep a board on a tight schedule and invariable someone needs to leave early to catch a plane, drops off the phone for another call (or meeting), or people just get impatient and rush through these items.  While they usually don’t require a lot of discussion, they occasionally do and there seems to be a high correlation between “important voting items” and “no time left to talk.”

So – if you are a CEO, do your board (and your company, and yourself) a favor.  Do the formal stuff first and give it the right amount of time and attention.  That way, as the rest of the meeting goes off in an unexpected but highly interesting and relevant tangent, you won’t keep looking at your watch thinking “this is good stuff, but we are going to run out of time.”

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Jun 13 2006

Windows Media Center And The Race For Your Digital Living Room

Ross – my “IT guy” – stole my HP z545 Media Center PC a while ago.  I wasn’t really using it because there was too much “marital resistance” to this particular change in our AV infrastructure (plus, I never really got it working the way I wanted.)  Imagine my surprise when Ross suggested that it was the core of the best digital media solution he could envision (after he put it all together, of course.)  Ross has an extensive post on his blog up about his Media Center configuration and why he thinks it is the best solution – following is a teaser. 

The race for your digital living room is on, and you won’t believe who’s winning

Microsoft. Ok, so I didn’t want to keep you in suspense for too long, I guess that proves I’m not a great writer. But the fact is that right now in the race to win your digital living room Microsoft is smoking everyone else. That’s right, Microsoft. Ok, now let me tell you why and a little bit about my setup. First the goals for my system.

– Ability to access all my digital media (TV Shows, Movies, Pictures, Music).
– Ability to record and watch live TV (ala TiVo)
– Ability to playback virtually any codec type (from DivX, WMV, Quicktime, etc).
– Ability to output a HD signal and playback HD content
– Ability to program my existing remote controls to operate the system
– Easy to use, rich and attractive interface
– Must pass the WAF (wife acceptance factor) test (remember my wife works in IT too so this isn’t too hard for me)
– Common interface on ALL my televisions (Plasma in bedroom, Projector in Home Theatre, 32″ CRT in living room)


Click through to the full article

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Jun 12 2006

NewsGator for Windows Mobile Beta Available

If you have a Windows Mobile device and want to try out NewsGator’s new Windows Mobile feed reader, the beta is now available.  NewsGator has had a mobile edition for phones that support HTML available for a long time (since I invested in NewsGator two years ago), however, in our desire to help people consume feeds anywhere, we’ve been working on a more robust approach to mobile clients.

As you’d expect, the Windows Mobile feed reader synchronizes your data with the NewsGator Online service (and subsequently with all the NewsGator products) so anything that you read on your phone shows up as read in NewsGator Online (and the phone can be configured to display only your unread feeds.)

Early beta feedback has been great – hats off to Kevin Cawley and the NewsGator team for quickly integrating Kevin’s previous company and products, Smartfeed.org.

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Jun 12 2006

Save NPR and PBS Again

I have listened to NPR every day that I’m in the car on my way into work for as long as I can remember.  I have fond memories of hearing Morning Edition in the car as a kid whenever my dad drove me in the morning (which was very rarely – my bike got a good workout.)  Last year house Republicans tried to kill funding for NPR and PBS – it was defeated. 

They are trying again this year.  Stuff like this always baffles me when I see what our tax dollars are being used for.  If you are like me and are a NPR (or PBS) fan, here’s an easy way to sign a petition to tell Congress to save NPR and PBS again this year.

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Jun 7 2006

Spam Continues to Try To Pollute The Universe

I occasionally hear things from people about how “spam is on the decline.”  This always entertains me because immediately after receiving an email like this, I get a 200 message comment spam attack on my blog and three IM windows pop up in Trillian with random people I don’t know saying “Hi” with a link to what I’m sure is something truly evil.

Yesterday, Postini announced that instant messaging attacks had increased by 500% in May.  They are dealing with large enough numbers and a diverse enough sample size for the numbers to be statistically significant.  Here are some interesting ones for you.

Instant Messaging

  • 138% increase in corporate IM traffic
  • 500% increase in IM spam attacks
  • Nifty new names for IM attacks such as Browaf, Tilebot, and Khoobe

Email

  • Postini processed 25 billion email messages in May (13% increase from April)
  • 86% of traffic was spam or contained viruses
  • 65% of traffic was rejected at the network layer (e.g. directory harvest or denial of service attacks)

If you like stats, Postini has consolidated ones across their entire system.  IM (what I think of as “Spim”) is clearly on the rise. 

Spam in the blogosphere has continued to accelerate unabated.  Why – oh why – do people think that I want a comment that says something like “I haven’t been up to much today. I’ve just been letting everything happen without me. Basically nothing seems worth bothering with. I’ve just been hanging out doing nothing. I just don’t have anything to say right now. More or less nothing happening.” on my blog with an associated link?  At least my filters are working on the porn ones now.

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Jun 7 2006

Is 409A Too Difficult For The IRS To Figure Out?

Just when you thought you’d never hear from me and Jason on 409A again, we received the following missive from a lawyer friend of ours:

(The) IRS is now saying that drafting final regs is too hard and that they won’t be out until late summer/early fall.  That translates into September/October in my head. Apparently they’re having issues with putting together startup valuation rules.

Well, at least we don’t feel so stupid now thinking that complying with 409A is an almost impossible task.  As previously stated in our 409A series, the idea of coming up with any “real” private company valuation is, at best, a shot in the dark.  Nice to see the IRS struggling with a monster of its own making. 

We can’t wait to see what guidance they come out with.

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Jun 6 2006

RTFM

Fortune had a really good article on how MySQL is building a commercial open source company.  However, buried in the article is a typo that I expect was introduced by Fortune’s editors.

It’s not as if MySQL workers get some perverse kick out of catching colleagues goofing off, though. They know how common it is for e-mail or voice messages to be misconstrued, so they watch what they say. Fire off a dumb question to one of MySQL’s mailing lists, and you are likely get back the terse rebuke “RTFM” – read the freakin’ manual.

Dear Fortune Editors: RTFM means “Read The Fucking Manual.”  Even Wikipedia says it, so it must be true, although they seem to assert that “Read The Freakin’ Manual” in an acceptable substitute to avoid using the expletive “Fucking.”  But seriously guys, everyone knows that Freakin’ = Fucking in this case – why mess with one of all the all time great initialisms of the programming universe?

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Jun 6 2006

NewsGator Enterprise RSS In Japan

NewsGator announced today that it has partnered with GMO Internet Group to provide a localized, hosted version of NewsGator Enterprise in the Japanese market.  I’ve been impressed with GMO – they’ve also partnered with FeedBurner on the Japanese version of FeedBurner.

Geographic expansion, especially for young fast growing companies, especially in Asia, is tough.  After spending time in Europe last month, I heard the same thing over and over from the VCs and entrepreneurs that I spoke with – namely “the biggest weakness of US companies is they come over here thinking that everything works the same way, but it doesn’t.”  This wasn’t just aimed at “US is different than Europe” – it was a bigger statement – namely even thought there is an EU, each country is different.  I’ve heard this for a decade, seen the downside of this many times, and believe it continues to be a very true statement.

Now – this conversation is nothing new in the world of VC-backed companies.  I’ve been through the “let’s expand to Europe and Asia immediately” cycle, capitulated in the delightful 2001 – 2003 time frame (Europe / Asia – where are they again?), and now am faced with “The World Is Flat – we’ve got to go to Europe and Asia.”  While I don’t resist the “we’ve got to go to Europe and Asia”, I’ve learned from my experiences (good and bad) that the “how” is what is important.  In the case of NewsGator, a big part of the how is with partners, including VNU in Europe and GMO in Japan.

This announcement also has another little nugget – the product that GMO and NewsGator will be releasing together in the Japanese market is a hosted version of the NewsGator Enterprise product.  Geographic partners usually know their market entry strategies best – it’s important to listen to them.

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