Month: March 2008

Mar 31 2008

Mosaic Communications Corp

Thanks to my friend Bruce Wyman (who is rapidly turning into my "discoverer of cool things") I have experienced a major back to the future moment with the Mosaic Communications Corporation web site.  The "Founders" page was fun as was the "What is the Internet?" page.  There are some "scary looking" pictures on the "Homepage Central" and none of the old FTP download mirrors seemed to work (or maybe Firefox is just programmed to reject downloads of Netscape 0.9 beta.)

Best of all, the Search page brings up Architext.  A search (say – on "Feld") then brings up a query.cgi pageRyan – do you think you can get that working for me by tomorrow?

Time to get back to getting ready for April Fools Day.

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Mar 30 2008

Glue Me Back Together

Loic Le Meur totally nailed why glue matters in his post My social map is totally decentralized but I want it back on my blog.  Following is the defining image from Loic’s notebook.

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I’m not sure the answer (I want it back on my blog) is correct, but we are in the middle of yet another massive decentralization of data – this time very personal.  Loic’s identity and content is spread all over the web (as is mine.)  He wants it back in one place – one that belongs to him.

If we only had 10 web services participating in this grand decentralization of Loic, it would be no big deal.  But there are now thousands – all which want to be able to play with all the others.  With each new unit of data, and each new service, it gets a little messier (and a little more fun.)

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Mar 30 2008

Twenty-Five Square Miles Surrounded by Reality

The New York Times Magazine had an outstanding article on Boulder today.  The photos paint an accurate picture and the article captures the essence of a place that I love.

I moved to Boulder in 1995.  Last year while fundraising, I was regularly asked "how did you end up in Boulder?"  Following is the short version of the story (which will sound familiar to anyone that has heard it – feel free to skip the indented paragraph.)

I moved to Boston from Dallas in 1983 to go to MIT.  I lived in Boston for a little over 12 years – that was 11 years and 364 days too many.  I liked Boston and wouldn’t trade my experience at MIT for anything, but Boston was just never home for me.  I sold my first company in 1993 and told my wife Amy that by the time I turned 30 (12/1/95) we’d have left Boston.  Two months before I turned 30, Amy told me she was moving to Boulder and I was welcome to join her if I wanted.  I figured that my worst case scenario was that we wouldn’t like Boulder and we’d keep heading west to the bay area.  When we got to Boulder we knew one person; he moved away six months later.  So we were really starting from scratch.  Every day was better than the preceding one and after six months we bought a house in the mountains and knew that Boulder would be our home base for the balance of our time on this planet.

I have now lived in Boulder longer than I lived in Boston (and not quite as long as I lived in Dallas.)  Every day when I wake up in Boulder I fall in love with the place all over again.  I have houses in Keystone, Colorado and Homer, Alaska – which are also amazing places that I’m fortunate to spend time living in. Amy and I travel regularly (for work and pleasure) to a bunch of big cities that we love spending chunks of time in (New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Los Angeles, Paris, London, and even Boston.)  However, coming back to Boulder and our place in Eldorado Springs is always magically grounding.

The article had a few inaccuracies and missed plenty of things.  I’d add a couple of quick ones that jumped out at me:

  • Trustafarian – that’s the local word for the "vestigal hippies and wannabes" that live in their "trophy shacks."  Boulder is a safe place for a trustafarian.
  • Food – I’m bummed that the writer (Florence Williams) didn’t say more about The Kitchen.  My friends Kimbal and Hugo (and their incredible staff) have created a phenomenal local institution that any visitor should have a meal at.
  • Transplanted Silicon Valley millionaires: While dining at L’Atelier, the writer comments on being surrounded by a "mix of atmospheric scientists and transplanted Silicon Valley millionaires."  While Boulder has its share of transplanted Silicon Valley millionaires, I’d bet that the ones at L’Atelier that night were mostly of the home grown variety (there are a lot more of those than the transplants) as well as some trustafarians who felt like a nice high end meal.

While Boulder certainly isn’t for everyone, it’s definitely for me and Amy.

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Mar 30 2008

Heathrow Travel Hell

It looks like Chaos Reigns a Second day at HeathrowThe spiffy new Terminal Five has some "glitches."  Who said modernization was easy?

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Mar 29 2008

I Could Have Been A Card Counter

Amy and I went to see 21: The Movie today.  It’s based on the phenomenal book Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six M.I.T. Students Who Took Vegas for Millions by Ben Mezrich.  I met Ben and had sushi with him a few months ago – he was really psyched about the upcoming movie and the relaunch of the book as 21.  Ben – congrats!

Amy and I had a blast.  One of Amy’s ex-boyfriends had been part of the MIT Blackjack Team (1989-1990) so I’ve heard plenty of stories about it over the years (and vaguely remember it when it was going down.)  MIT is a remarkable place and a fantastic backdrop for a "smart people" morality tale (similar to another one of my favorite movies – Good Will Hunting.)

There were a lot of "MIT inaccuracies" during the movie that resulted in nudges and whispers between me and Amy.  Following are the ones I can remember.

  • Ben’s "4.0" average.  MIT is on a 5 point scale – so his 4.0 average is a solid B rather than "perfect."
  • The 2.09 competition.  This is really the 2.70 competition.
  • Building 4 Hallway.  The door frames are black, not blue (i.e. this isn’t building 4.)
  • Pre-Med.  There is no "pre-med" at MIT.
  • "A’s".  In the movie, people talked about getting A’s. MIT-ers don’t talk about letter grades – they focus on getting "above class average" which would translate into an A or B.
  • MIT Scenes.  With the exception of a few scenes outside the great dome, all of the MIT scenes were somewhere other than MIT (apparently MIT didn’t allow filming on campus.)

One of the treats was seeing Colin Angle (a frat brother and co-founder / CEO of iRobot) in a cameo role give the award at the 2.09 contest near the end of the movie (presumably modeled after Professor Woodie Flowers.)

I’d love to hear any other MIT inaccuracies that anyone notices in the movie.  MIT grads – comment freely.

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Mar 29 2008

Apply To TechStars Now

You’ve got three more days – the application deadline closes on 3/31 at midnight!  If you don’t know what I’m talking about, take a look at www.techstars.org or some of the past posts I’ve written about TechStars.  TechStars 2007 produced some cool companies, including several that have been making plenty of noise lately such as SocialThing, Intense Debate, and FiltrboxApply now to be a part of TechStars 2008.

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Mar 29 2008

The Underpants Gnomes Applied to VC Backed Companies

From Adam Smith at Square 1 Bank on how NOT to pitch your company to a VC.

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The full segment is below.

There is a philosophy that "all you need to do is get tons of underpants traffic and good things will happen.  When that works, it’s a beautiful thing.  The key word – of course – is "when."  Phase 2 is a dangerous place.

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Mar 28 2008

Learning From Failure

I haven’t written much in the Failure series lately, but I’ve got a doozy or two coming soon.  In the mean time, Chip Griffin has a good post up titled Don’t Fear Failure, Learn from ItDefinitely worth a click through to hear about his three different kinds of failure (Spectacular Collapse, Death of a Thousand Cuts, and The Land of Lost Opportunity) as well as some lessons from his failures.

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Mar 28 2008

$61 Million Is Still A Lot of Money

Marc Andreesen has a scathing but brilliant post up today titled Congratulations, you’re paying Jimmy Cayne’s marijuana bills!  I love Marc’s analysis of what Bear Stearns would have been worth if the Federal Government hadn’t backstopped the deal with a $29 billion loan.

The US taxpayer is loaning Bear Stearns and JP Morgan Chase, Bear Stearns’ acquirer, $29 billion — just revised from $30 billion, simultaneous with JP Morgan Chase raising its acquisition price for Bear Stearns to $10/share from $2.

Without that $29 billion of taxpayer money, Jimmy Cayne’s stock would be worth $0/share, and if you multiply that by 5.66 million shares, the total would be $0.

The $29 billion taxpayer loan is almost certain to lose money as it is being used to backstop stinky assets on the Bear Stearns balance sheet — the same assets whose plummeting fall in value catalyzed Bear Stearns’ effective bankruptcy.

It is virtually certain that taxpayers are going to take some loss on that $29 billion loan.

When we do, we will have the immense satisfaction of knowing that the first $61.3 million of those losses represent a direct cash transfer from US taxpayers to Jimmy Cayne.

It will be interesting if Cayne comes to this same conclusion and gives the $61m back to the government after some of the $29 billion (say – the first $61m) gets vaporized.

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Mar 27 2008

My Experience on NPR’s Talk of the Nation

I’ve been listening to NPR since I was 7 years old.  Whenever my mom or dad drove me to school, NPR’s Morning Edition was playing.  Guilty weekend pleasures of mine include Car Talk and Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!  While I don’t watch any news on TV, I do admit to listening to NPR on my drive to the office in the morning and I occasionally catch Talk of the Nation.

Yesterday I was on NPR for the first time as a guest on the Talk of the Nation segment Who Pays for Our Online Lives?  Neal Conan interviewed me, Chris Anderson, and Kevin Rose about the challenges companies face building online businesses when consumers are used to getting information for free.  We covered some good ground, including the freemium model, different ways of making money online, issues (and rewards) of scale, and the difference between the potential of a popular site like Digg and JoesCars.com (who will now get some traffic because of this post.)  It’s all online (about 30 minutes) if you are interested.

The experience of doing the show was fascinating.  I don’t do much live radio (or TV) so it’s not a natural medium for me. I do loads of podcasts and live speaking things, but for some reason live radio felt different. 

It started on Tuesday afternoon when my partner Ryan McIntyre got an email inviting him to be on the show.  It turned out that he was on a flight to the bay area during the broadcast so he forwarded the invite over to me.  I connected via email with the show’s producer who filled me in on the topic.  I said I was happy to do it and waited for further instructions.

I got a call early the next morning with a "pre-interview interview."  I think the producer was calling to make sure I had at least a partial clue.  We had a nice 15 minute talk about the potential content after which I got the thumbs up to be on the show.  Then the "where do you need to go" scramble begun.  I was at my house in Keystone and I didn’t feel like roundtripping it to Denver for the day.  After an hour they came up with a studio in Edwards which was a lot closer.  There apparently used to be a studio in Breckenridge (right around the corner) but it’s now a "ghost studio" which I assume means that no one is ever there.

I drove to KZYR (97.87) in Edwards and met up with Steve at the station.  He did a great job of orienting me in a nice little studio with boom microphones and lots of computer / audio stuff I didn’t know what to do with.  The little clock counted to 1pm and then everything just started working.  The audio fidelity was superb – everything "just worked" – probably because all of the equipment was afraid of Steve.

I thought the interview went well (and was fun) although I realize that I have to reorient my brain on live radio (at least on TOTN) to talk in 30 second chunks (rather than my normal 1 or 2 minute podcast / panel chunks.)  I got a lot of great feedback from friends that feel into the "cool to hear you on TOTN" category and plenty of encouraging tweets along the way.

While being on TOTN wasn’t on my "100 things to do before I die" list, it certainly is on the "1000 things to do before I die" list if I ever got around to making it!

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