Feed problems

I can’t explain it, but the feed that has been giving me problems all day today is now working… at least for me it is. I think I may have introduced a recursive loop when I was redirecting the native feed to Feedburner. Let me know if you are still having problems with it.

If you are having problems, please use this feed as it appears to be pretty solid:

Shake up coming in relational db market

A recent analyst report out of the UK highlights that not-so-hidden secret about enterprise software: significant portions of the functionality of many implementations are underutilized (read the report here). Surprised? You shouldn’t be: significant portions of every piece of software basically lie fallow. Excessive, unused features, many would say, are part of the price of using enterprise software.

Yeah, last year I questioned whether we even need relational databases for new applications. It is gratifying to see analysts start to sit up and notice that applications like SAP don’t even use the most advanced features in Oracle’s flagship database offering, or from any other vendor either… yet customers are still paying for those features even though they don’t get any value from them.
If I was to put money in a deal, I’d be looking at XML storage and stream processing engines. BTW, Streambase is built on top of Sleepycat’s BerkeleyDB is memory serves me correctly.

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Metric Driven Management

Reading this post by Boston VC Scott Maxwell made me think of a couple of posts I wrote a while back on this subject. Scott’s post is one you should tag, it’s thoughtful and reflects a lot of experience in this area.

I can’t think of a more important aspect of business management that gets ignored or just gets lip service in early and expansion stage startups. The great majority of early stage startups that we either worked with or were investors in often had the attitude that 1) it was too early to know what the metrics should be, or 2) we’re different. Of course either excuse is bullshit because 1) everything worth doing can be measured, and if you are wrong about the metrics then the only way you will really find out is to start using them in the first place, and 2) very few startups are different, but even when something is (e.g. Salesforce.com) rule #1 still applies.

The greatest challenge that startups and expansion stage companies have is simply making it a priority to apply metrics to business process and hold management accountable for not only compiling the metrics but holding to forecasts as well.

Metric driven management can and should be applied in every functional unit in
an expansion stage company, from product development activities (e.g.,
project management, bug fix reports, usability testing) to marketing
(lead generation ROI, website path analysis, shopping cart abandonment,
number of daily quality leads) to sales (e.g., movement through the
sales funnel, salesperson activity analysis) to customer service
(response time, close rates, close times, etc.) to overall customer
satisfaction measured both qualitatively (surveys, interviews, etc.)
and quantitatively (usage reports, retention rates, etc.).

Also see:   Not-so-counter-cliche: Forecast Early and Often
                Mesauring Performance

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Alternative energy sources

The President’s pledge to fund alternative energy technology is getting praise from both side of the aisle, shockingly, but in listening to the proponents of these plans I am still left with one really big question, how are we going to fuel all of the vehicles that exist today? I am not talking just about cars either, think about how pervasive the lowly hydrocarbon is as a fuel source:

  • home heating oil (8.1 million homes… 82% of them in the Northeast use oil as a primary space heating fuel)
  • jet fuel (18.8 billion gallons consumed by U.S. carriers alone in the year 2000)
  • diesel for trucks, locomotives, buses, cars… (452 mllion gallons of diesel were consumed in the Bay Area in the year 2000)
  • jet fuel or diesel power generation equipment
  • small engines… what, you gonna put a fuel cell on my power washer?
  • construction equipment, predominately diesel

Back in 2004 I wrote a post titled Dependent on Gas where I argued that if you really want to become less dependent on foreign oil (which in the U.S. predominately comes from Mexico and Canada, btw) then let’s start talking about developing alternate hydrocarbons in addition to more exotic solutions like fuel cells, because even if you are successful in moving a great number of new cars to alternate fuels there is still an overwhelming number of existing vehicles and applications that depend on gasoline or diesel.

One of the interesting technologies that has been developed, or I should say rediscovered because the process itself has been around a long time, is refining coal into liquified fuel. I actually saw this on a History Channel program about the history of coal and thought it was pretty cool, and when you consider that the United States alone has enough coal reserves to last 200 years, it makes sense to develop out different energy products based on coal.

One of the open questions that I am not able to answer is how much energy does it take to refine coal into a “unit” of energy. This question is a big ding against ethanol based fuels, which is that the amount of energy required to convert corn into fuel is high relative to oil, not to mention the whole issue of how much energy is required to grow the corn in the first place (ironically agriculture fertilizers are a petroleum product).

Whatever the open questions are, devoting resources to developing coal as a liquid fuel source for existing applications is something that should be high on the energy agenda.

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