Monday Night Book Giveaway

This week I am giving away a really good book. Starting Something is the chronicle of an entrepreneur’s rise and fall with important lessons revealed at each turn. As a side note, this has a special connection for me as SAP Ventures was an investor in Neoforma and we rode along with McVicker up the chart and then down.

As always, same rules apply. First person to comment gets it and, sorry, I can’t ship international.


“Starting Something: An Entrepreneur’s Tale of Control, Confrontation & Corporate Culture” (Wayne McVicker)

Spock’s People Search

Marc Canter sent out invites for Spock, a new search engine for finding people. I signed up and found it interesting but my first experience left me with more questions than answers.

Spock is the online leader in personal search, helping users find and discover people. With over one hundred million people already indexed and millions added every day, Spock is building the broadest and deepest people specific search engine.

First of all, "leader in personal search"? Really? Seems like Google and Linkedin could legitimately claim that title, but I digress. Person search is a growing area, part in response to our evolving sophistication with search engines and part as a response to the massive amount of meta data about people that has been accumulating.

I like the idea a lot but had an interesting experience with Spock that left me feeling it is an acquired taste. Their UI is simple and effective, but the very simplicity that makes it inviting for a first time user obscures the powerful capabilities that the engine is capable of delivering.

The process of collecting information about you begins when you create a new account, but like a lot of new users an any service, I am reluctant to give them much information about my profiles on other social networks. I would have preferred that they ask me for the minimum to get started and then at various points add additional information either through prompts or automatically collecting it and then asking me to verify.

Another point worth covering is the privacy aspect, more specifically the transparency by which these companies operate when their entire business model is predicated on collecting information about people. Rapleaf found itself in a shit storm recently with regard to how the were sharing that profile information and it really underscores the point that we the people are underwriting these businesses either through our usage or simply through our implied consent that they do what they wish with our personal information.

Actually, the Rapleaf situation is interesting because it wasn’t so much what they were doing with the data but rather the lack of transparency Auren admits they displayed. Spock should take a cautionary note from this episode and bare all with regard to how they use the data to support their business.

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Jeff Gets An iPhone

Having missed out on the Office 2.0 conference goody last week, I picked up an iPhone this weekend, the price drop did it for me. A couple of observations:

  • My concerns about the touch screen sensitivity and lack of tactile feedback were unfounded. I still like a keyboard but this is very workable.
  • AT&T’s EDGE performance is pathetic
  • The lack of copy/paste for text is a huge mistake. One must wonder what the engineering meeting sounded like when that issue was discussed. Quite honestly, not having copy/paste surprised me not so much because it was missing but because in the absence of the feature I now know how much I use it on a daily basis.
  • Synchronization to the desktop is really good, and this is not insignificant because I was generally happy with my Blackberry except for the fact that they use a third party software app to sync for the Mac. If Blackberry supported Macs natively, I’d still be using it.
  • The Safari browser on the iPhone is good, and the rotate feature is brilliant. I can’t emphasize how much of an improvement web browsing is when you flip the iPhone on it’s side. The form filling smarts are equally eye-catching and make for a much more reliable web browsing experience. Too bad the rotate feature only works in the web browser, being able to do that in email would be great because of the next point…
  • The virtual keyboard is adequate but not fast, unless you are in the browser which when rotated to horizontal the keys are bigger and it’s much faster to type. Having the larger version of the keyboard in email would be a big improvement.
  • I’m still keeping my iPod video… 8gb is no substitute for 30gb.
  • The slide to unlock is brilliant.

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Going Gator

Last week I left the ranks of the under-employed to join Denver-based Newsgator, the widely acknowledged leader in consumer and enterprise RSS solutions. I will take the newly minted title of VP Corporate Development and continue to be based here in the Valley.

What most people don’t realize is that Newsgator is actually a lot more than a provider of RSS client apps, they have 3 lines of business. In addition to popular client apps like FeedDemon, NetNewsWire and an online service, the company offers a full portfolio of enterprise server products, and a really interesting media syndication business.

All of these building blocks add up to the prototypical enterprise 2.0 software provider, which I would define beyond the ideological angle of e2.0, to be products that enable workers with timely and relevant information when they need it and the capability to act on it collaboratively or in straight line process manner.

Newsgator has a number of existing relationships that provide a good foundation for me to build on, including a premier position with Microsoft, Intel’s Suite Two, and Thomson, among others. As I scan the horizon I see a rich landscape of opportunities to work with across a spectrum of traditional enterprise and consumer offerings, and exciting possibilities with many of the startups that I follow and get really excited about.

When I left Teqlo I talked with my wife about what attributes I wanted to find in my next opportunity and no matter how long it took I wouldn’t settle for anything less. It goes without saying that all of us want to work with smart people, but I wanted something more in that I wanted to work with the people who I believed are the best at what they do, work well together, and I wanted to continue to work on projects that were intellectually interesting to me.

I looked at a lot of companies, large and small, as well as a return to venture capital and in the end opted for Newsgator because there’s a lot “there” and, simply put, I wanted to be part of the leadership team J.B. Holston has put together.

After a number of trips out to Denver to work with the team I watched closely how the individuals worked together, how decisions were made, and what the values of the company are, but the clincher was the minimal amount of ego that the company and the individuals carry with them. It was pretty cool to watch a bunch of competent people work together with mutual respect and doing so with the success of the company being the pre-eminent goal.

Working with this investor syndicate was another big plus in my decision process. Many of you don’t need an introduction to Brad Feld, who is an active investor in this company, but for me this was a chance to finally do something together. Brad and I had danced to the same band on a number of occasions when I was with SAP Ventures but never found the opportunity to dance together, a disappointment for me when I left that fund. Masthead Ventures is a lesser known investor in this company, lesser known if you are not a VC in which case you no doubt know this to be a respected firm with a solid track record.

I would define my near term objectives as follows:

  1. Establishing presence in the Valley. What this means is simply elevating the awareness of the company locally and ensuring that entrepreneurs, investors, and other influencers know that this company is a lot broader than RSS client apps.
  2. Strategic partnership management is clearly something I have on my plate. There are number of existing relationships that require stewardship, but also new opportunities that need to be realized.
  3. Contribute to product and solution marketing where appropriate to help move from being RSS to Enterprise 2.0.

Needless to say, I am really excited about this opportunity and will be posting more about my experiences. I am also committed to devoting more energy to blogging now that summer is over. In retrospect I know now that I really needed some time off to recharge my batteries, rediscover what excites me, and most importantly, be a full time parent again. It’s been a great summer for me and like all the kids going back to school after Labor Day, I too am heading back into the breech. It’s gonna be a fun ride.

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