Posts from October 2004

Birthday Boys

There’s something about October 30th.

It happens to be the birthday of not one, but two, important people in my life. My partner and my brother.

Happy Birthday Ted!

Happy Birthday Brad!

Seen Your Video

“Seen Your Video, We Don’t Want To Know” – The Replacements

There’s a lot of people who don’t want to know what its like to be poor and at war in this country, including our chicken hawk, draft dodging president.

If you do want to know, go watch Eminen’s new video – Mosh.

I love this guy and his music. And he makes a powerful statement about the importance of voting. Regardless of the failings of our democracy, the ability of an artist to make something like this that is so critical of our president is a testament to the wisdom of our founding fathers.

Thanks to the Gotham Gal for pointing this one out to me.

Nader on Bush

Ralph Nader called George W. Bush a “a chicken hawk, draft-dodging, messianic militarist presiding over a no-fault government.”

Well if he feels that way, why is he siphoning off votes from the only viable alternative to Bush?

In Minnesota, Nader is polling 5% of the vote.

Voter Fraud?

I read all these news articles about the challenges of operating a clean election. We’ve got a ton of new voters registered in this presidential election cycle. That should be a good thing, right? But it’s not because they might be “fraudulent”.

So we’ve need thousands of temporary poll workers, we have lawyers being assigned to polling places, we’ve got volunteers to challenge the validity of voters, and we’ve got volunteers to challenge the challengers.

This is nuts. The Republicans fear that the Democrats are going to “stuff the ballot box”, that they are manufacturing voters somehow. The Democrats fear the Republicans are going to intimidate and confuse uneducated voters into not voting.

Maybe I am naïve about stuff like this, but I really don’t understand why we can’t have a one person, one vote system that works relatively simply. Why do we need registration at all? If you’ve got a social security number or a driver’s license, why shouldn’t you just be able to show up and vote?

That would be a true democracy in my mind.

The Talent Economy

An interesting and predictable thing is happening in the technology startup business these days.

From 1997 through the end of 2000, we had a situation where every company struggled to hire and retain its best employees. But we also had a huge number of people deciding they wanted to get into the high tech startup business so there was always a source of new talent. Developers and engineers were often the most difficult hires because there was a limited ability to go outside the tech industry to find them.

From 2001 through the end of 2003, we had a radically different situation. Jobs were hard to find in the technology startup business, and those who had good jobs in stable technology companies were not likely to leave them. Many of the people who flooded into the technology startup business in the 1999/2000 period left it just as quickly.

This year its starting to feel more like the 1997 to 2000 period again. We are seeing turnover of people in our portfolio companies again. Talented employees are leaving for new opportunities elsewhere.

But I don’t think this is entirely a bad thing. Sure a stable work force is critical for every company, but some new blood is also a good thing. I like to say that nobody is irreplaceable. If they are, you don’t have a company, you’ve got rock star.

The excitement of working for a young high growth company is back in vogue and we are recruiting new people into the tech industry again from more established industries and bigger companies. That is sometimes a good thing and sometimes a bad thing. This “new blood” brings skills, relationships, and new ways of looking at things. But they also bring bad habits like needing lots of resources to get anything done, big expense accounts, and bureaucracy. I think companies need to “tread carefully” when hiring out of bigger companies.

The other issue that is coming into play for many companies is the issue of hiring from within versus recruiting from outside. Many small high growth companies just don’t have a big enough work force to be able to hire from within as a matter of practice. But it’s always a good idea to look inside the company for someone who can fill a role before going outside. It creates a stronger culture and keeps talented people motivated and energized.

The CEOs who survived the downturn with their companies intact proved that they were tenacious, creative, hard nosed, and financially savvy. Now they are waking up to find out that the game has changed. They have to start focusing on the people side of the business a lot more. Hiring, managing, and retaining the talent is back at the top of the priority list.

Joe’s Closed???

I’ve been travelling the past couple days and I read today on The Gotham Gal’s blog that Joe’s Pizza closed. That is a travesty of the highest order. The village just won’t be the same without Joe’s on the corner of Bleeker and Carmine.

The Sleepy Jackson

This could be a post about my brother Ted (aka Jackson) when he wakes up. But it’s not.

It’s about a band called The Sleepy Jackson that my sister-in-law Susan turned us on to.

We’ve been listening to them on and off for the past couple months. I put them on my iPod for the flight from LA to Pittsburgh, and decided to blog about them.

Here are the influences I hear; Velvet Underground (not surprising, it seems they are on everyone’s influence list), Beatles, Wilco (or maybe Uncle Tupelo). There’s even some David Bowie and Rolling Stones in there.

There’s a lot to like in this music. If you like new artists who package up sounds from the sixties and seventies, I think you’ll like this band. You can get their album Lovers at Amazon.

CEO Blogs

Seth Godin has a post up that says CEO’s probably shouldn’t blog. I disagree with him. I think CEOs should blog as a way to supplement the communication they do every day with their employees, customers, partners, and investors. Two really good examples of CEO blogs are Matt Blumberg’s blog and Steve Goldstein’s blog.

If you go read them, you’ll see that they are full of thoughts about each CEO’s business, their market, industry trends, and more. They have an opinion and are interesting reads. Put yourself in the shoes of an employee or a big customer and you can see the value of these blogs.

Seth says blogs work best when they exhibit the following characteristics, which he goes on to say are not standard characteristics of CEOs:

Candor
Urgency
Timeliness
Pithiness
Controversy

For a blog that is seeking a large audience, I think these characteristics are important, but not all blogs need a large audience to be worthwhile. CEO blogs can serve a smaller audience and serve an important purpose.

Plus, I think that great CEOs display Candor, Urgency, and Timeliness in spades. Pithiness and Controversy wouldn’t be on my wish list, but the first three certainly are.

Blogs – Wall Street Wakes Up

Last October, I decided to start blogging because I thought there was something interesting happening and the only way I know how to figure something out is to do it. I was captured by the “transparency” of blogging and the result is this blog.

Well, about a year later Wall Street is waking up to the same thing. Not suprisingly its being led by Mary Meeker who, despite all heat she took after the bubble burst, is one of the smartest analysts on Wall Street working in the technology and internet sector. I’d also put Safa Rashtchy from Piper Jaffray and a few others on my short list. But regardless, Mary is someone I pay attention to.

She just issued a report, nominally about Yahoo! and its embrace of RSS, but its really a report about blogging and RSS and the impact on Yahoo! and the other content aggregators. Mary concludes that blogging and RSS are important and will be a big driver of revenues for some companies going forward. She points to Yahoo! and Google as two obvious beneficiaries, but also looks to emerging business models that can create meaninful revenues for the bloggers themselves.

I won’t try to summarize the main points of the report. If you are interested, go read it. It’s freely available on Morgan Stanley’s website.

But I do have a question that I’d pose to Mary – Why doesn’t she have a blog herself?