February 16, 2006 SDF SEM SIG Sticky Issues

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Bad Bosses Are Big Business

Marilyn Manning spoke to the Software Engineering Management SIG about handling difficult workplace issues. Imagine. There are so many mismanaged companies that someone actually makes a living pointing it out. I was fascinated when she talked about mutinies, when entire departments go over their manager’s head to complain. In some cases they quit. You have to remember the founders of Fairchild Semiconductor who were called traitors when they formed their own company. I take this as a sign of rebirth in Silicon Valley.

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February 14, 2006 SDF Silicon Automobile

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The Silicon Automobile
By DJ Cline

On Tuesday February 14, 2006 at the Emerging Technology SIG hosted a panel to talk about the silicon automobile. Dave Bricetti hosted a panel consisting of John Nagle, Ajay Juneja, Mark Chambers and Raffi Krikorian, all experts at various automobile frontiers.

John Nagle talked about the October 2005 Darpa Grand Challenge Competition in the Mojave Desert. He showed pictures and video of prototypes crashing into fences, inching past orange traffic cones, and some actually completing trials. GPS, range finding and hardened computers are the keys to driverless vehicles.

Ajay Juneja, founder and CEO of Speak With Me dealt with speech recognition and decision trees. He demonstrated the differences between interacting with his system and various competitors. Later, he backed up his demonstration by showing his own car’s configuration.

Mark Chambers a Product Marketing Engineer, presented how Intel’s view of how infotainment would work in vehicles, focusing on safety, reliability and ease of use.

Raffi Krikorian, founding partner of Synthesis Studios, left a Boston blizzard to demonstrate an intriguing navigation application similar to GoogleMaps with three-dimensional images. The application can show you precisely the correct lane to take an exit.

The panel agreed the immediate advances would occur in entertainment, with displays, interfaces and audio. A car that will take you wherever you want without ever touching the controls will require more social than technological progress.

DJ Cline
Copyright 2006 All rights reserved.

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February 8, 2006 SDF Ads Search

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All Your Ads Belong To Us

Google hosted a Search SIG on classified advertisement. Hosted by Greg Sterling of the Kelsey Group, the panel consisted of Google’s Bindu Reddy, Oodle’s Craig Donato, Edgeio’s Keith Teare. Basically an ad posted anywhere on the web can be chopped sliced and diced to appear anywhere else on the web, making it easier to connect buyers with sellers.

Copyright 2007 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

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January 23, 2006 SDF Collab SIG Kickoff

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Collaboration SIG:

Building Communities That Work Together

By DJ Cline

Since the start of the year, Pillsbury Winthrop is hosting a Collaboration SIG in their Palo Alto offices, organized by Eugene Eric Kim, Scott McMullan, Charles Welsh, and Patti Wilson. This new SIG focuses on how people network together to achieve common and individual goals. People at the Collaboration SIG create an interesting mix of technology, business and social skills in one of the more potentially useful networks in Silicon Valley

On January 23, 2006, the topic was “How Hackers Collaborate”. The first meeting was remarkable because it showed how digital communities have developed from the 1960’s to today. Pioneers Lee Felsenstein of the Homebrew Computer Club and Jim Warren of the West Coast Computer Faire rubbed elbows with the new vanguard of David Weekly and Jim Lindsay of SuperHappyDevHouse. When people voluntarily come together to form a community, great things can happen quickly. No matter what generation, great collaborators know how to party.

On March 27, 2006, the topic was “Analyzing Social Networks”. The presentations by Don Steiny of ISNAE and Harald Katzmair of FAS Research echoed the work by Charles Armstrong of Trampoline and Liz Turner of Ephidrina. The moment you define a network, you may limit your findings. The classic example was a salesman who had few contacts inside his company. On a diagram he appeared as an isolated node on the social network, so they let him go. If they had checked, they would have found out he was part of an extraordinary outside sales network. People who network with other networks are very important in making crucial connections and decisions. It’s not what you node, but who you node. The Collaboration SIG is a great place to start.

DJ Cline
Copyright 2006 All rights reserved.

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November 16, 2005 SDF Innovation

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The Foundation of Innovation
By DJ Cline

On Wednesday, November 16, 2005, SDForum held a special event on the Foundation of Innovation at SAP’s Palo Alto headquarters. The goal was to show how innovators interact closely and better understand customer problems to create profitable solutions.

The Workshop

Luke Hohmann of Enthiosys held an innovation workshop where total strangers were assembled in teams to brainstorm new products with cardboard boxes, markers and glue. Drawing on the table covered with large piece of paper was mandatory. The process is certainly fun and will be described in a book coming out next year. Watching just the process itself would make a great reality show. One idea was the iDream, a clock radio that lets you choose, download and display your dreams.

The Panel Discussion

Michael Copeland of Business 2.0 moderated a panel on innovation with
Brett Murray of Apple, Matt Halloway of SAP, and Tom Kippola of Chasm Group.
All agreed a corporate culture of shared vision encourages innovation and execution.

Brett Murray said Apple learns from the frustrations of customers and how to create a positive, seamless experience. Get the product out there and find out what improvements they want for future releases. Steve Jobs provides the leadership that drives that process.

Matt Halloway said SAP thinks the end user has to see the value of the innovation. SAP engineers actually interact with users and learn about the complexity of process a user has to deal with. Watch what customers do, not just what they say and quickly act on that feedback.

Tom Kippola of Chasm Group said Silicon Valley is very good at finding uses for disruptive technologies that may have no previous context. He quoted Henry Ford who said, “If I asked them what they wanted, they would have asked for faster horses.”
He gave an example of a corporate campus Wi-Fi network that had better applications for police or fire departments.

The Keynote

Bob Sutton, Stanford professor and IDEO Fellow, talked about ideas from his book, Weird Ideas That Work. He said innovation does not travel in a straight line, and requires new ways of thinking to bring products to market. Getting the right people for innovation contradicts traditional management principles. Human resource professionals are trained to screen out or drive out such people. Innovators are slow to learn the way your company does things. They make you uncomfortable. You think you don’t need them. They ignore or defy their bosses. Talented people argue constructively with fellow employees and develop better ideas. You cannot innovate without the risk of failure. Reward people for success and failure, but punish them for inaction. These strategies may destroy some companies, but if they don’t implement them, they are going to be destroyed by a competitor that can innovate.

DJ Cline
Copyright 2006 All rights reserved.

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November 15, 2005 SDF Eric Zankman

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Case Study for Reaping Higher Profits and Retention
By DJ Cline

On Tuesday, November 15, 2005, at the Business Intelligence SIG, Eric Zankman presented a case study for reaping profits and retaining customers.

After graduating from MIT, Mr. Zankman, earned an MBA from the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley. Moving to Bank of America as an Operations Research Consultant, Zankman developed customer management strategies for marketing, retention, and credit risk. He worked the next 12 years at American Management Systems (AMS), as Analytics Practice Leader, Coordinator of CRM Knowledge Center, and Senior Subject Matter. He crafted marketing and retention strategies, developed credit policies, and optimized customer service operations for large organizations.

Eric Zankman is now a customer management consultant with a record of improving profitability for some of the largest US and international firms by applying data mining, predictive modeling, customer segmentation, experimental design, and optimization.

Gathering data is no longer the problem, making sense of it is. Despite big spending in business intelligence and customer analytics, applying insights on the customer life cycle and maximizing it into a return on investment is difficult.

Zankman can tell you what customers want and what you can do about it. He is able to determine which customers are worth pursuing. His case study worked for a telecom, but will work anywhere there are customers. The telecom wanted to identify low risk, loyal customers, but had no customer analytics process to do it.

Before starting, he got IT involved, made sure the data was cleansed (scrubbed) by experienced data migration specialists, insured a dedicated analytical staff and budget, and made it clear that this was an evolving process.

He discussed the key components of customer analytics. They created a datamart from customer billing and collections data. They built 12 predictive risk models forecasting from three months of payments. They then segmented customers between low or high risk. They developed target strategies toward desirable customers. He discovered that offending low risk customers makes them high-risk and are best left alone. Chronic high-risk customers ironically seem easier to work with. They designed champion/challenger strategy tests in low, medium and high-risk matrix, comparing how well customers paid versus how much they owed. They performed cost benefit trade-offs by actually tracking the cost of each strategy like calling versus mailing a customer. They could then quantify the business benefits with a measurable reduction in delinquencies by over 15 percent.

The results were happier low-risk customers, lower recovery costs and higher profitability. The client was so happy about the result that they have worked with Zankman to present his findings around the country.

DJ Cline
Copyright 2006 All rights reserved.

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November 9, 2005 SDF SAP’s Shai Agassi

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Strategy and Vision: SAP’s Shai Agassi
By DJ Cline

On Wednesday, November 9, 2005, at a special SDForum Event in partnership with the ‘s strategy and vision.

Agassi began programming as a child. At 14, his father promised to buy him an Apple II computer in exchange for ten percent of his profits for the rest of his life (he kept his end of the bargain). He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Technion, the Israel Institute of Technology. By 24, he started the first of four companies (TopTier) that he sold to SAP in 2001 for $400 million. He is now the youngest member of their Executive Board and president of SAP’s Product and Technology Group in Palo Alto. In his current position, he is betting on a services-based approach with Enterprise Services Architecture (ESA).

ESA impacts many products besides the SAP NetWeaver platform, what many consider the key component. It affects every product from mySAP Business Suite and SAP xApps to SAP Business One. Everything from CRM, supply chain, infrastructure, and composite applications to small business applications will change.

He described the consolidation and mergers in the database market as “pirates in the water” and his job is to sail faster. Otherwise, they take your stuff and put you on their boat. It is important to partner 98 percent of the time and compete hard in the last two percent. He thinks Microsoft sees gravity not size as the more important enemy. He thinks Oracle sees the database market as a mature industry with little new growth.

SAP believes that a lot of cross-pollination is about to happen. A common set of process backbones with the level of abstraction moving from the database layer to the object layer like NetWeaver. This migration and commoditization can be seen in the offering of essentially free databases at the bottom of the market. An important shift will be running the database from ‘on disk’ to ‘in memory’ for master data management, An example might be Google’s massive document storage condensed into a smaller data store, making the core of what Oracle does secondary.

In the 1990’s, the trend was that sales, manufacturing, distribution in a company would all have their own data silos to operate in. Having the ‘best of breed’ for their particular silos would hopefully improve the overall performance of the company. Agassi saw the need for integrated flow across the board. In 2004, NetWeaver 4.0 was the first homogenous release, opening up SAP’s backbone to any programmer who wants to develop on top of it. A community of over a thousand developers now build integration into the products on open market standards.

As for the jobless recovery, he says it takes an hour to drive from Los Gatos to Palo Alto. If there are no jobs, there are lots of unemployed people driving to very distant Starbucks. Silicon Valley is the only place that has the right combination of money, brains and infrastructure to innovate. It is the only place where you can find an individual who has worked in every phase of the business. He looks for people who start in product development, move on to sales or marketing, become CEO and then entrepreneur in residence at a large company. With over 25 years of experience, such people have learned leadership where he can say ‘go build me this business and I need it to be 200 million dollars in two years and you figure out how’.

The way to combat outsourcing is with automation. Customer support can be self-service and not in India or Indiana. For America to remain competitive, education infrastructure will be important but resiliency is too. America has a very resilient system that can avoid the kind of large corrections that may occur in China or Europe. No matter where they do business, it is important that ownership of the task is local. Local teams have local managers.

Asked whether he would wind up moving to corporate headquarters in Germany, he said the founder of SAP forbids him to move from Palo Alto. The reason they are successful is that we have people everywhere who know the local network and can bring in the next layer of leaders.

As an example of how globalization can improve relations, he talked about hosting the German president in his company headquarters in Israel. An SAP employee in Palo Alto pointed out that they had built a great relationship around innovation. They see themselves as one team, building a bridge to the future.

DJ Cline
Copyright 2006 All rights reserved.

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November 8, 2005 SDF Greasemonkey

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Greasemonkey: DIY Web Development
By DJ Cline

On Tuesday, November 8, 2005, at the Emerging Technology SIG, . His philosophy is to find a problem, fix a problem. For the past five years Broodman is best known for fixing web applications with JavaScript, DHTML and AJAX. Currently developing front-end projects for Google, he also authors the blog youngpup.net about web development, open source JavaScript libraries and now Greasemonkey.

He says Greasemonkey is a hack, a user script manager for application providers. This Firefox extension is for client side modification of web pages. The official repository lists scripts that can modify or integrate hundreds of sites. Basically, these bits of code allow you to control what you want (and don’t want) on your browser.

These hacks all have different functions that are easy to modify on any platform. Linkify makes hyperlinks hot so you can click on them. Book Burro allows you to compare Amazon book prices with other sellers or even see if it is available at your local library. You can preview e-mails on Gmail, a feature not available by Google yet.

You do not have to be a professional programmer, he wants people to play with it and open up the static webpage idea. There are Greasemonkey APIs to find code written by other developers that you can modify, provided that you make it available to someone else. There are browser APIs, remote APIs, and webpage APIs, Patches are quickly made available by a community of developers. He recommends the latest release 0.6, even though it will not run on the latest release of Firefox 1.5 at this time. Broodman says it is being worked on. Browser compatibility is being worked on for Internet Explorer, Opera and Safari.

There is even something called MonkeyGrease that is supposed to be the opposite of Greasemonkey. It runs on Java servers of enterprise systems for internal websites. The fact that web pages can be changed does not bother him. He says HTML is a suggestion and always has been.

DJ Cline
Copyright 2006 All rights reserved.

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Commentary – October 30, 2005

Star Trek’s George Takei came out. He has gone where at least some men have gone before, the fabulous frontier. I guess all those K/S books missed the mark.

Civil rights hero Rosa Parks is dead. Her body lies in state in the Capitol Rotunda. Can you imagine her sitting next to a surprised Strom Thurmond on the way to the pearly gates?

The Bush Administration’s Scooter Libby has been indicted. The rest of the Muppets are shocked.

There’s been a lot of discussion recently about peak oil. I am sure that in the 1850s there was a lot of talk about peak whale oil. Herman Melville’s Moby Dick could be interpreted as a story about a greedy pursuit of diminishing offshore source of energy. Then came the oil strike at Titusville. Let me know when we reach peak coal.

There’s so much to worry about it that Sanjay Khanna, author of Only The Paranoid Survive, is writing a new book about the increasing level of anxiety in society. His presentation at the Future Salon was impressive but caused more anxiety. This will explain my camera work of the event, which resembles a security camera at a convenience store. I look forward to his book.

Also on the anxiety list, it is Halloween. There has been a lot of talk about whether it is dangerous for kids getting into the Goth scene. I talked to some experts who said that there many factors contributing to something as terrible as defense attorney Daniel Horowitz’s tragedy. Alone they may mean nothing, together they raise a heavy mascara eyebrow:

  1. Death in the family, violent or even by grisly accident. Did they start dressing up after that incident?
  2. Drug or alcohol abuse, prescription or otherwise.
  3. A history of violence or abuse. Were the police called? Did they assault a police officer?
  4. Inability to sustain long-term relationships. Did the last partner move across state lines to a gated community in the desert?
  5. Violent video games. Do they earn top scores for shooting storm troopers?
  6. Weapons of any kind in the house. If they don’t have them, they can’t use them.
  7. Stunted emotional growth. Are they pushing forty and still walking around like an angry mime on a weeknight at 3:00 AM?
  8. Reactions to being raised in a strict belief system. Are they just doing it as an act of rebellion or is it something else?
  9. Deliberately misconstruing humorous comments. Can’t take a joke.
  10. Secretive behavior. Telling associates not to gossip about them.

On to other business

October’s SDForum Emerging Technology SIG talked about new business opportunities leveraging web APIs. Scott Irwin from El Dorado Ventures moderated the panel. It consisted of Adam Trachtenberg of E-Bay, Chris DiBona of Google APIs, Jeff Barr of Amazon Web Services, Robert Goldberg of IdeaLab, Toni Schneider of Yahoo APIs, John Rodkin, CEO of F2 (a new startup using Web APIs). One thing they could agree on was the coming November 8th meeting about Grease Monkey. When all these people agree about something it is worth looking into at SDForum.org

William H. Draper III, Managing Director of Draper Richards, L.P. talked about his experiences in venture capital in India. Draper chose to invest in India over China for its democracy and rule of law. English speaking India had an advantage in developing software. Draper then rounded up the funds and found local partners to run the business. After six years they were able to return 16 times their original investment. Amazing as that was, Draper regrets not investing more in Infosys, which performed even better. He thinks India’s long-term growth depends on new infrastructure funded by an income tax.

If you want to know more about high finance, STC has a workshop in Santa Clara on Saturday November 5, 2005 from 1- 5 PM. called What Technical Communicators Need To Know About Financial Accounting. Marie Highby, co-founder of 2Mules, former STC treasurer and chapter president, will talk about the language of business and how to interact with upper management on a professional level. To register, go to www.stc-siliconvalley.org

DJ Cline Commentary 10-30-05
Copyright 2005 All rights reserved.

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October 17, 2005 SDF William H. Draper III

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Venturing Abroad: From India to Skype
By DJ Cline

On Monday, October 17, 2005, William H. Draper III, Managing Director of , L.P. talked about his experiences in venture capital. International SIG chairs Jeannine Athas, Susan Lucas-Conwell and Alex Sousa organized the event. Bingham McCutchen partner Bart Deamer, which hosted the luncheon, introduced Draper.

When he started out in Silicon Valley in the 1950s, Draper said he would knock on the door of any business that didn’t grow prunes. It was fertile ground for orchards, not venture capitalists, but he recognized the right time, place and opportunity before anyone else. The same strategy would apply when he went international.

Draper’s experience with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) as well as the Export-Import Bank of the United States has made him a strong advocate for global investment. His limited partnership Draper International, invested in private companies with operations in India.

Draper chose India over China for a number of reasons. Witnessing China’s dramatic turnaround twenty-five years ago, he believes Deng Xiao Peng’s reforms changed the world in the twentieth century more than Albert Einstein. Despite that and China’s investment in infrastructure, he chose India for its democracy and rule of law. English speaking Indians had an advantage in developing software. Draper then rounded up the funds and found local partners to run the business. After six years they were able to return 16 times their original investment. Amazing as that was, Draper regrets not investing more in Infosys, which performed even better. He thinks India’s long-term growth depends on new infrastructure funded by an income tax. Developing countries with large agricultural populations would benefit if developed countries removed their own farm subsidies, creating incentives and opening markets.

It was through people he met in India that led to Europe and the creators of Kazaa. From that meeting, a business plan for Skype was born. It was not particularly capital intensive, which he believes is good sign for venture capital. After Tim Draper’s firm got involved, the E-Bay deal came through. It is this kind of thousand-for-one deal that keeps Draper in the game. Why play golf when this is so much fun?

Draper outlined some of his lessons for venture capital:
1. Get entrepreneurs who can take you all the way to the moon, half there doesn’t cut it.
2. Entrepreneurs should be able to quickly share the good news and the bad.
3. A good team will have the imagination, creativity and energy to solve a problem.
4. Entrepreneurs must be persuasive, persistent and passionate promoting a new idea.
5. Investors should keep perspective and not be hypnotized.
6. If you can’t make ten times your money, you don’t want to do this deal.
7. Investments and returns are not overnight transactions. They take time and work. Evergreen funds spread risk and promote teamwork at a venture capital firm.
8. Markets have limits. No one is going to make get rich selling all the asparagus in the world over the Internet.
9. No deal is as important as your reputation. Be aware of the slippery slope. People must trust you enough to invest again.
10. Have fun.

DJ Cline
Copyright 2006 All rights reserved.

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October 11, 2005 SDF Leveraging Web APIs

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New Business Opportunities: Leveraging Web APIs
By DJ Cline

On Tuesday October 11, 2005 at the Emerging Technology SIG hosted a panel to talk about new business opportunities leveraging web APIs. Scott Irwin from El Dorado Ventures moderated the panel of heavy hitters in front of a jam-packed crowd. It consisted of Adam Trachtenberg of E-Bay, Chris DiBona of Google APIs, Jeff Barr of Amazon Web Services, Robert Goldberg of IdeaLab, Toni Schneider of Yahoo APIs, John Rodkin, CEO of F2 (a new startup using web APIs).

For the past three years, more companies like Amazon, E-Bay, Google and Yahoo are offering web services APIs with more features and functionality to independent developers. The panel talked about their strategies for encouraging new startups like IdeaLab that are recognizing and changing the industry’s infrastructure.

E-Bay believes their acquisitions of PayPal and Skype complement each other and create a space for innovation. They supply over a hundred web APIs free, with over 20 percent of them generated by third parties.

Google thinks the trend is to recreate the desktop experience using the web by creating a simple baseline of code and making it widely available. Their success with Google Maps is in an example of third party developers taking a simple API and adapting it to their own uses, like finding restaurants or apartments.

Amazon talked about ECS, Alexa Web information Service (AWIS) and Simple Queue Service (SQS). They believe their demos can show developers how to build their own stores in hours.

Yahoo offers outbound and inbound openness for developers. Outbound is for APIs and web development for user groups and news. Inbound is for publishing into the Yahoo network, using RSS feeds to push content into the network. The result has been the success of Flickr for photos and the promise of Confabulator for pulling data and displays outside of browser.

IdeaLab has worked with Yahoo to collect data from the commons and create APIs to search, find and act on the that data.

There was a general agreement that more standards are needed and that each API requires unique wrappers for each environment. XML is the becoming the one standard they could all agree upon. To encourage user trust, data should be portable and not proprietary. You should be able to take it with you. As for tools, Greasemonkey was agreed to have the greatest potential. Finally, for making money, ads are the proven way to go. Riskier strategies mentioned were vertical selling like movie tickets, finding ways to drive traffic, scraping sites, or writing tailored scripts for niche markets.

DJ Cline
Copyright 2006 All rights reserved.

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September 22, 2005 SDF Ray Kurzweil

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On Thursday September 22, 2005, Ray Kurzweil spoke at a special SDForum event at SAP’s Palo Alto headquarters. Introduced by Steve Jurvetson, Managing Director of Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Kurzweil talked about his latest book, The Singularity Is Near.

Since the 1970s, Kurzweil has pushed at the frontiers of technological development. He developed optical character readers, print-to-speech readers for the blind, music synthesizers and large-vocabulary speech recognition products. Combining his own direct experience and observing the rapid technological innovation around him, he wrote a series of books detailing his view of the future. Kurzweil believes that machine intelligence will someday be greater than human intelligence, resulting in what he calls the Singularity.

Moore’s Law is only part of the process he sees coming together. There will be exponential and synergistic growth beyond the limits of price, performance and bandwidth. He thinks nanotechnology and assistive technology will augment the way humans perform. He considers the understanding of DNA as software as an important breakthrough in extending human life. DNA is an example of self-organizing systems becoming complex from a few simple rules. Artificial intelligence could develop along the same lines by studying the human brain.

Scanning brain activity will help map out and create software models of the human mind. Reverse engineering of the brain will create blueprints for artificial intelligence. By 2020, there might be enough computing power to simulate a single human brain, but eventually there will be enough power to exceed the capacity of every person on the planet.

When will this happen? Predicting the success of a specific technology or product is difficult, but Kurzweil casts a wide net and can come back with some general predictions.
He made his argument using a series of charts with exponential lines and cascading S-curves marching inevitably toward Singularity. While the Agricultural Revolution took thousands of years and the Industrial Revolution took hundreds, the Information Revolution will take only a generation or two. Kurzweil says Singularity is near, possibly by 2045.

In the near future, he showed a demonstration of a simultaneous language translator from Europe. Google is working on a data driven model that would equal professional human translators. Such technology could easily transform doing business on a global scale. Nanotubes could be used to create three-dimensional circuits to add speed. Neurological implants can download software to treat Parkinson’s disease. Nanotechnology could create artificial red blood cells called respirocytes to carry oxygen or microbovores to fight infection.

Farther into the future, people will be able to immerse themselves in virtual realities and share them with others with what he called experience beamers. Virtual versions of people could be backed up on a network and downloaded when needed. Of course, this opens the possibility of employees being downloaded and downsized.

When asked if such software would be Windows or Linux, he said there would be a future for both open source and proprietary software. My advice? Start backing up your files, the Singularity is near.

DJ Cline
Copyright 2006 All rights reserved.

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February 15, 2005 SDF Tom Siebel

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Tom Siebel: Lessons in Leadership

On Tuesday, February 15, 2005, Tom Seibel talked about leadership at Santa Clara’s Network Meeting Center.

Siebel moved from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to Oracle in the early 1980s, when relational databases were more theoretical than practical. For the rest of that decade, he helped build Oracle into a market leader. When he started, Oracle had 40 employees. When he left, it had 12,000. By the 1990s, Siebel was CEO of multimedia pioneer Gain Technology, merging with Sybase in 1992. The next year he founded Siebel Systems and created the entirely new industry of Customer Resource Management (CRM).

Successful people tend to be perfectionists about what they do. They find an opportunity and execute. He observed and took advantage of the opportunities at Oracle, Gain and Siebel Systems.

For CRM, Siebel saw an unexpected opportunity. He says if you have an idea, don’t get talked out of it, just do it. There was a need for customer service applications and that no one else was addressing. Despite the automation of processes like payroll or manufacturing, there was nothing comparable for sales or marketing. Siebel started out with people he had worked with before and $50,000. They leased an office in East Palo Alto for 11 cents a square foot, stocked it with used furniture and PCs. For the next year they interviewed potential customers about their needs, from Amgen to Cisco. They asked if you wanted to do this or that, what would it look like? From that, they developed a prototype from the customer’s expectations. Siebel sees the success of his business as customer satisfaction. Find out what they want and deliver it.

Sounding like Mr. Micawber from David Copperfield, Siebel said the key to success is to make a profit. If you make more than you spend you will succeed. In 1994, the company made $50,000. When he stepped down as CEO in 2004, it made $1.5 billion with $2.3 billion in cash. They grew from that first application to 400 products in 25 languages.

Siebel believes an important part of such success is human capital. Recruit and train the right people. No gadget or technology will solve the problem faster than the right team. To motivate people, reward them with employee ownership. When he started the company, he owned 100%, today only 10%. Giving employees a stake in the company gives them a stake in its success. While he recognizes the contributions of venture capitalists, the right idea with motivated people in a large and underserved market can win. Siebel is perplexed why this has become unfashionable. He is concerned that the current tax and regulatory environment in Silicon Valley does not encourage new business.

He thinks that China and India have enormous opportunities for entrepreneurs. Web Services will be as big as the Internet. As for possible piracy and IP considerations, in the future there are no secrets, so deliver a good product. Your people will make the difference. They buy your products, they want your people.

As for leadership, lead by example. Be ethical, have a strong work ethic and work harder than anybody else. If a customer has a problem, drop everything, find out what it is and solve it.

Siebel had an interesting statistic about market share. When you become market leader with a 50% share, your next largest competitor will have 15% and the next will have 10%. He said he sees this again and again. If the market goes through a normal boom/bust cycle, only the market leader will be making a profit. In some ways, it resembles Jack Welch’s strategy at GE in the 1980s, where he recommended pulling out of any market they were not the leader.

Siebel did not think the Oracle takeover of Peoplesoft would go well. He said it might be worse than HP’s merger with Compaq. He thinks it is hard to motivate people if you say you are going to fire them and kill their product line. When told he was on Oracle’s takeover list, he said he was flattered.

Siebel also explained the urban legend of the Siebel dress code. He believes that when a customer from anywhere in the world shows up at your door, your people should have an appropriate appearance. Part of customer satisfaction is that you should adjust to the customer’s expectations, not yours. This was in stark contrast to the t-shirt and sneakers, bring your dog to work culture of the dot-com boom, but those companies are gone and his has prospered.

When selling, know your stuff and then learn their stuff. The difference between a car salesman and software salesman is that the car salesman knows when he is lying. Eventually, a customer will know too.

DJ Cline
Copyright 2006 All rights reserved.

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About Town

about town.jpg

About Town
by Ben Yagoda
Another exhaustive book about The New Yorker Magazine. Yagoda went through donated archives and comes up with a detailed story about how a magazine took shape and fossilized. A lesson to those who want to build a brand in publishing.

DJ Cline
Copyright 2005

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For Future Reference