Archive for February, 2006

First podcast

Friday, February 10th, 2006

Rebekah Wu of Right Hand Partners provides a number of excellent services for budding entrepreneurs who want to be introduced to venture capitalists. I have attended a number of her events, and found the quality to be quite high. She also profiles various VCs she works with, and a while ago she interviewed me (direct mp3 link here). If you have 17 minutes to spare, this is a great way to get introduced to me and my entrepreneurial philosophy. Of course, the areas that I am interested in investing in change over time, but the basic advice for entrepreneurs does not.

RHP Tom Shields Interview (mp3)

Emerging Telephony conference

Friday, February 3rd, 2006

Spent most of a day at the O’Reilly Emerging Telephony conference. I found several sessions very cool, and like the way the trends seem to be pointing. Generally these tech conferences result in more education and interesting ideas than actual investment opportunities, which is still a good longer term investment of my time. I thought the coolest hack was playing Zork by voice – I used to love Zork, and recently found a version for my Blackberry.

My main takeaway is that between VoIP infrastructure, and clever ways to do carrier-avoidance, the telephone as a platform is opening up in ways that the incumbents have long tried to prevent. This is producing lots of interesting experimentation. There are many similarities to the Internet in this process, and lots smarter people than me have researched this. I did draw a few conclusions though: like the Internet, identity and security are problems that still beg for solutions. Also interface richness, particularly with handheld devices, is a major problem.

It seems to me that to get to the next level of maturity as a platform, there are a few fundamental ecosystem players that still need to emerge. For example, there’s no good payment system like Paypal, nor is there a commerce platform like Ebay. I’m also looking for the AdSense equivalent, to power some of these experiments. Finally, I’d be interested to see more collaboration tools for remote workers.

We are actively looking at investment opportunities in this area, and have focused on building relationships at carriers, equipment providers, and startups to continue to learn more. We are also helping to create resources for our existing portfolio companies in this space, which include SS8, Azaire, and Borderware.

What’s an Oxyfish?

Wednesday, February 1st, 2006

Old Cell Phone Back in 1994 I decided to get a cellphone (bear with me – this is relevant). The Motorola flip phones were new, and much smaller than the bricks of previous years. I called AT&T, and they asked me what area code did I want? 650 was still relatively new, and 415 seemed to have more cachet, so I went with that. Then they told me my exchange would be 699, but I did have the opportunity to pick the last 4 digits. I had the idea that I wanted them to spell a 4 letter word, because my college number had ended in DUKE. We spent at least 15 minutes on different combinations, starting with me thinking of words and converting them to numbers, and her looking to see if they were available. Soon we switched to her telling me available combos, with me rapidly writing down possible letter subsitutions and seeing if I could form a word. Finally we hit FISH and I said okay.

After the phone came, I figured out that 699 could be spelled OXY, so I started telling people my phone number was OXYFISH. For a while it was my password, too, but soon I figured out what a dumb idea that was. Now, more than ten years later, quite a number of people associate me with oxyfish, so I decided to embrace it. Besides, the domain was available. 🙂