Archive for June, 2005

Power Dogs of Silicon Valley

Posted: June 25, 2005 in Uncategorized

Today is a special day.  It was exactly five years ago today that the San Jose Mercury News ran their first "Power Dogs of Silicon Valley" list.

Someone recently commented on Otis & Foxy — the two Dobermans (Dobermen?) in the picture on my blog — and this reminded me of the anniversary.

Sadly, Otis & Foxy — twin brother & sister — passed away a few years back.  Before our daughter, they were like our first born.

Anyone that is a crazy animal lover out there would know what I’m talking about.

We used to joke that Otis "was a little boy trapped in a dog’s body."  Think of a dog with a conscience wanting to do good but always ending up with flour on his face.  That’s Otis.

Foxy, on the other hand, was the brain.  She knew how door knobs worked and could open any door.  We once found Foxy leading around Otis by a leash, true story.

Professionally, their proudest day was when they cracked this very competitive Top 10 list!

That’s why I chose that picture to put on my blog… I can’t help but look at it and have such fond memories.

I ran into Gordon Eubanks at this year’s SDForum’s Visionary event and reminded him of this anniversary and I can’t remember seeing Gordon smile so thoroughly and completely… seems it’s a good memory for all of us.


Here’s the Year 2000 Top 20 "Power Dogs of Silicon Valley" List:

(1)   CHIEF (John Hummer, Hummer Winblad Venture Partners)

(2)   ROCKY (T.J. Rodgers, Cypress Semiconductor)

(3)   NETWORK (Scott McNealy, Sun Microsystems)

(4)   ERNEST (Al Shugart, Seagate)

(5)   ROYAL SUNSET (Gordon Eubanks, Symantec)

(6)   BLEZA (David Hayden, Critical Path)

(7)   OTIS & FOXY (Royal & Laurie Farros)

(8)   ROCKET & RAMJET (Heidi Roizen, Mobius Venture Capital)

(9)   TULE & GHILLIE (Tom Jermoluk, Excite AtHome)

(10)  HOLLY & SNICKERS (Carol Bartz, Autodesk)

(11)  SHADOW (John Doerr, Kleiner Perkins)

(12)  CHOW (Steve Jobs, Apple Computers)

(13)  KUVASZE & LAB (Jim Clark, Netscape)

(14)  YORKSHIRE (Carly Fiorina, ex-Hewlett Packard)

(15)  CLAIRBORNE, LILY, & MILO (Marc Andreessen, Netscape)

(16)  SHEEP DOG (Vinod Khosla, Kleiner Perkins)

(17)  TAHOE (Brook Byers, Kleiner Perkins)

(18)  WINSTON (Katrina Garnett, Crossworlds Software)

(19)  POSEY (Jean Hollands, Growth & Leadership Center)

(20)  KOLA (Anita Borg, Institute for Women and Technology)


I wonder what this list would look like today?



My vote for "Best Conference/Wackiest Name" goes to Gnomedex, an absolutely brilliant, self-described "geek" conference which kicks off tonight and runs through Saturday night.

Kudos to everyone’s tech all-star Chris Pirillo for turning this into a "must attend" event…

…not because it’s the most formal or anally organized show… but rather because it’s not:  The show feels like a really great beta test of a tech conference in progress.

It’s clear that Gnomedex is really, truly about its audience.  Chris has the courage to change the speaker line-up at the last minute… heck, outright stop an on-going speaker discussion mid-stream if he thinks it’s not appealing to his beta testers.

As product people, adjusting (scrambling?) is a natural part of what we do on a daily basis.  I think that’s why this show feels so comfortable.  It shouldn’t work but somehow everything gets pulled together and turns out A-OK.

What’s the result? 

One of the best collection of movers & shakers & influencers & do-ers in the blogosphere.  Everyone’s fun, approachable, interesting… and interested in continuing the dialogue.

Good on you, Chris!


Didn’t know him, but Jack Kilby passed away yesterday.

Who is Jack Kilby you say?  Just the father of the entire technology industry.

Here’s a quick article about him.

I was blown away by this quote:

     "In my opinion, there are only a handful of people whose works have truly transformed the world and the way we live in it — Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, the Wright Brothers and Jack Kilby," TI chairman Tom Engibous said in a statement Tuesday.

Now that’s some company to keep.

Went on to say:

     "If there was ever a seminal invention that transformed not only our industry but our world, it was Jack’s invention of the first integrated circuit."

Wonder why he’s not more of a household name?


Lost in Transition, Part II

Posted: June 22, 2005 in Uncategorized

Here’s another danger in transitioning after an acquisition: 

     Office moves and short-term deadlines don’t mix.

No matter how well-intentioned, these two things are natural enemies in the wild. 

Common sense, no?


Lost In Transition

Posted: June 20, 2005 in Uncategorized

Something hasn’t felt right for a while.  Things have felt less intense.  Less satisfying.

One could reasonably chalk it up to a post-acquisition breather.

But, that’s not it.  I’ve been through these kind of events before and things have never quite felt this way.

I finally figured it out the other day:  It’s how you feel when you’re not thinking… not creating.

Life right after an acquisition is nothing but logistics:  Moving out of one office, into another.  Finalizing this.  Throwing away that.  Trying to get the adjustment on your chair right.  Figuring out what’s the best sandwich shop or closest bathroom.  New faces.  New names.  New dry cleaner.  New commute.  Learning new ways to do old things.

Essentially, a complete absence of creative thought.

I discovered this when I stood at a white board for the first time in about a month.

The white board is something I have always considered one of the greatest thinking inventions since the doodle pad.

You don’t stand in front of a white board to fill out a form or watch some training video or even draw.  You stand in front of a white board to think.

Suddenly things started moving again.  Synapses started firing.  Disparate pieces of information were coming together to create cogent ideas. 

I once again felt like a conductor, the erasable marker in my hand circling, dotting, and double underlining away, making the white surface in front of me sing with actual thought.

The old energy was back.  Amazing how much I missed thinking… ! 

I’m not saying these logistical things aren’t necessary — they are — but I wonder how much real productivity is lost in acquisition transition?


And the Winner Is…

Posted: June 16, 2005 in Uncategorized

SDForum, the hub of entrepreneurial activity in Silicon Valley for a couple decades, held the 2005 Visionary Awards last night at the thoroughly spectacular and fun home of my old business partner Heidi Roizen & David Mohler.

It’s a tough ticket to get… "CEO’s Only" kinda thing.

Measured by any standards, it’s a pretty impressive crowd.

SDForum’s Laura Merling, Barbara Cass, and crew did their usual amazing job creating one of the most special and memorable awards events in technology.

This year honored Carol Bartz (CEO of Autodesk), Bill Draper (the original west coast VC — also the original good guy in VC, too!), and Carly Fiorina — everyone’s head-scratching choice. 

Regardless of what you think of Carly, she is intelligent, approachable, and well-spoken.  I think she exhibited tremendous courage and poise, just what you’d expect in a CEO.

Also honored was fellow Microsoft employee Ray Ozzie

Ray’s company, Groove Networks, got acquired about a month before MessageCast, which makes Ray my senior at Microsoft by about 30 days… so he graciously volunteered to be my mentor at Microsoft… ! <smile>


Being Microsoft (v2)

Posted: June 10, 2005 in Uncategorized

My OMMA panel on Tuesday was spirited and included a cast of characters like Jason Calacanis of Weblogs and Jay Stockwell of Intelliseek (who’s a professional comedian in his spare time!).

The first thing you do on a panel is give a quick overview about what your company does.

For years, I would say, "I’m Royal Farros and my company, MessageCast, does real-time alerting."

I found myself blurting out my standard opening… but stumbled as I remember I’m now Microsoft.

I recovered by saying:  "I used to say that we did real-time alerting… but now that we’re Microsoft, I guess we pretty much do just about everything in the entire world!"

That’s another thing you can’t say everyday, eh?



Posted: June 7, 2005 in Uncategorized

Speaking today at OMMA — The Online Media, Marketing and Advertising Conference.

Yesterday heard a terrific keynote from Bob Garfield, Editor-At-Large of Advertising Age. 

Thoroughly entertaining but right on the message:  The old traditional media model is crumbling before the new online media infrastructure is even in place.

So, the only certainty in the media space going forward will be chaos.

As we all know, out of chaos comes opportunity. 

Look for a phenomenal wave of innovation and entrepreneurialism in the next few years.  Wonder where’s the next Microsoft or Google?!


I’m Now Twice As Scared

Posted: June 3, 2005 in Uncategorized

Spoke at Inbox conference yesterday.

The conference was mostly about SPAM and other terrible stuff that can happen to your email inbox, but, we got in a great session about RSS and IM’s effect on email communication.  (Hint:  RSS and IM is effecting it a lot!)

On the panel were smart-guys extraordinaire Matt Blumberg of ReturnPath and Dick Costolo of Feedburner.

In general, I think the email industry drinks its own Kool-Aid.  Everyone feels like "SPAM is almost licked." 

As my friend George used to cynically say:  "R-e-a-l-l-y?"

But, this post isn’t about that.  It’s about all the other horrible bad stuff that’s happening in your inbox… the most notable being the evil scams bad guys are playing on an unsuspecting population. 

I mean, I knew it was bad.  But the truth is I’ve been happily oblivious to the just HOW BAD it really is.

How can you feel safe entering passwords into sensitive banking accounts when the threat of "keyboard loggers" (little programs secretly planted on your computer) can track your every keystroke?

Forget about the "copy & paste the password" trick… there are now "clipboard loggers," too.

That’s the problem:  It’s a cat & mouse game between good guys trying to protect you and bad guys trying to rip you off. 

Unfortunately we’re the mouse.

So protect yourself.  I use a free program from Lavasoft ( and routinely (like almost daily) sweep my system.

Lots of other great products out there, too, from Symantec, even Microsoft now.

Whatever you do, JUST DO IT.  Now.