Are headhunters descending on Yahoo!

Interesting piece in the San Jose Mercury News last evening noting that the recruiters were scouring the Yahoo! campus for “fresh meat”.

Also – I saw a good post from Marc Andreessen on the impact this deal will have on start-ups.  I agree with Marc’s take.  Good companies, that are built well, have a clear value proposition to the market, and create something worthwhile for a large customer-base will always be in high demand.

Do ‘hostile’ takeovers work in high-tech?

I’m still trying to wade through all the stories and opinions related to the Microsoft – Yahoo! deal announced Friday.  I haven’t yet had the chance to step back and form an opinion of whether or not it makes sense, much less what it means to the Internet competitive landscape, but one thought did occur to me: do hostile high-tech takeovers even work?

It seems like hostile takeovers work when there are hard assets that can be predictably monetized, liquidated, or broken up and sold in pieces to multiple willing buyers.  Does that same hold true for MSFT + Yahoo!?

Microsoft has a reputation for competing with unrelenting zeal.  Most of the people I’ve met that are either current or former Microsoft employees are either spooky-smart or willing to work 2x as hard as their competition.. sometimes both.  Do they need to buy Yahoo!? or is it a bulk-up and box-out strategy?


I sat down with my friend and former business partner, Ed Diffendal, last night.  Ed is back in Colorado doing his private equity thing for American Infrastructure Funds.

Ed and I were talking about Lijit and Blogging in general.  I mentioned that I had a recent “angry” post and he rightly noted that my feelings had been pointed out before, albeit with a bit more articulation:

Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.

– Teddy Roosevelt

Thanks Ed.

How do you know if you haven’t done it?

Remember in the movie Good Will Hunting, that Matt Damon was effectively the “smartest man in the world..” but he hadn’t actually done or experienced things first hand.  Therefore, even though he knew a boat-load about lots of things, he didn’t actually know shit about them.

The same holds true for things in everyday life.  You can know a lot about financial analysis and models, but if you haven’t built one…  You can come up with great marketing ideas or sales plans, but if you haven’t been on the sales calls or run a marketing campaign…  You can ride with a group of cyclists at “race pace”, but if you haven’t entered a real race…

The point is: get in the game if you really want to understand how it works.

Pricing rationalization

My wife often accuses me of inflating or deflating the price of something based on whether or not I want it.  Its probably a common occurrence, but I the more I thought about it, the more I noticed how much I do it.

It goes something like this: say I want a new bike, or a new pair of skis, or basically anything that I think is cool, or I "need".. I round down the price.  For instance, I bought a new set of pedals for my cross bike recently and in my mind they cost $100.  In reality, they cost $119 + tax.  I even told several people how I got this screaming deal for only $100..  In fairness they were on a year-end sale at 60% off normal retail.

The opposite is true if I’m not particularly interested in whatever it is we’re buying.  Case in point: we needed a new home phone last weekend after our ancient one died.  I complained that the new one cost $50 – the actual retail price: $39.95.

It wasn’t necessarily too surprising that I round up or  round down to rationalize a purchase… what was surprising is how I seem to do it subconsciously.

Choice cycling events in Colorado, 2008

Event Location Date Website
Boulder Roubaix Boulder April 6, 2008
Haystack Mtn TT Boulder April 12, 2008
Boulder Road Race Boulder April 20, 2008
Rabbit Mtn TT Hygiene May 4, 2008
Carter Lake Road Race Boulder May 17, 2008
Iron Horse Classic Durango May 23-26, 2008
Sunrise Century Boulder June 14, 2008
Mike Horgan Hill Climb Boulder June 15, 2008
Triple Bypass Evergreen July 12, 2008
Mt. Evans Road Race Idaho Springs July 19, 2008
Copper Triangle Copper Mountain August 2, 2008
Buffalo Bicycle Classic Boulder September
Cyclocross Season Starts September

I took a few weeks off from riding after the last Colorado Cyclocross race of 2007.  It was good to take a breather, but now I’m starting to feel like getting back out on the bike again..

After scanning some of the local cycling calendars I came up with what I think is a great line-up for 2008.  A mixture of rides and races both in Boulder and around Colorado.

Everything looks like a nail

If your only tool is a hammer..

The thing is that once you know a lot about something, the tendency is to view things through that filter.  It struck me when I read an interesting article in the NYT today.

The notion is that the more you know about something through learned experience, you begin to subconsciously block out new ideas or ways of doing things.  This isn’t always a bad thing (like not touching a hot surface again and again), but when you’re looking to expand your business or create new avenues for growth, or in the extreme case of entering new markets, this can be crippling to your chances of success.

This isn’t to say that knowledge, wisdom and experience aren’t important.  Rather, the point is that understanding one’s proclivities and having a good degree of self-awareness is equally as important.  Examining things at their fundamental or root level is a useful exercise and undoubtedly will reveal new and significant opportunities.

Innovation is a greased pig

Being back in a start-up is an interesting place from an innovation point of view.  When I was with Novell in the SuSE Linux business, we struggled to innovate as a company for all the familiar "dilemma" reasons.  Now, at Lijit, we’re innovating everyday (sometimes more than we probably should).  I think we’ve so far successfully struck a good balance of innovation and focus.

The question I have is how one can effectively continue to innovate as a company grows and begins to get entrenched in its own success.  Is this a function of the right people?  Outside catalysts? Autonomous units? Innovation teams (yikes)? Or is it a "process" that can be defined?

I had an email exchange with a good friend of mine, Ben Rafter, the other day.  Ben has a fantastic background as both a big company executive and as a successful entrepreneur (not an easy task).  He pointed out that when you’re entrenched in running the business day-to-day its incredibly difficult to separate yourself from the business of today and look to the business of tomorrow.  It seems like this is directly at the point of my innovation question.

It strikes me that in order to be innovative as an organization you have to set up a framework and a culture that encourages entrepreneurial deconstruction.  This deconstruction is required in order to find new ways, methods, partnerships, markets, and opportunities.  You also need to hire business "athletes" and make sure they work alongside subject matter experts.  Moreover, as a leader, you need to spend the time and energy to network both inside and outside your focus industry or market.

One of the things I hear a lot when I spend time with other executives is how hard we all find it to network effectively.  Its time-consuming and takes us away from our number one priority: running the business.  On the other hand, I can’t tell you how many times I also hear (often in the same breath),that it sure would be nice to talk to others that are facing similar challenges but not directly connected to our respective businesses.

I think of the innovation question as analogous to mountain biking.  In order to go really fast and stay on the trail, you have to constantly be looking right in front of you and way down the trail at the same time..  easier said than done.

** a day after I wrote this post, I came across this podcast from Wharton on Innovation.  The recording and transcript is here.