Archive for the ‘San Fran’ Category

Silicon Valley & Cisco Internship

Cisco Internship: OK its time I got back on the blogging boat and provided some updates on life as a Global Scholar interning in Silicon Valley! Having been in San Jose since Saturday 8th March, Marcus and I have settled well into our penthouse at the Four Seasons in San Fran. OK, only joking, we are actually based in a corporate wannabe-village called River Oaks in San Jose, only 20 minutes walk from Cisco City! It has been an absolutely fantastic experience here in the Valley so far. Not only does the permanently sunny weather make it a joy to live in but the mountains surrounding the valley make it a perfect location for a cycling fanatic! I started my internship with Cisco on March 10th and the other Global Scholar based in San Jose, Marcus, joined InCube Labs.

Dave EvansRick HutleyCisco Internship: My Cisco internship supervisors are Rick Hutley and Dave Evans. Rick is a Senior Director within the Internet Business Solutions Group (IBSG) at Cisco where his main role is in directing activities within the horizontal Innovations Group. He has more than 26 years of experience within the telecoms and IT industry including various roles at CxO level. Dave is IBSG’s award winning chief technologist and is a Cisco veteran having been there for over 15 years. He is an overall technology evangelist and genius. Basically they’re the kind of guys you want to be around!

Now a little about IBSG– the group provides free consultancy at CXO level to Fortune 100 companies as well as many international Governments. Interestingly IBSG does not promote or sell Cisco technology. In fact, to the contrary, they actually intentionally avoid mentioning Cisco products or services during their client interactions whatsoever! This seems strange as the salaries of the 300 or so IBSG employees are paid by Cisco! John Chambers’ approach here is that if IBSG promote solutions that in general utilise technology, these will in the most part utilise Internet connectivity in some shape or form. So in a round about way Cisco, owning about 80% of the router market, benefits from the group to an estimated tune of $2-3B in revenue PA! Chambers’ attitude, given his sales background, is focused on keeping the customer happy. What better way than with free world class CXO consultancy?! So this gives you an idea of the calibre of the people I’m working with here in IBSG. They all hail from an amazing diversity of backgrounds, and all have excelled in their fields in order to be fortunate enough to make Cisco’s IBSG team!

I was allocated a project, called the Connected Technology Framework, to manage and develop based on a concept of Rick and Dave’s called the Tech Tsunami (i.e. the imminent exponential development/availability/onslaught of advanced technologies, somewhat based on Kurzweil’s beliefs). Essentially this project encapsulates a model for projecting technological development in the future, the adoption of technology over a given period, and its availability for utilisation within IBSG solutions; these solutions being a result/part of interactions with IBSG’s clients. The model is primarily based on Moore’s Law and the many variations of it. The model is manifested as a GUI using the Xcelsius flash engine. Currently I have it working based on projected data for about 30+ variables related to computing processing speeds & cost, storage costs, and networking speeds & costs. I’ll provide an update on this after I finish it and possibly make a version of it available online.


Some of the highlights from the last 2 months in Silicon Valley:

  • Being invited into a personal discourse with John Chambers, Cisco’s Chairman & CEO
  • Meeting SAP’s SVP of Imagineering – Denis Browne
  • Being invited to an entrepreneurial workshop at Mike Milken’s hangout in Lake Tahoe
  • Having a perspective-changing candid conversation with Cisco’s SVP for Strategic Alliances
  • Having the opportunity to work with the IBSG team
  • Partaking in IBSG consultancies with several Fortune 100 CXOs and one Government
  • Being asked to speak at a cleantech conference about Explicit Energy (my main startup)
  • Attending the Web 2.0 Expo
  • Networking with INSF at various events
  • Being hosted by Swimming Pyramid entrepreneur Thomas Lyle in San Fran
  • BluGo (another startup project I’m involved with) being a finalist in a business plan competition in NE England
  • Meeting Mike Bateman, surely one of the most seasoned entrepreneurs Silicon Valley has to offer
  • Being part of the 1st float in San Francisco’s St Patrick’s day parade
  • Skiing at Squaw Valley in Lake Tahoe
  • Cycling up most of the mountains surrounding Silicon Valley

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Rubbing Shoulders in $ilicon Valley

nickmckeown.jpgWeek5end 23-24 Feb: Over the weekend Stuart and I spent some time with Peter Davies, one of the most seasoned entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley. We got on very well with Peter and as a result we ended up at his house having dinner with his family on Saturday evening. Nick McKeown who was also there gave Stuart and I some great advice on new ventures and startups. Nick is highly regarded within Silicon Valley for spinning many companies from Stanford, where he is a Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (bio).

davidperry.jpgOn Sunday morning we also met Peter for breakfast in Palo Alto’s University Ave Café. On this occasion Peter brought David Perry along to chat with us. David is first and foremost a friendly and fun guy to chat with. Business-wise he is a titan, as is evident from his first startup – Chemdex.com (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chemdex). Chemdex still holds the record for reaching a $10B valuation in the shortest time, which was at the end of 1999. Following the realisation that here was no air left in the Internet Bubble, in early 2000 the company fell to a valuation of just over $100M, and from 500 to 100 employees! It was interesting to listen to David describe how he took the company to this amazing valuation and how he coped following the crash in 2000. Read the full Chemdex story here. Not content with this he has started two companies since then and is currently in the process of making an IPO. David has impressively raised over $½Billion in VC funding since the early 90s!!!

David had a few insights into how to be a successful entrepreneur:
1.) The first is to not worry so much about what it is you are doing as long as you fulfill 2 criteria. They are that you are always learning and you are enjoying what you are doing. This mantra is true whether or not you are perusing entrepreneurial activities, or working for a company.

2.) Secondly he outlined a perspective for pitching and raising capital. The idea is to basically spell out the opportunities of the project first. No opportunity comes without risk, and if you pretend it does, any VC will laugh you out of the room. Then you focus on describing how you are going to eliminate these risks, one by one. Present risks based on their severity and potential to prevent progress. This approach tells the investor that you’re not naïve about the presence of risk, and that you’re aware that they’re investing in your ability to mitigate these risks, one by one.

The ingenious part is once you have outlined the fantastic opportunity, prep’ed them with the risks, then instead of asking for money to pursue the opportunity, you ask for the money to eliminate the risks. So if you identify the risks in order of priority and necessity, and ask for X amount to overcome the top Y risks, you can show how strong the company will be at that stage. Inherent with this approach is transparency of preempted risks & your control of them, as well as knowledge of how much investment will be required at stages to continue to eliminate further risks. If done properly, you will organise the risks into stages (e.g. milestones within an Implementation Plan as outlined in Zoller’s last seminar), and at each stage it will become easier to raise the capital required to overcome associated risks.

Finally David also warned about a situation that currently seems a long way off, and that is raising too much money! Apparently he has encountered the situation, and Peter also, where VC’s wish to invest a much larger amount of capital than is required. This usually occurs when investor groups work together and all want a piece of the pie. In this situation, to support the higher valuation this causes, it is too easy to spread the company too thinly and work on products that aren’t core to your business, and therefore you can lose focus on the key areas. Not something that is immediately relevant perhaps, but something to think about nonetheless.

Next Stop…..Governator Central

copy-of-img_4803.jpgWeek 5: 18-22 Feb: We moved onto San Jose, California, on Sunday 17th after a 6hr delay at Kansas City airport which was closed due to severe snow storms. During the delay some of us slept and some worked!! It was warmer in CA to say the least, about 20C! Monday was spent in San Fran touring about seeing most of the sites around Fisherman’s Wharf. Owen and I also cycled across the Golden Gate bridge to what I think is one of the best viewing points in the city.

On Tuesday 19th we went to ‘Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich & Rosati’, the premier legal advisor to technology and growth enterprises worldwide, as well as the investment banks and venture capital firms that finance them. Two representatives from WSGR discussed IP issues in technology ventures.

2ndlife.pngIn the afternoon we visited Linden Labs, which was founded in 1999 by Philip Rosedale to create a revolutionary new form of shared experience known as Second Life. Second Life is a 3D virtual world entirely created by its Residents that’s bursting with entertainment, experiences, and opportunity. The Second Life Grid provides the platform where Second Life resides and offers the tools for business, educators, nonprofits, and entrepreneurs to develop a virtual presence. Headquartered in San Francisco, Linden Lab has over 200 employees spread across the U.S., Europe, and Asia. Although our visit to Linden Labs was brief we had a change to get some insight into where Linden Labs is going with Second Life in the future. They were more than willing to answer all our questions. Second Life generated some interesting debate among the group. Some of the group had difficulty seeing its practical usefulness, whereas the rest of us saw endless opportunities for the platform in the future.

sbiodesign.jpgWednesday 20th saw us at Biodesign, a Stanford University initiative encouraging multidisciplinary approaches to biology and medicine. Biodesign are refining a method that produces both world-class innovators and state-of-the-art medical devices. We were introduced to the biodesign leadership (incl Sandy Miller) and fellows from both the US and India. We had a chance to tour the Stanford campus during lunch before continuing with a seminar by a biodesign spinout company – Simpirica Spine. The CEO gave us some practical insight in the startup process based on his own experiences. He shared his experience of equity dilution through various rounds of investment as well as many other

msstartupzone.jpgOn Thursday we visited Microsoft’s campus in Silicon Valley where we met Dan’l Lewin, corporate vice president of Strategic and Emerging Business Development, Don Dodge from Microsoft’s Emerging Business Team (& ex-Napster VP), Roy Levin Distinguished Engineer and Director, Microsoft Research Silicon Valley, as well as the general manager of the Microsoft Startup Zone. I had the privilege to chat with Roy after the formal presentations about pervasive computing and how he envisions its realisation in the future. I have my own specific thoughts on the matter but it was insightful to have a conversation with such a seasoned computing researcher and visionary.

Following the slightly rushed MS visit we went to the British consulate in San Fran. They offered us the opportunity to utilise their extensive network in Silicon Valley. Also they detailed some grant support which is available for us to attend conferences and companies in the US. In the afternoon we visited iRhythm, a biodesign startup in the medical devices area. The CMO at iRhythm, Uday, detailed some of trials and tribulations of starting a business. Uday’s talk was very impressive, he provided practical and insightful advice for us going forward and starting our businesses.

otl.gifOn Friday we attended Stanford’s Office of Technology Licensing. Linda Chao brought us through Stanford’s approach to technology licensing and related equity issues. This proved a very interesting talk as probed Linda for information on how University spin-offs are handled by one of the world’s leading research and teaching institutions. Basically Stanford claims IP on everything developed through the use of their resources. Not only do they pay for IP protection, such as patenting, but they are also willing to enforce IP – this being the main reason why anyone would want to license IP they generated from an institution such as Stanford.

johnhennessy.jpgOn Friday afternoon, after a long tour of Stanford’s campus we all attended the launch of Stanford’s Entrepreneurship Week and their annual Innovation Tournament – which this year requires entrants to add as much value as possible to a rubber band(s) within 1 week. Prof. John Hennessy, President of Stanford, gave the introductory speech for the launch in which he talked about Karl Schramm, the Kauffman Foundation and its global role in entrepreneurship education.