Incubating and Sleeping in Los Altos

“I’m sorry you had to see that, Mr. Wilensky, it’s really not like that here, that’s not typical behavior for our eggs.”

“oooooookkkaaaaaaay…” What can you say but a long, drawn out okay when you are invited to see a business incubator and walk right into a young man surfing porn (or was it a woman? Blue spiked hair and what seemed, from the back, like studs and tats).

Hmm. Ok. Did she say, ‘eggs”? “Did you call that young, uh, man (?), an egg, Claudia?” I had to take a stab at conversation and I hadn’t even been there two minutes. Claudia was the Senior admin and den mother to this witches brew of mostly very young Stanford grads. She was indeed very charming and slightly older than the gaggle that dotted the room. I was, at 49, a good ten years older even than she. There were cubicles and picture window offices on the perimeter (there was no merit system as to who occupied these prized suites, first come first served; with the turnover in academia and start-up karma, if you want one, you’ll get one eventually). I digress , however.

“Eggs, Claudia?”

“Well, we are an Incubator.Come this way and I’ll show you our networking lab. Some of the more techy hardware things require equipment that is beyond the reach, of, well, you know, grad students trying to make their first go. Here we are”, she said in a sing song voice.

I’ve seen networking labs before; I was an unpaid intern summers at one of Boston’s famous research marques. And since then, I have pulled cable and configured routers, often screwing up BGP with the best of them. So, here we have a rack full of switches, packet sniffers, etc. All normal stuff.

Oh, a logic analyzer, 128 channels no less. Sweet.

Hey, more test equipment, and…what have we here – a young man with all his possessions stuffed under a workbench, and fast asleep. “Do you know this guy?” She hadn’t seen him until I alerted her. Continue reading

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A Sleigh Full of Angels; another day in the life of ThruDispatch

I was soooo nervous; Mr. East Coast Analyst turned entrepreneurial adventurer mooching around the city of San Francisco, riding up to this fine loft South of Market to pitch to…..who were these guys again? Yes, yes, a group of accredited investors – angels. These gents agreed to see me, and here I was riding their private elevator.

Woosh. There I am right in the suite, the home of Daniel Xavier Thornton (not his real name), a fabulously wealthy retired gent who made his fortune in the heyday of HP, Intel, Xerox. He worked for them all as an engineer, executive, advisor, and board member. For over 20 years, he and his close cohort have been placing seed funding east and west. These fine gents were notable for sometimes placing bets on good ideas from team-less subject matter experts; they are not impressed with voluminous business plans, they invest on the gut. Sometimes (often) they help build the teams and go hands on with operations. Sharp, mature, modest,  wise angels.

Whenever they addressed me they always used my first name in an almost formal manner, “Alan, we hate most of these Web 2.0 guys, we want to get back to investing in real inventions”. “Alan, can you tell us more about your background as an electronics technician?” “Alan, please don’t tell people who we are, you can do that blog thing, but change our names and location”.

Sure guys. Continue reading