A Father’s Love Shall Not Be Leveraged

From the series, “Down and Out in Silicon Valley, the Chronicles of ThruDispatch”. (Names and locations are changed to protect the privacy of the parties).

I was called to the palatial Atherton home of Hiryu Watanabe, father of Hiroshi (Hank Watanabe). A rich man beyond the dreams of even the Valley’s moneyed, he retired from the board of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries after a distinguished career of 40 years. Estimated net worth: 800 Million.

We had spoken on the phone briefly about his troubled son; he spoke and I listened about the all too common meltdown that occurred when Hank got tied up in a software project. Hank’s love was his poison. The father had been dealing with this since Hank started the downward spiral, shortly after gathering his doctorate from Standford.

I didn’t quite know what to expect, or what the subject of our conversation would be. I halfway assumed that maybe, maybe Mr. Watanabe Senior had gone through Hank’s things and found the ThruDispatch code. But, I had written it off already, and I didn’t want to personally pursue it like a vulture; at any rate it was very preliminary and useless to me, for now. I was mystified at the invitation. Continue reading


Ejected from Business Incubator: Part Two: Working with a Congenial Genius

Continued from part 1. From the Series, “Down and Out in Silicon Valley” by,  Alan Wilensky

“Hiroshi?”, I said in a rising, non-threatening voice. I wanted a combination Mr. Rogers and benevolent older brother tone. “How you doin’, man, we really didn’t have a chance to formally introduce ourselves, I’m Alan Wilensky, I am so sorry about getting involved at the incubator and getting you…..hospit…al…ized, er…ah…I mean…I didn’t know who you…” I was sputtering.

Hiroshi chimed right in over me, “what you talking about”. This was the first time I actually heard his speaking voice, which was a fully Americanized accent. Hiroshi was, as I later found out, of Japanese and American descent, and preferred being called, Hank. We are getting way ahead of the game, however.

“What involved, what hospital, what are you talkin’ about man?”, he was off to the races, although one can’t actually blame the man if he remembered nothing of the incident!

(internal whisper to self: whoa, big fella, lets not let things spiral into incivility so soon and so blunderingly)

“You know”, I said as I drew closer, a little, “with Claudia, that Thursday? You were crashed out in the Networking lab?”. Where was this conversation going?

“huh..uh, yup. Crap man, I was just napping there ’cause I don’t like my room at the group house, but…,” he raked his hand through his longish hair and followed with, “..but I don’t recall leaving…..”….his voice trailed off in a suspended thought.

I needed to get the conversation back on track, so I gave him the only thing I had, my best Monty Python lines, “Well, what of that, Roight! Roight!”. “To Business!”, I punctuated.

Continue reading

Ejected from Business Incubator: Brilliant, Bipolar Hiroshi – Part One

So, you want to start a small, services based mobile messaging venture to serve the independent automotive trades-people. Fine, you will need a J2ME client for the Nextel platform (90% of towing and auto trades are Nextel accounts with 1 or 2 phones). Then you need a server and portal architecture, etc.

I started all of this with an actual system that I built in Salem NH where the focus was a Fax to Nextel gateway and a Web dispatch console. What I needed was a new architecture for automated ‘flow-through’ dispatch. I didn’t think my personal (dwindling) resources would be enough to bootstrap the venture (I should have  done so a year ago), so I went in search of capital.

Never mind being employed as a freelance analyst for product sector research. As someone who occasionally contracts for institutional investors –  I was unable to get traction on the dilution path. I had moved from Boston, working on the Peninsula for six months and venture campaigning for six months (wow, a year).

I’m a little worn out, I’ll tell ya. What is it gonna take to get a sane venture off the ground? I need an enthusiastic programmer / engineer that believes in the business’ potential, or one who is bored and needs a project to sink teeth into in order for us to get to functional prototype. Where oh where?

Back to the incubator to track down a guy I met briefly, but who seemed suited to my strategy: the brilliant, bi-polar, Hiroshi – the man who dreams in code.

Like everything else connected to the launch of ThruDispatch, this was to be somewhat of a fiasco. But dear reader, believe me, ThruDispatch is a good, solid idea that will foster a sustainable, Web-based business that shall truly serve its users with a real, not imagined, business oriented social networking service.

Read on:

Continue reading


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


My Bright Idea – an Open Source Business Plan


Continue reading