Greg Bettinelli: All Growth is Sexy

People who know me also know that I am fairly competitive.  I like to be best-in-class, and I like to win.

However, sometimes you just have to admit when someone does you one better.

Greg Bettinelli, a friend from eBay, just started a new blog.  And it’s title is:

All Growth is Sexy

That is a great title.  I like the title of my blog, but man, that is a great title.

He got the quote from our recent talk that Jeff Immelt, CEO of General Electric, gave at our recent eBay Leadership conference in December.

Greg has been a regular reader of this blog, and he’s actually cornered me a few times to either tell me he really liked an article (like this one on Employee Stock Purchase Plans), or to tell me he really didn’t like another (any post about Battlestar Galactica).

Greg is now working in the exciting world of eBay Tickets, with our new friends at StubHub.

Congratulations, Greg, on the new blog and the blog title.

Seema Shah has a new Blahg (Blog?)

Wow.  Seema is cold.  Ice running in her veins.

Check out this brush-off post to Blogger.  See ya.  It’s been fun.

She has now moved to

It’s funny, but I continue to get several hits a day from people who type “Seema Shah eBay” into Google.  Clearly, people want to find her blog, and somehow they use mine to find it.  So there you go.

Seema, if you see this, 100 bonus points for the Douglas Adams reference. 🙂

Gender Genie: Psychohistory is Male!

Or at least, written by a male author.

Couldn’t resist reposting this fun link, the Gender Genie.

Paste in text from an article or blog post, ideally over 500 words, and it will guess the gender.

Many thanks to Graceful Flavor for finding this. They actually ran about a dozen well known blogs and sites through it, with mixed results.

Apparently, however, Psychohistory is written in a crushingly male style (based on my post on President Ford, the last over 500 words):

Words: 532
Female Score: 462
Male Score: 814
The Gender Genie thinks the author of this passage is: male!

VC Lifestyle Myths (in Retrospect)

A great post this week from Susan Wu at Charles River Ventures on the myths surrounding the legendary lifestyle of Silicon Valley venture capitalists:

Susan Wu: VC Lifestyle Myths

I was reading along, waiting for something to resonate, when I saw this screenshot:

Ah yes, it is all coming back to me now. The VC Lifestyle.

Now, let me be upfront about something here. I love venture capital. Honestly, I do. The idea of job where you are striving to know as much as possible about technology, people, strategy, and building businesses is definitely in my sweet spot. Not only that, but I continue to be amazed at the almost accidental set of circumstances that gave birth to the modern venture capital industry in Silicon Valley, and the amazing value that has been generated because of it.

All of that being said, the reality is that the VC lifestyle is not as glamourous as you might think, and definitely has elements to be desired. Susan captures a few key elements that definitely resonated with my memories of being an Associate at a large, early-stage venture fund:

  • Tyranny of Outlook. Meetings, meetings, and more meetings. Easily 6-8 a day, mostly pitch meetings with entrepreneurs & executive teams. The day is blocked off weeks in advance, and as a result, you are constantly moving things around as things come up, meetings go over, and you are trying to meet with just one more person.
  • Miles wide, but inches deep. It’s hard to imagine being lonely when you are meeting literally 20 new people everyday, and your rolodex grows to the thousands. But a vast majority of your contacts are people you meet once. Many others you might talk to once or twice a year. Even fellow venture capitalists and entrepreneurs that you are close too might touch base on a weekly basis. The reality is that the only people you truly see every day are those in your office, and our office was small. At it’s largest, we had two partners, an associate (me), an analyst, two executive assistants, and a receptionist. That’s not a lot of people.
  • Coopetition. Without getting into the nuanced politics of venture capital, it can be draining at times. As a young person in the industry, you are at once trying to build a reputation for yourself and carve out a niche, but at the same time you need the support and assistance of others around you. In the long term, you are judged on your own success, but in the short term, you are judged on your support of the senior partner(s) you are working with.

When I think about my life at eBay, it’s amazing at how much my experience in venture capital has helped me.

First of all, my Outlook calendar still looks like that. 🙂 Maybe that has more to do with growth, drive & Silicon Valley than venture capital itself.

Second, I truly love the number of people I get to work with at eBay. Love it. Not only have I met literally thousands of great people at eBay & PayPal over the past four years, but there are hundreds of people that I now know fairly well. Leading large project initiatives and new businesses at a larger company may be more constrained in some ways than leading a startup, but the counter-balance is the number of people you get to know and work with.

Third, my orientation towards senior executives has shifted. Before venture capital, there was some degree of awe that I felt around CEOs & executives of large technology companies. While I still respect their achievements, I found that venture capital gave me more grounding around the fact that these are, in fact, just people. At eBay, this has allowed me to be more comfortable, in general, around meetings with our senior staff. I still see to this day so many bright people, with excellent ideas, get tripped up the moment they have to succinctly and convincingly present an opportunity to a senior executive.

I’m quite happy with my move back to an operational role in 2003, and I’m extremely happy with the opportunities I’ve been given to help design, launch, and build brand new sites & businesses at eBay.

But some day I’ll likely go back to venture capital. Maybe. Right time, right place, right people. But not yet.

(BTW, If you aren’t reading Susan Wu’s blog, it’s worth bookmarking. I have a special place in my heart for any venture capitalist who actually play World of Warcraft, and can actually comment intelligently on technical issues.)

South Park Episode on Nintendo Wii

With many thanks to Chad Alderson for finding this episode online.

This was the South Park episode from last week. Cartman is so obsessed with getting a Nintendo Wii, he can’t wait the two weeks, and has himself frozen. He accidentally ends up 500 years in the future, and, well, typical South Park things happen.

(Update: 12/2/2006 – Due to the original video being pulled, I’m linking to the South Park Zone, which maintains links to all of the episodes from Season 10. It’s a two-part episode called “Go God Go”)

I don’t know what is more disturbing:

  1. That South Park has now had two episodes this season so close to my heart (World of Warcraft, Nintendo Wii)
  2. That Chad is reading & responding to my blog within seconds of me posting

Chad, you might be my only dedicated reader, but thank you very very much for this link. If it’s OK, I’m not going to post all the video links from your blog, although this one did make me laugh.

Blogs I Read: Ben Stein

I really love to read Ben Stein. His first burst of fame, as you may know, came from being the teacher in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off back in the 1980s. More recently, he hosted a game show for a while (Win Ben Stein’s Money), and he writes regularly for the New York Times on Sunday.

What people may not realize from his typical movie and TV stunts is that Ben Stein is really intelligent. Not just in a book smart kind of way, but in a profoundly intellectual way. As an actor, writer, economist and lawyer, he seems to have internalized not just the facts and theories of several different fields, but also how they fit together. I find his writing style compellingly simple, and yet rich and articulate.

More recently, Ben has become more proactive with writing articles to help guide people with their own financial lives. Here is an article he wrote in 2005 on saving for retirement:

The Early Bird Gets the Next Egg

An example passage, which I think demonstrates both his easy way with numbers and his compelling presentation of basic financial facts:

If you start at 25 with six months’ salary saved, you need only save 3 percent of your total, pre-tax salary per year to get the nest egg you need (roughly 15 times earnings at retirement) by age 65. But if you start at age 45, you need to save 18 percent of your salary (again, assuming you start out with six months’ of salary saved). If you start at age 50, you need to save 28 percent of your salary. And if you start at age 55, you need to save nearly 50 percent of your gross salary to get where you need to be.

In other words, if you start with a sensible plan at a young age, you can get to your savings goal without breaking a sweat. If you wait until you are middle aged, it takes some serious doing. If you wait until you are a silver fox, you’re required to do some heavy lifting indeed. If you assume the stock market has passed its glory days, you need to save even more.

I’ve found two great resources now for Ben Stein fans:

  1. He has a website. It’s worth bookmarking.
  2. He has an RSS feed. It’s worth subscribing to.

I’m going to be writing a follow up post on one of my favorite pieces by Ben Stein, clipped from the New York Times last year. I’m having trouble finding an online copy, so I may have to type up the whole thing. In the meantime, check out his RSS feed. It’s so exciting to me to find out that some of my favorite columnists and authors have their own feeds – it’s something I just wasn’t finding somehow before I started blogging myself.

Blogs I Read: Mac Mojo (The Microsoft Office for Mac Team Blog)

This is a relatively new one for me, but I find the posts pretty interesting from time to time.

This is the team blog from the group responsible for Microsoft Office for the Mac.  Most people don’t realize this, but Microsoft Office actually originated on the Mac, and despite all the conspiracy theories, the business continues to be a fairly large one for Microsoft.

For example, check out this post from yesterday about the size of the Microsoft Office for Mac codebase.  It shocked the hell out of me:

It’s all in the numbers… 

30 million lines of code.  For a suite of applications.  Unbelievable.

For those of you non-technical folks out there, this is a really big number.  I remember when it was revealed that Windows XP was approximately 40 million lines of code, and Sun had a field day pointing out that Solaris was only 7 million at the time.

In software, bigger is rarely better from a complexity or reliability standpoint.  This blog post explains some of the very human reasons why.

I personally have always believed that a complete rewrite is likely necessary from time to time with software applications, usually every 3rd to 4th major version or so.  The problem is, the economics so rarely support re-writing a codebase.  The time you spend rebuilding what already works could be spent on building new features, or fixing old ones.

In a small way, this legacy cost is what helps fuel the ongoing development of new applications, new companies, and new businesses.  It is always easy for the new entrant to “rebuild” what already exists.  This doesn’t make up for the incredible market advantage that the large players have, but it’s an interesting cost advantage that you don’t normally see in most industries.

Anyway, check it out.  Since I am a longtime Office for Mac user, I like seeing ongoing communication from their team to the community.

Blogs I Read: Good Morning Silicon Valley

This is actually a blog I’ve been reading since before there were blogs, and this was just a daily email sent out by John Paczkowski.

I don’t know why, but I just find John’s nose for news interesting, and his wry sense of humor engaging. Take yesterday’s post for example:

Ha ha! You fool! You fell victim to one of the classic blunders! The most famous is never get involved in a land war in Asia, but only slightly less well-known is this: nobody ever benefits from a Microsoft partnership except Microsoft!

I just find “The Princess Bride” reference hilarious, and of course, the coverage of Microsoft timely with the Novell Linux deal.

This is definitely one worth adding to your feed list, especially if you care at all about high tech and/or news from Silicon Valley. This blog is hosted by the SJ Mercury News, but it’s still worth reading.

Blogs I Read: Rogelio Choy

Thought I’d give a quick shout out to another eBay-er who has a far more sophisticated and long-standing blog than myself.

Rogelio Choy

Ro spent a number of years managing market development for eBay’s developer program.  He now manages the Parts & Accessories business for eBay Motors, another one of eBay’s great tailored shopping experiences.

Ro often posts about startup activity, and hot water cooler news about web companies.

A sample of his most recent post (as of 10/22/2006) is here.

Blogs I Read: 2Million

This is another personal finance blog that I’ve started reading. It was references on My Open Wallet.

I found it through this recent post on calculating the benefit from renting out an old property instead of selling it:

The Real Return on My Rental Property

Here is the link to the blog itself:

2Million – My Journey to Financial Freedom

While I doubt I’d ever have the guts to post my personal financial details online, we are so lucky to have people like this posting out there. I myself have wondered if my wife and I should consider keeping our first house as a rental property when we eventually upgrade.

Check it out and let me know what you think.

Blogs I Read: Jason Steinhorn, The Steinhorn Stare

One of the most fun blogs that I read is one that belongs to my friend and colleague, Jason Steinhorn.  It’s called, “The Steinhorn Stare”, I’m assuming after his now infamous poker face, captured on television as part of the World Series of Poker.

Here is a great example of why I love reading Jason’s blog:

2006 Legends of Poker

Now, I will be the first to admit, I am clearly a voyeur of the recent poker boom that has hit Las Vegas, the internet, and about half of the engineers and techies I know.  I really appreciate the way that Jason’s posts capture the subtlety and complexity of the game.  Poker is a fascinating blend of psychology and math, with a distinct advantage to those who know how to manipulate the perception of their play vs. just knowing the odds.

As a result, Poker lands squarely into my “sweet spot” of fascination – an arena where the ultimately rationale (statistics) intersects with the ultimately irrational (human emotion & perception).

So while I may never be a great poker player, I like living vicariously through Jason and other friends who participate in these events with $10K buy-ins, and who actually win.

True story: Last year, Jason & I were both managers in the same division of eBay Product Management.  At our regular Monday managers’ meeting, Jason was nowhere to be found.  He was still in Vegas, having won 2nd in the World Series of Poker, and close to a quarter of a million dollars.

That news would be cool enough, but what I liked is that Jason had faxed in the winning check – like a “doctor’s note” to be excused from class that day.

This is Jason’s last week at eBay, and he’ll be sorely missed.  But he’s off to a new adventure at another cool company, and I feel extremely fortunate to have been able to learn from him these past two years.

Now, if he would just post more regularly to his blog…

Blogs I Read: Don Dodge

In the spirit of hilighting some of the best blogs that I read and given Google’s product announcement today for “Applications for Your Domain“, I’d like to point you to this humorous press release on Don Dodge’s blog today:

Don Dodge on The Next Big Thing: Google Announces New 24X0 Support Service for Business Users

I find Don’s blog particularly interesting because he:

  • Posts regularly
  • Provides insight from his unique experiences at AltaVista, Napster, and now Microsoft
  • Provides a rare intersection of the “modern” Microsoft point-of-view on Web 2.0 and related technologies and products, with an outsider flavor
  • Seems to genuinely understand the professional Venture Capital viewpoint on key technology trends (based on my experience as an Associate Partner in a multi-billion dollar early stage firm)

A worthy addition to anyone’s RSS feed…

    Blogs I Read: Eric Cheng & Wetpixel

    Eric Cheng is a good friend of mine from college, and an extremely interesting person. Like me, he did the co-terminal program at Stanford Univerisity in Computer Science (which involves getting BS and MS degrees) with an emphasis in Human-Computer Interaction. Eric is also an accomplished cello player. After school, he worked for a few years at a software company called E.Piphany, which was pretty much your typical late 1990s success story.

    After leaving E.Piphany, Eric decided to pursue his interests in digital photography, becoming one of the first to really specialize professionally in digital underwater photography. He now has one of his pictures hanging in the Smithsonian, and travels the world constantly on diving expeditions.

    You can find a blog of his travels and insights at his blog:
    Eric Cheng’s Journal

    He also runs the site WetPixel, which is dedicated to digital underwater photography.

    I’m lucky to count Eric as one of my close friends. If you are interested in either diving or photography, it’s worth subscribing to his feeds.

    Blogs I Read: Hitchhiker’s Guide to 650

    If you haven’t checked out this blog, it’s worth adding to your regular RSS reader:

    Hitchhiker’s Guide to 650

    It’s written by a friend and former colleague from eBay, Will Hsu. Very witty and insightful, I like the sharp way he looks at key issues surrounding e-commerce, startups, and venture capital. More importantly, I feel like Will captures some of the real psychology of Silicon Valley.

    Take his post yesterday on a great Web 2.0 CEO anecdote.

    Now, I’m trying not to hold it against Will that he actually does not live in the 650 area code anymore. Still, the blog is a must-read.

    I’ll be posting from time to time the blogs that I really recommend, and adding them to my blogroll on the right.