Startup Hero: Mike Gallup Was My Boss At Apollo - Without Him, Avid May Never Have Happened

Mike Gallup was my boss at Apollo Computer when I first started doing "professional" video editing. The year was 1984, and I was product manager for the DN590, a 3D graphics workstation from Apollo Computer that was meant to compete with Silicon Graphics. I told Mike that in addition to the typical brochure, we should make a video that the salesmen (hey, it was 1984 and they were all guys) could show to customers.

He quickly agreed, and gave me the $3000 budget that I estimated I'd need to work on a computerized editing system at Video One in Boston. In those days, we had Interleaf running on the Apollo, and I figured that if you had enough money, you could rent an "Interleaf for video" system. So I shot the video and took it to Video One and said, "show me your computerized editor, and let me run it."

They looked puzzled, and said okay. "You press 'p' for play, 'spacebar' for stop, and 'r' for rewind." I said, what do you mean rewind? They said, well, it rewinds the tape decks. Tape decks??!! I thought this was a computerized editor! It is, they's a computer that runs the tape decks.

I was crushed. I thought an Avid already existed if you had enough money. No, it turned out.

So I waited, thinking it would come any day. It didn't. But the video was a big hit, and we started making lots of them. By 1987, I was becoming painfully frustrated with how hard it was to edit on the linear editing systems. It was beyond painful. Imagine writing a short story where once you've made your first draft, you could only replace a letter at a time, and could never make the overall document longer or shorter. Any change that did mean a change in length meant you'd have to retype, character at a time, everything that came after that. Ugh.

By about May of 1987, I had figured out a solution. I showed the idea to the president of Apollo, and he said "Do it here. I'll give you money, space, and people."

In August of 1987, I had a crucial meeting with Mike. I'll never forget it. Mike asked me: "Bill, how hard is it to get the funding we need to build workstations to compete with Sun?" Pretty hard, I said. "So, do you really think you'll get the funding you need here?" I didn't answer. He went on: "If you really want to do this thing, get out of here and go do it."

I quit the next day to start Avid.

Two weeks later, the president of Apollo was fired.

Had Mike not said what he did, Avid may have been hopelessly entangled inside of Apollo. Apollo was later acquired by HP, which acquired Compaq, and Mike went on to become VP of Sales for Compaq. 

I recently ran into Mike at an event for Music and Youth, where Mike serves on the board. I hadn't seen him in over 30 years, and we had this wonderful exchange on Boylston Street in Boston. Watch the video. Mike is a true Startup Hero!

A one minute video: The Anything Goes Accelerator Lab's Instant Furniture Move

At the TechStars Demo Day event tonight, I said one of my favorite lines from the movie "Top Gun." It's this: "I feel the need....for speed." And I believe we need to move fast, and make quick decisions, from the heart. Tonight, I applied it to angel investing.

This afternoon, Nick Tommarello, Tim Rowe, and the entire crew of folks in the current "C3" co-working space made a complete overhaul of the C3 space in 90 minutes. Teamwork, crowdsourcing, and old fashioned muscle power combined to transform the space into CIC's newest co-working space that I'm calling the "Anything Goes Accelerator Lab"

More on this later, but here's how it went...well.... with a little speed!

See Me Fly a 747. I have video to prove it. It's true. (kindof)

In 1971, when I was 16 years old, I had learned to solo a Cessna 150. My dad was a pilot, so I had been flying with him for years. Then came the time for the mandatory 100 mile solo, which I did from Morristown, NJ to Lancaster, PA (109 miles, to be exact.) As the driving age in New Jersey was 17, I needed my Mom to give me a ride to Morristown airport, so I could fly round trip to Lancaster on my own. And of course, then I needed a ride home.

My flying days came to an end in 1974 when I got hurt and sustained a spinal cord injury. I later explored hand controls for flying, but never found it as much fun, and I mostly gave up flying. My last entry in my log book was from 1978, where I tried out a hand control.

Then I saw a movie recently where the main character decides that he wants to get his pilot's license. The movie ends with him getting in the plane with his girlfriend, and flying into the sunset. It triggered me. I called East Coast Aero at Hanscom field, and booked a flight with an instructor. I wanted to see what I remembered, now 32 years later.

I told him I also wanted to try an instrument landing (I had an instrument rating.) We went up, and did some flight maneuvers, and I was pretty good at that. We then worked on the ILS landing, and I was definitely rusty, but maybe passable.

But what struck me was that so much of the language and terminology was different. What we called "radar advisories" was now "flight following". What we called a TCA or Terminal Control Area is now something different that I can't remember.

The plane was nice and old, and the instruments were from my days. That made me feel good. No "glass cockpit", no GPS or other newfangled stuff in this 747! It was a blast. But I decided that I was happy to stay in the right seat. I'm a pretty skilled co-pilot, so I'm game to go up with anyone who wants to take to the skies.

A Winding Path to Brilliant Robots - Colin Angle Talks iRobot History

At the Nantucket Conference in early May, we had a rousing box lunch discussion about:

Home Runs & Grand Slams: Let's Talk About Building Big Companies in the New England Ecosystem

Colin Angle, CEO, iRobot
Michael Greeley, General Partner, Flybridge Capital Partners
Diane Hessan
, CEO, CommuniSpace
Bill Warner
, President, Warner Research and Founder, Avid Technology

Much of the discussion centered around how to move companies that are at the "triple" level to the "home run" level. This means crossing the $1B threshold in market capitalization. iRobot is now at about $500M in market cap, so Colin and his company provided a perfect window into the issues facing a company on the threshold of a home run.

As a result of the discussion Colin invited me to iRobot for discussion about the company's future. We had a fascinating talk about how the company got started 22 years ago, with -- believe it or not -- a plan to send a miniature robot to the moon and make a movie about it. They got quite far...they had a plan to sell the data to NASA, they had a producer, and they had plans to launch using a Chinese Long March rocket. Eventually NASA decided to take the rover business in house, and these small robots spawned the Mars rovers. Colin's eyes lit up when he told me that his name is on one of the rovers now on the Red Planet.

This video was taken in iRobot's wonderful "robot museum", which doubles as the entrance hallway once you pass security at the company's headquarters. Although the sign says "don't touch the robots", Colin was able to breach that rule many times, even peeling back the face of an early expressive robot toy.

What's really fascinating here is a story of determination, and a story of learning as you go. The video is 11 minutes long, It's really worth watching. Carl Calabria, who was VP of Engineering at Avid, recently joined iRobot, so I was visiting him as well. It was serendipity that he came on the little robot tour, and that he had his handy, tiny Canon S90 camera with him. (He made special holster for it....he's a photography fanatic.) Carl did a wonderful job of hand-held crane shots and closeups for the movie.

I wrote a blog post recently about backing founders who intend to change the world. Colin Angle is certainly doing just that, and at age 43 with a successful, growing company, he has long path yet to travel. Clearly, iRobot is one our most important home run candidates.

The Key Is Backing Founders Who Intend to Change the World

I believe that the very heart of innovation comes down to founders who intend to change the world, and those who back them and help them achieve the impossible. I've been moved recently by the stories in Googled by Ken Auletta. We all know about Google's meteoric rise, but what wasn't clear to me before reading the book was what a crucial role people like Bill Campbell (of Intuit) played in helping the founders stay true to their vision and still get the management help that they needed to create the giant company that Google has become.
At the MassTLC Annual Meeting, Steve O'Leary, MassTLC's chairman, gave an overview of Massachusetts showing the amazing base of talent and assets that we have here. And while employment has stayed relatively flat over the last ten years, it did so in spite of two recessions, the events of September 11, the collapse of financial markets in 2008, and the decade-long trend of outsourcing and offshoring. Steve then issued MassTLC's challenge: add 100,000 new jobs in the coming decade. The MassTLC 2020 Challenge.
Steve and I worked on a combined presentation. While he would focus on the overall challenge, I sought to highlight what it all means for the early stage of innovation -- the stage that I love. The video below shows the presentation I presented using Prezi, a new presentation tool that works by moving and zooming on a single canvas. It forces you to keep your messages simple, and let them flow easily from one to the next. On the other hand, it takes longer to do this, but the results are worth it. 
These two earlier posts support the messages in the video:
Here is the Play Big presentation, which includes the Shake It Up video at the end:

If you'd like to play with Prezi yourself, you can download my Prezi and work with it here.

Here the slides that Steve O'Leary presented (they came before mine, and set up the idea that we need to Play Big.
And here is the link to Tom Hopcroft's MassTLC Leadership Blog. This contains all the presentations from the Annual Meeting.

It's About New Behaviors: A Proposed Playbook for Massachusetts Technology Companies

In 1988 six months after I started Avid Technology, Inc., I got a $500K first round investment from Bill Kaiser of Greylock Management. This began a long and successful business partnership between Bill and I. Recently we got together for a day at MIT to think about the local economy, and how to encourage new behaviors to increase success in the region.

This post is meant to be a starting point, and is the result of discussions with Bill Kaiser, Tom Hopcroft, Steve O'Leary, Colin Angle, Brad Feld, John Cullinane, Paul English, Don Dodge, Will Herman, Dharmesh Shah, Jeffrey Bussgang and Scott Kirsner.  

Play Big Playbook
Version 0.2 January 25, 2010

So let's say we agree on the baseball scorecard, and that we agree on being tough on ourselves that "winning" by making a good return and becoming a division of a bigger company isn't good enough for our region to maintain and increase its leadership. But we all know that within each company, once the great deal is on the table, lots of factors take hold that will lead to a sale. So how do we operate well in advance of these "final" moments so the outcomes are different? How do we change our key behaviors?

I propose that we need a new playbook. The idea is to simply encapsulate the behaviors we want to encourage. Here goes. (your input is most welcome!)

Company Playbook

1. Start Small
- Playing big doesn't mean huge capital early on or huge teams.
- Make things that work and test them quickly.
- Be curious, try things.

2. Hire Tough
-too often we hire our friends, people we know.
-we have to be WAY tougher.
- Not to be confused with "demand amazing background and experience."
- Rather, hire those who are ready to rise to new heights. Demand that.

3. Lead Here
- Stay here and lead here.
- Build a global company from here.
- We can't build our ecosystem by being an outsource shop for distant companies.

4. Buy Smart
- Do acquisitions, but do them right.
- Avoid the big swinging "industry changing" acquisitions that usually go so wrong. 
   (and have hurt many of our local companies)
- Know how you'll integrate, and move fast and aggressively

(Add more here...this is just flavor of the plays in the playbook.)

Regional Playbook

1. Fund First Timers
- The great breakthroughs come from people doing it for the first time
- The great breakthroughs often come from those in their 20's
- Stop focusing so much on experience. 

2. More Mixing
- Encourage job movement. It's good for the economy
- Move the talent around. Stealing talent is healthy. Changing jobs spreads the talent wealth.
- Voluntarily avoid non-competes. Create social pressure not to have non-competes.

3. Awesome Angels
- We must dramatically improve our angel environment.
- More angels that can do $25K-50K investments quickly
- Recruit some local "Super Angels" similar to Ron Conway and others from California.

4. New Blood
- We need new blood, new talent, to rebuild our region
- Aggressively recruit from outside, especially California.

5. Push Each Other
- Create pressure to Play Big, to avoid moves that diminish us locally.
- Expect higher performance from your peers, from your superiors, and from your team.

6. Execute, Execute
- Get tough with getting things done right.
- No company can become a global leader if its ideas are great, but it's execution is spotty
- We need to build our expertise in operations, in sales, and in marketing. (how?)

7. Spread Success
- Make sure people know what's working. Get the word out.
- Share real stories in small groups. Have the winners teach others how to win.

(Add more here...this is just flavor of the plays in the playbook.)

This post and the previous one boil down to having a common language and using it to let us push each other to greater heights. The baseball scoring approach gives us the simple idea of Home Runs and Grand Slams, and most importantly, the idea that we have Home Run Candidates and Grand Slam Candidates that we owe it to ourselves to nurture to greatness, from their inception to global domination.

The idea of a simply stated playbook gives us a common language on the individual plays that go into making a great company and a great region. It helps us push each other. For example, regarding hiring: When someone says "I worked with him at my previous company and he did a good job," perhaps the "Hire Tough" moniker will pop into the meeting, and someone will say "that's not good enough. We need someone who's going to amaze themselves and us. Lets look harder."

I believe that we indeed need to look harder. At new ways to measure success, and at new ways to spur success. The good news is, as our behaviors change, so will our fortunes.

Please add your Play Big Playbook additions, suggestions, and modifications as comments below. I'll pull them together into a new pass at the playbook.

It's About Leadership: A Proposed Scorecard for Massachusetts Technology Companies

First of two.

In 1988, six months after I started Avid Technology, Inc., I got a $500K first round investment from Bill Kaiser of Greylock Management. This began a long and successful business partnership between Bill and I. Recently we got together for a day at MIT to think about the local economy, and how to encourage new behaviors to increase success in the region.

This post is meant to be a starting point, and is the result of discussions with Bill Kaiser, Tom Hopcroft, Steve O'Leary, Colin Angle, Brad Feld, John Cullinane, Paul English, Don Dodge, Will Herman, Dharmesh Shah, Jeffrey Bussgang and Scott Kirsner.  

It's About Leadership: A Proposed Scorecard Massachusetts for Technology Companies

Sports are a wonderful metaphor for real life, because they encapsulate so many things that we know are crucial in business as well as on the playing field: Teamwork, leadership, talent, strategy, and hard work. All sports have one thing in common: A clear measure of the score, and an unambiguous knowledge of who has won and who has lost.

I believe that if we increase our talent pool, and increase our leadership expertise, then jobs, profits and revenues will follow. After all, just like any company, a region is really little more than the pool of great people that it contains.

But how do we increase our talent pool? And how do we increase our leadership role in the country and in the world? First, I believe we need a measurement of success that in the long run will translate to success in growing leadership and thus talent. I believe we have sold too many of our great companies, and we have put our national and global leadership at risk. Yes, we do have talented people here, but do we want to employ them as outsourced R&D for distant companies? What happens to our ability to recruit great talent when the jobs here are away from headquarters? Whose career has ever soared by working in an "outpost?"

I propose a scorecard that helps push us towards having companies locally run. It's a shorthand way of saying: "Play big." "Don't sell out." It's a way of saying "Lead here."

Since metaphors are made to be mixed, the scorecard comes from baseball, and playbook (next post) from football. The scorecard is a way to talk about success. My hope is that we might all agree on a common definition of the score, and use that to push ourselves to better performance and higher leadership.

Any growing company that is selling a successful product.
This would mean any company that successfully reaches the market and serves a growing need.
Essentially, you're on base once you show that more and more people need and obtain your product.

Any growing company with sales over $10M.

Any growing company with sales over $100M

Home Run
>1B market cap

Grand Slam
>10B market cap
Dominates its market; fast market growth

This is an extremely simple scorecard, with five levels separated by a factor of ten in sales, then a factor of ten in market cap. It gives us a way of naming what we have, and maybe what we don't have. More importantly, it lets us think in terms of "candidates" for greatness:

"Home Run Candidate" - This means a local company that could go pubic, and reach over a billion in market cap. Constant Contact and iRobot are examples.

"Grand Slam Candidate" This is a company that is probably already public, and could become an unchallenged global leader with over $10B in sales.
Akamai is an example.

Our Grand Slam Technology Companies

Thermo Fischer Scientific

Establishing the Right Horizon Early On

I believe that we are selling our triples before they can be home runs, and selling our home runs before they can become grand slams. Within each company, this probably makes perfect sense. A great deal for the investors and for the current employees. But I believe that if we sell our triples and home runs, we forever eliminate the benefit that may have accrued had these companies topped their field as an independent company. No Grand Slams. Just divisions. I just don't think you can lead a region, let alone a nation and the world, with divisions.

Some of this is based on the horizon that companies establish early on in life. Think about how brash Amazon's goals were, and how doggedly they pursued them. The result is a Grand Slam of epic proportions. While Amazon may have had offers early on in life, it's high but focused goals would have precluded any early sale.

We will only get what we set out to get. Let's set our horizons boldly, but achievable. Let's design our work to result in Grand Slams that are based here. There are plenty of regions out there who will sell us their Triples and Home Runs if we can offer them a great price, and a ride around the bases.

Please add your Grand Slam Scorecard additions, suggestions, and modifications as comments below. I'll pull them together into a new pass at the scorecard

Lifestyles of The Future Rich and Future Famous: A Look Inside the TechStars Boston (Actually Cambridge) Penthouse

Only one more day to apply! Deadline is January 11, 2010 at 11:59 pm!
The luxury of TechStars Boston is a well-kept secret. Our Cambridge location the top floor of a historic Central Square building (actually, it is historic...used to be the power company, back when electricity was invented.)
You enter though this door at 727 Mass Ave. The space used to be for the Kaplan people who run classes for cramming for things like SAT tests. How fitting that their space is being reused for people cramming for a big show just three months away.
To enter the hallowed halls of TechStars, you must know the code. If you are accepted for this year, you will, in fact, know this code. But wait, there's more.
Your penthouse accommodations have rooftop views. Gourmet food is nearby, as are many coffee houses and pizza places.
Modern conveniences include a spacious elevator that can comfortably fit two people if they eat lightly and are willing to get to know each other during the ride.
Last year's version of Shawn Broderick. (Taken before TechStars moved in.) Shawn has been upgraded for this year, with a new look, shorter hair, an occasional beard. He seems more relaxed, but I'm sure once things get going, we'll see that hair on fire look again.
As Shawn pointed out, the carpet came pre-stained. Perfect for an entrepreneurial hang out.
TechStars provides access to the latest technology.
Rooms really are big, and they have really high ceilings. Two or three companies share what used to be a classroom. They do learn from each other!
Are you ready to hang up your coats on these walls? You start in March when the weather is cold and forbidding. When you take the coat off the wall in June, you'll be basking in the warmth of new knowledge, new mentors, new friends, a great new pitch, a product well along, and a company on the rise.

Small Money Can Buy Big Love: Why Buying 20x30" Enlargements is The Best Possible Way to Spend $25 (or better yet, $65)

I love photography. Have since I was six years old. But digital photography doesn't really exist. It only lives in the minds of our computers or iPhones. Real photography lives on the walls of the places you live and work. Real photography is analog. Real photography touches your heart because it envelops you, lives with you, and speaks to you, even when you're not beckoning it forward from from the digital depths of your devices.

So I say to you: Go out and buy giant enlargements! Big ones. Even huge ones. (And please, comment on this blog post when you get them!) A 20x30" enlargement costs less than an entree at a good restaurant. And they keep on giving and giving. And here's the amazing thing: You don't need perfect pictures for these great enlargements. You'll only look at them from a distance. Even when Shutterfly complains that your image doesn't have enough resolution (if, for example you cropped an image), go ahead and click "add to cart." You'll be amazed.

Photographs can and do capture love. You can buy photographs with money. Release your images from their digital bondage and have them explode on your walls -- in your garage, in your basement, in your family room, anywhere that you have room for some giant images. And consider spending a few extra bucks for fantastic mounting of your images on lightweight, but strong Gatorboard. (Nations Photo Lab can do this)

Note: Usually Shutterfly is less expensive than Nations, but check out Nations link below. They are offering 50% (!) off on enlargements, which makes a 20x30 cost only $14.50 for their top of the line professional metallic print, with color correction. These metallic prints just take your breath away, and they are gloriously glossy, compared to Shutterfly's matte. Also, Nations Photo Lab can go up to 30x40 (wow, that's two 20x30's next to each other). With mounting on black 1/2" gatorboard, that 30x40 would still be under $85. Now that's a lot of love! What a present that would be for a grandparent with a rather large wall waiting for imagery.

Nations Photo Lab (The vertical print on 1/2" gatorboard)

They are in Maryland, and ground shipping is plenty fast.
They are obsessive packers; the prints or boards arrive in perfect condition

Shutterfly: (The ones on the dining room table, and on the wall)

SHIP40 gets you free shipping for orders over $40. (buy two prints!)

Calling Great Entrepreneurs: TechStars Boston: One Day Left to Apply; 8 Reasons To Jump In

Tower of Power - Shawn Broderick is the Executive Director of TechStars Boston

TechStars helps entrepreneurs turn their ideas into real companies, fast.

TechStars is now operating in three cities: Boulder, Boston, and Seattle. The Boston program begins March 2, 2010, and the application deadline is January 11, 2010 at seconds before midnight (how many seconds is not disclosed).

If you know a great team of early stage entrepreneurs, you should let them know about the Boston TechStars program.

Here's why I love TechStars and feel it is the right way to help early stage entrepreneurial teams: 

TechStars creates community between the 10-12 teams that are funded, and it creates community between the 50-70 mentors who spend time with the entrepreneurs to help them work out their idea. This dual-community building is very powerful, and creates real connections between entrepreneurs and the people who can help them, including a wide range of angel investors and technical advisors.

TechStars is immersive for the teams, and also for the mentors that get involved. Everyone is in the soup. You bond around building things, rather than talking.

TechStars is overwhelming in that it provides too much input from a wide range of people. Why is this good? It forces the entrepreneurs to follow their instincts while picking and choosing among the input that is coming at them. There is just no way to try and "thread the needle" between all the input. You have to be clear about what's important to you, and use the knowledge for your own goals.

TechStars is competitive. Hey, building things is fun, and TechStars does this on steroids. Each team is making things happen right away, and that spurs teams that might be behind to kick their own butts into gear.

TechStars forces you to get great at presenting. Again, its through help, input, repetition, competition and camaraderie. While public speaking is often people's worst fear, by the end of TechStars, it becomes one of their biggest strengths. I've seen people who were literally terrified to present transform themselves into smooth and confident presenters in three months.

TechStars teaches you to present from the heart. There isn't a single formula for the presentations. Each one is different and is based on the company and its founders. This resonates with potential investors

TechStars puts on a great show for investors. Each program ends with an Investor Day presentation. Last year in Boston, there were over 300 people at the event. The energy in the room at the Boston event was amazing. TechStars knows how to put on a good show. TechStars knows how to fill the room with qualified investors. And this creates enourmous pressure on the TechStars founders to rise to the occasion.

TechStars builds lasting friendships. I'm still working with companies from the first TechStars program in Boston. I've made some great friendships that will last.

And lastly: The TechStars Train is Leaving the Station! Tell people who should apply to get it done!

Some important links:

TechStars Application (Due Jan 11 for Boston:
TechStars Boston Mentors:
TechStars Home Page:
David Cohen (TechStars Founder) blog:
Brad Feld (TechStars Co-Founder and VC) blog:
A Ton of TechStars Boston Photos on Flickr: