VC:VC Immense Egos

This is the first panel of a 1999 Dilbert cartoon about doctors. Written a year later it might have targeted Venture Capitalists, endowment managers or philanthropists, all of whose egos were inflated by the tech bubble of that time. How the mighty have all fallen.

Of course, now, it would have to be about bloggers :)

A tangentially related recent article in the Economist (Ivory-Towering Infernos) looks into the latest questions being raised about the symbiotic relationships of large university endowments and the private equity (including VC) funds in which they invest.

Energy Flow

Thanks to a recent pitch by an entrepreneur, I saw this amazing chart from the US Government Energy Information Administration. The diagram shows sources and uses of energy in the USA in 2007.

In these times of nationalizing everything, finding out we have such a soviet-sounding bureaucracy is little comfort. However, this may be worthy of Tufte (or at least, in the right direction), so enjoy. Click on the picture to see the full size.

The units are quadrillion BTUs. Those Brits are everywhere (BTU = British Thermal Units).

Britain, uniquely

Britain, uniquely, has power consumption habits related to tea and TV...

How I miss the BBC.

Bostonian of the Year: vote for the Bike Czar

Boston Globe Magazine is soon due to name a Bostonian of the Year. All of the contenders probably deserve the accolade (as do many more)... but the great work of Nicole Freedman, the wonderful Boston Bike Czar, is something new for Boston. Previously one of the worst cities in the USA for cycling, Nicole's work is moving us towards being a "future best city" (both according to Bicycling Magazine).

So I vote for Nicole as Bostonian of the year.

Click here to vote for Nicole.

The Sunday Brunch that nobody expects

With a tip of the hat to my favorite philosopher, Gregg Stern, for pointing me to the Python Online website, here is my favorite Python song.

I saw, this week, the best explanation of the financial crisis that I have ever seen. Read it and weep.

On a more serious note, and in the work field, I think Brad Feld pointed me to a great post on Boomerang Founders. This is where one or more of the original founders, who never really get involved past the thinking-about-it-stage, suddenly want to be included in the big bucks when things get going (or get sold). At Phase Forward we partially suffered from this syndrome with one of the "gang of four" (most people think there were only two), so, founders, beware!

Finally for today, in my work at Sigma, we often get coincidental waves of business plans that overlap significantly. In the last few months we have seen several music technology deals, ranging from systems that recognize what you sing to them, to platforms for independent musicians to manage their businesses. It turns out this is not quite as much of a coincidence as I thought. Boston has a music technology cluster, possibly the leading cluster, as reported last year by Xconomy here and here. Borrowing the words of the immortal Monty Python: "Nobody expects the Boston Music Technology Cluster."

Healthy Sunday Brunch

How healthy was your Sunday brunch today?

This morning, while working out, in lieu of biking, I finally finished reading In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan. It is a great book and was previewed in his NY Times article which I wrote about almost two years ago. The subtitle is An Eater's Manifesto, and the manifesto is, repeating my precis:

Eat food: what your great-grandmother would recognise as food (and nothing with a health claim or more than about five ingredients on the box)

Not too much: most of the US national eating disorder is about eating too much - don't

Mostly plants: plants come to us as whole food, with a balance of goodness we evolved around - most of the other stuff is either bad for us in and of itself, or is bad for us the way we process and eat it

By the way, eating mostly plants should be aimed at leaves rather than seeds.

Having started on the subject of healthy eating, I have a few items for today's brunch about the US health care system ... a favorite, if tragic, topic.

  • Charlie Baker, CEO of Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare (a very well respected HMO here in the Boston area), has a great post on The Five Myths of Healthcare. His post is actually commentary on a Washington Post op-ed of the same name. I particularly like reminding people of myth number one: that America has the best healthcare system in the world. It doesn't.
  • Last month, John Halamka (CIO of Harvard Medical School and of Beth Israel Deaconess medical center) forecast his list of winners and losers in IT (health IT in particular) in 2009. John subsequently reported on a milestone for Personal Health Records (PHRs). The Federal Government's Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), opened their systems up for Utah and Arizona Medicare members to use a select number of consumer PHR systems to access their own records.
  • Earlier in the year, Xconomy, a new digital news source for the high-tech world, reported on Boston's status as a hub for a cluster of Health 2.0 companies. This is probably only been strengthened in the intervening times.

Finally, a little dessert ... a 50%-off coupon for first time customers at ScanCafe. ScanCafe scans your photos, slides or negatives at high res and sends you images back. You can send your entire shoebox, and then once scanned you get to look at the low-res scans on-line and choose which images you want to pay for the hi-res version (at least half). When ordering on the company website look for "Add discount" on the order form and enter 50DEC2008.

Each photo gets 2 – 4 minutes of a real human working in photoshop to do touch-up. They did a great job on mine. Apparently the automated touch-up found on many scanners and photo-editors still cannot compete with the human eye in deciding the best moves for many photos. Hence customers like the touch-ups from ScanCafe better... They have more in-depth restoration capabilities as well including for existing digital photos.

Full disclosure: Sigma Partners is an investor in ScanCafe.