Science History About Me

My career...

Beginnings  Cheyenne Days  CommVault  Venture  To Consulting  A Venture, Contracting, and Bio Science

One October night in 2001 I stood on the beach trying to decide wether it was the right time to take the big step and go full time entrepeneur. The decision was bigger than I had anticipated two years before because I wanted to find a way to establish the company without venture capital. I didn't want an exit strategy. I didn't, and still don't, believe the main purpose of a company is to make money. I wanted to build a company whose sales came from a reputation of quality rather than reliance on clever people in its marketing department. A company where people wanted to put in an honest effort could expect to have a job until the day they choose to retire.

I've always been driven by the notion that an IT solution should improve the work lives of the people who use it as well as their company's bottom line. And, the people who create that solution, should do it in a positive environment where their effort is appriciated, their voices are heard, and the personal lives are respected. With these ideas developing, a few friends, and a solid idea, I decided to take the risk even though I would be starting out with little up-front capital in a bad economy and the effort would pit us against the giants in the world of telecommunications. Thus began ProactiveThought Technologies...

That night I celebrated my decision and took the next day off. On the following day, I awoke to my alarm clock's workday setting and sat down in my new home office ready to work. I began with what I then knew best; designing a system that would be simple, powerful, and blazingly fast. The idea was to create a telephone in software that would bring Voice Over IP (VOIP) to the mass market thus enabling people to talk utilizing their internet connection, free. Though today this is nearly ubiquitous, at that time, it was relatively unknown and I was told I wouldn't succeed by Telcom Venture Capitalists because the big Telcos would choke the traffic thus eliminating any threats to their dominance. I disagreed.

The first version would be built for the home market as I envisioned college kids calling home and extended families coming together for hollidays despite geographical obstacles. The large cost of a traditional advertising effort coupled with a lack of captial actually put me in a familiar position and as I did with JETServe, I planned to rely on the valuable opions of experts in the market which, in this case, were gamers. What I didn't count on was the fact that hardcore gamers like best what they don't have to pay for, and free was not a stratification constant my young startup operate on. So I decided to move our target to business.

I scanned websites for articles and threads that discussed the problems faced by CIOs and small business managers as they managed their company's telecommunication systems. We built features like centralized installation, NAT traversal, and automatic network alignment that would make the company-wide installation a single step and, of course, it was fast and efficient. We had a latency that still stands the better of hardware based solutions on the market today and a bandwidth utilization that was one tenth that of the competition.

Next, I joined the company to the New Jersey Technical Counsil (NJTC) and learned very quickly learned the benefits of that affiliation. At the first event I attended I met friendly and knowledgable people who were more than willing to help. We quickly signed on corporate council willing to bill contingent upon closing funding for us. A managing partner from Reed Smith, a global corporate law firm, helped with my business plan and even brought us into the NJTC's yearly venture fair skirting the rule that the company be revenue positive because he believe in us and our technology.

That event served to validate our technology as we came in second for the most innovative new company in communications even though we weren't supposed to be there. It also led to twelve months on the Venture Capital trail for me as I ran into an unexpected instantiation of the problem of the chicken and the egg. There were several large companies, including HIPPA, whose IT people wanted our solution, however, the executive response was always the same: "why aren't you advertising anywhere?", and that broke the deal. So I broke with my original intent to build the company without VC and started to accept invitations to present.

By this time I was two years in and though I was pitching VCs I still held hope that we could go it alone. We didn't have the financial leeway course changes so when I decided to visit a familiar venue I knew it would be one of the last big moves I could make. With that in mind I set out for Salt Lake City and one of the greatest yearly technical events; Novell's Brainshare.

I setup in a small booth in the back which probably would have seen few people if it wasn't for a very kind organzer who agreed to put the bar right next to it during one of the social events. We impressed many, but unfortunately each story ended with some variation on the same chicken and the egg problem. What did work though was my pitch to the bright people of Novell itself some of whom remembered me from my days with JETServe. Novell had an instant messenger for which they wanted to add a voice chat component and we were going to provide it.

Things seemed bright as we worked together with the leads at Novell to build, not just an interface between our two products, but a generic plug-in architecture which would allow others to add new functionality to their Instant Messenger. This may seem like we were shooting ourselves in the foot, but my goal was and still is to provide a solution to people's problems. If another solution does it better, then I need to figure out how to give more, I don't think establishing a stranglehold is the beneficial to the consumer or the producer.

In the end, it wasn't to be. This was the last foray for which we had funding and a change in leadership at Novell changed the scenario for us. Originally, we were to be put on the Novell product list, thus allowing us to establish share without needing up-front marketing capital. However, with the change came in policy which saw only Novell products allowed on the list, thus eliminating my last chance to make this venture a success.