Congrats to Docusign on recent funding!

I’m several days late to the news about “Docusign’s most recent funding”: Congrats to everyone involved, it is great to see the company continue to move ahead. I’m an increasingly frequent user of the app, the iPad experience is pretty good, and I know the team is working to make it even better. I have pretty much retired the old “print-sign-scan” cycle that I used to do on everything. There are still a few things they need to make better for me — notably docs with multiple signers — but great great progress by the company. I am starting to see docusign originated docs from non-tech people show up in my inbox unprompted, that is a good good sign.

Congrats to Bromium coming out of stealth mode!

“Streetinsider”: … “GigaOM”: … “Network Computing”:

Great progress with Azure across the Ignition portfolio

* “ScaleXtreme Announces Support for Linux/Windows Server on Windows Azure Public Cloud IaaS”:
* “Apprenda Delivers Hybrid Cloud Solution for .NET”:
* “AppFog to Develop Interoperability for Windows Azure Application Deployment”:
* “Opscode Announces Interoperability with Windows Azure”:
* “Windows Azure allows StorSimple to deliver a best-in-class, cloud-integrated storage solution”:

Hat tip to all the companies, to Microsoft Azure team, and to @frankartale for helping to make all this happen

Skeptical about voice control

There was a “Sunday NYT article on voice recognition”: and how we are all going to control our TVs and other devices with voice. Building on the Siri wave, there is a popular belief that voice will become a significant or even dominant way we interact with devices and services.

I’m a big believer in voice. Ignition is an investor in “Spoken”: who is doing great with their existing cloud voice processing business, and have some great ideas for the future. We’re an investor in “AVST”:, “Twisted Pair”:, “Public Mobile”: — all voice-based businesses, all doing great. People are never going to get tired of talking to one another.

And that is what voice is really all about — people talking to people, not to devices. I will invest all day long in technologies that improve people talking to people — making it easier, more accessible, cheaper, augmenting with additional services, hosting conversations, etc.

On the other hand, we don’t talk to our tools and instruments. We touch them. A well designed tool or instrument fits the hands naturally, and in the hand of a skilled practitioner allows great creativity and/or great performances. The feedback during its use is important, we are very sensitive to the feedback and can adjust our use in very fine increments. We don’t attempt to use voice which is an imprecise, error-prone method — in fact, trying to talk very precisely can be quite annoying and unnatural.

So are our computational devices more like tools, or more like people? Do we want to interact with them as tools, or as people? My gut says more like tools, and that we will be more effective using touch and gestures than voice.

There are always going to be edge cases in which voice control is preferred — people with disabilities, handsfree situations. But I’m not convinced voice control will become significant.

Great visit to Tier3 this week

I had the chance to meet “Jared Wray”: at “Tier3”: (one of our portfolio investments) on Friday and I was incredibly energized by the meeting. Jared is a star and Tier3 has a huge future.

I’m not generally an enterprise IT guy. I’ve worn an IT hat at times, but always for small businesses or small offices. I’ve done some enterprise app development, but eons ago. I’ve worked on software teams that have sold into enterprises and have spent time working on features to support enterprises, so I have some sense of their issues, but I am no expert. So take my views with a grain of salt.

With that caveat — wow have these guys done a terrific job creating a relevant cloud offering for enterprises. It seems super easy to roll apps out to their service because Tier3 supports a huge range of enterprise software with preconfigured orchestration blueprints for setting it all up; they support enterprise security requirements, they understand and provide great monitoring, they provide enterprise SLAs, all while delivering the great cloud attributes like elasticity. And with their new “service provider partners”:, there are going to be a ton of hosting options in locations that work for enterprises, to serve the need to “hug your servers”.

It seems like a no brainer for people to try and adopt Tier3:

* If you are in enterprise IT and want to move some of your apps to the cloud, this seems like the way to go. Or at least consider. And with great “no-cost self service activation”:, there is really no reason not to try.
* If you are a startup targeting the enterprise, Tier3 provides an environment giving you access to the computing environment of the enterprise. Again free to sign up and a pay as you go model, so why not try?
* If you are a service provider and want to provide enterprise grade services for your enterprise customers, a great set of services available for adoption.

We (Ignition) really have to step up and help Tier3 get the word out about what they are doing. They are already growing at a great clip but we can and should help them do more. They need great people in sales, marketing, and product development. And they need trials from customers and feedback.

Very exciting, great to be working with these guys.

You might want to develop a weapon besides the bazooka

In my first job after grad school, I was giving a client presentation when a junior staffer at the client asked me a question that I felt was dumb. And so during the presentation, in front of his boss and his boss’s boss, I ripped his question apart.

After the meeting, my mentor and manager pulled me aside and said “You know, you might want to develop a weapon besides the bazooka.” And pointed out how I had humiliated the client staffer, and that I was unlikely to get a lot of cooperation from him in the future. Oops.

I’ve gotten better at this over the years, but I was reminded of this recently when one of my partners and I sat through a pitch. At the end of the pitch, I pointed out a number of flaws in very terse fashion. My partner shared his own experiences, mentioned some challenges, and asked some gently-pointed questions. The team likely left the room thinking that my partner was really wise, and that they’d like to sit down with him. In contrast, they probably thought I was a d*$k.

I have to keep reminding myself — the goal of business communication is to make yourself understood, and to hopefully effect positive change. If you communicate in such a way that people write you off, well, hard to make progress from that point on.

Ignition news roundup — Symplified, Whiptail

First off, we are surving the 2012 Snowpocalypse. Office traffic is light but folks are here.

On the business front, it was “announced that we led a round”: in “Symplified”: Great company building some pretty essential tools to manage employee identity and engagement across the web, can’t imagine how companies manage their voice and presence without this.

We also “joined the investor group”: behind “Whiptail”:, who build high-scale SSD arrays to replace spinning disks. Spinning disks — seems like we will look back at these in 100 years and laugh, or at least class them as a steampunk kind of gadget.

Excited to work with both companies.

Korrio’s work on sports and head injuries is a good step

One of the companies in our portfolio, “Korrio”:, is bringing out tools to allow “parents to monitor the brain health of their child athletes”: This is a great step, I wish this had been around when we had young student athletes in the family. You don’t have to dig around very much to see the frightful effects of head impacts in sports, and anything that raises awareness of the issue and provides tools to manage is a very good thing. There is a lot more to do, I’d love to see impact monitors in helmets that track instantaneous and cumulative impact forces, but this is a great first step, awesome to see this work happening.

Rand is an amazing guy

Rand details “his recent fund raising experience”: The guy is admirably open, much to learn from this.

I’m not sure I have it in me to be that open — partly thru painful experience, partly my bias that information advantages are valuable (which makes me sound like a jerk compared to Rand, which may be true). But Rand’s approach is inspiring and motivating.

Busy week at Ignition — Bromium, Storsimple, Glympse, ScaleXtreme

I’ve fallen out of the habit of talking about Ignition portfolio news up here, but it has been a busy week and I am re-motivated to talk about some of these companies.

* “Bromium”: has a great team and working in an exciting spacen — the intersection of security, cloud computing, and virtualization. I am very interested to see how this team evolves, I can personally see myself using their technology.
* Continuing in the cloud space, “ScaleExtreme”: is making it really simple to manage all your servers in the cloud, I am also excited to try this out. And check out the super sweet “pic of Frank”: in this press piece!
* “StorSimple”: integrates enterprise storage with the cloud, giving the benefits of local storage performance and cloud backup/archiving/tiered storage. Probably not something I can ever personally use, but a great space to be in.
* In a whole different direction, “Glympse”: lets you share your location with friends and family. I’m not a big public checkin user (foursquare, etc), but keeping family and close friends up to date with my location is a lot more compelling to me. Great team and a nice intersection of our software and mobile investment biases.

Hey some seattle VCs blog!

Why Seattle VCs don’t blog – TechFlash: Seattle’s Technology News Source — John Cook wonders why we don’t blog. Obviously some of us do — myself, Rich. We do it for personal reasons, not motivated by our business — we’d be blogging if we were still at MSFT, if we were running a vinyard, etc. As such, our blogs reflect 85% our personal interests and a little bit of business interest.

John asserts that “…there’s opportunity for a VC in town to explain what is really going on in the venture industry in clear and concise terms with no BS…” However, this is not our business. Our business is investing, and to motivate a VC-focused blog, you’d have to be convinced that such a blog would a) improve your deal flow, or b) improve your exits. Not obvious to me at all.

Additionally you’d have to be certain you could sustain the blog — the examples of abandoned blogs that John mentions seems to be a bad outcome.

Stuff I want but don't need — Post Father's Day edition

Had a great father’s day, got some cool photo tools, some books that look great, and a couple of games since I have played Left4Dead and Fallout3 to death. Here’s some stuff I didn’t get and probably for good reason.

Physical Stuff:

* Faux fountains via Scott Loftesness. Cool looking and an inspiration for Halloween.
* IP PBX tips for home. I was all excited about this several years ago but increasingly not so…having resident phone technology seems so backwards
* Projects Watches wristwatches. Cool looking but increasingly I have given up on wristwatches.
* Television emulator. I don’t know, I think the dogs would prefer to watch real TV.
* Olympus PEN. Having just hauled the Canon up and down a mountain Sunday morning, the idea of a smaller form factor camera with great lenses is appealing.
* Super Duper Denon pre-amp. Just can’t face all the cabling problems tho of disconnecting my current and connecting in a new.

Virtual Stuff:
* Like the idea of automated analysis of my financials, but I am just not going to give another party access to all my financial credentials. They should license these tools to financial service firms for use on their own websites.
* Cisco Network Magic. Nice review. Congrats to the former Pure Networks team.
* Filemaker Bento iPhone app. I regularly get sucked into thinking I need a database and this app is sucking me in again. I know tho I will enter 7 records and abandon the damn thing so I am holding off.