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What Being an Entrepreneur Is About

By - December 01, 2005

This is an interesting and unusual meditation, a slice of Valley life. I’m rather surprised it made it to the light of day.

It’s about the author’s (John Flowers) attempts to negotiate a sale of his answer/search company, Kozoru. From a portion of it:

Still, there’s something about people laying around on beanbag chairs and staring at huge, well-projected screens and talking with one another over Naked juice and Odwalla that one finds a little unsettling. Google is also nestled snugly into the old Silicon Graphics campus, which – if you’ve ever been there – adds to the otherworldly vibe one gets while tromping between buildings, through open-sand volleyball courts and around the ten-kinds-of-free-meal cafeteria they’ve created.

Everything we saw and heard and felt seemed like we were getting along great with everyone there. Everything, that is, until three weeks ago when – without warning – they stopped responding to e-mails or returning phone calls. They did, however, take the opportunity to log into our private interface and see what we were doing (after we shared it with them), even after the calls stopped and the radio silence continued.

I’d remove their access, but I like Megan and company and assume… some day… they might actually call back saying something like, “This is really cool.”

..

I’m wondering if this kind of behavior (the not calling back part of it) is standard operating procedure for the Gubble, as I’ve heard more than one person say, “They threw out a tentative offer, about $1MM per engineer, and we didn’t fall to their feet and we never heard back from them.”….

…Until then, I’d appreciate at least a courtesy call, folks. I mean, seriously.

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  • Bud

    Google doesn’t call back – what a surprise! Let me guess, their product team grilled your team to figure out everything that you do, ruminated on it and concluded that they can do it better.

    This is very similar to what Microsoft used to do, albeit in a different form during the late 80′s early 90′s: go under NDA, very excitedly figure out what you do, talk partnerships, buy-outs, then radio silent, NDA expires, they release a product that is remarkably similar to yours.

    Let me guess, Google would not even enter into a NDA with your company? Don’t be surprised when some of your good ideas end up in a Google product. They’ve done this to other companies.

    Google is acting soooo much like Microsoft used to, it’s now very scary.

  • ljwhorfin

    DO NO EVAL!!! yea right.

    Johnny screw it — expand the server farm and damn the torpedoes. Your IM search idea smokes! Let the majors talk to you 6 months after your launch. Slam a simple advertising/revenue model on it if cash flow is needed. You would OWN a significant chunk (majority) of the moble search market. Let the Majors talk to you about price then. I can’t believe they are this out of touch. GUYS WAKE UP.

    Please Santa make your Xmas threat real!!! I expect to get a new crackberry and I would like to play with your stuff while the kids build snowmen;)

  • http://glinden.blogspot.com Greg Linden

    It always surprises me when I see companies do this, especially at a time when they’re desperately running around trying to find and hire new talent.

    It seems to me that companies consistently underestimate the time, cost, and risk of reproducing a product. Especially at some of the larger, more dysfunctional organizations — I’ll refrain from naming names — it will take a substantial team (salary + compensation) a long time (competitive risk for time to market) to blatantly rip off a startup’s work. Furthermore, lack of experience and lack of a dedicated team makes schedule slips or even failure quite likely (high schedule/delivery risk).

    In addition, there is the value of owning the original IP and legal and ethical risk of treading on someone else’s IP.

    A build vs. buy decision should include all these factors. When you do, you’ll see that the cost of building is often quite high.

    But teams internally evaluating build vs. buy often want to build. Building is fun. Building is cool. So, they drastically underestimate the difficulty of building, only to discover a couple years later the folly of their decision.

  • http://clipmarks.com/user/egoldstein/ eric goldstein

    The old saying, the higher they rise the harder they fall (or something like that) seems like it just might end up applying to Google. Have you ever seen the perception of a company rise so high so fast and then begin to drop so rapidly?

  • http://www.quintura.com Yakov

    When we were talking to a manager of Google about our company at ISDEF (Independent Software Developers Forum) back in October, he was asking how many engineers we have and how long for we developed our product? No wonder, why he was asking those questions! There is always an opportunity cost. However, I’ve heard from someone this interesting statement: “One woman can give a birth to a child in nine months, but nine women cannot give a birth to a child in one month”.

  • http://www.helpme.com whoknows

    i’m going through eval with google at the moment–the price they want to pay for my service is really sub-sub par. Ok, i thought–i’ll be able to say i do biz with G which will no doubt help my biz. then I find out they always have the gag clause with all business partners, no discussion. So i’m getting lowballed *and* gagged. so why am i doing business with this company? what about the ‘do no evil’ bit and recognizing the ecosystem of entrepreneurs out there? there’s nothing wrong with greed, but to so quickly make a right turn town greed alley is beginning to shake people quite a bit…

  • http://www.andilinks.com/ Andi

    I read Jarvis regularly but missed ‘Gubble’ last June. With G up 100 since then I’m surprised I haven’t heard it more often… I think I may. I think I may be using it myself.

    As for the other, the whole idea of a disclosure agreement expiring on something I’ve poured my heart and soul into makes my skin crawl.

    The most difficult part of any business is having it stolen from you legally.

  • rob

    There are so many unknowns in this situation you could drive a fleet of trucks through them.

    Google might have developed a similar technology already. What do you think all those Google people do in their “own time” projects: design new stuff of course.

    They might also be going through the assessment process, and unsure how this company will add to their strategic outlook.

    Of course, they might have a team of lawyers pondering the legality — or otherwise — of simply taking the idea and implementing it themselves.

    Or … (other stuff here that I haven’t thought of in 2 minutes).

  • http://www.andilinks.com/ Andi

    >>>There are so many unknowns in this situation…

    Yes, potential investors are responsible for those unknowns and should know what the entrepreneur is going through. Being mistrusted and putting people through hell seems to be a favorite pass-time for these people. It would help the image problem (which see) to have some consideration.

    hence:
    >>>I’d appreciate at least a courtesy call, folks. I mean, seriously.

  • http://www.andilinks.com/ Andi

    Oh, I forgot to add, not being perceived as ‘evil’ can be as simple as being ‘nice.’ Some advice is worth more than you pay for it.

  • rob

    Interesting comments by Andi (thanks).

    Well, I say “get over it already” and keep building. Yes it is frustrating when people don’t act professionally but a short well-crafted personal email can point out issues in a friendly and respectful way and then you’ve hit the ball over the net. Keep adding value to what you’re doing and don’t be afraid to value your new stuff (“all change”) if they don’t come back within a short time.

    In fact, you might even take an approach where you say “Google, thanks for taking the time to hear our presentation. So when will we hear from you (and who), either way, because we’re busy people”.

    Again, hit the ball over the damn net, and get on with it.