Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Untangle Goes Open Source (GPL)

Earlier this morning we formally announced that we are open sourcing Untangle's network gateway platform. Untangle is a virtual networking platform, which runs network based applications that make it easy for businesses to Block Spam, Block Myspace, Block Spyware, provide secure remote access and run 9 other Untangle apps. In building the Untangle Platform and applications, we used more than 30 open source projects like SpamAssassin, Snort and OpenVPN, and now we're proud to be joining the GPL club ourselves.

Untangle isn't about kinda-sorta-PR-splash open source either. We're going whole-hog GPL for the Untangle Platform and 12 of the 14 applications that run on it, which represents 95% of Untangle's source and 500K+ lines of code. And we believe that truely embracing open source means embracing transparency so we're also posting our bugtracker and making it easy to download and build the sourcecode. We've benefited greatly from other open source projects and we wanted to give something back to the community that had real value.

The secret sauce is the Untangle Platform which is about “virtual pipelining” and management features. Untangle's virtual pipelining enables a data packet to be processed by all of its applications (spam, virus, web filters etc.) without requiring CPU context switches between the processes. The net result is that Untangle runs on any cheapo Intel/AMD compatible off-the-shelf x86 PC with 2 NICs. (For example, you could almost certainly turn the desktop you are using to read this post into an Untangle server by simply adding a second NIC.) We think its crazy that other vendors lock their customers in with proprietary hardware appliances when off-the-shelf-hardware prices have been falling so dramatically.

The Untangle Platform is also about management because the best open source technology isn't always the most user friendly. So we built a GUI for all 14 applications based on an intuitive "virtual rack" metaphor, network & user based reporting and automatic signature updates into our platform. Furthermore, Untangle supports SNMP and Syslogs for ease of management in deployments with multiple servers. While we do offer live support and some additional advanced management features as a commercial add-on, the GUI, reporting, logging, SNMP and Syslogs are all open source.

We've leveraged open source software to build what we think is a pretty remarkable virtual networking platform and we hope that the community will further innovate upon our contributions.

Taxing VCs' Carry as Income Won't Shift Behavior

To me the important question in the debate over whether or not VCs "carry" should be taxed as income rather than capital gains is "will increasing taxation levels change VC behavior?" The answer to this question is clearly no because there is no other industry that provides the same lifestyle to compensation ratio that venture capital does. But hey, I grip about paying my taxes also, so who can blame VCs for trying to protect their loophole.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Looking for an Web Interface Developer

Here at Untangle, we are looking for a developer to join our team to help build our web interface. We've got a really fun team (across all departments) that works hard and gets things done. We are an early-stage startup with about 25 employees, so the expectation levels and commitment required are high but there is also tremendous opportunity to have a large impact on development. The most compelling thing I can write about the company is that I was so impressed with the team and product vision that I decide to join myself in February and there is no question that Untangle has best working atmosphere that I have experienced so far.

I'm posting the formal job description below, but the most important attributes that our engineering team is looking for is high intellect and horsepower to handle the fast pace of development here at Untangle. It would be great if you do have AJAX and Ruby on Rails experience, but the soft skills of intelligence and work ethic are valued much more than any specific programming language. The compensation is good with a six figure salary, healthy chunk of options and a great benefits package.

If you are interested in the position, please feel free to contact me directly:

Job Description:

You will be responsible for creating the web-based face of our network security product. You will expand our targeted customer base by providing a new level of product interaction and feature set for us. You should be hands on and work at a rapid pace. Expect to work in a fun and fast-paced startup environment, where you will make a key contribution and expand your skill set. This role is crucial to the company’s future success.


We have a full benefits package, six figure salary, stock options, medical, dental, 401K and company lunches every Thursday and a boundless supply of Poptarts.


  • 5+ years of building customer facing, scalable web applications
  • Good knowledge of Web 2.0 technologies
  • Experience with AJAX frameworks (Protoype, Dojo, …)
  • Programming experience in interpreted languages (Python, Ruby, etc.) and solid shell scripting
  • Basic database design, implementation, and usage (Postgres, MySQL, Oracle)
  • Systems management and performance tuning
  • Significant hands-on web experience
  • Release management experience utilizing CVS, svn, etc.
  • Must be passionate about understanding customer needs and solving them effectively
  • Highly intelligent, quick learning, with good problem solving skills
  • Must be a proactive, intelligent, motivated individual, with the ability to work in groups or individually
  • Bachelors in CS or equivalent degree. MSCS is a plus

Additional desired skills and experience:

  • Experience in Portal Technology or current web frameworks (Rails/ Django) a plus

About Untangle

Our company, Untangle, enables small businesses (10 – 150 employees) to protect, control, and monitor their networks. Through a single device that runs locally on the network, Untangle provides over a dozen on-demand services including anti-spam, anti-spyware, virus protection, remote access, web-content filtering, and more. The services are designed specifically to address the needs of small business.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

GREAT Article by Bob Walters on VentureBeat

Bob Walters wrote a GREAT article on VentureBeat earlier today titled "Leadership - Annapolis Style." Bob has been a successful serial entrepreneur in Silicon Valley for the last 20 years and yet some of the most valuable lessons that he learned about leadership came from his time as a midshipmen at the Naval Academy. In a world of high tech startups, it is easy to write the military off as irrelevant or out of touch with Silicon Valley's leadership styles. However, given Bob's experiences, it is clear that the Naval Academy teaches timeless leadership lessons.

As someone who has worked on Bob's team for the past 4 months, I can attest that he is truely a great leader. In fact, it was one of these very lessons that Bob described when I first encountered him, which inspired this post that I wrote in February of 2006 and ultimately started the chain of events that lead to my joining Untangle earlier this year.

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Monday, June 18, 2007

How Startups Forecast Revenue for VCs

One item that I've never really seen covered well in any of the entrepreneurship events that I've attended is forecasting revenue. Most folks seem to either over-simplify or over-complicate forecasting. Anyway, Will Price has a great explanation of how to forecast revenue for an enterprise sales business model. The key take away is that investors do not find top down forecasting credible. If you want to impress an investor, you need to think through how you build repeatable sales processes and that requires a bottoms up approach. But you don't need to pay a consultant to do this for you. A quick read of Mr. Price's explanation and a spreadsheet is really all you need.

Killing Widgets

I decided to kill 3 widgets on my blog earlier this evening. I dropped the SideFlicks video widget, the Swapthing swapping widget and the CoComment widget that lets readers see my comments elsewhere in the blogsphere. In theory, I really like all 3 widgets, but in practice the don't seem to get used much. I'm hopping that dropping these widgets will make the pages look a little bit cleaner and load a bit faster.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

VCs Can't Keep the Lights On

I just got wind of a funny story in the LA Times earlier this week about power outages on Sand Hill Road. Apparently there have several major power failures in the last couple of months leading to confusion and lost data from unsaved documents. It makes me laugh that "captains of Silicon Valley," as the LA Times calls them, aren't tech savvy enough to have UPS, remote backup, and power generators in place. For folks who have been investing in IT for years and energy technology more recently, you wouldn't think they'd get caught with their pants down like this.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Apologies for the RSS Ads

I am going to join Feedburner's Advertising Network, which means that the RSS feed of the Entrepreneurship Blog is going to start carrying ads. I am generally opposed to advertising on my blog, however, I want to create a Feedburner Network and they only let folks who let them advertise in their feeds do this. Although I don't want the advertising, I believe it is a fair deal. Feedburner provides a good service that I want to use and they deserve to be able to monetize it. I apologize in advance to RSS subscribers who doesn't like the advertising but it is pretty common these days and I'm optimistic that it won't be too intrusive.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Ron Conway on Entrepreneurs Cashing Out with Venture Financing

VentureBeat reports that Ron Conway is upset about Entrepreneurs taking cash bonuses when they raise rounds from VCs. Mr. Conway argues that all of the capital should stay inside the startup and be used to grow the company as quickly as possible, that entrepreneurs and investors should make money together when the company exists and that lesser know VCs are using these bonuses to steal deals away from KP and Sequoia.

Philosophically, I agree with Mr. Conway that capital's efficiency should always be maximized. However, in practice entrepreneur and investor interests do not always line up because most VC business models necessitate that they shoot for large wins and balance risk through out their portfolios. Take 10 big swings and hope to hit a couple out of the park. On the other hand entrepreneurs have all of their risk in one company and might prefer a garaunteed double instead of a risky home run. Thus, I am tempted to suggest that letting entrepreneurs cash-out a couple of million bucks would be a good way for both parties aim for the fences every time.

The problem with this approach is balancing motivation with financial need. There are some entrepreneurs who could stay focused, but a couple million bucks is a life changing event for most and could easily be a major distraction. On the other hand bootstrapping entrepreneurs in financial need would undoubtedly be more focused if they didn't have to worry about their creditors.

I suggest a hybrid solution... let entrepreneurs cash out, but not more than $250K. This is plenty of cash to do at least one of the following:
  • Pay for a wedding
  • Comfortably start a family
  • Make a down payment on a modest home in a nice neighborhood
  • Pay off debts used to self-fund
  • Buy a Porsche
$250K should be enough to give the entrepreneurs a bit of breathing room and have a bit of fun, without being so much money that it becomes a distraction.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Brooklyn is Crazy about Pizza

According to the NY Times Di Farra Pizza in Brooklyn has been shut for the second time since March 15th, by the health inspector. The article quotes several forlorn customers who lament the loss of their favorite pizza and yearn for Di Farra to re-open. One customer even goes so far as to say that if Di Farr doesn't reopen "we’ll be losing not only a Brooklyn landmark but a national treasure.”

What I don't understand is, who in their right mind would want to eat at a restaurant that was closed by the health inspector twice within 3 months. Shouldn't their customers be worrying about whether or not they've been food poisoned?

Monday, June 11, 2007

Malware Targeting Multiple Operating Systems

According to ZDNet a new worm is targeting OpenOffice. Worms are nothing new but this one has a macro that targets Windows, Linux and Mac OSX. As far as I am aware, this is the first time malware has targeted multiple operating systems and I think it could be an ominous sign for Linux and OSX users that have essentially been untargeted by malware writers. Writing zero-day exploits is difficult but most operating systems are behind on patches, which means that if it is now easy to load multiple exploits into malware, the next generation of virus and worms could spread much more quickly as they infect everything they touch. Furthermore, Linux and Mac users may have some bad habits that make them susceptible to malware. Many Linux users don't use anti-virus on their desktops and Mac users may not be in the habit of updating patches as Apple historically hasn't released nearly as many as Windows.

From ZDNet:

"Once opened, the OpenOffice file, called badbunny.odg, launches a macro that behaves in several different ways, depending on the user's operating system.

On Windows systems, it drops a file called drop.bad, which is moved to the system.ini file in the user's mIRC folder. It also executes the JavaScript virus badbunny.js, which replicates to other files in the folder.

On Apple Mac systems, the worm drops one of two Ruby script viruses in files respectively called badbunny.rb and badbunnya.rb.

On Linux systems, the worm drops both badbunny.py as an XChat script and badbunny.pl as a Perl virus."

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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Andy & Kathrine's English Countryside Wedding

The weekend before last two friends of mine, Andy & Kathrine, got married in her home town of Much Wenlock. Much Wenlock is a beautiful countryside English village, located about and hours drive West of Birmingham. Flying to England for a weekend was pretty rough, but catching up with friends that I rarely see these days was really great.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Cell Phone Telemarking from Sprint/Nextel

This morning I got a cold call from Sprint/Nextel. It was the second time in the past month or so that I've gotten a call from them offering me a free wireless access card if I subscribe to the service. I am a Sprint/Nextel business customer, but there is something that really irks me about receiving telemarketing calls on my cell phone. I wasn't charged for the call but it feels like an invasion of privacy.

Don't get me wrong, this isn't another I hate telemarketers rant. In general, I am a huge supporter of cold calling and inside sales because they are sales tactics that work. Many Silicon Valley tech companies are built on inside sales so as much as it might be annoying to receive sales calls, I understand that it is part of the ecosystem and I always try to be polite and give callers 60 seconds.

Is it just me or do you agree that cold calling cell phones crosses a line?

Monday, June 04, 2007

How Guy Kawasaki Could Have Saved $4,800 on Truemors

Guy Kawasaki wrote a post yesterday with detailed data about his launch of Truemors. Its really interesting to see the exact breakdown of the $12K that he spend launching the company and the initial results in terms of pageviews, visitors and posts. I'm very glad that Mr. Kawasaki did this because it provides and interesting set of benchmarks. What is a mention in Techcrunch really worth? Well apparently 3 mentions are worth about 250,000 pageviews.

Another interesting detail was the fact that he spent $4,800 on legal fees. Mr. Kawasaki writes:
"The total cost of the legal fees was $4,824.14. I could have used my uncle the divorce lawyer and saved a few bucks, but that would have been short sighted if Truemors ever becomes worth something."
Yet, most of the top corporate law firms will defer fees for startups until after they raise their first round. I definitely agree that working with a discount lawyer is a bad idea, but why spend scarce capital when it isn't necessary?

On a side note, these law firms do evaluate the startups and only defer fees for the companies that they believe have a reasonable chance of getting funded, which means that process of finding a law firm to defer fees is a good litmus test of whether or not a startup is ready to raise venture capital. If the law firms won't defer fees, the company has very little chance of raising capital from professional investors. Furthermore, once the law firm agrees to defer fees, the startup creates a well connected partner with an interest in getting them funded who can facilitate introductions to prospective investors.

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