Sunday, March 20, 2005

SMS Search

In 2000, I had a chance to spend quite a bit of time in the UK while I was developing the UK version of TiVo. While there, I got hooked on using SMS. You could just call for directory information, and they would text you back the directory listing for the company/person you were looking up.

Since then, I have been an active user of text messaging. For the first few years, text messaging didn't work so well in the US. You had to know what carrier the person you were texting used to make sure you could reach them from your carrier. T-Mobile -> AT&T worked fine, but if you were texting a Sprint customer, Fugettaboutit. (BTW, I've got T-Mobile and they're great)

Finally, 5 years later, text messaging has really caught on in the US. Not only can you send people quick messages via SMS, but there are even IM/Email <-> SMS gateways which let you send an instant message or email to someone via SMS.

Last week, I had the opportunity to meet a cool guy, Zaw Thet, who is VP of Products at 4Info. 4Info is doing some really cool things with SMS and web search. Google has been playing around with this, but 4Info is taking it to a new level. All you have to do is compose a short text message and send it to 4INFO (44636). An example search would be "weather 94566" and 4Info would respond with the weather forecast for Pleasanton, California. Or, if you want to look up the number for Baja Fresh in Palo Alto, simply text "Baja Fresh, Palo Alto, CA" and 4Info will text you back the listing. Rumor is that 4Info has recently secured a healthy round of venture funding. If the rest of the team is as sharp as Zaw, you'll be hearing a lot more about them. Try 4Info on your phone, I think you'll like it.

Friday, March 18, 2005


I guess one of the best ways to start a blog is with an introduction. So, here's a little bit about me:

I was born in Seattle, Washington, but my family left there when I was very small. I spent most of my formative years in Worthington, Ohio. I attended Worthington High School (now Thomas Worthington HS) and graduated in 1983. After that, I attended Purdue University for one year and then transferred to Ohio State University. I received a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Ohio State in 1988.

After school, I moved to California to work for a company called FTI, Inc. in their now defunct San Francisco office. At FTI, I started off as a computer animator and finshed there as Director of Technical Operations, responsible for much of the high-end video and computer operations. After 6 years, I left FTI in 1994.

After a short stint as an independent computer animator, I accepted a position at Silicon Graphics Computer Systems (now SGI Inc.) At SGI, I worked primarily for the Silicon Studio division where I developed and built their Entertainment Technology Center. The ETC was a working production facility that also served as a showcase for potential customers. We had a full size virtual set, performance animation rig, compositing, editing, animation and audio production. It was a great learning experience and a fun place to work.

I then transferred to Alias|Wavefront (they've since dropped the Wavefront part of their name). At Alias, I was the designer of a software program called Zap!iT. Zap!iT allowed computer animators to watch real-time playback of their animations from individually rendered frames without the intermediate step of creating a movie that was optimized for real-time playback. At A|W, I manged the engineering team through two iterations of the Zap!iT product before they decided to close their Mountain View operations and merge the product into their compositing group in Santa Barbara. I left A|W in the summer of 1998.

After a well needed sabbatical, I joined a startup in Sunnyvale that had just changed it's name from Teleworld to TiVo. I had worked with TiVo's CEO Mike Ramsay at Silicon Studio and respected his experience and management style. Two other ex-SGI'ers I respected greatly, Howard Look and Brian Beach worked there as well. So, I decided to give TiVo a shot. While at TiVo, I held a variety of roles in marketing and engineering. For my final four years at TiVo, I was in charge of Product Marketing. This allowed me to oversee the product and service roadmaps for TiVo's product line. I also played a major role in developing TiVo's home networking strategy, including the home media features - music streaming, photo playback and TiVo-To-Go. I decided to leave TiVo in the fall of 2004 to pursue a leadership position at an earlier stage company.

In September of 2004, I joined a small software startup called imeem. We were in stealth mode until early 2005. At imeem, I am currently the VP of Marketing. In this role, I have worked with the founders to develop the corporate identity, product roadmap and launch strategy. We officially launched the company at the DEMO@15 conference in February of 2005 and were very favorably received.

The imeem product is actually very cool. At the lowest level, it is a secure network written on top of TCP/IP. Instead of trying to weld security onto the Internet, these guys have built an entirely secure communication network. It's like a VPN for consumers. And the best part is, the customer builds this network using a simple instant messenger buddy list. Once your personal network is established, almost all communication between users happens over secure peer links. Current user features include photo sharing, file sharing, blogging and chat.

The developers at imeem use a relatively new form of product management called Extreme Programming (or XP). XP is a great way to develop software through constant evolution rather than time consuming processes. All of the client software is developed in C# (C Sharp) running on .NET. Our main servers use mono runnning on Linux.

I'm now living in Pleasaton, California. I've been married almost 6 years to Michele (formerly Michele Evans). Michele is running her own business making jewelry. Check out her stuff at