Random Thoughts

Tech, words and musings from an Englishman in Seattle

Seattle TechCrunch Party

This evening's entertainment was the TechCrunch Party in downtown Seattle. Nice venue, if a tad hot, and it was cool to see all the local entrepreneurial talent out in force.

I got to catch up with a few people I'd met at various NWEN events and chat to way too many Microsoft people. Is it just me, or did every other person seem to be from Microsoft? :-)

I also, finally, got to meet John Cook in person and thank him for the Stealth Startup of the Week post where he wrote about us.

But the star of the evening was probably the pizza.

I have never seen as much pizza before in my entire life. There must have been at least ten stacks of six boxes of pizza - 20" pizza - and it was constantly being refreshed…

Overall, very cool. The local startup community needs more events like this.

Looking For A Startup Job?

So over at SwitchGear we're working on some pretty cool technology and we'd love to hear from some seriously stellar engineers wanting a piece of the startup action.

We're looking for people with the ability to get deep with multithreaded code, high performance networking stacks, encryption tech and high availability software services,

The ability to go from kernel to UI is a definite plus, and as we're cross-platform from day one experience in any (or all) of Windows, OSX and Linux would be ultra-cool.

As we're bootstrapping the company, compensation will be “interestingly non-conventional” for a while.

The positions will be based at our office in Bellevue, WA.

So if you want to get in on the ground floor, drop me a line at steve@switchgearsoftware.com.

Being In Control

Back when I was at Microsoft, it was a pretty much a regular weekly occurrence that I'd have to massage my Exchange server mailbox as I'd blown through the pitifully small limits that the IT group had set for us.

Then, when we started the new company and I set up the email server I was really happy that I'd never again receive the annoying Exchange nag mail.

Except, of course, when I got it today from my own Exchange server.

Damn!

It looks like I hadn't actually nuked the default limits!

At least this time, I could connect to the server and blow the limit away… Well, I didn't exactly blow it completely away - I set it to a reasonable limit.

There's something to be said for be reminded about a little mailbox hygiene…

Telemarketers

I can't remember the last time I got a cold call from telemarketer at home, so I'd forgotten about that particular communication pain.

Well, so far today I've received four calls at the office from companies trying to sell me credit card merchant machines and services!

“Do you take credit cards?”, “Why do you not want one? How will your customers pay you?”

Enough.

I'm now filling in the forms at the Do Not Call registry…

Progress…

So the phone lines and network cabling are in, so we did a run to Frys to pick up a gigabit switch, wireless router, a few five-port gigabit desk-side hubs and a UPS for the servers.

The monitors arrived a couple of days ago and the main Windows server will be arriving from Dell any day. The Windows box will be serving domain controller and exchange server duties, and we're adding a PowerMac G5 as a server for source control via Subversion, the Bugzilla bug database and the internal Wiki.

The Mac is already up and running in my house serving those duties and has been for a few months - it should simply be a matter of moving it.

The next thing will be development machines for the office. We'll probably build these ourselves - it'll be quicker and probably cheaper.

Oh, and the Ikea furniture all arrived yesterday - it was a “fun” afternoon putting all that together.

Anyhow, back to coding…

Connections

Sometimes it feels like I've stepped into an episode of James Burke's Connections.

When we started this adventure, our contacts we're minimal. We knew we had to start thinking about our investment strategy, legal representation, etc… but didn't really know where to start.

Then a few things happened.

I read about NWEN in a post by John Cook at the Seattle PI. After perusing their website I signed up for a few of their seminars. The seminars in themselves were very interesting and I learnt a bunch, but I also got some contacts and had some interesting chats. Introductions started.

And those introductions spawned others.

Then John wrote specifically about SwitchGear.

That post generated a lot of contact from the investment community and others.

Those contacts spawned meetings and introductions, including some fine corporate law firms who we met with to chat about having them represent us.

Even though we have to pick only one, these folks still introduced us to others, both potential investors and CEO's at other startups (some quite spectacularly well known!) who are willing to give us advice.

The classic quote goes “It's not what you know, but who you know.”

I agree to a point, but when we were starting out I was worried about “how do I get to know the people I need to know?”

The answer?

Have a great idea that is easy to communicate, compelling and be passionate about it.

Find one person to talk to, communicate well and get them on board. It goes exponential from there.

As a postscript, I believe that I owe John Cook a few beers in thanks by now :-)

SwitchGear Update

Yesterday we finally signed the lease on our office space. You can find a few pictures of the space over on Flickr.

Man, was that a protracted process.

Finding the space was only half the battle. Then it was lease negotiations…

We had the legal guy we were using to get the company's operating agreement set up to look over the lease. Don't skip this part - it was worth the money…

As the space was recently renovated, we got choice of carpet, colours, cabinets, a new kitchen, etc… It's also in a great location with plenty of parking and lots of natural, but not direct, sunlight. All in all, I think we did well.

On Tuesday, the phone lines come in and over the upcoming week the landlord is installing extra power outlets and our low-volt guy is coming in to install Cat5e cabling everywhere.

We're using Cat5e for the phone lines as well as for the network - don't skimp on this. It's only a few bucks extra and you never know what you might want to run over those lines.

Then on Friday the final city inspection happens and the process should be over.

So now we need some stuff to put in it and today Joe and I did the trip to Ikea.

It felt like buying stuff to kit out a new apartment! Desks, chairs, kitchen table, table for server stuff, bookcases and cups (I'll bring in my own teapot). Whee! It all arrives on Monday.

Hopefully by this time next week we'll be fully operational in the new office.

Not that a ton of progress hasn't been made in the meantime.

As far as technical stuff goes, the source tree, build system, bug database and internal wiki are all up and running. We're writing code and getting the full architectural underpinnings in place - stuff is actually running. Finding time for that in amongst the myriad of meetings has been interesting to say the least!

Also, I forgot to mention it when it happened, but we finally signed the LLC's operating agreement (more on that aspect in another post), accountants are engaged and most importantly we believe we've found a cool law firm to work with.

Why do I say most importantly? Well, other than the obvious need for good legal help, those guys come loaded with connections.

SwitchGear in the News

Thanks to John Cook over at the Seattle PI for a nice post on his venture blog

Stealth startup of the week

Two of the brains behind Microsoft's Flight Simulator game are taking flight with a new startup company called SwitchGear Software.

Steve Lacey and Joe Stacy -- who together spent 21 years in various roles at Microsoft -- formed the startup in January. They are still very much in the early stages of development -- trying to find office space in the Bellevue area (a process Lacey describes as “a pain”). They are also just beginning to meet with angel investors and venture capitalists.

Thanks John! Read the rest over on his blog.

SwitchGear has a logo

Finally, our startup SwitchGear Software has a logo!

SwitchGear

What do you think?

It was created by the fine folks over at LogoWorks. The process was simple and fast, with iteration performed completely online.

Next up, business cards…

Oh, we need an office address first…

Office Space

This afternoon Joe and I spent quite a considerable amount of time with a real estate agent looking at offices in the Redmond/Bellevue area.

It's been an interesting process figuring out the amount of space we need, the price we're willing to pay for it, and honing in on the sort of location.

I.e. we don't want to spend much, but we really don't want to be stuck in the middle of nowhere in some nondescript space.

I know that it shouldn't matter, but I believe that the location of the space and the local facilities (i.e. somewhere to buy coffee; grab a sandwich) should be within a short walking distance.

I think that's worth a little extra cash.

Anyhow, along the way we've also been picking up on the realities of commercial office space - the difference between full-service and how triple net space (NNN) can screw you up when that $15 per square foot space suddenly doesn't look so affordable anymore.

So it's looking like somewhere in the $20 range is looking favourite right now. We saw a very nice space in Redmond, very close to everything and with enough space to accommodate a few extra people.

As long as we can knock down a wall or two :-)

Speaking of which, the current online search space for offices really sucks. The only thing that comes close is OfficeSpace.com, and even that is not particularly useful.

Sounds like a really good opportunity for some Web 2.0 startup out there…

G'Day World!

Yesterday evening I had the distinct pleasure of being the guest host on The Podcast Network's G'Day World with Cameron Reilly. It was a blast.

We chatted about a bunch of stuff including the new venture, Flight Simulator, movies, tech news and interesting aussie phrases…

G'Day World is probably the longest running subscription I have in my podcatcher, and it was very cool to finally be a part of it - I'd love to do it again if Cam will have me :-)

Check it out and download it over on TPN…

SwitchGear Software

Finally we have a name for the company and a destination for anyone that will try and hit the website.

SwitchGear Software.

Our place on the web is over at http://www.switchgearsoftware.com. There's not much there, but at least you can sign up for information when we're ready to go public.

Speaking of which - the phrase “stealth startup” has been bandied around a lot recently like it's a bad thing. I don't believe there's anything intrinsically wrong with the practice: we're a new company; we have a name so we need a website with contact information; we're not ready to discuss what we're up to.

Sounds like a good practice to me…

Anyhow, it's cool to finally have an identity (a logo is in the works), and we're busy planning, coding and looking for office space - anyone know any reasonably priced space in downtown Kirkland or Redmond? :-)

© 2001 to present, Steve Lacey.