Jericho on my mind

Jericho is a city in the Palestinian Authority and is believed to be one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. It is east of Jerusalem near the banks of the River Jordan and close to the Dead Sea (the lowest point on the earth's surface).

Many will remember the biblical story of the Children of Israel entering the Promised Land by way of Jericho. The story is told in the Book of Joshua in the Hebrew Bible. After a small espionage story we read that the marching of the Israelites, and their loud trumpets, caused the walls of the city to fall... I believe there is a Spiritual that tells the story this way: "Joshua fit the battle of Jericho, and the walls came tumbling down".

Imagine my surprise when I recently heard that a global group (possibly the leading group) of information security professionals is called The Jericho Forum. Jericho, as you (now) know from the story, was open first to espionage and then to a complete failure of its main security mechanism, the city walls.

The website does clarify the reasoning for the name, however. It states "the Jericho Forum began in 2003 when a group of global corporate CISOs [Chief Information Security Officers] came together informally to discuss an issue that no one was addressing –de-perimeterization – the erosion of the network perimeter."

Aha! De-perimeterization (that word alone deserves its own lengthy blog posting) - I suppose Jericho suffered seriously from de-perimeterization and hence is the archetypal security failure the analogs of which these CISOs are bound to prevent in the future.

Erosion of the network perimeter is an interesting topic in enterprise information technology world. No longer do people connect to the company network only from inside, from their desks. Now we all want our computers to talk to the corporate email or applications when we are on the road or at home. Our customers and suppliers need access, to say nothing of our offshore software development teams. What used to be the city walls, our network perimeter, is no longer so relevant, however strong it is. We ourselves are creating so many holes or gateways through the perimeter to allow for all this inside-outside communication, that IT security has to learn to create security in this new world dominated by, yes, de-perimeterization.

So, kudos to The Jericho Forum for remembering the mother of all de-perimeterizations, and allowing me to tie my modern VC life back to a biblical story and a dusty city in the desert.

Working (biking) off the stress

I have been looking forward to a bike ride this morning with my now long-time cycling friend Guy Sapirstein. We met at 9am and decided on a 15m ride since it is still early in the season. This makes me smile thinking of friends, including Marty Oppenheimer and Nigel Savage who are about to embark on the Hazon Israel ride (250m over a week)... good for them.

Guy and I both felt a little unsteady at the start... Guy has done even less cycling than me so far this year, and I have been feeling stressed from lots of stuff on my plate. Howver, as I had first noted in October 2006 (if not before), and clearly no secret to most who exercise, the first hour when warming up leads to a much more pleasant ride for the rest of the way, in our case only another short ride home.

Back at home, rehydrating and cooling down, I certainly feel more relaxed and am enjoying the feeling of having burned off some of those stress hormones (or replaced them with the good kind - whatever the bio-chemistry is).

If only I could enjoy such a low-traffic, great weather (60's, sunny) ride every day.

Cleaning a dry erase board

My good friend Paul Bleicher marched into work one day, early in Phase Forward history 11 or more years ago, with whiteboard cleaning spray and car wax. Whiteboard cleaner made sense ... the whiteboards in our new office space were a mess; but car wax?

After cleaning off the whiteboard with the cleaning solution, Paul proceeded to polish the pristine whiteboard with the car wax. He left it to harden overnight, buffed it off in the morning and, voila, we had a almost-good-as-new whiteboard which dry erased just great.

The car wax was important because over time the surface of whiteboards deteriorates (often by using those cleaning solutions). The car wax provides a new dry-erase surface that is almost good as new. The worst case is that you will have to go through this same procedure two or three times a year.

Some places on the internet recommend variants on this process, and others warn against it. Your mileage may vary, but Paul and I thought it worked great.

The 'eart of the deal

In the Venture Capital world we often talk about the art of the deal. We are always negotiating something: a new financing with a startup, employment conditions for a new executive, a complex commercial contract between a startup and its customer, a merger deal, an employment severance agreement, a CEO's annual compensation agreement, etc... In fact, looked at through this prism, I would say I spend a good proportion of my time each week just negotiating.

At our recent CEO Summit we invited my good friend Moshe Cohen from The Negotiating Table to run a one hour introduction to "advanced negotiating". This was so successful that Moshe ran a one-day class for managers from our portfolio companies in early March which also received rave reviews. One of the key take-aways from Moshe is to work to understand the interests of the counter-party in a negotiation. That way you can find a way to provide for their interests in a way which is consistent with meeting your own. By the way, this requires you to understand your own interests properly as well, as opposed to negotiating from a zero-sum mentality where "giving up a point" is emotionally traumatic even if it doesn't matter to you!

The Economist recently published a short article "Inside a deal" about just this topic, and outlined some research that shows getting inside the head of your counter-party is much more important than getting inside their heart. Emotional empathy might help in the tenor of the negotiations, but cognitive resonance is more likely to generate the best individual and joint gain.

This matters in the non-profit world (my venture cyclist identity) as well, most notably in fund-raising. Donors give money because it makes them feel good and meets their inner needs to "give back", but they have real interests to meet as well, and if we understand those needs we can possibly increase the donations they make at that moment or over time.

What are those needs a donor might have? Inner feeling of making a contribution, obligation to community norms, standing in the community, desire to make an impact, desire to leave a legacy, desire to prove a point, desire to spread the word, obligation to family or friend or institution, reciprocating for others' gifts to their own favorite cause, and so on.

As we negotiate for how much a donor might give, how they will give it and to what purpose, if we can understand what their needs are in making the gift, we can increase the chance of making the gift happen and increase its amount.

OK, now I'm off to do some negotiation on behalf of JCDS and Hazon. Let me know if you want to be a counter-party!

Kosher Starbucks

I had an interesting meeting this morning with Jill Smith who is doing some research into the sociology of "eco-kosher" (see: good coverage of this topic in Wikipedia). As always such meetings were as much fun for the interviewee (me) as the interviewer, and I came away with one new nugget of information ... a reference to the Kosher Starbucks website... who knew the Caramel Sauce was such a problem?