Anne's blog

Tartan Day in San Francisco

Whisky in two successive posts .. Last week I went to the Tartan Day reception (part of Scotland Week), held in the British Consult's residence in San Francisco. Events there are very civilized, carefully catered, and Diageo generously provides single malt whisky. Food included haggis, served as finger food, in small pieces in the bowls of Chinese soup spoons.

There were some potentially useful conversations - talked to a couple recently moved from Edinburgh - he's managing Asian equity funds for private clients - and to someone in the high end optical component business. Also exchanged cards with people from SDI (our hosts) and UKTI. I'm looking for more ways to help with Startup Britain than answering questions on Quora.

To get there, I walked across the city from the Caltrain station at 4th and Townsend.

View Larger Map

Despite visiting the city fairly frequently, I've never had the sense of appreciation and understanding for it that I do for London. The usual way to improve one's sense of a place is to walk it - often the City is either too cold and dark, or too hot and sunny, for that to be pleasant - this was a dry sunny late afternoon with a brisk wind. Conclusion - San Francisco has some fairly seedy areas; in the nicer residential parts there are very few cafes or good quality retail stores - it doesn't at all compare with Knightsbridge, or Stockbridge in Edinburgh. There are very few good views, despite all the hills - the streets are built up preventing long aspects.


Scotland Week highlights
SDI page
UKTI page
Startup Britain on Quora

Cunning Systems evaluates product and service ideas in computing and communications. If you would like to discuss an idea, contact us at

Whisky morning

Something frivolous for Friday 1 April


It's been a whisky themed morning .. exchanging notes with @Whisky_biscuit, who has just launched his first game, for iPad, from Elgin, near Inverness, in Scotland.

Then @weblivz asks, forwarding a query on @Kiltr, "Where to take 10 whisky loving Swedes in Edinburgh ?" The answer - to a tasting at The Scotch Malt Whisky Society, in Leith or Queen Street.

Convertible notes

Collecting links about convertible notes - lists of terms and their explanations, when they should be used, pros and cons for investors and founders.

Yokum Taku at Wilson Sonsini posts a good review from the startup lawyer's standpoint, with explanations of the jargon.

Manu Kumar at K9 Ventures - long considered post with good comments

Yokum's post on the SV Angel (Ron Conway) Yuri Milner Y-combinator startup fund

12 July 2011 - updating to add John Greathouse's article on venture debt
14 May 2012 - updating to add @ScottEdWalker's series from Techcrunch

Cunning Systems evaluates product and service ideas in computing and communications. If you would like to discuss an idea, contact us at

Games Design tools - Musemantik

Last week Musemanitk, in which we have an investment, were doing follow up meetings after being in San Francisco for the Games Development Conference the previous week.

They have a new target market, a very influential alpha user, and new potential funding sources. There are new demos, and new product descriptions.

Alltogether a very useful 2 weeks.

Diwakar Thakore, co-founder, was interviewed on the SDI stand at GDC


  • Emrzr Arrange is an automated solution for adding caibrated
    emotion to games (or any video sequence, with or without a linear
    structure) using music.
  • Emrzr Sense is a comprehensive game experience profiling
    and management tool.

More details

Emrzr Arrange
Emrzr Sense

Cunning Systems evaluates product and service ideas in computing and communications. If you would like to discuss an idea, contact us at

Value added investing using domain specific knowledge

Otherwise know as making investments in areas where you actually know something about the industry, market, and users.

Continuing the theme of summarizing from Silicon Valley - one of last week's memes was 'Angel List makes it too easy for investors to "Spray and Pray" ' . Dave McClure (Master of 500 Hats) is a founding partner at 500 Startups, an internet startup seed fund and incubator program in Mountain View. His post from yesterday collects links, and explains with typical Dave attitude why value added investment is important, and why a background in engineering, building products, marketing, getting customers and revenue is something investors should have.

".. a quantitative, high-volume investment strategy filtered based on reasonable assessment of team, product, market, customer & revenue along with domain-specific expertise, and selective follow-on investment with incremental knowledge of company metrics and progress CAN result in good outcomes.

or at least i hope so, because that's what i'm doing."

Posted here because we agree strongly with this thesis, and are making domain specific expertise available to people who understand that they need it.


Also relevant

Cunning Systems evaluates product and service ideas in computing and communications. If you would like to discuss an idea, contact us at

Guides to Silicon Valley

There have been several new guides to the Valley posted recently - collecting the links here.

The Valley is a virtual place as well as a real place - and it believes strongly in itself. Some days it feels like a collective self-delusion - if all these people didn't believe so strongly that they could build huge user communities and that investors would value what they built, that the place would dry up and blow away.

Robert Scoble has a good summary of the places which capture the origins and recent history. Steve Blank lists more of the places where you can get a current sense of what's going on, if you have enough context to understand what you are hearing.

The Valley has about 10m people in it, but it's not completely built up. There are parks and open spaces, though they aren't as convenient as the London Royal Parks. If you are interested in living here, it's worth driving to and walking in some of the residential areas - having first checked Zillow, for example, to understand which might be in your price range. For certain areas, house prices are more affected by Google and Apple's stock price, or the secondary market in Facebook shares, than by the number of repossessions.

If you are actively looking for investors, then AngelList and CapLinked are required reading.

Things to visit in San Francisco and the Valley - Scoble and others on Quora
Steve Blank's visitors guide

Walking by the Bay
Shoreline (and a long list of guides to places to walk away from traffic)
Palo Alto Baylands

Big trees, without driving up to Skyline - Redwoods in Los Altos



If you are interested in who might be interested in which ideas in the Valley, contact us at

Nanog 51 notes, 31 Jan - 2 Feb 2011

Last week's Nanog meeting was in Miami, with Terremark as sponsor, again. (Terremark is about to be acquired by Verizon).

Matt Petach took detailed, almost verbatim, notes for much of the meeting - like me, he was listening and watching the video stream, not attending in person.

The highlights, from my viewpoint :

  • Distributed Denial of Service attacks are ramping up again, according to the Arbor security report. There was at least one attack (DNS reflection) at 100Gbps during 2010.
  • 400Gbps (16 x 25G streams) is the next target beyond 100Ge
  • The second Arbor talk was about mobile networks - after the RAN and the backhaul, the traffic from them runs over the same infrastructure supported by Nanog operators, but there is very little
    cross over in interest. 75% of mobile operators say security is poor, bad, or non-existent.
  • Jim Cowie (Renesys) ran a panel sesion in the afternoon which reviewed mobile network operations, and in particular the GPRS roaming exchange, modelled after AMSIX, and the proposals for IPX (not a Novell protocol, but a private over the top network for mobile traffic, and the issues with it for voice)
  • Jan Schaumann, Yahoo! described their L3 load balancer (L3DSR) development - Yahoo Mail is using it, and they will roll it out to other properties. Twitter is using this too - Yahoo will opensource
    the kernel modules and iptables(8) plugin available for Free BSD and RHEL. A10, Brocade, and Citrix have built hardware support.
  • The silliest presentation was from Neil Farquharson, Alcatel-Lucent - his first time at Nanog, used the opening of the film Bambi (he'd been watching it with his kids) as an analogy to justify a unified control plane across IP to optics. He was encouraging people to come to a BoF at Denver.
  • IPv6 Deployment experiences wasn't streamed, though there are slides from Level3 (deployment experience, Hurricane Electric (deployment history, details), LACNIC (v4 runout effects), and SpaceNet AG (v6 routing table).


  • IPv6 day discussed - Yahoo!, and Akamai. There's a lot of brokenness .. the Day is an attempt to get a better idea of how much brokenness.
  • Shyam Mani, Mozilla, describes their experience in turning on DNSSEC, including the initial breakages.
  • BGP routing: Rob Shakir on his IETF draft which aims to reduce the impact on service availablity of session reset.
  • approach overview
  1. avoid sending notification in first place (avoid teardown!)
  2. recover RIB consistency (something went wrong, but can we continue functioning?)
  3. restart BGP hitlessly--avoid forwarding impacts while getting out of error condition
  4. monitoring--as protocol gets more complicated, need to make sure it's still doing right thing
  • Route Flap dampening revived - Lixia Zhang presented her students' work - suggests decoupling flap detection, flap suppression.
  • Jim Cowie had a nice animation of how the Internet in Egypt disconnected - it reconnected again 5 days later.


  • Discussion of IPv4 runout.

Nanog 51 Agenda with links to slides and video

Matt Petach's notes
Monday morning,afternoon
Tuesday morning,afternoon
Wednesday morning

Newnog site

Cunning Systems evaluates product and service ideas in computing and communications. If you would like to discuss an idea, contact us at

Y Combinator makes news

Last week's big ripple through the twittersphere was caused by Yuri Milner, again (his fund, DST, made a splash with its funding of Facebook and Groupon in 2009). He (personally, not as CEO of DST) and Ron Conway's SV Angel fund, are offerring $150,000 to each of the approximately 40 companies in the most recent Y-combinator group.

Lots of people wrote about it, first in breathless 'this changes everything' tones from Davos, and later in more measured 'there's lots of other fish in the pond' terms as there was more time to think through the consequences. My take is that it shows what can be done with comparatively small amounts of money by investors with the courage of their convictions. There will likely be more companies which can get their FMCA (Fast Moving Consumer App) out to market without requiring late stage or even early stage funds. Having achieved entry to Y Combinator, the startups have its contacts, its support network, to which this money adds heft. Other incubators have a model with which to approach potential funding sources.

The story on Techcrunch
Roger Ehrenberg (managing partner, IA Ventures) blog
Brandon Watson (Microsoft, ex Soros Private Equity) comments
Digital Sky Technologies background
About YC
Personal interviews with YC people

Roses, Raspberries, Roads

This time of year is when the weather in the valley makes it one of the most attractive places to be. We've just had more than 10 days of mild sunshine, with no frost, no rain, and day time highs around 16C. Roses are blooming, pear and early flowering cherries are in blossom, and there are ripe raspberries on the new bush in my garden.
New York, on the other hand, had 0.5m of snow during the week. Bejing looks to be cold and sunny. London has been somewhat warmer, but all those cities require coats, hats, gloves and heavy shoes - here it's been shorts and sandals weather, at least for youngsters in the middle of the day. Business goes on - in Menlo Park and Palo Alto roads were congested, traffic at a dead slow. 101, that sensitive barometer of business activity, was heavily congested in the SE direction but running at the limit going NW from San Jose to Mountain View .. both of those samples taken at around 5.30pm.

On the business front, Musemantik (from Edinburgh) are sharing a booth at the Games Development Conference taking place in San Francisco at the end of February. Contact me if you are interested in meeting with the founders to learn more about tools which formalize and computationally control real-time emotion enhancement, using new or existing music, to make a more intense experience for game players.


Cunning Systems evaluates product and service ideas in computing and communications. If you would like to discuss an idea, contact us at