- Tapa dura: 400 páginas
- Editor: Times Books; Edición: First Edition (31 de diciembre de 1998)
- Idioma: Inglés
- ISBN-10: 0812931432
- ISBN-13: 978-0812931433
- Valoración media de los clientes: Sé el primero en opinar sobre este producto
High Stakes, No Prisoners: A Winner's Tale of Greed and Glory in the Internet Wars (Inglés) Tapa dura – 31 dic 1998
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The author describes how he transformed FrontPage, a software product for building a web site, into millions and discusses the obstacles that he had to overcome along the way
Nota de la solapa
takes, No Prisoners</b> is a sharp, brilliant insider's account of the way Silicon Valley really works: the sharks, powerful incumbents, and old-boy networks who play hardball all the time and the geniuses who make the products that have changed the world.<br><br>Charles Ferguson started Vermeer Technologies and turned his very cool, very big idea into FrontPage, the first software product for creating and managing a website. A mere twenty months after starting the company, he sold it to Microsoft for $133 million, making a fortune for himself and his associates. FrontPage now has millions of users and is bundled with Microsoft Office. But getting there wasn't always fun.<br><br><b>High Stakes, No Prisoners</b> is the book about the Valley and reflects Ferguson's unique experience not only as a successful entrepreneur but also as a policy analyst, computer industry consultant, and academic. <br><br>Reveals A Great Internet Success Story <br><br><b>High Stakes, No PrVer Descripción del producto
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This is a good book, but it essentially consists of two books in one: one is about business culture of Internet start-ups and venture capital in early 1990th and the second is about technology as it was understood by the author in late 90th. It also colored by really unpleasant, arrogant and confrontational personality of the author.
Only the first on those two books has lasting value. I have found insights about Internet startups environment fascinating although behavior of the author at times was really questionable despite his attempt to present himself in a favorable light. The author adopts Machiavellian approach ("no prisoners") and is ready play dirty (he described patent trolling that his startup was engaged is in gory details). He also tried to create a lock-in for the product with so called FrontPage extensions.
His descriptions of other players such as Netscape and Microsoft are quite paranoid but he conveys the cut-throat atmosphere of Internet startups in mid 1990th quite accurately. The description of his conflict with the hired by VC CEO John Mandle is quite typical and quite educating story. Another interesting story is how he talked with a programmer who decided to go to Netscape although he was just in late interviewing/pre-hiring stage with Vermeer (p 92-93). Here is a very telling quote:
I told him we'd utterly destroy him if he breathed a word about us. I warned him that if he even told Netscape of our existence that he'd be violating our nondisclosure agreement. Furthermore, I said, if Netscape announce similar products, we'll go after you and them for a few billion dollars. Their position will be that they didn't know that you were betraying us, and they'll probably let you twist in the wind. Your depositions and court appearances will take years and your legal bills will bankrupt you, We'll have private detectives going over every phone call you've ever made, every e-mail you've ever send, every dream you've ever had, every lie you've ever told. Netscape will fire you and you'll never work in this industry gain. If you need a demonstration that I can be a complete bastard let me know and I would be happy to provide it. Do you get it. He did; I scared the hell out of him, which was just fine.
Super-sized egos and arrogance are helpful in get financing and starting the business but are bad in running the company, especially with hired CEO. That's actually classic Greek tragedy theme: qualities which initially helped the hero to get to the top eventually lead to his demise. The author self-characterization "I was extremely tense, angry, and frequently unpleasant, but I'm not stupid" (p. 261) say it all. The guy really has had huge personality problems. Was he a sociopath or borderline personality in unclear. The other reviews address this point more in-depth (see Jane Smith's review from December 2004)
The period covered in the book is just approximately a year or year and a half: $4 million of financing was secured in February 1995 and company was sold to Microsoft for 130 millions in January 1996. To produce a solid HTML editor in 20 months is not something incredible, but as staff was distracted by countless presentations as well as political maneuvering and infighting, it's still impressive. The author did manage to assemble a good technical team with two lead technical guys: Randy Forgaard (co-founder of Verme and the key and Andrew Schulert were essentially the designers of the product. Role of Ferguson is unclear from the book and there may be none.
Despite many true and insightful observations, the author technology views as well as bits of Internet history scatted in the book and related deliberations very frequently generated in me some kind of protest: either because they look to me questionable from historical point of view or from technological point of view or both. The author never have been a programmer. He does has BS in mathematics but that's about it. So all his apt observations about "Nontechnical professional CEO problem" (p.285) are applicable. Sometimes he is completely off the mark like his lament that Netscape did not port its webserver to Netware as well as his remark "None of its Webservers ever run on Windows 3.1". The first would be waste of money and time, the second would be waste of time and money :-). All-in-all I do not trust his analysis of Netscape demise in Chapter 9 although he makes many good, valid points. And I would like to remind readers that Netscape was sold to AOL for 4 billion dollars not for $150 millions. So in comparison with Netscape Vermeer was tiny, obscure, peripheral Internet startup and the fact that Microsoft spend 150 millions on it is really surprising. It was just one day moth. All the major history of FrontPage was written after Vermeer acquisition by Microsoft and truth be told Microsoft did a very good job of developing the product.
All-in-all this is a book written by a very sharp businessman who managed to assemble a good team and launch a startup that produced pretty good Windows-based HTML editor. Getting from Microsoft 130 millions for HTML editor that was just one year in development and which Microsoft can replicate in probably less then a year at half-cost, the product which at the time of acquisition sold less then 300 copies, was an impressive business achievement.
It is important to understand that there was nothing revolutionary or visionary in the decision to create GUI-based HTML editor for Windows in 1994. Technologically it was all dull work with no new or existing components despite author claims. It was essentially a purely commercial project and I understand reluctance of venture capital guys to finance it. I would not if I were in their place. It was pretty risky business plan even in the crazy atmosphere of the growing dot-com boom. So that fact that the author executed business portion of the strategy pretty successfully and managed to milk acquisition for so much money is really amazing. As far as I remember the first version sold by Microsoft it was a good, solid editor but was far from "breakthrough" and has "provincial" Windows-centric architecture (no support of regular expressions, no macro language or some external API for editor). It was acceptable but it was clearly inferior in quality to Office products in both interface and in the absence of the macro language. Actually Microsoft greatly improved it in subsequent versions up to FrontPage 2003, but the fact that it was initially developed outside of Office team remained a handicap. For example spell checker in FrontPage 2003 was still inferior in comparison with MS Word.
And of course FrontPage was never in the same league of complexity and sophistication as MS Word. In this sense I have a feeling that Microsoft decided to buy Vermeer instead of producing equal of better HTML editor in a year or so only because it needed HTML editor quickly and did not want to wait six month or so. May be that was one of the first signs of Microsoft decline ;-).
I also disagree with the author assessment of the speed in Internet penetration. Many ISPs provided shell accounts in early 1994 which could be used to browse Web. Generally in 1994 it was clear for many people that Internet and World Wide Web will have tremendous importance.
Among negatives of the book is black and write mentality, superficial understanding of dot-com boom and the technology development it entailed (visible in the constant bashing of Netscape and incompetent bashing of Microsoft; you need to read Hard Drive to understand Microsoft better) as well as personality problems with nasty bashing of several personalities involved and first of all hired Vermeer's CEO throughout the book. Double standard mentality typical for sociopathic personalities is also visible in some episodes for example in getting a cash severance payment for himself.
I think the author was tremendously lucky to be at the right place at the right time, and his venture was not that different from many other "one day", "make money fast" ventures of dot-com era. It was not the most useless either.
Absolutely not, until you have read and re-read Chapter 3 of "High St@kes, No Prisoners" comparing what you'll uncover there - each topic in Ch. 3 - versus the alternative "Beacon Model" of community supported venture capitalization for high growth ventures.
For additional prep, read "Rock-A-Bye IP" and be sure to tour the "virtuous circle" that you will find on BrightChange.org.
What I didn't like was the constant bashing of Netscape, and Vermeer's CEO throughout the book. There's also a certain double standard mentality: the author accuses the CEO of trying to negotiate an unfairly good personal deal, yet later in the book demands a cash severance payment for himself; talks about how immoral the CEO was for suggesting sending engineers to competitors to interview hoping to learn about their technologies, yet later in the book admits that obtaining Microsoft's beta code through 'a friend' was Ok under the circumstances.
In a nutshell, this book about being in the right place at the right time.