Strong Opinions @marksbirch

Random thoughts from a NYC entrepreneur and investor about start-ups, technology and the people that make it all happen. Also find time for good tunes and good food.
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48 plays
Husker Du,
Zen Arcade

HARDCORE WEDNESDAY: Pink Turns to Blue by Hüsker Dü - I felt there was a lull in my punk and hardcore posts, so hopefully I can start to right that starting with one of favorite all-time punk bands.  Hüsker Dü are like the Beatles of the hardcore scene, a band that had incredible pop instincts but could also turn up the volume.  In their early days it was all about the noise, but by the time Zen Arcade was released in 1984, you started to hear a clear melodic side to the band.

One of the best tracks on the album is Pink Turns to Blue which was written by Grant Hart.  There are those buzzsaw guitars going on that drive the song, but underneath you hear this distinct melody.  Then you have this haunting story about a girl the overdoses and you have this strange mix of a poppy, upbeat song with this terrible story of death.  Hüsker Dü were masters of mixing and smashing together the ups and the downs, and this tune is the exemplar of where they shined as a band.

12 plays
English Settlement

80’S TUESDAY: Senses Working Overtime by XTC - Some bands are known for great shows while others existed as studio projects.  The British new wave band fell into the latter category, having stopped touring since 1982 and grew their fame through critical success.  Founder, singer and guitarist Andy Partridge had a mental breakdown when his wife threw out his Valium before a show thinking he was too dependent on it.  He was, and his stage fright got the better of him.

Fortunately they still kept going on and had a few hit songs even through the 90’s.  But their most commercially successful and recognizable tune is Senses Working Overtime on the English Settlement album from 1982.  It is a great song, perfectly evoking the uniqueness of life in England.  But I guess for me, I just got hooked on the words “working overtime” which is what it feels like these days…

It’s tempting to take the quick wins early on. But there’s nothing sweeter than winning that first true, unaffiliated deal. It took us 15 months. Yes, 15 months. The rigor and measurement they put us through made us go back to the drawing board again and again, but because of that, our technology works better, and each deal after that was easier to win.

Excellent article by the CEO of LatticeEngines about the importance of finding early customers outside of the Valley, helping to validate your product using more “real world” users (i.e. not early adopters).

(via micflash)

Enterprise tech is another level of difficult.  The deals are few and far between in the early days.  You struggle to find anyone willing to listen to you.  Then you have to fight through organizational morass that does not favor startups.  But each deal makes your product story clearer and your sales execution sharper until you hit that inflection point where deals start to pour in.

42 plays
Allied Forces

METAL MONDAY: Fight the Good Fight by Triumph - Growing up as a metalhead there were a few bands outside of metal that you were allowed to like and each of these approved bands was a signal.  If you liked the Doors, you were into drugs, if you liked the Sex Pistols, you were into anarchy, and if you liked Rush, you were a nerd.  The Canadian power trio Triumph never really fit on the list though, despite writing plenty of heavy, metal-approved stadium anthems throughout the late 70’s and early 80’s.

One of the the better anthems, and an inspiring one at that, is the tune Fight the Good Fight.  Rik Emmett is both a phenomenal talent on vocals and on guitar, and both shine through on this track from the 1981 album Allied Forces.  The song starts with a good hook, but starts to really kick into metal mode around the 3:10 mark with a ripping Jimmy Page-esque solo.  It is unfortunate that Triumph gets relegated to the classic rock dustbin, cause they have plenty of tunes that stand up well even today.

128 plays
Miles Davis,
Kind of Blue

SUNDAY MORNING JAZZ: So What by Miles Davis - Another track from Kind of Blue.  Yesterday I finally inched across the goal, highlighting the greatest jazz sextet releasing one of the greatest albums of all time.  Blue in Green is an amazing ballad full of depth and beauty.  But to not post the lead track, So What, would be a shame because it sets the mood and scope of what the listener is going to dive into for the next 45 minutes.  It is the song that launched a new movement in jazz.

From the first few bars of that haunting piano and bass intro by Bill Evans and Paul Chambers, you know this is not the typical jazz fare.  There are no busy chord changes, no stuffed compositions layered on top of each other, no box that contains the song.  As Miles describes it, the album was "a return to emphasis on melodic rather than harmonic variation." The amazing part of this album is that nothing was practiced beforehand and no song sheets of chords were provided.  You are hearing the height of creative flow emerge by six giants of the jazz scene, painting a picture of sound that was at once expressive as it was novel.  It was everything about the attitude of cool turned into sound.

In corporate IT, procurement processes have not traditionally been aligned with rapid development cycles and cloud-based services, which are easy to source and deploy. Developers that are accustomed to working in fast-moving environments with scalable, easy-to-implement products have long since been impeded by outdated procurement processes for new vendors, which slow down prototyping and time-to-market.

Frustrated by procurement, developers in corporate IT build and use solutions inside organizations without explicit organizational approval. This is known as shadow IT; they use the services they need when they need them, but this leads to the danger of teams and management losing control of deployed services.

Enterprise App Marketplaces Respond To Pain Points In Corporate IT via TechCrunch

This is analogous to the “shadow apps” used by business people (often in sales and marketing groups) to get things done.  Sometimes I ask people in large enterprises if they use Dropbox or Evernote for work purposes, and sheepishly they will respond yes.  Eventually the need to get something done outweighs the need to maintain corporate IT policies.  That is the new reality of IT departments, the fact that it is users, and not their processes and rules, that are choosing the tools that the business will use.

140 plays
Miles Davis,
Kind of Blue

SATURDAY JAZZ BRUNCH: Blue in Green by Miles Davis - Some jazz albums are the best in the world of jazz.  Then there are those unique and singularly momentous artistic canvases that are just the best ever.  Kind of Blue has been called the best selling jazz album in history, but for me it is simply one of the greatest albums ever crafted by any musician regardless of category or time.  It was groundbreaking and timeless, an album that was fresh in 1959 and will be just as fresh in 2059.

The key to Kind of Blue was Miles going modal.  That is a wonky musician term, but what it meant for fans and listeners was a complete opening of the sound.  Instead of the dense chord progressions and complex improvs of hard bop, each soloists was free to ride upon a mode (think of scales) and explore as desired without fitting into any structure.  One of the ballads, Blue in Green, is a perfect example, a Davis and Bill Evans composition that is airy and moody and so deeply emotional.  It is so chill and laid back, but also has astonishing depth despite the lack of choral background.  The best way to really listen to this tune is to sit back, free your mind, and let the notes wash over you.

They didn’t announce the price for the gold model, but given that we’re told the Apple Watch comes in three basic styles starting at $349 I’d guess that the gold model will list for 10 times that amount or $3495. 10X pricing is one of the fundamental definitions of a luxury product.

Fear and loathing in Rolex-ville - I, Cringely (via johnborthwick)

If you have to ask for the price, you can’t afford it…

54 plays
Miles Davis,

SATURDAY JAZZ BRUNCH: Milestones by Miles Davis - I talked about the album Milestones a few weeks ago as the introduction of Miles’foray into the modal side of jazz.  For the unfamiliar, the late 40’s and 50’s were dominated by bebop and hard bop which involved improvisation over complex chord changes in a set arrangement.  Modal jazz however did away with set chord progressions and instead involved using modes (think of scales), which provided greater harmonic freedom but also seemed more sparse because the rhythm was not so “busy”.

I declared Milestones as the launching pad for Miles’ journey from hard bop to modal, but the tune Sid’s Ahead was pretty standard bop.  It was the title tune really explored his experimentation into modal.  Versus the other tracks, Milestones featured very few chords, it just kind of meandered along for nearly six minutes as each musician soloed over modes.  Satisfied with the results, Miles would soon plot and entire album of modal jazz using the same group.  But it all started here, on a mesmerizing track of stellar soloing and musical expression.

When SAP, and, specifically Hasso Plattner, said they’re going to build this in-memory database and compete with Oracle, I said. God, get me the name of that pharmacist, they must be on drugs.

The Most Controversial And Entertaining Things Larry Ellison Has Ever Said

Peter Thiel was not the only one inferring that certain tech company executives were taking illicit substances…