Last Friday David cleaned out his desk and signed out of work at Microsoft for the last time. "It's been a terrific five years," he said, "but it's time to move on."
Even in his last week there were a lot of loose ends to tie up, and David worked furiously to the end finishing everything. "I think it was my most productive week ever," he says, after handing off his last batch of computer code Friday evening. David was a software developer working for Mark Anders and Dmitry Robsman on Microsoft's secretive XSP project. (Shhh... don't tell anybody!) "It's been a great group and a great project to be part of," David says.
But David has been looking for work outside Microsoft for some time. "I have never kept it particularly secret," he says, "I've been looking for a role that will expand my horizons while giving me a chance to work from home in Philadelphia." David has considered starting his own company, getting a business degree, or working as a financial analyst. "The trick is," he says, "I'm a high-tech guy, and Philadelphia is not exactly the center of the high-tech universe." And, he adds, "if I take a pay cut, I've got to make sure it's worthwhile."
So on a cold Thursday morning a couple months ago, as part of his hunt for "something new", David and a friend met a recently-retired executive at a Starbucks to make a business pitch. "We had an idea for a wireless product that we thought would be a killer app," explains David, "and we were hoping to get advice or possibly money to get it started." Sitting around a tiny table at the coffee mecca they drew pictures on napkins and made the pitch for thirty minutes. They got some valuable feedback. Then they turned the conversation and asked the executive what he was going to be doing next. "I'm not focused on wireless," he said. He flipped the napkin over and started drawing more diagrams.
The executive had noticed some interesting ideas that a lot of important technologies had in common, and he was building a team to turn these ideas into a business. He had linked up with another well-known manager, and had already signed on a few other interesting employees. "It was clear even at that early stage that their team had the potential to be phenomenal," David says. "Unlike us, this wasn't just two techie loners with an idea. They were building a team of stars with depth and breadth." Studies have shown that the single most important determinant for the success of a startup is not the idea, money, or business, but the size and makeup of the team. Having a dynamic team, David explains, is the key: "A startup can't be built around just a pile of money or one brilliant idea. You need the right team to continually generate new ideas, find customers, and deliver the products."
The executive's startup team had enormous talent and decades of experience, and David trusted the founders. It seemed like a perfect company to join. But David wasn't looking for a "job with a startup" - he wanted a new role. "I didn't want to join a startup to do more of what I had done before. I was looking for a chance to grow." To David's suprise, they said that a business development role would be a great fit. It was something new, and exactly what David wanted to do.
After more meetings and several weeks of deliberating, David decided he would join the company. "On top of everything, it was an opportunity to get in on the ground floor, a chance to buy founder's equity." In high-tech startups, early equity investments can be far more valuable than any cash compensation if the company succeeds. So if you are an early employee, you want options or the chance to buy stock rather than cash. "In fact, in this new job I'm taking only minimum wage," explains David. "This is the kind of thing you're willing to do this when you're an owner of the company."
What is the new company doing? As the business development guy, David explains why they're keeping it a secret. "We have a very exciting team and product, but we need to get our message in order before we release any details." The idea, he says, is to allow the company to benefit from a big splash at the right time. "If we're covered in the news, we want the company to be in a position to benefit. We need to be able to open our doors to customers, partners, and new employees. And we're not quite ready yet." So today, there is no news, no website, and no name. Just a few anonymous people working hard in a nearly empty office.
"It is very exciting," says David.
Wow wee, the temperature got to a bit over 70 degrees and it is early March. Can Spring really be here already? According to Ponsetonny Phil, Spring is supposed to be late this year. Well, with this fine weather, Anthony decided it would be a good idea to introduce Grandpa to the Gladwyne Playground. It's located about a block south of town center and has play areas for toddlers, and for bigger children and tennis courts and other things.
Anthony went straight for the toddler area and climbed on board some rocking animals... frogs, horses, tigers. Then he clibed on some of the tree houses and slid down the slides. It was a fine day and the park was full of children with their mothers or sitters. Not many dads or grandpas... just Anthony's! :)
King Of Prussia Mall
On any given afternoon, the King of Prussia Mall is a great place to take Anthony and his care givers. There's food courts galore, great little restaurants, pets shops, Baby Gap, some of the best department stores in the USA and our favorite, FAO Schwartz, the toy store of toy stores.
A typical afternoon outting for us might be, right after Anthony's afternoon nap, hop over to the K of P Mall and drop by the Baby Gap to see what they have for sale on the "Sale" rack. By one or two needed items for Anthony and then head for FAO Schawrtz... Anthony will be busy and happy here for a good 45 minutes. Time for a break and a snack... perhaps the Tuscan Grill on the second floor. A fruit tart, a cup of coffee , and perhaps a pretzel for Anthony to go with his juice or milk. Then down to the center part of the mall to enjoy the water fountains and toss a few lucky coins in the fountains. Anthony loves water of any sort. It's great to have the largest and most interesting Mall of the East Coast right in our back yard.
Desitin Saves Anthony
Anthony got a case of the flu with watery stools and lots of them and a red raw bottom to boot. When changing his diapers, grandpa would try and be gentle, but Anthony couldn't stand the red rash and would cry and cry. He'd put his little fist over his mouth so as not to make too much noise, but you could tell, he was in a lot of pain. Off to Super Fresh and the purchase of Desitin, the cream with zinc that's been around forever for babies. With the application of the cream, the redness disappeared within six hours and Anthony was saved. Anthony, with the flu was tired and liked to cuddle... normally he's continually on the move and doesn't want to stay put more than a couple of minutes.
Phila Flower Show
The oldest, biggest and supposedly the best flower show in American is held each Spring in Philadelphia's Convention Center which is downtown at 12th and Arch.. one block away from Chinatown. As Anthony was house-bound for a few days with the flu, Paul decided to take off a few hours and enjoy the flowers and see what all the fuss was about. So on a Monday, March 5th, the second day of the show and a weekday ( thinking the crowd level would be low), Grandpa drove to the Convention Center.
My goodness, the place was mobbed! When there are so many people, you must que up to see many of the best exhibits. Then too, you are always being brushed up against, which many of us find unappealing. The garden and flower exhibits were indeed top notch and we'll take their word for it that it is the biggest. In this writer's opinion, Boston's Flower Show is almost as big and has the same high quality... the same. But, if you are in Philly during the Spring time and love flowers, this is definately worth planning into your itinerary.
The Valley Forge National Park is less than five miles away from the King of Prussia Mall and very close to Philadelphia. Like most national parks in the USA, admission is free and the park "first class"
Valley Forge is of course where George Washington took his army in 1777 for their winter encampment after being defeated by the British Army in Philadelphia, at the time the capital of the 13 colonies. There are several museums in the park and one normally takes the ten mile auto self guided tour. We purchased a "tape" that helped to guide us along the way. The most interesting "stop" and there are ten stops along the tour, was that of General Washington's headquarters. It is in this building that he met daily with his general staff and lived with 7 secretaries and 12 servants.
It's also interesting to see the natural fortifciations of Valley Forge and visit the housing built by and used by the colonial troops. It's a wonderful day tour and highly recommended if you are in the Philadephia area.