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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Open Letter to the HP Board

To the Hewlett Packard Board of Directors:
Once again you find yourselves in the untenable position of searching for a new CEO as the old one departs amid speculation and scandal. Your latest ex-CEO may be leaving even more of a stain on your esteemed Silicon Valley company than his predecessor did just five years ago.
This time you asked Mark Hurd to resign, offering him a $35M severance package after he exhibited what you called "a profound lack of judgment." You may decide to never make public what really happened inside the C-suite, preferring to stick to your approved talking points, i.e., that Hurd's resignation involved a sexual harassment allegation and investigation (although no one is claiming any sexual harassment actually took place) that led you to discover a string of doctored expense reports.
We may never know why the woman involved, Jodie Fisher, hired an expensive sexual harassment attorney and reached a financial settlement with Hurd to avoid litigation. We may never know why Hurd filed numerous phony expense reports in connection with Ms. Fisher that by some estimates totaled nearly $250,000; each between $1,000 and $20,000.
All we know as shareholders is that you're back to square one, looking for an executive to lead Hewlett Packard to not only growth and profit, but back to some form of prominence that the company once held. Remember, it wasn't that long ago that HP was revered here in Silicon Valley, and throughout the technology industry, as one of the best company's to work for.
So please indulge me as I state my case as to why you will be better off looking internally for your next CEO as opposed to going outside the company again.
I've lived and worked in Silicon Valley for more than 25 years so I know the important position HP holds in this community. Further, I've had the great opportunity of working as a consultant to HP for more than 15 years. I worked briefly with John Young, spent most of my time at HP during the Lew Platt years, and was there to help introduce Carly Fiorina to Silicon Valley when she arrived here from Lucent.
During my years at HP I witnessed firsthand as the company made some truly amazing advancements in technology; so many in fact, that I don't have the space to list them all here. Suffice it to say that HP Labs was on par with, if not more exalted than, Xerox PARC, Bell Labs and the IBM Research Centers as one of the world's truly great research facilities, where its scientists and engineers developed some of the coolest technology on the planet.
I watched as countless people at HP celebrated their 30th, 40th and even 50th anniversaries with the company. Put simply, people didn't leave HP. It was a great company, with outstanding management, and everyone worked together to deliver the best-engineered products in the industry. Many people inside the company used to tell me that HP stood for "happy people."
During my time at HP I had several opportunities to have lunch with former CEO Lew Platt, who used to make it a habit to eat lunch in the cafeteria at HP's headquarters in Palo Alto. Mr. Platt used to enjoy talking with HP employees about sports, the news of the day, and the various HP projects people were working on. He treated everyone in the company, from the C-suite to marketing managers to admin assistants, with respect. It came naturally to him, and as a result, the entire company behaved likewise.
At one point during my time at HP I had the extreme pleasure of meeting Bill Hewlett during an evening reception after the completion of a project on which I played a small part. I'll never forget the moment when Mr. Hewlett looked me in the eye, shook my hand, thanked me sincerely for my involvement with the project and then spent 5 minutes talking with me while other people waited for an audience with him. All people mattered to Bill Hewlett, and to David Packard as well. The HP Way wasn't just a slogan or a management trend, it was a way of life for two visionaries who wanted to build the best technology company in the world.
So HP Board of Directors, as you begin your search for a new CEO, I urge you to look for someone from within the company, someone who embodies the same integrity, honor, vision and basic kindness that your founders held so dearly.
There are executives within HP who possess these traits. You know who they are. Your last two CEOs came from outside of HP, and didn't hold the values of your founders, and ultimately ended up tarnishing the image of your great company. Now is the time to show courage and name someone from within HP as your next CEO.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Do You ooVoo?

Skype's announcement of its S-1 filing earlier this week is exciting and welcoming news especially during a period when the global economic picture for the remainder of 2010 is looking rather bleak.  If anything, the announcement was at least a distraction from the Fed's comments that the economy is slowing, the recovery remains sluggish and the threat of deflation looms.  That combined with recently reported unemployment statistics means the announcement of the pending Skype initial public offering (IPO) could not have come at a better time.

The announcement put a smile on my face, but to be honest, it only takes a hint of good news to do that these days.

There are tens of thousands of news stories and blogs posted this week covering Skype's S-1 filing from every conceivable angle.  "Is Skype's Filing Premature?"  "Will Investor's Buy if Customers are Hooked for Free?" "Is the Skype IPO Really Such a Hot Deal?' 

But I didn't see many posts about Skype's competition, specifically in the video communications space. So I thought I'd spend a little time on one competitor in particular.

First of all, I do Skype -- occasionally.  And 100 percent of my Skype calls are of the free video call variety.  That's another thing - Skype as a verb.  "Hey, let's Skype when you get back to the office."  Or, "Skype me when you get settled in Singapore."

You know your company has made it when your company name is used as a verb.  Like Skype. Like Google.

But also like ooVoo, a Skype competitor.  "Do you ooVoo?"   "Why yes, I actually do ooVoo?"

ooVoo is a New York-based video communication service company.  Its customer base pales in comparison to Skype's though the company claims it is adding more than 600,000 customers each month.

The 3Point team has been using ooVoo for quite some time and with great results.

The video and sound quality is truly amazing, for free or otherwise. I encourage you to give it a try.  I find it's a lot easier and more natural to have a conversation using ooVoo's video communications solution than Skype's.  Apparently, so do 8 out of 10 Skype users who participated in an ooVoo blind study.

You can read more about the results of the study here and then you can decide for yourself by downloading ooVoo's free application.

With that said, I'm ecstatic about Skype's plan for an IPO.  Skype released the first public beta version of its software seven years ago this month and since then it has worked doggedly to build a strong global brand and excellent products.  By announcing it's S-1 filing now, it has pumped some life into what is traditionally one of the slowest investment months of the year.  And it keeps 2010 on track as a rebound year for tech IPOs and IPOs in general. 

In a self-serving but related note, if you haven't had a chance to download our eBook on "Communicating as a Newly Public Company," there are some good tips in it and you can get it here.