Operator No. 9: June 18, 2001

Instead of stocking the refrigerators with microbrews, Net companies might want to stock up on vitamins.

Return of the Gray Hairs

Instead of stocking the refrigerators with microbrews, Net companies might want to stock up on vitamins. Thats because the gray hairs are coming in to take control of the eccentric start-ups that reigned rebellious during the Internet boom. Veteran business leaders in their 40s, 50s, 60s and even 70s are back in vogue with the Generation Xers. Just take a look at Trilogy, a privately held e-commerce software company in Austin, Texas, with big customers such as Boeing, Hewlett-Packard and IBM. The young company, known for its margarita parties every Friday afternoon, is growing up. With the slowing economy, Trilogy laid off 340 employees and announced a restructuring that brings in more seasoned executives — most of whom are fortysomething vice presidents with connections and business savvy. Maybe experience does count for something in the New Economy after all.

Vanity Fare

The commonwealth of Virginias Department of Motor Vehicles says more than 350 drivers have prepaid for a new special license plate with an Internet theme; 350 is the magic number needed to get the plates, which have been in the works since 1998, into production. "Geared to promote the states central role in the Internet economy, the plate features the slogan, Internet [email protected], and uses the well-known dot-com symbol as a graphical element." The Internet license plate was dreamed up by Competitive Innovations, an "emerging leader in business solutions for the Internet economy." All I can say is if dot-com vanity plates are the solution, no wonder the Internet economy is in trouble.

1 5 0

The number of days — as of June 18 — that President George W. Bush has been in office without naming a director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy. But we applaud the prez for naming Mark A. Forman, a former exec at Unisys, as the governments de facto chief information officer. Forman will be in charge of the Internet operations of federal agencies and oversee a $100 million budget. Hell also work on tech policy and help tune up FirstGov (www.firstgov.gov), the cross-agency government portal.

"Not Only are They Clueless, They May Indeed Be Anti-Clueful."

— John Perry Barlow, Grateful Dead lyricist and a leading member of the digerati, commenting on the Bush administrations tech savvy — or lack thereof. Barlow, speaking at the Global Interactive Gaming Summit earlier this month in Toronto, also said self- regulation can work on the Net as it sometimes does in the physical world. He mentioned he doesnt even lock his home in Wyoming because people there look out for one another and hed know in about five minutes who robbed him. And that led him to quip, "Where I live, lawyers are for people who are afraid to shoot."

A Sleeping Bear

At Bear Stearns recent 12th Annual Technology Conference in New York, organizers set up a rest area off the main conference room creatively labeled the Cyberbear Café. Im sure the sponsor was trying to brand the Bear Stearns name, but, given these bearish times, it got me wondering why a Wall Street firm would want to promote a bear market. Bull Stearns?

Happy Bitday

Thursday, June 14, marked the 50th anniversary of the first commercial computer, the UNIVAC I, introduced by Unisys in 1951. "The UNIVAC I was first used by the U.S. Census Bureau and public industry giants, including DuPont [E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co.] and General Electric, and quickly became the standard for technological innovation at the dawn of the Computer Age," Unisys says. In honor of the event, Unisys promised to release a tongue-in-checklist of the top 10 "annoyances" users encounter in the workplace today as a result of the computer. Yes, spam is on the list.

Birdbath Not Included

Oracle, known mainly for swooping down on small database companies and sending them to their early demise, is showing its protective instincts in sheltering two peregrine falcons on the roof of one of the office buildings at its Redwood Shores complex in Silicon Valley. Oracle teamed up with the University of Californias Santa Cruz Predatory Bird Research Group to look out for the peregrines welfare. The fast-flying falcon, an endangered species, often feeds on songbirds and other small birds. Oracle is also offering a live videocam look at the nest on its Web site, featuring mainly views of its convex roof and sky. Methinks this unaccustomed charity lends new meaning to the technology conference term "birds of a feather."

Politicos on the Prowl

They call themselves The Glover Park Group and they have deep experience in meltdown management, all of which can be summed up in five words: Bill Clinton and Al Gore. So Joe Lockhart, Clintons former press secretary, and former Gore aides Michael Feldman and Carter Eskew should be up for the challenge of finessing some mean technospin with their new Washington, D.C., public relations shop. According to them, it will tackle technology communications, consulting and corporate advocacy, as well as energy and health care. Glover Park is a neighborhood of boxy, vastly overpriced row houses located a stones (or a chads?) throw from the vice presidents residence in the northwest of the capital. Note to Dick Cheney: Watch your back — big time.

The Checks in the Mail

Jeff Hecht, a science and technology writer, tells me Amazon.com was amazingly generous last month. "The Amazon Associates program lets writers unload remaindered books; Ive been using it to clean out my attic. They issue checks every month to account for sales — and this month they issued the same check twice to me. . . . Its only $26.94, but if the computer did the same thing for everybody, the consequences could be interesting." Maybe thats why Amazons not profitable yet? Amazon hasnt gotten back to Hecht, but he tells me hes off to deposit one of the checks. "Ill hold onto the other, both because I think its likely to bounce and because they really only owe me the one payment." Nobility only had a part in his decision. "These days, banks charge you for depositing a check that bounces."

Trilogys Travails

During the dot-com mania, Trilogy spun off: ApplianceOrder.com, CarOrder.com, CollegeHire, InsuranceOrder.com, IveBeenGood.com and PcOrder.com. It also launched Trilogy University to train college students and to serve as an incubator for hot, new Internet companies. That helped make Trilogy CEO Joe Liemandt, then 28, one of the youngest self-made members of the Forbes 400 list of wealthiest Americans. By 2000, Trilogy brought PcOrder into the company, after it failed. ApplianceOrder tanked and IveBeenGood, renamed UberWorks, was bought by Network Commerce. Then, CarOrder and CollegeHire closed. Trilogy says it will close InsuranceOrder if a buyer cant be found by the end of this month. Liemandt still heads the company, with help from the gray hairs. Like I said, skip the brewskies and pass the vitamins.