Archive for the ‘Board of Directors’ Category

header_02The Marlinspike* CEO by Jim McHugh, Consultant, Board Member and Member of Gerbsman Partners Board of Intellectual Capital

An in-depth management guide
for C-Suite executives, investors and advisors.

What to expect: Pivotal proven tactics to boost business performance, sharpen strategic focus and create lasting shareholder value.
Plus: Technology Telltales -Technology recommendations for entrepreneurs
Occasional networking events
Nautical references

  March 2013

CEOs:  Do You Run Your Company Well?

Here’s the question phrased a bit differently…What key elements turn your company into:
1.  an attractive acquisition candidate
2.  a great, fun place to work!
3.  a valuable asset for all shareholders
There’s no need to create your own list of key elements because the next section of this newsletter not only has the list of key elements called The Run The Company Well List, but there are suggestions on how to use it.

The Run The Company Well List
My list has fifteen key elements that encompass the business model, planning, leadership, people, customers, products/services, finances, operations and advisors. Does (insert your company name here) have:
1.  a clear, focused, comprehensive business model
2.  a cohesive and well-tested growth strategy
3.  an outstanding leadership team that works well together
4.  a problem solving culture that is based on trust, accountability and fun
5.  a motivated, loyal, skilled workforce that is well treated and compensated fairly
6.  unique, high quality products and/or services
7.  innovative go-to-market tactics
8.  happy customers, whose needs are well understood
9.  a diversified (not concentrated) collection of profitable customers
10. a strong and defensible competitive position
11. a balance sheet that is rock solid
12. a P&L that shows consistent growth, high margins and a justifiable expense structure
13. lean processes, effective information systems, strong financial controls
14. well cared for fixed assets
15. great advisors: Board of Directors and/or CEO Peer Group plus outside professional confidants

Today I’d like to dig deeper into #3 and #15 by reviewing the OPPOSITE of having great leadership and great advisors. What if an organization has a significant, persistent problem within the organization’s leadership ranks? I call this condition being Stuck in a Ditch. Getting Stuck in a Ditch is a result of having one or more of these 6 challenges:

1.  Weak, uninspiring leadership: The CEO does not have the necessary vision, leadership or management skills to direct the company.
2.  No respect: The CEO does not command the respect of the organization.
3.  The CEOs leadership style=strange behavior: The CEO’s (or could be the dominant, controlling shareholder) behavior causes constant anxiety throughout the organization.
4.  Corporate governance is broken: There is continuous tension about the ‘lack of alignment’ and ‘who we are’.
5.  Meddling: The constant, meddling actions of the controlling, outside investors in the day-to-day affairs of the organization have a direct, negative impact on the organization’s performance.
6.  No hands on the wheel: A good governance framework does not exist. There is no active Board of Directors or Board of Advisors; if one does exist, and it is only ceremonial in nature, that is almost the same (or worse) than not having one at all.

Any combination of these six issues clearly puts a major dent into The Run the Company Well List. People are perceptive; each one of these six situations is obvious to the employees. These Ditch conditions can lead to indecision, constant bickering or fighting and prevent the organization from moving forward with conviction towards common goals.

How can you put The Run The Company Well List to use in your company?

Lists can create conversation and discussion. More important,they can initiate ACTION.

Suggestions on how to use the list:
1.  As your personal pocket guide while you prepare your company for sale
2.  A roadmap to kick off a 2013 operational improvement plan
3.  An ongoing discussion tool with your Board of Directors/Advisors
4.  The agenda for an offsite meeting with your senior leadership team
5.  A quiz for the WHOLE COMPANY: Give it to all your employees, have them answer Yes, No, or Not Sure for each item, tally the results and publish the findings.
Download The Run The Company Well List by clicking HERE

* What is a ‘marlinspike’?

*The marlinspike is a nautical implement that is used to unravel nautical lines. It is also used to sew the lines together to join them, creating greater strength, or to create useful or decorative items from nautical line.

Detangling and sorting through the complex issues in a STUCK company is similar to using the marlinspike to detangle, sort through, and weave together a much stronger and long-lasting nautical line.  Whether trying to achieve a more secure future for a boat, or a company, the marlinspike approach may be needed. Jim enjoys the sea, its wildlife, and kicking around boats and marinas.

Connect with Jim

With a name like McHugh,
I couldn’t resist sharing
some March 17 shenanigans

CEOs: Do you need an objective look at your Run The Company Well List?

Nothing beats human interaction.
Here’s Jim’s offer for March:
1 Hour of Free CEO Coaching by Jim McHugh
by phone or online video chat (Skype or Google Hangout)
No strings attached
To contact Jim, go to steve@gerbsmanpartners.com and I will forward to Jim McHugh

The Marlinspike CEO is written by Jim McHugh. Jim is an Entrepreneur, CEO Coach, Optimist, Instigator of Positive Change…and Fixer of Stuck Companies.
CEOs, family owners, investors and Directors enlist Jim to be their ‘fresh pair of eyes’ and confidant.

Jim is also a long time friend and a person of high ethics and integrity.

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SALE OF Cambridge NanoTech, Inc.

Gerbsman Partners – http://gerbsmanpartners.com  has been retained by Silicon Valley Bank (“SVB”), the senior secured lender to Cambridge NanoTech, Inc. (“Cambridge NanoTech”), (http://cambridgenanotech.com) to solicit interest for the acquisition of all or substantially all of Cambridge NanoTech’s assets, including its Intellectual Property (“IP”), in whole or in part (collectively, the “Cambridge NanoTech Assets”).

Please be advised that the Cambridge NanoTech Assets are being offered for sale pursuant to Section 9-610 of the Uniform Commercial Code.  Purchasers of the Cambridge NanoTech Assets will receive all of Cambridge NanoTech’s right, title, and interest in the purchased portion of  SVB’ collateral, which consists of substantially all of Cambridge NanoTech’s assets, as provided in the Uniform Commercial Code.

The sale is being conducted with the cooperation of SVB and Cambridge NanoTech.  Cambridge NanoTech has advised SVB that it will use its best efforts to make its employees available to assist purchasers with due diligence and assist with a prompt and efficient transition at mutually convenient time.


The information in this memorandum does not constitute the whole or any part of an offer or a contract.

The information contained in this memorandum relating to the Cambridge NanoTech Assets has been supplied by third parties and obtained from a variety of sources. It has not been independently investigated or verified by SVB or Gerbsman Partners or their respective agents.

Potential purchasers should not rely on any information contained in this memorandum or provided by Gerbsman Partners (or their respective staff, agents, and attorneys) in connection herewith, whether transmitted orally or in writing as a statement, opinion, or representation of fact. Interested parties should satisfy themselves through independent investigations as they or their legal and financial advisors see fit.

SVB and Gerbsman Partners, and their respective staff, agents, and attorneys, (i) disclaim any and all implied warranties concerning the truth, accuracy, and completeness of any information provided in connection herewith and (ii) do not accept liability for the information, including that contained in this memorandum, whether that liability arises by reasons of SVB’s or Gerbsman Partners’ negligence or otherwise.

Any sale of the Cambridge NanoTech Assets will be made on an “as-is,” “where-is,” and “with all faults” basis, without any warranties, representations, or guarantees, either express or implied, of any kind, nature, or type whatsoever from, or on behalf of SVB and GerbsmanPartners. Without limiting the generality of the foregoing, SVB and Gerbsman Partners and their respective staff, agents, and attorneys,  hereby expressly disclaim any and all implied warranties concerning the condition of the Cambridge NanoTech Assets and any portions thereof, including, but not limited to, environmental conditions, compliance with any government regulations or requirements, the implied warranties of habitability, merchantability, or fitness for a particular purpose.

This memorandum contains confidential information and is not to be supplied to any person without SVB’s Gerbsman Partners’ prior consent. This memorandum and the information contained herein are subject to the non-disclosure agreement attached hereto as Exhibit A.


Cambridge NanoTech, Inc. (“CNT”) is a materials science company that designs, develops and manufactures high-performance turnkey equipment for Atomic Layer Deposition (“ALD”) from R&D to high volume production. ALD is a cutting edge thin-film deposition nanotechnology and CNT has dominant market share in the number of ALD R&D systems worldwide – a market that CNT created back in 2003.  CNT’s solutions range from lab-based analytical instruments for research to large-format, commercial production systems for high volume production of films used in various sophisticated electronic components such as micro-electromechanical systems (“MEMS”), semiconductors, optoelectronics, photovoltaics, solar, flat panel displays and advanced biomedical devices, among others. The Company also has a services component to its business, offering materials coatings services, contract R&D, as well as materials science solution consulting services.

ALD is a process by which thin-films, a few nanometers in size, are used to coat an object (“substrate”) one atomic layer at a time. CNT’s proprietary ALD technology is used to apply a wide array of coating materials, creating virtually perfect, uniform films both on surfaces and inside microscopic pores, trenches and cavities. ALD-based coatings improve the performance of a broad variety of materials, offering improved anti-wear properties, increased water vapor resistance, as well as enhanced optical, mechanical, and electrical properties. ALD has broad applications across a number of industries, including electronics, energy, healthcare, and textiles. ALD adoption has been driven by the decrease in technology form factors as an enabler for smaller and faster electronic devices and the subsequent need for nanoscale coatings given that traditional thin-film deposition techniques are reaching their technological limits.
Cambridge NanoTech  is headquartered in Cambridge, MA, and was boot-strapped in 2003 by Dr. Jill S Becker, directly out of the Gordon Lab at Harvard University (www.chem.harvard.edu/groups/gordon/), Since then, CNT has experienced tremendous revenue growth and profitability in almost every year since inception, serving a variety of world-leading enterprises as customers across a variety of end markets

Target Market:
Cambridge NanoTech (CNT) pioneered the development of compact ALD systems for the research and development sector, and in doing so created the market for affordable R&D systems. Based on the success of its R&D systems, CNT expanded its product lines to meet the needs of both R&D and Production customers. Within the span of the application space, CNT’s products target a diverse set of technologies, including Energy (Solar, Li-ion Batteries, Fuel Cells), Lighting and Display (OLEDs, LED), MEMS/ MOEMS, Electronics, and Nanotechnology.

CNT has strong customer relationships with blue-chip customers across a variety of end markets. Key manufacturing customers CNT has served include leading producers of displays, solar technology, MEMS, and R2R flexible displays. CNT is the R&D systems leader with more than 300 R&D systems sold worldwide. A key factor in CNT’s success has been the Company’s end-to-end customer support throughout the sales process, providing consultative services on systems design, contract R&D services and installation / post-installation support. CNT’s knowledgeable team of scientists, who come from an assortment of research disciplines, can provide knowledgeable insight and offer material science solutions to address customer needs. CNT’s customers span a wide range of business and academic sectors and include, Texas Instruments, 3M, IBM, GE, DuPont, Toyota, Northrop Grumman, Harvard University, Stanford University, and Sandia Laboratories.
The accounts receivable base of CNT is diverse, as no client had represented over 10% of its accounts receivable balance.

1INTERESTED PARTIES SHOULD SATISFY THEMSELVES THROUGH INDEPENDENT INVESTIGATIONS AS THEY OR THEIR LEGAL AND FINANCIAL ADVISORS SEE FIT. Any sale of the Cambridge NanoTech Assets will be made on an “as-is,” “where-is,” and “with all faults” basis, without any warranties, representations, or guarantees, either express or implied, of any kind, nature, or type whatsoever from, or on behalf of SVB and GerbsmanPartners. Without limiting the generality of the foregoing, SVB and Gerbsman Partners and their respective staff, agents, and attorneys,  hereby expressly disclaim any and all implied warranties concerning the condition of the Cambridge NanoTech Assets and any portions thereof, including, but not limited to, environmental conditions, compliance with any government regulations or requirements, the implied warranties of habitability, merchantability, or fitness for a particular purpose.

Intellectual Property
CNT has generated a substantial body of intellectual property in the form of patents, trademarks, know-how and trade secrets.  The Company currently has 1 issued US patent and 6 issued international patents, 8 pending patent applications in the US and 9 pending international applications and is continuously inventing and expanding its IP portfolio in a manner that protects markets and enhances shareholder value. The patent portfolio includes a separate patent family for each of its product lines. Moreover each patent family  specifically sets forth ALD process and reaction chamber innovations that resulted from a ground up ALD design as opposed to converting a non-ALD deposition system to an ALD deposition system.
The patent families include:
•  Savannah Patent Family (R&D lab equipment)
•  Fiji Patent Family (R&D lab equipment with plasma and additional in-situ diagnostics)
•  Phoenix & Tahiti Patent Family (Production equipment for high volume manufacturing)
•  Preboost Patent Family (To proliferate the use of more precursors in any ALD system)
•  Roll2Roll Patent Family (Fast ALD; high throughput; atmospheric ALD)
Details of the issued patents and trademarks are shown in Appendix A


·       Attractive Industry – Material science industry, and ALD in particular  is growing at a rapid rate, as material science solutions pervade the electronics and nanotechnology sectors

·       Best in Class Technology – CNT’s ALD systems are the dominant tool of choice for researchers and offer leading edge capabilities

·       Diversified Base of Customers – CNT’s ALD systems are used in academic, and manufacturing environments, and cover a range of technologies including – Electronics, MEMS/MOEMS, Display/Lighting, and Energy. Systems have been purchased by universities, research institutes, government and military labs, and industry

·       Excellent Relationships – CNT’s strength has always been predicated on strong relationships within and outside the ALD industry

·       Opportunity for Future Growth  – Opportunities for growth can be realized by fully exploiting the need for thin film material science solutions, and in taking advantage of the Intellectual property contained within its patent portfolio.

The reasons why Cambridge NanoTech’s assets are attractive are:

CNT has historically experienced strong growth and has been the leader in the field of R&D ALD systems. However, recent working capital constraints and an overly leveraged balance sheet have created the opportunity for all or a portion of CNT’s assets to be sold.  The acquisition of these assets can enable the purchaser to realize significant short and long term value from the CNT assets as CNT maintains the ability to quickly scale within the context of sufficient working capital and a stronger balance sheet.

Robust Growth: CNT achieved profitability in 2004, within its first 12 months of being established. Since that time, revenues have grown at an 85% CAGR through 2011, and while net income performance has been lumpy, the Company has sustained profitability during periods of high growth and during periods of significant investment in product development.

Market Position: CNT is the dominant ALD company in a group of 3 other major companies participating in the ALD sector for R&D applications,  in terms of market size and presence. While CNT is not the biggest of the group, it has the advantage of superior scientific an engineering expertise, and a exceptionally strong reputation for providing material science solutions, which is not true of its competitors.

Dominant ALD R&D Platform: The Company’s R&D ALD platform is renowned for its affordability and performance – a blend which makes the Company’s products the most sought after in this competitive market. The platforms are robust, easily serviceable,  and maintainable, and meet the extraordinary needs for research level flexibility.

Diversified Customer Base: The Company has over 300 ALD systems deployed in the field in a wide variety of  industries. This allows the Company to avoid fluctuation in its revenues caused by adverse changes affecting any particular industry.

Potential Backlog and Pipeline: Prior to ceasing company operations, the Company had a backlog of purchase orders, and a sales pipeline. This information is available in the Due Diligence War Room, and is subject to an NDA.

Management Team at Cambridge NanoTech Inc (for information purposes only)[2]:

Jill Becker Ph.D, Founder and CEO: Jill founded Cambridge NanoTech in 2003 and continues to successfully lead the Company’s technical, sales and operational functions. Dr. Becker holds a Hon. B.S. from the University of Toronto and completed her Ph.D in Chemistry at Harvard University under the supervision of Professor Roy Gordon. Dr. Becker is a specialist in inorganic and metal-organic chemistry, ALD system design, precursor synthesis, and thin-film characterization techniques. She has published extensively and holds numerous patents

Ray Ritter, President: Ray has extensive experience managing and growing technology companies. Prior to joining Cambridge NanoTech, Ray was a founder and the vice president of Sales and Marketing at BlueShift Technologies in Andover, MA, a venture-backed startup delivering manufacturing automation products to the semiconductor market. Ray was the principal at Ritter Consulting Group, where he assisted private and publicly-traded corporations in driving product and service revenues through greater brand awareness and targeted sales strategies. Ray has an M.S. from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and a B.S. from Rutgers University

Don Farquharson, Acting CFO: Don is the acting Chief Financial Officer at Cambridge NanoTech.  Don has extensive financial and general management experience in both public and privately held companies. During the past five years, Don held positions as Chief Financial Officer and Director of Operations of Service Point USA, Inc. Prior to joining Cambridge NanoTech, Don served as CEO and CFO of Cambridge-Lee Industries, Inc., the US and European metals manufacturing and distribution operations of privately held Industrias Unidas, SA de CV.   Early in his career, Don was a treasury analyst at Digital Equipment and a CPA for Arthur Andersen.   Don has a B.A. in Mathematics from Indiana University and an MBA from The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.

Ganesh Sundaram Ph.D, Vice-President of Technology: Ganesh is Vice President of Technology for Cambridge NanoTech.  Prior to joining Cambridge NanoTech, Dr. Sundaram held positions at Veeco Instruments, Schlumberger Technologies, Micrion Corporation and Texas Instruments, ranging from scientific to product management roles. Dr. Sundaram received his Ph.D in Physics from Oxford University, where he specialized in low temperature, high magnetic field physics of low dimensional semiconductors. His industrial experience encompasses processing of Si and compound semiconductors, lithography, particle beam technology, metrology and thin-film applications.

Roger Coutu, Vice-President of Technology: Roger is Vice President of Engineering for Cambridge NanoTech. Roger spent the previous six years consulting with companies in the semiconductor, automotive, materials and vacuum-handling industries. He has extensive experience designing substrate handling and advanced vacuum systems. Prior to starting his own company, Roger held numerous engineering management positions at MKS, Eaton, Millipore, Bruce Technology International and other companies. Roger has a B.S. from the University of Massachusetts, Lowell in Mechanical Engineering.


The Bidding Process for Interested Buyers

Due Diligence:
Interested and qualified parties will be required to sign a nondisclosure agreement in the form attached hereto as Exhibit A to have access to the due diligence “war room” documentation (the “Due Diligence Access”). Each interested party, as a consequence of the Due Diligence Access granted to it, shall be deemed to acknowledge and represent (i) that it is bound by the bidding procedures described herein; (ii) that it has an opportunity to inspect and examine the Cambridge NanoTech Assets and to review all pertinent documents and information with respect thereto; (iii) that it is not relying upon any written or oral statements, representations, or warranties of SVB or Gerbsman Partners, or their respective staff, agents, or attorneys; and (iv) all such documents and reports have been provided solely for the convenience of the interested party, and SVB or Gerbsman Partners (and their respective, staff, agents, or attorneys) do not make any representations as to the accuracy or completeness of the same.

Qualifying to Bid at Auction:
The Cambridge NanoTech Assets will be sold pursuant to a secured party’s public auction sale.  In order to qualify to bid at the public auction sale, interested parties must submit initial bids for the Cambridge NanoTech Assets so that they areactually received by Gerbsman Partners via email to steve@gerbsmanpartners.com no later than Wednesday, December 12, 2012 at 3:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (the “Initial Bid Deadline”) with a copy to Riemer and Braunstein LLP, 3 Center Plaza, Boston, MA, 02108. Attention: Donald E. Rothman, Esq. and via email to drothman@riemerlaw.com.

Any person or other entity making a bid must be prepared to provide independent confirmation that they possess the financial resources to complete the purchase where applicable.  In order to qualify to bid at the public auction sale, all initial bids must be accompanied by a refundable deposit check in the amount of $200,000 (payable to Silicon Valley Bank). All deposits shall be held in a non-interest bearing account.  Non-successful bidders will have their deposit returned to them within three (3) business days following the completion of the public auction sale. The deposit of the Successful Bidder (as defined below) shall be held by SVB pending the consummation of the sale.

Initial bids should identify those assets being tendered for and in a specific and identifiable way. The attached Cambridge NanoTech fixed asset list (Exhibit “B”) may not be complete.

SVB shall be deemed to be a qualified bidder.

Public Auction Sale:
On Friday December 14, 2012, a public auction sale (the “Auction”) of the Cambridge NanoTech Assets will be conducted among all qualified bidders commencing at 11:00am Eastern Standard Time at the offices of Riemer & Braunstein LLP, 3 Center Plaza, Boston, MA, 02108.  Prior to the start of the Auction, the auctioneer will advise all qualified bidders of what SVB believes to be the highest or otherwise best qualified bid with respect to the sale (the “Stalking Horse Bid”).  Only qualified bidders are eligible to participate in the Auction.  Bidding at the Auction shall begin initially with the Stalking Horse Bid and shall subsequently continue in such minimum increments as the auctioneer determines.

Bidding will continue with respect to the Auction until SVB determines that it has received the highest or otherwise best bid(s) for the Cambridge NanoTech Assets.  After SVB so determines, the auctioneer will close the Auction, subject, however, to SVB’s right to re-open the Auction if necessary.  SVB will then determine and announce which bid has been determined to be the highest or otherwise best bid (the “Successful Bid”) and the holder of the Successful Bid shall be deemed to be the “Successful Bidder”.

SVB reserves the right to (i) determine in its reasonable discretion which bid is the highest or best bid and (ii) reject at any time prior to the execution of a purchase agreement, any offer that SVB in its reasonable discretion deems to be (x) inadequate or insufficient, or (y) contrary to the best interests of SVB.  In determining which bid is a Successful Bid, economic considerations shall not be the sole criterion upon which SVB may base its decision and SVB shall take into account all factors it reasonably believes to be relevant in an exercise of its business judgment.

The Successful Bidder will then be required to immediately execute and deliver a purchase agreement to SVB in the form attached hereto as Exhibit “C” (this will be forwarded at a later date). SVB will require the successful bidder at the public auction sale to close within 7 days after the public auction sale. Any or all of the assets of Cambridge NanoTech will be sold on an “as is, where is” basis, with no representation or warranties whatsoever.

SVB reserves the right to (i) extend the deadlines set forth herein and/or adjourn the Auction without further notice, (ii) withdraw portion of the Cambridge NanoTech Assets at any time prior to or during the Auction, to make subsequent attempts to market the same, (iii) reject any or all bids if, in SVB’s reasonable business judgment, no bid is for a fair and adequate price, and (iv) otherwise modify the sale procedures in its reasonable discretion.

All sales, transfer, and recording taxes, stamp taxes, or similar taxes, if any, relating to the sale of the Cambridge NanoTech Assets shall be the sole responsibility of the Successful Bidder.

For additional information, please see below and/or contact:

Steven R. Gerbsman
Gerbsman Partners
(415) 456-0628

James McHugh
Gerbsman Partners
(978) 239-7296

Kenneth Hardesty
Gerbsman Partners
(408) 591-7528

Donald Rothman, Esq.
Riemer Braunstein LLP
(617) 880-3556

Steven R. Gerbsman
Gerbsman Partners
Phone: 415.456.0628
Fax: 415.459.2278
Cell: 415.505.4991

BLOG of Intellectual Capital
Skype: thegerbs

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Article from NYTimes.

Apple fired the executives in charge of the company’s mobile software efforts and retail stores, in a management shake-up aimed at making the company’s divisions work more harmoniously together.

The biggest of the changes involved the departure of Scott Forstall, an Apple veteran who for several years ran software development for Apple’s iPad and iPhone products. Mr. Forstall was an important executive at the company and the one who, in many respects, seemed to most closely embody the technology vision of Steven P. Jobs, the former chief executive of Apple who died a year ago.

But Mr. Forstall was also known as ambitious and divisive, qualities that generated more friction within Apple after the death of Mr. Jobs, who had kept the dueling egos of his senior executives largely in check. Mr. Forstall’s responsibilities will be divided among a few other Apple executives.

While tensions between Mr. Forstall and other executives had been mounting for some time, a recent incident appeared to play a major role in his dismissal. After an outcry among iPhone customers about bugs in the company’s new mobile maps service, Mr. Forstall refused to sign a public apology over the matter, dismissing the problems as exaggerated, according to people with knowledge of the situation who declined to be named discussing confidential matters.

Instead, Timothy D. Cook, Apple’s chief executive, in September signed the apology letter to Apple customers over maps.

Apple said in a news release on Monday that the management changes would “encourage even more collaboration” at the company. But people briefed on Apple’s moves, who declined to be identified talking about confidential decisions at the company, said Mr. Forstall and John Browett were fired.

Steve Dowling, an Apple spokesman, said neither executive was available for an interview. Mr. Forstall did not respond to interview requests over e-mail and Facebook.

Mr. Browett, who took over as head of the company’s retail operations in April, will also leave the company after a number of missteps. Apple said that a search for a new head of retail was under way and that the retail team would report directly to Mr. Cook in the meantime.

Mr. Forstall will leave Apple next year and serve as an adviser to Mr. Cook until then.

Eddy Cue, who oversees Apple’s Internet services, will take over development of Apple maps and Siri, the voice-activated virtual assistant in the iPhone. Both technologies have been widely criticized by some who say they fall short of the usual polish of Apple products.

Jonathan Ive, the influential head of industrial design at Apple, will take on more software responsibilities at the company by providing more “leadership and direction for Human Interface,” Apple said. Craig Federighi, who was previously in charge of Apple’s Mac software development, will also lead development of iOS, the software for iPads and iPhones.

Apple said Bob Mansfield, an executive who previously ran hardware engineering and was planning to retire from Apple, will lead a new group, Technologies. That group will combine Apple’s wireless and semiconductor teams. Apple in a statement said the semiconductor teams had “ambitious plans for the future.”

Recently, Mr. Mansfield had been working on his own projects at the company, operating without anyone reporting to him directly. One of the areas of interest Mr. Mansfield had been exploring is health-related accessories and applications for Apple’s mobile products, said an Apple partner who declined to be named discussing unannounced products.

Mr. Forstall was a staunch believer in a type of user interface, skeuomorphic design, which tries to imitate artifacts and textures in real life. Most of Apple’s built-in applications for iOS use skeuomorphic design, including imitating thread of a leather binder in the Game Center application and a wooden bookshelf feel in the newsstand application.

Mr. Jobs was also a proponent of skeuomorphic design; he had a leather texture added to apps that mimicked the seats on his private jet. Yet most other executives, specifically Mr. Ive, have always believed that these artifacts looked outdated and that user interface design on the computer had reached a point where skeuomorph was no longer necessary.

Mr. Forstall, who trained as an actor at a young age, also shared with Mr. Jobs a commanding stage presence at events introducing Apple products, often delivering his speeches with a pensive style that echoed that of Mr. Jobs.

According to two people who have worked with Apple to develop new third-party products for the iPhone, the relationship between Mr. Forstall and Mr. Ive had soured to a point that the two executives would not sit in the same meeting room together.

A senior Apple employee who asked not to be named said Mr. Forstall had also incurred the ire of other executives after inserting himself into product development that went beyond his role at the company. One person in touch with Apple executives said the mood of people at the company was largely positive about Mr. Forstall’s departure.

“This was better than the Giants winning the World Series,” he said. “People are really excited.”

The departure of Mr. Browett was less surprising to outsiders. In August, the company took the unusual step of publicly apologizing for a plan by Mr. Browett to cut back on staffing at its stores. Charlie Wolf, an analyst at Needham & Company, said he was never convinced that Mr. Browett was a good choice to join Apple because he had previously run Dixons, a British retailer that is viewed as being more downmarket than Apple’s retail operations.

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Article from PandoDaily.

China Internet giant Tencent has just released version 4.0 of Weixin, a social instant messaging app for mobile that now counts 100 million users. In true China cut-and-paste fashion, the new release combines elements of Instagram, Path, Google+, GroupMe, Bump, HeyTell, and Facebook in one powerful offering that the blog TechRice suggests could one day overtake Sina Weibo, the Twitter-like microblogging platform that claims 300 million users. It also offers an English-language version called WeChat.

Weixin, which is essentially the mobile version of the massively popular QQ instant messenger, presents a fascinating study in China’s Internet economics. For a start, it was built by Tencent, much like Q Pai, the Instagram-like photo app we mentioned the other day. The in-house approach accords with Tencent’s general strategy to build its own products and leverage its 700 million-strong QQ user-base. Alongside Weixin, Instagram’s 40 million user count seems trivial.

Weixin also offers a prime example of how Chinese Internet companies are not only willing to “borrow” ideas from their American counterparts, but also tweak them to provide a better (or, at the very least, different) consumer experience. For many Chinese users, though, there is no question: This thing is big.

Among the new features that some think will make 2012 the Year of Weixin are Instagram-like photo-editing effects (why not?), Path-style photo albums that auto-upload to user timelines, and controlled social sharing features that closely resemble Google+ Circles. Tencent has also opened up the Weixin API to allow third parties to feed their content into the platform. One of the coolest uses of this comes from the integration of QQ Music, which lets users stream songs from within their timelines. Why doesn’t this feature exist in US-made social mobile apps? (Okay, maybe Facebook has that for Spotify, but I haven’t seen it on my mobile app.)

There are a bunch of other intriguing Weixin features. One of them is the ability to shake your phone to find new friends. You’ll then be automatically connected with people within a 1km radius (that’s .062 mile), who happen to be shaking their phones at the same time. The chances of a serendipitous connection are not as slight as you might think: The service records 100 million shakes a day.

There’s also a cute “message in a bottle” game, in which users can “throw” a message out to sea in the hope that some random stranger will pick it up and reply. I gave this a whirl and had an interesting conversation with a 22-year-old finance graduate student at Nanjing University. During the course of the chat, I discovered that I could exchange voice messages with this person – just like HeyTell, but with a ChatRoulette twist. Our conversation went like this (edited for sense and brevity):

Original message from Chinese stranger: Nothing to say

Me: Agreed. Where are you?

Chinese stranger: China. And u?

Me: USA. Do you like this app?

CS: Just so so. But it’s popular among young people.

Me: How old are you?

CS: I’m 22.

Me: Ok cool. Do you think it will be bigger than Sina Weibo one day?

CS: … they are different.

Me: I’m a reporter and I’m writing about this app. That’s why I’m asking all these questions.

CS: 😦 Commercial spy

Weixin doesn’t offer quite the slickly designed experience that Path or Instagram does so well, but US-based startups could learn something from Tencent’s multilateral thinking here. While there is value in the likes of Path, Instagram, and Pair in focusing tightly on niches, Weixin also demonstrates that a catch-all, centralized experience also has its appeal. And the app, by the way, is totally cross-platform, available on Android, iPhone, Windows Phone, and Symbian handsets.

Industry watchers say that China lags behind the US in mobile development by one to two years. That might be true for now, but as smartphone market growth accelerates in China and savvy players like Tencent make aggressive moves in mobile, that gap will inevitably close. Apps like Weixin represent the beginning of that process.

Read more here.

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By – McHugh & Co. and  member of Gerbsman Partners Board of Intellectual Capital

A while back I was retained to help develop a new strategic plan for the management team and the Board of Directors of an angel-backed technology company.

Soon after I started the project, the CEO told me that a significant angel investor/board member (Moneyman) called either she or the CFO every day at 4:45 for an update on the company. Every day, not kidding…

Was Moneyman, “Just checkin’ in…?”

Was he simply showing enthusiasm, expressing interest, acting curious, proffering sage advice, coaching the senior team and being ‘hands on’?

He wasn’t calling to coach or offer operating advice. Moneyman was meddling.

The constant, meddling actions of the controlling, outside investors in the day-to-day affairs of the organization have a direct, negative impact on the organization’s performance.

Meddling can cause a company to be Stuck in a Ditch.

The Board of Director’s Bell Curve

I think a ‘bell curve’ (normal distribution) can be used to understand the participation level of a Director. Here is my interpretation:

Over time, I’ll be writing blog posts about the broad topic of private company boards and governance.  I’ve been a member of nine boards (private equity backed, vc/angel backed or family owned). I’ve also been directly involved with many other company boards through my consulting work.

These blog posts are not going to cover what I would call the ‘board/governance basics’ (i.e. ideal member, term, compensation, etc.). That sort of content is plentiful.

I will examine the different Board personalities and styles of governance I’ve experienced over the last 20 years with a hope that these shared experiences and stories can make your Board more cohesive, and improve the interactions between management and individual board members.

How did Moneyman become a Meddler?

I’ve already said Moneyman is a #5.  I think this table sums it up.


  • was impatient, increasingly frustrated and dissatisfied with the company’s overall performance…his performance expectations were not being met
  • had put a lot of personal money into the company – he had the courage to commit his money to a new venture
  • did not have a good understanding of market size and customer acceptance of the products; he thought the market was HUGE – it wasn’t
  • questioned the skills of the management team
  • had no meaningful experience in this company’s business or industry; his personal financial success came from a completely different business experience
  • had a very intense personality

All of these factors together produced a combustive mix and created a difficult relationship with the management team and some other Board members.  If he was not one of the ‘lead angel investors’, he should not have been on the Board.

What happened?

Management and the Board came together around a revised strategy, a new operating plan and a realistic set of expectations about customer acceptance and addressable market size.  Revenues increased, the company became cash flow positive and the financial pressures subsided. Moneyman became less fearful that the value of his investment was heading toward zero. He had renewed hope and the meddling diminished and became less intense.

Have you experienced the Meddler? Do you have suggestions on how to work with this type of Director?

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