[Red Herring] XMLFund founder follows his faith.

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From: Adam Rifkin -4K (adam@XeNT.ics.uci.edu)
Date: Wed Aug 16 2000 - 17:24:28 PDT

Still waiting for venture capital's first SOAP fund... but in the meantime,
"every good Net company will have a strong XML backbone".... :)


So sayeth the profit, so sayeth the flock...

> Forward: Venture capital
> XMLFund founder follows his faith.
> By Tom Stein
> From the August 2000 issue
> Is XML (Extensible Markup Language) simply a technology standard, or is
> it a business model on which great companies can be built? Dave Pool
> clearly believes it's the latter. He is the founder and former CEO of
> DataChannel and the founder of the XMLFund, a new venture capital firm
> focused exclusively on XML investments. XML is a Web-based language for
> transmitting data and documents between internal business systems as
> well as between business partners.
> Red Herring caught up with Mr. Pool and asked him about himself, his new
> fund, and the future of XML.
> Red Herring: Why did you leave DataChannel to start the XMLFund?
> Pool: I was great at starting things, but the actual operation and execution
> were unnatural events for me. I always wanted to play in a new sandbox,
> even before I cleaned up the old sandbox. But starting the fund was very
> simple. There were massive voids in the marketplace when it came to XML.
> We want to be a catalyst for new companies that are employing XML from
> scratch and are not relying on any legacy technologies. We see a great
> opportunity to nurture startups in both the core XML infrastructure
> space and the XML e-commerce space.
> RH: Tell us more about the XMLFund.
> Pool: The fund is basically my money, and we haven't disclosed how big
> it is, but it's enough to keep us busy. We have invested in eight companies
> [including Aventail, a business-to-business XML infrastructure play;
> PhotoTrust.com, an online storage site built on XML technology; and
> Fishmonger.com, an XML-based Internet trading system]. We have stopped
> investing actively and are now providing startup services for our
> portfolio companies. I want to put all my time, energy, and resources
> behind these startups to make them successful.
> RH: How have the mainstream VC firms approached XML?
> Pool: Most of them don't even know what XML is. If, for instance, they
> invest in a telecom company, they would have no idea where the XML
> piece fit in. I think we can make a good partner for other VCs that
> need a technical lead. I don't think there is such a thing as a non-XML
> investment in the Internet anymore. XML will be pervasive in every
> company.
> RH: Do you compete against other XML venture funds?
> Pool: No. I wish there were other funds out there preaching the XML faith.
> The closest things I have seen are Java funds that focus on businesses that
> have Java technology at their core. We need more Internet funds that are
> aware of XML. More computers need to talk to each other, and right now
> we only have email for that. That's not good enough when we're talking
> invoices and sales projections and critical business documents. We all
> need to agree on XML as the standard.
> RH: Are there enough good XML deals in the market?
> Pool: Yes. There are some really great deals that are coming to us,
> and we are still open to funding them. In terms of XML companies, we
> are just at the beginning. We are starting to see human resources
> companies, for instance, that do risumi exchanges using XML. Every
> good Net company will have a strong XML backbone.


Sowatskey: [Jeecom sees] mobile technology and particularly WAP, which is the first version of mobile technology we have available to us, as a particular channel into their infrastructure [that supports e-commerce].

Their infrastructure is developed in Java. That is what people are using to develop e-commerce infrastructure nowadays. It's the technology designed for that particular area. They are particularly keen to provide a service where local businesses in a specifically defined area are able to get listings so that a person on the move can access the listings of businesses in their area and through a mobile device get basic information about those businesses and be able to contact them.

Now, the key part of all that is enablement; that is, actually enabling businesses to get closer to their customers in a time and place that are relevant to what the customers are doing. Of course, you could go and get a copy of the yellow pages and sit at home and open it at your desk and go through every page and call up people. By and large, you'd like to have access to information like that, not when you're in a particular static place, but when you're out and about.

Now, this out-and-about thing is a very good example of a particular kind of usage that fits mobile devices. It particularly fits the kind of mobile device that has a form factor that fits into your pocket and can be manipulated with one hand. Again, of course, there are other sizes and shapes in mobile devices, and there are other different channels where the information can be accessed. The key part of that is the underlying infrastructure, which is based on a Java application server, Java server pages, and a standard relation or database. So that's where the Java part comes into it, really.

Phipps: But it's obviously not a compulsory link. You could obviously and just as easily access all of that stuff with some other server if you wanted to.

Sowatskey: Not as easily, no, of course not. I mean you could do a Common Gateway Interface (CGI) [but] it's not as easy as using Java, by any means.

Phipps: So what are the main benefits that Java brings to the scene here?

Sowatskey: The key part was the mindset of the developers. Java was developed by a bunch of guys, with strong input from IBM, who started with an engineering background. Secondly, they approached the whole problem of developing application server environments and the programming model that goes with that from a reasonably fresh perspective. They looked at the nature of HTTP protocols and the other protocols we're using such as SMTP and POP3. These are the basic protocols we're using in our programming model.

How can we best build a platform that's going to support an easy and simple development style for these particular technologies without having to worry about anything already existing, which is a key part? So, of course, they are able to develop a programming model and set of packages and APIs specifically designed for developing applications based on the response protocol, like HTTP.

They didn't have to deal with any legacy technologies, as such. I mean, the whole area is about five or six years old. So to be able to come up with something that actually was workable reflected reasonably modern experience. So it's in effect, an engineering solution to an engineering problem. That's why Java does make it easier to develop service out of applications as opposed to using CGI.

-- from the article "Java technology and the wireless world", http://www-4.ibm.com/software/developer/features/feature-jsig-interview.html

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