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Software Innovation-Do You Think the Last 20 Years Were Exciting? The Next 20 Years Will Blow Your Mind

06/07/2008 10:00 AM
Brad Feld, '87, SM '88, Managing Director at Foundry; Group and Mobius Venture Capital

Description: In a trip down memory lane, Brad Feld regales us with the pre" and recent history of electronic innovation, with a rapid"fire delivery that achieves vaudevillian pitch.

Via a slide"laden PowerPoint presentation -- and, by the way, Feld claims to hate PowerPoint, because as a venture capitalist "I've only received about 6,723,000 of them" -- he narrates landmark moments in the evolution of the computer age. He touches on the room"size ENIAC computer, and pays tribute to the Jetsons cartoon as embodying his view of the future as a child. He cites his first programming language (APL, 1976), and first computer (Apple II, 1978). Feld speaks sentimentally of the familiar A> prompt as a quaint relic of the DOS operating system era.

Jump to the late '80s, when Hypercard on the Macintosh was a pre"web foreshadowing of distributing data through multiple applications"a major breakthrough." Windows 3.0 heralded the '90s and subsequent leapfrogging of Microsoft and Apple on the personal computer frontier. He cites the renegade Linux operating system (1991), then the ignoble Michelangelo virus (1992)"the first time the mainstream media got crazy about computer security."

Feld detours from history to recount naming his software consulting firm Feld Technologies; whenever anything went wrong "people called up and asked for Mr. Feld." Therefore, he warns "lesson #1 of entrepreneurship is don't name your company after yourself."

In the mid"'90s, the emergence of the Internet in mass culture made ubiquitous such terms as Mosaic, Yahoo!, Java, Explorer, and other iterations of web browser, search engine, and email protocol. In 1999, E"commerce and the Y2K scare entered common parlance. Around 2000, OS X and iTunes burst on the scene, in spite of post"Internet bubble depression. Feld credits Apple with changing "the way we think about digital content." Catching up to recent times, he invokes social networking, the astronomical Google IPO, and the notion of Web 2.0.

As a venture capitalist, Feld seeks new paradigms in software development as investing prospects for 10 to 20 years _ "the next big thing." He is interested in "immersive experience" that alters human interaction with the computer. His attention is also drawn to decoupling mouse and keyboard from control of the computer toward methods requiring no tactile input. Lastly, he speaks of "cloud computing" where "everything is disconnected from what is on your desktop" and "you don't have to worry aboutdata storage and equipment." Then, elliptically, he reprises a slide of a 1960s room"size computer, suggesting it resembles a latter"day incarnation of a server farm. Full circle.

About the Speaker(s): Brad Feld has been a self"described nerd since boyhood, an auspicious beginning to his trajectory from software developer to tech consultant to entrepreneur to venture capitalist.

MIT proved a natural melding of Feld's longtime and evolving interests in computer science and business. Even before completing his graduate degree, his first company, Feld Technologies, was established. Since then he has had a hand in over 100 companies, including serving on the boards of over a dozen. Feld is also a member of the Dean's Advisory Council at MIT Sloan.

Feld is an insatiable reader, dedicated blogger, art collector, and forward thinker. As a marathoner, his goal is to participate in races in all 50 states and on every continent before age 50. Not least, Feld is a philanthropist, supporting causes in education, environment, arts, and women's issues. He makes his home in both Colorado and Alaska

Host(s): Sloan School of Management, MIT Sloan School of Management

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MIT World — special events and lectures

MIT World — special events and lectures

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