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Showing posts from 2009

2009 Bickel Business Year in Review

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For the past 16 years I’ve been doing a personal Holiday Greeting that is kind of a quick year in review. This year I figured I would add a Bickel Running Year in Review as well as a Bickel Business Year in Review. It is kind of a personal log that hopefully I will keep up. I kind of split my life between the running side and the business side… My basic model on the business side is to work with several small technology companies and take a small ownership stake. It has worked out well for me at Bluestone and JBoss, but also a couple of other more part time gigs like Princeton Software, Bristol Technology and this year Hyperic. Hopefully a few of the others will experience similar growth and success.

Well, 2009 was much better than 2008 (see Ringside Winding down). Here are the highlights of the businesses that I am involved in…

Hyperic This was the highlight of the year. Over the past several years I had gotten to know the guys at Hyperic very well – great group with technology…

Atlantic City Marathon

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The Atlantic City Marathon is a nice alternative to the Philadelphia Marathon and New York Marathon for the fall of 2010. The Philly Marathon tends to sell-out, and we get a lot of phone calls at the store looking for alternatives. This year Ralph and Ed both ran the AC Marathon and set PR's and qualified for Boston. They really liked the fact there was about 5 miles at the end on the boardwalk, which is a lot softer surface than roads. It is also so much easier to get to (step out of your hotel room and onto the race course instead of a 3 hour commute like the New York Marathon). You can SignUp here.

Running Shoes for Charity!

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We just created a website that will sell running shoes online and benefit Back on My Feet.

We got involved with Back on My Feet thru the efforts of Ed Scioli. He ran the crazy 20 in 24 relay last year. This year we had two teams from the Moorestown Distance Running Project run the relay and raise nearly $10,000! While at the relay Ed started talking about how else we could help out.

BackonMyFeetShoes.com is the result of that brainstorm. You can buy your shoes online and 20% of your order will be donated to Back on My Feet. It is a great way to help your running and help those less fortunate get back on their feet by running!

So go get that new pair of Brooks Adrenaline, Saucony Triumph, Asics Kayano or any of the other dozens of great shoes we have available.

RunSignup.com - Alpha Ready!

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We went live with the Alpha of RunSignup.com today.

Right now we are focusing on just the user registration side (although we have most of the race creation and editing done as well). We just want to make sure we get this part right and are able to focus on it. So far today we’ve had about 100 people test it out and things seem to be going well. We are processing credit cards and Paypal transactions and are giving users a very simple way to cancel the transaction and not register.

Our little effort to make life easier for race directors of running races and their participants is off the ground!

A New Venture

Well, I am about to launch another new little venture. It combines my interests in running and technology.

The basic idea is a web service that makes it easy for races to allow users to signup online. We will go live with an Alpha version of the service in the next day or two (hopefully) for a local race that has agreed to test the service.

This is an old idea that I have been harboring for several years. I’ve used the big market leader, Active.com, as both a runner and as a race director for a number of years. However, they have become un-focused on the running marketplace. Their website is hard to use and certainly does not take advantage of Web 2.0 technology or approaches.

So our site will have focus on running races, it will be simple to use, and it will be much more cost effective than the alternatives in the marketplace. Hopefully people will like it and it will provide a valuable service to others. I’ll be blogging about this a lot over the next few months…

Wanted: Running Web Wizard

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We are looking for a new person at the store since Marc Pelerin is going to be moving to California.

Moorestown Running Company is a specialty running store in Moorestown New Jersey.

We are seeking a motivated web designer and enthusiastic store associate.
You will work in our Moorestown store helping to build and design our website, doing customer marketing and helping runners and walkers select the proper equipment.

You will have the opportunity to serve the running community, work with passionate staff and an experienced technology consultant as you develop an expanding running specialty website and growing store. The applicant should have related experience in web design and development, working with tools like Dreamweaver, Photoshop and Illustrator. PHP and Javascript experience is a plus. A strong desire to learn and keep expanding your skills is required. In addition to web development, you must demonstrate a willingness to work with customers and learn about properly fitting …

My History with Middleware and Management - like Peanut butter and jelly

In 1996 we started a project called the Bluestone (actually Sapphire at the time) Application Manager. Kevin Minder led the project, Larry McCay and Rich Friedman were also key guys on the project as well. We felt it was very important to have Management tightly tied to our middleware. We saw tremendous synergies where customers could go way beyond simple Systems Management and move toward Application Management. I remember Kevin talking with me about how we could actually build something that was way better than things like Tivoli. Here is a link to a snapshot of the old Bluestone site -

Fast forward to 2002 and when I first started working with Marc Fleury and JBoss. In my first presentation to Marc on my recommendations on where JBoss could go I had a slide that said we needed to create something like the Red Hat Network for middleware. It would give us value that we could bundle in our Subscription and it would allow us to go from the developer side of the house into the op…

Spring – Hyperic - the future of Internet Infrastructure

Spring announced today that they acquired Hyperic (I have been on the board at Hyperic since 2006 and known them since JBoss decided to use HQ as the foundation of the JBoss Network in 2005).

This is the future. The past has been about J2EE Application Servers, Operating Systems, Servers, heavy-weight Enterprise Middleware and Systems Management. The past has burdened companies with high costs and inflexible environments that do not allow them to respond to market and customer dynamics.

Over the past couple of years and into the next several years a new architecture has taken hold. Built around the flexibility of the Internet. Cloud Services. Virtualization. These are the things that let companies take advantage of rapid market shifts and to achieve much lower cost levels. Traditional Middleware and Systems Management have not kept up with this new environment.

The combination of Spring and Hyperic provides the Internet Infrastructure for new business applications to be deploye…

Inconspicuous Consumption - Running Shoes

I was talking with my running store partner, Dave Welsh, this evening about the fact that business so far this year is up - and seems to be getting better each month as compared to last year. We were down Jan. 09 to Jan. 08. By March we were up over 20%. So far in April we are up even more!

I am wondering if running shoes might be a way for people to partake in inconspicuous consumption? As I have discussed before, the vast majority of the population that is still earning what they have been earning the past several years. But it is not cool to shop and spend excessively. Hummers are out, Saks Fifth Avenue sales are down 25%+, but buying a nice pair of running shoes is not viewed as excessive. And maybe people want to get more natural - driving less, taking more walks and trying to get in shape by doing some running.

I have no idea if this theory is right, but we sure hope it keeps up!

Mark Little - JBoss CTO

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It looks like Mark Little is moving into the CTO role at the JBoss division in Red Hat as Sacha Labourey departs.

This is a great move. Mark is very smart, has deep experience in enterprise level software, is very collaborative and has a quiet drive for success. Plus Mark comes from Newcastle, England - which I think is a pretty close translation from Neuchatel, Switzerland where Sacha is from.

I first met Mark when Rich Friedman and I went to Newcastle to try to convince Arjuna Labs to join forces with Bluestone about 10 years ago. Mark was the genius CTO who was one of the key guys on an amazing team that had developed a Java Transaction Processing technology. Mark was one of the leading, recognized industry experts in this field. He was the one who drilled us with questions across the board - technology, people, processes, customers, culture. Mark had an understanding far beyond the details of the code and into the whole complex set of people, customers, partners and markets t…

Sacha Retiring from Red Hat - JBoss

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Sacha Labourey announced today that he is moving on from Red Hat - JBoss.

There were a ton of great people who helped make JBoss successful. Of course Marc Fleury, the smart and dynamic founder. Scott Stark who made JBoss a real product with excellent stability. Fantastic technical project leads like Bill Burke, Adrian Brock, Gavin King, Bela Ban, Ivelin Ivanov, Rich Friedman and so many more. And great business people like Tom Leonard, Rob Bearden, Joe McGonnell, Brad Murdoch, Shaun Connolly and of course the original JBoss Sales-Guy Ben Sabrin.

But I would say Sacha Labourey had as much impact as anyone over the years at JBoss.

Sacha started like all early people with JBoss – as a contributor. He wrote the first implementation of clustering with JBoss. That capability is what moved JBoss from a simple developer tool and low end app server to something that could seriously compete with WebLogic and WebSphere.

That early work established his technical smarts, but it also was the ki…

Marrakech

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I just returned from a great trip to see Allison since she is doing a semester in Toulouse, France her Junior year. It is really cool to see your daughter grow up so well.

We did a long weekend adventure to Marrakech. Allison has done a lot of studies about the French colonization of Northern Africa and some of the modern implications of that with immigrants to France. She was also supposed to be taking a course in Arabic, but alas the French are on strike so that class has met rarely.

We stayed in a Marrakech Riad - Riad Dar Najat. This is a picture of Allison relaxing on their open lounge area on the top floor.

Getting a good Riad is pretty important. Riad's are the equivalent of American Bed & Breakfasts. The streets in Marrakech are lined with walls typically without many windows. It is kind of hot and dirty. You open the door to the Riad and it is like an oasis! Open courtyard to the sky and typically three floors with a couple of bedrooms on each floor and an ope…

Some good news

I walked into a friends office yesterday and he called me "Mr. Gloom" as he was watching the Dow fall 250 points and hit levels last seen in 1997.

So I thought I would pass along some good news... The running store's sales for this February vs. last February are up over 20%. I'm not sure if this is a leading indicator or just a freak of weather or what. The same is true at our two sister stores in South Jersey.

I was also talking with another friend this weekend, and he made an interesting observation. He said that while there were people losing their jobs, most people had not been affected in their income level. Meaning that for over 90% of the population, nothing has changed except their 401K statements. The fact that their house is worth less does not really impact their day-to-day "Income Statement". We speculated that people were saving a bit more than they did and building up a cushion, but in the long run this was kind of healthy.

Anyway, some po…

10% Reduction...

I have had this thought in my mind that the economy seems to be contracting about 10%. I was reminded of this as I awoke to my radio (KYW) news that the Pennsylvania State Revenue was 11% below expectations. They reported Sales Tax was off 7%, Personal Income Tax was off 13%, corporate tax was off 18%, inheritance tax was off 10% and real estate transfer tax was off 35%.

This matches the performance at the running store in January - we were down 10% excluding our recently opened website - RunningCompanyShoes.com.

It kind of makes me think that maybe we got 10% ahead of ourselves the past decade. People took out too much credit, and basically extended the economy more than it should have naturally grown. Now that we take the 10% step back, it is very painful. It is painful for the 10% of the workforce that is getting laid off. It is very painful for the states and other government organizations to be coming up 10% short of their revenue projections. And of course businesses get a…

Galbraith Revisited

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To follow up on my post from a while ago, Galbraith sited 5 key reasons for the 1929 crash and following depression:
1. The bad distribution of income.
2. The bad corporate structure.
3. The bad banking structure.
4. The dubious state of the foreign balance.
5. The poor state of economic intelligence.

To compare this to today:
1. Bad income distribution.
1929 - Top 5% received about 33% of all personal income.
1929 - Top 1% held 44% of all wealth.
2000 - Top 1% received about 20% of all personal income.
2004 - Top 1% held 34% of all wealth.

Here is a picture of the real income gains between 1979 and 2005 by percentage. It is clear that the top income groups are gaining ground faster than lower income groups - creating an income distribution that approaches 1929.

2. Bad corporate structure. In the 1929 era there had been a large rise in a "vast structure of holding companies and investment trusts... In particular the dividends from the operating companies paid the interest on the bonds of th…