Top VCs go P2P with Netscapees

A new peer-to-peer venture led by Mike Homer, known for his work with Netcenter, is the talk of an industry conference.

3 min read
My 12-year-old son Vermel has always been dismissive, if not downright scornful, of the moderate celebrity his father has attained. So I was immediately skeptical when he came home from school earlier this week requesting my autograph on behalf of one of his teachers, purportedly an admiring reader of this column.

My skepticism did not diminish when Vermel tried to get me to autograph a carefully folded piece of paper which, as I saw on confiscating and unfolding it, turned out to be one of his social studies papers with the mark of D-.

"Vermel, what is this?" I demanded. "The DuBauds don't get D-minuses. What on earth happened?"

"Relax, Pop, I just misread the assignment," said Vermel, not in the least bit contrite. "Will you just sign the paper so I can hand it back to Teach and move on with my life?"

The correct assignment, it turned out, was to write a report on the Zodiac Killer, a serial murderer who terrorized Silicon Valley and surrounding regions before the Internet did. But Vermel had written this report instead:

The Zodiac Killer App.
By Vermel DuBaud

"This week's O'Reilly P2P Conference succeeded in, if nothing else, stuffing a bunch of nerds into the swank St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco. Tim O'Reilly, head of O'Reilly and Associates, clearly reveled at being in the limelight, as evidenced by his delight in sharing the keynote stage at all times and making his own speechlets."

"Vermel, you should get more to the point in your first paragraph."

"Look who's talking."

Chastened, I read on: "But the real action, visible from the middle of Union Square, was the spectacle of lips flapping away in the glass elevators of the St. Francis, all yapping about Mike Homer's latest venture, Zodiac Networks."

I could have picked at my son's rhetoric, but chose not to.

"Homer's troops, in contrast to everyone else, were tight-lipped about the start-up, as were Homer and his Zodiac partner, Wade Hennessey, who did not return calls. But rumors were swirling at the St. Francis that Zodiac is squarely in the P2P space.

"Homer is well known for his efforts on behalf of the Netcenter portal, which turned Netscape into an attractive acquisition target for AOL, which in turn became an unattractive place for Homer to work. He left AOL, became a proud papa, and started investing in and advising second-generation Netscapee start-ups, including Tellme and Loudcloud.

"As for side-kick Hennessey, he started with Netscape in 1996 working with the Java/JavaScript group, then under AOL became VP of engineering for AOL products, meaning both Netcenter and the AOL flagship service.

"Talk at the St. Francis of Homer and Hennessey's excellent P2P adventure was only fueled when word spread about who was funding it. VCs rumored to be writing checks include the heavy-hitters: Benchmark, Kleiner Perkins, and--making this a true Netscape reunion--Jim Barksdale's Barksdale Group. None of the VCs returned calls seeking an answer to the question of how they expect to get a return on their investment."

Well, Mike Homer's not the only proud papa around here. I finished reading Vermel's paper and signed it, right over the D-minus, with gusto.

"Son," I said, misty-eyed, "if you flunk out of seventh grade, we'll just put you to work in the family business."

On the way out or up?
Details on the turmoil at Turbolinux are bubbling to the surface. While one tipster said CEO Paul Thomas will be looking for a new job after the acquisition of Linuxcare is complete, it now appears that Thomas is being promoted to chairman. He'll continue as president and CEO until a replacement is found. The San Francisco company is looking inside and outside its ranks to fill the top executive spot--but apparently not within Linuxcare.

Meanwhile, though Turbolinux is mum on the subject, it appears that 35 Turbolinux employees lost their jobs in last week's layoffs. Every week I'm still here is another week you can send me your rumors.