Yesterday we held an all-hands meeting for Provo Labs where our team all met each other for the first time. It turned into a three hour meeting, which is too long for me, but I think it was useful. We talked about our business model and each of our portfolio companies briefly.
Clayton Christensen is speaking at the University of Utah Gould Lecture Series on March 29th at noon. His concepts are brilliant and need to be understood by anyone in business. (Although they apply to government, education, and many other areas of life as well.) (Thanks Ben for letting me know about this.)
I don't mind criticism when it is private and communicated with a motivation to help. In fact, I've been very grateful in my life for harsh private advice that helped me change my course. I know I have a ton of weaknesses. That's why I try to learn so much and work so hard. And I've got a long ways to go. But anonymous public criticism, or behind the back complaining, is both cowardly and unproductive. I am not sure if it makes the critic feel good inside, or feel smarter or better than the person they are tearing down. I certainly don't understand it or like it.
Provo Labs will soon announce a distributed search engine system that will enable hundreds of web sites to "host" massive databases (like Wikipedia, Edgar filings, dictionaries, reference and travel data, legal data, images collections, and more) on their own sites, with just a few minutes of setup. We believe this will enable web sites (such as universities, schools and libraries as well as consumer web sites) to keep their site visitors longer and attract more visitors as well. One of our approaches will also help web sites share revenue with us. So there are multiple benefits.
I'm not sure what is happening, but Provo Labs web site traffic has jumped dramatically. I'm guessing it is because we now aggregate all the blogs from all our employees and portfolio companies on our Provo Labs Planet. I just spent 10 minutes reading posts from the last week or so was amazed at how smart all those Provo Labs people are.
Imagine working for years at a company, developing products or services, and not knowing what your customers think of them. I think the vast majority of employees are in that situation--nearly completely disconnected from their customers. Yes, companies have technical support people and sales people who talk to customers, but what about executives and senior managers? The people making the big decisions often have little if any "customer capital" -- or knowledge of what the customers want and think.
Wasatch Digital IQ has a nice article about Utah's deal flow in 2005. A great quote from Steve Grizelle about several Utah companies getting big and acquiring other companies. I'm particularly impressed to learn that SkyWest is now the nation's largest regional carrier with 2,400 daily flights and 14,000 employees. Here's a very intesting fact: SkyWest has 380 aircraft compared to Southwest's 441 aircraft. (Probably a major difference in the size of the aircraft, though, I'm guessing.)