Monthly Archives: April 2006

I just came from a

I just came from a breakfast that should have had twice as many attendees as it had. It was the debut of the new CEO of Science Foundation Arizona, William C. Harris. No one in Arizona even knows we have a science foundation, much less what its significance could be. Here in Arizona, if it’s not dirt and we can’t build on it, we’re not interested.

Harris doesn’t know that yet. He is moving here from Ireland, where he turned an entire country around by heading up Science Foundation Ireland and fostering greater cooperation between universities, industry, and the economic development organizations. When I visited Ireland in 1991, it was mostly beautiful vistas and sheep, with very poor people. Fifteen years later, it’s the only country in the EU that isn’t suffering brain drain. According to Harris, that’s because of Ireland’s laser-like focus on education. Just like Arizona.

But our state’s leadership isn’t stupid. Science Foundation Arizona was created by the Greater Phoenix Leadership, Inc. (GPL), Southern Arizona Leadership Council (SALC)and the Flagstaff 40 as a result of Arizona’s Bioscience Roadmap, developed by the Battelle Memorial Institute with funding from the Flinn Foundation. The economic development organizations and the major donors are in the know. But where are the people?

SFA has goals to (1) build and strengthen medical, scientific and engineering research programs and infrastructure in areas of greatest strategic value to Arizona’s competitiveness in the global economy, and (2) actively engage scientific research, academic and medical institutions representing both the public and private sectors on a worldwide basis. There are hopes that SFA will be active in helping Arizona to position itself as a hub of bioscience, industry and scientific advancements that lead to improved healthcare and quality of life throughout the state.

From Harris’s lips to God’s ears, as the old saying goes.

First, he will have to convince his fellow citizens that this matters. As leader of SFA, Harris will be responsible for fostering a culture that will build and strengthen medical, scientific and engineering research programs and infrastructure in areas of greatest strategic value to Arizona’s competitiveness in the global economy. He will also work to actively engage scientific research, academic and medical institutions representing both the public and private sectors on a worldwide basis.

He will need support to do this, because it’s not a one man job. But they didn’t even come out to meet him. Conspicuous by their absence at a Power Breakfast that often draws 500-600 attendees were many members of the current business community. Where were the corporate tables for Motorola? Intel? Phelps Dodge? Or even the homebuilders? I think they weren’t there because they don’t see its relevance to their current situations.

Harris comes to SFA with remarkable credentials, having served as founding director general of Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) for almost 5 years. His work of turning Ireland into an internationally collaborative partner with multiple biotech, academic-industry research groups and his establishment of a comprehensive grants program with an international review system was integral in Ireland’s success at building research investments in strategic areas and developing a knowledge driven economy.

Harris has authored more than 50 research papers and is a fellow of the American Association for the advancement of Science. In 2004, he received the Wiley Lifetime Achievement Award from California Polytechnic State University and was recently elected a member of the Royal Irish Academy. I’d like to be his new best friend, because he seems like a pretty smart guy. Wonder if his wife would like to chair the Heart Ball?

“Arizona has the capacity to position itself as a hub of bioscience, industry and scientific advancements that lead to improved healthcare and quality of life throughout the state,” says Harris, speaking at 7:30 AM Arizona time, 5:00 PM Ireland time.

What a metaphor. Time to have a celebratory drink in Ireland, but in Arizona we are just waking up.

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The 400-pound Mountain View, California

The 400-pound Mountain View, California gorilla that was recently added to the S&P 500 list and has revolutionized the way advertisers reach customers launched Google calendar last week. On the”Inside Google” blog, one of the employees wrote that although the URL was live and expected to launch any day, he wondered how many people would actually use group calendars.

That man has never been an admin, or a mother, or a person who operates regularly from three different computers in two different home offices and multiple countries. I was up at 4:30AM on the day after the announcement exporting my calendar to Google, and first allowing my family to share it, so they could see when I was coming to visit them and not plan to visit me on the same weekend. (Not that they ever visit ME…) Then I extended the privilege of sharing it to Ed, my business partner, so he can find me if he ever wants to schedule a meeting for both of us with a client or a potential client. Before this calendar, Ed used to send an email to me asking for my availabilities, I had to look them up and email him back, and then I had to make a calendar entry. All those steps are gone now. �Enterprise� software has been doing this for a while, but Ed and I are the opposite of the enterprise. We�re the little guys.

Because I tried to do everything at once with Google Calendar, I know the calendar is a Beta. When you add an event that repeats, as the Stealthmode Partners dinners do (second Monday of every month), the calendar has a default check mark on Sunday as well, so that you will find the dinners scheduled both for Sundays and Mondays unless you remove the check mark.

Also, it’s difficult to move an event from one date to another using the drag and drop method as you can with ICal. That’s because this is, after all, a web-based calendar and not a calendar client.

More important, during the first few days, the early adopters jammed the calendar site and if I ever closed the browser window I had trouble getting back on.

But those are small quibbles. Google has very advanced software engineers who are used to making things easier for people. So when you enter an appointment, you have many choices: you can just enter it, with no other information, or you can add the time, the place, the repetitions, and some notes. You can also invite other people by email, if you have a Gmail account.

Okay, so you are going to tell me that Outlook does all of this, and so does Entourage. But they are on your computer, and you have to be at your own computer in one place, or you have to sync with a PDA. The Google calendar is everywhere, because it�s on the web. If I open the browser on my PDA, I can have my calendar on my mobile device without the intercession of ActiveSync, PocketMac, or all those other tools that arose just to accept information in and out of mobile devices.

The Google calendar is part of a shift from software that resides on the desktop to software as a service. Google also bought Writely (, a web-based word processing services, and is about to move it over to Google�s own servers. We will soon be able to keep all our documents online, as well as all our appointments. This will make it easier to access things as we become more and more mobile in our computing, and also easier to share things with colleagues, friends, and family. Truthfully, sites like have some of these capabilities already, but they aren�t considered part of business productivity. That means teenagers use them and adults do not.

Google will make it �kosher� for businesspeople to collaborate beyond the firewall. GroveSite has already done this, but it doesn�t (yet) have the reach of Google.

You can see where all this is going. A big shift, about which techies already know, is under way in the software industry. It is my duty to pass this on to you, the ordinary human. Why? So you won�t be left holding the Microsoft stock that�s now languishing in your IRA. Bill Gates will retire on Microsoft stock, but you won�t.

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When I first met Robert

When I first met Robert Johnson, he was partying like it was 1999, and indeed it was. Robert had founded Environmental Support Solutions in 1993 to help companies manage refrigerants, which had just been declared toxic wastes. His Mesa-based company sold software that organized and automated new regulatory recordkeeping requirements for ozone-depleting chemicals, such as those used in heating, ventilation, refrigeration and air-conditioning. The company quickly established market dominance in the refrigerant management niche, and Robert became an industry expert.

Three years later, Robert sold the successful company, but the acquirer didn�t know how to run it; so a few years later Robert decided to buy it back. That�s when he and I met. I was struck by his commitment to the company and to getting it back on track.

However, by the time he re-acquired it, the Internet had changed everything, and Johnson�s original model of providing environmental compliance software on CD-ROMs was dead. Always a visionary, in 1998 Robert embraced the Internet, creating an interactive web site,, that not only sold software, but educated customers and acted as a portal for compliance information.

Johnson also saw that one product, refrigerant management software, wasn�t enough to build a company on, and he quickly expanded the line of products to include Indoor Air Quality and Waste Management. More products were needed, but it was difficult to develop them quickly inside the small company.

So in 1999, Johnson undertook a series of carefully planned strategic acquisitions designed to change the company into an all-around operational risk management company. He moved ESS closer to Arizona State University and accepted outside investment to acquire several mom-and-pop compliance software companies. He was on the way to becoming the market leader in a much larger market: global Fortune 500 companies burdened by compliance responsibilities.


But Robert�s attempts at expansion took place against the backdrop of 9/11 and the dot-com bust, during which both corporate expenses and Internet business models came under severe scrutiny. Sales cycles became longer as companies tried to assess uncertainties in their own markets. Through these difficult years, he persevered, refusing to abandon his dream of becoming the sole provider for all his customers� environmental information requirements.

Striving to blend his acquisitions in a resource-constrained atmosphere and achieve economies of scale wasn�t easy. For several years, sales stayed the same. However, because of his management abilities and his single-minded focus, Environmental Support Solutions� lenders and investors stuck with Robert through the downturn, allowing him to execute on his plan.

Five years later, the company has finally merged the best elements of its acquisitions into one cohesive corporate entity ( Its products, Essential SuiteTM (for the enterprise) and Compliance SuiteTM (for the mid-market), help organizations of all sizes manage operational risk with tools that meet a diverse range of global, regional and local data management requirements and challenges.

(Some of them Robert even gives away�like the Waste Reporter tool that can be downloaded from the ESS web site and used to comply with EPA biannual reporting regulations.)

Some big wins in 2005 have put the company in a position to grow dramatically in the next few years. And then what? Robert doesn�t think much about exit strategies these days.

Now recognized as the leading provider of environmental compliance software, Johnson and his team continue building on the company�s position as �the� go-to resource for services that reduce operational risk and increase profits for clients as important as the Kuwait National Petroleum Company, Petrochina, Raytheon, and General Mills. As always, for Robert Johnson, it is about the vision, and about the future. He�s thinking of doing more global business, so he has a development team in India and an implementation partner in China. He�s perfectly content to take over the world.

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Jon Stewart had a hilarious

Jon Stewart had a hilarious piece last night about a new medical study showing that prayer has no power to influence outcomes of heart surgery. The long and short of it is not only that prayer turns out to be ineffective as an influencer, but that the surgery itself is more problematic than its marketing makes it seem: in both of the groups that were prayed for, more than between 50and 60% developed complications after the surgery. As Stewart says, “maybe what we need is better heart surgeons.” Stewart went on to show President Bush saying he was sustained by the thought that so many people were praying for him. “So that’s what went wrong,” said Stewart.

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How long did you wait

How long did you wait the last time you went to an emergency room? And who was there waiting with you — the uninsured, illegal immigrants? Probably not.

Only a relatively small number of people who use the local ER are uninsured. Chances are your fellow visitors, most of whose needs were not really emergent, were ordinary insured working people looking for a convenient way to get prescriptions refilled, children prescribed antibiotics for sore throats, or an unfamiliar ache or pain diagnosed. As many as 75% of emergency room visits are not for emergencies.

Why do people use the hospital’s emergency department so readily? And what does it mean for the future?

Take a good look at this issue and you will soon be looking (again) at the broken health care system as a whole. Because we don’t pay for our own health care, our doctors are no longer compensated for the hours and overhead they put in. We all said we hated it when doctors drove Mercedes, but we didn’t know how much better off we were under the old system.

In the past, doctors went into business to be healers, and they knew that their sacrifices would be offset by a higher standard of living for themselves and their families. It seemed a great tradeoff for the many years of extra training and the lifelong shortage of leisure time. In the past, doctors knew very little outside medicine — which is why they were such pathetic failures as investors.

Managed care changed all that. It’s the insurance plan that now decides how much doctors will be paid — not the patient, not the doctor. A “neutral” third party. As a result, young doctors now consider medicine a job — not a business, not a mission, not a calling. Residents no longer work more than 80 hours a week, or longer than 30 hours on a shift. You may think that’s humane, but for the patient it means no continuity of care in hospitals as doctors change shifts like nurses.

So when the emergency room in the hospital is crowded, there may be a doctor shortage, and there’s certainly a shortage of specialists in hospitals. They are all on salary, and they stick to the time clock. They are not incentivized to do otherwise.

But at least the hospital ER is staffed 24/7/365. It is always there. Outside the hospital, the care shortage is worse. Primary care physicians and pediatricians are no longer your “real” doctor; chances are they’re only gatekeepers who look at you for ten minutes and send you on if necessary. They don’t know their patients, who change insurance plans when they change jobs, and neither the doctor nor the patient has any loyalty to the other.

A consequence of this is a growing reluctance of medical students to choose primary care or pediatrics as a career. Why should they? The margins are so much higher on cardiac procedures, or orthopedic surgeries.

That’s why you end up going to the emergency room. Something’s wrong with your child, and the doctor’s office can’t see him/her for a week. As a new parent, that’s unacceptable. Or you’re a senior, and you don’t know if you’re having heartburn or a heart attack. You call your primary care doc, and he can’t see you for days. Or, best case scenario, he can and he decides you need some tests or should see a cardiologist.

The cardiologist can’t get you in for a month. And when he does get you in, he simply orders tests, and those take another two weeks. The results don’t come back for two more weeks. And that’s unacceptable.

The emergency room is the universal short cut to a diagnosis and treatment. Never mind that ERs aren’t very good at diagnosing certain conditions, or that you will have to wait twelve hours. That suddenly looks like a better alternative than waiting a month.

Ultimately, this is a self-defeating system. The emergency room is the most expensive place to get medical treatment. The same procedure, the same ten minutes with a physician costs 3x or 10x in an emergency room as it costs in a physician’s office. You don’t care, because you don’t pay. Insurance pays. Your employer pays the insurance.

Ahhhh, but this is all changing. Over the past fifty years, health care has seen all kinds of cost shifts. Costs shifted from the individual to the employer, from the uninsured to the insured. But now there is a new cost shift — back to the patient. Insurance premiums are going up, and employers can’t afford to pay them. Co-pays have gotten higher, and many employers pay only part of the premium for an employee’s care and nothing for his dependents.

Slowly, we are starting to feel the rising costs of health care in our pocketbooks. But we all feel the rising cost of gasoline, too, and we don�t give up our cars. What�s wrong with us? The ER doesn�t know.

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