California Politicians And Tech Futures

California’s gold for the last twenty-five years has been dug from the flatlands between San Jose and Berkeley and the neighboring villas. From the halls of Stanford and U.C. Berkeley universities, brilliant minds collaborated to drive the surrounding towns and cities to prosperity. Even though, Sacramento, and its sad excuse for leadership, kept dragging us back into the last century. On the national scale, things don’t look too promising either as we consider the upcoming changes to our Senate and Congress. Then there is the fashion that we will undoubtedly have another new governor.

In a previous article we talked about how the technology sector was linked inextricably to energy costs and jobs and that by increasing funding for the IT sector, you would lower our carbon footprint and get that ‘shovel ready’ affect on our economy as there are jobs in need of workers. It’s not clear if Eric Schmidt’s presence on the Obama circuit is focused on jobs, or for that matter, technology, but I suspect they understand the relationship. However, it’s still unclear if Barbara Boxer or Dianne Feinstein understand that their relationship with the technology industry continues to await them, after all these years, and they’re ready any time. We do know for sure it’s been eons since any governor had a clue how to grow our economy by advocating for IT education and growth. Will Meg Whitman, who hasn’t had much of a taste for voting over the years, have a taste voters find palatable?

Meg Whitman

As Senator Boxer’s seat is up next year, we wondered if she might be worried about the competition for her job. If so, she ought to remind herself of the 7% solution. Not the 7% solution made famous by Sherlocke Holmes, but the 7% that Hewlett-Packard stock rose the day Carly Fiorino resigned. If the street looked at Ms Fiorino’s tenure so ill favoredly, who is to say ‘business leaders’ will gravitate towards her renaissance?

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2009 Top 10 IT Service Management (ITSM)
Vendor Report – Independent Research
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We don’t get into catfights, or politics, unless we want to know how to assess these positions that affect our liviehoods and our families. We want to know when these politicians will really open the communications and listen to what these markets are saying and how we need workers who are trained in curricula that don’t exist yet in our primary and secondary public school systems. If we were to guess, we would say the economy could kick it into a few higher gears, if more people in government took the time to understand what is happening around Silicon Valley, New England, Austin and a few other brain centers of the domestic technology world.

Carly Fiorina

“But why should anyone listen to—let alone vote for—Fiorina?”
I’m not sure how you assess any candidate, other than to look at the state of things and decide quickly if change isn’t the first thing that needs to happen, and then ask yourself if the person you’re considering can deliver change that works. If you are looking at Carly Fiorina, who claims to be running against Barbara Boxer, you might consider some of these stories over the last five years that may give you some inkling of how she would handle the problems we face today:

Here are some choice topics she ought to be asked by voters:

1. “She pushed the $19 billion Compaq acquisition over the opposition of many HP stockholders, including, most notably, Walter Hewlett, the son of the company’s founder, who argued the merger would not make HP more competitive.” Why?

2. “In 2003, ‘Her poise and freshness have been offset at times by her inexperience and her contentious tenure at HP, during which she cut more than 20,000 jobs and the venerable technology company’s stock fell by nearly half’ [Los Angeles Times, 8/6/08,]. When the outsourcing of jobs turned into a national political issue, Fiorina became the poster-girl for an industry campaign aimed at blocking any legislation that would restrict a company’s ability to can American employees in favor of workers overseas. Where does she see jobs coming from today, and what specific areas of tech does she favor?

3. In March 2004, Forbes reported that Hewlett-Packard was “among many other U.S. companies that kept offices in Dubai and were linked to Iranian traders there. The article suggested that HP and other countries were skirting export controls to trade with Iran.” Where is Carly on this today? Does she favor trade with Iran?

4. Fiorina Received $42 Million Severance Package >From HP. After being “spectacularly” fired from Hewlett-Packard, Fiorina was awarded a severance package originally valued at $21 million, which “disgusted” corporate governance advocates at the time, but then The New York Times reported that the company also granted stock options and holdings valued at another $21.1 million, making her total a severance package of $42 million. Federal filings at the time indicated that HP helped Ms. Fiorina financially with her mortgage, relocation expenses, and taxes to the tune of 1.6 million between 1999 and 2003. [The New York Times, 6/6/08,; Associated Press, 2/9/05; Hewlett-Packard Proxy Statements (1999-2005); Securities and Exchange Commission, accessed 3/25/08; The New York Times, 2/12/05]. This may be the biggest achievment of Fiorino’s entire life, but no one is sure how she rated such an enormous exit package, when it was clear she had done nothing but lower the value of HP’s shares. I sure would love to ask her how this works?

My friend on Sand Hill Road says it this way, “Carly is yet to make anybody any money, other than her lawyers.” Investors want to see shares go up, when leaders take a chunk out of the profits. Especially when there are no profits. It sounded clear no one near Sand Hill road was looking to back Carly in another IT business. But, then again, it sounds like she wants to hang inside the beltway in the future.

Skype Founders

On another note, eBay sort of settled their legal problem with Skype granting the original two men, Nikalas Zennstrom, a native of Sweden, and Janus Friis, of Denmark, who sold Skype to eBay in 2005 for $2.6 billion, for around $3.1 billion, another shot at the brass ring. The settlement casts a dark cloud on Meg Whitman who wants to run one of the world’s largest economies: California. “A price was not disclosed, but eBay has said it wants around $2 billion for Skype, which is on track to take in more than $600 million in revenue this year.”

Here are some comments in this weekend’s Times article:

Jerry Stevens Greenville, SC
November 7th, 2009
8:15 am
Lesson learned: Think about mistake in your business life before running for office. Ever since this problem came to light, I keep wondering how her political opponents will play this to their advantage in Meg Whitman’s gubernatorial campaign. Of course, many of them will have had only government experience where mistakes are never admitted and easy to bury,

Charles St. Paul
November 7th, 2009
8:15 am
It’s shocking that Whitman allowed something like this to happen, losing shareholders billions. This incompetence disqualifies her for elective office.

CL Paris
November 7th, 2009
8:15 am
Any decent M&A partner (not that there are many) would tell you to never leave a hunk of IP with the founders. Whitman is witless like most CEOs and was likely not all that involved in this frankly stupid acquisition (Biz Dev…)but she sure can take part of the blame.

Honest, we could not find any more kind …

Skype was to be the conduit for growing the once preferred auction and eCommerce brand that changed forever under the tutelage of Meg Whitman. Since Skype is more viable today than it ever was, what happened? How will Meg Whitman explain this and assure voters she has the chops to deal with an unruly mess in Sacramento? Considering Whitman admits to not taking much interest in the democratic process with her dismal record for just casting a ballot, what is her thinking in taking on the problems we have in this state? It is clear to everyone that she won’t be able to cash in on any popularity she won during her dismal tenure with eBay users. She managed to turn off buyers, sellers and advertisers.

If Carly and Meg can’t get Silicon Valley behind them, will the rest of the state get the message? Will someone in California who has some idea how to grow our world and fix our broken institutions please stand up before we are forced with the folks who got us into this mess?

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