Andre Durand

Discovering life, one mistake at a time.
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Archive for the ‘Musings’

True Test of Character

October 11, 2008 By: Andre Category: Life, Musings

A true test of America’s character will be to see how the average citizen reacts to the reality of paying for all our accumulated debt. Do we put our heads down and simply get to work, or do we coward from reality? Paralysis under pressure.

An overly optimistic nature (“things will always get better”) is what I believe psychologically enabled us to pursue the future without a plan B. And it could just be that an optimistic bias will pull us through. But I think the big question is, will optimism prevail while under true duress? With 3 generations who have never faced real adversity, I just don’t know.

I for one will put my head down and my back into the problem even harder.

September 10th. The Day of Panic.

October 10, 2008 By: Andre Category: Life, Musings, Ping Identity

This is the day that VC’s panicked.

It’s a good time to be a quality company which adds value by reducing cost within the enterprise.

Life Isn’t Fair

October 06, 2008 By: Andre Category: Life, Musings

Life isn’t fair. I know this, and yet I struggle with it. Within my very small sphere of control, I try to make things fair, and I now plenty of others do the same, but it’s not always easy, or necessarily the right thing to do. It’s harder to do the more people you put in the ‘bubble’. Try to put a whole society in that bubble and well, it’s impossible to keep everything fair.

It’s not fair that some people are born beautiful, talented and in good families that can provide while others aren’t. However, this is our reality.

As a society, there is a certain balance that we try to maintain between this reality of unfairness, and our sense of responsibility to balance the equation for those that are less fortunate, or simply less capable. But this is a delicate, delicate balance, and if you push it too far, you can break it.

I just watched a video that expresses an angle of the causes of the recent financial crash. The video is mired in politics, (I’m sorry) and clearly has an agenda. Personally, I think both parties had their hand in the cookie jar on the current debacle, and I’m not so interested in the politics of it as I am in the underlying concept of capitalism.

So, back to my point. Most of us live the life we do because we’re educated, we work hard, we work smart, we innovate, we sacrifice, we attract talent to work with us and we work within a capitalistic framework which allows us to improve our lot in life. Not everyone has an equal chance to achieve fame or fortune in this framework (that’s the unfair reality), but the possibility for improvement is there nonetheless.

Given an inherent unfairness, as a society, we are faced with a question of what to do about it. How do we balance inequality? My personal bias has been to try to balance inequality as best I can but within limits. Those limits are to ensure that I somehow don’t break the underlying formula of capitalism altogether.

I don’t know enough about the underlying details in the above video to know what’s actually true versus things taken out of context. But with regards the video’s claim that regulation, in particular, the Community Reinvestment Act, was one of the foundations of things gone wrong, I do agree that forcing banks (or anyone for that matter), through regulation, to make what amounts to risky loans is simply a bad policy. It fundamentally breaks the formula while pushing to create an artificial balance that’s simply not sustainable. As harsh and cold as capitalism actually is, it reflects a framework that rewards those that work hard and have talent that is valued. That’s not always fair, but it reflects reality.

The Wisdom of “Asimo”

September 25, 2008 By: Andre Category: Life, Musings

About every 3 to 4 years, I see a commercial showing some latest trick that “Asimo”, Honda’s robot, is now able to accomplish. A few years ago, he served up a tray of coffee. Walking it over from the kitchen to a table and setting it down. Today he’s figure skating like Dorothy Hamill in the 1976 Olympics. When I first saw these commercials, I thought, “…what a waste of money. Honda should stick to building great cars,” but as the years went on, and Asimo went from a clunky toy to something of shear engineering genius, I’ve come to appreciate the wisdom and the courage of the people behind Asimo.

What Asimo represents, that I believe we’ve somehow forgotten in America, is the long-term view. It wasn’t that long ago that we did great things here in America, we took risk to pursue what seemed like crazy dreams. Putting men on the moon, breaking the sound barrier, building crazy tall buildings, erected cities in the desert. These were all crazy ideas, but they were also great, because they represented big vision and a ton of courage.

As a society, we’ve gotten so caught up in the ‘today’, living in the moment, that I believe we’ve lost sight of the fact that big dreams take time, perseverance, courage, and commitment. Our society, and in particular, Wall Street and our public markets, demand immediate results. I believe this short-term returns-oriented mentality, when not balanced with a longer term view of investment and long-bets, will belittle what we’re capable of.

Listen to how Honda’s former President and CEO, Hiroyuki Yoshino, describes their vision of Asimo. There is a lot to be admired in these statements, especially considering the fact that they come from a leader within a public company.

More than 20 years ago, our engineers set out to make a contribution to society beyond our existing product lineup of cars, motorcycles and power equipment products. It was a big dream – some thought it was simply the stuff of science fiction – to create a humanoid robot that could walk on two legs and whose main purpose would be to help people, such as the elderly and others who were confined to a bed or a wheelchair. Ultimately, our efforts led to the creation of ASIMO, a humanoid robot, which stands for “Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility.”

“Our dream for the future was to create something that did not exist – an advanced humanoid robot capable of walking and operating where humans live and work. For Honda, the challenge itself was enough reason to pursue this dream.”

To me, all the recent turmoil in our financial markets is simply the next proof point that however it is that we’ve been running things isn’t working. Wall Street, and indeed I think America in general, has become too focused on short-term gains. It’s time to return to a longer view of contribution and value add. In another 10 to 20 years, Asimo might not appear so crazy. But he will exist only because people had the courage to do pursue something really outstanding.

Small steps, long-term outlook.

The “Are you Serious?” Filter

September 23, 2008 By: Andre Category: About Me, Entrepreneurism, Identity, Life, Musings, Ping Identity

We all develop filters for the noise and clutter we encounter in every day life. These filters protect us, allow us to concentrate, and generally shield us from being bombarded.

In biology, there is a concept known as homeostasis. Homeostasis is the ability for the body to adjust what it considers ‘normal’ to the current conditions, giving it an ability to detect changes in those conditions.

If it’s hot, your body adjusts its normal state to account for the heat. It can then detect if it gets hotter or colder. The same holds true for light, sound, touch, taste and smell.

In business (and I’ve found this to be especially true with entrepreneurs), I’ve noticed that people have developed a sort of ‘are you serious’ filter when they hear a newbie entrepreneur describe how they are going to set the world on fire. While friends may be generally encouraging, they are also inherently skeptical. And why would you blame them? ‘Normal’ for them is to hear a lot of talk, but witness very little follow-through. We’ve all seen and heard of plenty of great ideas. But of all those great ideas, how many are ever acted upon? And of those that are actually acted upon, how many of those ideas are really, really pursued, through the inevitable hard times in any startup? The answer is, not many.

Life itself I believe has a way of really challenging the conviction of any great yet unimplemented idea.

It reminds me of a question Phil Becker asked me before he invested in Ping. Sitting in his living room, he asked me, “…are you really serious about this?” That was a wise question.

Ask. But ask the right person.

September 09, 2008 By: Andre Category: Entrepreneurism, Life, Musings, Ping Identity

If you’re a visionary entrepreneur, the last person you want to seek advice from is another visionary individual. What’s contradictory in this statement is that often times, ‘future’ ideas are intriguing to other visionaries, so it’s easy to get their attention.

As a general rule, the smarter the individual, the farther out they are able to project a plausible outcome within any given market. The danger of surrounding yourself with these types of individuals as a startup is that you chase ideas who’s time has not yet come. If you’re part of a larger company, you need to have these forward scouts looking for the discontinuities in the market, as it takes longer for the big ships to change direction. But as a startup, being too early will most likely kill you.

To add insult to injury, when the market does finally break out, you’ll look back and say, “I saw that coming”, but you will not reap the benefit from your insights.

I’ve learned this lesson the hard way. The people that I needed to talk to early at Ping were the very ones that seemed near to impossible to get to. These were the people who actually did the work, not talk about it. Typically, these individuals are more introverted and their opinion rarely asked. However, THESE are the guys you need to get to. These people will tell you where to connect your vision in todays reality.

I know, it’s counter-intuitive, like so many things in life, which makes the insight that much more powerful if you realize it.

Less of a Pig

June 03, 2008 By: Andre Category: Life, Musings

I’ve been complaining about America’s consumption of gas for the past 2 years. Yet I drove a Mercedes S500, a GMC Denali XL and a 30′ RV. Let’s face it, who wouldn’t drive their house around if they could afford to?

Even before gas prices started their climb, I had decided to change things, to downsize my footprint, and it’s not just with cars and gas, it’s with everything. I’m embarrassed by the amount of garbage our family creates in a single week.

As a country, we’ve got to overcome our ego associated with the luxury of driving around dinosaurs. That, and we need a breakthrough in energy technology.

Attacking Competition where it Hurts: Their Business Model

December 07, 2005 By: Andre Category: Musings

One of the most disruptive ways to attack a set of competitors is to attack their business model. Just take a look at how Google can undermine whole market segments by shifting the business and revenue model to paid for by advertisers. At least if you’re beat on features, you have a chance at catching up, but when your entire economic model is attacked, and the price for your product effectively goes to zero, as is the case when Google subsidizes internet applications through advertising, you’re pretty much done unless you can figure out how to shift in time.

The Flattening of End-Points

November 15, 2005 By: Andre Category: Musings

I’ve given up trying to actually read business books cover-to-cover. I’m now listening to them through my PDA and Audibles. I was intrigued with some of the details around Kevin Bacon’s concept of 6 degrees which were discussed in The Tipping Point.


While talking with Thor Hauge and Jer Miller a few weeks back, I came to the realization that there is likely some sort of grander formula at work with respect to the collapse of distance between ANY two end-points. While Kevin discusses the distance (measured in people) between any two randomly selected people. I think the same concept can be generally applied to ANY two endpoints. As networks connect and layers of infrastructure collapse and consolidate, the net effect is that the distance between ANY two end-points (measured in ‘hops’) is collapsing.


Any mathematicians out there want to help me formulate this concept?   

The Flatening of End-Points

November 15, 2005 By: Andre Category: Musings

I’ve given up trying to actually read business books cover-to-cover. I’m now listening to them through my PDA and Audibles. I was intrigued with some of the details around Kevin Bacon’s concept of 6 degrees which were discussed in The Tipping Point. Over (yet another) tequilla shot while talking with Thor Hauge and Jer Miller a few weeks back, I came to the realization that there is likely some sort of grander formula at work with respect to the collapse of distance between ANY two end-points. While Kevin discusses the distance (measured in people) between any two randomly selected people. I think the same concept can be generally applied to ANY two endpoints. As networks connect and layers of infrastructure collapse and consolidate, the net effect is that the distance between ANY two end-points (measured in ‘hops’) is collapsing.


Any mathematicians out there want to help me formulate this concept?