Friday, January 14, 2005

Bill Coleman Just Can't Stay Retired

Bill Coleman Just Can't Stay Retired: "... 18 months later, the entrepreneurial bug hit Coleman once again, and he started work on a new software company called Cassatt Corp. Coleman sees Cassatt sitting squarely at the intersection of two big info-tech software trends -- so-called Web services and utility computing. With more than $50 million in venture funding and 115 employees, he's aiming to recreate the magic of his early days at BEA. Coleman recently talked with BusinessWeek Online Technology Editor Jim Kerstetter about Cassatt, his old company, and whether an entrepreneur can have two big successes in one lifetime. Following are edited excerpts of their interview:
Q: So what are you doing at Cassatt?
A: We're focusing on automating IT operations. I think this is the long-missing piece in this industry. We're at the state-of-the-art of the telephone system in 1925, and there aren't going to be enough IT people in the world to operate this stuff if it keeps on going the way its going.
Q: I thought you were retired. What happened?
A: In 1993, I thought I had retired from Sun [Microsystems] (SUNW ). After a few months of skiing in Aspen, I was walking home and said to myself, "Boy, is that all there is?" Then we went and founded BEA.
I stepped out of the CEO job at BEA in October, 2001, and about a year and a half later, I was spending a few weeks skiing up in Aspen and had another one of those "Is that all there is?" moments.
Q: I have to ask, are you worried about BEA's direction? It appears stalled.
A: I still think BEA is a technology leader. From an economic point of view, [CEO Alfred Chuang] has done a good job of holding the economic line. In any other industry, a company that's growing 10% top line, with a 21% pretax operating profit and generating a quarter-billion free cash flow on $1.1 billion in revenue would sound pretty good.
But the problem is we're in the part of the technology cycle in which what was invented in the last decade is being commoditized. And that market is being commoditized both by the big players and by open-source.
The market needs a BEA, but I think BEA is challenged. I would like to see BEA be more aggressive in how they can dramatically break out of just the niche they're in. I can say that because I've been off the board for more than six months, and I wish [them] all the luck in the world. Obviously, I'm disappointed they haven't been more aggressive in the last couple of years.
Q: So BEA was out of ahead of Internet software in the 1990s. It sounds like you're trying to get out ahead of what's being invented in this decade.
A: I think that's exactly right. Every 10 years in technology have been an exact repeat of itself. "
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