Arrival: Mark Sanvitale

December 11th, 2006 by Team Member

by Lauren Summers

Mark SanvitaleMark Sanvitale remembers vividly the Christmas he came downstairs to gifts splayed out near the fireplace in the living room. It appeared that Santa had dropped the presents when he tumbled from the chimney of Mark’s childhood home in Portland, Oregon. One of the boxes held a new Atari 400, and from that moment on, Mark knew exactly what he wanted to do when he grew up: work with computers.

When the time came for Mark to go to college, he hoped to enter the University of Washington’s Computer Science program, but at the time the program was too small to accept the large number of applicants. He wasn’t accepted, so instead of taking UW’s alternate mathematics route, he chose the University of Southern California.

After graduation, Mark regularly applied for positions at the same three companies: Apple, Pixar and LucasFilm’s Industrial Light & Magic. He would occasionally also stalk the Apple campus in hopes of meeting and making contacts, and his efforts paid off in August of 1999 when he was hired for testing, even though he wanted to be in development. So, he set a goal: “If I can’t get into development by the end of 2000, I’m looking for another job.” Three months before his deadline, Mark had landed the job he wanted as a developer on the Finder team, where he led the development of many cool features, including “smart folders” and the sidebar. He enjoyed working with the extremely smart and passionate people at Apple, and also acknowledged and appreciated co-workers who weren’t “Apple zealots” because they gave an added dimension to the company. Mark’s biggest peeve was with managers who made changes on a project at the very end, although he humbly admits it usually made the product better.

In 2005, Mark decided to leave the Bay area for Eugene, Oregon to take a break and lead a less expensive life. Many times in his life he has lived without a car, and he seems to like it that way. Mark proudly said that while taking time off he “did a lot of nothing, like hanging out and basketball, and I loved it.” He used some of his free time to travel around Ireland for a month and check out the beaches of Hawaii.

Mark found Exbiblio through Craigslist, which he usually uses to find apartments and to buy and sell furniture and household appliances. He was surprised by Exbiblio’s listing, impressed by the website, and applied for the Software Engineer position. He laughed when he recalled Claes-Fredrik Mannby’s phone call inviting him for an interview: “I realized too late that my outgoing message was one a friend had recorded as a joke. I tried to catch the call before the machine picked up, but I heard the machine scream, “MARKUS BARKUS,” so I quietly hung up and crawled back into bed.” Claes-Fredrik emailed Mark later that day and Exbiblio eventually offered him a job.

Between the time Mark accepted the job offer and his start date, Exbiblio went through the radical restructuring. When Ed Mahlum called with the news, Mark thought that Exbiblio was not in business anymore. Fortunately, the plan to rebound and continue the development of the scanner and its software included Mark’s expertise.

Retrenchment: team reaction

November 27th, 2006 by Hugh

I’ve been ringing round the Exbiblio team looking for reaction to the news of the retrenchment and staff cut-back. Not everyone has been at their desks, but this is what I’ve been told so far.

Brydie Ragan, who has been just five days into her job as Exbiblio’s “hardware evangelist”, says that she was still learning about Exbiblio, its people, and its projects. Even so, she wasn’t bowled over, as she’s worked on startups before, including one of her own, and “there are always surprises”. She adds that it’s just part of “life’s great adventure.”

Engineer, Brendan McNichols, tells me: “In a sense, I’m not surprised because it’s a startup and we’ve been spending a lot of money on a piece of hardware that was ridiculously expensive to bring to market. Where the surprise comes in, is that just a week previous, things had been seeming to be going okay. We’ve been getting software stuff on track, and then we’ve been hiring , and usually that’s a sign that things are going well.”

Ian MacDuff, the engineer who has been co-ordinating the relationship with contractors Synapse, tells me that he has been discussing with Exbiblio’s management how to wrap-up the hardware project. He suggested that they should document the oPen’s architecture and explain how it works. However, he adds, “I’m not feeling hyper-motivated. I would like to be, but I’m pretty disappointed about the whole thing.”

(update) Lauren Summers tells me: “I was surprised at the announcement last week because it was very sudden, and am sad to break up from this team of people. I do hope Exbiblio can figure out a way to make it work. The growing idea of the (working) device over the past months, and seeing each new development, makes the idea of not using it soon feel like a loss.”

Adam Behringer will be writing shortly about his own impressions.

Speaking to a couple of others off-the-record, I get the impression that there is not a huge deal of surprise about the event itself – these things happen in startups – but the timing and suddenness was unexpected. There is some bafflement about why the management appeared not to know about potential problems – even to the extent that they were hiring recently.

Arrival: Brydie Ragan

November 16th, 2006 by Hugh

brydieExbiblio has recruited an evangelist for its oPen hand-held scanner due out next year. Her name is Brydie Ragan.

Brydie’s career resume made quite an impression at Exbiblio. Her many achievements include developing the East Coast Sales channel for Aldus Corporation, where she managed strategic co-marketing relationships with Apple, IBM, and numerous computer dealers.

Later she helped set up the design and communications firm, Bridgemark, but as you see from this extract from her resume, her interests range far and wide and include Exbiblio’s passion for social responsibility. She is a true “Exbiblio” person.

During my years as co-owner of Bridgemark, I made a personal commitment to social responsibility. Two of my first steps included joining one of the first Community Supported Agriculture farms in America and living without a car in a small city that had no public transportation. In addition, I also became a mentor for Project Soar, a program for women on welfare who were starting entrepreneurial endeavors.

I also decided to heed Thomas Jefferson’s advice to practice “eternal vigilance.” I started by making a commitment to attend all of our city council and school board meetings for one year. After sitting through the first city council meeting (for over four hours), an elderly council member approached me and asked, “Oughtn’t ya be home with ya husband at night?” I will never forget his question, which I now see as the deciding moment that marked the beginning of my deeply-ingrained habit of civic involvement.

During my years as a citizen activist, I have become involved in many issues, including land use and planning, affordable housing, and education. I have attended countless public meetings, conducted research, and written and designed reports, press releases, fliers, and newsletters for many causes and citizen projects, suffering through my failures and delighting in my successes.

In addition to my volunteer work, I incorporated activism into Bridgemark’s business by designing, producing, and distributing a kit for refusing junk mail. I succeeded in selling thousands of kits nationwide with virtually no advertising because I was able to gain national publicity. Substantive articles about the kit appeared in the Christian Science Monitor and in many major city newspapers, prompting stores such as Urban Outfitters, the Boston Museum of Science, and Ben and Jerry’s company store to retail the product.

My effort to reduce junk mail also resulted in invitations to speak publicly about the effort. One of my most memorable speaking engagements was at Dartmouth College, where I enjoyed a meal with the Club of Rome author, Donella Meadows. Luckily, public speaking had been an integral part of all of my work as a professional, so I thoroughly enjoyed this opportunity,and others like it, to generate interest in the issue as well as sales of my product.

Career Fair Fun

October 2nd, 2006 by Team Member

Career Fair

The team had a great time last week at the career fair, a huge thank you to Lauren who pulled everything together on our side, and to Redfin for coordinating the event. We were asked great questions, people had good ideas, and we received much encouragement for both our product and our business philosophy. We’ll definitely be planning to attend and potentially facilitate some our own recruiting events in the future!

by Edward Mahlum

Career Fair

September 27th, 2006 by Adam

Just a quick note to let you know that Exbiblio is participating in a career fair tomorrow evening in downtown Seattle. It is hosted by Redfin and features several Seattle based tech start-ups. If I was looking for a new job, I’d totally be there.

A variety of folks from the Exbiblio will be attending so come say hello, whether or not you are looking for a job. We’d love to meet you.

Click here for more info

Exbiblio at WWDC

August 1st, 2006 by Adam

San FranciscoI’m really looking forward to attending the Apple World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC) in San Francisco next month. I’ve been watching the Steve Jobs keynotes and many of the WWDC sessions via Quicktime for the past 5 or 6 years and it will be great fun to finally make the pilgrimage in person.

Our company shirts will not arrive in time for WWDC, so I designed my own Exbiblio shirt on Zazzle for the recruiting events at the conference. It turned out pretty well, check it out.

If you are attending the conference and are interesting in working with us or just chatting about Exbiblio, I would love to meet you. Send me an e-mail or an instant message and we can coordinate a meeting.


July 24th, 2006 by Hugh

There is one fact about Exbiblio that it is impossible to get away from: Martin King, the founder, was diagnosed last year with a fatal illness called Multiple Myeloma.

You would not guess that this is a man who has been given a short time to live. He looks well, he discusses many topics with great vigour, and retains the passionate enthusiasm of extreme youth. The only outward sign of anything untoward with his health is his inability to carry a weight above 10LB. Even his beloved Mac Powerbook gives him some discomfort when he brings it to work.

His demeanor shows no trace of fear or self pity. He cheerfully states that his illness will turn his bones into something like Swiss Cheese. The first time he mentioned this to me, he prefaced it by saying that his illness was “fascinating.” He takes large doses of steroids every other day, and these lead to powerful fluctuations in mood, with “up” days and “down” days – but he hides these fluctuations well.

The courage of the man strikes me as quite remarkable, though he modestly states that he is not brave, he merely has no fear at the moment.

“Bravery is about confronting fear. Those who aren’t fearful aren’t brave,” he says.

“Isn’t it natural to be afraid of the unknown?” I ask.

“Or Excited” he reposts – but I think this is just for the sake of argument.

He is willing to approach any subject, even his own demise, with intellectual curiosity. He has come up with a creative way to end things early, if the need arises.

I hope this gives just a little flavour of the man. But obviously this situation has a great bearing on Exbiblio. There is a sense of urgency about Exbiblio’s mission, which might not be quite so intense under other circumstances. Time is really short to get things done. There is also an immediate need to find a new CEO, and that has to be somebody who shares Martin’s values and approach to life, as well as his technical abilities. It’s a tall order.


An Inline Comment From Martin

Not my favorite post – it offends my false sense of modesty. My
fault, not Hugh’s. If anyone cares to know more, I have explained in a seperate post.

Common Values and Recruitment

July 24th, 2006 by Hugh

Values are very important at Exbiblio. The website as it currently stands ranks them as the second tab after “home,” coming before what the company makes or does. The aim of recruitment at the company is to collect together a set of people with values that match Exbiblio’s values.

I’m told that job interviews begin with the question, “Tell me, what is the appropriate response when a pan-handler (a “beggar” in UK speak) asks you for money in the street?” Apparently, there is no single correct answer.

It’s also important that people coming to Exbiblio understand the implications of getting involved in a start-up and that it means a seamless integration between work and personal life. The theory runs that if people make the distinction between work life and personal life, then there is something very wrong going on.

It’s not an aggressive interview by any means. The approach is that Exbiblio is applying to be the employer, but Martin, the founder, admits that he is looking first and foremost for people he would enjoy working with. The conclusion that I draw from this is that the “personal” element is unavoidable in business as elsewhere in life.