5.22.2007

Take the road to success - on a bike


Here's an interesting story. Two years ago, I met Randy Komisar (do a Google) in France. To say Randy is an avid cyclist is like saying Lance Armstrong knows a thing or two about bikes. Randy loves cycling, and I remember him telling us a story about how cycling was fast becoming "the new golf". I met Randy at the Tour de France in 2005, and shortly after at the San Francisco Grand Prix. His comment has stuck with me for years, and for good reason – cycling changed my life.

I lost about 25 pounds in 1 month, which seems unhealthy, but it really wasn’t. It just happened and it’s not like I starve myself of food (I eat whatever I want). Cycling has allowed us to raise loads of money for noble causes such as the Livestrong Foundation, and MS Society - and eventually I'd like to help pull together an event for Autism.

Cycling significantly changed the way we do business. I have met people from various companies including AMD, Cisco, Disney, Discovery, Google, HP, Microsoft, Sony Pictures, Yahoo, and many others. If you haven't had the opportunity to read the Tour de France where I first had face to face meetings with HP, you might find this story interesting.

A couple of week ago Kevin Allison, from the Financial Times, interviewed me and a few others about how cycling has changed the way we do business - especially in Silicon Valley. It seems like cycling is very popular amongst technophiles. I suppose the lure of carbon fibre frames, GPS units (like the HP Travel Companion), on board computers, super light brakes, posts, wheels, etc – the fact that the road bike is the most efficient machine on earth – all of this makes cycling popular.

For me getting on the bike allows me to think about new ideas, dream up new concepts, and it clears my mind about anything else. I believe cycling is the best way to network with new people and work relationships with new companies. It’s a break from email, although you might catch me on my IPAQ while riding every now and then, it’s a far cry from what we’re used to. Cycling is different from golf in that it allows you to meet more people on one ride – in a peloton, for example, you can meet hundreds of people, and have meaningful conversations with many!

Here is the interview we did with the Financial Times posted below. (thanks to Christina Schneider for helping pull this together!)

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Financial Times, 5/21/07, Kevin Allison
Take the road to success on two wheels

In January 2005, Rahul Sood, the founder of VoodooPC, was trying to attract the attention of potential acquirers when a friend gave him a hot tip: buy a bike.

In July, a gaggle of Silicon Valley tech executives would be making a pilgrimage to Europe to follow the Tour de France on their bicycles.

"He mentioned that some people from Hewlett-Packard would be there," says Mr Sood, whose Calgary-based company makes souped-up computers for game enthusiasts and other power users.

"We were at the point where we needed a partner and HP was our number one choice."

Sensing a life-changing opportunity, Mr Sood wangled a spot on the trip, and began to make preparations. "I had never been on a road bike," he says. "I spent day and night training on a stationary bike at the gym. I went to France looking like a total poser with a shiny new helmet. I didn't know what I was doing."

But the trip paid off. In September last year, Mr Sood sold VoodooPC to HP for an undisclosed amount. He is now head of HP's new gaming division.

Mr Sood's story is emblematic of the increasingly important role cycling plays in Silicon Valley's social hierarchy.

On any given weekend morning, scores of spandex-clad rainmakers converge on coffee shop parking lots across Silicon Valley to prepare for a morning climb up the roads that wind their way through the nearby hills that separate San Francisco Bay from the Pacific Ocean.

"Being in Cupertino, we are surrounded by some of the best cycling in the world. It's a beautiful thing to ride 20-30 miles around here," says John Roberts, chief executive of Sugar CRM, an open-source software company (the company is named after Mr Robert's mountain bike). "You can ride all year round."

For many Silicon Valley executives, cycling is more than a way to keep fit or to take in the countryside. It is also an opportunity to network, think up ideas, even to recruit talent.

"For us, at a high level, you look (for) the attributes of cycling: you've got endurance, strength, power and intensity," says Mr Roberts. "It's also a very social sport. Instead of doing 18 holes of golf, you go ride with 30 people. As you're going through the peloton (a pack of cyclists) you can meet a lot of people."

Mr Roberts says cycling has been good for business. When Sugar CRM began sponsoring competitive rides in San Jose, he was surprised by the response. "We used the rides as a recruiting event and we got some great resumes," he says. "We've ended up hiring a lot of cyclists."

Mr Sood, an avid cyclist since his auspicious trip to France, says cycling offers a rare chance to get away from his BlackBerry and other office distractions. "It clears my mind completely," he says.

In a land of engineers, cycling's technical aspects - gears, brakes and composite frames - also lend geek appeal. "There are a lot of gear-heads out there," says Deepak Kamra, a partner at Canaan Partners, a venture capital firm.

Mr Kamra rides three times a week, for the exercise: "It's just like running, except it's a lot easier on the body. You can socialise a lot better."

Many local cycling clubs organise trips abroad. "I've been to Europe five times now to follow the major races with my club," says Mr Kamra.

Closer to home, a common route runs up Old La Honda Road, a narrow ribbon of asphalt that climbs into the hills separating Palo Alto from the Pacific. From the top, riders can choose from a series of stunning routes.

Here, a typical ride can last between an hour and a half to four hours; plenty of time to talk with fellow cyclists about the Valley's Next Big Thing.

"We'd never admit that we're doing it for the networking," says Mr Kamra. But he volunteers: "The people I ride with are basically tech execs. People talk business, but that's not the main objective."

4 comments:

Robert Godlewski said...

Nice article, but let me ask you something just out of curiosity:

After just two years of biking, you decided to get one of the most expensive Madone bikes that Trek offers?

Wow, you must be a billionaire.

And congrats on loosing 25 pounds in one month.

Gene said...

Hey wait, I thought WoW is the new golf.

Mike Hedge said...

niking. wow. cool post check out my friend blog abou their cross country bike trip www.projectpedal.com

Sprocketboy said...

Out here on the East Coast we have lots of tech guys on racing bikes, but the lawyers tend to win the races because of their aggression. I was also at the Tour de France last summer and had a great time--I wore my Canadian maple leaf socks so I hope you saw me. If not, you can read cycling stuff at my blog: www.tindonkeytravels.blogspot.com
Your blog is great and my colleague handling IT is reading it as well.