January 27, 2006

Page 18

It's hard for Scott to say exactly what GST did with Whole Earth after the buyout, because one of the things that GST did after the buyout was, via one of the other former Whole Earth executives, let him know that he was having three quarters of his group taken away from him. Given the terms of his employment contract, that action constituted an "effective termination" and so Scott pulled his ripcord and parachuted out in June of 1998.

Now, things didn't go quite as smoothly as they should have for Scott after his effective termination. GST disputed that they had taken any action and tried to claim that Scott had voluntarily quit his job. It took some six months of rattling his lawyer at GST to get them to see the sweet light of reason, and all things considered, it probably cost them more money in fees to their attorney, on top of the actual settlement, than it would have cost had they just paid the severance off in the first place. In addition, Scott's take-home was the same as it would have been because the tax treatment of a settlement payment differs from that for salary, so it was hardly a lose:lose situation.

Scott did retain a customer relationship with GST Whole Earth Networks, as the San Francisco company was known post-merger, for a couple of years. He had what had been a high-speed connection at the time, a dedicated 56Kbit leased line, running into WENet headquarter as one of his perqs of working there, and he retained it at his own personal expense afterward. From a distance, he saw as Whole Earth's bread-and-butter dialup business was sold off to another company, and eventually he and his leased line were sold to Time Warner Telecom.

Now, due largely do his first wife, Scott's financial situation in mid-1998 was none too good. Even though he had been making a decent salary as a vice president at WENet, and had made a couple of month's pay on the sale of the company, he wasn't in a position to take an extended leave. Instead, he took a short vacation, and spent time on his cellphone while nominally camping making calls to two potential employers.

The first opportunity he was evaluating was a second stint with Kevin Randolph. GST had bought Whole Earth but hadn't been interested in keeping Kevin on board, so he had gone to Hong Kong and was working for a company owned in part by Softbank Japan. Softbank Japan was an affiliate of Softbank US, which was the primary venture capital company behind Yahoo. The company Kevin was working with, actually a small clump of related companies, included something called Asia Communications Global Limited (ACGL) and it's child operating company, the grandiosely-named Asia Online (AONL). AONL was an ISP based in Hong Kong, roughly the size of Whole Earth Networks. Softbank wanted to figure out whether to shut it down, sell it, or build it into something bigger, and it had engaged Kevin to help it figure that out.

During the 1980s and 1990s, when Scott was active in the UUCP network world, he made the acquaintanceship of one Dave L. Rand. Dave had gone on, in the commercial Internet world, to help found and run, as the CTO, an Internet company called Abovenet. Abovenet had started with the idea of being the network "above" the Internet (hence the name), but had over time focussed more on the new market of creating Internet collocation centers - facilities where average companies could bring their computers and have guaranteed power, air conditioning, Internet connectivity and other services needed to build 24x7 platforms for new applications such as e-commerce. On top of that, Abovenet was laying or acquiring its own fiber runs and so building an even bigger business that way.

Now, at the end of 1992, Scott had made what turned out to be a strategic mistake for his career. He let his first wife's whining and crying convince him to buy a house out in the sticks, in Salida, California, best described as a suburb in Modesto. Modesto, as the reader may recall, was the hick town featured by George Lucas in "American Graffiti" and the place he got his behind out of as soon as he could.

The reason that this was a strategic mistake is that it wasn't really very tenable for him to commute from Salida to Silicon Valley or San Francisco. The commute ranged from 3 to 4.5 hours daily, depending on the exact location of the employer, and the physical and emotional toll was no longer sustainable. Scott had started, around 1995, to look for some way out of the situation.

So, in 1998 as he was evaluating the two employers, location weighed very heavily in his mind. He seemed to be having ongoing miscommunications with Dave Rand over the Abovenet position, and he had worked with Kevin for over a year at that point and got on with him fairly well. The clincher for him, though, was that Abovenet was in San Jose, and would require him to commute daily through the most-congested traffic corridor anywhere in the United States - I-680 southbound between Pleasanton and Fremont. The Asia Online job would be based in Hong Kong, but after 5+ years on the road, that didn't seem like such a bad thing.

As a result, in July 1998, Scott started with Asia Online as part of Kevin's team of consultants. Posted by scott at January 27, 2006 03:54 PM