Silicon Follies

Chapter 28: Fire off the press releases! Sales force, start your engines!

Thomas Scoville
June 19, 1999 8:00PM (UTC)



New protocol supersedes existing wireless, nomadic computing standards.

PALO ALTO, Calif. (Jan 29) -- TeraMemory Inc., the global leader in enterprise database solutions, today announced the development of the next-generation network protocol. The proprietary technology will rapidly accelerate the pace of ubiquitous wireless networking and set new standards in communications bandwidth and privacy.


The Mountain View, Calif., database giant developed the Wireless High-density Internet Protocol, or WHIP, in response to the industry's escalating demand for cost-effective client/server and peer-to-peer internetworking solutions. Barry Dominic, President and CEO of TeraMemory, says, "WHIP will power drive the future of e-commerce by allowing degrees of interoperability and flexibility we can now only dream about. This is the dawn of a new era in connectability."

Major platform and electronic commerce vendors are rapidly embracing WHIP. The integration of TeraMemory's WHIP protocol with major manufacturers' networking and computing hardware represents a major step forward in solving the core issues surrounding the creation of wireless computing applications for e-commerce and business-to-business interoperability.

"Today's announcement will cause the industry to stand up and take notice," said Candy Sawyer, Vice President of Sales. "We think WHIP has the potential to redefine networking, PC multimedia computing, nomadic devices, and thin-client solutions, bringing a major competitive advantage to our hardware partners. This innovation should be especially attractive to power users who demand uncompromised performance for their high-end real-time networking applications."


Key WHIP proprietary firmware microprocessors will enter volume production in the second quarter of this year. System announcements are also expected in the second quarter.

Led by industry veteran Andrew Lucre, TeraMemory has secured $27 million of financing from Tohashi Cellular, Venture World Capital, Woodside Associates, Inovatech, and various individual investors. The spinoff of Whip Technologies is scheduled for the fourth quarter, with Initial Public Offering to follow.

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The press release had touched off a frenzy in TeraMemory's non-technical quarters. The sales force, in particular, experienced a considerable quickening of pulse; they could smell the money. They massed in cafes and conference rooms, brandishing their Montblanc meisterstucks and devising fiendish schemes for how territories and opportunities would be divided. They plotted elaborate compensation plans and tiered commission schedules. In short, they set about their corporate conniving in that feckless, breathtakingly ignorant way only salespeople can.

They were, however, having more than the usual difficulty wrapping their minds around the product itself. For days after the announcement, the digital pitchmen experienced considerable frustration grasping a simple definition -- not to mention the basic technical specifications -- of TeraMemory's new product offering.


One senior sales associate proposed that WHIPs were just like databases, only smaller. Another was quick to debunk this hypothesis, estimating instead that it must be the supporting platform hardware that was smaller. Still another asserted that WHIP ran with no hardware at all -- that's what a protocol was, stupid. This led to a serious discussion about whether WHIP might be a virtual reality product.

Though they ultimately reached no definite conclusions, they seized the opportunity for self-congratulation; they had satisfied the department requirement for a sober, hard-headed analysis of WHIP's placement within the larger industry.

After a week of such similarly rigorous discussions of WHIP's technical merits and market positioning, there emerged among the sales force one quantitative issue on which they could all agree: If WHIP lived up to the promise of its press release, they would all be driving new Porsches before the year was done. This revelation galvanized their enthusiasm in ways that bothersome technical specs did not.


There was a long-standing joke in the industry about the difference between used car salesmen and infotech salesmen: The used car salesman knows when he's lying to you. That so many of TeraMemory's sales force had once actually sold used cars might explain the enthusiasm so many of them held for their new careers at Tera: Perhaps it was easier to sleep at night when your inability to understand the product left open the possibility that you'd inadvertently told some sort of truth. Maybe the intractable obscurity and sheer technical opacity acted as gentle salve on the troubled conscience of the salesman.

On the other hand, maybe not. Conscience -- in this crowd, anyway -- seemed an unlikely supposition.

Thomas Scoville

Thomas Scoville is either an Information Age savant or an ex-Silicon Valley programmer with a bad attitude. He is the author of the Silicon Valley Tarot.

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