I first met David Gilmour in 1992 when I was leaving Ingres and looking for a new job. At the time, Gilmour was head of marketing and designated CEO successor at Versant Object Technology. He had joined the company after a successful run at Lotus. With three degrees from Harvard, David was of one the most passionate, smartest, and best educated people I’d ever met.
David hired me in June 1992 to be director of product marketing. Matt Miller, later a VP at Remedy, CEO of Moai, and now a VC at Walden, was our director of marketing communications. Carol Garnett ran our marketing programs. (Last I heard she was doing fantastic non-profit marketing work at Cityteam Ministries.) It was a great team.
The fun didn’t last long, however. That Fall it became clear that object databases were not going to do unto relational databases as relational had done unto network (and hierarchical) databases. People began to see that a broad, horizontal object database play was simply not in the cards. (Poof; there went about $100M in venture capital invested across 6-8 companies, chasing the chance to be the next Oracle.)
I was promoted to marketing VP, and decided to stick around with the new CEO, Dave Banks (now a management consultant and interim CEO at Zend) to do a chasm-crossing strategy focused on telecom network management applications. Many others, including David Gilmour, left.
David founded a venture backed by Gideon Gartner (of Gartner Group fame) called ExperNet, which was a system designed to track experts and to connect people who needed expertise with those who had it. ExperNet was later folded into Giga Group, which in turn was acquired by Forrester Research.
After the ExperNet and Giga experience, David went on to found Tacit Knowledge Systems. While I was never that close to it, I’d always viewed Tacit’s product as an automated, email-based version of ExperNet; I thought of it as an email sniffer. It would watch the email traffic in an organization, and then decide who was an expert in which subjects based on the emails that they sent.
So this is a long way of saying that I think about two things when I think about David. The first is “really smart.” The second is: he has spent 15 years focused on the general problem of figuring out who knows something and how to leverage that knowledge. Here is a really smart guy that has devoted most of his career to the general subject of expertise: how to identify it, how to track it, and how to leverage it.
Today, we might call this a form of social networking. But it’s really the knowledge identification side of knowledge management (KM).
To me, there are two basic approaches to KM. The first approach is to capture information in a knowledge base and to let people query that knowledge base. (Mark Logic is an excellent repository for such knowledge bases, and we are in use at the US Army’s Battle Command Knowledge System.) The second approach is to figure how “who knows what” and then direct those with questions to those with answers. It’s the basic approach of ExperNet and Tacit.
I was happy to see this cover story in the business section of today’s San Jose Mercury News featuring David, Tacit, and their new offering, Illumio. It seems to be a new, free version of the same basic concept, but this time leveraging data from Google Desktop Search in addition to email and other sources.
“In fact, Illumio borrows the desktop search technology that was first released by Google — and subsequently by competitors — to discover what a person cares about. It analyzes e-mail, Web searches and documents stored on a computer’s hard drive and uses a mathematical formula to match that information with requests submitted by other Illumio users.”
“Illumio allows members to manually create profiles that list their areas of expertise, but Gilmour said the analysis of a person’s hard drive has proven to be more useful, because it can capture areas of knowledge a person might overlook.”