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Communications of the ACM

Turing Lecture

The Land Sharks Are on the Squawk Box

Wollaston Beach in Quincy, MA

Wollaston Beach in Quincy, MA: Day 59

Credit: Mary Anne Case

Kennebago, ME, summer 1993. The "Land Sharks" are on the squawk box, Illustra (the company commercializing Postgres) is down to fumes, and I am on a conference call with the investors to try to get more money. The only problem is I am in Maine at my brother's fishing cabin for a family event while the investors are on a speakerphone (the squawk box) in California. There are eight of us in cramped quarters, and I am camped out in the bathroom trying to negotiate a deal. The conversation is depressingly familiar. They say more-money-lower-price; I say less-money-higher-price. We ultimately reach a verbal handshake, and Illustra will live to fight another day.

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Negotiating with the sharks is always depressing. They are superb at driving a hard bargain; after all, that is what they do all day. I feel like a babe in the woods by comparison.


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