There was a time when the tech industry had its own version of Henry Ford’s famous saying that he didn’t care what color customers painted their cars, as long they chose black. Beige was the color of choice for early PCs. Boxy was the preferred shape.
This was before a concept known as design thinking took hold. It’s a school of thought that means many things but most importantly that the needs of end users should be paramount when designing products. It’s an important idea in that design thinking can lead all sorts of people in all sorts of functions to make goods and services people will want to buy.
Several academic centers have arisen to teach design thinking, most prominently at Stanford (the famous “d.school”), as well as Yale and Georgia Tech. That prominence started to gnaw at a great entrepreneur and moneymaker, Tom Siebel, who graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign—my alma mater, too. Siebel is funding a new, $50 million design-thinking-focused institute at the university that he hopes will be a place many disciplines can come together. “The big trend at universities is interdisciplinary efforts,” says Siebel, noting that graduate and advanced research programs like medicine and bioengineering have benefited from the trend. “The design school is the undergraduate version of interdisciplinary thinking.” (Siebel is putting up half the money.)
Siebel sold his namesake software company to Oracle 11 years ago. His current company, formerly C3 Energy, has executed a “pivot” of late, rebranding itself C3 IoT. Its software connects and monitors all the “things” connected electronically on corporate and government networks. Siebel, who is 63 and says the company is “really fun,” says C3 IoT has raised a total of $200 million in capital, most recently a $70 million investment from private equity firm TPG.
Being nimble enough to go from “customer relationship management software” to energy monitoring to keeping track of sensors connected to the Internet is quite a feat. So is giving back to a public university in the Midwest that gave him his start.
Have a well-designed day.
BITS AND BYTES
Network equipment company Brocade could be the next to go. The company's stock rose 22% Monday to an annual high after Bloomberg reported it's in "advanced" talks with a potential buyer. Brocade, which posted about $2.3 billion in sales last year, is much smaller than its fiercest rival Cisco. (Bloomberg, Investor's Business Daily)
Palantir gets another shot at big government contract. The data analytics and security software firm sued the U.S. Army for a chance to design the next phase of its military command systems. The original requirements made it tough for outsiders to bid, a position that Palantir successfully challenged. The contract could be worth millions of dollars. (Bloomberg, Fortune)
The tablet market is shrinking again. Global shipments slipped almost 15% to 43 million in the third quarter, according to International Data Corp. Apple is still the share leader (about 22%), followed by Samsung, despite the company's smartphone recall debacle. (Fortune)
BlackBerry scores driverless car deal with Ford. The once-great smartphone company is recasting itself as a maker of highly secure software for Internet of things, including vehicles. (Reuters)
Xerox settles lawsuit that threatened break-up plan. The copier company is spinning its business process outsourcing business into a separate company. Xerox's largest individual shareholder Darwin Deason had issues with the original terms. (Reuters)
Keep an eye on this help desk software company. FreshDesk, which has more than 80,000 customers including Cisco and Toshiba, on Tuesday disclosed $55 million in Series F funding. The new round brings its total backing to $150 million. (VentureBeat)
PEOPLE AND CULTURE
Salesforce exec defects to style site Stitch Fix. Engineer Cathy Polinski most recently led the cloud software company's search strategy as a senior vice president. She'll act as chief technology officer for her new employer, a five-year-old venture founded by San Francisco entrepreneur Katrina Lake. (Stitch Fix)
How Apple is disappointing fans. Apple’s event last week to unveil new laptops and some improvements to its TV set-top box software were underwhelming on multiple levels. Now some are questioning whether Apple’s fundamental strategies for the two markets are running aground as well. Fortune's Aaron Pressman weighs in.
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ONE MORE THING
Why PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel is a staunch supporter of Donald Trump. Speaking at the National Press Club in Washington on Monday, the Silicon Valley billionaire dismissed most of the Republican Presidential candidate's most outrageous comments as hyperbole. “No matter how crazy this election seems, it is less crazy than the condition of our country,” Thiel said. (Fortune)