Neoforma Sharpens Focus on Core Strategy, Will Divest Two Business Units
Neoforma.com, Inc. announced plans to divest certain business units that are not aligned with its core strategy of building and operating Internet marketplaces that empower healthcare trading partners to optimize supply chain performance . . .
January 25, 2001, Neoforma Press Release
In spite of the group’s ability to present great content on our website and to bring in significant revenue, the schism grew between Neoforma’s single-minded focus on profitability in the supplies market and my group’s focus on the capital equipment market.
There was no doubt in anyone’s mind that what we were building in my group would eventually be relevant to what Neoforma was building, but the market dictated that Neoforma would not have the resources to build along more than one road at a time. And our group wasn’t on the most expedient road. It was evident that, by every business criterion, Neoforma would have to temporarily shelf the company’s capital equipment initiatives. We were necessary to the future, but distracting to the present.
We had been making money, but were at a point that we would require some investment to grow. Neoforma was now ready make the tough decision to postpone my group’s development.
I was too. I was tired. Tired of the stress between dependence and independence, between obedience and exploration. I was tired of being depressed. And, most of all, I was tired of holding onto the idea that Neoforma somehow needed me, or perhaps the hope that Neoforma somehow needed me.
But we were not willing to let go of some of the ideas that had originally inspired us. The capital equipment group had to survive. We had made too much progress to give up. So, in spite of a currently hostile environment for start-up businesses, we worked the crowd to facilitate a way to spin my group out of Neoforma.
I knew it would be helpful for Neoforma if Jeff and I and two key members of the group, Dave and George, left on good terms. And I imagined that it would make some of the people I was leaving behind feel better to know that this early piece of Neoforma history would still survive—and thrive.
So after several months of strangely and increasingly hostile negotiations, Attainia was formed. Our new, small company would set off into a world not too unlike the one that Neoforma had been born into.
Eerily similar to our experience at spinning out from Varian, nobody was comfortable discussing our departure. It was much too awkward. There were no goodbye lunches or closing ceremonies. We were just gone one day — or perhaps we were simply there in a different way from then on. The facilities guy was uncomfortable taking my badge and access key, but I insisted.
Bob and I said goodbye to each other via email.
In spite of the uncomfortable departure, we were excited by the idea that Neoforma was spinning off a new company. Actually, Neoforma had previously spun off at least two companies. With this tradition, Neoforma joined the ranks of many great Silicon Valley companies, including Varian, which has a long history of spinning off technologies and companies, including ones that would contribute to the development of advanced CT scanners, ultrasound equipment and dot matrix printers.
With the right nutrients and caretakers, Attainia would one day grow to its ultimate potential. And who knows what it might seed?
My initial role in the new company, Attainia, was to be limited. I had two other priorities. I had to spend some time with my family and I had to spend some time with myself.
I had to make sense of this bizarre experience and my elusive feelings about it. Every time I closed my eyes, jumbled memories threatened to overwhelm me.
Somehow, I needed to integrate what had happened over the last five years with who I am. I needed to write everything down and organize it somehow, but figuring out how to assemble all of the disparate experiences would take some time.
I had written often, but never anything more than five or ten pages. This was something else completely. It was a new and exciting challenge. It was like starting anew.