Tom Shields Home

Greetings. The Internet abounds with home pages that are unique and fascinating, and I despair of sufficient creativity to compete. Therefore, this page simply reflects a few of my many interests, in the hope that visitors may be able to learn something interesting about me.

For up-to-date writings, read my blog. Otherwise, feel free to browse the different facets of my life.


Family is top of my priority list, but I won't put too many details here. My wonderful wife and I traveled around the world for a year, then had kids in 2001, 2003, and 2005, so you do the math on their ages. We live mid-way between San Francisco and San Jose.


Since work occupies a significant percentage of my waking life, it ranks next on the list. I am currently CEO of Yieldex, an early-stage technology startup delivering optimization software for internet advertising. For up-to-date postings, read the Yieldex CEO Blog. There are a couple of entries that describe why I joined this company, and some of the lessons I have learned already.

My last job was as a Managing Director with Woodside Fund. I enjoyed the work as a venture capitalist, despite snide comments from many friends that I "went to the dark side." There is nothing like having a really smart person come in and passionately pitch their best idea to you - it's exciting.

For the previous few years, I was doing independent consulting and angel investing with Basswood Associates, and working on Open Source Software projects on the side. Companies that I have worked with include: CoreMatter, Phase2Media, Elytics, Spark Online, and OpenShelf.

My previous "real job" was CTO of NetGravity. I founded the company in 1995 with two other guys, and we rode it all the way up the Internet express elevator to IPO. Along the way I built the engineering team, designed (and originally wrote!) the product, and tried to make sure we didn't make too many stupid mistakes. Of course, we made lots of stupid mistakes, but that's the cost of education. This time, I'll do it right...

I met my two NetGravity co-founders while working at Oracle. We all started as developers in the Tools division, and became friends mostly by playing lots of volleyball together. The best thing about Oracle is that so many people are from there. It's like an alumni network - some folks go to business school to make contacts, others just work at Oracle for a while. Seems like nearly every Internet company has a few ex-Oracle folks at it.

Before Oracle I worked at two other startups. One was Astrogamma, a currency options software house in NYC that I started at right out of school. They have since been purchased by Inventure America and still market the FENICS software I helped write. The other was InQuizit, formerly known as Intelligent Text Processing, in Los Angeles. They had some truly ahead-of-its-time natural language processing software that I thought was going to change the world, but they didn't have any business sense at all. I gave them up for dead in 1992, but they kept on trucking along for about 8 more years. They seem to be really dead now.


I grew up near Boston, Massachusetts, mostly in Beverly Farms, MA. I didn't go far to go to school, spending my high school years boarding at Andover. Then I majored in Computer Science at Harvard, graduating with honors. As it turns out, I learned a lot of useful stuff at both places, although not much of it came from the classrooms. I highly recommend majoring in a marketable skill like Computer Science - it's much easier to get jobs afterwards.


My wife and I took the year 2000 off and traveled the world. Read all about it on our travel site, Shields Around the World.


I have enjoyed performing a cappella music for most of my life. I currently sing with the Richter Scales, an a cappella group in the style of many college groups. Bascially we all wish we hadn't graduated, and we're trying to re-create our college experience. I also sing occasionally with UpRound,a quartet of VCs and entrepreneurs singing parodies of holiday tunes.

I started in high school at Andover, with small groups singing madrigals and cantatas. I was president of the high school chorus, and we travelled to Spain, Morocco, and Florida.

At Harvard I got lucky, and was accepted into the Krokodiloes. This really honed my love of singing, and helped me to build repertoire in a variety of styles. During my three years in the group we performed over 500 concerts, in venues ranging from Carnegie Hall to an Austrian Princess' shooting lodge in the Alps. We travelled around the world twice and performed in dozens of cities, including Moscow, Istanbul, and Singapore. I also sang with the University Choir, and increased my exposure to sacred music by performing with the Morning Choir every other morning at chapel.

I used to sing with a barbershop quartet called Brass Ring; we won the Northern California Division championship several years in a row. I also sang with a barbershop chorus called the Bay Area Metro Pot O' Gold chorus, which later merged with another to become the Voices in Harmony. Singing with them was the best vocal training I have ever received, and made me a much better singer.

In 1999, Brass Ring starred in a production of The Music Man, put on by the Pleasanton Playhouse. We were the school board, and sang several numbers, as well as participated in the townspeople chorus numbers. I played Olin Britt, a fine upstanding citizen of River City, Iowa, who was approximately as effective as a Keystone Kop at apprehending the fast-talking salesman Harold Hill.

I helped to found a new contemporary a cappella group called speedzoo before we left for the year 2000. Since then, they have gotten much better, and competed in the regional Harmony Sweeps.

In 2003, I played Smudge in the Pacifica Spindrift Players production of Forever Plaid. I really enjoyed the music, and we had a great cast. It was my first effort in a real leading role, and despite the hard work, I loved doing it.


I have a longstanding love of the outdoors, especially backpacking in wilderness areas. There's no better mind clearing and karma centering process for me than heading out by myself for a couple of days or weeks to the back country. I spent a lot of time in Yosemite, because the hiking there is superb, and it's easy to escape the crowds by just getting a few miles off the road.

I took a Wilderness First Responder course to prepare for our world trip, and I cannot recommend it highly enough. It was terrific. Put on by SOLO and hosted by HIOBS, it was a great experience. I made some flash cards that will help me remember it all - take a look!

Lately I've been toying with ultralight backpacking. I read Ray Jardine's book on the PCT, as well as Michael Connick's excellent introduction, and I can feel myself becoming converted. We used lots of these principles in our trip around the world.

I used to have a SportsMobile van. I went all out, getting the diesel engine and the 4 wheel drive, so I could really take it booneying. We sold it when we bought a place in the Sierras, but someday I'll get another one.

I learned most of my craft from what I consider to be the best back country education program in the world, the National Outdoor Leadership School. I completed a spring Semester Course in the Rockies back in 1991, and it was one of the best experiences of my life. We spent nearly 4 weeks in the desert in Utah, as well as 2 weeks each telemark ski camping in the Absarokas, rock climbing in the Wind River Range, whitewater kayaking in Colorado, and caving in South Dakota.


Aside from the jobs I held above, I have written some open source software, available on this site. I created in an effort to prevent proprietary cookie-sharing schemes on the internet. I built this server and its dozens of domains, before Linux made it easy. And I wrote scripts to create our travel site, Shields Around the World. And I'm working on several other interesting projects in my spare time.


I ran the San Francisco Marathon in 1997, just after I turned 30. To read more about that accomplishment, see my Marathon Trip Report - the format is a parody of a template we used at NetGravity. I also ran the San Diego Rock and Roll Marathon in 2001, and the San Francisco Marathon again in 2005. I discovered that people consider one marathon an accomplishment, but several marathons is just insanity.

I earned my pilot's license in 1995. I have not flown much since then, but I do plan to get back into it. Feel free to read my checkride story.


A few of the pieces I've written over the years: You can also read a couple of my more interesting posts on the Online Advertising discussion list here and here.

That used to be my license plate - ain't vanity a wonderful thing?

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