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Brad Feld

Brad Feld is an American entrepreneur, author, blogger, and venture capitalist at Foundry Group

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Why I Go To CES - Feld Thoughts

Every year my partners at Foundry Group and I go to CES. We aren’t boondoggle guys – our expeditions together are limited to a quarterly offsite, often at Jason’s house (10 minutes from our office), and one trip a year with spouses and significant others somewhere. So CES has been a nice tradition for us where we get to travel together for a few days, hang out in nerd and gadget heaven, and spend time with a bunch of entrepreneurs we work with who are here.

There were two memes going around that I heard about CES earlier this week. The first came out of a set of entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley who said something like “CES is irrelevant – no one important is there and nothing interesting gets launched.” The second come out of a set of VCs in Silicon Valley who said something like “we go to CES to look for new companies to invest in that are outside the mainstream.”

I found both of these comments bizarre since we don’t view CES through either of those lenses. First, I think CES is incredibly relevant as it is a forward view of what the broad consumer electronics industry will be releasing and shipping over the next 12 months. Many of the CE companies and products operate on an annual product cycle and this helps me understand what is going to this year, at which point I don’t have to think hard about it for another year (yeah – I pay attention – but I have a really useful context). In addition, every technology buyer and supplier in the world is here wandering around so if you interact with any of them, it’s an extremely efficient way to spend time with them.

Next, we don’t actually search for new investments at CES although we tend to have some interesting meetings with folks who happen to be here. There are definitely cases where we got face time with entrepreneurs who we hadn’t yet spent a lot of time with previously – Pogoplug and MakerBot come to mind from years past. But we were already talking to them – CES was just an efficient way for all four of us to spent time with them.

If you want the multimedia version of what I just said, watch Jason’s interview on Bloomberg from yesterday .

We had three companies with large presences here this year – MakerBot , Orbotix , and Fitbit . They are each having an awesome show and I’m super psyched about their new products. It’s extremely fun – as an investor – to just hang out in a booth and watch the traffic and listen to the interactions.

We always have two dinners – one with just entrepreneurs we work with and one that is a broader audience. Each dinner was a highlight for me and if I do nothing else at CES, I’ll always come for these dinners.

I ended up with a series of meetings on Tuesday – three of them were with entrepreneurs who I’ve been talking to about various things. All three were really relevant and interesting and not surprising each was in our human computer interaction theme which I discussed on an NPR interview yesterday with Steve Henn titled Humans and Machines: Beyond Touch .

Finally, I had plenty that is the weirdness of Las Vegas. I had a total meltdown Wednesday morning and ended up spending the day in my room . I had a death defying run on the Las Vegas strip . And I’m just came back through a smoke filled casino from a breakfast with some of the leaders of the Las Vegas startup community (see more on the Startup Communities site soon.) This afternoon I board a plane to Boston and bid CES 2012 farewell. But I’ll be back again next year.

Every year my partners at Foundry Group and I go to CES. We aren’t boondoggle guys – our expeditions together are limited to a quarterly offsite, often at Jason’s house (10 minutes from our office), and one trip a year with spouses and significant others somewhere. So CES has been a nice tradition for us where we get to travel together for a few days, hang out in nerd and gadget heaven, and spend time with a bunch of entrepreneurs we work with who are here. There were two memes going around that I heard about CES earlier this week. The first came out of a set of entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley who said something like “CES is irrelevant –...

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Tech Brad Feld
about 1 year ago
about 1 year ago

I’ve been working on my next book, #GiveFirst , again. There’s a lot in it about the Techstars Mentor Manifesto and how to be an effective mentor.

Yesterday, I got a note from Jay Batson, longtime Techstars Boston mentor and now the Mentor-in-Residence for the program, asking if I had ever compiled the lists I posts I wrote about the Techstars Mentor Manifesto.

I hadn’t. He had conveniently done it in a Google doc so it was easy for me to list out the posts with links. They follow.

1/18: Be Socratic

2/18: Expect nothing in return

3/18: Be Authentic – Practice What You Preach

4/18: Be Direct. Tell the Truth, However Hard .

5/18: Listen, too

6/18: The Best Mentor Relationships Eventually Become Two Way

7/18: Be Responsive

8/18: Adopt At Least One Company Every Single Year. Experience Counts.

9/18: Clearly Separate Opinion From Fact

10/18: Hold Information In Confidence

11/18: Clearly Commit to Mentor, or Do Not. Either Is Fine

12/18: Know What You Don’t Know. Say “I Don’t Know” when you don’t know.

13/18: Guide, Don’t Control

14/18: Accept and Communicate With Other Mentors That Get Involved

15/18: Be Optimistic

16/18: Provide Specific Actionable Advice

17/18: Be Challenging/Robust but Never Destructive

18/18: Have Empathy. Remember That Startups Are Hard

Jay also reminded me that I hadn’t written posts on #17 and #18. They are now on my list to do. Thanks, Jay!

2/6/18: Jay wrote 17/18: Be Challenging/Robust but Never Destructive which is now posted.

2/7/18: Jay wrote 18/18: Have Empathy. Remember That Startups Are Hard which is now posted.

#givefirst , manifesto , mentor , techstars #GiveFirst
  • 'Mentors provide data and intro's to other data sources' - #bradfeld
    • On the mentee to close the loop. ie come back to the mentor and share what data / action you took and why
  • Mentor Manifesto #mentor #bradfeld #jonbradford
    • Be socratic - beginner has many poss, experts only a few' - HOW you ask questions; the 5 whys
    • Expect nothing in return (low exp), you'll be delighted with what you get back. Give first, Random days - meet with anyone, ZERO FILTER
    • Be authentic - practice what you preach
    • Be direct - tell the truth- Magic phrase: 'I don't know'
    • Listen too - two ears, one mouth
    • Be responsive - be present (Deepwork mode on computer for mentoring and deepwork? ROAM plus Zoom only for mentoring?)
    • Adopt at least 1 company a year. Experience counts. Listen to entrepreneur on what is a help
    • Clearly separate opinion from fact. Help, don't prove you are 'smartest person in the room'
    • Hold info in confidence
    • Clearly commit to mentor or not.
    • Know what you don't know
    • Guide, don't try control
    • Accept other mentors and engage with them
    • Provide specific ACTIONABLE advice
    • Be challenging / robust but never destructive
    • Have empathy
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Massachusetts Global Entrepreneur In Residence Five Year Results - Feld Thoughts

I continue to be a strong supporter of legal immigration to the United States. A fundamental belief of mine is that entrepreneurs should be able to start their companies anywhere they want. A corollary to that is some of the historical success of the US as an entrepreneurial ecosystem has been being the place that entrepreneurs want to start a company.

Today, it’s hard to get a visa to start a company in the US. Our legal immigration system is complex and expensive to navigate, and there are few choices for entrepreneurs, especially aspiring entrepreneurs, who haven’t already managed to get a visa.

For the past five years, I’m been involved in an effort called the Global EIR program. It’s a national effort, led by Craig Montuori, that is modeled after an extremely successful program in Massachusetts, led by William Brah at the University of Massachusetts . The roadmap for starting a company on a visa is now well defined.

The results in Massachusetts have been extraordinary. Over the past five years, As of today, 66 Initial H-1B visas have been approved with 100% visa success rate. The companies founded by these entrepreneurs employ 940 people and have raised over $500 million in venture capital.

Imagine if we had this level of activity in all 50 states?

I continue to be a strong supporter of legal immigration to the United States. A fundamental belief of mine is that entrepreneurs should be able to start their companies anywhere they want. A corollary to that is some of the historical success of the US as an entrepreneurial ecosystem has been being the place that entrepreneurs want to start a company. Today, it’s hard to get a visa to start a company in the US. Our legal immigration system is complex and expensive to navigate, and there are few choices for entrepreneurs, especially aspiring entrepreneurs, who haven’t already managed to get a visa. For the past five years, I’m been involved in an effort called the Global EIR program. It’s...

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Government Brad Feld
about 1 year ago
about 1 year ago

With the immigration debate in Washington heating up, Americans across the country recognize that we need smart and practical solutions to help reform our country’s broken immigration system.

Our immigration laws haven’t been significantly updated in almost 50 years, while other countries are implementing immigration programs to lure entrepreneurs, innovators, skilled workers, and other valuable potential employees. Meanwhile, our system still works to support a Cold War economy in the 21 st century. It’s an outdated and outmoded system that is as frustrating as it is ineffective.

That’s why this past February I joined with the Partnership for a New American Economy to join the March for Innovation , one of the largest virtual marches on Washington to promote smart immigration reform that will keep us competitive and help our economy grow. Run by the Partnership – a coalition of more than 500 mayors and CEOs led by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg – the March will unite these same leaders and the greater public in pushing for economically-smart, pro-tech, pro-entrepreneur immigration reform, including:

  • Visas for entrepreneurs
  • Access to high-skilled workers when and where they are needed through H-1B visas and green cards
  • Green cards for the advanced degree graduates in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) we are training in our universities

And we need your help! As we saw last year, virtual marches like the online protest against SOPA and PIPA can make a real difference in Washington. However, SOPA and PIPA worked because the campaign went viral. With your support, we can make the March for Innovation even more effective.

This call to action starts today and will culminate with a Thunderclap when legislation is introduced in May. We invite you to join us:

Start by sharing a tweet or Facebook post at marchforinnovation.com

I encourage you to get involved and get active on this issue. Our competitiveness on the world stage may depend on it.

immigration , march for innovation ,

With the immigration debate in Washington heating up, Americans across the country recognize that we need smart and practical solutions to help reform our country’s broken immigration system. Our immigration laws haven’t been significantly updated in almost 50 years, while other countries are implementing immigration programs to lure entrepreneurs, innovators, skilled workers, and other valuable potential employees.  Meanwhile, our system still works to support a Cold War economy in the 21st century. It’s an outdated and outmoded system that is as frustrating as it is ineffective. That’s why this past February I joined with the Partnership for a New American Economy to join the March for Innovation, one of the largest virtual marches on Washington to promote smart immigration reform that will keep us competitive...

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Immigration Brad Feld
about 1 year ago
about 1 year ago

I read the announcement today that Canada has just launched a Start-Up Visa Program . By doing so, they are saying to the world “welcome immigrant entrepreneurs – please come start your business in Canada.” It’s brilliant, well executed, and modeled after the Startup Visa movement that a number of us have been trying to get started in the US since 2009 .

I continue to be really discouraged by the US government activity around the Startup Visa movement, and more specifically around immigration reform as it applies to entrepreneurs. After trying for the past three years to get something passed, nothing has happened beyond administrative changes to the existing laws. While in some cases this has improved the interpretation of the rules, we are still totally missing the boat here in the US. CBP and USCIS continue to implement the rules inconsistently, resulting in regular outrageous situations including tossing entrepreneurs with existing valid visas in jail when they enter the US and banning other entrepreneurs from coming into the country as a result of misinterpretation by CBP of how things should work. I hear at least one horrifying story a week, try to help when I can, but mostly am just embarrassed and ashamed of our US policies around this.

While Canada is plowing forward making it easy for immigrant entrepreneurs to move to Canada and start companies, the US efforts are now entirely focused on “comprehensive immigration reform.” The first bills for this are supposed to start appearing in a few months and I expect we’ll see similar dynamics that we saw around Obamacare. Endless political machinations, an ever expanding set of bills that cover all kinds of things in addition to immigration reform, and a complex set of tradeoffs that have unintended consequences that no one can understand.

On top of this, I’ve heard from a number of political insider friends that “the vote math doesn’t work.” I’ve learned that this means it is an incredible uphill battle to get anything passed, and the compromise that is going to happen to get certain people in Congress to support the bills means that the “tradeoffs and compromises” (which the more cynical among us – including me – means “the political bribes they need to agree to vote a certain way”)are going to be extensive.

In the mean time, Canada is shouting from the rooftops about the benefits of the Start-Up Visa program.

  • The Start-up Visa Program will enable immigrant entrepreneurs to launch innovative companies that will create jobs in Canada, and eventually, compete globally.
  • The Program will provide entrepreneurs with valuable assistance in navigating the Canadian business environment which can sometimes prove challenging for newcomers.
  • The Program will provide private sector firms with access to a broader range of entrepreneurs, including the best and the brightest minds from around the world.

Since I believe entrepreneurs should be able to start their companies anywhere in the world they’d like, I applaud the Canadian government for taking action here. And I encourage any immigrant entrepreneur considering moving to the US to also consider moving to Canada given this new program.

Dear Mr. Friends In Washington: Pay attention. We continue to be less competitive because of our intransigence around immigration, especially with regard to being entrepreneurs. Canada is showing real leadership. Why not just emulate them?

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I read the announcement today that Canada has just launched a Start-Up Visa Program. By doing so, they are saying to the world “welcome immigrant entrepreneurs – please come start your business in Canada.” It’s brilliant, well executed, and modeled after the Startup Visa movement that a number of us have been trying to get started in the US since 2009. I continue to be really discouraged by the US government activity around the Startup Visa movement, and more specifically around immigration reform as it applies to entrepreneurs. After trying for the past three years to get something passed, nothing has happened beyond administrative changes to the existing laws. While in some cases this has improved the interpretation of the rules, we...

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Government Immigration Brad Feld
about 1 year ago
about 1 year ago

I’m so sick of how – as a country – our authorities treat people as though they are criminals. A month ago a successful Boston entrepreneur who has been incredibly engaged in the Boston startup community was thrown in jail for three days after a CPB agent decided she didn’t have a valid visa (she did have a valid visa, and she was from that extremely dangerous country of Canada.)

A few days ago, Laurie Voss, a co-founder of a company we are investors in was detained for three hours at the board because he stated his job was “software developer” instead of “web developer”. He had recently gotten his green card and went on to describe the harrowing experience he endured , along with the unceremonious release a few hours later.

While I’m happy that USCIS continues to try to education its workforce as well as entrepreneurs via programs like A New Front Door for Immigrant Entrepreneurs , the words at the top and the actions in the field are completely disconnected. I hear a story about it almost daily and I’m now having someone I’m directly connected to or involved with impacted at least a month. It seems to be getting worse, not better, which just sucks.

If you care about this issue, I once again refer you to to Vivek Wadhwa’s excellent book called The Immigrant Exodus: Why America Is Losing the Global Race to Capture Entrepreneurial Talent . Tom Friedman has also written a number of really clear OpEds on this topic in the past year or so. With all the talk about innovation, entrepreneurship, and the need for job creators in the US, our immigration policies are directly at odds with the concepts our politicians are telling us are critical for our economy to grow.

The conversation in Washington DC has shifted back to “Comprehensive Immigration Reform.” I’ve now had several people I know in the White House tell me this is the new immigration priority as in “let’s fix the whole problem with comprehensive immigration reform” over the next four years. In the last week, I’ve heard from several that “there’s no way we are going to be able to get anything done on immigration reform anytime soon because of all the fiscal crisis issues and partisanship in Congress.”

Awesome. We continue to be functioning in a delusional context. The Democrats think they have magic political power because of the results of the election and the Republicans are focused more than ever on not letting the Democrats “win.” And President George W. Bush, who I disagree with on so many things, recently asserted that immigration reform is needed to boost the economy and specifically said, “”Not only do immigrants help build our economy, they help invigorate our soul.”

While the entire situation is ridiculous, I’m continually upset by the way entrepreneurs like Laurie Voss are treated by CBP and USCIS. I’ve asked for apologies before and I’ll ask for them again. CBP / USCIS, or someone in the White House – please call Laurie and apologize to him. Then figure out the real root cause of the behavioral problem. And start respecting immigrants, not treating every one like a bad guy until you confirm they aren’t.

I’m so sick of how – as a country – our authorities treat people as though they are criminals. A month ago a successful Boston entrepreneur who has been incredibly engaged in the Boston startup community was thrown in jail for three days after a CPB agent decided she didn’t have a valid visa (she did have a valid visa, and she was from that extremely dangerous country of Canada.) A few days ago, Laurie Voss, a co-founder of a company we are investors in was detained for three hours at the board because he stated his job was “software developer” instead of “web developer”. He had recently gotten his green card and went on to describe the harrowing experience he...

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about 1 year ago
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Understanding Social Distancing - Feld Thoughts

While many people are taking social distancing seriously, there are plenty who are not.

I’m hearing regular stories of packed public parks, too many people on trails, lots of people crowded into Home Depot picking up home repair things, and strange parties that I can only rationalize as civil disobedience gone awry.

https://twitter.com/JoshuaGrubbsPhD/status/1248317963566006272?s=20

While it’s tough to stay home all the time, wear a mask in public, and keep a real physical distance from anyone outside your home, it’s really important right now. A large number of people on the front lines are literally risking their lives and working incredibly hard to get ahead of the health impacts of this disease. Simultaneously, a correspondingly large number of people, both in government, private industry, and volunteers, are working behind the scenes to get to whatever “the new normal” is going to be in our society.

Please be safe and healthy. Take social distancing seriously.

While many people are taking social distancing seriously, there are plenty who are not. I’m hearing regular stories of packed public parks, too many people on trails, lots of people crowded into Home Depot picking up home repair things, and strange parties that I can only rationalize as civil disobedience gone awry. While it’s tough to stay home all the time, wear a mask in public, and keep a real physical distance from anyone outside your home, it’s really important right now. A large number of people on the front lines are literally risking their lives and working incredibly hard to get ahead of the health impacts of this disease. Simultaneously, a correspondingly large number of people, both in government,...

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COVID19 Brad Feld
about 1 year ago
about 1 year ago
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Please Wear a DIY Cloth Mask in Public - Feld Thoughts

The CDC finally issued guidance to Use of Cloth Face Coverings to Help Slow the Spread of COVID-19 . If you go out in public, please wear a “Cloth Face Covering.”

I’m using every ounce of energy that I have to avoid talking about the politics of any of this. Rather, I’m focusing on actionable things with clear reasoning for them.

Before I explain why this is so important, here are two websites that clarify the types of face coverings I’m talking about. Specifically, these are homemade (or DIY) cloth face coverings.

CDC: Use of Cloth Face Coverings to Help Slow the Spread of COVID-19

Colorado Mask Project: Provide all Coloradans with DIY masks to help slow the spread of COVID-19 .

You do not need an N95 mask. You do not need a surgical mask. You do not need a mask you buy in the store. You just need a cloth face covering that you can make yourself at home.

There has been endless discussion about the efficacy of masks in general, and more specifically for “the public.” There are plenty of recent credible discussions about this from sources like the American Association for the Advancement of Science ( Would everyone wearing face masks help us slow the pandemic? ). Feel free to wade through all that stuff, but here’s the punch line.

The Main Benefit : If you are asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic, you can spread the virus to healthy people . This means that even if you don’t have symptoms, you are sick and can spread the virus to others. When you are wearing a mask, it helps prevent you from spreading the virus to others . The virus spreads through droplets coming from your mouth and nose. If your mouth and nose are covered, the cloth mask catches the droplets when you sneeze, cough, breathe, and talk.

Secondary Benefit : We touch our faces thousands of times a day. The virus lives on surfaces for a long time (possibly up to 72 hours) and in the air for an indeterminate amount of time. We are constantly touching things the virus settles on. Then, when we touch our face (especially our eyes, nose, or mouth), we infect ourselves. A mask lowers the propensity for us to touch our own face (it’s an interesting psychological phenomenon).

T ertiary (and unclear) Benefit : A debate rages on about whether a cloth mask acts as an effective physical barrier to breathing in the virus. If it does, with any level of efficacy, this is merely a bonus to the first two benefits.

I think the best paragraph from the Science article Would everyone wearing face masks help us slow the pandemic? is:

But the greatest benefit of masking the masses, Cowling and others argue, likely comes not from shielding the mouths of the healthy but from covering the mouths of people already infected. People who feel ill aren’t supposed to go out at all, but initial evidence suggests people without symptoms may also transmit the coronavirus without knowing they’re infected. Data from contact-tracing efforts—in which researchers monitor the health of people who recently interacted with someone confirmed to have an infection—suggest nearly half of SARS-CoV-2 transmissions occur before the infected person shows symptoms. And some seem to contract and clear the virus without ever feeling sick.

Right now, you have no way to know if you are infected when you aren’t showing symptoms, and given that it’s springtime in the US many people will have allergies so it’s even harder to tell who is sick. Given the completely inadequate testing activities right now in the US, along with lack of contact tracing apps, effective isolation for people who are sick, and the overall challenge of getting everyone to actually stay at home, by wearing a mask in public, you are protecting other people from you in case you are infected.

Finally, please do not buy or use medical-grade masks. There is still a huge shortage of these in the health care system and it’s expected that the shortage will continue. You’ll hear phrases like “surgical masks” and “N95 masks.” You do not need to wear one of these – they are needed for our front line medical workers.

Instead, make your own mask . And wear it whenever you leave your house.

covid , masks

The CDC finally issued guidance to Use of Cloth Face Coverings to Help Slow the Spread of COVID-19. If you go out in public, please wear a “Cloth Face Covering.” I’m using every ounce of energy that I have to avoid talking about the politics of any of this. Rather, I’m focusing on actionable things with clear reasoning for them. Before I explain why this is so important, here are two websites that clarify the types of face coverings I’m talking about. Specifically, these are homemade (or DIY) cloth face coverings. CDC: Use of Cloth Face Coverings to Help Slow the Spread of COVID-19 Colorado Mask Project: Provide all Coloradans with DIY masks to help slow the spread of COVID-19....

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COVID19 Brad Feld
about 1 year ago
about 1 year ago

So that I’m unambiguous about my perspective, #BlackLivesMatter.

Amy and I have been philanthropically supporting Progressive Public Policy and Social Justice Organizations for over 20 years. However, just providing financial support is not nearly enough, and I’ve decided to put much more time and energy into understanding and helping eliminate racial inequity. While I’m not sure that I have the right words (and am asking my Black friends to make sure I do), I believe that the correct term is being anti-racist .

I have no interest in virtue signaling. Since Monday, I’ve had several conversations where this phrase came up and it has been a confusing distraction in each conversation.

Stating one’s position is important. Backing it up with actions, consistently over a long period of time, is more important.

While I have tried to be an ally to many diverse communities over the past 20 years, especially around entrepreneurship, I haven’t focused nearly enough on Black entrepreneurs and investors. I regret that.

I decided that rather than issue specific statements about what I was going to do, I would use this week to learn. With everything I engage in, I believe in playing a long-term game, so rather than simply doing one thing today, I need to do many things over the next decade.

As a starting point, I’ve been having conversations with Black entrepreneurs and investors and asking one question.

“What are two initiatives you are involved in right now that I could put time and/or money into in support of you and your activities?”

If I haven’t talked to you and you are a Black entrepreneur or investor, if you have the energy or desire, I’m very interested in the answer to this question via a comment here, , or @bfeld on Twitter.

So that I’m unambiguous about my perspective, #BlackLivesMatter. Amy and I have been philanthropically supporting Progressive Public Policy and Social Justice Organizations for over 20 years. However, just providing financial support is not nearly enough, and I’ve decided to put much more time and energy into understanding and helping eliminate racial inequity. While I’m not sure that I have the right words (and am asking my Black friends to make sure I do), I believe that the correct term is being anti-racist. I have no interest in virtue signaling. Since Monday, I’ve had several conversations where this phrase came up and it has been a confusing distraction in each conversation. Stating one’s position is important. Backing it up with actions,...

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Social Issues Brad Feld
about 1 year ago
about 1 year ago
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Joint Statement by Colorado High-Tech Companies on COVID-19 - Feld Thoughts

I’ve been involved with a number of leaders in the Colorado tech community since Wednesday morning as we’ve aggressively mobilized to address the Covid-19 crisis.

Following is a joint statement that a bunch of us have signed on to. A group of us are working quickly to create more mechanisms for a coordinated response, collective action, funding for critical resources, and ideas for things to do that will have a positive impact.

Huge kudos to Bryan Leach at iBotta and Rachel Carlson at Guild Education for providing urgent and effective leadership here.

We are leaders of 35 different technology companies with headquarters or offices in the Denver and Boulder metro areas. This week, our companies stepped up efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19 here in Colorado and beyond. Reflecting the spirit of collaboration that characterizes our startup community, we all came together as a group, shared best practices, and agreed to take the following decisive actions in the interest of protecting the most vulnerable members of our community:

  • First​, we are strongly encouraging the majority of our workers to work from home as soon as possible, leaving behind the minimum possible in-office presence.
  • Second​, we are restricting work travel by our employees, both domestically and internationally. We are also strongly advising our employees to be thoughtful about all personal travel, particularly where they would be congregating in larger groups.
  • Third​, we ​are moving all clients, visitors, and interviews to remote only meetings and not currently welcoming onsite visitors.
  • Fourth​, wherever possible we are strongly encouraging our vendors, service providers and partner businesses to take similar precautions.
  • Fifth​, we are each consulting with our teams to find ways of supporting our local healthcare workers by helping to purchase critical medical resources, such as additional tests and protective equipment, and supporting the work of​ local nonprofit organizations that are helping at-risk communities who will be severely impacted by this pandemic.
  • Finally​, we are calling on government officials and other business leaders to restrict large group gatherings, including in the largest entertainment venues along the Front Range.

Why are we taking these unprecedented steps? The spread of COVID-19 is past the point of containment. Without​ swift action, we may soon witness the failure of our healthcare system’s capacity to deal with the virus’s complications. Our healthcare system is not built to handle enormous loads of critically ill people all at once. Therefore, we urgently need to flatten the curve of disease transmission to prevent unnecessary deaths. Wuhan City had 4.3 hospital beds per thousand people. In the United States, we have 2.8. There are not enough health care providers to care for all the sick. There are fewer than 100,000 full ventilators in the US. We are already seeing this play out with tragic consequences in Italy, where the mortality rate is shockingly high, as their healthcare system has struggled to keep pace with the sudden crushing load of hospitalized patients, leading to otherwise preventable deaths.

Our actions alone will not be enough, and we cannot wait for our government agencies and elected officials to mandate these restrictions. Every hour counts. We therefore call on others in Colorado — and in other startup communities across the country — to follow our lead and implement these procedures, effective immediately.

Signed:

Bryan Leach, Founder and CEO, Ibotta Brad Feld, Partner, Foundry Group David Brown, CEO, Techstars Sameer Dholakia, CEO, Twilio SendGrid Ben Wright, CEO, Velocity Global Jake Bolling, CEO, Skupos Bart Lorang, CEO, FullContact Conor Swanson, Co-Founder, Code-Talent John Levisay, Founder & CEO, Bluprint Matt Talbot, CEO, GoSpotCheck Joni Klippert, CEO, StackHawk Rajat Bhargava, CEO, JumpCloud Fred Kneip, CEO, CyberGRX Brent Handler, CEO, Inspirato Lee Mayer, CEO, Havenly Brett Jurgens, CEO, Notion Walter Knapp, CEO, Sovrn Brian Egan, CEO, Evolve Vacation Rental Chris Cabrera, Founder & CEO, Xactly Corporation David Levin, Co-Founder & CEO, Four Winds Interactive Matthew Glotzbach, CEO, Quizlet Nick Martin, CEO, The Pro’s Closet Seth Levine, Partner, Foundry Group Stewart McGrath, CEO, Section Matthew Klein, CEO, Backbone Carm Huntress, CEO, RxRevu Mike Gionfriddo, CTO, Pie Insurance Paul Berberian, CEO, Sphero Joshua Reeves, CEO, Gusto Chris Klein, CEO, Rachio Mark Frank, CEO, SonderMind Pete Holst, CEO, Oblong Rachel Carlson, CEO, Guild Education Josh Dorsey, Managing Director, Silicon Valley Bank Amit Shah, VP Operations, Virta Health

I’ve been involved with a number of leaders in the Colorado tech community since Wednesday morning as we’ve aggressively mobilized to address the Covid-19 crisis. Following is a joint statement that a bunch of us have signed on to. A group of us are working quickly to create more mechanisms for a coordinated response, collective action, funding for critical resources, and ideas for things to do that will have a positive impact. Huge kudos to Bryan Leach at iBotta and Rachel Carlson at Guild Education for providing urgent and effective leadership here. We are leaders of 35 different technology companies with headquarters or offices in the Denver and Boulder metro areas. This week, our companies stepped up efforts to prevent...

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about 1 year ago
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The Three Crises - Feld Thoughts

While everyone I know feels the weight of being in the midst of the Covid crisis, we are actually dealing with the overlap of three linked crises. Understanding this, and putting it in historical context, has been helpful to me as I process real-time inputs and prioritize my activities.

The three crises are (1) a health crisis (Covid-19) that has generated a (2) financial crisis, each of which has generated massive societal disruption which will generate a (3) mental health crisis.

In addition, these are both localized (in a community), at a state level, a national level, and a global level.

Yeah – that’s a lot.

Very few people alive today have experienced a health crisis like Covid-19. The closest one that people seem to reference is the 1918 Spanish Flu. That was 102 years ago. Assuming that you have to be about 8 years old to even remember this, that puts the age of people alive who remember this at 110. There are only around 100 people alive on the planet today who are 110 or older .

I’m 54. The closest analogy I have to this is HIV / AIDS, which broke out when I was in college (I was an undergraduate from 1983 – 1987). I lived in Boston, one of the cities where HIV / AIDS was visible, and the social dynamics, politics, and stigma around it were front and center. I had several close friends with HIV and my fraternity big brother died of AIDS in 1990. Around 700,000 people have died of AIDS in the US since it emerged in the early 1980s, which is a large number. However, in contrast to Covid-19, it was a very slow-moving virus, so the experience has echoes for me, but it’s not equivalent.

I’ve been through multiple financial crises. I remember Black Monday in 1987 (I was running my first company – Feld Technologies – in Boston.) I was decimated in the collapse of the Internet bubble and had an extremely rough business experience from 2001 – 2006 (which I lovingly refer to as “The Grind”). We started Foundry Group and Techstars just prior to the Global Financial Crisis of 2008 – 2009 and when I look back, was the moment in time our business world shifted from massive hierarchies to a different long term system that included networks, entrepreneurship, and the democratization of innovation. Oh, and the emergence of startup communities around the world.

I’ve been through many of my own mental health struggles and learned many things about how to manage my own issues, as well as being sensitive, empathetic, and understanding of others.

That said, we are in a moment when all three are colliding against a backdrop of fear, uncertainty, and isolation. Historical rules about things are being thrown away daily as we all try to adapt and adjust to an extremely fast-moving disease that is impacting every nook and cranny of our lives.

If your level of disorientation and anxiety feels extreme relative to what you’ve experienced, understand that we are – collectively as a society – trying to deal with three crises at the same time.

I’m involved in many things around this and am trying to help wherever I can. But, as several of my partners have reminded me, you have to take care of yourself first to be able to help anyone else. I’m fortunate to have Amy by my side, working hard also, but paying attention to what we both need to sustain our energy and focus through this.

Finally, this is not just going to “be over.” That’s magical thinking. There will be many different phases of this, but if you prepare for a long-term experience, you’ll be in a much healthier emotional place. I personally believe that April is going to be an awful month in the United States as the true extent of the health crisis finally hits in our country. The actions we are taking right now will determine whether April is the worst of it, but know that May will be rough, and the summer will be unlike “a normal summer” as, even in the best case, we being existing in the context of meaningful long-term societal adjustments.

This rant was meant to be pragramatic, not alarmist. I’m fundamentally optimistic about humanity, and especially optimistic about the United States over the long-term. But, I believe acting aggressively and with urgency today, and having an expectation that this will last for a while, is a healthy way to approach all three of these crises.

While everyone I know feels the weight of being in the midst of the Covid crisis, we are actually dealing with the overlap of three linked crises. Understanding this, and putting it in historical context, has been helpful to me as I process real-time inputs and prioritize my activities. The three crises are (1) a health crisis (Covid-19) that has generated a (2) financial crisis, each of which has generated massive societal disruption which will generate a (3) mental health crisis. In addition, these are both localized (in a community), at a state level, a national level, and a global level. Yeah – that’s a lot. Very few people alive today have experienced a health crisis like Covid-19. The closest...

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Pondering the Commercial Real Estate Market - Feld Thoughts

Since Covid started, I’ve had many conversations about office space. In April, almost all of our companies were unable to use their office space because of stay at home orders. Today, even though strict stay-at-home orders are no longer in place in most of the country, the vast majority of our companies are still in a primary work-from-home mode.

Most of these companies are locked into long term office leases. Over the past few months, they’ve all tried to negotiate some relief with their landlord. While, in a few cases, there have been small rent deferrals in exchange for tacking on a few months at the end of the lease, and in a few other cases landlords have offered “meaningful cash now to buy out the lease” deals, these have been few and far between.

Most of the time, the answer is some version of “Tough luck.” And, if you dig into the lease agreement, it usually reinforces the message of “tough luck.”

In a moment where landlords could generate enormous goodwill, especially with smaller companies, I believe they are doing the opposite. Rather than showing some flexibility, they are telling their customer (the tenant) who literally cannot use the physical space they are renting, “sorry – not my problem.”

All over our portfolio, I’m seeing CEOs increasingly asking the question, “why am I spending all this money for something I can’t use?” Since work-from-home is continuing, and these CEOs realize that remote or distributed work, rather than having an expensive, central office, is attractive both culturally and economically for many of their employees.

When we discuss this, I always ask the question, “If you could allocate 100% of your rent expense to your employees, would this be a positive or a negative to your employees?” That’s easy to answer, and when I remind CEOs that their all-in cost of being in an office is probably double what they pay in rent, they quickly realize it’s not a zero-sum game.

I think we are in a phase of total denial by the commercial real estate industry about the dynamics going on. It’s a classic example of short-term, zero-sum thinking, which is antithetical to my way of approaching things, so it grates on me.

I hypothesize that there are massive structural, cultural, and financial changes that are happening that are being exacerbated by the behavior of the commercial real estate owners. We’ll see, but I know the amount of money that we are indirectly spending on commercial real estate via our portfolio will be dramatically less in 2023 than it is today.

Since Covid started, I’ve had many conversations about office space. In April, almost all of our companies were unable to use their office space because of stay at home orders. Today, even though strict stay-at-home orders are no longer in place in most of the country, the vast majority of our companies are still in a primary work-from-home mode. Most of these companies are locked into long term office leases. Over the past few months, they’ve all tried to negotiate some relief with their landlord. While, in a few cases, there have been small rent deferrals in exchange for tacking on a few months at the end of the lease, and in a few other cases landlords have offered “meaningful...

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Thoughts For VC Backed Companies Considering SBA/PPP Loans - Feld Thoughts

My partner Seth Levine recently put up an extremely thoughtful post titled SBA PPP Loans Aren’t for Everyone . Go read it now – I’ll be here when you get back.

Seth references two other posts to read and consider. The first is by Albert Wenger at USV titled VC Backed Startups and PPP: Do You Really Need It? The other is an OpEd for CNBC written by Seth and Elizabeth Macbride titled Stampede for emergency loans is crushing lenders, putting millions of small businesses at risk. Here are steps to fix the system.

The complexity around both the PPP loans and the implementation of them is staggering. I can’t begin to estimate the number of hours spent collectivity just across our portfolio on trying to decode the rules, figure out how to comply, decide on a company by company basis if they should apply, and work through all the legal dynamics around them. On top of that, the mismatch between the expectations of dollars flowing quickly to the reality of the application process is dramatic.

We believe that many VC-backed companies will look at their businesses and determine that there is a clear and real need for the funds offered through PPP. But we’re encouraging all of the companies in our portfolio to pause and consider whether they truly qualify for the program and whether their participation in the program will save jobs and result in their business being less threatened by the crisis.

We understand that there will be many companies that fall into a grey area, have no way of predicting how serious the economic downturn will be, and how much it will impact their business. Hard calls will need to be made but we’re encouraging companies to make them with thought and compassion.

We sent the following email to all the CEOs in our portfolio last Friday. After discussing internally, we felt it was relevant to share publicly.

First of all, we can’t begin to tell you how impressed we’ve been with the leadership that you have all exhibited over these last several weeks. These are very challenging times both personally and professionally and these are the moments where true leadership is demonstrated. We sincerely thank you for the thoughtful and compassionate approach you have all taken during this crisis so far.

We had over 70 participants on the CARES Act/SBA/PPP call last night and we’ve had countless one-on-one conversations on this topic with many of you over the last few days so we know there is a lot of anxiety around the application process at the moment. The high anxiety levels appear to come from a mix of excitement and uncertainty which is certainly understandable because both components are clearly at play here. Although we can’t immediately relieve the anxiety, we strongly encourage you to take a few deep breaths and step back for a moment of reflection.

As you reflect, we think it is important to start by asking yourself “Was this relief package created for my company?” We’ve heard many of you talk about how attractive the economics of the loan could be for your company. The term “free money” has been tossed around more than a few times. We’ve also heard plenty of excitement around how simple it could be to qualify in part because the qualification requirements are both broad and ambiguous. However, the reality is that receiving a loan for your business means it isn’t going to another business that might also deserve the money so receiving a SBA loan does come at a cost to the broader small business community. Given the already mentioned ambiguity, we can’t, unfortunately, rely purely on the letter of the law to make this qualification decision for us. We all have to apply our social conscience and good judgment to come to the right answer. From Foundry’s perspective, we believe PPP was designed to accomplish two things:

  • Save jobs
  • Stop businesses from failing that are gravely threatened by the current crisis

No doubt that all of our companies would benefit from more cash with attractive loan terms on the balance sheet so it isn’t surprising that the majority of you are considering applying for the loan. At the same time, we know that many of you have not eliminated jobs or have no immediate plans to eliminate jobs at the moment. If you aren’t definitely planning to eliminate jobs, should you apply? Will your business likely fail without this loan?

As the application process is currently written, you (and perhaps your affiliates) will have to certify “Current economic uncertainty makes this loan request necessary to support the ongoing operations of the applicant.” This statement is highly ambiguous and could be interpreted in numerous ways. We’re sure most of you could easily rationalize this statement to be true. At the same time, providing false information in this application is a federal crime that includes jail time . In addition to your social conscience, you should have real conviction and certainty that you qualify in your own hearts and minds.

If you have a strong balance sheet, have recently raised money, or have some certainty around a near-term capital raise, we think you should reconsider applying. Although things are chaotic at the moment and it might be possible to take advantage of a lack of controls in the system, that doesn’t mean we should necessarily do so. Imagine for a moment that three years from now, the WSJ or FBI does a deep forensic analysis on the small businesses that received loans during the crisis. Would you feel good about the details of your situation being revealed in that process?

You are all proven leaders who have repeatedly demonstrated the ability to take a thoughtful and compassionate approach to decision making. While we all sort through the details and logistics of the loan application process, we encourage you to take a step back and remember to consider the big picture.

My partner Seth Levine recently put up an extremely thoughtful post titled SBA PPP Loans Aren’t for Everyone. Go read it now – I’ll be here when you get back. Seth references two other posts to read and consider. The first is by Albert Wenger at USV titled VC Backed Startups and PPP: Do You Really Need It? The other is an OpEd for CNBC written by Seth and Elizabeth Macbride titled Stampede for emergency loans is crushing lenders, putting millions of small businesses at risk. Here are steps to fix the system. The complexity around both the PPP loans and the implementation of them is staggering. I can’t begin to estimate the number of hours spent collectivity just across our...

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The World In A Phase Transition - Feld Thoughts

We are in the midst of the most dramatic phrase transition I’ve experienced so far in my 54 years on this particular planet.

Ian Hathaway and I talk about phase transitions (also known as a phase shift) in several parts of The Startup Community Way .

P rogress is uneven, slow, and surprising. Complex systems exhibit nonlinear behavior, phase transitions (large shifts that materialize quickly), and fat-tailed distributions, where extremely high-impact events are more common than a normal statistical distribution would predict. Seemingly small actions can produce massive changes that happen suddenly. There is little ability to link cause and effect, or to credibly predict the outcomes of various programs or policies.

The Covid crisis is the trigger of this phase transaction. And, if you are a regular reader of this blog, you know that I view the Covid crisis as the collision of four complex systems – health, economic, mental health, and racial inequity. Each of these complex systems has been evolving for a long time, are never “solved”, and come in and out of focus.

The collision of all four of them simply cannot be understood from a macro perspective or addressed incrementally, and is transformative in an unpredictable way.

Easy examples of specific phase transitions include telemedicine, video conferencing, remote work, remote learning, and retail distribution. As this has been happening over the past four months, the entire US macro model around government debt was thrown out the window, resulting in a massive economic value shift (both positive and negative) across our entire economy. At the same time that unemployment is high, but the macro numbers show it “bad, but not awful”, income inequity has soared.

But this isn’t the story of the phase transition. Rather, it’s just the beginning. There are many people on our planet that are hoping things are going to “go back to normal.” The phrase “the new normal” is a hint at that, reinforcing that there is some type of “normal” to expect.

There is no normal, just like there is no spoon.

If you think it’s going to get weird, well, it’s too late. That already happened.

Since March 11th, when I realized the Covid crisis was going to generate a massive phase transition throughout society, I’ve been rethinking everything. Complexity theory teaches us that in complex systems, there is no playbook, just like there is no spoon.

Yet, in our world, we try to apply playbooks to many of the things we do. Many of the things we believe exist run off of playbooks. Take K-12 education. As our society anxiously awaits the opening of K-12 schools in the fall, educators, administrators, teachers, and governments everywhere scramble to “rewrite the playbook” for K-12 in the time of Covid.

But what if the playbook for K-12 is obsolete. Or flawed. Or unnecessary. What if it structurally reinforces undesirable things, like racism or economic inequality?

Observers of the health care system would comment that the health care system in the US has been messed up for a long time. My dad has been writing a blog on Repairing the Healthcare System for a decade. While there is plenty that he writes that I disagree with, I do agree that the healthcare system in the US is structurally broken. And, now with some hospitals in Florida being out of ICU beds , well, hold on to your masks …

We haven’t even begun talking about commercial real estate. My friends in the restaurant industry are suggesting that unless the government sends them a lot of “free money” soon, the restaurant industry as we know it will completely collapse.

Do we need more commercial real estate? Does the restaurant industry, as currently configured, really work?

Regardless of the answers, it’s impossible to predict what things will look like on the other side of this phase transition.

complex systems , phase transition Crisis

We are in the midst of the most dramatic phrase transition I’ve experienced so far in my 54 years on this particular planet. Ian Hathaway and I talk about phase transitions (also known as a phase shift) in several parts of The Startup Community Way. Progress is uneven, slow, and surprising. Complex systems exhibit nonlinear behavior, phase transitions (large shifts that materialize quickly), and fat-tailed distributions, where extremely high-impact events are more common than a normal statistical distribution would predict. Seemingly small actions can produce massive changes that happen suddenly. There is little ability to link cause and effect, or to credibly predict the outcomes of various programs or policies. The Covid crisis is the trigger of this phase transaction....

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Predictions, Prognostications, and The Future - Feld Thoughts

I have never liked being asked to predict things. I try not to prognosticate, especially around things I’m not deeply involved in.

At this moment, people everywhere make continuous predictions and endless prognostications. At some level, that’s not new, as the regular end of year media rhythm for as long as I can remember is a stream of famous people being asked their predictions for the next year. There are entire domains, such as economics, that are all about predictions. Near term predictions drive the stock market (e.g., future quarterly performance, what the Federal Reserve is going to do in the future.)

As humans, we want to control our present, and one way to do that is to predict the future.

I think the Covid crisis has turned that upside down. As I was reading How Pandemics Wreak Havoc – And Open Minds last night, a few paragraphs at the end hit home.

The first comment is from Gianna Pomata, a retired professor at the Institute of the History of Medicine, at Johns Hopkins University who is now living in Bologna.

Pomata was shocked by the direction that the pandemic was taking in the United States. She understood the reasons for the mass protests and political rallies, but, as a medical historian, she was uncomfortably reminded of the religious processions that had spread the plague in medieval Europe. And, as someone who had obediently remained indoors for months, she was affronted by the refusal of so many Americans to wear masks at the grocery store and maintain social distancing. In an e-mail, she condemned those who blithely ignored scientific advice, writing, “What I see right now in the United States is that the pandemic has not led to new creative thinking but, on the contrary, has strengthened all the worst, most stereotypical, and irrational ways of thinking. I’m very sorry for the state of your country, which seems to be in the grip of a horrible attack of unreason.” She continued, “I’m sorry because I love it, and have received so much from it.”

It’s followed by a comment by Lawrence Wright, a staff writer at The New Yorker since 1992 and author of the incredible and timely book The End of October.

I understood her gloomy assessment, but also felt that America could be on the verge of much needed change. Like wars and depressions, a pandemic offers an X-ray of society, allowing us to see all the broken places. It was possible that Americans would do nothing about the fissures exposed by the pandemic: the racial inequities, the poisonous partisanship, the governmental incompetence, the disrespect for science, the loss of standing among nations, the fraying of community bonds. Then again, when people confront their failures, they have the opportunity to mend them.

These paragraphs reflect the reality that I’m observing in the US right now. However, you can see Wright’s human optimism creep in as he “[feels] that America could be on the verge of much needed change .” While not a prediction (thankfully), it raised the question at the end of the paragraph, which is:

[W]hen people confront their failures, they have the opportunity to mend them.

But how?

As I worked on The Startup Community Way and got my mind into how complex systems work, I concluded that change has to come from the bottom up, not the top down. While in the book, we apply it to startup communities, I’ve internalized it across any complex system.

We are living in the collision of a series of complex systems that are beyond anything I’ve experienced in my 54 years on earth. It’s happening against the backdrop of instantaneous global communication, which allows anyone to distribute and amplify any sort of information.

In a crisis, anger and fear generate irrational behavior, especially given the need to control things. History has taught us this, but all you need to do is watch the bad guys in popular movies implode to be reminded of it.

Consequently, predicting the future is not just impossible; it’s more irrelevant than ever. Fantasizing about what the future will look like, while comforting, is pointless. And anchoring hopes around the future (e.g. “schools will open up in the fall”) simply generates even more anger and fear if it doesn’t come true.

For many years, I’ve tried to avoid predicting the future or prognosticating about it. My answer, when asked, is often some version of “I don’t know, and I don’t care.”

I think this crisis has shut that off entirely for me, as I’m shifting all of my energy to the present. I’m focusing on doing things today that I believe in, want to do, and that I think has the potential to impact positive change. But I know I can’t predict the outcome of any of it.

I have never liked being asked to predict things. I try not to prognosticate, especially around things I’m not deeply involved in. At this moment, people everywhere make continuous predictions and endless prognostications. At some level, that’s not new, as the regular end of year media rhythm for as long as I can remember is a stream of famous people being asked their predictions for the next year. There are entire domains, such as economics, that are all about predictions. Near term predictions drive the stock market (e.g., future quarterly performance, what the Federal Reserve is going to do in the future.) As humans, we want to control our present, and one way to do that is to predict the...

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The Unbearable Something of Q2 2020 - Feld Thoughts

I woke up thinking “this has been the strangest quarter of my life.”

I used to think in days, weeks, months, quarters, years, and decades. I stopped doing that around the time I turned 50 because I was exhausted from the rhythm.

I’ve been thinking about Q2 the last few days, which has been the Covid quarter. March was pre-quarter insanity as March 11th through the end of the month was completely disorienting and chaotic. I wrote the Three Crisis post on March 31st, which meant that I had gotten my mind, at least at a high level, around what was going on. Near the end of the post, I wrote:

Finally, this is not just going to “be over.” That’s magical thinking. There will be many different phases of this, but if you prepare for a long-term experience, you’ll be in a much healthier emotional place. I personally believe that April is going to be an awful month in the United States as the true extent of the health crisis finally hits in our country. The actions we are taking right now will determine whether April is the worst of it, but know that May will be rough, and the summer will be unlike “a normal summer” as, even in the best case, we being existing in the context of meaningful long-term societal adjustments.

April was awful. When it was finally over, Amy and I joked that April had 92 days in it. We ushered in May together on a Friday night with Life Dinner at home and then proceeded to have another miserable month with 57 days in it. I took a week off the grid in the middle of May, just as I was about to break.

On May 25th, George Floyd was murdered by police in Minneapolis. A fourth crisis, one of racial equity, was added to the mix, and while June only felt like it has lasted 43 days, it has been exhausting.

Unfortunately, I’m incredibly pessimistic about July. For the last 30 days, our country has engaged in the magical thinking I worried about at the end of March, and the Covid caseload has exploded. I get that it is summer, people can’t handle being cooped up in their houses, and everyone wants life to go back to the way it was before the emergence of Covid.

I simply don’t think that is going to happen. Ever.

Q2 sucked so much worse for so many people other than me. I’m healthy. Amy and I are safe. We are isolated in a comfortable place and enjoy being together all the time. I’m able to work from home without any significant challenges. Amy loves me, and my dogs love me. I’m aware of my privilege and thankful for it.

I fear July is going to be awful, just like April was awful. I hope I’m wrong. I really want to be wrong. I’m usually optimistic. I want to be optimistic at this moment. But I don’t see any signals anywhere that I should be. So, I’m emotionally prepared for a really rough month.

When I reflect on that, I realize that what weighs on me are mostly things I can’t control. So, as I’ve been doing for the last three months, I’m going to continue to put my energy into things I can impact, be available to many who I can help and support, and try to affect positive change. But, unlike the past three months, I’m going to take better care of myself.

And that starts now, with a run in circles around my 40 acres.

covid Crisis

I woke up thinking “this has been the strangest quarter of my life.” I used to think in days, weeks, months, quarters, years, and decades. I stopped doing that around the time I turned 50 because I was exhausted from the rhythm. I’ve been thinking about Q2 the last few days, which has been the Covid quarter. March was pre-quarter insanity as March 11th through the end of the month was completely disorienting and chaotic. I wrote the Three Crisis post on March 31st, which meant that I had gotten my mind, at least at a high level, around what was going on. Near the end of the post, I wrote: Finally, this is not just going to “be over.”...

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Why Panels Suck And My New Approach To Panels - Feld Thoughts

I’ve been getting at least one invitation a day to speak on at a conference or on a panel. My general rule is to only say yes when it intersects with my travel, if it is for an organization I’m already involved in or a person I want to support, or if it’s in a place I’m interested in visiting. When invited, I typically end up getting asked to give a keynote, be interviewed on stage, or be part of a panel. I enjoy the first two and hate the last one.

Fred Wilson and I were both on an email thread today from a good friend of ours asking us to be on a panel with him at an event in November. Based on my rules above, I said “yes, if it’s really important to you.” Fred had a better answer:

“i have a no panels rule.
i am trying like hell to enforce it.
panels are awful and should be eliminated from planet earth.”

Fred is so correct on this. Whenever I’m in the audience listening to a panel, I’m almost always bored. Every now and then someone on the panel captivates me, but the vast majority are dull, vapid, generic, stupid, non-controversial, politically correct, or just plain boring. And a conference of panels? “E#kl;asdfpoi#0c90k;@$Q”.

When I give a keynote, I usually do a 15 minute rant on whatever topic I think is relevant to the audience and then do Q&A for whatever my allotted time is. I’ve generally stopped “telling my story” since I find myself incredibly boring to listen to when I’m recounting my history. Every now and then I fall into this trap of an extended introduction and always am annoyed with myself. Whenever I do this (and I did it a few weeks ago in front a class of undergrads) I hit myself in the forehead afterwards and say out loud “don’t do that again.”

I’ve never been a particularly obedient panelist. I’ve been told numerous times that my body language gives away my response to whomever is talking, especially if I don’t agree with them or think what they are saying is wrong. While I try to let people finish their thoughts, I’m not bashful about cutting in and I’d guess that I usually end up taking more than my calculated ratio of air time (e.g. if four panelist, I talk more than 25% of the time.)

While I’m not going to adopt Fred’s no panel rule, I’ve decided that I’m going to have a much higher bar going forward for agreeing to be on panels. And, when I do, the panel inviter should beware that I’m going to be even more assertive about my perspective, especially if I’m bored while sitting on the panel. Maybe that’ll filter out all the panel inviters that want a nice peaceful panel.

And – if you are a conference organizer, consider eliminating the panels altogether. As Fred says, “panels are awful and should be eliminated from planet earth.”

I’ve been getting at least one invitation a day to speak on at a conference or on a panel. My general rule is to only say yes when it intersects with my travel, if it is for an organization I’m already involved in or a person I want to support, or if it’s in a place I’m interested in visiting. When invited, I typically end up getting asked to give a keynote, be interviewed on stage, or be part of a panel. I enjoy the first two and hate the last one. Fred Wilson and I were both on an email thread today from a good friend of ours asking us to be on a panel with him at an...

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I Love Starting The Year Off With CES - Feld Thoughts

After a two-fer of deeply annoying arrogance demonstrated by two different VCs on the first business day of 2011 that I’m still pondering (a mix of conflict avoidance behavior and passive aggressive behavior) I’m really looking forward to CES .

Several years ago, my partners and I started going to CES together. Jason and Ryan had being going for a while. I’m not a trade show guy although I diligently went to Comdex for several years in the 1990’s as part of Softbank (which owned Comdex at the time.) Generally, I’m completely overwhelmed by the people and the stuff and the idea of spending a few days in Las Vegas playing trade show monkey makes me tired just thinking about it.

But there’s something deliciously seductive to me about CES. When combined with an attitude change (rather than fighting the crowds, I just roll with it and pretend like I’m in the ocean, swimming around, not really noticing all the dirt and animals), I’m really enamored with wandering around, looking at, and playing with all the new stuff on display. Rather than target specific stuff, I just spend two days looking at everything.

It helps that we have two really fun dinners with a bunch of friends (it’s my year to organize – actually, that means Kelly has done all the work – thanks Kelly ). An early morning run, followed by eight hours of walking around playing with technology, followed by three hours hanging out with good friends and colleagues at a great Las Vegas restaurant. Ok – that’s a good day.

In the past we’ve discovered new investments (such as Cloud Engines ) and seen lots of companies we are investors in make good progress (e.g. this year I expect both Sifteo and Orbotix to get a lot of airplay based on what they are announcing.)

I’m heading out a day early for a BigDoor board meeting. It seems appropriate that we’d kick of our 2011 gamification of the universe with a meeting in Las Vegas. So make that three great dinners with friends.

After a two-fer of deeply annoying arrogance demonstrated by two different VCs on the first business day of 2011 that I’m still pondering (a mix of conflict avoidance behavior and passive aggressive behavior) I’m really looking forward to CES. Several years ago, my partners and I started going to CES together.  Jason and Ryan had being going for a while.  I’m not a trade show guy although I diligently went to Comdex for several years in the 1990’s as part of Softbank (which owned Comdex at the time.)  Generally, I’m completely overwhelmed by the people and the stuff and the idea of spending a few days in Las Vegas playing trade show monkey makes me tired just thinking about it....

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Does Me-Too Stuff Bore You? - Feld Thoughts

As 2011 kicks off, I think we are in for a ton of innovative software and Internet stuff this year. Yeah, some of it will be “just like everything else but different.” However, of the areas we invest heavily in – human computer interaction – has an incredible amount of activity going on. I’ll be at CES in Las Vegas this week so I expect to have a dose of nerd-eye-candy (e.g. the latest TV sets) along with a bunch of cool / amazing / clever / intriguing new HCI things .

I expect CES will be a classic case of “a mile wide and an inch deep.” If you want to go really deep with HCI, consider joining me at the Blur Conference in Orlando on 2/22 and 2/23 especially if any of the following topics appeal to you.

  • markerless motion capture
  • phone controlled robotic gaming devices
  • augmented reality apps
  • alternative input mechanisms
  • neuro-physiological measurements
  • all kinds of Kinect hacks
  • 3D/digital sculptures
  • neuro-ergonomics
  • social robotics
  • multi-touch interfaces
  • speech recognition
  • human instrumentation
  • natural user interfaces

I’ve accepted the reality that the computers are going to take over during my lifetime. I just want to help be involved in writing some of the code to hedge my bets. Register now to come join me in my quest .

As 2011 kicks off, I think we are in for a ton of innovative software and Internet stuff this year.  Yeah, some of it will be “just like everything else but different.”  However, of the areas we invest heavily in – human computer interaction – has an incredible amount of activity going on.  I’ll be at CES in Las Vegas this week so I expect to have a dose of nerd-eye-candy (e.g. the latest TV sets) along with a bunch of cool / amazing / clever / intriguing new HCI things. I expect CES will be a classic case of “a mile wide and an inch deep.”  If you want to go really deep with HCI, consider joining me at...

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Tech Brad Feld
about 1 year ago
about 1 year ago
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My Quest For A Personal Dashboard - Feld Thoughts

I ingest a ton of information on a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual basis. My process for doing it today is entirely manual. I’m starting to look around for a way to automate this using the metaphor of a “personal dashboard”, not dissimilar to the idea from the 1980’s of an EIS (“executive information system”). Let me explain.

  • Daily : I have an information processing routine each morning that is web-based. I open a folder in Firefox that contains 14 tabs. I then go through all of them – most, but not all are news related. A few are interactive and require data from me. I then scan through my tweets from the previous night. I then review my “Daily” email folder – most of the items are “daily reports” from a variety of companies I’m an investor in. Next up, my RSS feeds. Finally, I process whatever email came in from the previous night.
  • Weekly : I have a weekly tab in Firefox. There are only 5 tabs here and they shift around a little. But – they reference a variety of text and numerical data that I check on a weekly basis.
  • Monthly : I get financial statements (balance sheet, income statement, cash flow statement) along with board packages from all of the companies I’m an investor in along with all of my personal financial information.
  • Quarterly : Similar to monthly, but for the quarter.
  • Annual : Similar to monthly, but for the year. I also generate a variety of other “annual data” much of it to do with either money or fitness.

My Daily routine takes around an hour. Weekly, which includes reviewing my upcoming calendar, takes about 30 minutes. I don’t know how long Monthly, Quarterly, or Annual take as they are usually spread out over multiple days.

In theory, I’m using Firefox and Outlook as my personal dashboards to get to this data and then viewing it in a variety of apps including Excel, Adobe, and Word. However, this is really unsatisfying as the data is (a) in different formats, (b) impossible to search effectively, (c) not persistent, and (d) difficult to handle or manipulate.

My guess is I need both an (a) ingestion and (b) presentation layer. The ingestion layer seems straightforward – the software I’d use for my personal dashboard should be able to generate an XML template for each “type of data”. I should be able to configure this (or – optimally – the ingestion layer should be able to figure this out automatically). The ingestion layer should be able to handle different types of inputs – html files, xml files, emails, or some other quasi-API. So – “ Glue ”.

The presentation layer is a little harder for me to get my mind around. A year ago I would have said “hmtl is fine – just give it to me in Firefox via a web page.” In some cases this is fine, but I want finer grained control over how this stuff is displayed. Some of the web pages I look at are formatted worse and are less flexible than the DEC-based EISes I played with in the 1980’s. In many cases we haven’t made any progress on the presentation layer not withstanding all the efforts of Edward Tufte . So – “ HCI ”.

I’m hopeful that in a decade I’ll have a much more effective way of dealing with my periodic information routine. Until then, I’m searching for companies working on both the ingestion layer and presentation layer (preferably both). Feel free to give me a shout if this is something you are working on.

I ingest a ton of information on a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual basis.  My process for doing it today is entirely manual.  I’m starting to look around for a way to automate this using the metaphor of a “personal dashboard”, not dissimilar to the idea from the 1980’s of an EIS (“executive information system”).  Let me explain. Daily: I have an information processing routine each morning that is web-based.  I open a folder in Firefox that contains 14 tabs.  I then go through all of them – most, but not all are news related.  A few are interactive and require data from me.  I then scan through my tweets from the previous night.  I then review my “Daily”...

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about 1 year ago