Are You Interested In The Blockchain?

If you are interested in the blockchain or bitcoin, go support William Mougayar’s new Kickstarter The Business Blockchain Books.

William is writing two books on the blockchain. We had early discussions with him about doing them via FG Press, but since we’ve decided to shut down FG Press (more on that in a later post) we encouraged William to explore different options. He chose to launch on Kickstarter, which I think is an awesome place for an domain expert like William to do this instead of going the traditional publishing route.

I’ve gotten to know William over the past seven years. I originally met him through his previous company Engagio. We weren’t investors, but I was an early and active user and fan. We get together ever time I go to Toronto and I’ve enjoyed watching him engage deeply in the Toronto startup community, while building deep expertise around the blockchain (and corresponding technologies). He also publishes a really useful blog called Startup Management and has been making seed investments in a number of companies, especially around the blockchain.

I just supported his Kickstarter. Fred Wilson did also – and wrote about it at Let’s Give William A Big Advance.

I agree with Fred – let’s support William’s new books and learn a lot more about the blockchain in the process.

Apply For Grants From The Techstars Foundation

The current grant cycle for the Techstars Foundation is now open. We are providing grants, scholarships, and sponsorships to underrepresented groups in entrepreneurship, including women and minorities.

Apply here. And, if you want to contribute financially to support the mission of the foundation (a 501c3) – donate here.

Load Balancing Between VC Partners

I woke up this morning in Fort Worth, Texas. For the first minute I wasn’t really sure where was I but it eventually snapped into focus. This happens to me periodically when I travel.

I’ve got a stretch where I’m on the road a lot. Fortunately, I’ve got amazing partners. I was reflecting on this over a cup of stale coffee this morning.

One of our deeply held beliefs at Foundry Group is that all four of us work on, and are responsible, for every company we are investors in. We don’t have silos where there are “Brad companies” or “Ryan companies” or “Seth companies” or “Jason companies.” In about 90% of the companies we are investors in, two of us are actively involved. In about 50%, three of us are actively involved. But in 100% of the cases, we all know what is going on, have relationships with the founders and CEO, and can quickly engage and help wherever and whenever we bring something to the mix.

As a result, we’ve always been active at moving primary responsibility for a company (which we define as a board seat) between partners. This is, in effect, a simple form of load balancing that we are all technically aware of from our early investments in some companies that generated, or used, very visible load balancing products before some of these technologies started to become absorbed into the core Internet infrastructure (anyone remember early DNS round robin approaches?)

We have a full day offsite every quarter. One of the things we do is a full portfolio review. Part of that is a load balancing exercise. In addition, we do this exercise as each partner returns from their one month annual sabbatical, as the other three partners have already been handling that partner’s primary responsibilities.

The load balancing process is collaborative. We aren’t randomly moving companies around between us, but rather thinking hard about where a particular partner can help – both in terms of the specific company as well as reducing cognitive load on another partner.

We recently load balanced the companies I was primarily responsible for as (a) my load was excessive and (b) we knew I’d be on the road a lot in Q1. We made a few changes just before I went on sabbatical, talked about it a little more when I returned, and then made a few more changes two weeks ago.

As I sit here a little bleary eyed from the past few days, I realize how powerful this process is at many levels, most importantly eliminating any ego dynamics across the four of us when we think about the portfolio (as the load balancing includes a full range of companies – from those doing extremely well to those struggling.) And, I feel intense relief and satisfaction that I work with three partners who I trust as deeply as I do.

Fear Is In The Air

Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 11.08.06 AMOr at least on the blogs and in the mainstream media. It’s kind of amazing to me how two shitty weeks in the public markets can impact how every one thinks and talks about things.

I know the early presidential campaign is impacting this. The amount of vitriol, hatred, and fear that is coming out of the mouths of the various people running for president always surprises me. I know it shouldn’t, but it does.

As 2016 kicks into gear, I have simple advice for founders that I offer up every time things get noisy – in either direction (good or bad).

Focus on what you can impact. Tune out the noise. Concentrate on things that matter. Have a long term view. 

I know it’s simple. And I know it’s hard, because it’s the distraction that creeps into every conversation. It’s the discomfort of an uncertain future that lurks around every corner. And when it gets amplified and whipped into a frenzy, it seduces you to focus on the wrong things.

As Yoda likes to say, “Calm you shall keep and carry on you must.”

Book: Open (Andre Agassi Autobiography)

Last week was full and intense, so I woke up tired yesterday and decided to take a digital sabbath. I had breakfast with Amy, continued reading Open by Andre Agassi (which I had started one night earlier in the week before going to sleep), napped, read some more, napped, went for a run, watched the end of the Patriots game, finished Open, and watched the end of the Cardinals game.

I enjoy biography and read a lot of them. I generally don’t like autobiographies as they never feel fully authentic to me, but Agassi’s had been recommended by a number of friends, especially one’s who play tennis.

I was mindbogglingly amazing. Fucking awesome. Incredible.

Agassi does what I wish more people would do in autobiography. He starts with his origin story and takes us on a full ride through his life while undergoing his own caamora while sharing it with us.

I am a big Agassi fan. I always loved his tennis style and after reading Open understand it a lot better. His philanthropy, especially around education, is inspiring and the motivation for it is clear after reading Open. His personal style and relationships were always curious, but make a ton of sense after reading Open.

When I crawled into bed last night, I was rested and happy. And, when I woke up this morning, I was ready for a nice Sunday with Amy, a run, watching the Broncos game with Dave, Amy, and Maureen, all in preparation for two weeks on the road.