Aug 13 2020

Supporting Grid110 – South LA

Amy and I, through our Anchor Point Foundation, are supporting the Grid110 – South LA program.

Austin Clements was one of the Black VCs I reached out to after George Floyd was murdered with the question, “What are two things you are involved in that I can support with time, money, and influence?” I knew Austin from his time at TenOneTen Ventures (we are an LP) and I reconnected with him when he joined the Kauffman Fellows Program (Class 25).

Among other things, he told me about Grid110 and why he was helping create and lead Grid110’s new program in South LA.

Grid110 is a non-profit with a mission is to foster the most thriving, inviting and inclusive community for entrepreneurs in Los Angeles. They believe that anyone with the goal of becoming an entrepreneur should have the chance to pursue it and receive support along the way. Their work impacts individuals who are often overlooked by traditional entrepreneurial ecosystems, making the the entrepreneurial path more equitable, inclusive and accessible.

I committed to providing funding for the program at the end of the call. Since then, the program has launched with its inaugural class and has been up and running since July.

Over 90% of the selected companies are led by Black and Latinx founders, and the majority of founders are women. The companies are wide ranging — from CPG products to B2B SaaS, from early childhood support all the way to death care services, from for-profit Co-Ops to non-profit boutiques. Some are first time entrepreneurs right out of college, others have long track records of shaping business and culture.

Tonight, I’m doing a virtual AMA with the program. I’m very looking forward to it.

If you are interested in supporting Grid110, you can make a donation here.

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Aug 11 2020

Masks, Distancing, Thinking, and Diversity

I got a lot of interesting and helpful feedback from yesterday’s post on The Sameness. To everyone who emailed me or commented, thank you. It felt good to write it out, and was extremely helpful to me to ponder the responses and suggestions.

I continue to be baffled by the US response to masks. Every time I write something about it, I get responses about why masks don’t work, how to talk about them differently, political comments, and some cheering.

Today, I stumbled on a great video around an experiment with masks. I was thinking about starting to run outside my property and I grabbed some of my lightweight gaiters to wear as a mask when I was near someone. Through this video, I discovered that the gaiter could be worse than not wearing anything, but at the same time wearing a cotton mask is better than not wearing anything.

Nothing like lasers, an experiment, and data. It’s worth three minutes of your life to watch.

Scott Galloway wrote an outstanding post the other day titled The Great Distancing. I nodded along with pretty much all of it. Here are a few images to encourage you to go read the article.

@ProfGalloway weekly blog post on No Mercy / No Malice is a must-read for me. Want some more of him? His rant on higher education the other day with Anderson Cooper is spectacular.

Next up is Howard Marks of Oaktree’s memo from the other day called Time for Thinking. You’ll deeply enjoy (and learn) from this if you are as perplexed as am I (and apparently he is) about the public markets as evidenced by his punchline:

Also, you’ll learn why many aspects of GDP are meaningless, especially annualized quarterly-over-quarter changes in GDP.

Finally, I’ll end with Heidi Roizen’s superb post titled We aren’t going to increase diversity in the boardroom unless we’re willing to appoint first-timers. Why is that so hard to do?

I’ve made a personal commitment to getting at least one non-white board member, and preferably at least one female and one non-white board member, on every board I serve on, even if it means giving up my board seat. I’m giving myself through the end of 2020 before I measure my progress on this goal, but I’m comfortable stating it out loud at this point.

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Aug 10 2020

The Sameness

It’s Monday. Again.

I have 30 Zoom meetings on my calendar this week (yes – I counted). It’s a light week for Zoom meetings since I have four board meetings this week, which each takes up a big block of time, limiting the total number of Zoom meetings for the week.

Did I say that it’s Monday?

My Whoop recovery score is yellow again. It’s yellow almost every day. I get plenty of sleep, but it’s still yellow. Sometimes it’s red. It’s rarely green these days.

On Sunday, I turned the pages of the New York Times with mild disgust. The only day I look at news is on Sunday, and then it’s only the New York Times in physical format. It now takes about ten minutes and I’m not sure why I’m doing it anymore.

Amy and I made a small change to our life algorithm this week. Instead of having the dishes pile up until one of us does them, we are alternating weeks. I’m on dish duty this week. We use the same plates over and over again.

I did my laundry again on Sunday. Every week I do my laundry on Sunday. I take my running clothes out of the sink in the mudroom bathroom and toss them in the washing machine. I grab my laundry basket from my closet and throw them in also. I set the machine for 1:06, pour in Tide Sport, and press Start. When it beeps, I put them in the dryer for 0:40 and press Start. When it beeps, I take them out, fold them, and put them in my closet. They are the same clothes every week.

I’m either running or swimming at least four days each week. Since my Whoop is always yellow, I keep thinking that taking a few days off will help. When I swim, it’s in the same pool back and forth and back and forth and back and forth. When I run, it’s in the same 0.94-mile loop – sometimes clockwise, sometimes counterclockwise. Over and over again.

It’s Monday. Again.

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Aug 9 2020

Laptops for the Justice Reskill Program

Update 8/9 @ 4 pm: We just received a donation of 20 laptops for the Justice Reskill program from John Shegerian, who is exec chairman of ERI. We are no longer looking for laptops for this program but look for more from me on the front in the future. John – thank you!

Aaron Clark is leading a program called Justice Reskill. They need 20 laptops for the participants in the program.

Justice Reskill is a reskilling platform that teaches both technical and essential skills to justice-involved individuals. The first cohort-based directed learning experience launches Saturday, August 15, 2020, with the Second Chance Center of Aurora Colorado, led by Mr. Hassan Latif.  Through generous support from the Kenneth King Foundation & the Cielo Foundation, Justice Reskill is piloting a three-month technical training program with 20 justice-involved participants of the Second Chance Center. Each participant will finish this program with the necessary technical skills needed to explore new careers in tech. 

Since first meeting Aaron in April through Dave Mayer, he has had a significant impact on me. We are involved in several projects together, including the Colorado Tech Coalition for Equity and Inclusion and Energize Colorado.

If you have spare laptops (Mac, PC, or Chromebook) that you would like to contribute, you can mail them to the following address:

Justice Reskill 
4800 Baseline Road
E104 #386
Boulder CO 80303

Also, send them an email at info@justicereskill.com so they know this is coming.

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Aug 5 2020

Never Take Money From A VC: Part 1

My partner Chris Moody decided to be a vlogger and has started a new video series. I suggested he hang out on TikTok but he prefers trying to get famous on Youtube.

So far he has 57 Views but 102 Subscribers. I find that fascinating.

Enjoy!

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Aug 4 2020

There’s No Downside to Trying Therapy

I got a note from someone who recently saw my Techstars mental health video. He said that could relate to how I describe depression as the “absence of joy.” He went on to write me a long, thoughtful, and brave note about his experience with depression.

One thing stood out to me was a statement near the end:

“I can’t convince myself to “speak to someone” because it feels wrong if I am paying them. It doesn’t feel whole.

I responded with a long note that follows:


When I was in my mid-20s, I had my first major depressive episode (it lasted over two years – very deep clinical depression.) I was functional at work, but that was it. Zero anything else …

I resisted therapy for about a year. I was ashamed of many things, including how I felt. I didn’t think someone would be able to help me. Early on, my dad, who is a retired endocrinologist, said to me, “Just shake it off” which was profoundly unhelpful, but just reinforced my shame.

Finally, my PhD advisor said something like, “Brad, there is no downside to trying therapy. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. But if it does, it’ll make a big difference. It did for me. Give it a one year commitment. Here’s the name and phone number of my long-term therapist.”

It still took me a while to call. I did, and committed to a year.

It changed my life. I ended therapy in my late 20s, but started again (with a new therapist) at 47 when I had another major depressive episode.

The way I think about it is that I “go to planet Brad for 50 minutes a week.” (I now go every other week). My therapist gets to hang out with me on planet Brad. Sometimes he guides me into a new part of the planet that I haven’t yet explored. Sometimes we get out shovels and dig holes in the ground to look for buried treasure. Sometimes we sit on a rock together and just stare into the distance. And lots of other things that you would do with a guide on a planet as you explore around.

About a year ago, I had a massive depression for a short time (less than a week) that in hindsight was induced by ambien. I rarely take ambien, but was on a multi-week international trip, had a bad cold, and was having trouble sleeping. About 10 days into the trip I feel off an emotion cliff into one of the deepest holes I’d ever experienced. Fortunately, I was safe and with my wife Amy, and after about three days realized it might be the ambien after randomly surfing around on the web looking at depression+travel and other stuff like that. 48 hours I was fine. 

Three days of complete absence of joy was awful. But I knew I could call my therapist in an emergency if I needed to. I was a few days away from going home and had a session right after I got home, so just knowing he was there helped a lot.

Therapy isn’t “the only answer”, but – like my PhD suggested many years ago, there’s no downside to trying.

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Aug 3 2020

From Moment to Movement

Amy and I, through our Anchor Point Foundation, underwrote a new video series on PBS 12 called From Moment to Movement.

From the trailer:

Tensions around race relations have been simmering for centuries in the U.S. Now they’re now at a boiling point. Meanwhile, President Trump’s administration is treating Black Lives Matters protestors like domestic terrorists. Millions of Americans, especially Black Americans, continue to rally to make their voices heard. From Moment to Movement” aims to give a platform to African American voices and dismantle systemic racism. 

The host, Tamara Banks, reached out to me shortly after George Floyd was murdered. She showed me a few of the pilot episodes, including an interview with Brandon Carter and an interview with Amy E. Brown. After watching them, I thought they were great and important and agreed to underwrite the whole series.

Two a week will be dropping on the PBS 12 website for the next few weeks. They are currently in production to be broadcast on TV as well.

Tamara – thank you for doing this and putting it out there.

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Aug 2 2020

Book: Across That Bridge: Life Lessons and a Vision for Change

Saturday is reading, running, resting, and playing with Amy day. Digital sabbath.

I was tired from the week and slept for ten hours. I also took a 90-minute nap in the afternoon. I had a good, albeit short (4 loops) run in the morning. I ran ten loops this morning, so getting back in the groove after a week of not feeling great.

My book was John Lewis’ Across That Bridge: Life Lessons and a Vision for Change. Amy suggested that I read Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement, which is in our infinite pile of books (and near the top). Instead, I decided I wanted to read this one first because several other people had suggested it to me after John Lewis died.

It was powerful. While there are elements of memoir in it, Lewis paints a clear vision of the future based on his lifetime of work on civil rights. He regularly tied his vision back to his childhood, his early work alongside Dr. King, and his leadership of organizations like the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.

While I knew of the principles of nonviolence in the Civil Rights movement, I didn’t understand them. I knew the history of the Freedom Riders. Still, I didn’t understand the magnitude of the physical abuse and violence they encountered while operating with the principles of nonviolent protest.

When I read and reflect on this history, I’m embarrassed, horrified, and furious with elements of White America.

Reading the book by John Lewis inspired me on multiple levels. I know that, in addition to reading Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement, I’m going to add some Gandhi to my reading list. If anyone has a suggestion for a great Gandhi book, toss it in the comments.

John Lewis was an American hero. And, his posthumous OpEd in the NY Times, Together, You Can Redeem the Soul of Our Nation, which starts:

Though I am gone, I urge you to answer the highest calling of your heart and stand up for what you truly believe.

ends with something I wish everyone in the United States would read, ponder, and take action on.

Though I may not be here with you, I urge you to answer the highest calling of your heart and stand up for what you truly believe. In my life I have done all I can to demonstrate that the way of peace, the way of love and nonviolence is the more excellent way. Now it is your turn to let freedom ring.

When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war. So I say to you, walk with the wind, brothers and sisters, and let the spirit of peace and the power of everlasting love be your guide.

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Jul 31 2020

Book and Podcast Suggestions for This Weekend

The week after George Floyd was murdered, I decided to read a book a week by a Black author. I went online and found a bunch of lists that had popped up. I bought about 25 books, all in physical form, and piled them up on my reading table near my couch.

On Saturdays, my primary activities of the day are reading, running, napping, and being with Amy. Two weeks ago, I read Ibram X. Kendi’s book How To Be An Antiracist. Last weekend I read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ book Between the World and Me. Tomorrow, I’m going to read John Lewis’ Across That Bridge: Life Lessons and a Vision for Change. And then, for the rest of August, I will read books written by Black Women.

The books by Kendi and Coates were both spectacular. I learned a lot from each, and they caused me to reflect on a lot of things while challenging a bunch of assumptions I had (many of which I’ve now modified or eliminated, although I’m sure I’ll need reinforcement to have the premises disappear from my brain.)

I read Lewis’ March Trilogy in comic book / YA form about a year ago. It was great. But, sitting with and reading his autobiography seems like a powerful thing to do this weekend.

Last night, I read COVID-19: The Pandemic that Never Should Have Happened and How to Stop the Next One by Debora MacKenzie. She wrote it in two months as the pandemic started, and did a great job. It goes well beyond just Covid, exploring past pandemics, things we could have done, didn’t, and why we are in the situation we are in now. As with my new book The Startup Community Way, she builds her framework on complex systems, explains them clearly, and applies the structure to the Covid crisis.

Finally, if you are a podcast person, I have two personal ones that I really enjoyed doing. The first is from the Techstars GiveFirst podcast and is with Len Fassler, titled Brad Feld and the mentor who changed his life.

The other is with Harry Stebbings on his 20 Minute VC podcast and is around mental health. I’m a guest, along with Jerry Colonna and Tracy Lawrence. 20VC: Brad Feld, Jerry Colonna, and Tracy Lawrence on Depression and Mental Health, Why You Cannot Tie Happiness to Milestones & Why Fear, Anxiety and Guilt are Useless Emotions.

The podcast with Len gave me chills when I listened to it, and Harry’s was excellent other than the missing Oxford comma in the title.

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Jul 30 2020

Supporting the ParentPreneur Foundation

Amy and I, through our Anchor Point Foundation, recently provided the seed grant to the ParentPreneur Foundation.

Founded by James Oliver, the ParentPreneur Foundation empowers Black people to be the best parents and entrepreneurs possible providing them money, tools, resources, and social capital.

I’ve known James for several years. After George Floyd was murdered, James was one of my Black friends who I called up and asked, “What are two things you are involved in that I can support with time, money, and influence?”

We talked about a couple of things, but when he started speaking about his dream to start a non-profit to help Black entrepreneurs who were also parents, I knew what I’d be supporting.

James is the perfect person to undertake this endeavor because he is acutely aware of the pain of parents who are entrepreneurs. James participated in the gener8tor accelerator and founded his startup, WeMontage.com when his now seven-year-old twins were born prematurely and weighed only two pounds each. During that difficult time, he was living 1,000 miles from family and friends, so he didn’t have much support.

Amy and I don’t have kids, so I listen to my friends who are entrepreneurs with kids about their experiences. Rather than assume their challenges are the same as mine, I recognize I have it easier in many ways, and enjoyed and learned from James’ book The More You Hustle, The Luckier You Get.

In our conversation about this new foundation, James told me that being a parent and an entrepreneur is hard, but being a Black ParentPreneur is even harder.

“Black people don’t have the same resources as many of our White ParentPreneur counterparts. Many of us are first-generation college graduates, and we don’t have a relative we can call to give us money to hold us over until we can get enough traction with our business. Further, we generally don’t have the social capital to execute our good ideas or even imagine what is possible.”

Hence, the ParentPreneur Foundation, which James started a month ago. The inaugural cohort was recently announced and had ten Black ParentPreneurs who each received $1,000. The foundation also provides access to resources to improve beneficiary businesses and parenting lifestyles.

I’m excited about supporting James in the work he’s doing to help address issues of economic inequality in the Black entrepreneur community while helping strengthen families.

Please consider making a tax-deductible donation or connect with James to offer resources for the foundation’s beneficiaries.

And if you’re a Black ParentPreneur, join the foundation’s online private community.

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