Misty II Teardown

The Misty II pre-order campaign is in full gear, with Misty II selling at a discount of 50% of its retail price. It’s 90% of the way to the stretch goal, which unlocks some fun goods. So, if you want the Apple ][ of home robots, pre-order now and get another $100 off by using my referral code!

Ian Bernstein, the co-founder of Misty (and co-founder of Sphero), has a great teardown of Misty II. He walks through all the hardware components and then opens up Misty’s brain and body so you can see the hardware inside.

Kids love Misty II also. Here are six reasons why Misty II is perfect for education along with a short video of some kids playing around with and explaining why Misty II is awesome.

If you are a kid, have kids, or are a grown-up kid, you’ve got a few more weeks to get Misty II as part of the pre-order campaign. Discounts, goodies, and a chance to be part of creating the first real, usable home robot.

Step Into The VC Time Machine

One of the things humans are bad at is remembering the past and incorporating the lessons they learned from difficult experiences. I’m sure there’s a philosophical word for this, but I’ve now heard the phrase “this time it is different” so many times that it doesn’t register with me as a valid input.

I woke up this morning to Howard Lindzon’s post R.I.P Good Times (Said Sequoia in October, 2008) and Nobody Knows Anything pointing to David Frankel’s tweet:

All of this ultimately led to me reviewing Sequoia’s classic slide deck from 2008.

I remember reading it in 2008. We were about a year into our first Foundry Group fund, which we raised in 2007. That now feels like a very long time ago.

I encourage everyone to review the deck. It would be awesome if an economist (Ian Hathaway, are you out there?) made a new deck with an update to 4 through 38 that extended the time frame (and analysis) to 2018.

Boulder Open Weekend for Mental Health

For the second year Amy and I are supporting the Open Weekend – a celebration of neurodiversity in the startup community – through the Anchor Point Foundation. If you or a loved one have a mental health condition or just want to learn more or help out, I encourage you to check out the event.

Friday, May 18th starts off with the Brain Crawl at Boulder Startup Week. My good friend Jerry Colonna and I spoke at this part of the weekend last year. Saturday, May 19th is the alternative hackathon being held at Techstars. You can RSVP here to attend, mentor as a behavioral health specialist or specialist in some other area like marketing, PR, or engineering, or just jump in to learn more. Sunday will wrap up the weekend with a social day of outdoor games, meditation, and more.

Here is a click to tweet if you want to spread the word or RSVP to the Open Weekend Boulder 2018.

Boulder Startup Week 2018 Non-Profit Pitch Contest

It’s awesome how Startup Week and Weekend have grown from an experiment here in Boulder into a global set of events that are now housed under the Techstars umbrella.

I’m not doing my usual crazy schedule of running around to panels and events as I’ll be out of town for most of the week but wanted to highlight a few events I’m especially excited about.

Amy and I supported the Pledge 1% Colorado Nonprofit Pitch contest last year with a $10,000 grant through our Anchor Point Foundation and are happily doing it again this year. This and other Social Impact Track events are working to engage the broader startup community and expand Startup Week beyond just high-tech startups.

You can view the schedule and RSVP for the Social Impact Track events and P1% Nonprofit pitch contest 5/15 here and here. And, if you’re so inclined, you can promote with a click to tweet as well!

If you are around Boulder next week or want to see the Boulder community at it’s finest, check out the BSW schedule and join in on the fun.

The Legend of Mike and Mary

I was at dinner several weeks ago with Amy and two close friends who are 20 years younger than us. We were talking about what they were currently doing and they categorized their activities as “adding to” or “not adding to” the legend of mike and mary. I’ve anonymized them, but you get the idea.

The legend they were referring to was their internal legend as a couple. Neither of them could give a shit about the external legend, or what the world thought of them. This wasn’t about fame, ego, recognition, or acknowledgment. Fame and fortune didn’t play into the construct.

Instead, it was about their life together. Their journey. What they did together. It was the label for their narrative as a couple against the backdrop of a finite amount of time on this planet. Many of the activities in their legend where individual ones, but supported by the partner. And many others were ones they did together.

It was a beautiful approach. During the conversation, we went deep on the work one of them was doing, which they concluded was not adding to the legend of mike and mary. I got a note the next day that, as a result of the conversation, mike was going to leave his job and pursue something else that was much more important to him and that they thought could add to the legend of mike and mary.

I loved this construct. Since that dinner, Amy and I have used it a few times when talking about something we were considering doing. The question “Does this add to the legend of Amy and Brad?” provokes a different type of conversation about a specific activity or decision, especially when the activity or decision is significant, requires a long time commitment, or takes a lot of energy.

Remember – it’s internal, not external. Assume you write the legend at the end the end of your life but no one else ever reads it. It can be for you as an individual, or as a couple.

The next time you are pondering something, ask yourself the equivalent of “Does this add to the legend of mike and mary?”

Alex Iskold Startup Hacks

I’ve been friends with Alex Iskold for over a dozen years (I was an angel investor in GetGlue, which USV funded.)

Alex has been the Managing Director of Techstars NY for a number of years and I think he’s now run seven programs and built an impressive portfolio of around 80 companies.

I’m a huge Alex fan and love his writing. Recently, he put together a bunch of great blog posts on his site under a heading Startup Hacks. He has divided them into the following topics: Fundraising, Managing Investors, VC and Business Intros, Metrics and KPIs, Product and Marketing, Productivity, Founding Team, and Accelerator.

I’ve read them all. Some of my favorites include:

Alex – thanks for taking the time to write all of these! And, if you are a regular reader of this blog, I encourage you to go read all of Alex’s posts.

Return Path’s Partner Platform Solution

I was an early investor in two of the first email service providers (Email Publishing and Mercury Mail). My experience with ESPs goes back more than 20 years and, since the mid 1990s, I’ve seen the ESP ecosystem evolve from its infancy, with just a few startups blazing a trail, to today’s robust industry populated by mature marketing technology platforms. And yes, they are now called email marketing platforms, which seems much more grown up and sophisticated.

Deliverability first became a hot issue in the early 2000s, and our portfolio company Return Path emerged as an innovator and leader. Since then, deliverability has remained one of the most important levers for email marketers.

Consequently, the role of the ESP’s deliverability specialist (a job, like many others in our industry, that is extremely challenging and not well known) has become increasingly difficult. Today’s deliverability specialist is tasked with managing more clients, across more geographies, with ever-changing parameters by individual mailbox providers. And of course, like any industry, they face greater and greater client expectations.

Most deliverability specialists have cobbled together their own solutions (such as MTA logs and response metrics) and leveraged solutions like Return Path – although admittedly these solutions are based on the same platform any email marketer would use. In short, deliverability solutions for ESPs could have – and should have – been better.

Recently, Return Path launched their innovative new Partner Platform solution, the first deliverability platform built exclusively for ESPs, with extensive input from their longstanding ESP partners. When I first heard of the development of this product, I was delighted that Return Path had committed to investing in an ESP/super-user platform to address the unique needs of the ESP and their deliverability specialists.

Return Path’s Partner Platform puts deliverability data all in one place, allowing deliverability specialists to see what’s happening across their entire client ecosystem. Information is layered together to provide meaningful metrics and insights across all clients’ programs.

The vast data assets Return Path has invested in, coupled with the ability to slice and dice data, is a game-changer for deliverability specialists.

This is a huge step for the email marketing industry and something that’s long overdue. I’m glad to see that an 18 year old, independent company can continue to make big innovations while growing their business.

The New Gmail For 2018

Ahhhh. The new Gmail client for the web is finally here. And a lot of things are fixed. The two things I like the best are really simple but dramatically increase my email throughput.

+name: When I add someone to an email thread, I use the shortcut “+name” to indicate to everyone on the thread that I’ve added them. I started doing this around 2008 (I can’t remember where I picked it up from, but I think it might have been Mark Pincus at Zynga.) It started appearing in some Google apps a few years ago (Docs and Inbox) and it is now in the main email client. For example, if I want to copy Amy on something, instead of having to put her email address in the To: field, I now merely need to say +Amy Batchelor in the body of the email and Gmail does the rest. Yay – finally.

Send threading: If you are on a fast internet connection, this won’t matter to you. But, if you do email on a plane or a house in Longmont, Colorado (where I regularly have internet performance that is < 5 MB) you will love this feature. The only annoying thing is the endless (and unnecessary) popup that informs you that Gmail has sent your message (it’s no big deal on a desktop, but bothersome on a laptop.) Either way, I no longer have to sit and wait while Gmail is trying to complete the send process.

My guess is that the combination of these two features increases my email throughput by 25%. And, for someone who processes hundreds of inbound emails a day, this helps a lot.

There are a lot of other fun things under the hood and a nice new paint job on the surface. Nothing is dramatic, but overall it’s definitely an update. If you haven’t gotten it yet, tell your Google administrator to turn it on for your domain. Then click Settings in Gmail (the little gear icon on the top right and select the first option “Try the new Company Name Mail”.

Update: In my ongoing love affair with Canada, it turns out that Google’s new version of Gmail made in Kitchener.

A Workshop for Colorado Food Entrepreneurs in Hotchkiss, CO – June 21 and 22

I’ve been investing in natural food related business for a while. I do this partly because I’m interested in what we eat, but mostly because I can’t make angel investments in tech companies anymore because of my Foundry Group fund agreements. And I enjoy making angel investments …

Boulder is the starting point for the natural foods industry, dating back to the founding of Celestial Seasonings in 1969. A year ago, the New York Times had a long article titled Foodies Know: Boulder Has Become a Hub for New Producers that explains why Boulder is so popular among natural foods companies. The number of food meetups and events in Boulder (including Startup Weekend Boulder Food + Tech) as well as events and initiatives all around the state of Colorado has reached a critical mass. Our friend, Kimbal Musk, who according the the New York Times Wants to Feed America, Silicon Valley-Style is based in Boulder (and, ahem, not Silicon Valley.)

I’m also excited about the startup activity outside of Boulder/Denver. My partner Seth and I have been actively involved in the creation of The Greater Colorado Venture Fund that launched earlier this year to support entrepreneurs in smaller communities in Colorado. I’ve been involved in Startup Colorado for almost a decade now and am proud of their emphasis on supporting entrepreneurship in all shapes and forms outside the Front Range.

An event in June brings these two dynamics together. If you are an entrepreneur or investor in a food related startup, ENGAGE Delta, Naturally Boulder, and Startup Colorado are bringing the foremost experts in the food industry from across the state to help go from recipes to products and products to profits. The event is 6/21-22 in Hotchkiss. I know Hotchkiss well as Amy has family there and I’ve spent many long weekends there. It’s a beautiful spot for an event like this.

You can RSVP to the event here and make sure to enjoy some good food for me.

O Canada – Our Investment in Golden Ventures

Last week, I wrote a post talking about why Canada Is Going To Be The Next, Great, Entrepreneurial Tech Country.

Yesterday, we announced our investment in Golden Ventures III, a Toronto-based early stage fund.

I first met Matt Golden through Matthew Bellows, the CEO of Yesware (which we are co-investors in with Golden Ventures). I immediately liked him and we’ve worked together very effectively.

I’ve watched Matt and team build a strong portfolio of companies in Canada and in parts of the US. Every time I’ve gone to Toronto, Matt has hosted me for something and introduced me to a bunch of founders. While I get tired of big dinners, meals with Matt are always a joy, and some of the conversations I’ve had over the years with him and his friends have been extremely memorable.

We are excited to add our first Canadian fund to our roster of Partner Funds.

Welcome, Matt, Ameet, Bert, Jamie, and Marianne.