Apr 14 2021

Are You Worried? … Would It Help?

Amy and I watched Bridge of Spies over the weekend. We enjoyed it, but particularly loved one interaction between the lawyer (James Donovan) and the accused Russian spy (Rudolf Abel).

Donovan: You don’t seem alarmed?

Abel: Would it help?

At multiple climactic moments, the line “Would it help?’ got rolled out.

It had the same kind of resonance with us to one of our favorite movie lines ever (from Argo).

For the past two days, each of us have done call and response using this line about multiple things.

Brad: Are you worried?

Amy: Would it help?

It’s so powerful.

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Apr 12 2021

Calculating Leader Leverage

My partner Chris Moody recently sent around a note on a concept he refers to as Leader Leverage. I encourage every CEO to read and consider it. His rant follows.


Many of you are probably tired of hearing me rant about some form of what I often refer to as “leader leverage”. If you’ve been lucky enough to avoid these rants, the quick summary is that your biggest lever as a board member is the CEO and your biggest lever as CEO is your direct reports. I learned this lesson the hard way running a very decentralized business with 70 offices in 17 countries at Aquent.

A critical learning about a company’s leadership is whether or not employees trust and respect their senior-most manager. Yet, asking this question directly often doesn’t get a great answer. However, asking it indirectly can be magical.

Using an NPS approach, the example below asks the question, “The company is in a position to really succeed over the next three years.” The different answers are by department.

The average employee believes the Company is in a position to succeed over the next three years. The exception is the employees in one particular department (the red box) who all believe the company is completely fucked. This perfectly illustrates the point that the collateral damage of having a bad leader goes far beyond that leader’s ability to perform their technical job because a bad leader will usually poison a team’s perception of the entire company. 

We’ve known for a long time that we needed a new leader in that department for the Company. However, we’ve always viewed the issue with the current leader to be an issue around technical skills. It turns out the ramifications of not having a leader that people can trust and respect goes far deeper.

At Aquent, we found similar results around crazy specific things like compensation where people would go from feeling grossly under-compensated to feeling like they were compensated fairly simply because we made a change in the leader of their market.  


If you found this useful and want more of Moody on topics like this, I encourage you to go watch his vlog Venture Kills. For example:

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Apr 11 2021

Cleantech Open Northeast 2021

Over the past year, we’ve seen an increase of people from across the business and political spectrum join the fight against climate change and pledge to support a greener, more sustainable future. Investors are seeking both financial returns and environmental impact and looking for opportunities to partner with ventures that are working to tackle our world’s biggest energy and environmental challenges.

Enter Cleantech Open, the world’s largest and oldest cleantech accelerator for cleantech, climate tech, and sustainability startups. Through Cleantech Open, startups can build their entrepreneurship skills and professional networks, access expert mentorship, and connect with potential investors, partners, and customers. Cleantech Open is currently accepting applications for its 2021 cohort, and you can learn more and apply here by April 18.

Beth Zonis, the Director of Cleantech Open Northeast, and my wife Amy Batchelor met through a mutual connection. They are both Wellesley College alumnae (Amy is a Trustee of Wellesley College, and Beth is Vice President of her graduating class.) They hit it off right away and found a lot of common ground, especially in their shared passions for Wellesley, the environment, and innovation. This led to our foundation (the Anchor Point Foundation) partnering with Cleantech Open Northeast, the northeast region of Cleantech Open, managed by NECEC as the on-the-ground affiliate. 

Cleantech Open is like a mini MBA for startups. Its mission is well aligned with ours, as Cleantech Open is focused on combating climate change, growing the green economy, and improving Environmental Justice through innovation and entrepreneurship. We are staunch advocates for the environment, and we believe that innovation is critical to addressing many of the world’s challenges.

Cleantech Open has a particular focus on incorporating diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) values into its program. It is working to increase the diversity of startups, mentors, and partners engaged with the program. In 2020, 63% of the startups in the Cleantech Open Northeast cohort were founded by women or BIPOC leaders. This year, the accelerator plans to offer programming to educate startups on incorporating DEI values into their ventures.

Cleantech Open Northeast is also creating new curriculum content for this year’s cohort to enable startups to measure their greenhouse gas emissions and carbon footprint to help them build a measurement mindset from the beginning. This is an effort in collaboration with NYSERDA, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.

Over the years, many Cleantech Open alumni have progressed to be accepted into other accelerator programs, including Techstars. A few examples of recent Techstars alumni who have participated in both programs are Virimodo, Sunthetics, and SparkCharge.

Virimodo is reducing greenhouse gas emissions in cities by making it simple for buildings to become carbon neutral. Virimodo was a 2018 Cleantech Open Northeast Winner and a Cleantech Open National Finalist and participated in the 2020 Techstars EnergyTech accelerator in Birmingham, Alabama.

Sunthetics is developing software in tandem with electrochemical equipment for more sustainable and efficient chemical manufacturing. Sunthetics was a top 10 team in the 2020 Cleantech Open Northeast accelerator and a participant in the Techstars Heritage Group Accelerator for hard tech.

SparkCharge is making the world’s first mobile and intelligent on-demand EV charging network with a portable, ultrafast charging unit for electric vehicles. SparkCharge participated in the 2016 Cleantech Open Northeast accelerator and Techstars Boston in 2018 and recently had a chance to pitch on Shark Tank, where the company signed a $1 million agreement with Mark Cuban and Lori Greiner.

Cleantech Open is a nonprofit accelerator that takes no equity in its participating startups. This year, Cleantech Open Northeast will award $50,000 in cash prizes, including $10,000 for a carbon sequestration startup that completes the accelerator, and more than $300,000 in goods and services, including incubator and co-working spaces, consulting services ranging from marketing and communications to accounting to assistance on special projects, software packages for startups, and even financial assistance for startups participating in certain states. 

To learn more, register for a Cleantech Open kickoff event between now and the April 18 application deadline. These are great opportunities to meet the Cleantech Open team, entrepreneurs, and mentors. Startups will have a chance to pitch!

Cleantech Open Kickoff Webinar 11, April 13 @ 7:00 PM Eastern, Register here

Cleantech Open Kickoff Webinar 12, April 16 @ 12:00 PM Eastern, Register here

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Apr 8 2021

Shopping in Boulder at Table Mesa This Weekend

My partner Chris Moody came up with a great idea he’s calling #BoulderStrongTableMesa. This is in response to the mass murder that happened at the King Soopers in Table Mesa on Monday, March 22nd.

What if the Boulder community doubled down on #BoulderStrong to show support for the small businesses located in the Table Mesa Shopping Center directly impacted by this tragedy? After an extremely challenging year trying to keep their businesses running through a global pandemic, the small shops and restaurants of the Table Mesa Shopping Center are now facing the near impossible task of trying to return to business-as-usual. I visited a few of these shops this week and have heard stories of employees hearing gunshots and being forced to shelter-in-place. The parking lots adjacent to King Soopers are occupied by police vehicles and mourners visiting the site. “Trying to hang in there, was a response I heard from one store owner when I asked how things were going. He looked exhausted.  

Moody’s proposal is simple.

  1. Put on a mask and go shop at the Table Mesa Shopping Center this weekend (April 10-11).
  2. While you’re shopping/eating, let the employees know you are thinking of them and that you appreciate the service they offer our community.
  3. Consider leaving a bigger-than-normal tip! 

His post has a comprehensive list of all the stores in the shopping center. Help everyone who works there get some energy from the community. And – spread the word.

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Apr 6 2021

Partial Q1 Vacation – Books and Running

I sort of took a Q1 Vacation last week.

2021 didn’t really feel like it started for me until January 21st. Yeah, I took a company public on January 4th, but then January 6th happened. It was a cold, dark, and anxious stretch where January felt like it had about 51 days in it. Then I was deep in SPACland and lots of deals and financings. I definitely had some “I just need to get to March 26th, and then I get a break” in my head.

We got back to Boulder on a Friday, settled into our house on Saturday, and I sort of kind of tried to disconnect (but failed) on Sunday. Monday, I had a full day of work, and a couple of things had landed on Wednesday, so I decided “fuck it” and just worked Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday before going dark from Thursday to Sunday.

It is delicious to be back in Boulder. The weather is perfect, the birds are singing, and our meadowlark is back in our meadow, chirping away. We missed Cooper (we don’t take him to Aspen), so it has been a fun adjustment to get used to him again (and for him to get used to us.)

I had a monster week of running – mostly on trails. 65 miles with almost 4,300 ft of elevation. That’s the most I’ve done in a long time, and my body absorbed it pretty well.

When I wasn’t running, napping, or eating, I read. A lot. And there are some themes in what I’ve been reading.

Lighten Up!: A Complete Handbook for Light and Ultralight Backpacking: I knew of ultralight backpacking (and have heard the phrase a bunch recently in marketing stuff), but I didn’t really know the parameters or the style. This was a great intro.

Allen & Mike’s Really Cool Backpackin’ Book: Traveling & camping skills for a wilderness environment: Recommended by the previous book. Some new stuff, some repetition. Some ultralight. Some normal backpacking.

Ultralight Backpackin’ Tips: 153 Amazing & Inexpensive Tips for Extremely Lightweight Camping: Again recommended by the first book. I fell into the Kindle content market trap and clicked on links. Mostly repetitive, but good reinforcement on a few things.

Ask Your Developer: How to Harness the Power of Software Developers and Win in the 21st Century: Jeff Lawson and Twilio are awesome. This book is phenomenal, both as the story of Twilio with the underpinning of Jeff’s management philosophy. If you ever use the Marc Andreessen phrase “software is eating the world,” but you haven’t read this book, go read it to understand what the phrase really means. I’m going to host Jeff for two book events: one with Techstars and one with our portfolio. Yes, every entrepreneur and would-be entrepreneur should read this book.

Guantánamo Diary: Now published as The Mauritanian. Amy and I watched the movie a few weeks ago in Aspen when it came out. It was powerful. The book was even more powerful. I wish Guantanamo never existed – it’s a massive negative on American values. I wish Obama had followed through on closing it down. I hope Biden closes it down. If you disagree with me, read the book.

Lost in Startuplandia: Wayfinding for the Weary Entrepreneur: I recently did a talk for a class Ted Zoller teaches at UNC, and he recommended this book. I had it on my Kindle but had never read it. It was a fun memoir-like story of Keller Fitzsimmons’ entrepreneurial journey. Having read hundreds of these by men, I always learn a lot more now when I read one by a woman. It’s excellent.

Living with a SEAL: 31 Days Training with the Toughest Man on the Planet: Another one that had been lingering on my Kindle since 2017. Another recommendation. Hilarious, awesome, fun, and inspiring. I guessed that Seal was David Goggins pretty early on based on what I knew of Goggins. But I had no idea who Jesse Itzler was (now I do.) So, the next book I read was …

Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds: Goggins is an epic specimen of a human. But I didn’t really know his story beyond his ultrarunning. It’s an incredible story at many levels. It’s not as fun as Itzler’s book but still awesome and much more inspiring. And it led me to read Itzler’s other book …

Living with the Monks: What Turning Off My Phone Taught Me about Happiness, Gratitude, and Focus: Still funny (Itzler is hilarious and writes well about his own hilarity), somewhat inspiring, but lots of fun. Not as powerful as Living with a SEAL, but now I know Itzler even better.

The Stone Sky (The Broken Earth Book 3): I listened to N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy on Audible while I’ve been running. This series deserves its own blog post and will get that at some point. I think Jemisin may have moved to the top of my contemporary sci-fi writer list. I realized all I was reading were books by white men, so I found a few non-white women sci-fi writers. Jemisin is a world builder at the level of William Gibson and Neal Stephenson and may even be better than them at this point. It was an incredible series.

Not All Fairy Tales Have Happy Endings: The rise and fall of Sierra On-Line: I still remember playing Mystery House on my Apple ][ and being blown away. I spent hours and hours playing Ultima. I felt naughty when I bought Softporn as a teenager, even though the game wasn’t really porn (or even very salacious.) I didn’t know Roberta and Ken Williams, but as an early Apple ][ aficionado, I bought or pirated everything Sierra On-Line did when I was a teenager. And played them all. Choplifter and Olympic Decathlon got more playtime, but Sierra On-Line had a special place in my heart. I loved this book – Ken Williams doesn’t pull any punches anywhere about Sierra On-Line’s rise and fall. It’s a great entrepreneurial software tale from the 1980s and 1990s.

Too Old to Ultra: When a marathon is just not enough: A quick jolt of inspiration from a bunch of storytelling and some advice from a serious ultrarunner who is older than me.

I wish I’d really taken the beginning of last week off. I feel fresher, but after a very busy Q1, I didn’t get the full vacation I needed. Oh well – such is life. At least it’s springtime.

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Apr 5 2021

Welcome to Spring

It has been a long winter. Really long. From my perspective, winter has been about 17 months, going back to November 2019. The Covid crisis started just as spring 2020 was beginning. As a result, winter continued through the spring, summer, and fall. And then, well, winter …

I took a half-week vacation last week. I planned for a Q1 vacation, but I had some stuff on Monday and some more stuff on Wednesday, so I just decided to start my vacation on Thursday. I went off the grid, had Amy drive me to Superior, and spent Thursday and Friday running in the mountains back to my house in Longmont. I did an easy run on Saturday and then drove to Waterton Canyon early Sunday and went for a long run there. Between runs, I read a bunch of books and napped.

Being outside on the trails cleared my head and let me completely reset. It’s beautiful in Colorado right now, and even though there continues to be a lot of trauma everywhere, I’m letting my paranoid optimist take over and embrace that we finally are once again in springtime, which is my favorite time of year.

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Mar 26 2021

Book: Generation X

Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture is weekend reading for anyone who wants to understand me and my generation.

I was born in 1965 – right at the beginning of the transition from “Boomers” to “Xers.” I’m glad my parents had me in 1965 instead of 1964, where I’d spend my life arguing (maybe with myself) that I’m not a boomer.

A millennial friend of mine didn’t know anything about Generation X, so I sent her a copy of the book. I suppose I was teasing her too much about being a millennial, which was just me mostly being a typical ironic Gen X slacker.

I reread Generation X a few weeks ago, and it held up. The definitions in the margins made me flash back to phrases we used in my early 20s. Douglas Copeland’s brilliant imagination shines throughout. And, at 55, I’ve become comfortable saying “Kids today …” which is what I’m sure my parents (and the boomers) said about me and my generation.

This week sucked emotionally. The Boulder shooting on Monday took the wind completely out of Amy and me. It’s Friday, and I’m winding down for the weekend. Work was intense, so I didn’t have a lot of time to feel my feelings. We were in the car for a while this morning driving back to Boulder from Aspen, so I let myself settle into how I felt. Now that I’m not shocked anymore, the best word I can come up with is “sad.” Very sad.

Grunge is my music. Pessimism abounds in Gen Xers. I’ve adopted the mantle of “paranoid optimist,” which I first heard from Madeleine Albright. At 55, I prefer to be happy and optimistic, but underneath it all is cynicism.

I’m glad to be back in Boulder.

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Mar 25 2021

Processing the Supermarket Shooting in Boulder

Thanks to everyone who sent a note to me in the past few days about the shooting in Boulder on Monday.

10 people murdered in a city of 100,000 people, in a place that I love where I’ve lived since 1995, is an extremely difficult thing for me to process.

On Monday, Amy and I were shocked. On Tuesday, we were both shaken and stunned. The emotions really hit us both on Wednesday.

Last night I went for a long run with some of my favorite childhood music (Pink Floyd). I listened to Dark Side of the Moon, The Final Cut, and half of The Wall before getting back home. I sat in the hot tub for 30 minutes and then went to bed. I woke up this morning feeling a little calmer but still unsettled.

Some of you have asked if there’s anything you can do. The Boulder County Crisis Fund is the best choice. The Community Foundation: Boulder County is partnering with others to support the victims, their families, and our community in dealing with and processing the March 22 supermarket shooting in Boulder. Some of the partners include:

9News, the City of Boulder, The Daily Camera, iHeartMedia, The Colorado Healing Fund, Community First Foundation, The Denver Foundation, Longmont Community Foundation, Rose Community Foundation, Boulder Mennonite Church, Community Church of Lyons, Congregation Bonai Shalom, Congregation Har Hashem, First Congregational Church, First UMC of Lafayette, Islamic Center of Boulder and Westview Church.

If you are up for making a financial contribution to help people out in the crisis, please make a donation to the Boulder County Crisis Fund.

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Mar 24 2021

Book: The Business of Venture Capital

Today’s book recommendation, for anyone interested in venture capital, is The Business of Venture Capital: The Art of Raising a Fund, Structuring Investments, Portfolio Management, and Exits by Mahendra Ramsinghani.

A decade ago, I got a cold email from Mahendra. He was investing in Detroit and eager to write a book about the art and science of venture capital. At the time, Jason and I were just finishing up the 1st edition of Venture Deals: Be Smarter Than Your Lawyer And Venture Capitalist and I was enthusiastic about helping anyone else working on a book that demystified venture capital investing.

I immediately introduced Mahendra to a bunch of Foundry Group LPs, partners, and entrepreneurs. He made progress quickly, and I fondly remember the first edition with the green cover.

Mahendra and I kept in touch. During a book tour for the 1st Edition of Venture Deals, Jason and I visited the University of Michigan. Mahendra cornered me in a hallway and pitched the idea of doing a book together around how a board of directors works at a startup. A few months later, we started working on it.

Startup Boards: Getting the Most Out of Your Board of Directors was released in 2014. Soon thereafter, Mahendra started to work on the second edition of the Business of Venture Capital. Given our recent collaboration, he asked me to write the foreword for the second edition, which was an easy yes for me. The 2nd edition had a blue sky cover and was also released in 2014. In the foreword, I wrote that “VC is a business where each investment teaches you something new – the book provides only a basic framework but each one has the ability to carve a different path in this universe.”

Mahendra recently came out with the 3rd edition of The Business of Venture Capital: The Art of Raising a Fund, Structuring Investments, Portfolio Management, and Exits. It’s now 500 pages and includes much-needed frameworks for culture, diversity, and values that are timely topics when we look at the challenges we have seen in venture capital around gender, race, diversity, and sexual abuse. This time the foreword is from Scott Kapor of A16Z who in 2019 wrote an excellent book on venture capital titled Secrets of Sand Hill Road: Venture Capital and How to Get It.

 

If you have suggestions for the fourth edition, please reach Mahendra at mr “at’ secureoctane.com.

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Mar 23 2021

A Sad and Scary Day In Boulder

A mass shooting happened at a King Soopers on Table Mesa in Boulder Monday afternoon.

Amy and I are safe. So are our friends and family. But 10 people in Boulder, including one police officer, are dead.

The King Soopers was the one that Amy and I shopped at from 1996 – 2014 when we lived in Eldorado Canyon. I’ve been there hundreds of times. It was at the six-mile mark of my ten-mile run to town. Many friends live within minutes of it, including my brother and his family, my partner Chris Moody and his family, Amy’s current assistant Rebecca and her family, and Amy’s prior long-time assistant Naomi and her family.

Amy’s nephew Jason had gotten his groceries there fifteen minutes earlier. A friend of a board member worked there and snuck out the back. So did a neighbor of my brothers.

Whenever something tragic happens, the quick rationalization is “Well, at least that won’t happen here.” Boulder has always felt incredibly safe to me. I won’t even read a popular crime/thriller novelist whose books are set in Boulder because I don’t want anything to damage my calm.

My calm is very damaged right now. I was going to head out for a long run at the end of the day but couldn’t leave the house. I just sat with Amy, while she doom scrolled through Twitter and texted with friends and family. I ate something but don’t remember what it was. Upon reflection, that sounds a little like a shock response to me.

Last night, an endless set of IMs and emails rolled in checking on us. That calmed my nerves a little, to be loved, but I kept realizing how fragile and arbitrary things are. The phrase “the victims are in our thoughts and prayers” is nice, but it seems so inadequate. We find ourselves in 2021, still in a pandemic, with extraordinary heath, financial, and emotional stress everywhere, and then this.

Boulder has been a special place for me and Amy since we moved here in 1995. Evil showed up in our town yesterday.

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