Oct 20 2020

Diversity, Equity, Inclusion Solutions (DEIS) Practicum

On November 5th, from 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM EDT, I’m co-hosting a DEIS Practicum with Rodney Sampson and the OHUB Foundation.

Rodney was one of the dozen Black colleagues I reached out to after George Floyd was murdered. I asked them each the question, “What are two things you are doing to eliminate racism that I can support you with time, network, and money?” If you are a regular reader of this blog, you’ve seen some of the Black colleagues and initiatives I’ve gotten involved with.

Rodney and I have embarked on several projects together. The DEIS Practicum is one of them. We selected “Practicum” rather than “Summit” or “Conference” to signal that this is a “how-to” experience rather than a “why not” event. Our goal is for DEIS to be different from other D&I conferences. 

In Rodney’s words:

  • It is not a conversation to regurgitate the dismal data.
  • It is not a self-centered, philosophical, diversity of thought, no results afterward event.
  • It is not an opportunity for whiteness as a victim.
  • It is not a performative event. No hashtags here.

Instead, we are being intentional about how to support an increasing number of Black board members, founders, CEOs, teams, suppliers, and anti-racist products. DEIS will present practical solutions for startup teams, accelerators, ecosystem builders, investors, and big tech companies.

The agenda (full agenda here) includes the following discussions:

  • DEIS in Corporate Governance & Board
  • DEIS in Human Resources & Talent Acquisition
  • DEIS in Procurement
  • DEIS in Edge Technology Product Development & Corporate Innovation
  • DEIS in Go To Market
  • DEIS in Venture Capital & Investment
  • DEIS in Impact

We chose to do this together right after the election to send a signal around the importance of acting now to actually work together to create change, especially around the economic case for DEI.

Tickets are affordable and all net proceeds from the DEIS Practicum will support OHUB Foundation. Tickets provide access to the entire event and include a copy of the following books.

Amy and I have helped underwrite this event from our Anchor Point Foundation. and I’m providing a copy of my newest book The Startup Community Way for free to all attendees. And, if you’d like to attend but can’t afford it, please drop me an email as some scholarships are available.

Please join us for the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion Solutions (DEIS) Practicum.

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Oct 19 2020

Supporting Sophie’s Neighborhood on World Pediatric Bone & Joint Day

Today, I’m helping amplify a $50,000 fundraiser for Sophie’s Neighborhood as part of World Pediatric Bone & Joint Day. Amy and I just contributed $25,000 so we are effectively matching any contributions dollar for dollar up to $50,000.

Whenever I feel exogenous stress from the world, it helps me lower it by doing something to support someone in need. The #Calwood fires just outside of Boulder that broke out on Saturday added to a pile from 2020 that is beyond anything I’ve experienced in my life.

Boulder is a magnificent city, but there are plenty of challenges for people everywhere. If you’ve eaten at Blackbelly, Santo, Jax Fish House, Dandelion, or Triana (remember Triana?), you probably know Chef Hosea Rosenberg. And you might know his wonderful wife Lauren and their delightful child Sophie.

Sophie has a rare disease called Multicentric carpotarsal osteolysis syndrome (MCTO). It is a skeletal disorder characterized by aggressive osteolysis associated with progressive nephropathy. Basically, serious stuff that is not well understood.

The Rosenberg’s have gone extremely deep on the science of the disease and are supporting a substantial amount of research, including:

  • Cell line development to study the mutation and get a readout on what is going wrong in the gene that is mutated
  • Screen existing drug libraries against the mutation to see if there is an already approved compound or small molecule (or drug undergoing clinical trials) that exists for drug repurposing 
  • Examine proteomic differences caused by the mutation and identify a target protein for the treatment
  • Development of iPS cells specific to Sophie’s variant to try and correct the error using gene-editing technology
  • Study of the molecular mechanisms underlying the disease with a genetically modified MCTO mouse model
  • Database with natural history disease tracking genotypes with disease phenotypes

It’s difficult to get sponsored research for diseases like this, so the Rosenbergs have been raising money to fund this activity.

There’s an extensive webpage if you want to learn more about Sophie’s Neighborhood, MCTO, research ongoing, and close friends supporting this like the indefatigable and remarkable Dr. Larry Gold.

Sophie is still in the “miracle window,” – the time in which her diagnosis is known, but symptoms are not yet very severe. But it is slipping away with each passing day. Funding is essential to continue the work to get closer to discovering or repurposing an effective and life-changing therapeutic.

If you are a Boulderite, have enjoyed any of Chef Hosea’s food at Blackbelly or Santo (or any of the other restaurants he’s worked at in the past), or just want to help try to figure out the cure for this rare disease, please join the fundraiser today and contribute to helping find a cure for MCTO.

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Oct 15 2020

Come Join Us at Foundry Group: Hiring a Head of Network

At Foundry Group, we are hiring a Head of Network. Following is a repost of the overview of the role and why we are adding a Head of Network to our team.

If you are interested in applying, please reach out to us at apply@foundrygroup.com. And please help us get the word out!


We’re looking for a leader to create a more robust, dynamic, and connected network program at Foundry Group. The Foundry Network, as we’ve been calling it, encompasses founders, CEOs, executives, general partners of our underlying venture capital fund investments, limited partners (our investors as well as other investors in the funds we have investments in), and other members of our ecosystem. We regularly bring together members of this community to connect, share, and learn from each other. 

We know we’re just scratching the surface for how powerful this network can be. We’re looking for someone with the vision, background, experience, and skills to help us form the next chapter for The Foundry Network and to continue to grow and adapt how we work with our ecosystem in ways that support and empower our portfolio of companies and VC funds.

ABOUT US
Foundry Group is a venture capital firm that invests in early-stage technology companies and venture fund managers. Our passion is working alongside entrepreneurs to give birth to new technologies and to build those technologies into industry-leading companies. We also seek to leverage our experience and relationships as fund managers to help the next generation of venture firms create industry-leading investment businesses. We invest in companies and funds across North America.

SOME INITIAL THOUGHTS ON THE DETAILS OF THE POSITION
We’ve put a lot of thought into the development of our network and need help taking it into the future. Below are a few ideas we have about this position and the future of The Foundry Network. We’re looking for someone who can help us craft the vision, not just execute on ours. So take this as a rough draft. 

As Head of Network you will participate in our weekly partner meetings and be a member of the senior team, which includes our CFO and General Counsel as well as all of the Foundry Group partners. You’ll have access to and know pretty much everything that’s taking place across The Network and our portfolio. At its core, this role will help strengthen connections between the people with whom we work- we believe strongly in mesh networks, not hub and spoke models. We are also excited to continue to expand The Network and the work we do in this area, such as in talent sourcing, data sharing, and community support. 

We’ve historically engaged our network through active digital communication channels, in-person events, virtual events, webinars, and small group meet-ups. Many of these we’ll likely want to continue. Some we may together decide don’t further our key goals any more and will stop doing. And, most importantly, there are opportunities to expand beyond the base that we’ve created to support our portfolio in new and creative ways. 

A LITTLE ABOUT YOU
It’s hard to put into words exactly what we’re looking for because the right person for this role could come from a number of different professional backgrounds. But there are a few things that we know will be important to success in this role and our firm culture. 

This is a relationship-centric role and we are looking for someone who has a demonstrated aptitude for building and maintaining professional relationships. You have built your own network and are driven by helping others succeed and connecting the dots between people and companies. You have connections in and around the tech industry and have interacted with executives at a senior level in prior jobs and experiences.

At Foundry, we are not top-down managers. Our Head of Network will need to be comfortable working independently and own this core functionality of our business You will be included in and supported by the core team, but the role is primarily self-directed. While we will provide input and help you understand our goals for The Network, there is a lot of room for creativity and expansion. 

In addition to creativity and vision, the ability to execute and achieve high-quality outputs are imperative for success in this role. Every senior role at Foundry – including our partners – is an individual contributor. We work collaboratively and in close coordination with one-another, but we do our own work and, while we have people on board to help with implementing events, much of the work of the Head of Network will be not just coming up with ideas, but seeing them through personally. 

We live by a #givefirst mentality at Foundry, and we hope you can show us how you’ve done the same. 

Finally, we want to be clear that this role isn’t a pathway to an investment role at Foundry. We want you to be excited about this role and this position. We think it’s a great opportunity to work alongside us as we continue to build out the Foundry Network.

EXPERIENCE
There is not one particular background that fits this role and we are open to candidates across the board. Given the autonomy of the role, we believe an individual with at least 7 years of professional work experience and who has previously held a senior level role will thrive. We’re focused on how your experiences drive your interest in this position and how they will contribute to your success in this role and at Foundry.

SOME DETAILS
Our firm is based in Boulder, but we’re open to you living anywhere, so long as (once travel resumes) you’re able to be here from time to time (most of our in person events are in Boulder, for example). This is a senior position and will be compensated as such. Additionally, we offer a generous benefits package (fully paid health insurance, along with a number of other benefits). 

Foundry Group is an equal opportunity employer. We strongly encourage and seek applications from candidates of all backgrounds and identities, across race, color, ethnicity, national origin or ancestry, citizenship, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, veteran status, martial status, pregnancy or parental status, or disability. We are committed to creating a supportive and inclusive workplace. 

NEXT STEPS
If you’ve read this post and think, “this is me!”, we’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to be creative and choose a medium that allows you to express yourself and give us a sense for whether you are a fit for this role. To apply, please contact us at apply@foundrygroup.com. We’d love to hear from you by the end the day on Friday, November 6, 2020 if you’d like to be considered.

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Oct 14 2020

A $25K Matching Gift To Boost Entrepreneurship in Kansas City Through Storytelling

Today, Amy and I are announcing a matching gift from our Anchor Point Foundation to the Startland News’ Give A Start donor campaign. We will match any contributions from this point forward, up to $25,000.

Since 2015, Startland News has helped Kansas City entrepreneurs shout their triumphs from the rooftops — a critical piece of storytelling as the local startup community evolves beyond good ideas written on napkins to the home of powerhouse startups and nine-figure exits.

Startland News is part of Startland, formerly the Kansas City Startup Foundation, and is a community-building 501(c)3 nonprofit activating a thriving and inclusive culture of innovation in Kansas City through stories, experiences, and talent.

A thriving startup community also explores its failures, the ongoing challenges plaguing entrepreneurs, and how innovators not only can learn from them but also accelerate past the roadblocks to success. Startland News has been unafraid to identify and confront these issues and grow along with its ecosystem. When the nonprofit newsroom recognized the economic and racial inequity represented in its coverage of mainstream entrepreneurs, it expanded the scope of stories to include more innovators from outside the world of high-growth, high-tech startups and actively opened its platform for the voices of diverse risk-takers, creatives, makers, and small businesses.

While the Covid crisis has been eating up the headlines in 2020, nearly half of the year’s more than 360 Startland News stories have featured underserved or underestimated entrepreneurs — all while the digital publication continues to focus on the city’s latest tech and startup developments.

Equity in startup communities will be a concern for years to come. Still, the solution begins with tangible action to increase access to entrepreneurship and the support and resources that abound in a healthy ecosystem.

In The Startup Community Way, Ian and I discuss storytelling as a factor that helps shape outcomes and included a sidebar on the Startland News story as an example for other startup communities worldwide. Pairing storytelling with diversity only makes that rooftop shouting more clear and compelling.

While I no longer have a house in Kansas City, I have a deep affection for the city, as it has played an important role in my own entrepreneurial journey, starting with a major software project in the early 1990s for a client of Feld Technologies and accelerating with monthly trips in 1994 to work with The Kauffman Foundation on various projects. 

Like many non-profit (and for-profit) organizations, 2020 has been a challenging year. Join me in helping Startland News give a start to more innovators in the Kansas City area.

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Oct 13 2020

Definition of #GiveFirst

Jaclyn Hester, one of my Foundry Group partners, recently asked if there was an online definition of #GiveFirst. I spent some time looking around, and, while it’s embedded in numerous podcasts and video interviews, I couldn’t find a clear definition on the web. The closest I found was from January 1, 2013, in a post titled Give Before You Get.

#GiveFirst first appeared as “Give Before You Get” in my book Startup Communities published in 2012. It was turned into the #GiveFirst hashtag by someone at Techstars around 2014. I updated it in the 2nd Edition of Startup Communities (2e) which was published in 2020. I also defined it in The Startup Community Way, also published in 2020.

The definition, from The Startup Community Way, follows:

#GiveFirst means you are willing to put energy into a relationship or a system without defining the transactional parameters. However, it’s not altruism because you expect to get something. But you don’t know when, from whom, in what form, in what consideration, or over what time frame. 

While I generally use #GiveFirst to refer to the idea, it often shows up at “Give First.” It’s become the official mantra of Techstars, and there’s even a podcast called Give First.

It’s a deeply held personal philosophy of mine. However, it’s not a static idea, and I’ve been thinking a lot about both the positives and negatives of it lately. But, for now, if you are looking for a definitive definition circa 2020, here it is.

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Oct 12 2020

RIP Larry Nelson

Larry Nelson, a very close friend, passed away on Friday.

If you don’t know Larry, he was a super positive participant in the Boulder and the Denver startup communities for many years. He and his wife Pat produced w3w3.com well before podcasts were trendy (Larry and Pat referred to it as “Internet Talk Radio.”) I always thought of Larry and Pat as the encouraging storytellers of the Boulder and the Denver startup communities.

Going back to some time in the late 1990s, Larry and Pat started showing up at every event I can remember participating in, which were a lot. I’d be doing a thing and there was Larry and Pat, with their cameras and their microphones. They took it all in, took tons of photos, and always wrote up interesting stuff about what was going on.

Larry was a master interviewer before everyone in tech started being a podcast host or a podcast guest. “This is Larry Nelson of w3w3.com” sticks in my mind. I enjoyed my interviews with Larry – he always made me laugh, made me feel loved, and brought out good stories. He was relentless and tireless in a way that made me say yes to everything he asked.

At some point, I started spending some social time with Larry and Pat. I introduced them to my parents, who became good friends with them. Everyone I knew liked them and welcomed them wherever they went. Over time, I (and many others) started calling Larry “Lord Nelson.” I can’t remember where the nickname came from, but my greeting to him went as follows.

Brad: Hey Lord Nelson, how are you today?

Larry: Magnificent!

I never, ever got tired of that greeting.

Larry became ill recently and ended up in the hospital. I talked to him several times a week for the past few weeks, checking in on him, laughing, and hearing him respond to my greeting with “Magnificent!” even though I knew he was suffering.

Larry – I love you. I will miss you. But I will think of you often. You were a magnificent human.

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Oct 5 2020

Fundraiser for the Energize Colorado Gap Fund on October 8th

$135 million.

That is the amount that over 5,600 Colorado small businesses requested from the Energize Colorado Gap Fund in our first three weeks of open applications. 

According to the SBA, small businesses in Colorado employ more than 1.1 million Coloradans, almost half of the state’s private workforce. 90% of the applicant pool came from one or more of the Gap Fund’s priority groups: BIPOC, women, veteran-owned, or companies in rural Colorado. 

We anticipated that the demand for the Gap Fund would be massive and that we needed to provide a model that could offer a sustainable path through the post-Covid economic recovery. To that end, the Gap Fund provides a combination of grant and loan funds to recipients. We are using a Program Related Investment (PRI) model to offer ultra low-interest loans and guarantee repayment to our loan partners. We pair the PRI with philanthropic donations to cover the overhead and expected losses from running the ultra low-interest loan program. As a result, our financial model creates a 5x multiplier on grant dollars.

We need your help to meet the need and to maintain our commitment to rebuilding a statewide economy that is more inclusive and more resilient. On October 8th at 5:30 pm MST, I’m co-hosting a virtual fundraiser with my good friends Governor Jared Polis, Gap Fund Chair Kent Thiry, and Energize Colorado’s CEO, Wendy Lea. While we’ve raised over $25 million to date, we are looking to raise another $25 million. While we have a PRI contribution minimum of $50K, we accept donations at any level to help fuel our ability to provide loans to small businesses in need.  

If you’re available, please register here to join us as part of the effort to help small businesses in Colorado navigate and emerge stronger from the Covid crisis.

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Sep 13 2020

Are You Spending Your Weeks The Way You Want To?

Amy has a birthday coming up. We spent some time this morning talking about her next year. Since the two of us are together all day every day, we also discussed how I’m spending my time over the upcoming year that begins at her birthday.

A few hours later, I stumbled upon Your Life in Weeks on Wait But Why, one of my favorite blogs. The following are the number of weeks (measured in boxes) that a typical 90-year-old human has on this planet.

Think you have all 90 years worth of boxes? Here’s some perspective.

Don’t want to think in weeks? Ok, let’s scope it down to months.

When you look at it this way, there aren’t that many. Go back to the weeks. When you look at the upcoming week, are you happy about how you are spending your time? How about this month (yeah, we are almost halfway through September already.)

Fortunately, Tim (who writes Wait But Why) sells a handy-dandy Life Calendar (by weeks), so you can sit down and sketch your own out thoughts. I just bought several and expect I know what Amy and I will be doing together for some of next Saturday.

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Sep 11 2020

Denver Startup Week 2020

Denver Startup Week, the largest startup week in the world, happens next week. In the time of Covid, it’s virtual, so I hope we attract a lot of people from all over the world.

I’m involved in a bunch of stuff this year, which I’ll list below, but I want to highlight a few specific events, including the Keynote Kickoff with Robert Smith of Vista Equity Partners who grew up in Denver. He will be doing a fireside chat with Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock.

There is a large effort around Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Listen to a short overview with Dianne Myles.

Following are the specific events I’m involved in.

Monday, September 14th from 11:00-12 noon MT – Innovation Author Showcase: The Art of Writing a Book

Tuesday, September 15th from 11:00-12 noon MT – Individual Author Showcase: ‘The Startup Community Way’ with Brad Feld

Tuesday, September 15th from 1:00-2:00pm MT – Startup Communities, Complex Systems, Wicked Problems, and the Entrepreneur’s Journey: Brad Feld (Foundry Group & Techstars), Cheryl Kellond (Apostrophe Health), and Tom Higley (X Genesis & 10.10.10) talk about “complex systems,” startup communities, and wicked problems – and what they’ve learned about how entrepreneurs succeed.

Tuesday, September 15th from 5:30pm-6:30pm MT – COVIDTECH: Colorado’s COVID Response
– Brad Feld, Innovation Response Volunteers
– Sarah Tuneberg, COVIDtech Executive Product Owner, CDPHE
– Christen Lara, COVIDtech Product Manager, CDPHE
– Kris Kiburz, IT Director for CDPHE
– Moderator: Stephanie Cain, Colorado Digital Service
+ Pre-recorded opening remarks by Governor Jared Polis

Wednesday, September 16th from 3:45 – 5:15pm MT – Energize Colorado – Helping Prepare Small Businesses for the New Economy
– Panelists: Brad Feld, Danielle Shoots, Erik Mitisek, & Marc Nager
– Moderator: Wendy Lea

Friday, September 18th from 10:00-11:00am MT – Mental Health Fireside with Brad Feld and Dave Morin: Dave is Co-Founder & Executive Chairman of Sunrise whose mission is to cure depression, reduce suffering, and understand the brain. Focused on bringing together science, technology, medicine, spirituality, philosophy, and design to revolutionize how humanity experiences all forms of depression.

Come join us for some of these, or any of the other hundreds of events at Denver Startup Week 2020.

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Sep 10 2020

Book: Portrait of Resilience

Daniel Jackson created a magnificent book. It’s a combination of three things: 1) Extraordinary personal stories about 2) The struggle with mental health, anxiety, and depression while 3) at MIT.

MIT is a foundational part of my life. I spent seven years there. I got into graduate school in my fourth year and got into a Ph.D. program in my fifth year. I also started three companies while I was there – the first failed after my sophomore year, the second failed after my junior year, but the third turned into Feld Technologies, which was my first successful company.

I vividly remember my first major depressive episode. It was 1990. My first marriage had fallen apart. My company was doing fine, but I was bored with the work. I knew my Ph.D. journey was doomed, but I hadn’t accepted it yet.

While I had theoretically experienced failure, none had felt very personal up to this point. When I flashback to MIT undergraduate failure, it was dropping out of courses like 18.701, which I had no business taking when I did. Or it was getting a 20 on my first 8.01 test, only to find out a few days later that class average was a 32.

But the failures in 1990 were real and personal. I had a fantasy about my first marriage, which was also my first adult relationship (which had started in high school.) My divorce obliterated that fantasy. I had created a narrative about myself, if only in my head, that I was an overachiever at the youngest possible age – my company, my Ph.D., my marriage. When the second of those, the Ph.D. blew up, a deep depression ensued.

I was lucky – I had three people in my life who showed up for me in profound ways. The first was my Ph.D. advisor, Eric von Hippel, who protected me from the worst of what could have been the emotional fallout from MIT while providing me with the best he could as a paternalist-non-parent. The next was my now wife, Amy Batchelor, who knew I was depressed, called it out, and encouraged and supported me through understanding what was going on. Finally, my business partner, Dave Jilk, showed up as a partner every day. I don’t think he understood what I was going through or what to do, but what he did was what I needed.

That was almost 30 years ago.

Depression can be a fiendishly challenging thing that some us call the black dog. Today, when it shows up, I pet it on the head, talk nicely to it, and encourage it to find somewhere else to play. But, for a while in my 20s, it took up residence in my dark, opaque box, which spent a lot of time in a 24,000 cubic foot apartment at 15 Sleeper Street and eventually migrated to 127 Bay State Road. At some point, the black dog got bored of that apartment and went somewhere else for a while.

Reading this book made me wish this book existed then. I remember feeling incredibly alone at MIT, in Boston, and the world. Once I acknowledged to myself that I was depressed, I knew I wasn’t the only person in the world who was depressed. But I was so terrified about it and felt so much stigma and shame around my depression that I built a dark, opaque box around myself and only let a few people in during that time. If this book had existed, I would have looked at the photos, read the stories, and realized both that I wasn’t alone and that I eventually could be ok.

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