Apr 18 2019

Reflections on Board Members By Some Great Ones

I spent the past few days in Tokyo at the Kauffman Fellows Annual Summit. Over the past five years, there has been a large increase globally in the number of venture capitalists and people interested in becoming VCs. As a result, an organization like Kauffman Fellows is more important than ever as it helps build an incredible community of the next generation of VCs to learn from each other.

In the mid-1990s, I learned how to be a board member by sitting on a lot of boards, learning from other experienced board members, and making a lot of mistakes. I still make a lot of mistakes (that’s that nature of venture capital, and of life in general), but I like to believe that I’m a much more effective board member than I was 25 years ago. That said, I still have my bad days and walk out of a board meeting feeling unsettled for one reason or another.

Recently, Mark Suster, Fred Wilson, and Seth Levine each wrote excellent posts on how to be a good board member. Each post is worth reading from beginning to end carefully.

Mark Suster: How to Be a Good Board Member

Fred Wilson: How To Be A Good Board Member

Seth Levine wrote a five post series: Designing the Ideal Board Meeting

I especially love Fred’s punch line, which I strongly agree with.

Which leads me to my rule for being a good board member.

It comes down to one word.

Care.

If you care, really care, deeply care, like the way a parent cares for a child, you will be a good board member.”

If you are a board member (or interact with a board as part of a leadership team) and want to go even deeper on this, I encourage you to grab a copy of my book Startup Boards: Getting the Most Out of Your Board of Directors

And, if you are having a board meeting that I’m a part of, take a look at my post from 2014 if you want hints about My Ideal Board Meeting.

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Apr 16 2019

That Day When Your VC Tells You She Is Leaving Her Firm

There are some blog posts that every entrepreneur should read.

Hunter Walk at Homebrew recently wrote one of them.

It’s titled Oh Shit, Your VC Just Quit Her Fund! What a Good CEO Should Do Next.

He covers three cases:

  • Bullish aka You Are Absolutely Killing It
  • Written You Off
  • Too Early To Tell – Some Good Stuff, Some Challenges But A Lot To Do

The real gold in this post is in the Too Early To Tell category. Hunter has a great lead in:

Here’s where I think founders and cap tables should be more proactive. The default is to let the firm assign another person at the fund (hopefully a GP) and then just keep working on the plan of record as if nothing changed. My experience suggests this will be neutral to negative long term, unless you end up in the “killing it” camp by next fundraise.”

Hunter’s notion that founders and the CEO should be proactive here is right on the money.

At Foundry, we periodically load balance our boards. This is a different phenomenon than the one Hunter is talking about, although we’ve learned to be clearer about what we are doing when we are doing it. I recall a personal low point when a founder/CEO who is a close friend asked to go for a walk and started the conversation with “You could have told me that you were leaving my board in a more graceful way than a one paragraph email.” Very true.

The lesson once again is things change, communicate clearly, and be proactive.

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Apr 12 2019

Formlabs Form 3, 3L, and Digital Factory

Formlabs Digital Factory is happening on May 7th, 2019. If you are into 3D printers, this is shaping up to be a key event of 2019. The speaker list is epic and one you don’t want to miss.

Yeah – there’s more …

Formlabs also recently released two new printers – the Form 3 and the Form 3L. The Form 3 is impressive on its own, but the Form 3L is five times the build platform and double the laser power.

Formlabs Digital Factory is for anyone interested in 3D printing. And, if you are already a Formlabs customer, the Formlabs User Summit is the next day, on May 8th, 2019.

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Apr 4 2019

Entrepreneurship For All in Longmont, Colorado

Amy and I recently decided to support Entrepreneurship for All (EforAll) and their national expansion to Colorado through our Anchor Point Foundation.

EforAll’s mission is to accelerate economic development and social impact through inclusive entrepreneurship in emerging communities. They are focused on fostering small business development and entrepreneurial activity amongst under-networked and under-resourced populations in communities that have been traditionally overlooked for economic investment.

The decision to support EforAll was easy for us as they focus on two distinct issues that we care about: building entrepreneurial ecosystems and supporting underserved entrepreneurs. Their metrics speak for themselves as their entrepreneurs have been: 57% unemployed or underemployed (when they started the program); 70% female;  41% immigrant; and/or 55% minority.

They also locate their programs outside, but near, communities that are traditional hubs for entrepreneurship. In Massachusetts (where they are based), they run programs in cities like Lawrence, MA, and Lowell, MA – both recovering factory/mill towns that lost their economic driver years ago when most of the factories closed down. In these two cities, EforAll has launched more than 130 small businesses and startups which have created almost 400 jobs in the community. 

While there’s been tremendous growth in Colorado, it has been uneven across the state. We believe the importance of investing in the types of entrepreneurs and communities that EforAll works with is crucial, especially as the wealth inequality gap in our country continues to grow.

I’m particularly excited that EforAll has decided to launch their first Colorado site in Longmont. I’d like to invite you to come to an event on April 17th from 8:00am-9:30am with the Longmont Community Foundation to learn more about EforAll. It’s being held at the Xilinx Retreat Center (behind Xilinx Main Building).

If you are interested in getting involved or supporting the effort, email Harris Rollinger who is the Executive Director of EforAll Colorado.

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Apr 3 2019

Feminist Lab Symposium at CU Boulder #feministlabs

On April 17th and 18th, the “What Is a Feminist Lab?” Symposium will take place at the University of Colorado Boulder.

It is co-organized by Maya Livio, Lori Emerson, and Thea Lindquist. The event will examine the recent proliferation of labs, survey the lab landscape, and explore ways in which intersectional feminist approaches can be integrated into labs and the work they do.

While I won’t be in town, the speaker list looks awesome. If this is a topic you are interested in, send the organizers an email to get involved.

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Apr 2 2019

Direction You Look is the Direction You Go

A friend from a long time ago, who I hadn’t heard from in a while, sent me an email with a wonderful nugget in it.

I just got back from Oahu and had an interesting experience on Waikiki Beach.   My son and I were boogie boarding and there were several people taking surfing lessons out in the waves with instructors. As the intrepid beginners got up on their boards and surfed one of their first waves, the instructors would invariably be shouting directives to them.

One of them was, “Direction you look is the direction you go!”

I was wrestling with this last night at life dinner with Amy. I am still Nev’s spell, so my brain only partially belongs to me right now. We were talking about where we were going, both literally (as in “should we do an upcoming trip next week”) but more importantly, figuratively.

Our best life dinners are the ones where we talk about the direction we are heading in, why we are heading there, and if we want to head there. We generally get a little time each month on the first day of the month to discuss this; last night it consumed almost all of the conversation, at least when I wasn’t sneezing.

While this conversation is often fun, it’s occasionally difficult. Last night was a mix, as I realized there was lots of different places I was looking at, which was preventing me from going toward one of them. And, the ones that I most wanted to go to weren’t getting many looks.

Anyone who plays sports knows this metaphor well. But it’s equally as good as a metaphor for one’s professional and personal life.

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Apr 1 2019

Public Service Announcement: Don’t Look at the Web Today

I used to think April Fools Day was interesting. Companies and people brought out clever web jokes, many of them subtle and almost believable. Some were entertaining, some were cringeworthy, but few were offensive.

Now, the whole thing is just extraordinarily annoying. Maybe it’s because I’m getting old and crabby. It could be because of my friend Nev who has taken up residence in my brain. It’s possible that it makes me feel like my tech news feeds have been invaded by the same kind of endless nonsense that now invades all other news feeds.

Or maybe it’s just easier to skip a day on the web, let people do whatever they are going to do, and pick it up on again on April 2nd.

In the meantime, if you want to play the classic game of Snake, Google Maps has you covered today.

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Mar 31 2019

The Crash

I woke up this morning with my eyes glued shut. That was pretty disorienting. I wasn’t a character in a Dean Koontz novel, but I was relieved when I realized that I had conjunctivitis, as I’m not sure what I would have done if my eyes were sewn shut with fishing line.

After I sorted myself out, I remembered that I was supposed to be running the Knoxville Marathon today. I would have been just finishing up when I woke up, so I had a wave a sadness come over me. I took a long shower, letting the hot water run down my face, with a fantasy that it would wash away all the goo (both current and future) in my eyes.

It’s late in the afternoon in Boulder and I’ve taken two naps today. Neither were pretty – they were both sweaty, emotional, dream-filled messes with plenty of eye goo involved. I’m loaded up on Tylenol, but the pounding in my sinuses is unrelenting. I’m not able to take decongestants/antihistamines anymore, as they wreak unpleasant havoc on a part of me completely unrelated to what they are supposed to help with.

This cold came on hard on Tuesday. I haven’t been sick all winter and have felt good since November after a summer of physical misery that ended with a 60-day course of Cipro, ensuring that an enormous amount of bacteria in me – both the good kind and the bad kind – was very dead.

I know that I’m a whiny sick person. I also know that being sick tilts me toward depression. I’m lucky that Amy knows this also and takes amazing care of me when I’m sick.

I’ve felt a crash coming since Friday. I’ve been grinding through the work that I have, some of which has deadlines before I go on vacation in a week. I know I can tell the deadline enforcers that I’m sick and things will have to wait a few weeks, but then I’ll just have a bigger pile of backed up stuff to do, which just feels like an awful additional burden. And yes, I realize I’m procrastinating by writing this blog post, but I am also waiting for the full function version of Adobe Acrobat to download since I need to use it to edit the Adobe files I’m sending back to Wiley soon.

I know that every human being gets sick on a periodic basis. I also know that this particular cold (which I call Nev – Nasty Evil Virus), which has morphed into a cold + bacterial infection, is minor compared to what most people encounter on their time on this planet. I also know that my resources make it even easier for me to deal with something like this.

When I reflect on this, I still feel shitty, but I have context for how I feel. We all have periodic crashes of different levels of severity (and one that has ultimate finality), but that doesn’t make it any easier to work through the moment.

And yes, I’m looking very forward to my vacation.

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Mar 30 2019

Book: Catch and Kill

I wasn’t able to sleep last night, so after doing the final copy edit on Do More Faster 2nd Edition, I started reading J.D. Lasica’s new book Catch and Kill: A high-tech conspiracy thriller. My brain was toast and my head was full of dripping dead virus goo, so I hoped some good mental floss would help pass the time.

I finally crawled into bed at about 3am after reading about half of the book. Today was supposed to be the emotional warm up for the Knoxville Marathon. Instead, it has been a lay on the coach, read, doze, read some more, get up and do some work with Amy on the final copy edit of Venture Deals 4th Edition, and read some more.

Instead of a marathon weekend, this has turned into a book weekend. It’s gloomy outside and I’m still fighting with Nev (Mr. Nasty Evil Virus), so as the cliche goes, Catch and Kill has been just what the doctor ordered.

Lasica does a great job of world-building in the near future, weaving together high-tech and super evil bad guy billionaires, a mysterious fantasy island, efforts to undermine and transform the geopolitical superstructure, and authoritarians who just want more, more, more.

The protagonist, Kaden Baker, is everything one wants in a kick ass 23-year-old female character who saves the world, but almost dies trying. Several times. Oh, and she saves her half-sister (who she didn’t know about) and her dad (who she also didn’t know about), along with a bunch of other people.

There were lots of twists and turns along the way and Lasica keeps the pace up throughout the entire book. Some day, when I write a sci-fi novel, I will credit Lasica, along with Eliot Peper, William Hertling, Daniel Suarez, and many others as my inspirations.

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Mar 30 2019

Techstars MetLife Looking for Companies Addressing Mental Health

I’ve been open about my journey with depression and the importance of addressing and destigmatizing issues around mental health. So I was excited that one of our Techstars programs – the MetLife Digital Accelerator powered by Techstars – is looking closely at mental health startups for their 2019 class. If you’re a founder innovating in the mental health market, I encourage you to apply for this program.

The MetLife Digital Accelerator powered by Techstars is focused on insurtech startups. MetLife and Techstars managing director Mee-Jung Jang are defining insurtech broadly, and mental health is a key area of focus. They are looking at all types of mental health startups in their search including ones helping individuals improve their everyday mental fitness, using data to better assess and predict serious mental health conditions, and providing easier access to care at the moment of need.

Over half of all humans will experience a major mental health challenge in their lifetime. Yet, mental health still carries a stigma, and many people suffer silently including our coworkers, friends, and family. The startup journey is immensely difficult, so the quiet sufferers include many entrepreneurs. Mental health startups that take advantage of new technologies and data could have a huge positive impact by solving these problems.

The MetLife Digital Accelerator powered by Techstars recruits globally and is stage agnostic. Founders in this program have unique access to the resources of both Techstars and MetLife, a Fortune 50 company with over 100 million customers worldwide in nearly 50 countries and serving 90 of the Fortune 100 as their clients in the US.

If you’re a founder of a mental health startup, I encourage you to request office hours with managing director Mee-Jung Jang with this form and follow her on twitter to keep posted on her startup recruiting tour. Or, just apply now as applications are open until April 7th.

I’m excited to see which mental health companies get accepted into the MetLife Digital Accelerator powered by Techstars.

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