Brad Feld

Month: March 2006

It’s the last day of the quarter and eerily quiet in my office.  I’ve received very feel emails (and no phone calls) from CEOs of the companies I work with.  Since I talked with a number of them yesterday, I know this means that they are busting their butts to drag the last few deals of the quarter across the goal line before this Friday ends.  Good.

Following is an email I sent to Seth mid-afternoon.

I’ve heard this three times today.  It’s got to be the current cliche.  Gross.

I was referring to the phrase “technology companies are bought not sold.”  This unquestionably belongs on Fred Wilson’s VC Cliche of the Week post.  While Fred didn’t have a cliche post on it, he did have a post in early 2004 that linked to Ed Sim talking about it.

Now – there’s nothing wrong with the statement – it’s very relevant and often true.  However, it’s starting to feel like an “honestly, to tell you the truth” type thing (whenever someone says this I immediately become suspicious.)  When someone is trying to make a point, the tired old cliche that is being thrown around like a worn out tennis ball that my dogs have been chewing on doesn’t really do it for me.

Ah – snarkiness off.  Time for bed.

CinemaNow Gets Blogging

Mar 30, 2006
Category Writing

I got the following email from today.


Thanks for posting comments regarding CinemaNow on

With regards to the comments about pricing/Netflix towards the end of the review; just wanted to take the time to let you know that we are working as hard as we can to provide our customers with the best experience possible. We are working to try to convince the studios that there IS a market out there for this kind of consumption of video, but ultimately they own the rights to their libraries, and dictate how/when/where/why regarding the distribution of their titles. Your review, and the comments of more consumers helps us greatly in this cause!

I’d like to provide you with a couple of coupon codes for you and/or your IT guy Ross to use towards your next rental on our website for taking the time to review us so extensively.

Impressive.  Of course, I forwarded the coupons to Ross.

Amish Drag Race

Mar 30, 2006

Slate has an outstanding article on a great Powerade ad you won’t find on TV.  The ad itself is worth looking at, but the story is even more interesting.  Thanks to Matt Branaugh – the Business Editor at the Boulder Daily Camera (who is rapidly getting blogging religion) for pointing it out to me.

On Thursday April 6, 2006, I’m on a panel at the final Silicon Flatirons conference called “Re-examining The Patent System.”  The conference is from 3:30 to 7:30.  My panel – titled “The Uses and Abuses of Intellectual Property: Facilitating Startups or Entry Barrier?” – is from 5:50 to 6:50.  My co-panelists are Steve Halsteadt (Managing Director, Centennial Ventures), Tom McGimpsey (General Counsel, McData), and Steve Rodgers (Director of Litigation, Intel). 

If you happen to be in Boulder and like this kind of thing, please join us.

Sarah Arnquist just wrote an article for Gelf Magazine titled “Could a treadmill / desk mashup be the solution to America’s obesity problem?”  She apparently stumbled up my Treadputer post and interviewed me for the article.  Even though she quoted me as saying “As a venture capitalist, Feld sees a definite market for ‘treadputers,’” please don’t send me a business plan for one of these contraptions.  However, if you can figure out how to make a portable one that I can travel with, give me a call, as I sure wished I had one with me today.

I stumbled upon a new program online put together by USA Track & Field (USATF) called America’s Running Routes.  It’s a neat web app that uses Google Maps and a nice user-interface to let runners everywhere build a database of running routes throughout the country.  I don’t know when they launched it, but it already has over 15,000 routes in the United States.

I tried it out by checking for runs in Seattle (where I’ll be for the next few days.)  Seattle had 203 routes.  I’ll actually be in Redmond, which had 18 routes ranging from 2.69 miles to 21.79 miles.  Map creation is simple – it’d be super neat if it integrated with my Garmin 301.

I received the following question last week:

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the manner in which VCs should hold their entrepreneurs accountable – what should be the proper measures.  Most VCs with which I have experience rightly, I think, avoid making this a numbers-only analysis, as that’s a better measure for larger and more steady-state organizations but not for young and growing companies.  Wondering what your thoughts are here and if you’ve seen anything out there which addresses these points – entrepreneurs should be held accountable, they shouldn’t get a pass simply because “it’s too early” “we’re building value that’s not yet measurable” “numbers don’t matter” etc., but then again, applying ready-to-wear and traditional metrics probably doesn’t work well either.

I’ve always found that quantitative accountability – while difficult in a young company – is critical.  However, I’d add a simple thought – the quantitative accountability must be flexible and the time units used for measurement should be both short and long.

Flexible is a key word here.  Every early stage company I’ve ever invested in had some sort of a budget.  When companies are pre-revenue, they are often very proud of making their budget – which usually means “I have no revenue and I spent less then I said I would spend.”  While this is good, it can be myopic as there are times when it makes sense to spend more then you said you would spend.  Here’s where short and long come into play.  Imagine that you had an annual budget.  On day 1, you’ve got a pretty good idea of how much you are going to spend in the first month.  However, it’s unlikely that you really know how much you should (not are going to – “should”) spend in the eleventh month.  A twelve month expense budget for a raw startup company is too long – too many things will change.  Hence the notion of “short.”

However, many (almost all) companies take longer to develop than expected.  For many companies that I’ve funded, in the “good case”, the revenue curve in year three looks like what they expected the revenue curve in year two to look like.  In a number of these companies, the year three revenue ramp was still very satisfying.  However, if I’d taken a two year view, I would have said the company was failing.  Hence the notion of “long.”

I think if you mix these ideas together – keeping flexible while recognizing that your perspective should often be shortened or lengthened – you can actually use many traditional quantitative measures to hold entrepreneurs accountable.  Of course, the magic is in the application of the modifiers – namely flexibility, longness, and shortness.

I can’t wait until July.  Amy and I spend a big chunk of the summer at our house in Homer, Alaska.  We only have about 5,000 other people hanging around (it surges to about 10,000 at the high point of summer.)  Up until now, most people that I mention Homer to say “huh?”  Men’s Journal just determined that Homer, Alaska is the #1 Up and Coming city in the US (runners up are Newport, VT; Logan, UT; Walla Walla, WA; and Gualala, CA.)  Now – I’m not sure this is a good thing – Amy’s immediate reaction to hearing this was  “well, I guess we need to move to Cordova or Kotzebue now to get away from the coming hordes.”

My favorite quote from the article follows:

“It just doesn’t feel like the lower 48,” says Katie Bennett, a local sea-kayaking guide and drop-dead gorgeous, unmarried blonde. “You can still work hard and get a piece of the American dream.” Campbell, meanwhile, points out a different sense of possibility: the weird abundance of smart, beautiful women like Bennett. “There aren’t a lot of great guys here,” he says. “If you can hold a conversation and not just stare at their boobs, you do pretty well.”

That kind of says it all.  Do me a favor – ignore this article and go visit the California place instead.