Brad Feld

Month: October 2006

Shift Happens

Oct 30, 2006
Category Random

Education in Colorado is a well known “issue” for anyone that lives here.  While our current (and soon to be previous) political leadership (e.g. the governor’s office) hasn’t done much, a number of incredibly hard working and dedicated people – such as my good friend Jared Polis – have thrown themselves deeply into the challenge of trying to improve the education system in Colorado.

Lisa Reeves of SAP – who happens to live in Boulder – send me two great things last week.  The first is a remarkable blog called The Fischbowl which is spearheaded by Karl Fisch – the Director of Technology at Arapahoe High School.  It’s an awesome example of how blogging can be used to in a high school.  In addition to Karl’s blog, Lisa send me a superb presentation that everyone should click through and ponder.  My favorite slide segment is “Name this Country:

  • Richest in the World
  • Largest Military
  • Center of world business and finance
  • Strongest education system
  • World center of innovation and invention
  • Currency the world standard of value
  • Highest standard of living

The answer is – England – in 1900.  Sound familiar all you American’s out there?  The presentation ends delightfully with “shift happens” which – of course – is where we started.

As I pried my eyes open with toothpicks this morning due to my fatigue from yesterday’s lousy run, I looked forward to another week.  Monday’s usually bring lots of fun little tidbits since people crank out a long thoughtful blog on Sunday night and the local papers usually run their major tech interest stories Monday morning.  A couple of my friends / investments showed up.

  • Me.dium: Matt Branaugh of the Daily Camera profiled Me.dium – one of the Boulder-companies I’ve invested in that is going after my poorly named “dynamics of information” problem (a free blog post and mention to someone that comes up with a better name for “dynamics of information.”)  I’m having a ton of fun with Me.dium – I just made myself “visible to all” so anyone that installs it can see where I’m surfing at any moment in time.
  • Being 25 Again – Sort of: Scott Converse – the CEO of ClickCaster – has a long rant on what it’s like to be in your 40’s and starting up a new company.
  • Fred’s Kids and His Slingbox: Fred Wilson’s family is a consumer of products from companies I’ve invested in.  They love their hand-me-down Sidekicks, rock out to Guitar Hero, and will soon be enjoying TV via their Slingbox.

I can’t wait for Halloween.  I have some surprises for my friends that I’m going to see on Tuesday.  Plus – I expect I’ll get to overload on chocolate and not feel guilty.

My run today was abysmal.  It’s been beautiful in Boulder the past few days (high of 75 yesterday) and I was looking forward to a great run to town, followed by a massage, and then a hang out at a friend’s house to watch the Broncos lose. 

It’s 13.5 miles from my house to Boulder.  It usually takes me about four miles to get in a groove on a run like this, although by mile two I’m usually loosening up and feeling happy.  As I hit the Mesa Trailhead on 170 (2.6 miles) I actually considered turning around and running back home.  I was tired, achey, generally felt like shit, and had no energy.  I decided to gut it out to the corner of 93 and 170 (the 4.5 mile mark) – if I was still feeling rotten I’d either turn around and do 9 or call Amy and have her come pick me up.

I stopped at the Eldo Market at the corner of 93 and 170, got a Clif Bar, chilled out for a few minutes, and decided that even though I was having a crappy run, there was nothing fundamentally wrong (no pain, my heart rate was where it should be, and I wasn’t out of breath) and I should just keep on slogging ahead.  By about mile 8 I finally got a rhythm going, but I still felt tired.  When I hit the Boulder Creek Path at Foothills at around mile 11, I switched my Nano to Coverville’s “Covered Side of the Moon” and when Melissa Quade belted out Time I finally had my first surge of energy in two hours.

I stopped at the corner of Broadway and Canyon and walked to the St. Julien for my massage.  My timing was perfect – Amy saw me as she was walking the other direction and I struggled to smile.  She could tell I was hurting and wasn’t surprised when my response to her “how was the run” was “it sucked.”

My massage was great, but I still felt wiped out throughout the afternoon and into the evening.  As I pondered what was going on, I drifted into a more philosophical zone.  “Sometimes it just sucks” (whatever “it” is) and it’s best to just push through it.  Today’s run was one of those – I had plenty of chances to bail, but nothing was fundamentally wrong (e.g. if I’d had real pain somewhere I would have quit) so I just stayed with it.  Looking back, there were very few satisfying moments during the run, but I’m happy I finished it and capped a solid week of running that had a lot of travel in it.

I fell asleep at halftime during the Broncos game so I missed them losing, although I wasn’t surprised.  Manning is just amazing, even without a real defense to help him out.  Tomorrow is a new day and I know I’ll have a better run.

Failure can be “positive” – John Funk at Evergreen IP is about to start writing about a project he and his partners just killed.  Understanding why things don’t work – and then doing something about it – has always been a key part of the entrepreneurial process (at least mine.)  Part of the premise of John’s business is that a lot of projects that they take on will fail – I expect he’ll have some powerful insights to share.

I have several friends who are running in the upcoming NY Marathon on 11/5.  I sent one of them – who I just found out had hurt himself and won’t be running – the following hints.  Having run 8 marathons (including NY), I’m getting my pre-race drill honed pretty well.  Of course, these are “my hints” – if you are a runner you should feel free to ignore them and make up your own (or steal what you like.)

Starting Now

  1. Don’t do anything “out of the ordinary” in the last two weeks.
  2. Take it easy – any additional running will not increase your fitness.  I usually only run one day the week of a marathon.
  3. Don’t change your diet / don’t try to lose the last few pounds you want to lose.
  4. Eat “hard carbs” the week before – lots of bread / pasta / ice cream – whatever you want / like.
  5. Sleep a lot.  Tell everyone “hey – I’m running the NY Marathon – that’s why I’m sleeping until 11am on a Tuesday.”

The Week Before (Next Week – Amazing, Isn’t It!)

  1. Take it easy – little to no running.  Just rest – you are ready.
  2. Sleep a lot.
  3. Cut back on the booze if you drink (I can’t remember if you drink or not).
  4. Tell everyone you are running the NY Marathon – that’ll get you psyched up.
  5. If you feel sick or tired, that’s just hypochondria and is normal.  You are fine.  I always have “a major injury” three days before the marathon that magically disappears the day before.
  6. Drive the course on Saturday – it really helps me to drive the course the day before and get it in my mind.

The Day Of

  1. Go to sleep early the night before – even if you just end up lying in bed thinking about the race.
  2. Get up early – have whatever “breakfast” you like before a long run.
  3. Drink plenty of water, but don’t over do it.
  4. Pee a lot – you’ll be nervous – it’s normal.
  5. Let yourself be nervous and jittery.
  6. Dress warm for the start with clothes you don’t care about – just discard them on the course when you don’t need them.

During the Race

  1. If you are on the bottom of the bridge at the start, don’t run near the sides as everyone will be peeing over them.
  2. Have an awesome time.  You will really get excited and start getting in the groove when you hit Brooklyn.
  3. Don’t run over the 59th Street Bridge too fast.  If you feel great, take it easy.  I went over the bridge too fast and paid for it from mile 17 to 20 on 1st Ave.
  4. The Bronx will be depressing – after the mayhem on 1st Ave, you hit the wall at around 20 and everyone in the Bronx is just staring at you.  Just grind through it.
  5. The hill on 5th Ave feels like it goes on for ever.  It’s only two miles.  Let your brain go – you are almost finished.

For all of you out there running the NY Marathon, have a blast!

I got the following note the other day from a friend: After reading your latest post on Board Room Rules, I started thinking about the pressures that entrepreneurs experience starting, growing and managing start-up companies (whether it’s their first company or their fifth.) So I wonder if you as an investor/board member/partner/cheerleader have ever had to counsel your entrepreneurs on this topic and if so what advice did you dispense?

I’ve been helping create companies for 20 years (basically my entire business career.)  I started when I was 19 and was way too young to have a clue.  At times, I felt immense pressure, especially when we had no money and I had to make a payroll in three days.  As an investor, I thought I’d never feel more pressure than in 1999 as I spent virtually every waking hour working.  Then – 2001 came along.   Ponder – for a moment – how you feel at the end of a really shitty day.  I take a shower, crawl into bed, and think to myself that “tomorrow will be a new day.”  However, By June of 2001, I’d realized that every day was worse than the previous day.  So – that night as I crawled into bed, I thought to myself “tomorrow will be worse – no matter what – until one day when it isn’t.  In the mean time, I’ll just deal with it.”  And – I did.  And – it eventually got better.

I’ve seen a lot of emotions in my 20 years in business.  Lots of anger, lots of sadness, lots of joy, lots of depression, lots of enthusiasm, lots of euphoria.  I prefer the joy, enthusiasm, and euphoria, but I know that the anger, sadness, and depression are part of the experience.  One of the challenges of being an investor is having companies (and entrepreneurs) in different states simultaneously.  On any given day, I’m likely at a meeting where the people around the table are in a happy place and then at a meeting where the people are in a not happy place.  Repeat.

My simple advice – for all entrepreneurs – is “don’t take it personally.”  Today, when someone yells at me or acts irrationally, I’m simply amused.  I listen.  I try to be constructive. But I don’t take it personally.  I learned this from Amy – whenever she yells at me, I grab her by the shoulders and start jumping up and down and making funny loud noises until the dogs join in.  While I rarely do this in a business context, I do the “business casual equivalent” of it.

A close friend once told me in the dark, dank, dismal depths of 2001 – “all’s well that ends.”  It always does – eventually.  How you deal with it while it’s in process is up to you.

Fred Wilson has a great, descriptive post on how he thinks about deal size in the context of his fund (Union Square Ventures.)  The “Brad” in the post is Fred’s partner Brad Burnham.  Overnight I received a question from someone about “typical deal size” – I couldn’t have answered it better than Fred did – who clearly demonstrates in his post that it is firm specific.  If you want to get inside the brain of an early stage VC (e.g. have your own Being John Malkovich moment), read Fred’s post.

I go to a lot of board meetings.  As a result, I’ve reviewed a lot of board meeting minutes.  In general, the philosophy among most VC-backed companies – promulgated by the law firms for these companies – is to keep the board minutes “light.”  They should cover the substance of the meeting and have any specific votes, option grants, or board level issues documented, but they should not contain extensive details about the presentations giving in the board meeting.

I regularly get asked for “sample board meeting minutes”, especially among newly funded companies that are just starting to have board meetings and might not have their outside counsel present at the meeting (although most outside counsel’s that are credible and used to working with early stage companies will attend board meetings at no charge – just ask as part of your initial interview process with the firm – it’s very useful to them to be there so they can stay up to speed on what is happening at the company.)  Following is a template for a sample set of board meeting minutes.




[Insert Date of Board Meeting]

A meeting of the Board of Directors (the “Board”) of [Insert name of company], a [Insert state of incorporation] corporation (the “Company”), was held on [Insert date of board meeting] ([Insert time zone—i.e. Mountain Daylight Time]) at the offices of the Company.

Directors Present:

[Insert names of directors present]

Also Present Were:

[Insert names of other people (mgmt., etc.) present]

Directors Absent:

[Insert names of directors absent]

Counsel Present:

[Insert names of legal counsel present]

NOTE: It’s generally good to note next to the above listing if the attendee(s) participated via telephone (otherwise it’s assumed they participated in person at the above referenced location]

Call to Order

[Insert name of CEO or board chair] called the meeting to order at [Insert start time of meeting] ([Insert time zone—i.e. Mountain Daylight Time]) and [Insert name of secretary] recorded the minutes. A quorum of directors was present, and the meeting, having been duly convened, was ready to proceed with business.

CEO Report

[Insert name of CEO] reviewed the agenda and welcomed everyone to the meeting. Next, [Insert name of CEO] discussed the current status of the company and its progress. A number of questions were asked and extensive discussion ensued.

Sales & Business Development Update

[Insert name] next provided an update on the overall sales progress and sales pipeline of the Company. He also presented the status of business development discussions.

* [Insert name] joined the meeting*

Financial Review

[Insert name] provided a comprehensive update on the Company’s financial plan and forecast. [Insert name] also reviewed the Company’s principal financial operating metrics. Discussion ensued.

Financial Planning

The Board next discussed the timing and creation of the 2007 Operating Plan.

Approval of Option Grants

[Insert name] presented to the Board a list of proposed options to be granted to Company employees [and advisors], for approval, whereupon motion duly made, seconded and unanimously adopted, the option grants were approved as presented in Exhibit A.

Approval of Minutes

[Insert name] presented to the Board the minutes of the [insert date of previous board meeting] meeting of the Board for approval, whereupon motion duly made, seconded and unanimously adopted, the minutes were approved as presented.

*Management was excused from the meeting *

Closed Session

The Board next discussed a number of strategic topics. Questions were asked and answered.


There being no further business to come before the meeting, the meeting was adjourned at [Insert time of adjournment] ([Insert time zone—i.e. Mountain Daylight Time]).

Respectfully submitted,


[Insert name of secretary], Recording Secretary

NOTE: Create (and delete) additional headings and sections above as necessary to capture the major agenda items of the board meeting.

NOTE: If attendees join after the meeting start time or leave before the meeting adjournment, it’s preferable to note when they join and leave the meeting as indicated above by the asterisked notations.

PHP vs. Ruby

Oct 24, 2006
Category Technology

Ever since I started teaching my 15 year old neighbor Ruby (and learning it simultaneously), I keep running into people who ask “why don’t you just learn / teach PHP?”  When I was up in Seattle, I met with Scott Collison who is running a neat company called Ohloh whose goal is to “map the open source world by collecting objective information on open source projects.”  Neat.

Robin Luckey at Ohloh was about to release an article titled PHP Eats Rails for Breakfast.  Before you devolve into the standard flame war with the “PHP is a language; Rails is a framework; you are an idiot” rhetoric, the article is really about PHP vs. Ruby vs. Python vs. Perl.  And – the data (and results) that Ohloh and Robin have put together are fascinating.  Following are the key graphs from the article.

PHP dominates the new lines of code and only PHP and Ruby are on a steady curve upward.  Yeah – I know that “number of lines of code” is not a great measure, but none of these languages are overly verbose so it’s an interesting proxy metric.

Active developers tells a different story.  While PHP is growing a little relative to the others, they all seem to have a relatively flat curve.  The well known shortage of Ruby developers is reinforced by this data, as well as the next graph.

This was the chart I found really interesting.  Ruby is clearly the trendy new language.  Given normal supply / demand lags, you’d expect that this is a leading indicator of a significant uptick for Ruby on the other two charts in 2007.  My conclusion is different than Robin’s – while PHP appears to be dominant today, the rapid growth in new projects in Ruby indicates that it is currently positioned as “the language of the next wave of applications.”  This is consistent with what I’m hearing and seeing from many new startups.