Brad Feld

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Back on the Grid

Mar 25, 2007
Category Books

Amy and I just got back from an awesome week off.  We flew to Laguna Beach for our Q1 vacation, disconnected completely, and hid from the world for a week.  Lots of sleep, running, sun, great food, that marital thing (you know – walking on the beach and holding hands), and a few movies (Deja Vu was way better than expected and Blood Diamond lived up to expectations.)  And books – lots and lots of book.

I started the week with Firing Back.  The subtitle “How Great Leaders Rebound After Career Disasters” summarizes it nicely.  The stories were great; the analysis was tedious, tiresome, and – like all too often – needed to be edited by 0.33x.  I recommend either the Cliff Notes, a quick skim, or just keep reading Forbes.

24: Vanishing Point was much more satisfying to me than this season’s 24 has been.  I think 24 has reached the “Alias point” for me (where I know what’s going to happen before it happens so I’m not that interested anymore, although it was pretty cool when Martha stabbed Charles.)  Vanishing Point is another “in the past” books which helps build the 24 backstory.  If you are a 24 fan, read them all.

MIG Pilot was the best book of the week.  I can’t remember who recommended it to me (thanks!)  It’s the story of Lt. Belenko, a Russian MIG pilot who stole a MIG on 9/6/76, flew it to Japan, and defected to the US.  As I was reading it, Amy grabbed it and said “a real life 24, huh?”  World politics was very different before CNN and the web.

Curious and Interesting Numbers was also fantastic.  It starts with -1 and i, patiently takes us through 117 pages before breaking the number 100, and then accelerates into some really interesting numbers.  We end with 1^billion (a “gigaplex”), F23471 (the largest known composite Fermat number), 10^10^10^34 (Skews’ number – that was a new one to me) and then Graham’s number (the world champion largest number.)  After reading it, 3, 9, 27, and 42 are still my favorite numbers.

Venture Capital and the Finance of Innovation started off strong.  Andrew Metrick – an associate professor of finance at Wharton – has written 50% of a must read book for any analyst or associate at a venture capital firm (and most principals and partners, but I won’t presume to suggest what would be helpful for them.)  Part 1 and Part 2 are a superb, detailed overview of the “history, terms, and math of venture capital.”  (the first 50%.)  Part 3 is an academic section on “partial valuation” – really just finance theory on VC term and exit scenarios (not terribly practical, but probably fun for some business school students.)  Park 4 is section on “the finance of innovation” that has the practical utility of 1 over infinity.  Hint to entrepreneurs – if your VC starts talking about game theory during your term sheet negotiations, run.  Look for a deeper review on AsktheVC.  Criticism notwithstanding, the first half of this book is outstanding.

The Inmates Are Running The Asylum was ok.  Alan Cooper is a well known software designer who is also known as the “father of Visual Basic.”  If you develop software for a living and haven’t read this book, it’s worth a spin through it to rough up your brain a little.

Architecture of Happiness was brilliant – the second best book of the week.  Alain de Botton did a superb job of mixing text, photos, and concepts about architecture and the philosophy of life and happiness.  Little known “Feld fact” – I “minored” (we didn’t really have minors at MIT – they call them “concentrations”) in art and architecture (course 4) and love buildings.  I’m sure I’m an architect in a parallel universe.

I finished with my long time friend Ilana Katz’s (Feld Technologies employee #7) last book titled “Edith’s Refrain” (unpublished).  It is the best of Ilana’s writing to date and was a pleasure to settle into as I began to consider re-entry into the real world.

Amy and I returned to an absolutely glorious day in Boulder well rested, happy, batteries recharged, and very much in love.