Brad Feld

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The Montana Future

Aug 27, 2007
Category Technology

In 1991, a group of ten people (including me and Amy) gathered at a resort in Stowe, VT to have a Chautauqua to discuss the future.  We had a magnificent weekend which included a field trip to Burlington to visit the Ben & Jerry’s factory (and all the ice cream that entails.)

One of the discussions we had was titled “The Montana Future.”  All of us – except one couple – were living in Boston at the time.  While the Internet was around (and all of had been exposed to it – including plenty of DEC-action), it was 1991 – pre-WWW, pre-Telecommunications Act of 1996 – where a 9600 baud modem was considered a pretty rocking thing.

I read Atlas Shrugged in college 23 years ago.  It set the hook hard in my brain for creating my own version of Galt’s Gulch.  I spoke at the Big Sky Venture Capital Conference on Friday and it reminded me of the idea of the Montana Future.  Amy and I spent the weekend in Keystone and talked about it some (and how we were living it.)  I pondered it some more on my drive from Keystone to DIA this morning (1:45 – a new record by over 15 minutes – 500 hp is a nice thing.)

“Montana” is a metaphor (as much as I like Montana, I love Colorado more.)  At the Chautauqua we discussed a future that enabled people to work and live anywhere they wanted.  While I’m a fan of urban living I like it in small doses (e.g. a month of living in NY or Paris – or even a day in Chicago like I’m going to spend today – is a blast.)  As a software entrepreneur living in Boston in 1991 it was hard to imagine living “off the grid” but it was easy to imagine a future where the grid would be available where I wanted it.

16 years later, several of us that were at the Chautauqua are living the Montana Future.  Half of us live in Colorado.  Geography no longer interferes with my work.  I live in three places (Boulder, Keystone, and Homer, Alaska) – each of which is equally wired.  If I didn’t broadcast my location regularly, most people wouldn’t have any idea where I am at any given time (unless I was physically with them.)  I can work when I want to work and – when I don’t – I usually just walk out my back door and go for a run or a hike.

While there will always be regional concentrations of activity, the Montana Future is here.  And it’s awesome.