Brad Feld

Month: November 2007

I sponsor a roundtable series titled The Silicon Flatirons Roundtable on Entrepreneurship, Innovation, and Public Policy.  It is hosted four times a year by The Silicon Flatirons Program at CU Boulder and is modeled after the Union Square Ventures Sessions.   We pick a topic and then get 30 or so smart and diverse thinkers in a room to kick the topic around for two hours.  Phil Weiser (Professor of Law and Executive Director of Silicon Flatirons) moderates and someone always takes extensive notes and writes up a summary paper.

The paper from the first roundtable – The Unintended Consequences of Sarbanes-Oxley (2/26/07) – are up.  We did this early in the year when the private equity boom was cranking and there are some juicy gems buried in the summary, including this one that seems prescient (or obvious) in hindsight.

"The roundtable’s discussion on private equity focused on private equity’s ever-increasing growth and whether such growth is, in fact, sustainable. Feld noted the similarity between this increase in growth and that of the VC industry before the bubble burst.  Webroot’s Pace also addressed this point and noted that private equity deals are continuing to grow in both number and value. On this point, Feld noted there is a certain irony in these deals because the companies are traded from one firm to another, but the limited partners often remain the same. The discussion of private equity concluded with the point that, to some extent, the private equity market’s success is contingent on the credit markets. Thus, the concern, as Feld explained, is that if the credit markets tighten, private equity firms’ returns will decrease while cost of capital to these companies will increase, and overleveraged firms may see a sharp reduction in their equity value."

Our second roundtable was held in on 4/20/07 and the paper Rethinking Software Patents is also up on the web.  I thought this was a much more contentious session as there were several clearly different opinions represented in the room.  Pamela Samuelson – a professor at UC Berkeley School of Information and Boalt Hall School of Law – made the trip to Boulder and did an excellent job of kicking things off and getting the hornets buzzing around the "should there be software patents" nest.

The third roundtable – The Entrepreneurial University – was held a few months ago.  I’ll get a link up to the paper when it’s out. 

Which is an easier place to visit, Irkutsk or Angarsk?

Feel free to ignore this post.  Or – you can just laugh at the picture of a bunch of lame people trying to play Rock Band (the only one who wasn’t lame was the singer.)

However, I think there will likely be a reunion tour, much to Katherine‘s chagrin.

If you were wondering why Facebook’s search function is so lame, Katherine has some thoughts on this.  Just don’t take her on in Scramble – she’ll destroy you.

Weekend Books

Nov 25, 2007
Category Books

I’ve been in a reading slump lately – I just haven’t felt like reading.  This happens sometimes and whenever I break my "at least two books a week" rhythm, I just roll with it until it changes.

Yesterday was a three book day.  I absorbed the books into my brain as though it was meant to be.  All three were non-fiction, although only one was "challenging non-fiction" (in a good way.)

Math You Can’t Use: Patents, Copyright, and Software by Ben Klemens was superb.  This is a detailed, thoughtful, comprehensive, and (other great adjective goes here) book about why patents are completely fubared for software.  Ben has created the End Software Patents Coalition and this book could easily be its manifesto.  While I put it in the "challenging" (e.g. you have to actually read it vs. skim it) category, it’s extremely well written and a pleasure to read.  If you are in the software industry in any role and have ever encountered software patents, this is a must read.

Next up was The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss.  I met Tim at the predinner for the New New Internet conference in DC last month.  It appeared I was the only person at dinner that hadn’t heard about Tim and his revolutionary idea to have a 4-Hour Workweek which is apparently the rage in Silicon Valley right now.  Tim’s a fun character and his story is very entertaining.  I thought the first half of the book was a blast and the second half (where he gets deeper into the "how to" mechanics) became tedious and overwrought.  Tim – you need a better editor (yeah – I know, so do I.)

I usually don’t call out crummy books on this blog, but since the third one – Make The Right Choice – was part of my Saturday reading trifecta, I thought I’d mention it.  I can’t remember who recommended it to me (I would have never bought it without a recommendation) but I thought it was silly and dull.  After about 30 pages I skimmed it looking for some meat, but never found it.

Every day I get inbound emails from entrepreneurs looking for funding.  I triage these quickly as I can usually tell within a couple of minutes of looking at whatever is attached (executive summary, overview, intro powerpoint) whether or not it’s in an area that I’m interested in investing in.  Since my top level filter is "theme" it’s easy to make a quick call.  If you’ve ever sent me something, hopefully you’ve gotten a quick response.

Most of the exchanges I have are generic and aren’t focused on me.  Sometimes they are.  Over the weekend, I had one that I think is an ideal example of how to get my attention.

It started with an email from Nick Napp of Disruptor Monkey.  I remembered Nick and Disruptor Monkey from a previous referral from Square 1 Bank, but I didn’t remember where our conversation went (or didn’t go.)  Nick’s email started off with the Subject line "Some thoughts re: Exchange server" and continued with:

Your recent post (Where Is Microsoft In This Party?) rang a few bells over here in Monkey land.  Since you are well down the road drinking the kind of coolaid we enjoy, I’d like to share some additional thoughts with you.  You are quite right that there is magic in the Exchange data – far more data than just email messages.  There’s social network data, implied definitions of individual/personal relevancy and a huge collection of exploitable meta-data.

There’s more which was equally relevant, personalized to what I was thinking (and blogging) about, and simple to process (e.g. a handful of short, clear paragraphs.)

I responded with a quick "So – er – um – when do I get to play with something?" to see how real this was.  Nick responded with an awesome video demonstration teaser that was customized for me.  There are lots of great attributes of the video including:

  • It is only 2:43 minutes long
  • Nick is the moderator
  • It’s personalized to me and Foundry Group
  • It has a 30 second setup of the problem
  • The other two minutes are a demo set to Steppenwolf’s Magic Carpet Ride (which made it easy for me to sit back and watch.)

Under three minutes and I get that what Disruptor Monkey is doing is interesting to me.

Now, I don’t know if I want to fund Nick’s company, but I definitely want to spend more time with him.

Plus they’ve got a bitchin logo.

Yesterday was a great "very little computer" day that resulted in me reading three books (one great, one 50% great, and one poor that turned into a skimmer.)  More on these later.

I read two things in FeedDemon this morning that spun my head around better than the Sunday morning TV political talk shows could.

First was another post from Jared Polis chronicling his trip to Iraq.  This was was titled Inside a Private Mercenary Compound in Iraq and is better and more authentic than virtually everything you see in the NY Times about life in Iraq.

The second – from a Boulder entrepreneur that I’ve gotten to know named Jenn Ross – is titled Foreign Entrepreneurs and US VisasI’m a huge believer that our current Visa system is completely broken and stories like Jenn’s make me crazy.  There is no rational reason that someone like Jenn – a Canadian no less – should ever have to think or deal with this stuff.

I love the web.  I’d never have the chance to read stuff like this and get stirred up before Amy wakes up if it didn’t exist.

While catching up on some stuff today, I came across the word “automagically” on Bebo.

I first heard the word from Todd Vernon.  Todd is now the CEO of Lijit, but at the time he was CTO of Raindance.  It it one of my favorite Vernonisms, up there with “chocolatey goodness” (used to describe a wonderful computer hack or feature.)

I use automagically all the time – it’s a nice shorthand for Arthur C. Clarke’s third law of prediction: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”  I occasionally see it in the wild on blog posts every now and then, but this is the first time I’ve actually seen it used in a web service.  Oh happy day.

Oh yeah – I’m bradf037 on Bebo in case you want to be my friend (I’m really lonely today.)  Dear people at Bebo – your AIM Friend Finder is hanging on “Loading Authentication…” today.

Someone is far down the negotiating path to buy the old StorageTek 440–acres in Louisville from Sun.  The Boulder Camera is speculating that it’s eBay, Google, or Apple.  Whoever it is will have fun demolishing million plus square foot eyesore that is the old StorageTek facility.

Jared Polis is continuing to blog his trip to Iraq.  His post – Arrival in Baghdad – was better than most stuff I see in TV (ok – I’m setting a low bar here.)  He also did a live Q&A on Colorado Confidential that included a flamer under the handle “IraqWarVeteran” (created on 11/21/07 – apparently just for the live blogging event.)

I’m proud of my friend Jared for making the trip and being open about his goals.  I personally have no interest in going to Baghdad so I’m happy to live vicariously through someone like Jared, especially when I get to reflect about it quietly on Thanksgiving morning.