Brad Feld

Month: April 2008

I’m about to head out for a loop around Central Park and I thought I’d leave you with a few things to look at on the web before I split.

  • PLT Scheme: Since my I Love Lisp post, I’ve been wondering when a version of Scheme would pop up into my consciousness.  It has.
  • Trapster: Real time speed trap Google maps mashup.  This could be useful for those of us that have cars that go over 150 mph.
  • Vermont Telecommunications Authority Residence Connectivity Map: Speaking of Google maps mashups, this one is awesome.  This is a user-generated map by Vermont citizens of their Internet connectivity.  Not "what they could have" but "what they actually have – self reported."  Fantastic.
  • Why Am I Passing: I’ve been referring plenty of folks to my Why Am I Passing post lately (usually in response to the question "can you tell me more about why you are passing.")  Larry Nelson recently interviewed me about this in case you’d rather hear it in my own words (buried in the middle is the story of our investment in Dante Group and my partner Seth telling me I was being stupid.)
  • MIT in Transition: A Student Advisory Report Worth Revisiting: If you are an MIT grad (or more importantly, an MIT professor, administrator, or member of the MIT corporation’s board), please read carefully the report from Joost Bonson, Barun Singh, and Harel Williams titled MIT in Transition: Student Perspectives on MIT’s Legacy Strengths, Emerging Challenges, and Future Directions.

If you are really bored and have access to a physical copy of the New York Times, take a look at the two page ad on pages A10-A11 headlined Save the U.S. Patent, Now!  It’s The Heart and Soul of America’s Economic System.  Take special note of how the nice people that put the charts together singled out the IT industry.  Then go reconcile the thoughts in your mind.

How Do I Fly?

Apr 05, 2008
Category Places

In response to my Planes, Trains, and Automobiles post, I’ve already gotten several questions along the lines of "how do you deal with our insane air travel system" such as:

How do you keep your sanity traveling to the east coast? I’ve just spent the past 6 weeks traveling to New York from Denver and it’s either: get up at 4am only to waste an entire day traveling or take the red-eye.

For starters, west coast travel is much easier than east coast travel.  Denver to SF is about the same amount of effort as Boston to NY (+1 hour each way which means you get up a little earlier.)  I regularly get to 8:30am meetings in SF or Palo Alto when leaving from Denver on the 6am flight.

East coast travel is trickier.  I’ve found the best solution is to take the later afternoon / early evening flight (4pm – 6pm) out of DIA to LGA.  I get to my hotel between midnight and 1am and sleep until 30 minutes before my first meeting.

Now for the magic.  I don’t try to work on airplanes. Instead, I sleep.  I get settled in as quickly as I can and go lights out until I wake up.  Most of the time I’ll make it the entire flight.  If the flight is more than three hours, when I wake up I read a book rather than whip out my laptop (unless I’m going cross-country or to Europe, at which point I’ll do some work.)

The extra two hours of sleep makes all the difference (at least to me) on the travel.  On west coast travel, I have a 30 minute "transition wakeup" (where am I, who am I, what am I, what is that taste in my mouth?) but once I wake up, brush my teeth, and have a large coffee, I’m good to go.  On east coast travel, I get to the hotel, take a shower, and crawl right into bed.  Wham – deep sleep.

I didn’t used to be able to sleep like this on planes (and know a lot of people who claim they can’t.)  I don’t buy this – I trained myself to do this.  When I started this approach I used to sit – wide awake – for two hours doing nothing except relaxing.  I quickly got bored of myself and feel asleep.  As Amy likes to remind me – most of us are so sleep deprived that it’s actually easy to fall asleep if you let yourself (unless you are truly an insomniac – in which case you might actually fool yourself.)

So – if you see me asleep on a plane, please don’t wake me up to say hi!  Just go to sleep.

Today’s article in the NY Times titled Ping-Pong as Mind Game (Although a Good Topspin Helps) is dedicated to all my ping pong friends at TechStars.  When I was young (say – 10 – 14) and played a serious game of tennis, I was also a dedicated ping pong player.  While I’m left handed, I learned to play tennis (and ping pong) right handed.  I was once really good and it shows about every ten shots (in both sports.)  Every now and then I’ll pick up a ping pong paddle and give someone that plays all the time a run for their money, but I’m too inconsistent a player to do anything other than make my opponent bring their real game to put me away.  As a result, I’m going to stick to Gnip Gnop.

Our portfolio company Rally Software absolutely creamed their first quarter plan – I’m pleasantly stunned by their positive performance.  They are leading the adoption of Agile software methodologies into software development organization. 

While that is exciting, I keep hearing stories – especially from Rally Software customers – about how they are using Agile in other parts of their company.  Ashley at GroundFloor Media has a great post up titled PR and software development may have more in common than you might think… about how GroundFloor is using Agile methodologies in other parts of their organization.  If you are interested in another example, Matt Blumberg (Return Path’s CEO) wrote about Agile Marketing a while ago.

By the time you read this I’ll be in New York (right now I’m on a plane.)  If you follow me (or any of my partners) on twitter, you will quickly understand why a Boulder entrepreneur recently referred to twitter as the "Foundry Group location / travel finder."

We travel plenty.  My partner Chris Wand just wrote a post titled Is “Geography” a Cliché in Venture Capital?  Unlike many VCs who prefer to invest close to home, we view the United States (and Canada) as our oyster.  Take a look at Chris’ post to understand why.

For perspective, the geographic distribution of our first six investment is two in the bay area (Zynga, Gnip), two in southern California (Oblong, Memeo), one in Boulder (Lijit), and one in New York (unannounced.)  We are in the process of closing an investment in Seattle and our active deal log (stuff we are seriously looking at) covers California, Colorado, New York, North Carolina, and Utah.

Having lived the life of a satellite office for ten years at Mobius Venture Capital (Chris, Seth, and I were in Boulder; everyone else was in the bay area) I can assure you that "being the satellite office" in a venture capital firm ultimately sucks.  While it’s fun at first because you think everyone leaves you alone, you eventually end up spending more and more "junk time" at wherever the main office is and you are the one that ultimately has to travel (at some point almost every week) to make sure you are in the flow of things.

When we created Foundry Group, it was important to us that we all be located in Boulder.  We’ve always been thematic investors and have gone where our themes took us, rather than being bounded by geography.  While flying United out of DIA has its moments, the decision to be located in one place but invest throughout the US is a powerful one for us and the entrepreneurs we back.

From the WSJ:

The Clintons had gross income of $109 million for 2000-2007, newly released tax documents show. President Clinton made $51.8 million speeches over eight years and $29.6 million in book income, while Hillary Clinton made $10.5 million in book income. The Clintons paid $33.8 million in taxes between 2000-2007, or 31% of adjusted gross income, and gave $10.26 million to charity over eight years.

Nice tax bill.

Art in Dallas

Apr 04, 2008

I’ve been told that my blogging pace is often a hint as to what I’m up to.  When my pace stalls, it either means I’m on vacation or deep into a deal.  To those that notice, I say "good observation."

I’ve spent the last three days running around Dallas with Amy and my parents looking at art.  Amy and I are patrons of the Davis Museum at Wellesley College where Amy went to college.  Every year they have a Patrons Trip to a major city to see private collections as well as the local museums.  This year’s trip was to Dallas (where I grew up) so we "patronized" my parents and included them on our trip.

Amy has a nice post up about what we did on Wednesday.  Yesterday was a trip to Ft. Worth to see the museums – we skipped out on the tour and did it ourselves.  Today was an awesome visit to the Rose’s house and the Hoffman’s house – two of the three amazing collectors and Dallasites who have donated their entire collections (over 800 pieces) to the Dallas Museum of Art when they die.


That’s my dad and Amy at the Rose’s pump house.  In addition the great art, we got to see some incredible architecture.  We’re now both wasted (I’d take a picture of Amy fast asleep in a chair next to me at the Admirals Club waiting for our two hour delayed flight from DFW, but I might wake her up) from a whirlwind three days as we get ready to head to NY for the weekend. 

Over the past few years, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how people communicate with each other.  As an active user of all computer based communication technologies such as email, IM, web collaboration, and twitter, I realize that direct, bite size communication is often effective.  However, given the lack of persistence of data in these mediums, I’ve felt like something was missing.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a huge fan of t-shirts and have an extensive collection.  I’ve noticed that the vast majority of my entrepreneurial colleagues prefer t-shirts over other types of dresswear.  Finally, the t-shirt industry has grown nicely alongside of the software and Internet industry, as most companies have accelerated the growth of the t-shirt industry through their use of swag.

I’ve concluded that the opportunity to transform this market is ripe. Fundamentally, I believe that technologies like instant messaging are going to be replaced by t-shirt messaging.  After much thought, I’ve decided to work with my partners to create a new fund we are calling the iWear Fund.  This fund will be a first mover in the market, investing in the best young t-shirt designers, thinkers, collectors, and technologists.

We’ve already identified several promising young companies, such as VCWear and StartupWear.  We are very interested in companies that have deep intellectual property in this area, especially patents, as we think this is an underserved market for patent trolls and if we can get out ahead of them, we can help our portfolio companies create an unassailable position. Like most investors, we expect there to be some overlap in our portfolio due to the proximity of similar technologies (such as VCWear’s new line of StartUp t-shirts) – we’ll work to resolve those conflicts when they arise.

As part of our investment thesis, we are focused on helping create several new platforms to enable the expansion of the t-shirt industry.  We realize that these platforms may have applicability outside the t-shirt industry, but expect that this fund will – at least for now – limit itself to only t-shirt related technologies.

While forming this new fund, we looked for deep thinkers in the intersection of the t-shirt and software industry.  Simultaneous with the announcement of the fund, we are honored to announce that Dan Primack is joining as an advisory board member.  Dan writes the very popular PE Week Wire and was one of the first industry insiders to identify the huge potential of the t-shirt market. While Dan’s first effort to create PEWear was co-opted, we know that he has  a collection of dozens of t-shirts, including some from the rock concert and professional sports sectors, and will be a huge help to us in identifying promising new t-shirt segments to invest in.

We’ve been asked by some whether, given the current credit crisis, now is a good time to launch a fund dedicated to t-shirt investing.  While we expect there to be a slow down in certain areas of the market, especially around LBOWear, HedgeFundWear, and AuctionRateSecurityWare, those areas have historically not been meaningful consumers of t-shirt technologies beyond generic white undershirts, so we are not concerned about our timing.  All markets are cyclical and we expect to be investing in t-shirt companies for a long time to come.