Brad Feld

Month: June 2008

Boulder Naked Bike Ride

Jun 17, 2008
Category Places

Hey – if the Boulder Daily Camera (our local paper) can put this up on their web site, so can I.

Gotta love this place.

Office Hours

Jun 17, 2008

When I was at MIT, I loved the idea of office hours.  I didn’t use them often, but when I did they were incredibly helpful to me.  When I had focused one on one time with a professor, it took some of the intimidation out of the learning experience and gave me a tight window to be open about the ideas and concepts that I was struggling with, while not worrying about being graded on that stuff.

I received a note from a blog reader recently in response to one of my work-life balance posts.  In it he said "I have kids that I like to spend time with so one thing that I do that quite a few of my peers have adopted is have office hours from 8pm-10pm.  People know they can reach me and it’s the one time I don’t mind getting "have you heard of this or that" type of emails.  Then I can get in later and leave earlier. "

I thought this was a brilliant idea.  I’ve been doing this with TechStars, although not late at night since I’m basically useless after 10pm. Instead, I schedule a block of "office hours time" once a week and get through a bunch of focused 30 minute interactions.  I’ve also got this scheduled in July while I’m at my house in Homer, AK for when I want to do phone calls; there’s a block of time every day that are the equivalent of office hours.  I’m sure I’ll periodically have other phone calls throughout the day around urgent stuff, but anything that doesn’t need to be dealt with in real time will be relegated to office hours.

When I step back and think about my work pacing, the office hours concept plays a big role.  I already schedule almost all of my phone calls and my assistant Kelly has blocks throughout the day when she knows she can do this.  Overall, most of my time is scheduled so I have specific blocks when I am "in class" (usually board meetings or meetings with companies), "office hours" (when I’m on the phone or taking blocks of short meetings such as the random meetings that I do), and "research time" (when I have time to work on exploring new stuff, writing, reading, and thinking.)

I hadn’t ever put it together that a lot of my pacing mirrors what I’d do if I was in an academic setting.  When I was at MIT, I watched my advisor Eric von Hippel have an excellent rhythm for his work.  I think I’ve unconsciously mirrored some of it, albeit with a different tempo.

If you’ve been following my running efforts, you know that I have a goal of running a marathon in every state by the time I turn 50 years old.  I’ve completed ten to date and am 42 so it’s time to get moving!  My next one is Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, MN next Sunday (6/21).  My times have been steadily increasing the past few marathons with my personal worst (5:47) coming at Sedona in February after I completely blew up at mile 19.  So – I’ve been training harder and more consistently with a goal of breaking 5:00 at Grandma’s followed by 4:45 in August at Ashton, ID and 4:30 in October at Bar Harbor, ME.  Having run a 4:05 in Chicago several years ago, there is no doubt that I can do a majority of these marathons under 4:00 – I just have to get serious about it.

I’ve had a few people approach me about sponsorships for this endeavor and have decided to finally get my sponsorship act together.  My first sponsor is the Accelerate Cure Project for Multiple Sclerosis.  In 2000, an entrepreneur and friend of mine from Boston – Art Mellor – was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.  Art subsequently founded the Boston Cure Project (now Accelerated Cure Project) with his doctor, Timothy Vartanian, to try to find a cure for Multiple Sclerosis.

Amy and I have been steady supporters of the Accelerated Cure Project over the years.  When I started thinking about a charity to dedicate my 50×50 running to, they immediately came to mind.  From this point forward, they are my adopted charity for my marathon quest.

If you have an interest in supporting my marathoning, please click through on the widget below on the "Click here to Donate" tab.  While it says my goal is $1,000, that’s because I haven’t figured out how to modify this yet.  My goal is actually $100,000, or $2,000 per marathon (yes – I have a little catching up to do – $20k worth – but I’ll figure that out.)

If you are interested in sponsoring my efforts in other ways, drop me an email and we will figure something out.  At this point I have three sponsors (the other two will be revealed shortly.)

And then there were 19.  Symplified has joined the Entrepreneurs Foundation of Colorado. 

Symplified was founded last year by Eric Olden, Jonti McLaren, and Darren Platt.  Eric and Jonti were previously the co-founders of Securant which was acquired in 2001 by RSA Security for $140m (if you remember 2001, then you’ll realize that this was quite an accomplishment.) 

I met Eric last fall as we were still raising our new fund.  He was on the verge of closing a financing and we just weren’t in a position to engage seriously since he had the financing effectively lined up.  As we got to know each other, I mentioned the Entrepreneurs Foundation of Colorado and he got it immediately.

Eric got Josh Forman, Symplified’s VP of Customer Care & Operations, in the mix and Symplified was actually one of the first ten EFCO members.  They decided to hold off announcing their involvement until they launched.  However, from the beginning Josh got deeply engaged in what EFCO was up to and last month we invited him to join the EFCO board.

I’m psyched that Symplified has both launched and gone public with their commitment to EFCO, especially since both of their VC investors – Granite Ventures and Allegis Capital – are based in the bay area.  Thanks to everyone for their support. 

We’ve signed up two more EFCO in the past few days so we are looking forward to announcing #20 and #21.  In the mean time, if you are interested in learning more about EFCO, take a look at the website or drop me an email

Book: Microsoft 2.0

Jun 16, 2008
Category Books

If you do business with or compete with Microsoft, Mary Jo Foley’s new book Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft Plans to Stay Relevant in the Post-Gates Era is an absolute must read. 

Mary Jo writes the popular All About Microsoft blog and has been a long time Microsoft watcher.  She’s often complimentary of Microsoft but can be brutally critical when she wants to be.  Overall, I’ve found her to be balanced, thoughtful, and usually enlightening.

While her blog is usually about stuff happening in the moment, the book Microsoft 2.0 does a great job of looking backwards and summarizing how Microsoft got to this point (along the many dimensions of their business) and then looks forward and explains where she thinks their priorities are and who is or will be responsible for them.  I found her long laundry list of key people and initiatives within Microsoft particularly useful.

Mary Jo wrote this before the conclusion (at least the present conclusion) of the Microsoft / Yahoo! semi-attempted merger so there are some things she’s left hanging, but from my perspective she gets a lot of things right.  It’s easy to get lost in all the Google / Microsoft / Yahoo! / Apple consumery noise and forget about the incredible business software, infrastructure server software, and operating systems businesses that Microsoft has built (and now has to defend); Mary Jo does a great job of separating the various parts of Microsoft’s businesses and articulating their strengths and weaknesses.

I’ve read a lot of books on Microsoft over the years.  The only other one that I’d put in the absolutely must read category is Partnering with Microsoft: How to Make Money in Trusted Partnership with the Global Software Powerhouse by Ted Dinsmore and Edward O’Connor.

Nice job Mary Jo!

Larry Nelson from has an interview up with my partner Seth Levine.  The interview is called Is an Advisory Board or Advisors Really Necessary? but the first half of the interview is about Seth’s view of Foundry Group and his partners (e.g. me, Jason, Ryan, and Chris.)  Listen and find out some magic secrets – or just hear what Seth thinks.  As a special bonus Seth has some good ideas about advisors and advisory boards.

This is a public service announcement for all great software developers in the Boulder / Denver area that are bored and restless at their existing job.

Earlier this year, along First Round Capital and SoftTechVC, we funded a new company called Gnip.  They’ve added a few people to their team in Boulder and are now looking for a few System Architect / Senior Software Engineers.  If you fit the description, drop them an email

I noticed two articles in the NY Times this morning that pressed my email theme button.  The first was actually from yesterday – Lost in E-Mail, Tech Firms Face Self-Made BeastThe second was In the E-Mail Relay, Not Every Handoff Is Smooth.

Both are interesting, but relatively light weight articles.  That’s not really a surprise since they are aimed at the mainstream public instead of Joe Techie.  There are a few fun things in Lost in E-Mail … such as the new and exciting "Gmail E-Mail Addict" feature that lets the user take a 15 minute break by hitting a button or a neat program called Rescue Time which tracks how much time you are spending in different applications (I used it for a few weeks until I got bored of seeing how much time I was spending on email.)  However, neither really gets at the core of the issue they are addressing, which is something approximating "how can human beings deal with the current onslaught of email?"

I find it more interesting to see what my "high performance / lead user friends" are struggling with.  I’m an inbox zero guy (I go to bed every night with no emails in my inbox – where "no emails" is an approximation for "less than 30 and nothing urgent.")  I don’t save things in folders for a future response (I think that’s equivalent to deleting them) but I do put things on my task list when I need to remember to respond (my task list is never longer than something I can clear with an hour of focused effort.)  I regularly check my email throughout the day, but I don’t let it interfere with me when I need to concentrate on something and I’ve trained myself not to look at my handheld until I’m truly bored in a meeting.  I rarely go to the bathroom in the middle of a meal out with Amy to sneak a quick look at my email.  As a result, I don’t struggle with email – it’s just an efficient (and integral) part of my work communication.

A set of my friends are really struggling with it.  I commonly hear the "I’m way behind on email" refrain.  Several of my friends have deep disdain for email, including one who basically equates it to "homework" (hey – I liked doing homework!)  Another friend decided to take the summer off from using email (while I was happy to hear from him when he called me to thank me for doing something, it was at an inconvenient time and I thought he must have needed something urgently when I saw his name pop up on my phone.) 

When I sit on an airplane next to someone doing email, I like to observe their pattern as I drift off to sleep (watching them helps me fall asleep faster.)  A remarkable number of people have a "hunt, click, read, and then don’t respond" approach to email where they read messages that they selectively choose to read but then don’t respond or delete, resulting in yet another "read" message clogging up their inbox.  These people clearly need a lesson in processing their email.

I’ve got a long list of additional examples, but you get the idea.  There is a deep sociological thing going on.  A decade ago email was lauded as the savior of business communication.  Today, it’s a giant pain in the ass for many people, although it’d be interesting to see how they’d cope without it.  The fact that it’s popping up in the weekend NY Times reinforces that the problem is continuing to build toward a tipping point, which reminds me that there is a big opportunity out there somewhere. 

BTW – can someone tell the NY Times that it’s ok to use "email" instead of "E-mail" – even Wikipedia says so.

The "Facebook for the enterprise" meme in now hitting its stride after all the activity at Enterprise 2.0 earlier this week.  My friends at NewsGator were there in force showing off NewsGator Social Sites 2.0 which just started shipping. 

Following is a short demo that’s up on Youtube that gives you a feel for how it works.  While it’s a blurry video, Brian Kellner’s description of what he’s doing is the really useful part.  Brian’s final line is "in total, it’s a complete social computing solution built right into SharePoint."  Other demos / overviews are up on the NewsGator site if you are interested.

I’ve been a SharePoint fan for a while – we’ve been using it for a while at Foundry Group.  I find it much more powerful than many of the individual web-based solutions and it’s tight integration with Exchange and NewsGator Enterprise Server, along with it broad customization capabilities, make it work nicely for us.

As I predicted last year, 2008 would be the year that all of the consumer Internet innovations started migrating to the enterprise en-masse.  NewsGator has been at the forefront of this and it’s awesome to see and use the products.  While some argue that the consumer products for enterprise work just fine thank you very much, I don’t buy that argument.  Maybe it will converge in five to ten years, but there are so many enterprise-focused issues that aren’t addressed in any of the consumer oriented products that I think there will continue to be some amount of a parallel universe.

To calibrate – when I talk about the enterprise, I’m not talking about startups or a 30 person company.  I’m talking about 10,000 to 200,000 person enterprises that already have deeply embedded and extensively built out global IT infrastructures.  That said, it also works great for a 11 person company like Foundry Group if you using a Microsoft-based infrastructure today.