Brad Feld

Month: October 2008

The Defrag Conference is happening on Monday 11/3 and Tuesday 11/4.  I’m totally psyched – Eric Norlin has put together a killer agenda.  The list of people coming that I can’t wait to see and spend time with is dynamite.

When Eric and I cooked up the idea for Defrag, our goal was to create a "thinking person’s" conference for exploring ideas around the Implicit / Semantic Web.  It’s evolved and – in its second year – we are planning on talking about the intersection of the following topics:

  • Enterprise 2.0
  • Online Collaboration
  • The Implicit Web
  • Collective Intelligence
  • The Semantic Web
  • Mash-ups
  • Social Networking in the Enterprise
  • Next-level Discovery

In addition, on Sunday 11/2 my partner Chris Wand is hosting a dinner for anyone interested in exploring the next generation of messaging.

There’s still time to register – use Foundry1 to get $300 off the registration.  It looks like we will have well over 300 people in attendance this year so it’s big enough to have critical mass yet intimate enough to generate a lot of deep conversations. 

Maine has been conquered by the Feld Marathon Machine.  I finished my 13th marathon on Sunday – the Mount Desert Island Marathon that started at Bar Harbor, Maine.  It was hilly.


Really hilly.  But beautiful, perfect weather (40 to 50 degrees), no wind, blue skies, and wonderful people along the course including the "beer girl" (a girl – probably 12 – with her mom that had a sign that said "Finish = Beer").  Did I mention the course was hilly – check out the insulting, endless, torturous climb from mile 21 to mile 25.

A few days before the marathon, I read the "mile by mile route description" and decided that it was highly unlikely that I’d break my goal of 5 hours given how difficult the course appeared.  So – I just decided to go out slow, stay comfortable, and finish.  I went through the half marathon point right at 2:30, felt great, and picked it up.  Remarkably, I did my first negative split marathon (2nd half faster than the first half) and finished in 4:57:02.  It seems like the extra training in the mountains is starting to pay off.  Yes – I’m really pleased.

This course has chip timers but the stupid chip kept falling off my shoe laces.  The third time it happened I punted and carried the chip.  Of course, I forgot to drag it across the finish line chip mats so I didn’t get an "official time."  Whatever – my Garmin has it all recorded and it’s on the web for anyone to verify.  Oh – and I have one of those snazy finisher medals.

My legs feel better than expected, but everything else is totally messed up today.  I keep reminding myself that the second day after the marathon is the hardest.

Thanks – as always – for everyone’s support and encouragement via email and twitter.  And a special thanks to my anchor sponsors – Return Path and Pixie Mate – as well as everyone else who has sponsored me – for your contributions to Accelerated Cure for each race I finish. 

Next up – the Rocket City Marathon – Huntsville, AL in Huntsville, Alabama on 12/13/08.

Flash of Genius

Oct 18, 2008

Tomorrow is Marathon #13 – the Mount Desert Island Marathon in Bar Harbor, Maine.  As part of my pre-marathon tradition, Amy and I relax at a movie the day before.  Today’s was Flash of Genius at the awesome Reel Pizza Cinerama.

Flash of Genius is the story of Robert Kearns, the inventor of the intermittent windshield wiper.  It’s a tragedy in three acts. 

  • Act 1: Invention and hopefulness that ends in betrayal.
  • Act 2: The hero encounters increasing difficulties, complications, and losses.
  • Act 3: Triumph and redemption.

While I’m deeply anti-software-patent, I’m equally pro-inventor.  The Kearns story – at least what I know of it from the great 1993 New Yorker article titled The Flash of Geniusis a complicated and provocative one.  Greg Kinnear is brilliant as Robert Kearns and plays the dedicated and single-minded investor magnificently.

If you are ever in Bar Harbor and like watching movies, definitely have dinner (and a movie) at Reel Pizza Cinerama.  The Manchurian Candidate pizza was a winner.  Now, time to get my head into the marathon.

I Prefer Extremistan

Oct 17, 2008
Category Books

This morning, I read two wonderful essays on the web – one by Warren Buffet and one by Paul Graham.

Both of these made me immediately think of Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s brilliant new book – The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable- which has been making the rounds the past few months.  If you haven’t yet read it, you should stop what you are doing, buy it immediately, and read it.  If you haven’t read Taleb’s Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets, you should read it first as it sets the stage for The Black Swan.

In The Black Swan, Taleb introduces the wonderful place called Extremistan and the much less interesting but much more often occupied place called Mediocristan.  Buffett and Graham give us more clues as to why Extremistan is a much more satisfying place to hang out.

Going On A Trip

Oct 16, 2008
Category Places

No – not that kind of trip, although it might have made watching the debates last night more entertaining.  I’m hitting the road for 10 days to travel our great country, check out main street, see some American heroes, and subject myself to more airplane travel fun.  I wonder if I’ll stay in any of the same hotels as the presidential candidates.

I start this trip in New York, where I’ll be exploring the now famous Wall Street greed and corruption people.  I then travel to Bar Harbor Maine to run a marathon (sponsor me and support Accelerated Cure).  As part of this quest, I’m going to search for main street; it seems like I should be able to find it in Maine.  Then I’m off to Boston to return to my post high school roots, have a nerd party with some wikipedia worthy entrepreneurial friends, and explore the outer reaches of 495.   A quick trip by train back to New York and then off to Virginia and Maryland to make sure the leaves are turning the appropriate colors there before they completely fall off the trees.

I’m a PC and I love this country.

The 2008 Esprit Awards

Oct 14, 2008
Category Places

An annual institution in Boulder occurred last week – the Boulder Chamber of Commerce Esprit Awards.  A bunch of my friends were winners this year and – since they were all nice enough to call me out for my contribution to them, I thought I’d reciprocate by congratulating them.

So, a big congrats to:

  • Mike Platt at Cooley Godward
  • Raj Bhargava at StillSecure
  • Krista, Johnathan, Tom, and Brent at Kerpoof

Y’all are great – thanks for all of your hard work, vision, and contribution to the Boulder entrepreneurial scene.

The "new VC entrants into the blogosphere" has slowed over the past 12 months.  In addition, the decay curve of many of the newest VC bloggers looks very similar to the decay curve of nuclear waste, except for it happens over a six month period instead of having a 24,100 year half life.

In contrast, the gang at RRE Ventures have both launched a new blog titled Five Years Too Late and filled it with great, relevant, and stimulating content, including posts such as:

And – my favorite so far – RRE Bikini Bottom Franchise.  Keep it up guys and don’t ever lose your sense of humor.

A well worn tradition of most venture capital firms is the Monday Meeting.  While there are several variations of it, including having it the meeting on Tuesday or Friday in an effort to be counter-cultural, most venture capital firms gather on Monday’s to review their portfolios, have companies come in and present for follow-on rounds or new investments, and ponder the state of the universe.

I expect there will be a lot of pondering today.  Given that it’s only 1:23pm and I’ve already received several missives commenting on the Sequoia RIP article (including a skeptical email from someone forwarding the VentureBeat article stating that Sequoia raised the largest new fund in Q3), it’s clear that many VC firms are sitting around today discussing ways they can "help" their portfolio companies in these "uncertain times."

Get ready for a flurry of two things from your VC.  (1) Questions.  (2) Advice.  Not necessarily in that order.  Occasionally you’ll get a demand here and there. 

If you are a first time entrepreneur, be forewarned that this is normal.  The questions and advice usually start on Monday afternoon or Tuesday morning (due to the timing of a partners meeting) a few weeks (or months) after the environment has changed.  Of course, a cynic could (appropriately) ask "where were these questions last week."  Welcome to the world of VC-backed companies.

Given that you now know this is coming, my recommendation regarding the questions is to actively engage your VC(s) rather than simply either (a) answer them or (b) dismiss them.  The questions – while often annoying, redundant, or nonsensical – will cause you to think about things you might not otherwise be thinking about.  Just make sure you’ve got the whole question, think, analyze, discuss, decide loop on a short cycle so you can iterate quickly as the environment changes again (either for the better or for the worse.)

With regard to the advice, my recommendation advice is different.  "Think before you act."  This doesn’t mean sit around with your thumb up your ass.  This also doesn’t mean the advice is wrong.  But it definitely means you should apply your (and your team’s) brain(s) to the advice and see if it matches your view of reality.  This is especially true when the advice is second or third hand (e.g. I read the Sequoia presentation and here’s what you need to do.)

Don’t forget to bring your towel to work tomorrow.

Ok, by now you’ve read 3,127 blog posts either talking about the coming current downturn credit crisis recession coming reconfiguration of all things as we’ve known them.  You’ve studied Sequoia’s Get Real or Go Home presentation.  You’ve read Alan Patricof’s Chill Out memo, Ron Conway’s Get Ready For It To Suck email, Benchmark’s Adapt and Live Lean memo and John Borthwick’s Don’t Panic – Profit memo.  For some balance, you’ve read Dave McClure’s brilliant rant Fear is the Mind Killer of the Silicon Valley Entrepreneur (we must be Muad’Dib, not Clark Kent) and Ted Rheingold’s VC Gloom Means Entrepreneur and Angel Boon.  And you are carefully monitoring Fred Wilson’s blog to get a good synthesis of what he and others are thinking.

It’s Monday morning of another week.  Central banks all over the world are coordinating their activities to try to make things "get better."  Morgan Stanley got their deal done with Mitsubishi so it doesn’t look like they are going to go bankrupt, at least not this month.  The Dow is up almost 500 points so far today.  Paul Krugman won the Nobel Prize for Economics.  And you realized that slide 53 is by far the most valuable one in the Sequoia deck.

But what the fuck should you do now?

Having lived through an aggressive downturn when the Internet bubble burst, I’m going to spend the next "chunk of blog posts" trying to give you – the entrepreneur, CEO, or executive of a startup – some practical suggestions about how to implement some of the advice (much of it conflicting) that you are getting from all of the experts out there. 

If you’ve been a long time reader of this blog, you know that I don’t care much about the macro stuff, nor do I believe anyone can accurately predict anything.  All I think you can do is (a) deal with your current reality while (b) envisioning what you think you want your future reality to be while (c) recognizing that your view of future reality will change on a regular basis. 

Hopefully I’ll be able to give you some useful tools and suggestions that have worked for me in the past that you can actually implement.  My first suggestion – take a deep breath and don’t panic.  More later.