Brad Feld

Month: November 2008

I’ve been an unabashed Obama supporter for a while.  I’m glad he’s going to be our next president and am optimistic about his leadership.  I’ve been enjoying listening to some of the punditry ricocheting around about his coming administration now that I don’t have to listen (or – in my case – try to ignore) the endless analysis about the campaign.  A few requests on my part have come to mind as I start to synthesize what I’m hearing.  Of course, I’m not so arrogant to believe that President-elect Obama – or for that matter – anyone in the administration – will care about my specific requests, but since this is my blog afterall I thought I’d toss my thoughts out into the wild.

1. Appoint Some High Profile Republicans to Your Cabinet.  I believe we need to eliminate the extreme partisan divide that exists in the US today.  The best way to start to do that is from the top – if President Obama makes it clear that he has no interest in perpetuating the "partisan politics as usual" dynamic, we actually have a chance to start to change it.  The biggest, loudest way to send this message would be to get the absolute smartest and most capable people in the cabinet, regardless of their party affiliation.

2. Veto The First Pork Laden Bill.  I continue to be baffled by the dynamics around Pork in Congress.  I want my politicians to become vegetarians and reject Pork.  TARP is such a disgusting example of this – as far as I can tell, the only major difference between the TARP bill that failed the House and the one that came back from the Senate and passed was the addition of a bunch of Pork.  Disgusting.  When the first bill hits Obama’s desk that has one key issue in it that is covered with Pork, he should Veto it.  He should then get on TV and explain the bill in clear English to the American population.  He should describe the single issue in the bill, and then list the Pork – state by state, Congressman by Congressman.  He should then insist that Congress revisit the bill, take all the Pork out, and send it back to him for approval. 

3. Continue Being Confident But Not Certain: Amy and I had a great brunch in Chicago over the weekend with a bunch of folks from Wellesley.  The guest of honor was Madeleine Albright (Wellesley ’59) who was the US Secretary of State from 1997 to 2001.  Secretary Albright was amazing and it was so humbling to get to spend some time with her.  When asked what advice she’d give Obama, she said two things.  First – "listen".  Second – "be confident, but not certain."  She described Bush as a president who has been too "certain" – he’s "certain that he is correct on all issues and then never listens."  In contrast, she wants a president who is "confident" yet willing to listen, learn, and adjust his point of view based on the data presented.  That resonated with me – being confident but willing to listen is a key tenant of a great leader in my book.

Now – go download Zynga’s Live Poker on your iPhone and play a hand or two.  If you made it through this blog post, you deserve a break.

Two years ago if you had told me that I’d be playing Texas Hold’em Poker with my Facebook friends on cell phone and enjoying it I would have snickered.  Well – that’s what I’m doing right now (actually – I just took a break from this blog post to play a hand – of course I lost all my chips on a pair of aces.)  And it is awesome.

Our portfolio company Zynga just released Live Poker on the iPhone.  Live Poker is a beautiful implementation of Texas Hold’em poker on the iPhone.  More importantly, it uses Facebook Connect to let me play Texas Holdem with all my Facebook friends (and anyone else on Facebook that happens to be playing.)  Zynga currently has over 1.4 million people playing Texas Holdem each day the free virtual casino is now enormous.

My good friend and one of our co-investors in Zynga – Fred Wilson – has a great description of how Live Poker connects the iPhone to the social web.  Mark Pincus – the CEO of Zynga – has an amazing vision of how casual games intersect with the social web and all kinds of different devices.  Mark and the gang at Zynga are doing a superb job of implementing this vision.

If you’ve got an iPhone, go give Live Poker a try – it’s free.  If you are a serious poker player and want more chips, grab the upgraded version for $9.99.

I didn’t come up with this idea – Om Malik did.  But he’s absolutely right – Obama needs to look outside the beltway for many key positions, including FCC Chair.  Tom Evslin is an absolute star in my book and as Om states:

"Tom Evslin, who is a retired telecom executive, is the kind of person I would expect to be in the FCC. He knows the machinations of the big companies and at the same time is an Internet liberal who can keep broadband providers and their anti-consumer tricks under check."

While Tom graciously responded in his post The Importance of the FCC that "[he’s] flattered although neither a likely choice (that’s an understatement) nor a candidate" help me and Om start a real drumbeat.  Obama was elected on a platform of change – let’s bring some completely fresh leadership and thinking into the mix.

As I stall before I head out the door for an hour run in the cold, dark mountains outside my house, I thought I’d share some of the interesting stuff I read this morning with you.

Forrester Chief on What Not to Cut in a Downturn: I mostly include this since it’s so entertainingly short and substance-free.  It links to a post of George Colony’s blog titled Why this tech recession will be different which is still short, has a little more substance, but seems painfully obvious.  Maybe people will cut their Forrester spending in the downtown (oh, cynical me.)  I hope no one at Forrester is using social media or any keyword alerts that catch this blog or else I’ll be in trouble with my friends at Forrester.

Where is Dubai? Jeff Jarvis has an awesome essay on his trip to Dubai.  He’s also got some pretty pictures in the post.

Five Minutes with Angel Investor Dave McClure: I’ve done a few investments with Dave and think he’s dynamite.  I went to Startup2Startup a few months ago when I was in the bay area and had a blast.  Good stuff.

Harvard: ‘Nothing Is Fucked, Dude’: Drew Faust, Harvard’s president, writes a long email on the state of Harvard given the economic downturn titled "Harvard and the economy".  In it she acknowledges the forecast that many college endowments will be down as much as 30% this year due to investment losses.  Eek.  Now’s a good time for my MIT friends to do some extra hacks on Harvard’s campus since there will be fewer security guards running around.

And now for some news from the world of companies that I’ve invested in.

How and Why We Made Glue: Alex Iskold has a long post up explaining the design choices behind the recent release of Adaptive Blue’s product.  The product – Glue – is dynamite and the explanation of the design choices is really interesting.

Solution Spotlight: is now using Gnip: Adoption of Gnip marches on day by day.  Subscribe to the Gnip blog to see how more companies are using it.

Look Out Google Site Search, Lijit Says It’s Right On Your Heels: ReadWriteWeb analyzes Lijit’s Widget Statistics Revivial 2.0 and comes up with some interesting thoughts.  Even more interesting (at least to me) are the kind and generous words they have about Lijit’s service.  If you have a blog but don’t yet use Lijit for your blog search engine, you are missing out.

Ok – enough stalling.  Time to get dressed and go running.

I was reading through Technology Review in the bathroom this morning and came across a quick piece on Iron Man that I missed during the movie.  Apparently Tony Stark was MIT Class of ’87.  Note the Brass Rat (not the same as the one I never wear.)


The article on the web goes on to mention my good friend John Underkoffler, who was the science and technology advisor for the movie (along with a number of other movies including Minority Report, The Hulk, and Aeon Flux.)  John is the founder / CTO of Oblong Industries, one of our Foundry Group investments.  Oblong will be unveiling itself later this month.


That’s me and John at my parents farm in Bells, Texas over 20 years ago.  He’s the real Tony Stark in my book.

On Wednesday, November 12th Silicon Flatirons is hosting a panel discussion titled Crash Course – Growing a Startup Amid Uncertain Economic TimesThe discussion will be held at Room 204 in the Wolf Law Building on the CU Boulder campus from 5:15pm to 6:45pm.  My partner Jason Mendelson will be speaking along with Ken Fugate of Square 1 Bank and Jim Cowgill of EKS&H.  Brad Bernthal, Brad Bernthal, Associate Clinical Professor and Silicon Flatirons’ Director of Entrepreneurship Initiatives, will be moderating.

It’s free – click here to register.  See you there.

I’ve made a large number of mistakes in my life.  My goal when I make a mistake is to understand what I did wrong, learn from it, pick myself up, and move forward.  When I’ve made the same mistake for the third time, I usually finally figure out what I’m doing wrong.

While I’ve also had plenty of success, I never get confused about where most of my lessons come from.  In case this is ever ambiguous from my writing, I learn the vast majority of my lessons from my failures.  I also have learned what I don’t know, and have figured out that I shouldn’t venture into areas where I’m clueless unless I am willing to spend a lot of time up front researching them – at least to the point where I’m no longer completely clueless.

Matt McCall points us to a great essay by James Montier from Societe General titled Mind Matters: An admission of ignorance; a humble approach to investingI thought it was right on and was nicely reinforced by Matt’s very personal post titled Ignorance and Humility.

On the heals of a really awesome Defrag conference, many of the companies I’m an investor in are plowing ahead aggressively regardless of the rumors and innuendo about technology entrepreneurship.  I’ve got a post in me titled "The Four Types of Companies" – look for that soon to help explain how I categorize venture-backed startups in the current environment and what I think they should be doing.  Suffice it to say, the companies in this post are all in a happy place.

  • Wonder what Gnip does?  Read the post titled More examples of how companies are using Gnip by Gnip’s VP Product Shane Pearson.  Or check out the video interview of Jud Valeski (Gnip’s CTO/co-founder) titled Zeroing the Latency With Gnip on YDN.
  • Who dominates blog widgets?  Lijit has a new version of their periodic widget report up in the post titled Widget Statistics Revival 2.0 which is data from the blogs of over 185,000 active publishersThe rankings and patterns are pretty interesting.
  • Are you a content provider who wants an iPhone app with your content on it?  Sign up for NewsGator’s free webinar titled Transform Your Content into a Profitable iPhone App.  Look for the Feld Thoughts iPhone app soon to be available soon.

I think entrepreneurship is the fundamental "reinvigorator" of our economy.  So does Mark Cuban in his post PE Obama’s 1st Big Mistake.  Cuban voted for Obama even though all of his other votes went to Republicans, Libertarians, and Independents so his criticism definitely falls in the "constructive feedback" category.

Sramana Mitra also has a great article about this in Forbes titled President Obama: Listen to Entrepreneurs.   In it, Mitra says "You want to create 5 million new green jobs–a great goal. To create 5 million jobs, you need at least 50,000 entrepreneurs–leaders–to step up to the plate."  Mitra has some great stuff in this article.

On Wednesday, the conversation shifted immediately from "the past" to "the future".  Time to get going.

I love a good data visualization.  A friend (thanks Rick) pointed me at this awesome site of different mapping permutations based on the 2008 election results.  For example – election results based on a population cartogram.

Lots more on the site – check it out.  Thanks Rick!