Brad Feld

Month: February 2009

I love my dogs.  I have two giant golden retrievers – Kenai and Brooks.


Dogster (where I’m an investor) recently launched a new Together Tag pet ID service in partnership with the American Red Cross.  It’s a comprehensive and well thought out service that goes beyond things like microchipping your pet.

It’s inexpensive – only a $24.95 one time fee for your pet.  As part of this, Dogster contributes $5 of the fee to the American Red Cross to help support pet safety programs.  I just got one for each of Kenai and Brooks – the signup process was trivial and took less than five minutes.

Protect your pet!

In case you don’t get enough of me, you can now download the Brad Feld iPhone app.  Or – from your iPhone – just do an App Store search on Brad Feld.  As a result of the Brad Feld iPhone app you can easily get the blogs from Feld Thoughts, Ask the VC, Foundry Group, Amy Batchelor, and Stan Feld all in one nifty app on your iPhone. 

While my ego is satiated, at least for a few days, the really cool thing to me is how this came together.  When the iPhone first came out, Brent Simmons created an iPhone version of NetNewsWire which was dynamite.  He iterated quickly on this and realized that it could be the core of an iPhone app business built on top of the NewsGator / NetNewsWire framework.  This has resulted in a new product for NewsGator – the NewsGator iPhone App Framework.

They needed a “test app” to harden the framework and I quickly volunteered (ah – the special privileges of a nerdy early investor.)  The result is the Brad Feld iPhone app, but more importantly a deep iPhone app dev framework.  Brent – who continues to do an amazing job on everything he touches – talks about the why and how along with announcing the deployment of a real iPhone app for Variety (vs just his cheesy investor beta tester.)

I’m heading out to Seattle for a board meeting and a few other things.  Tonight, I’m going to be doing an event called Beers and Boulder with Brad.  I’m going to talk about entrepreneurial communities, the critical importance of entrepreneurship and innovation today,  TechStars, what we’ve done in Boulder to drive entrepreneurship that can apply to other cities such as Seattle, and why we are expanding TechStars to Boston.  I’m then going to stick around until they kick us out answering any and all questions and talking with whoever wants to hang out.

The event was the idea of Dave Schappell of TeachStreet and TA McCann of Gist.  They’ve done an awesome job making it easy for me to “just show up, talk, and answer questions.”  Three great sponsors – Beacon Law Advisors, Square 1 Bank, and Microsoft BizSpark are underwriting the event.

If you aren’t in Seattle tonight, the event will be streamed live.  If you are in Seattle, come join us.

Last week while I was off the grid for my Q1 vacation, TechStars announced that we are doing a Boston program this summer.  Applications for both the Boston and the Boulder programs are open until March 21, 2009 at 11:59:59 PM MDT, but apply before 3/1/09 and be eligible to attend TechStars for a Day.

We launched the original TechStars program in January 2007.  We’ve now run TechStars in Boulder for two years and have had a dynamite time, helped create some super companies (we’ve had 20 companies go through the program, 2 have been profitably acquired, 2 are profitable, and 12 have been funded), and have been able to contribute meaningfully to the Boulder entrepreneurial scene.

In October, I spent a few days in Boston with Amy.  Among other things, I arranged a “nerd dinner” for some of my old Boston friends, including Shawn Broderick, Warren Katz, Colin Angle, Eran Egozy, and Steve Munroe.  While I have regular contact with each of them, they hadn’t been together in a gang for a while so we enjoyed a rambunctious meal at Sel de la Terre (thanks Warren for dinner) and ended up talking about entrepreneurship in Boston for a while.  There was a lot of discussion about how to energize the community more, what we had been doing in Boulder, and who was doing what to whom.  As part of the discussion, Eran told me I had to get together with Bill Warner, who had been thinking of some of the same things.

Coincidentally I’d been connected with Bill a few weeks earlier by David Cohen.  Bill was considering investing in EventVue (one of the TechStars 2007 companies), was interested in talking more about it, TechStars, and Boston.  We had lunch scheduled for the next day.  I’d never met Bill, but I knew of him from MIT and his experience as the founder of Avid and Wildfire, and had seen him speak about his experiences (I think at an MIT Enterprise Forum event) when I was living in Boston.

We had an awesome lunch and hit it off immediately.  Bill totally got TechStars and our mentor driven approach and said, in short “we’ve got to do this in Boston.”  A logical next step was to have Bill come out to Boulder, spend a day really immersed in things with David, and figure out if it made sense.  We did this and the three of us got more excited about the idea of doing TechStars in Boston, but realized we needed to find “a David” to run things on a daily basis.

We made our list of potential David’s, checked it twice, and started calling.  Shawn Broderick was at the top of the list.  I’ve known and worked with Shawn since 1988 – he was the third employee at Feld Technologies, I was the lead angel investor in Genetic Anomalies which had a very successful acquisition by THQ, and am an investor in TrustPlus.  Shawn was a perfect fit, spent time with David in Boulder, and voila, we decided to do TechStars Boston.

Wade Roush at Xconomy Boston has a thorough interview up with David Cohen titled TechStars “Entrepreneurship Boot Camp” Comes to Boston: An Interview with Co-founder David Cohen that goes deeper in to the why and how.  Shawn has hit the ground running and we are totally psyched with how the Boston program is coming together.

Having spent 1983 to 1995 in Boston, this is a wonderful “going full circle moment” for me.  I’m planning on spending some chunks of time in Boston this summer both with our investments (we’ve got two in Boston), TechStars, MIT, and old friends.  Bill – thanks for being the spark that got this started!

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Perfect.  I love The Onion.  Thanks Rick.

Sim Simeonov, a partner at Polaris Venture Partners, sent me (along with a bunch of his closest friends) the following email this morning.

“Founders often ask about the dilution they are likely to experience through exit. There are rules of thumb but there is no good data about what happens to common stock (at least, I haven’t been able to find such data outside of S1 filings which are a very biased sample). So, I built a little survey to collect anonymous data from entrepreneurs. I’ll crunch the numbers and share the stats with everyone. I’d appreciate your help in spreading the word around so that we get enough data.”

Sim is doing a short survey to collect this info.  Help him become statistically significant by taking the survey – it looks like it’ll take less than two minutes.  He promises to post the results on his blog.

Don Dodge totally nails it in his post Create 50,000 companies for $1BHe builds on Fred Wilson’s No Thanks post when discussing what the US government should do with 1/20th of auto industry bailout money. 

“Government should create incentives for investment.  It is probably best not to make the investments directly. There are already some good programs and incentives in place that have been forgotten or underfunded for too long. Pouring money into these programs is certain to stimulate investment, inspire innovation, and create jobs.”

The four existing programs that Don reminds us of are the Small Business Investment Company, Small Business Innovation Research, 20% R&D tax credit, and a Seed Capital Tax Credit.

I’m personally a huge fan of the Seed Capital Tax Credit, especially administered at the state level.

Note the key phrase “incentives for investment.”  And Don correctly makes the assertion that “it is probably best not to make the investments directly.”

Ironically, none of this is very difficult to execute on and it would have an enormous impact on innovation, investment, and entrepreneurial job creation.  If anyone in the government wants to talk about it, just email me.  I’m happy to head up a committee of three which would include me, Fred Wilson, and Don Dodge.

My monthly column in Entrepreneur Magazine is up (and on the newsstands).  This month’s article is titled Check Your VC’s Pulse and offers entrepreneurs three important questions to ask your VC investors to understand better the health of their firm.  It also explains what the various answers to the questions mean.

As an addendum to the article, read Fred Wilson’s post titled A Stimulus Plan For Venture Capital? No Thanks.  In response to Tom Friedman’s NY Times op-ed piece where he suggests the US government take the auto industry bailout money and give it to top venture capital firms instead, Fred explains the problem and risk of adverse selection very clearly.

“So Tom’s idea, while it looks good on paper, is a dream. The top venture firms don’t want, don’t need, and are never going to take government money. The same is true of the top entrepreneurs.

The worst firms, on the other hand, will gladly accept government money. And that is what is going to happen with all of these government efforts to pour more money into the "innovation sector". That money will go to bad investors and weak entrepreneurs and management teams for the most part. It’s a problem of adverse selection.”

The post is great, but the comments (113 so far) are even better.

I’m back in Boulder from my Q1 vacation with Amy.  We spent the first few days at our ski house in Keystone with the Wilson Quintet (Fred, Joanne, Jessica, Emily, and Josh).  We then went to Paradise Island in the Bahamas with our Boston friends Warren and Ilana Katz.  We had a great time chilling out, enjoying our friends, sleeping a lot, eating at Nobu (twice), reading, and being completely off the grid.

I read five books on vacation.  All of them were great; two were incredible and highly relevant.

The first was an economy themed book.  John Bogle’s Enough: True Measures of Money, Business, and Life was one of the clearest books I’ve ever read about the difference between investment and speculation.  Bogle is the founder of The Vanguard Group and is a tireless advocate of the superiority of index funds over traditional actively-managed mutual funds.  I’ll follow up with a longer post on my view of the difference between investment and speculation; suffice it to say that I think America (and the world) needs a lot more investment and a lot less speculation.  Bogle also does a great job talking about what matters in life (yes – “enough” has several meanings in this book.)

The second was a foreign policy themed book.  I learned more about how to think about foreign policy in the context of the US government by reading Madeleine Albright’s Memo to the President Elect: How We Can Restore America’s Reputation and Leadership than I’ve learned cumulatively from all other sources I’ve been exposed to over the past decade.  She writes plainly, with a clarity of thought that I find unique to books like this.  Brilliant.

If you are a leader of any organization, you should read both of these books.  They will help you realign your principles with our current reality while giving you a clear context to consider what has gone wrong with the US economy and US foreign policy.  While you probably won’t agree with everything written, both books will cause you to pause and think, which I always find to be a good thing.

Lest you think it was a completely serious vacation, I can assure you that President Will Lee once again saves the world in Mounting Fears by Stuart Woods (and yes – the wordplay in the title is delicious)  and Nicholai Hel holds up well as the protagonist in Trevanian’s classic Shibumi, although it took me a while to get into it this time around (my fourth I think).

Finally, I started the week with Dean Karnazes 50/50: Secrets I Learned Running 50 Marathons in 50 Days — and How You Too Can Achieve Super Endurance! .  Karnazes is a remarkable athlete, human being, and story teller.  If you are a runner or endurance athlete, Dean never disappoints.