Brad Feld

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Do More Faster in PE Hub

Oct 15, 2010

I periodically write the first column for PE Hub.  Dan Primack, who is now writing a great column at Fortune called Term Sheet used to do this; there are now guest writers (including me) who do this column.  Yesterday, I wrote a column about the book that David Cohen and I just wrote called Do More Faster.  Enjoy!

Writing a book is hard. Really hard. Much harder than I thought. So I’m extra satisfied that “Do More Faster: TechStars Lessons to Accelerate Your Startup” is finished.

Ive been helping create software and Internet companies for over 25 years, starting with my first company, Feld Technologies, in 1985 when I was in college. By 1987 I had a partner, a mentor (my father) and a company that was capitalized with $10. (Yes, 10 dollars.) We bootstrapped the business because we had to and by 1993, when we sold the company to a large public company, we’d built a nice, consistently profitable business.

Since then, Ive been involved with creating and funding hundreds of companies both as an angel investor and a VC (now at Foundry Group). Four years ago I co-founded TechStars with David Cohen (CEO of TechStars) to help first-time entrepreneurs create new software and Internet companies while simultaneously working to energize the Boulder, Colo., entrepreneurial community, which was vibrant but small. Boulder’s population is just 100,000.

Over the past four years, my partners at Foundry Group and I have spent a lot of time talking about, thinking about, and studying how software and Internet companies get started. We’ve done this through our seed investments as well as through our activity at TechStars, starting in Boulder, then expanding to Boston, Seattle and New York.

A year ago, David and I decided to try to put our thoughts down in a book. Ive been blogging–along with my partners–for a number of years. So it seemed logical to organize some of our thoughts into a book. One weekend about a year ago, David and I holed up at my house in Keystone and sketched out the first draft of what became “Do More Faster.”

We decided to write a book by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs. Rather than preach, we gathered first-person accounts from the entrepreneurs who have gone through the TechStars program and their mentors. It is primarily made up of 80 short chapters (two to three pages each) and organized by seven themes: idea and vision; people; execution; product; fund-raising; legal and structure; and work/life balance. David and I then wrote a bunch of connective tissue between each chapter to create a cohesive narrative.

The title of the book comes from a common phrase heard around TechStars. Startups have an important advantage over larger companies when they use the philosophy of doing more faster. By trying more things in a short period of time, they can adopt their product better to the market and their customers. It’s also related to the idea that TechStars is a three-month program and doing more faster is a survival skill for both the program and for early stage entrepreneurs.

“Do More Faster” is also the title of one of the chapters, while the other 79 take as their titles other one-liners from TechStars, such as “Trust Me, Your Idea Is Worthless,” “Usage Is Like Oxygen For Ideas,” “Hire People Better Than You,” “Be Tiny Until You Shouldn’t Be,” and “Seed Investors Care About Three Things.” Each of the chapters stands alone and includes a first-person account from me, David, a TechStars entrepreneur or mentor. While we originally envisioned that “Do More Faster” would target first-time entrepreneurs, now that it’s finished we are hopeful that it is valuable for any entrepreneur, investor, and early employee of a startup.

When I reflect on the process of writing this book, I realized that I accomplished several goals at the same time that are all related to my lifetime commitment to continually learn, with a specific focus on entrepreneurship. At the most obvious level, I learned what it took to write a book and become a published author. But the process of writing the book gave me a lot of time to reflect on what it takes to create a new company, the attributes of a successful entrepreneur and how entrepreneurial communities work.

Most importantly, it exposed me to the deep thoughts of over 70 other entrepreneurs and mentors who contributed to both TechStars and the book. Hundreds of companies later, I’m still learning all the time from other entrepreneurs, especially those doing it for the first time. I hope you will also.