Month: October 2012

Oct 19 2012

Random Act of Kindness – Jedi Max

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On Sunday I’ll be running the Detroit Marathon with a bunch of friends including my partner Jason Mendelson who is running his first marathon. Becky Cooper, our CFO, and Jill Spruiell (Jason’s EA) are also running their first marathon, as is Andrew Tschesnok, the CEO of Organic Motion.

As this is my second marathon in my Random Act of Kindness series, Amy and I are again raising $10,000 for someone on GiveForward. We’ll be matching $5,000 of contributions from this community with a gift from us of $5,000. Our recipient this time in Max Simmons who we refer to as Jedi Max. We don’t know Jedi Max – we just know he’s fighting cancer and is awesome.

Here’s Jedi Max’s story:

Max is a fun-loving, spirited seven year old who has been diagnosed with Glioblastoma Multiforming or GBM, a type of brain cancer. It is one of the most aggressive forms of cancer. The doctors have already removed most of the tumor, though he still has a long road ahead. He will be receiving chemo and radiation. Max’s treatments are an hour’s drive each direction and he will be receiving them for six weeks, five days a week. His parents, Jay and Scott, are concerned about not meeting the non-medical expenses such as gas, food, and other things that may come up. With how things stand now, Jay may not be able to return to work. Max loves everything Legos and Star Wars. He is doesn’t have a mean bone in his body and wears his heart on his sleeve and his heart is as big as Texas. He is a true Jedi Warrior!

In our last Random Act of Kindness campaign, we raised over $10,000 for Justin Salcedo who is now cancer free! Let’s show Jedi Max the power of the community and do it again.

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Oct 18 2012

Separating Regional Economic Development Fact From Fiction

Today I read the following headline in the Boulder Daily Camera: “Phillips 66 to sell 432-acre campus in Louisville.” This was quite a reversal from the headline in the Denver Post 4.5 years ago titled “Conoco deal fuels optimism.” For anyone who drives up and down Highway 36 between Boulder and Denver (or from Boulder to DIA) we regularly see this huge, empty, relatively ugly former StorageTek headquarters site which has been sitting “about ready to be developed any day we promise” by Conoco Phillips. As of today, this is no ambiguity that Conoco Phillips (now Phillips 66) won’t be developing anything on the site.

Here are some snippets from the article in the Denver Post on 2/21/08.

“Touting his vision for a new energy economy and ending months of speculation, Gov. Bill Ritter on Wednesday revealed that ConocoPhillips has purchased the former StorageTek campus in Louisville.”

“This will push the new energy economy for Colorado,” Ritter said. “This will provide economic security, environmental security and energy security.”

“While the number of jobs the region will gain is still in question, the company will bring thousands of employees to the training center each year.”

“It’s a perfect example of Colorado’s new energy economy, and we are very much looking forward to welcoming ConocoPhillips to Colorado,” said Matt Cheroutes, director of communications and external affairs for the state Office of Economic Development and International Trade. “This will lend to our ability to attract companies to Colorado’s new energy economy. This certainly could mean opportunities for significant job growth in the state.”

“It certainly reinforces the great work that Gov. Ritter has been doing to grow this renewable-energy cluster,” said Joe Blake, president of the Metro Denver Economic Development Corp. “This just signals to me that Colorado is at the center of this right now on a worldwide basis.”

There’s plenty more but the summary is that in 2008 government leaders declared victory when the land was purchased and asserted all kinds of validation and economic development as a result of it. Of course, we now know that none of it happened and the land – which was supposed to be fully developed by 2012 – is still vacant.

I see this all the time in my travels around the US with regard to economic development activities. There is this incredible focus by government on attracting big business projects, headquarters projects, and speculative development projects. Sometimes major financial incentives, usually in the form of tax relief, is offered as a sweeter. In the situations where this works, I can imagine a long term economic benefit to a region.

However, the sale of a piece of property doesn’t signal anything. And, like many other economic development victories, it’s a total non-event until something is done. Yet politicians and their economic development folks assert that amazing things will happen as a result. These aren’t hypotheses (e.g. “if they actually develop this project amazing things will happen”) they are statement of facts about how they will happen. If you read the article as well as look at the development that has occurred immediately adjacent to the site (apartments and a hotel) you can see how the speculators show up right away.

It’s all very arbitrary feeling to me and doesn’t surprise me at all. When the land was purchased and everyone in state and local government raved about how amazing it would be for the Boulder area, most of the entrepreneurs I know barely noticed it. And four years later it hasn’t had any impact on the Boulder startup scene, positive or negative, that I’m aware of.

It’s another example of what I talk about in Startup Communities as the disconnect between government and the startup community.

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Oct 17 2012

Autographing the Kindle Version of Startup Communities

Every day someone shows me a Kindle and asks jokingly if I can sign Startup Communities for them. This is one moment when I wish I always carried a sharpie or a paperclip with me. I adore Kindles too much to actually ruin them, but the thought crosses my mind every time I hear the question.

There is however a way for me to sign Kindle versions of my books. It’s a super cool app called Kindlegraph. Simply go to it, authenticate with Twitter, and search for “Brad Feld” or “Startup Communities” (or just click on the preceding links.)

As an author, there’s something emotionally satisfying about signing a book you’ve written. I guess it creates another connection with the reader, which is bidirectionally powerful. I’m glad I can now do it on the Kindle as well as on physical books.

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Oct 14 2012

F%^$ and f*&^%$#

As Amy and I continue to crank away on Startup Life: Surviving and Thriving in a Relationship with an Entrepreneur, I learned a funny, perplexing, and strange thing. There apparently is an editorial standard, at least at Wiley, for the words “fuck” and “fucking”.

Fuck = F%^$

Fucking = F*&^%$#

Crazy. Hilarious. Fun. Bizarre.

I discovered this yesterday as I was going through and making all the changes to the feedback from our “publisher draft” submission which we got back on Friday. We’ve got plenty of dialogue with the words “fuck” and “shit” in them because (a) that’s how a lot of humans, including us, talk and (b) when there’s conflict, which we cover a lot in the book, the words “fuck” and “shit” tend to fly.

For some reason “shit” is ok. It made it through this particular edit pass. But “fuck” did not, except in a particular phrase, “fuck you money.” Let’s see if that one survives the next edit pass. And, when the final book comes out, we’ll see if shit did as well.

Back to working on the book. The final deadline is 10/22 so if you see me in the next nine days and you want to torture me, just ask “how’s the book going.” I expect you’ll hear some variant of f%^$ in my response.

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Oct 12 2012

The Power of a Deadline

If you’ve ever shipped anything, you understand the power of a deadline. It’s incredibly helpful to me as an investor to also be a maker, as I get to experience the same pressure many of the people I’m investing in feel, as I try to weave the creation – in my case of books – into a very busy life. Blending the creative / maker experience with a very full manager experience is fascinating, hard, and very enlightening.

The latest maker experience I’m having is the book my wife Amy and I are writing called Startup Life: Surviving and Thriving in a Relationship with an Entrepreneur. The deadline for the draft that “goes into production” with our publisher (Wiley) is due on 10/22. “Going into production” means the writing is done –  the next thing we get back is the copyedited version, which we can tweak, but not make major changes to. Basically, once we submit on 10/22 other than cleaning stuff up, the ship has sailed.

While the Startup Life deadline looms, it’s not at the top of my work priority stack. My top work priority is my activity as a partner at Foundry Group. This is unambiguous to me and everyone around me – I spend the vast majority of my time on this and any time an entrepreneur I’m working with needs me they get a top level interrupt on anything I’m doing. Next in line is my work with TechStars. Next is the book Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your Community which shipped at the end of September. Then Startup Life. That’s it – I’ve got no capacity for anything else right now.

When I got back from “summer” – which was my return to New York from my bike trip to Slovenia – Amy and I had 15,000 words written for Startup Life. The book was put together pretty well – we knew what we wanted to write, but we had a ton of writing to do. We were together in New York for two weeks so we got a lot of writing done in between all the other stuff we did. I’ve been traveling around the country since and our weekends have been dedicated to writing while Amy writes all week as I run around and do my thing.

Last night after getting to the hotel room in San Francisco at 10pm, I spent three hours making a bunch of minor edits to the current version (we are still using SkyDrive and it has been awesome.) My assistant Kelly printed a copy out on Monday morning for me to drag around. It’s the first time I’ve read the book from beginning to end on paper and it validated that we are almost there. Last night when I went to bed we had 65,656 words. We’ve still got a few things to add in, but we are close.

The deadline dynamic is fascinating. Originally we had a “publisher draft deadline” of today (10/12/22). This is the version we submit to our senior editor and his team. They do a quick review with broad suggestions. This was due back to us on 10/17/22. We then have a “production draft deadline” of 10/22/22 (five days in this case.) While all of that feels very tight, given that this is my fourth book with Wiley, they are comfortable with my approach and I know what to expect back from them. But five days still isn’t very much.

So Amy and I beat our deadline and shipped the publisher draft early Monday morning on 10/8/12. This bought us an extra weekend of work since we’ll get the feedback today rather than on next Wednesday, 10/17/22. We now have ten days until our final deadline on 10/22/12, instead of only five.

Several people have suggested we write a book titled “Startup Author: Surviving and Thriving Writing a Book With Your Significant Other.” It’s been an awesome experience to do a collaborative project like this with Amy. I love her brain and how it works. It’s very different than mine and we each know and understand that. We complement, and compliment, each other a huge amount, and I feel this is reflected in the book, which makes me happy.

The deadline is such a powerful forcing function. I’m experiencing it again first hand and it gives me even more respect for the entrepreneurs I work with everyday. After I finished up last night, I gave myself a pre-sleep treat and watched Episode 3 of the founders. As I was watching it, I thought of the title for this post. So – count this riff inspired by all of the founders at TechStars – y’all are the really awesome ones who inspire me!

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Oct 11 2012

Kauffman Sketchbook on Startup Communities

I just finished up at Thinc Iowa and am heading to San Francisco for a few meetings tomorrow. I had an awesome time in the last 24 hours, especially last night hanging out for three hours with 20 or so  entrepreneurs at StartupCity in Des Moines.

I started my talk off today by showing a video that the Kauffman Foundation just did for Startup Communities. It’s part of the Kauffman Sketchbook series which I completely love. I think it does a fantastic job of explaining the Boulder Thesis, which is the framework that I use in Startup Communities for how to create a vibrant and sustainable entrepreneurial ecosystem.

If you haven’t seen the Kauffman Sketchbook series, go check out some of the other videos. My favorite is from Paul Kedrosky about raising capital titled Money Game. It follows.

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Oct 9 2012

In Boulder on Monday 10/15 Talking About Startup Communities

My friends Phil Weiser and Brad Bernthal at Silicon Flatirons (who are a big part of the book Startup Communities) are hosting me in Boulder on Monday for a “Crash Course: Startup Communities – Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City.”) It’s happening at CU Boulder from 6:15pm – 7:45pm and Lesa Mitchell from the Kauffman Foundation will be joining us for a discussion. Lesa and her colleague Paul Kedrosky has also been a big supporter and influencer on my thinking in this area.

If you want a preview of what I’ll be talking about, Steve Blank, the successful entrepreneur and brilliant brain behind the Customer Development idea, has an outstanding and thorough (like everything Steve does) review of Startup Communities up on his site.

This is the first public session in Boulder about Startup Communities. I’m in Chicago today at the Startup America Regional Summit where I’m talking about Startup Communities with leaders of about 35 regions that have embraced the Startup America movement. I’ve been having a lot of fun talking about the book, getting feedback from entrepreneurial leaders around the country, and meeting with some new and interesting entrepreneurs who are working on super cool businesses. But it’s always fun to have home court advantage and I’m very much looking forward to spending time talking about Startup Communities with a bunch of people in Boulder who helped me figure all this stuff out.

If you are in Boulder on Monday 10/15 and want to come hang out, register for the event now (it’s free) and come join us.

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Oct 8 2012

MakerBot Is Hiring Software and Manufacturing Engineers

MakerBot is hiring a lot of folks but they have a two specific needs that are unique. If you fit the description, or know someone who does, please reach out to me or apply.

1. Software Engineer with a focus in Computational Geometry and Image Processing (https://makerbot.applicantstack.com/x/detail/a2m4ro97dz39)

2. Manufacturing Engineer to be a strong leader for our manufacturing teams (https://makerbot.applicantstack.com/x/detail/a2m4ro9s06i3)

The jobs are in Brooklyn, home of all things MakerBot.

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Oct 8 2012

Hacker News For Startup Communities

I’m a huge admirer of Hacker News – it’s one of the sites I look at every day in my Daily reading routine. I scan the links, often click through to articles, and occasionally comment.

I’ve decided to try a similar approach for the Startup Revolution community that I’m calling the Startup Revolution Hub. Rather than reblog a bunch of stuff that I get from the world about Startup Communities, I’m going to open up the ability to put this up on the Hub to anyone who wants to contribute, starting now. I’ve built the Hub on top of SocialEngine, which is rapidly evolving as an amazing tool for building and managing communities.

As we roll out other books in the Startup Revolution series, including Startup Life: Surviving and Thriving in a Relationship with an Entrepreneur, we’ll use the Startup Revolution Hub for these as well.

If you are interested in being part of the Startup Revolution, go to the Startup Revolution Hub right now, sign up, and contribute! And, feature requests about the Hub are welcome.

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Oct 7 2012

The Founders: The Problem, The Solution, and Why We Give A Shit

Are you watching The Founders Season 3 on TechStars.TV? If not, why not? Episode 2 (and Go!) is below – it echoes the points made yesterday in my post If You Can’t Explain What You Do In A Paragraph, You’ve Got A Problem.

There’s a cameo from my dad (Stan Feld) at 2:05. See – even dad’s care about TechStars. In addition to seeing Stan, you get to learn what a 10:10 meeting is. And you get to see the teams struggle with their shitty elevator pitches at the very beginning of the program.

Early this morning I got a note from Allen Morgan pointing to a blog he wrote titled Entrepreneurs: For Venture Capital Pitches, Say What Your Startup “Does” not What It “Is”It nicely reinforces the point that active voice wins over passive voice. As Allen says at the end, “Be active, not passive.  Passive puts audiences to sleep; not good in a pitch where you’re asking for money.”

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