Brad Feld

Month: January 2013

I read the announcement today that Canada has just launched a Start-Up Visa Program. By doing so, they are saying to the world “welcome immigrant entrepreneurs – please come start your business in Canada.” It’s brilliant, well executed, and modeled after the Startup Visa movement that a number of us have been trying to get started in the US since 2009.

I continue to be really discouraged by the US government activity around the Startup Visa movement, and more specifically around immigration reform as it applies to entrepreneurs. After trying for the past three years to get something passed, nothing has happened beyond administrative changes to the existing laws. While in some cases this has improved the interpretation of the rules, we are still totally missing the boat here in the US. CBP and USCIS continue to implement the rules inconsistently, resulting in regular outrageous situations including tossing entrepreneurs with existing valid visas in jail when they enter the US and banning other entrepreneurs from coming into the country as a result of misinterpretation by CBP of how things should work. I hear at least one horrifying story a week, try to help when I can, but mostly am just embarrassed and ashamed of our US policies around this.

While Canada is plowing forward making it easy for immigrant entrepreneurs to move to Canada and start companies, the US efforts are now entirely focused on “comprehensive immigration reform.” The first bills for this are supposed to start appearing in a few months and I expect we’ll see similar dynamics that we saw around Obamacare. Endless political machinations, an ever expanding set of bills that cover all kinds of things in addition to immigration reform, and a complex set of tradeoffs that have unintended consequences that no one can understand.

On top of this, I’ve heard from a number of political insider friends that “the vote math doesn’t work.” I’ve learned that this means it is an incredible uphill battle to get anything passed, and the compromise that is going to happen to get certain people in Congress to support the bills means that the “tradeoffs and compromises” (which the more cynical among us – including me – means “the political bribes they need to agree to vote a certain way”)are going to be extensive.

In the mean time, Canada is shouting from the rooftops about the benefits of the Start-Up Visa program.

  • The Start-up Visa Program will enable immigrant entrepreneurs to launch innovative companies that will create jobs in Canada, and eventually, compete globally.
  • The Program will provide entrepreneurs with valuable assistance in navigating the Canadian business environment which can sometimes prove challenging for newcomers.
  • The Program will provide private sector firms with access to a broader range of entrepreneurs, including the best and the brightest minds from around the world.

Since I believe entrepreneurs should be able to start their companies anywhere in the world they’d like, I applaud the Canadian government for taking action here. And I encourage any immigrant entrepreneur considering moving to the US to also consider moving to Canada given this new program.

Dear Mr. Friends In Washington: Pay attention. We continue to be less competitive because of our intransigence around immigration, especially with regard to being entrepreneurs. Canada is showing real leadership. Why not just emulate them?

Enhanced by Zemanta

A few weeks ago I did a long interview with Jason Calacanis on This Week In Startups. I got a bunch of positive feedback on it and thought it was one of the better long form interviews I’ve done in a while.

The other day Jason released an interview that he recently did with David Cohen, the CEO of TechStars. I listened to it earlier today – it was also excellent. I highly recommend it if you are interested in TechStars, accelerators, early stage investing, ramping your startup, and how David thinks about angel investing from his fund Bullet Time Ventures.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KuWLGAbyEaw]


I participated in the lip dub of the song Lucky Ones, created by the gang at Undrip. They did this as a fundraiser for victims of Hurricane Sandy – I just contributed $900 to the effort ($300 each to Not Just Bagels, Jersey Shore Apparel, and Bungalow Bar & Restaurant). I think you’ll enjoy the song – it’s fun and, if you are so inspired, help out the fundraiser. We are – in fact – the lucky ones.

The lyrics, and the guest appearances, follow (including special guest dance that I do with my friend Pat Minotaur at 2:39).

Verse 1:
This is the one for the ninjas and rockstars (Mick Hagen)
Waiting for their chance to come up like a pop tart (Tim Draper)
People with the vision on their way to the top
Don’t let anybody tell you when to stop, start (Brian Wong)

Doin’ what you love because time is a wasting’ (Leah Busque)
You gotta get a beta from the nascent (Josh Felser)
Stay hungry on the way to your destination
It takes determination and patience (Justin Kan)

I don’t mean it as a diss, but wishing’s a waste of time
And you’ll never reach the front if you’re waiting in line (David Hornik)
So rise and grind, if you’re inclined (Jamie Wong)
Stay strapped on your deadline, never recline (Brad Feld)

Every time — they call you crazy, that’s gnar (Paul Davison)
No shame in the game this is who we are (Alexis Ohanian)
So flex your hustle get to running like a muscle car
And catch a long tail on your shooting star (Rick Marini)

Hook:
We are the lucky ones,
We are the dream,
And we’ll see it all come true, yah,
Cuz we work all day, and we play at night,
Nothing can stop, nothing can stop,
The dream of the lucky one

Verse 2:
So let me put it on the table like Paula Deen
You wanna get that butter, gotta churn that cream (Patrick Chung)
Got a scheme and a team, better hit it with steam
Or you’ll be singing it like biggie “It was all a dream” (Will Harbin)

And you don’t wanna see it get dusty
Trust me it’s ugly you better do something (Ted Rheingold)
Whether in your element enveloped in development (Christine Tsai)
Or busting your butt trying to get that funding (Josh Kopelman)

It’s a long road, no denyin (Micah Baldwin, Jessica Alter)
You gotta keep pitchin like Nolan Ryan (David Weekly)
There is a demand for what you can supply (Josh Elman)
And the bay runs deep so the well ain’t dryin (Alfred Lin)

We say it a lot and yo it might sound funny (Emily Olson)
You’ll never keep playing this game for the money (Rob Lafave)
It’s something inside that you can’t deny (Aston Motes)
You decide your life and that’s lucky (Robert Scoble)


Amy and I talk a lot about big issues, such as depression and divorce, in Startup Life: Surviving and Thriving in a Relationship with an Entrepreneur. I’ve been speaking from experience on each of these topics, as I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression my entire adult life (the official DSM-IV code I have for my diagnosis from 1991 is 300.3 – Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder) and, in 1990, I was divorced from my first wife.

I’ve always been open about these two issues (and experiences) since they’ve had a profound impact on me. I’ve learned how to manage my OCD and, even when I’m depressed, I’m very functional (if you didn’t know I was having a depressive episode, you’d think I was just flat or having an off day.) And many of the things that Amy and I do right in our relationship are lessons that we learned when reflecting on why my first marriage, and marriages of friends of ours – many of which are entrepreneurial couples – have failed.

As I’ve been doing interviews and talking about Startup Life, I’ve been asked several times whether or not entrepreneurs are more prone to depression and divorce. While I have zero empirical data, I believe from my qualitative experience that they are no less prone to this than the rest of the population. But I don’t really have empirical data to support this assertion either.

So – I’m looking for real data. Do any of you out there know of real quantitative studies – preferably academic / social science oriented, that investigate the question of whether or not entrepreneurs are more prone to depression? Or, a separate study that investigates the question of whether or not entrepreneurs are more prone to divorce?

If you know of one, email me or leave it in the comments.

Enhanced by Zemanta

I’m crazy proud of my partners Jason Mendelson and Ryan McIntyre for their band Legitimate Front. In addition to being VCs, we each have a creative outlet that is super important to us. Mine is writing books; their’s is creating awesome music.

In August, their released the first album from their new band Legitimate Front. The idea of staying up until midnight on a Saturday night at The Fox Theater in Boulder is an odd thing for me, but I showed up and rocked out with them. And was totally, and completely, blown away.
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R9Hbegg1-zw]

Two of our old partners from Mobius Venture Capital – Greg Galanas and Carl Rosendahl – showed up to support them. And our IT Guy – Ross Carlson – made an impressive guest appearance on the sax.

They’ll have more gigs coming up in the future, including a magic top secret one in San Francisco in a few months. Guys – y’all rock.


I love Scott Kveton, the CEO of Urban Airship. He and his team are building an amazing company in Portland. If you do anything mobile-related and use push notifications of any sort, or real-time location targeting, you need to be talking to them. But even more impressive is how Scott leads his company.

The other day, I got an email from my partner Jason with a photo of the Urban Airship Meeting Rules posted on the wall. They are so logical as to be rules that should apply to every meeting at every startup from now until forever.

Urban Airship Meeting Rules

0. Do we really need to meet?

1. Schedule a start, not an end to your meeting – its over when its over, even if that’s just 5 minutes.

2. Be on time!

3. No multi-tasking … no device usage unless necessary for meeting

4. If you’re not getting anything out of the meeting, leave

5. Meetings are not for information sharing – that should be done before the meeting via email and/or agenda

6. Who really needs to be at this meeting?

7. Agree to action items, if any, at the conclusion of the meeting

8. Don’t feel bad about calling people out on any of the above; it’s the right thing to do.

I particularly love 0, 1, and 4. I rarely walk out of a meeting when I’m not getting anything out of it. I’m going to start paying more attention to this one.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Following is a guest post from Lura Vernon, President of the Monarch High School PTSO. Lura is also a good friend, contributor to Startup Life: Surviving and Thriving in a Relationship with an Entrepreneur, mother of two awesome young women, and wife of Todd Vernon, CEO of VictorOps

Lura’s request is for laptops for Monarch High School Students. Any amount will do – 1, 2, 5, 10, 25, 50, or even 100. If you have any extra, please email me and I’ll get you connected. Foundry Group is contributing a MacBook Air this week.

What can a student learn from bringing a laptop to school every day?

Sure, she can learn to make a mousetrap car by watching a YouTube video, she can watch population densities dynamically changing over time, and she can hear an unknown French word pronounced correctly without asking the teacher.

But there’s a ton of learning that happens that wouldn’t be obvious to the casual observer.

She also learns that her father would kill her if she breaks the laptop, not figuratively, but literally.  She learns that Facebook bullying can be overwhelming but also easily dealt with by simply not reading Facebook for a while.  She learns that her grades will greatly improve if she pays attention in class rather than surfing the web behind the teacher’s back.  And she learns that her parents have WAY OVERREACTED to that new Snapchat app.

Monarch High School is in its second year of requiring its students to bring a laptop to school.  It’s Principal, Dr. Jerry Anderson, has worked long hours to bring state of the art WiFi to the building, give the teachers the training, and bring the parents up to date.  Any student who’s parents couldn’t afford a laptop was provided one; all they had to do was ask.  It’s my opinion that this program will do more to improve the achievement gap between genders, races, and different learning abilities than any other program conceived by the district.

The problem?

Dr. Anderson has conducted fundraisers, partnerships with local businesses, and worked with the district to provide free refurbished computers to those who need them.  Up until now, she had the resources she needed so that all students had a laptop in school.  Unfortunately, because of a high percentage of refurbished computers that crapped out, Monarch has five students who haven’t had a laptop since the beginning of the semester.

If your business has used laptops that they are considering getting rid of, Monarch will take them!  We’ll provide you with our non-profit tax ID # and give you a receipt.

If you can help, please email me.

Enhanced by Zemanta

I recently decided to back three graduates on Upstart. In this new model of crowd-funding, accredited investors back entrepreneurs and have the option of signing on as mentors. In exchange, the “upstart” gives up a percentage of their future income over the next 10 years. FYI – I’m not an investor in Upstart, but I am a big fan.

The common thread with the upstarts I’ve backed is their passion to cross art with technology. Chris Mathews, Bennett Lin and Shefali Kumar Friesen are all highly-focused on their interdisciplinary efforts, applying art and music to technology to solve today’s problems.

Shefali asked me if I knew anyone interested in art and technology who might want to help her reach her funding goal. I asked her to make the case, and she came back to me with the following video (posted on her Upstart profile).

[vimeo 57611714 w=400 h=300]

I think Shefali is awesome and I’m proud to be backing her. Join me if you can!

As investors, are we the modern-day patrons of the arts?


An email was forwarded to me this morning that had the following text in it (I’ve anonymized “The College” but it’s a large, well-regarded four year university.)

The College is Going Google! What does this mean? How will it impact teaching and learning at The College? Many K-12 school districts are using Google Apps for Education, providing their students with access to Google productivity tools as early as primary school. Students coming to The College in the next five years may never have opened Microsoft Word, but will be familiar with sharing, collaborating, and publishing with Google tools. Are you ready?

I spend time at a few universities, including MIT and CU Boulder. I’m teaching a class this semester at CU Boulder with Phil Weiser and Brad Bernthal called “Philosophy of Entrepreneurship.” We had our first class last week – Brad Bernthal led so Phil and I sat in the back. I noticed a bunch of students with their email open during class – almost every one of them was using Gmail.

A meme went around a few years ago that kids using Facebook would never use email and that Facebook would replace Microsoft Outlook and Gmail. This never really made sense to me, especially since I’d already heard that text messaging would replace email, and then I heard that X would replace email, and now it was going to be Facebook. As much as email frustrates us, it’s still by far the most ubiquitous comm channel.

But as someone who switched completely from Microsoft Exchange to Google Apps a few years ago, it seemed clear to me that Microsoft was going to come under incredible pressure on this vector. Office 365 was one of Microsoft’s reactions to this, but I still haven’t met any company that uses Office 365 as it’s primary infrastructure, although Microsoft has a nice site called NowOnOffice365.com that lists a bunch.

Now, it appears that Google is taking a page from the Apple playbook and focusing on higher education. Apple did this magnificently in the 1980’s when I was in college and did this again in the past decade. Jobs was always focused on universities – I still remember “computers are bicycles for the mind” and the 50% discount off of retail promotion that MIT had in 1984 or 1985.

I don’t focus on market share dynamics (I’m sure there are teams of people at Microsoft and Google focused on this) but the anecdotal evidence I’m seeing is powerful. And when The College switches to Google Apps because the students coming to The College are already well steeped in it and “may have never opened Microsoft Word”, something really interesting is going on.

If your organization is on Office 365, I’d love to hear from you in the comments to understand how you are using it. Are you using document collaboration via SkyDrive, or just Office 365 as the backend service for Email instead of Exchange?

If you are a college student using Microsoft Outlook instead of Gmail, tell me why.

Enhanced by Zemanta

If you are reading this on Friday, 1/18/13 I’m probably  doing one of a couple of things right now. The three most likely are sleeping, laying on my couch reading next to Amy, or just hanging out with her. There’s a chance I’m on a run or having some adult entertainment with Amy (different than hanging out). Or drinking something from my Vitamix monster smoothie maker. And – if it’s in the evening, I’m probably watching a movie with Amy.

One of the things Amy and I discuss in Startup Life: Surviving and Thriving in a Relationship with an Entrepreneur are strategies we use as a couple to reconnect and reset on a regular basis. Since Monday 1/7, we haven’t been together very much. I spent last weekend with Amy at our Keystone house (where she’s been since mid December) but I spent 10 hours on Saturday and 10 hours on Sunday in front of my computer while she watched football, read, and took care of me. We had nice dinners together, but not much time to really connect. We’ve been Facetiming multiple times a day, but these are generally short hit connections.

On Tuesday morning, she asked me how I was doing. She could hear fatigue in my voice. I wasn’t in a bad place, just really tired and feeling off balance from how quickly 2013 started. Since I hadn’t really had a weekend, I hadn’t had a material shift in my weekly cadence, which works for a little while for me, but isn’t sustainable. And I mostly just missed hanging out with her.

I’ve got a lot to do this weekend as well and have the special bonus of a Monday holiday. So – instead of working all day Friday, trying to squeeze in some rest and relaxation in between the stuff on my plate to work though this weekend, I’m taking a day of the grid today (through the magic of time travel – and computers – this was written on Thursday morning) to do a full reset on my brain.

I regularly hear people tell me how amazing the idea of our “quarterly week off the grid” is. They then tell me there’s no way they could do a week each quarter – they don’t have enough vacation, kids get in the way, they can’t imagine a full week disconnected. So – I suggest they do a day instead. Like I am today.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hp-rF9Qr7KU]