Brad Feld

Month: November 2013

I woke up this morning at 5am this morning determined that – if nothing else – I’d get a run in today. After procrastinating until almost 7am, I got out there and got it done. It was cold but I’ve now strung together three days in a row. Tomorrow will be four.

During my procrastination, I read two blog posts – one that made me happy and one that made me sad.

First the happy one. Tim Ferriss and I have a long distance relationship. We’ve physically been together twice – once at a SXSW dinner well before SXSW was trendy and once at Emily and Rob Lafave’s apartment. That’s it. But I’m a huge fan of Tim’s. I love his books. I love his irreverence. I love his art of self promotion. I love his endless experimentation on himself. And I love his humility.

Read his post “Productivity” Tricks for the Neurotic, Manic-Depressive, and Crazy (Like Me)It starts out strong and gets better:

I originally wrote this post months ago, but I’ve been too self-conscious to publish it until now. This quote convinced me to put on my big girl pants:

“The moment that you feel that, just possibly, you’re walking down the street naked, exposing too much of your heart and your mind and what exists on the inside, showing too much of yourself. That’s the moment you may be starting to get it right.”
– Neil Gaiman
University of the Arts Commencement Speech

So, here goes, and I hope it helps at least a few of you.

Yeah – there are some good tips in there. But he also talks about his own constant struggle in the context of doing a ton of amazing stuff. He calls it “manic-depressive” – I call it “functional depression.” Regardless – it’s super complicated and observing the humility of being able to acknowledge the struggle in the context of a very public and successful life always makes me happy.

And then I read Silicon Valley Has an Arrogance Problem: It’s Too Proud, Too Self-Centered, and That’s Not Good For AnyoneAfter I read it, I wanted to unread it. Oh – it had all the typical Silicon Valley self-aggrandizing crap in it. But it also has a tone of “watch out Silicon Valley – your arrogance is going to backfire on you.” For example:

“This is Silicon Valley’s superiority complex, and it sure is an ugly thing to behold. As the tech industry has shaken off the memories of the last dot-com bust, its luminaries have become increasingly confident about their capacity to shape the future. And now they seem to have lost all humility about their place in the world.

Sure, they’re correct that whether you measure success financially or culturally, Silicon Valley now seems to be doing better than just about anywhere else. But there is a suggestion bubbling beneath the surface of every San Francisco networking salon that the industry is unstoppable, and that its very success renders it immune to legitimate criticism.

This is a dangerous idea. For Silicon Valley’s own sake, the triumphalist tone needs to be kept in check. Everyone knows that Silicon Valley aims to take over the world. But if they want to succeed, the Valley’s inhabitants would be wise to at least pretend to be more humble in their approach.”

Go ahead – substitute whatever you want for “Silicon Valley.” And when someone is telling the arrogant to be more humble, well isn’t that just arrogance writ large?

My suggestion – behave however you want to behave. Be as arrogant, or humble, as you want. Humans will sort over time based on how they act. And it won’t really matter in 40 years when the machines have taken over. But remember – the machines have a store of everything we’ve done and said (which we are aggressively helping them populate and search) and are watching us carefully.


I woke up late today (yay – 12:06 hours of sleep) to the last 15 minutes of the elite women in the NYC Marathon. Watching them finish and then watching Mutai crush the men’s field over the last six miles was pretty inspiring. I haven’t run a marathon since October 2012 when I ran the Detroit Marathon but after a year of struggling to get into a rhythm I’m once again motivated – and interested – in doing another marathon. I’ve committed to being one of the 14 in 2014 that run the Boston Marathon – there’s a gang of well known tech entrepreneurs and investors that are doing this together as part of a big fundraiser. I’ll definitely try to get at least one marathon in before then just to be confident that I’ll get it done.

Last week I added back in something I used to do regularly, but had stopped for a year or so given my schedule and then ensuing depression. I did a full day of random day meetings on halloween. I sat at Amante Coffee all day, mostly in my cookie monster outfit, had random meetings, drank coffee, and ate cookies. I had a blast.

If you’ve never heard of random day, I’ll meet with anyone who signs up for 20 minutes. I’ve been doing this for almost a decade – it’s part of my “give before you get” philosophy that’s deeply embedded in the Boulder Startup Community psyche. I have no expectation of what I’m going to get out of these meetings, but some pretty magical things, including the creation of Techstars, have occurred as a result of them.

During the course of the day I had 12 meetings, three cups of coffee, a yogurt, a burrito, and two cookies. I met with the following people.

  • Friend starting a COO / CEO search
  • Attorney in town thinking of starting a seed fund
  • Founder of a non-profit I recently supported
  • Person looking for a new BD gig
  • Founder of a natural foods company I just invested in
  • BD person looking to get into the VC or Boulder scene
  • Tech entrepreneur I hadn’t seen in a decade describing his new thing
  • Content marketing person looking to be plugged into Boulder
  • Founders of non-profit looking to expand outside of Boulder
  • Partners in a non-profit looking for support for a robot competition
  • New VC in town in the natural foods market
  • Two entrepreneurs just starting their tech business looking for feedback

I was immediately able to help at least six of the 12. I have no idea what will come from the other meetings, but that’s part of the fun of random day.

I plan to do this again six times in 2014. So that’s about 80 random meetings – people I wouldn’t have met with – and who wouldn’t have had some time with me. If one powerful thing comes out if it, then it’s worth it. Regardless, I had a good day on Thursday and feel like I did something that contributed to the glue in the Boulder Startup Community.


I spent the day yesterday as Cookie Monster and by the time it got dark I’d had enough of Halloween so Amy and I watched Parkland last night. The reviews were so-so but we both thought it was outstanding. Paul Giamatti was perfect as Abraham Zapruder and I seem to like Billy Bob Thornton better and better as he ages (he’d be one of the two people I’d pick to play my dad Stan in his biography – the other is Alan Arkin).

I grew up in Dallas – I lived there from 1968 to 1983 when I moved to Boston to go to college. I’ve only lived in a few other places – Blytheville, Arkansas from 1965 – 1966, Boston in 1967 and again from 1983 – 1995, and Boulder since 1995. So Dallas looms large over my own personal development.

The Kennedy assassination happened two years before I was born. But once I was old enough to hear about Nixon and Vietnam, I started hearing about how the most loved president ever was murdered in Dallas. I rarely spent any time in downtown Dallas as a kid and never really knew my way around until I started running the Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving as a teenager. I still can’t find my way around downtown Dallas even with a GPS, but if you ask me the radio station and TV call letters KRLD and KERA immediately pop into my brain.

Parkland Hospital was one of the hospitals my dad made rounds at. I don’t remember going there with him, although I’m sure I did. I hated being in the hospital – I hated the smells, the lights, the noises, and most of all the sick people. The hustle and bustle. The quiet moments followed by chaos. And I never, ever wanted to touch anything. I didn’t realize I had OCD at the time, but it makes perfect sense to me in hindsight how uncomfortable I was whenever I was on rounds with my dad. I stopped around age 10 – I just told him I didn’t want to do it anymore and that was that.

Watching the movie last night was deeply immersive. The hospital scenes – first of Kennedy, then of Oswald, were extremely uncomfortable for me. It wasn’t sensationalized ER or Grey’s Anatomy tripe – it was intense, real, and very bloody. And hopeless. We knew Kennedy was going to die, but we kept rooting for him and hoping for a miracle. The helplessness, sadness, and hopelessness of the situation oozed through every scene.

The historical moments felt just right. Today, there aren’t as many cowboy hats in Dallas, but when I was a kid everyone wore one. And in the movie, there were plenty of them. Parkland felt dark, industrial, and dingy – just like I remembered hospitals feeling when I was a kid. Lots of turquoise. Anger popped out at unexpected times – sometimes with incredibly velocity. Everyone smoked all the time. And when the sky was blue, it was a bright blue – one that made you want to shade your eyes with your hand.

When I moved to Boston in 1983, I didn’t really connect that Kennedy was loved by Boston and “those hicks in Dallas killed him.” By the time I’d lived in Boston for four years, my identity as being from Dallas – and growing up in Texas – had faded, but there was a period of time the first few years when I was very aware of a tragedy that defined the city for many people who didn’t live there for 20+ years after it happened.

Fifty years later, the day still feels oddly familiar. Dealey Plaza. Jackie Kennedy. The Zapruder film. Lee Harvey Oswald. And Parkland Hospital. All phrases that are associated with the Kennedy Assassination. Powerful.