Month: May 2014

May 30 2014

In Downtown Las Vegas at the UP Global Summit

I just landed in Downtown Las Vegas for my first trip for business in over a year. I’m here for the UP Global Summit and then our UP Global board meeting on Sunday. I’m most definitely NOT in Las Vegas (which I don’t like very much) – instead I’m in Downtown Las Vegas which is a magnificent experiment in revitalizing a downtown city that was more or less left for dead a while ago.

My decision to come here isn’t part of a grand plan to start traveling again. Instead, it was a result of being inspired by Boulder Startup Week 2014. Andrew Hyde, the original creator of the Startup Week concept, came back to run BSW 14 and then joined UP Global to roll out the Startup Week concept around the world. It’s already happened organically in a number of cities so we’ll just be adding the proverbial fuel to the fire.

During our Q2 Vacation last week I mentioned to Amy that I kind of wanted to go to the UP Global Summit in DTLV. I was a little nervous about what her reaction would be – we’ve been having an amazing time being together almost all the time and the no travel, after 20+ years of non-stop travel, has been delightful.

She was excited that I felt like traveling again. She correctly realized that it meant that I’m feeling really rested and rejuvenated, as well as in a great mental health space, which is a huge contrast from 18 months ago. Her support on this, and so many other fronts, are so important to me, as she knows and can read me better than any other human on this planet.

So I sit here in my hotel room, freshly showered after a very early morning flight from Denver to Las Vegas, excited about seeing 500+ members of the UP Global extended community, while exploring DTLV, meeting about startup communities, startup weekends, startup weeks, and lots of other things related to startups.

It feels good. Now, if I had only remembered to bring an iPhone charging cable, I’d be at 100%.

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May 29 2014

The Colorado CEO Jobs List

A few years ago, David Cohen and I started a Colorado CEO Jobs list in response to the regular stream of inbound email we got from folks looking to move to Colorado and interested in tech-related jobs. We seeded this list with CEOs from companies Foundry Group and Techstars had invested in. As other CEOs requested access to the list, we added them.

The list was managed in Yahoo Groups and had about 100 CEOs on it. It was simple – emails from people looking for jobs came to me or David and we forwarded them to the list. The hit rate was very high – I regularly get feedback from people that they’ve ended up with multiple interviews and a job from the introduction.

Both David and I felt like the list was pretty tedious to manage in Yahoo Group so about three months ago we restarted it and made it a Google Private Community. We culled the list a little and re-invited everyone, ending up with 56 active CEOs. We’ve been using the Google Private Community for a while and are comfortable that it’s a significant improvement over the Yahoo Group.

We are still keeping it private for now but are looking for any CEOs of tech companies in Colorado who want to join the list as we expand it from Foundry / Techstars related companies. Our goal is to have a wide audience of CEOs for anyone coming to Colorado who is looking for a tech related job.

We are keeping the list ONLY to CEOs for now as we plan to expand some of the things we are doing with the list.

So, if you are a CEO of a tech company in Colorado and want to be on our Colorado CEO Jobs List, just email me (brad@feld.com).

And – if you are looking for a job in a Colorado tech company, email me also and I’ll forward your info to the list.

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May 28 2014

Why VCs Should Recycle Their Management Fees

I’m an investor in a bunch of VC funds. Some of them recycle their management fees; others don’t. I’ve never really understood why funds don’t recycle their management fees.

Understanding what “recycling management fees” means is a fundamental part of understanding the economics of a venture firm. Here’s how it works.

Let’s assume a $100 million VC fund that charges a 2% management fee and a 20% carry. In the typical case, a fund will get an annual management fee of 2% of “committed capital” (the $100 million) for the “investment period” (usually the first five years, or until a new fund is raised) and then an annual management fee of 2% of “invested capital” (whatever the fund has invested in companies that are still active) over the remaining life of the fund, which is usually 10 years.

Now, there are lots of minor variations on this, but the average “fee load” on a fund over its life is 15%, or $15m paid out over 10 years on the $100m fund.

So – if $15m gets paid out in fees, that only leaves $85m to invest in companies.

That’s where recycling comes in. When a fund has an exit, it can either distribute the money to its investors (the LPs) or it can “recycle it” and invest it in new and existing companies in the fund.

Now, assume that by year three the $100m fund has invested $50m. During this year, it sells a company and gets a realization of $20m. At this point, it would have taken $6m of management fees (2% * 3 years) so it could recycle the $6m (hence, reinvesting it) while distributing $14m to the LPs.

By managing recycling this way, the fund could end up investing the full $100m, instead of just the $85m. The advantage, for all the investors (the VCs and their LPs), is that $100m gets put to work as invested capital, rather than just $85m.

Our view as a firm is that a successful VC fund has a net return of at least 3x to the LPs. That means that if an LP invests $1 in the fund, they get back $3 over time.

Now we get to do the fun math, including the impact of carry on return.

If I’ve only put $85m to work, I have to generate $100m to get to a point where I’ve returned capital, which puts me in a position to get carry. Then for every $100m of additional returns, $20m goes to the VCs and $80m goes to the LPs. To generate an incremental $200m to the LPs, I have to return a total of $250m. So – my $85m needs to generate $350m to get a net 3x return. On a gross basis, my $85m has to generate a 4.1x return to accomplish my “net 3x return to LPs.”

On the other hand, if I recycle my management fee, then I put $100m to work. I’ve reinvested $15m over the life of the fund, so I’ve had to generate this $15m plus the $100m to get to carry and the $250m to get to a net 3x return. In this case, I have to generate a total of $365m (instead of $350m), but I now have $100m at work to do that. In this case, my $100m has to generate a 3.65x return to accomplish my “net 3x return to LPs.”

That’s an 11% difference just by recycling my $15m fee. It’s better for the LPs and better for the VCs.

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May 27 2014

Tickets for #BoulderWin Event – June 4th

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about an event a bunch of us in the Boulder startup community are putting together called #BoulderWin, a celebration for the sale of Gnip to Twitter. Instead of having a secretive closing dinner for a small number of folks, we are going to have a big party to welcome Twitter to town.

#BoulderWin is happening on June 4th from 7pm – 10pm at the Boulder Theater.

You must register to attend and tickets cost $20 per person. All of the proceeds are going to Entrepreneurs Foundation of Colorado. There are a limited number of tickets available and it’s first come first served.

In addition to the proceeds from the sales of the tickets, I’ll be matching the $4,000 with a personal gift of $4,000 from me and my wife Amy Batchelor to the Entrepreneurs Foundation of Colorado. And, my partners at Foundry Group are sponsoring the event, along with a bunch of other local companies including:

These companies represent a big part of what makes Boulder such a great place for entrepreneurs.  Thanks for everything you do!

Once again, you can get your tickets here.

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May 27 2014

Spending The Day With Another VC Firm

A few weeks ago Hunter Walk and Satya Patel of Homebrew, a one year old seed-stage VC firm that my partners and I are investors in, came and spent the day in Boulder. This wasn’t the typical “hey – I want to come see you for a meal when I’m in town” kind of meeting that happens with a lot of VCs. In this case, the firm (Homebrew) came by, committed a full 24 hours to being in Boulder, and went deep with me and my partners.

I’ve known Hunter for a while although our relationship is mostly from a distance – email, blogs, and twitter. He went to GSB with my partner Ryan’s wife Katherine so they’ve known each other for a while and have a handful of entertaining stories from their time together at The Lobby Conference. This was the first time I recall meeting Satya Patel although I’ve also known him from a distance.

Hunter’s blog, 99% Humble, 1% Brag, is outstanding. If it’s not part of your daily reading, it should be.

Hunter, Satya, Ryan, Seth, Jason and I spent two hours in a conference room with a white board. Hunter and Satya tossed a bunch of things they wanted to discuss up on the board and we went through the topics one by one. We shared our view about how we address them, they added some of their thoughts, asked some questions, and we cycled more on the topics. We got through most of them and then went to dinner at Oak for a few more hours of discussion, this time more casual, but just as deep and wide ranging.

The next morning Hunter and Satya hung out at Techstars and did office hours with a few of the seed stage companies in Boulder.

I had a great time and learned a lot. Hunter and Satya both sent thoughtful debriefs around which caused some additional discussion on our end about a couple of topics we felt we could learn more from. And we developed a deeper relationship, outside of a specific deal context, which will help us in anything we do together going forward.

This was so much more enjoyable, satisfying, and useful than a flyby. Hunter / Satya – thanks for making the effort to come see us.

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May 26 2014

Books I Read On My Q214 Vacation

Wow. I needed a vacation. Amy reminds me that I say that on day three of each of our quarterly weeks off the grid. It doesn’t seem to matter how I try to pace myself or how recent my previous week off the grid was. On day three, when I’m not looking at email, anything on the web, or checking my phone, I just breathe deeply and say “wow I needed this vacation.”

Oh – and I decided to get over my fear of horses. I’ve been afraid of horses since I was a teenager. As a kid growing up in Dallas I rode a lot, but my brother had a nasty fall when we were riding together and that was that for me. Amy loves horses and has started riding regularly now that we live in horse country outside of Boulder so I decided it was silly for me to continue to be afraid of horses. So we spent a week at Miraval where I could ride every other day and do a few of their horse specific activities.

For example, here’s me painting a horse. Bonus points if you figure out what I painted on him (his name is HeartWind). Hint – count the vertical lines carefully.

As with most of my vacations, I read about a book a day. Here’s the list, in order, with short commentary.

Red Bang: I wanted to love this book. From the review it felt like a current day version of Microserfs: A Novel or JPod, two tech culture masterpieces by Douglas Coupland. While some of that came through, “The Company” (a thinly designed version of Microsoft) was too over the top ridiculous and many of the satirical moments fell flat for me. It was ok, but not great.

Sting of the Drone: I’ve devoured all of Richard Clarke’s fiction and they are all well written, incredibly relevant, and better than what a modern day Clancy treatment of the topic would be. The only issue I had with this one was the ending – it was too contrived, too many good guys died while the bad guys got shut down, and the neat tidy bow that wrapped everything up consisted of almost all of the protagonists dying in a fireball ending. Boo – more reflection after the climax needed, but otherwise outstanding.

The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph: I don’t know Ryan Holiday, but I heard of this book from Tim Ferriss and was intrigued by the description so I decided to dose myself in some stoicism. Dynamite book – I’m glad I put the time in. Holiday covers the topic well in a very accessible way.

Growth Hacker Marketing: A Primer on the Future of PR, Marketing, and Advertising (APenguin Special from Portfolio): I figured I’d read the cannon on Holiday so this was next. If you don’t know what “growth hacking” means, this is a good intro. But if you do, this is a waste of time.

Stress Test: Reflections on Financial Crises: This was the heavy one of the trip – it took three days. Geithner has always been a cipher to me so I figured his autobiography and memoir on the financial crisis would help me understand him better. He did an amazing job with this book, both explaining what happened while explaining himself. The depth of his own introspection and understanding of his own being came through in the midst of incredible pressure and crisis. Once you realize he’s a deep introvert in a context that begs for extrovert energy, a lot of the puzzle pieces about him slide into place. After reading this book, I’m glad he was at the head of the NY Fed and the Treasury for the past decade. Regardless of your position on what went down during this time, this is a book worth reading for a clear perspective from Geithner’s point of view.

Sleep Your Way to the TOP: *and other myths about business success: I finished my trip by reading the final version of the second book from FG Press, our new publishing company. I’ve probably read the book a half dozen times during the edit cycle, but I hadn’t yet read the final version on a Kindle. More soon, but I love this book and Jane Miller is an absolutely star.

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May 16 2014

The Largest Startup Community In The World

As Boulder Startup Week 2014 comes to an end, I have been reflecting on the power of startup communities today.

When I wrote Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City, I made some assertions about how to build startup communities and what the impact of them would be on society. As I sit here at the end of a week pondering everything that is going on in the world around startup communities, I believe I have vastly underestimated their potential impact. And this makes me feel very happy.

Startup Week is a great example of an activity and event that I talk about in my Boulder Thesis. It was also another creation from Boulder, just like Startup Weekend, Techstars, and the Boulder Thesis. Andrew Hyde, the founder of Startup Weekend, was also the founder of Startup Week. After a hiatus of a few years, Andrew came back to run Boulder Startup Week. But he is also about to do something magical with Startup Week – look for more on that soon. And, if you enjoyed Boulder Startup Week, go check out Fort Collins Startup Week which is happening from 5/20 – 5/25 and looks awesome.

This reflection led me to think about how to wire up the largest startup community in the world. Geography is one boundary, but the Internet allows us to create a global startup community that is a network of startup communities. UP Global, which I’m on the board of, is doing just that.

You might know UP Global by the names of the two organizations that combined to form it – Startup Weekend and Startup America Partnership. This combination happened about a year ago and the progress in the last year has been remarkable.

I encourage you to take a look at the UP Global 2013 Impact Report. It’s 28 slides and when I looked at it early today it blew my mind. Here are a few key metrics:

  • 310,000 alumni and volunteers
  • 4,500 mentors
  • 132,000 businesses
  • 87,000 developers
  • 39,000 designers
  • 501 cities
  • 126 countries

Go look at the UP Global 2013 Impact Report. It’s insanely wonderful how many people and startup communities this organization has touched.

The network is getting incredibly strong and powerful. I believe that networks are now more important in our society than hierarchies. Sure – we’ll have hierarchies forever, but I’m going to spend as much of my time as possible in the network. And for everyone who is part of the network of people engaging in startup communities, thanks for all your efforts on this mission!

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May 14 2014

Stop The Slow Lane

The FCC is proposing new rules to allow Internet providers to discriminate based on content to provide separate and unequal connection speeds.

This effectively creates “fast” and “slow” lanes for the Internet which means that website owners and entrepreneurs may be forced to pay an arbitrary fee to ISPs like Comcast and Time Warner if they want their visitors to be able to access their website at regular speeds – or at all.

Last week I wrote a post titled Dear Internet: Let’s Demo The Slow Lane. What you are seeing on my site for the rest of this week is the demo. Don’t worry, you’ll only have to endure that popup and slow down once, unless the FCC does something like what they are proposing with these new rules.

#StopTheSlowLane is an initiative to raise awareness about this issue. At its core is a simple JavaScript widget, an animated GIF like the one below, or a WordPress Plugin for your website or blog that will inform your visitors about what’s going on and empower them to easily contact Congress and the FCC about the issue.

The call to action, js code, and WordPress plug in for #stoptheslowlane is available for you to put on your site if you want to demo this for your users. The GitHub repo fightforthefuture/stoptheslowlane has the full source code in case you want to modify / add to it.

Help us send a message that a slow lane on the Internet isn’t acceptable.

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May 13 2014

Launch Party for Sleep Your Way To The Top And Other Myths About Business Success

Jane Miller’s launch party for her first book (and FG Press‘s second title) Sleep Your Way To The Top And Other Myths About Business Success  is happening in Boulder this coming Tuesday, 5/20 at eTown Hall.

Profits benefit the CU Leeds Professional Mentoring Program.

Around the Foundry Group offices we’ve been referring to Sleep Your Way To The Top as “Sheryl Sandberg meets Chelsea Handler.” Jane is an awesome CEO (who just sold Rudi’s Organic Bakery to The Hain Celestial Group) with an incredible amount of experience on the front lines building and guiding businesses. Her writing style is hilariously funny but packs a serious punch.

Jane will reveals the tips and tricks she learned on her journey from small town Illinois girl to shattering the glass ceiling at more than one male-dominated corporation. She’ll cover myths such as:

MYTH: Size Doesn’t Matter
MYTH: You Have Nothing To Learn From Barbie
MYTH: Only Extroverts Win In The Corporate World
MYTH: If She Plays Dirty, Play Dirty Back
MYTH: Bad Guys Are Just In The Movies

Jane offers specific steps and practical advice for grads, pre-grads, and new or seasoned execs. She shows us where it’s easy to get tripped up, who might trick us, and how to make it past the pitfalls on our way to the corner office.

If you’d like to join Jane and the FG Press team for the celebration of Sleep Your Way To The Top’s Book Launch Party – rsvp here: https://janemillerbook.eventbrite.com

I’ll let you know as soon as Sleep Your Way To The Top hits the virtual book shelves or pre-order your copy here: https://bit.ly/sywtbook.

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May 12 2014

Where I’ll Be During Boulder Startup Week

This week is Boulder Startup Week 2014.

If you have read my book Startup Communities, then you know Andrew Hyde was the founder of Boulder Startup Week. After a hiatus of a few years, he’s back this year as one of the organizers of BSW 2014.

I’m around all week. Following are the events I’ll either be attending or speaking at.

Wednesday (5/14)
– 8am – 9am: Boulder Open Coffee Club
– 10am – 1130am: Startup Politics: Who Needs It: I’ll be doing a panel with Congressman Jared Polis.
– 3pm – 4pm: Jane Miller InterviewI’ll be interviewing Jane about her new book, Sleep Your Way to the Top (and other myths about business success) that is the second book being published by FG Press.

Thursday (5/15): 8am – 9am: Controversy of Diversity

Come join me for some or all of these. And have an awesome BSW 2014!

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