Month: February 2017

Feb 28 2017

Don’t Play Hurt

I heard a great line from a CEO recently: “I don’t want to play hurt.”

I loved that line.

In my world, some companies beat their Q416 numbers. Others made their Q416 numbers. Some missed their Q416 numbers. That’s life. Any VC who says otherwise (e.g. “All my companies are killing it”) is either full of shit or doesn’t have very many investments. It’s especially true by Q4 when a budget was finalized in Q1 since Q4 is by far the hardest quarter to forecast / predict.

We are now 67% of the way through Q117.  Plans for 2017 are either locked or getting finalized. These plans get reset based on the 2016 data, especially trends and progress (or lack thereof) from the second half of 2016. A year ago seems a very, very long time ago.

Let’s assume you missed Q416. I don’t care what the reason was for the miss. Your entire team is bringing that thinking into the budget process. “We need more resources to grow faster.” Or “There’s no way we can grow that fast.” Or “We made some expectations about what was going to have in Q4 around Christmas that didn’t come true.”

At a high level, these are rational reactions. But they don’t really help in thinking about 2017 or the budget process because they don’t get to the root cause. Using the Five Whys or some other process is key. Figure out what happened as your starting point. If you’ve already built and approved your plan without doing this, go ahead and stress test your plan by doing this now. Use the root cause analysis to lower your costs and increase your revenue so that you beat your plan. Ask yourself why what happened, happened. Keep asking why to the answers until you feel like you’ve gotten to the root cause.

Let’s assume 2016 resulted in some layoffs in the second half of the year. You were on a growth trajectory that wasn’t working, or you had invested in some products you decided to shut down. Or in 2015 you had raised a bunch of money, hired a lot of people, and assumed it was all going to just work out according to the spreadsheet model you used to build headcount and revenue expectations based on the headcount. And then it didn’t.

It’s now 2017. You’ve made real cuts and now have a core team that is sized correctly for your current business. The process sucked, but it’s more than a quarter behind you. The dust has settled and people are heads down working. You had a more sanguine budget process this year, with solid revenue growth but much lower head count growth.

Don’t play hurt. Get back on the metaphorical field. As CEO, put the Q4 miss or the Q3 layoffs behind you. Pick your head up and realize that you have a real business, but you hit a giant air pocket last year. That is normal – it happens all the time on the way to building a great business. Any CEO who denies that (as in “Yup – everything was awesome all the time – there were never any issues in our success”) as as full of shit as the VC who says something like “Every one of my companies is doing great.”

I encourage those VCs (and entrepreneurs) to read my post Something New Is Fucked Up In My World Every Day and reflect on their actual reality.

The struggle can be extremely painful, especially in the moment. But, if you are a great CEO (or manager), keep focusing on what you need to do to fix the immediate problem while continuing to play your long term game. And, most importantly, don’t deny reality in any way whatsoever.

And … Don’t play hurt.

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Feb 26 2017

Film: American Muslim Storytellers

Over the weekend, our Monthly Match for the National Immigration Law Center raised over $47,000,. For everyone who contributed, thank you!

In the emails I got, one stood out. It pointed me at an Indiegogo campaign for a documentary done by American Muslim Storytellers. The timing of the email was particularly good as I had just read a Washington Post Story about American Muslims raising money to repair vandalized Jewish cemetery

I went and took a look at the Indiegogo page and was delighted by the first video.

And educated by the second video.

Amy and I decided to contribute to the campaign to put together the documentary for American Muslim Storytellers at the Executive Producer level. If the videos inspire you as they did me, please help out at whatever level you feel comfortable with.

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Feb 24 2017

Monthly Match: National Immigration Law Center #NILCMatch

Fred Wilson, Joanne Wilson, Amy, and I are doing our second Monthly Match. This one is in support of the National Immigration Law Center. We will be matching $20,000 of contributions that our respective communities make to NILC.

We’ve made it easy to contribute – simply go to this page on Crowdrise.

Any level of contribution is super helpful. Since we are matching 1:1, each dollar you contribute gets NILC another dollar.

The four of us did this on an impulse last month after the Executive Order on Immigration hit. We were all extremely upset about the executive order and decided to do something about it. We ended up raising over $120,000 for the ACLU over the weekend during a period where the ACLU got a lot of visibility for making the first major move against the executive order and ended up raising over $24m.

As a result, we’ve decided to do a Monthly Match fundraiser (where the four of us match $20,000 in donations) for a different organization that supports the rights of minorities who we feel are at risk under our current administration. We’ve committed to do this for a year and expect this will evolve as things unfold over the course of the year.

The National Immigration Law Center was established in 1978 and is dedicated to defending and advancing the rights of low-income immigrants. Their mission is clear.

At NILC, we believe that all people who live in the U.S.—regardless of their race, gender, immigration and/or economic status—should have the opportunity to achieve their full potential. Over the years, we’ve been at the forefront of many of the country’s greatest challenges when it comes to immigration issues, and play a major leadership role in addressing the real-life impact of polices that affect the ability of low-income immigrants to prosper and thrive.

If this is important to you, please join in on our Monthly Match and make a contribution to NILC. To make sure we see it, follow the directions below:

  1. Go to our monthly match page and hit the donate button and give whatever you feel like giving (min is $10).
  2. After you complete the donation, TWEET your donation out on the post donation page. That will register it for our match.
  3. If you don’t use Twitter, you can forward your email receipt. The instructions will be on the post donation page. We would vastly prefer you tweet it out.

For those of you who are part of our community and support this effort, feel good that you are taking a specific action today to support the rights of all immigrants in America.

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Feb 21 2017

Bias Documentary

One of the philanthropic activities that Amy and I have been doing is helping fund documentaries around issues that we care about.

A breakout documentary from 2015 was CODE: Debugging the Gender Gap. We got to know Robin Hauser, the director and producer, through the process and thought she was awesome.

When she told us last summer about her new documentary called Bias, Amy and I jumped on the opportunity to be the executive producers. The sizzle reel is out and was shown at Mark Suster’s Upfront Summit. Take a look (click through to watch on Vimeo.)

Bias Documentary Sizzle from Finish Line Features, LLC on Vimeo.

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Feb 20 2017

Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams on Amazon

Early this morning I saw an email from Dave that pointed me at a giant bundle of happiness.

Bryan Cranston Will Bring Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams to Series

So – let’s go through all the parts of awesomeness of this.

First, Philip K. Dick is one of my favorite sci-fi writers. One summer, about five or so years ago, I bought every PKD book I could find in paperback (almost all of them.) I started reading them from first to last. I’ve gotten through about half of them and have sporadically read others. He gets some things so totally right and others so completely wrong. It’s delicious.

Next, as a die-hard BSG fan, I can’t resist anything by Ronald D. Moore. Enough said on that one.

Then, we’ve got Brian Cranston. I’ve never been able to get Amy into Breaking Bad so I’m afraid that’s going to be a guilty pleasure that I end up doing solo. But I know – from many friends – the depth of Brian Cranston. So, now I’ll have a way to loop Amy into watching him, which might get her interested in Breaking Bad again.

And finally – Amazon. Dear Amazon – the content you are doing is dynamite! Good job.

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Feb 16 2017

Ode to Keystone

Dave Jilk, my first business partner and one of my closest friends, wrote the following Ode to our Keystone house. For the poetry nerds out there, Dave informed me that this is a villanelle.

Recently, Amy and I decided to sell our Keystone House. We bought it a decade ago and have had a wonderful time with it. But, we’ve decided to spend the next 20 years in a different mountain town. Dave and his wife Maureen were frequent visitors and I recall many delightful Saturday mornings where I’d slowly wake up in the bedroom while listening to Amy and Dave discussing something from downstairs.

Dave – thanks for the Ode. It’s beautiful. And thanks for all the great times together in Keystone.

A structure, nothing more, where once we played:
Will memories we made there long endure?
The spirit of that house will never fade.

Four golden beasts, their role through years relayed,
Here welcomed family, friend, entrepreneur —
A structure, nothing more, where once we played.

Upstairs were puzzles solved and books displayed;
Below buzzed films or sports or Rock Band tour.
The spirit of that house will never fade.

Great field of snow, or sage, with hill and glade
Beside, two rocky peaks beyond, contour
A structure, nothing more, where once we played.

Each day we skied or hiked, or napped and stayed
Near fireplace communing themes obscure;
The spirit of that house will never fade.

O house at Keystone Ranch, be not dismayed
To cede this post, your history secure!
A structure, nothing more, where once we played,
The spirit of that house will never fade.

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Feb 14 2017

Happy Valentines Day 2017

To all the lovers and soulmates out there, today is a great day to reflect on your partnership.

Amy and I have been together for over 26 years and she’s sitting next to me as I type this. Whenever I’m near her, I feel amazingly grounded on this planet, regardless of my mental and emotional state.

A few months ago, my long time friend (and founder of my very first VC investment – Career Central) Jeff Hyman asked me if I’d do another video interview with him for his Strong Suit interview series. I did a very early interview in the series for him (Jeff thought it was #1 – it looks like it was #4). I was quick to agree, especially when he asked if I’d do one on Love, Relationships, Entrepreneurship.

In this interview, we cover:

  • How to stay in love
  • Small ways to show your partner that they come ahead of your work
  • Making sure that work travel doesn’t kill the magic
  • How to build a cadence into your relationship
  • Keeping a healthy, vibrant relationship despite the stresses of entrepreneurship

I talk about Amy a lot and build of some of the things we wrote about in our book Startup Life: Surviving and Thriving in a Relationship with an Entrepreneur.

Happy Valentines Day.

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Feb 13 2017

Alexa, Techstars, and Cooper

Recently, Amazon’s Alexa team and Techstars launched The Alexa Accelerator, powered by Techstars, Last week, a bunch of fun skills have been integrated into Alexa. I thought I’d give some a try. Cooper, my intrepid two year old super alpha golden retriever shows up around a minute into the video when I do my favorite Alexa skill, the Woof Woof.

If you have an Alexa, give these a try.

What is the Alexa Accelerator?
What is a start-up accelerator?/What is a startup incubator?
How do I / can I apply to the Alexa Accelerator?
Who should apply to the Alexa Accelerator?/Should I apply to the Alexa Accelerator?
What is the Alexa fund?
Where will the Alexa Accelerator take place?
When are applications due for the Alexa Accelerator?/By when should I apply…
What is Techstars?/Who is Techstars?

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Feb 12 2017

The Power Of A Digital Sabbath

I’m doing a little better than I was on Friday morning when I wrote the post Generosity Burnout. Just writing the post put me in an appropriate frame of mind to reflect on things on Saturday. I took a digital sabbath, something I’ve been doing on 90% of the Saturdays since I first tried it in March, 2013 in the middle of a deep depressive episode.

I’m not religious but I know many successful people who take a full day off once a week. I’m most familiar with the Jewish traditions, so I decided to emulate sabbath in spirit. No phone. No computer. No email. After almost four years, it’s a weekly touchpoint that has become a central part of my life.

On Friday, when I wrote Generosity Burnout, I was exhausted from three weeks of travel. On Tuesday in San Francisco, in the midst of an endless downpour, I acknowledged to myself that I had started to feel “down”, which is a euphemism for “feeling depressed” for many of us. I hadn’t tipped to a dark place, but I realized that I had given myself a total lack of self-care since the beginning of the year. While I had a normal amount of work stress, with something new fucked up every day, I was feeling the emotional impact more and carrying around extra anxiety that was bordering on obsessive thoughts.

Yesterday, I had a typical digital sabbath. I slept 12 hours, meditated, and then went running. Amy and I had lunch and talked. I then retreated to the couch and a read a book with her and the dogs. We took an afternoon nap, showered, and then went into Boulder for dinner with friends. We went to bed when we got home.

I took action on the self-care front. I haven’t been drinking any booze since my birthday (@bfeld v51). I decided to stop drinking coffee, cancel all of my Q2 travel, spent two nights a week at home with Amy for dinner in Q2, and start saying no to everything new until I feel like saying yes again. I’ve got plenty to work on – there’s no need to add more to it. And I know I get a lot of satisfaction and energy from working on what is on my plate.

I feel a little better today. I’m still tired and anxious. Meditation this morning was calming, as is writing this. After I hit post, I’m heading out for a run with the dogs.

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Feb 10 2017

Generosity Burnout

HBR recently did an interview with me around the idea of generosity burnout. It’s part of the challenge that Adam Grant is exploring after the huge success and impact of his book Give and Take.

There’s a longer article on HBR by Adam about the general concept of generosity burnout. It’s a good read and it’s helpful to me as I start working on my next book, Give First.

Several people have picked up from the tone of some recent blog posts that I’m wandering up to the edge of this. I’m at my limit emotionally and made a conscious decision a few days ago to change modes through at least the end of Q2. I cancelled all my work travel in Q2, uncommitted to a number of things that weren’t already in process, and generally decided to focus my energy on what I’m currently working on, rather than add to anything new, especially in the “this could be fun but I don’t know why I’m doing it” category.

I already say no 50+ times a day. I’ve also tuned out a ton of noise around things I can’t directly impact. That’s not the issue. Instead, it’s remembering to ask myself “do I want to do this while I’m in my current mode” at least twice before I say yes to anything.

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