Month: September 2017

Sep 27 2017

Mesmerizing 30 Day Timelapse At Sea

This is worth the full ten minutes. Sit back, relax, and be amazed.

Comments
Sep 26 2017

Feminist Literature That I’m Reading

In response to my post Book: Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape several people asked me for the feminist literature reading list that Amy had put together for me.

Following are the other ten books that I’m working my way through this fall.

Sexual Politics by Kate Millet
Sisterhood is Forever by Robin Morgan
The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan
Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde
Ain’t I a Woman by bell hooks
The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir
The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer
In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens by Alice Walker
A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf
Beyond God the Father by Mary Daly

If there are any that you’d like to add to my reading list, please leave them in the comments.

Comments
Sep 24 2017

Emotional Lessons From the Collapse of the Internet Bubble

My friend Dave Jilk recently shared the following Robert Frost poem with me.

Lodged
by Robert Frost

The rain to the wind said,
‘You push and I’ll pelt.’
They so smote the garden bed
That the flowers actually knelt,
And lay lodged–though not dead.
I know how the flowers felt.

That perfectly describes how 2001 felt to me.

We now have at least one generation of VCs and entrepreneurs who didn’t experience the collapse of the Internet bubble. Fred Wilson wrote a great post this morning titled Diversification (aka How To Survive A Crash). Fred does a great job of covering the financial dynamics around a crash.

But he didn’t really address the emotional dynamics.

In 2001, I was on the board of four public companies (and was co-chairman of two of them which I had been a co-founder of.) Sometime in the spring of 2000, all of them hit their peak stock price. By mid-2001 I think all of these were sub-$1 stocks and – if they weren’t – they would be soon.

The rain to the wind said,
‘You push and I’ll pelt.’

I knew my work world was totally fucked. I was working as hard as I knew how to work, dealing with a steady stream of failures. Amy and I were in a better place than the one I talked about in the beginning of our book Startup Life where we almost split up, but everything was still very rough around the edges.

My moment of capitulation came sometime in the early summer of 2001. For months, I was going to bed each night with the thought “tomorrow will be better.” By summer, it was warmer, but one night, as I was crawling into bed, I realized that each day had been worse, and often much more punishing than the previous one. The cumulative impact of what by that point was over a year of an intense, downward spiral in every aspect of my work world, was undeniable.

Forget about the paper money, much of which had vaporized. I was just completely exhausted hoping that something would break my way.

They so smote the garden bed
That the flowers actually knelt,
And lay lodged–though not dead.

That night, I changed my perspective. Instead of hoping the next day would be better, or easier, I went to bed thinking, “Fuck it – let’s see what the world will throw at me tomorrow…” If you’ve read my post from 2015 titled Something New Is Fucked Up In My World Every Day, you will recognize this philosophical shift.

I know how the flowers felt.

Eventually, it got better.

I wasn’t dead. Someday I will be, but I wasn’t then. The pelting eventual stopped. Lots of things I was working on were smote, but the sun came out and I kept at it.

Every successful entrepreneur I’ve ever met has stories like this. Every successful long-term VC has had these moments, sometimes for extended periods of time.

Just like Fred suggests you diversify financially, you should diversify emotionally. I have no idea how I would have survived this period without Amy. When I reflect on my relationship with Seth, Jason, and Ryan much of the intense loyalty between us was forged in the period during and after the debacle that was the collapse of the Internet bubble. Some of my lifelong friendships, with people like Len Fassler, Dave Jilk, Rajat Bhargava, Jenny Lawton, Will Herman, Ilana Katz, and Warren Katz were solidified by the intensity of this time frame.

Until that day in the summer of 2001, my emotional well-being was much too connected to my financial well-being. The day after, not so much …

Comments
Sep 23 2017

Book: Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape

“Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.” – Margaret Atwood

A few weeks ago, after reading the New York Times Sunday Review article The Book That Made Us Feminists, I asked Amy for several recommendations for books that were foundational to the feminist movement. I purchased all that she suggested and added them to my infinite list of books to read.

The past few days I read Susan Brownmiller’s book Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape. Written in 1975, it’s 480 pages of intense and powerful writing. After about a third of it, I turned to Amy and said, “That Margaret Atwood quote has a clear basis in history.”

Today, again in the New York Times (this time online), I read the article Push for Gender Equality in Tech? Some Men Say It’s Gone Too Far. I was almost finished with Against Our Will so it didn’t take much to infuriate me about the article. There are several men quoted in the article and others referenced. The only one whose perspective makes any sense to me is Dick Costolo’s quote.

“In just the last 48 hours, I’ve spoken to a female tech executive who was grabbed by a male C.E.O. at a large event and another female executive who was asked to interview at a venture fund because they ‘feel like they need to hire a woman,’” said Dick Costolo, the former chief of Twitter, who now runs the fitness start-up Chorus. “We should worry about whether the women-in-tech movement has gone too far sometime after a couple of these aren’t regularly happening anymore.”

In many of the conversations I’ve had around sexual harassment and sexual assault, I’ve been discussing something I’ve been referring to as the “perpetrator / victim paradox.” In this situation, the perpetrator “assaults / harasses” the victim. When the perpetrator is discovered (or almost discovered), he becomes the victim and tries to manipulate the victim into “not destroying my life.” It alternates between threats (continued perpetrator behavior aimed at the victim) and pleas (where the perpetrator takes the role of the victim, often using guilt to try and keep the victim quiet.)

Now, this doesn’t only apply to sexual harassment and sexual assault, but to any power dynamic. Which leads to the well-discussed idea that rape is much more about power than about sex. Brownmiller’s book does an incredible job of linking power to sex, especially in the context of men using sex to assert their power over women. But there was another level that jumped out at me, which was the notion of women as property, where a first man asserts their power over second man by having unwanted sex (rape) with the woman who was “affiliated” (wife, child, sister) with the second man. While Brownmiller has an incredibly long and distressing chapter on rape as part of the spoils of war, this idea infiltrates much of the book.

When I read articles like Push for Gender Equality in Tech? Some Men Say It’s Gone Too Far all I can think of is “these men are afraid of losing power to women.”

As a man, I wish other men would get over this. As our current president assembles the most male-dominated government in decades it’s clear that there is still a lot of work to do here.

Comments
Sep 22 2017

Last Chance to Sign Up For The Fall 2017 Venture Deals Course

Kauffman Fellows and Techstars are running another cycle of the Venture Deals course with me and Jason Mendelson. Signups close tomorrow as the course runs from 9/24/17 – 11/13/17. The course is free to everyone.

The seven-week course, which is about five hours of work each week, has the following agenda.

Week 1 – Introduction of key players/Form or join a team

Week 2 – Fundraising/Finding the Right VC

Week 3 – Capitalization Tables/Convertible Debt

Week 4 – Term Sheets: Economics & Control

Week 5 – Term Sheets Part Two

Week 6 – Negotiations

Week 7 – Letter of Intent/Getting Acquired

Over 10,000 people have taken the course at this point. We’ve gotten universally strong positive reviews and have made plenty of new friends from people who have gone through the course and connected with us.

If you are interested in raising venture capital, I encourage you to sign up and take the course. I hope to see you online.

Comments
Sep 21 2017

Seattle Screenings of For Here or To Go?

Amy and I have been big supporters of a movie about immigration called For Here or To Go?

With our friends at Boundless, we are sponsoring a week of screenings in Seattle. We are supplying a bunch of free tickets and – when they are used up – will still have a set of paid tickets available.

It’s playing at the Landmark Theaters Crest Cinema Center from Friday 9/22 to Wednesday 9/27. If the topic of immigration is important to you, this is a great, powerful, thought-provoking movie.

If you want to bring a big group or spend some time with Rishi, the creator of the movie, just email me.

Comments
Sep 20 2017

I’m Not Buying An iPhone 8

For starters, let’s look at some Golden Retriever puppies instead.

I watched most of the Apple announcement last week (I was on vacation and hanging out waiting for Amy, so I just plopped down on the floor and watched Special Events on the Apple TV channel.) I fell asleep for a few minutes part way through it. I turned it off about halfway through the iPhone X announcement.

I’ve been an Apple user for many years now. Every few years, I switch to an Android phone for a month (whatever the newest model is) but always end up going back to my iPhone. Whenever each new iPhone model has come out (for at least the past five years) there’s been a mad rush among my partners to make sure all of us have a new phone the day they ship. I even sported a rose gold one during one upgrade cycle just because I could.

When Amy and I went to lunch after the iPhone 8 and X announcement, she asked me if I was going to get a new iPhone. I said no. I realized I was profoundly uninspired – both by the new phone and the way the Apple team presented it. I’d go so far as to say I was bored, which as a lifetime nerd, is unusual when Amy lets me hang out and do anything related to computers (including watching TV about computers.)

Amy then said, “I didn’t mean the 8, I meant the X.”

For some reason, I’m completely uninterested right now in the iPhone X. I don’t know why. It might be the presentation. It might be that’s it’s not available for another few months. It might be that I just spend too much money and time fixing my iPhone 7+ screen (twice) after dropping it. Why twice? Because the first time I stupidly sent it over to one of the non-Apple “we can fix your iPhone for you for less money” stores who replaced the glass but totally screwed up a bunch of other things (the home button, the touch dynamics, and the edge feel of things.) That resulted in me buying a new iPhone 7+. Dumb Brad – just to go the Apple store even if it’s five miles further away and you have to drive instead of walk.

On the other hand, iOS 11 just installed on my phone while I was writing this post. A cursory glance shows that it’s working fine but other than different fonts, new icon styling, shading on an iMessage reply, and a different control center, it looks the same so far. At least I can play with fun new apps like Occipital’s TapMeasure to see how ARKit works.

I’m perplexed by the current Apple release cycle dynamics. I know they’ll mint money with the new phones, but my feeling of disappointment lingers as a user. Suddenly, I’m more inspired by Amazon’s new hardware.

Comments
Sep 19 2017

Engage in Boulder’s Upcoming Local Election

Boulder has local elections every odd year. That means we are having a local election this year, with mail-in balloting starting on 10/16/17 and ending on 11/7/17.

Because it’s on an odd-year cycle, turnout has historically been relatively low (under 50%). As a result, a very small number of votes can have a big impact on the election results. This is especially important for the city council election.

A number of Boulder residents, including me, have organized a new group called Engage Boulder to help get out the vote in this election cycle. Between now and 11/7/17, you’ll see a number of suggestions, events, and encouragement.

Yesterday, Engage Boulder put out a short overview on why you should vote in the local election. It also had easy links to register for the mail-in voting. The overview follows – and, if you are interested – there’s a Get Out the Vote Event 9/27 at Oskar Blues in Boulder. To learn more about the upcoming Boulder election and related events, sign up to join the Engage Boulder newsletter.


Participating in your local election is critical. It’s up to all of the citizens of Boulder to elect a slate of candidates committed to practical, analytical decision-making and a vision for the city that is open, progressive, and forward-looking. With your help, this can happen.

Why Vote in Local Elections

(And Why You Should Encourage  All Your Friends To Vote Too)

  1. Because your vote matters: We know that a few voters can drastically shift the outcome of an election. In the 2015 city council election, Jan Burton was only elected by 125 votes. Your vote can literally sway the election.

  2. Because what local government does affect you:  It decides:

    1. The safety and upkeep of our public areas.

    2. The quantity and type of local housing.

    3. The quality of trails for riding, hiking, and running.

    4. The level of support for the art, music, and entrepreneurial scene.

    5. How easy it is to get from home to work to play … and back.

    6. How easy it is to start and grow a business, or a family.

    7. And much, much more.

  3. Because it gives you the power to create change: We become the city we imagine, and how we govern ourselves has a lot to say about it. So vote on behalf of the next generation of Boulderites trying to live affordably, work hard for a worthwhile company, and enjoy a high quality of life.

  4. Because it’s easy: A few years ago Boulder started voting entirely by mail. You get the ballot around October 16. Why not take 15 minutes to fill it out? If you aren’t registered here, spend less than five minutes on the Secretary of State’s website to change that.

  5. Because you try hard to be practical and forward-looking: We want our local government to also be practical and forward-looking.

  6. Because you don’t need to spend hours researching the issues and candidates (unless you want to!):  Open BoulderBetter Boulder, and Engage Boulder have specific recommendations of who and what to vote for in the upcoming election.  If you agree with their general philosophy you may wish to leverage their research to vote their recommendations.

Mail-in ballots will be sent out on October 16th, register or check your registration online here. In 2013 and 2015 voter turnout was about 46% in Boulder. In 2016 it was 92%. We know you have it in you! Please share this email with at least five friends! 

Hope to see you at our Get Out the Vote Event 9/27 at Oskar Blues in Boulder.

Comments
Sep 17 2017

That Was The Vacation I Needed

Amy and I just spent a week of vacation off the grid in Aspen. I ran, read, and hung out. I had a fantasy about writing, but didn’t get to it. We watched Narcos Season 3, ate at a bunch of Aspen’s restaurants, and had an Amy pre-birthday dinner with our friends Dave and Maureen. And we napped – a lot.

I hadn’t had a vacation since mid-April, which is unusual for me as Amy and I try to take a week off the grid every quarter. On day three, which was a Monday, I settled into a total chill zone which lasted all week. I did my long run on Friday (instead of Saturday) and cruised from Aspen to Basalt. I then slept most of the day on Saturday when I wasn’t reading or eating. Yup – I’m marathon ready.

While I’m not quite finished with Reincarnation Blues, I did knock down six other books this week.

Sourdough: I loved this one. Robin Sloan’s previous book, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, was my favorite book of 2013 (thanks Geraldine!) Sourdough was even tastier.

Daring to Drive: A Saudi Woman’s Awakening: Intense, powerful, horrifying, and inspiring all at the same time. Manal Al-Sharif is incredible. I hope I get to meet her someday – I’ll thank her for being brave enough to do what she does and to tell her story while doing it.

The Impossible Fortress: My inner 14-year-old loved this book. Loved, loved, loved it. The Commodore 64 code was a bonus.

Angel: How to Invest in Technology Startups – Timeless Advice from an Angel Investor Who Turned $100,000 into $100,000,000: I met Jason Calacanis in the mid-1990s when he was peddling his Silicon Alley Reporter magazine. We’ve been friends ever since and I give him a big hug whenever our paths cross. He’s his normal outspoken and bombastic self in this book, which has lots of gems buried in it. I smiled a lot when I read it. And how about that subtitle …

The Rise and Fall of American Growth: The U.S. Standard of Living since the Civil War: This book was a grind, but it had a lot of good stuff in it. It’s only 784 pages so it took more than a day to read it. If you are trying to understand what is going on in the current American economy, and why the future will not look like the past, this is a good place to start.

Teach to Work: How a Mentor, a Mentee, and a Project Can Close the Skills Gap in America: As part of my effort to get rolling again on my #GiveFirst book, I thought reading this might be a useful kick in the pants. It wasn’t.

My next vacation is in mid-November. The tank once again has plenty of fuel to get me to that point.

Comments
Sep 8 2017

A Reading and Writing Week

As my writing progress on my two books – Startup Communities 2 and #GiveFirst – continue to equal zero and the pile of unread stuff reaches higher into the sky than the stack of turtles going all the way down, I’ve decided to try a new process thing.

I’m going have a reading and writing week starting today and going through 9/17. Any excess time I have next week will be for reading the turtle pile and working on the new books. The activities are self-reinforcing – I write better when I’m reading a lot, I can only write productively for a few hours a day, and reading refreshes me a lot for future writing.

Amy’s birthday is next week (yes – it now lasts a week instead of a day) so I’m taking the week off. We are together for every possible minute, other than when I’m running and in the bathroom, so it’s a particularly great week to try this experiment since Amy also loves to read and write.

Once the US Open is finished on Sunday, we’ll have no reason to watch TV. The books and a blank screen beckon. This will either work or not. Either way, I’ll learn something.

Comments