Month: January 2018

Jan 30 2018

Like Minds…Leaders Take Action

Tomorrow night I’m the keynote speaker at the AllHealth Network event Like Minds…Leaders Take Action.

I will be discussing the challenges of entrepreneurs around mental health issues and how the stigma associated with it creates an additional layer of difficulty. I’ll also share my own story around mental health issues and talk about the power leaders have to influence culture, particularly as it pertains to mental health in the workplace.

There are a few tickets left so if you are interested please register and join us.

Ask yourself the following question: Why is there stigma associated with mental health but not with diabetes or cancer?

I felt no joy as I struggled with depression and the stigma that came with it. When I first had a major depressive episode in my 20s, I was ashamed, embarrassed, and incredibly secretive about my struggles. Over the years, the help and support I received inspired me to work to erase the stigma that comes with mental health issues, especially in the workplace.

As we move to change the image of mental health and educate people around it, I encourage leaders to engage in “Mental Fitness” – if you want to be a great leader you need to invest not only in your physical and intellectual fitness but also your mental fitness. This holds true for every member of the team and needs to start at the top of an organization.

AllHealth Network is a 62-year-old Englewood-based non-profit healthcare organization that provides a full spectrum of mental health and substance use services in 10 unique settings. AllHealth Network serves more than 17,000 clients annually, offering counseling for individuals and families, group therapy and substance abuse treatment in addition to a myriad of resources for leaders in business and their employees.

As part of its Like Minds movement, AllHealth Network launched a CEO/Leadership Pledge which calls on business leaders to support workplace mental health. They are also introducing “In My Mind…” – a campaign comprised of a collection of photo essays with insights expressed from the mind of a person personally touched by mental health challenges, whether direct or indirect. These faces and voices reflect a range of human diversities, acknowledging that no one is left untouched and this human experience can unite us.

Like Minds…Leaders Take Action will be held on Jan. 31 from 5 to 8 p.m. at History Colorado. To purchase tickets, please visit http://www.allhealthnetwork.org/like-minds-brad-feld.

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Jan 29 2018

Adele and Everything After

Long Haul Films is the video production company that does our videos like Bored Meetings, Worst of Times, and I’m a VC. We are huge fans of Melissa and Tom.

They have a new documentary coming out called Adele and Everything After. It is an award-winning documentary about Marty, a woman with an untreatable heart condition that made her pass out every day, and Adele, one of the world’s first cardiac alert service dogs.

Pre-order it today or visit Adelemovie.com to find out where else you can catch this inspiring film when it’s released on January 30th.

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Jan 25 2018

Whopper Neutrality – The Burger Based Version of Net Neutrality

If you are still having trouble understanding why Net Neutrality is important, Burger King has made an awesomely funny – and extremely informative – video using the Whopper as an example. It’s just brilliant.

In more serious news, the New York governor signs executive order to keep net neutrality rules after the FCC’s repeal. This follows on the heels of the Montana governor signs executive order to keep net neutrality in the state. Last year I wrote about the coming battle of states rights vs. federal rights, and this is a great example of the complexity of it.

At the same time, AT&T CEO’s net neutrality plan calls for regulation of websites. AT&T supports bans on blocking and throttling, but not paid prioritization or data cap exemptions. I think he needs to watch the Whopper video.

Apparently the GOP is working on a net neutrality bill would allow paid fast lanes and preempt state laws.  According to an article in ArsTechnica the “Open Internet Preservation Act” would ban blocking and throttling but allow ISPs to create paid fast lanes. The Republican bill would also prohibit the FCC from imposing stricter regulations on broadband providers and prohibit state governments from enacting their own net neutrality laws.

There’s that pesky states right thing again. And more whoppers.

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Jan 24 2018

Tax and Bitcoin (and other Cryptocurrencies)

Did you sell any bitcoin (or other cryptocurrencies) in 2017? If you did, do you know how to pay taxes on the transaction(s)?

I’m going to guess that a lot of people in the US that fit in the category of having sold some bitcoin in 2017 haven’t spent a millisecond thinking about what tax they might owe. There are probably others who feel like they shouldn’t have to pay any tax because they believe bitcoin is outside the reach of the government. And then there are others who believe the theoretically anonymous elements of the cryptocurrency they are trading should prevent anyone – especially the government – from finding out about what they are up to.

Two interesting articles came out in the past week. The first, When Trading in Bitcoin, Keep the Tax Man in Mind, is an excellent overview that addresses the following questions.

  • I sold some Bitcoin last year. What do I need to do?
  • I bought a computer (or another product or service) using Bitcoin. Are there tax implications?
  • I’ve successfully ‘mined’ Bitcoins. Now what?
  • I was paid in Bitcoin. Are there any special tax consequences?
  • What if I paid someone else in Bitcoin for their services?
  • Can I reduce my tax bill by donating my cryptocoins?
  • Will I receive any tax forms from my exchange? Do I have to track my own transactions?

The second article, Why the I.R.S. Fears Bitcoin, is an Op-ed in the NYT that I have mixed feelings about. While there are a number of scenarios about how to evade taxes, it ultimately leads to a proposal:

“A smarter response would be for the government to switch from taxing income when it is received to taxing income when it is spent. Many economists support moving to this kind of consumption tax, but it would require a major overhaul of the tax code.”

The “shift from a consumption tax” from an “income tax” is an endless debate that I’ve been hearing since I first started reading Forbes Magazine in college over 30 years ago. So, while logical, it feels like you could potentially compress the article into an argument for a consumption tax.

But, I loved the final paragraph.

“More generally, cracking down on tax evasion will require that the community learn to trust government. Since this goes against the very ethos of the cryptocurrency movement, it poses the most difficult — but no less necessary — challenge.”

The rabbit hole goes deep.

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Jan 22 2018

Techstars Mentor Manifesto In Detail

I’ve been working on my next book, #GiveFirst, again. There’s a lot in it about the Techstars Mentor Manifesto and how to be an effective mentor.

Yesterday, I got a note from Jay Batson, longtime Techstars Boston mentor and now the Mentor-in-Residence for the program, asking if I had ever compiled the lists I posts I wrote about the Techstars Mentor Manifesto.

I hadn’t. He had conveniently done it in a Google doc so it was easy for me to list out the posts with links. They follow.

1/18: Be Socratic

2/18: Expect nothing in return

3/18: Be Authentic – Practice What You Preach

4/18: Be Direct. Tell the Truth, However Hard.

5/18: Listen, too

6/18: The Best Mentor Relationships Eventually Become Two Way

7/18: Be Responsive

8/18: Adopt At Least One Company Every Single Year. Experience Counts.

9/18: Clearly Separate Opinion From Fact

10/18: Hold Information In Confidence

11/18: Clearly Commit to Mentor, or Do Not. Either Is Fine

12/18: Know What You Don’t Know. Say “I Don’t Know” when you don’t know.

13/18: Guide, Don’t Control

14/18: Accept and Communicate With Other Mentors That Get Involved

15/18: Be Optimistic

16/18: Provide Specific Actionable Advice

17/18: Be Challenging/Robust but Never Destructive (No post)

18/18: Have Empathy. Remember That Startups Are Hard (No post)

Jay also reminded me that I hadn’t written posts on #17 and #18. They are now on my list to do. Thanks, Jay!

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Jan 21 2018

Pyongyang, Vonnegut, and Depression

Amy and I had another wonderful digital sabbath yesterday.

It started Friday at sundown when I put my computer to sleep. I’m using Inbox When Ready and have locked my inbox from Friday at 6pm to Saturday at 11:59pm. I also put my phone in Do Not Disturb mode for this same time period. While I’m not committed to doing this every weekend in 2018, I’m going to do it most of the time.

I woke up Saturday morning and meditated for 30 minutes. Amy and I then had breakfast and then we retired to the couch to read. I’ve decided that in 2018 when I’m at home I’ll read physical books, since I have an infinite pile of those along with my infinite pile of Kindle books. I scanned my shelves of unread books, picked four that I thought varied widely, and dug in.

I started with Architectural and Cultural Guide Pyongyang. North Korea has been on my mind lately (fathom that), although I had bought this book a few years ago after Eric Schmidt’s trip to in North Korea. It was mentioned in one of the articles I read at the time, but it had been sitting on my shelf since then. It was a fascinating and beautifully done book (well – pair of books). The first was a detailed architectural overview of Pyongyang with official descriptions of all the buildings. The second was a series of essays on different aspects of the architectural and historical dynamics of modern Pyongyang. Everything was otherworldly and mysterious.

I then moved on to If This Isn’t Nice, What Is?: Advice to the Young-The Graduation Speeches – a short volume of nine graduation speeches by Kurt Vonnegut. It turns out there is a second – expanded – edition, but I didn’t notice that until after I’d finished and logged the book in Goodreads. I love Vonnegut. One summer over a decade ago I bought all of his books in hardcover, ordered them by publication date, and started working my way through them. In addition to being a delightful writer, Vonnegut was an in-demand and excellent public speaker. Each graduation speech was unique even though there were some lines and jokes repeated. What stuck with me was the contrast between the Beatitudes and the Code of Hammurabi and how Vonnegut applied them to our modern world.

Amy and I had lunch and then took a nap. I went for a run as I’m starting to ramp up again, although I still have some issues with my left calf.

After a shower, I settled into Playing Hurt: My Journey from Despair to Hope by John Saunders. I’m not a sports fan and never watch ESPN (unless I’m at a Ruby Tuesday or other place where it’s playing on the TV during a meal) so I didn’t know who John Saunders was. I can’t remember who recommended the book to me, but it was in the context of a well-known person’s memoir where they reveal – in depth – their struggles with depression. In a cruel twist, Saunders died before the book was published, but his family bravely supported publishing it posthumously. The book is incredibly intimate, linearly told, but with Saunders going deep on his life. He struggled with depression. sexual and physical assault as a child. continuous racism. endless suicidal ideation, health issues including diabetes, a major brain injury in 2011 from a fall on the ESPN set, and a heart attack in 2014. Through it all, he rose to the top of his field as a sports journalist, with a 30-year career at ESPN / ABC.

After I finished it, I reshelved the fourth, unread book and went to bed. When I woke up this morning, there was snow everywhere.

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Jan 17 2018

Reflections on Bored Meetings

Over the past 25 years, I’ve attended approximately 14,387 board meetings. My partners and I talk a lot about how to improve them and today released The Foundry Group Manifesto on Board Meetings. It follows:

In 2013, I wrote a book with Mahendra Ramsinghani about board meetings titled Startup Boards: Getting the Most Out of Your Board of Directors. It was a tough book to write because every time I dug into it, I got bored, but I think it ended up being a contribution to the corpus of entrepreneurial knowledge. However, I anticipate Bored Meetings will be an even more significant contribution.

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Jan 16 2018

It Can All Go To Zero

Perspective can be a useful thing. Cryptocurrencies have had a bad 24 hours.

Last night Amy and I watched The Big Short for the second time. If you’ve never seen it, it’s a must watch movie. If you haven’t seen it in at least a year, watch it again. While the events are from 2005 – 2008, they feel like they happened yesterday. And, the cast, including Brad Pitt (my favorite character), Steve Carell (my second favorite), Christian Bale, and Ryan Gosling play their parts spectacularly well.

There are hundreds of lessons in the movie. But, like most things human, we quickly forget them. Or we pretend like they couldn’t happen again. Or we justify what’s going on today as “but it’s different this time.”

In 2000 I was co-chairman of a public company called Interliant. The company had gone public in 1999 and the market cap rose to just under $3 billion ($55 / share, up from $10 / share at the IPO). By the end of 2000, the stock price was at $13. I was on a walk at my house in Eldorado Springs with one of the VPs who asked me how low the stock could go. I can’t remember the exact phrasing, but I remember it being something like “There’s no way the stock will go below $10 / share, right?”

My response was simple. “It could go to $0. I hope it doesn’t, but it could.”

In 2002 Interliant went bankrupt and the stock went to $0.

Now, I don’t have schadenfreude about cryptocurrencies going down. Like many, I’m fascinated by them and the potential implications of both cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology. I hold plenty of cryptocurrencies – either directly or indirectly in funds I’m an investor in. So I benefit financially from them going up.

But I’m not a trader. I never have been. I never will be. It’s not my temperament. I don’t enjoy it. I don’t want to spend mental energy thinking about the gyrations of the market – any market. I don’t want to make money on short-term financial trades, but rather by helping create new things over the long-term.

We all eventually die, at least for now. Some people learn from history. Some people suppress or deny it. Many people ignore it. I prefer to reflect on it and make sure the big lessons are inputs into my thinking. If you want a quick, 128-page frame of reference on this, read The Lessons of History by Will and Ariel Durant. The cliche “the more things change, the more they stay the same” is a cliche because it applies to a lot of things.

My scan of my morning news feeds included Researchers find that one person likely drove Bitcoin from $150 to $1,000BlackRock’s Message: Contribute to Society, or Risk Losing Our SupportGE Shares Dive on $6.2 Billion Charge for Problems in Its Finance Unit, and a very interesting post titled Impatience: The Pitfall Of Every Ambitious Person.

I’ll leave you with this.

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Jan 15 2018

Colorado Startup Summer

Every entrepreneur starts her journey somewhere.

Colorado is a premier location for entrepreneurs and innovative thinkers. This is why I co-founded and commit a portion of my time to Startup Colorado; an organization that empowers and sustains startup communities across Colorado. One of the programs that Startup Colorado runs – called Startup Summer – cultivates and engages undergraduate entrepreneurs looking to get involved in the Front Range startup community.

Startup Summer is an immersive 10-week program that includes weekly seminars from local entrepreneurs who teach the fundamentals of entrepreneurship. The student entrepreneurs form teams and build companies while receiving coaching and mentorship from alums of the program and local entrepreneurs, culminating with a pitch competition. The program admits 50 student entrepreneurs from around the country, bringing together different backgrounds while exposing them to the Front Range startup ecosystem.

Startup Summer is now in its sixth year. All internships are paid. If you are interested or know a promising student who wants to take advantage of this opportunity, the application is here and closes on January 31st.

Oh, and if you’re a company in Boulder or Denver that wants to participate and host an intern, email me and we’ll see if we can fit you in this year.

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Jan 12 2018

Worst of Times

If you enjoyed I’m a VC, take another walk down memory lane with me back to 2015 and watch our second video, Worst of Times.

More soon. Hint, hint …

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