As a preparation for something new and exciting, let’s reminisce a little. In 2011, we did our first Foundry Group music video “I’m a VC.”
I remember being amazed when the Youtube views went over 100,000. I recall being equally amazed when I heard that our IT guy (Ryan) had cleaned up our random Google accounts, deleted firstname.lastname@example.org, and as a result deleted the video. When it was restored, the view counter was at 0.
My partners and I just announced that our long-time friend and LP – Jamey Sperans – has joined Foundry Group.
We’ve been working with Jamey since the beginning of Foundry Group in 2007 (he was one of our first LPs via Morgan Stanley AIP) and have become extremely close friends.
Jamey and his family have moved to Boulder, so in addition to working with us, he’ll become a part of the extended Boulder/Denver startup community.
We are delighted to have Jamey in town and on our team. If you want the backstory, take a look at the post on the Foundry Group site titled Introducing Our New Partner – Jamey Sperans.
Yesterday, my partners at Foundry Group announced financial support for the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund.
We strongly believe that sexual harassment is unacceptable in any form. While there can be a debate about whether sexual harassment is about sex, power, or something else, there’s an additional pernicious element of it when the harasser threatens to sue the person being harassed. This extends the harassment and reinforces the issue around the power dynamic, especially when the harasser has much more financial resources than the person being harassed.
My partners and I were considering establishing a VC / Entrepreneurs Sexual Harassment Legal Defense Fund. When we saw the launch of Time’s Up and the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, we decided to financially support this activity and try to create a sub-group for the tech industry. As a starting point, Foundry Group is contributing $100,000 to the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund and Anchor Point Foundation is contributing $100,000.
In addition, we are reaching out to VCs and Angel Investors that we know to see if they will join in our effort. If you are a VC or Angel Investor who wants to financially support this effort, please email me. And, if you are an individual who wants to directly support the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, please do so on the Time’s Up GoFundMe page.
Finally, for some inspiration, watch Oprah Winfrey’s powerful speech at the 2018 Golden Globe Awards.
I love the idea of A User Manual To Working With Me. A number of the CEOs we work with have written them and Seth sends out a letter to all new founders about working with us.
While I occasionally think about writing an @bfeld User Manual, I never manage to get around to it. On our Q4 vacation, Amy and I talked a lot about dinners out, especially my own struggle with dinners with large groups of people, which caused me to reflect on how I approach dinners out in general.
Business dinners have become increasingly challenging for me for a number of reasons. I’m an introvert, so when the dinner is more than four people, it’s extremely draining for me. I no longer drink, so every dinner lasts at least 33% too long. I’m a vegetarian and am now eating very lightly at dinner, so the experience of dinner is much less important to me. I’ve been to all the restaurants in Boulder many times, so there’s no novelty in the experience. I’ve got a 30-minute drive home from downtown Boulder to my house, so getting home is dinner_end_time + 30 minutes.
I go to bed early (usually before 10 pm) so dinners often are the only thing I do in the evening before going to bed. I love to lay on the couch with Amy and read in the evening before I go to sleep, so this decompression from the day is almost always lost when I have a business dinner. I also love evenings at home with just Amy, business dinners out take time away from this for us.
That said, business dinners are part of my work. I’ve been to at least 1,351 board dinners in the last 25 years. I typically have business dinners three or four times each week, every week. I almost always have at least four major dinner-related events (with greater than 25 people) each month. Simply deciding not to do business dinners isn’t an option as long as I do the work I’m doing.
To solve for this, and make business dinners more enjoyable and productive from my frame of reference, following is the best way to have a business dinner with me.
I’m sure I’ll end up at some dinners, and events, that don’t fit this profile. By default, I’m no longer going to board dinners, although I’ll make exceptions when necessary. Amy occasionally likes to go to galas and big public events, so I’ll tag along for those. And, of course, I can comfortably do these periodically. But, if you want to get the most out of me, and have me enjoy the experience, the bullet points above are a good guideline.
Yesterday was a perfect Saturday. I decided to do a digital sabbath so on Friday night at 5 pm I shut down my computer. Amy made a nice small dinner of leftover cauliflower soup with farfalle pasta. We then went downstairs and finished off the Burns/Novick The Vietnam War.
I woke up mid-morning on Saturday. I meditated for a half hour. I had a light breakfast of Dave’s Killer Bread and peanut butter with some coffee. I then grabbed my Kindle, got on the couch near Amy, and dug into Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House.
I stopped for a brief lunch with Amy and went back to it. I was three-quarters of the way through it by mid-afternoon so I went for a three-mile run, stretched, took a long bath, and then went to dinner with Amy and John Wood. We talked about the great work he was doing at Room to Read, being in our 50’s, the Vietnam War, and Fire and Fury, which John hadn’t started reading yet.
We got home about 8:30 pm. I finished Fire and Fury while Amy read New Yorker’s on the couch, and then we went to bed. When I woke up this morning and checked my email, I saw one from John at 1:01 am that said “Fuck, yeah, this book is a great read! Thanks for recommending!”
That’s how I felt. In general, I don’t read books about current politics. I steadfastly avoid all the manufactured stuff promoting candidates, and generally only dive in when I feel like some history. I did succumb to my curiously last week and read Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign, so I was probably ready for Wolff’s book when all the hysteria around it broke on Thursday, including Trump’s lawyer’s very predictable cease and desist letter.
I thought Wolff did a nice job in his Author’s Note at the beginning of the book setting up the context for how he got the material for the book. He acknowledged conflicting stories, deep background talks, and he dealt with the journalistic conundrums he found himself in. The obvious attack approaches being taken to fully discredit Wolff and the book are shallow and not-credible after you read this section.
There’s a remarkable amount of media on the book, which has already soared to bestseller status on all channels. I found it fascinating to read through some of this media, and while occasionally repetitive, like so many things about this administration, the story of the administrations’ reactions to the story is an important part of the story.
Here are some of the better links I found this morning. Skim if you want, but I encourage you to grab and read the book.
Finally, from a post I wrote in 2015 titled “The Paradox of VC Value-Add” I want to expose one of my deep biases.
“Before I dig in, I need to express two biases. First, whenever someone says “I’m a (adjective) (noun)” I immediately think they are full of shit. When someone says “I’m a great tennis player”, I immediately wonder why they needed to tell me they are great and it makes me suspicious. “I’m a deep thinker” makes me wonder the last time the person opened a book. “I’m a value-added VC” makes me think “Isn’t that price of admission?””
I wonder if there will be a horse named Stable Genius in the Kentucky Derby in the next few years.
Let’s start with an awesome dog taking himself sledding.
Now, let’s move on to Bill Gates opening essay in this week’s Time Magazine (he’s their first ever guest editor) titled Some good news, for once. It’s short and powerful.
He starts out with context.
“Reading the news today does not exactly leave you feeling optimistic. Hurricanes in the Americas. Horrific mass shootings. Global tensions over nuclear arms, crisis in Myanmar, bloody civil wars in Syria and Yemen. Your heart breaks for every person who is touched by these tragedies. Even for those of us lucky enough not to be directly affected, it may feel like the world is falling apart.”
And then perspective.
“But these events—as awful as they are—have happened in the context of a bigger, positive trend. On the whole, the world is getting better. This is not some naively optimistic view; it’s backed by data. Look at the number of children who die before their fifth birthday. Since 1990, that figure has been cut in half. That means 122 million children have been saved in a quarter-century, and countless families have been spared the heartbreak of losing a child.”
He creates more perspective but quickly gets to the punchline.
“So why does it feel like the world is in decline? I think it is partly the nature of news coverage. Bad news arrives as drama, while good news is incremental—and not usually deemed newsworthy. A video of a building on fire generates lots of views, but not many people would click on the headline “Fewer buildings burned down this year.” It’s human nature to zero in on threats: evolution wired us to worry about the animals that want to eat us.”
But this line nailed it for me.
“There’s also a growing gap between the bad things that still happen and our tolerance of those things. Over the centuries, violence has declined dramatically, as has our willingness to accept it. But because the improvements don’t keep pace with our expectations, it can seem like things are getting worse.”
For the past week, Amy and I have been watching the Ken Burns documentary The Vietnam War. We finished Episode 8: The History of the World last night, and as the credits rolled and CSNY’s song Ohio played, I said to Amy, “The US and the world was unbelievably fucked up in 1970. I was five and I don’t remember anything. It’s helpful perspective on today.”
I was born optimistic and always have been. I’m going to stay optimistic about our country, our society, and our world. And I’m going to keep working hard on the things I think matter.
And yes, I’m going to read Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House tomorrow.
Several people recommended Ray Dalio’s book Principles to me. I read it a few days ago and thought it was spectacular. I’ve gone out and bought a copy for each of my partners and I recommend that every VC, as well as anyone who is building an organization of any kind, buy and read it.
Dalio is famous for his extremely successful firm Bridgewater Associates which is known for its goal of achieving excellence in their work and their relationships through radical truth and radical transparency. The TED Talk below is a good summary, but the book is worth reading in total.
As a bonus, watch Dalio’s great explanation of How the Economic Machine Works.
As I get older, I’m reflecting more on the last 30 years of what has worked for me – and what hasn’t worked – as I codify my own business philosophy around the idea of #GiveFirst. As part of that, it’s a treat to soak in books like Dalio’s, as it stimulates a lot of thoughts around this.
The past is ungraspable,
the present is ungraspable,
the future is ungraspable.
– Diamond Sutra
Now that it’s 2018, the inevitable predictions for 2018 are upon us.
I’m not a predictor. I never have been and don’t expect I ever will be. However, I do enjoy reading a few of the predictions, most notably Fred Wilson’s What Is Going To Happen In 2018.
Unlike past years, Fred led off this year with something I feel like I would have written.
“This is a post that I am struggling to write. I really have no idea what is going to happen in 2018.”
He goes on to make some predictions but leave a lot in the “I have no idea” category.
I mentioned this to Amy and she quickly said:
And that, simply put, is my goal for 2018.
As I read my daily newsfeed this morning, I came upon two other predictions that jumped out at me, which are both second-order effects of US government policies changes.
The first is “tech companies will use their huge hoards of repatriated cash to buy other companies.” There is a 40% chance Apple will acquire Netflix, according to Citi and Amazon will buy Target in 2018, influential tech analyst Gene Munster predicts. The Apple/Netflix one clearly is linked to “Apple has so much cash – they need to use it.” While the Amazon one is more about “Amazon needs a bigger offline partner than Whole Foods”, it feels like it could easily get swept in the “tons of dollars sloshing around in US tech companies – go buy things!”
The second is “get those immigrants out of the US, even if they are already here and contributing to our society.” H-1B visa rules: Trump admin considers tweak that may lead to mass deportation of Indians is the next layer down, where the Executive Branch can just modify existing rules that have potentially massive changes.
I’ve been reading The Lessons of History by Will and Ariel Durant. Various Cylons on BSG had it right when they said, “All of this has happened before. All of this will happen again.”