Month: February 2018

Feb 27 2018

Book: A Second Chance

Cat Hoke’s book A Second Chance: For You, For Me, And For The Rest Of Us is out.

I wrote a long post about it in October when I read a draft of it. Cat is remarkable and she lucked out by partnering with the amazing Seth Godin on this book (Seth is the publisher).

I’m sending a copy to every CEO in our portfolio. We’ve got a pretty regular Foundry Group book club thing going at this point, as I know Rajat Bhargava and Will Herman’s book The Startup Playbook is also going out to a bunch of the CEOs. And each of my partners is getting a copy of Lee McIntyre’s Post-Truth this week.

I read a lot and encourage everyone around me to join in on the good stuff. Cat’s book is definitely good stuff. She mixes her own life journey with the mission of Defy Ventures along with the impact that Defy has had on so many people – both “entrepreneurs-in-training” and the volunteers who work with the EITs.

I’ve talked about Defy Ventures a lot on this blog and Amy and I have become significant supporters through both The Anchor Point Foundation and my volunteer engagement. I’m particularly proud, however, of my partner Jason and his wife Jenn who have picked up the mantle as co-chairs of Defy Ventures Colorado and launched the Colorado program. I was in prison with them, 50 volunteers, 50 EITs, ten people from the Defy team (including Cat), and Governor Hickenlooper two weeks ago.

All of this has been inspired, and led, by Cat. I didn’t know much about the US prison system prior to meeting Cat several years ago. My own journey with this has been incredibly powerful. Being able to experience it with other entrepreneurs and investors, including Jason and Jenn, a number of the Techstars team, and many others who I know has been wonderful.

If you want a pre-book taste, the Reboot podcast that I did with Jerry Colonna and Cat is a good start.

But, do yourself a favor. Buy Cat’s book A Second Chance. Read it, let it into your life, and ponder what a second chance really means.

P.S. I have several people in my life who I need to give a second chance to. I’m not ready yet, but I hope I will be at some point. And yes, the book will help you go deep on what this means for you.

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Feb 26 2018

Interviewing Jerry Colonna About Heart – His!

If you are a regular listener of the Reboot Podcast, you’ve heard Jerry Colonna masterfully interview many people. And – if you aren’t a regular listener, go sign up and give it a try.

In Episode 78: When Did You Start to Listen to Your Heart, I turned the tables on Jerry and interviewed him. We’ve been close friends for 22 years and I felt like it was time someone interviewed him on his podcast. I suggested it to him and his team, who either rolled their eyes or jumped for joy. Either way, it is now up.

I listened to the final version during my run yesterday. I smiled a lot, snickered a little, and grimaced a few times. If you want a taste to entice you to listen, here are a few of the quotes from the show highlights that jumped out at me.

  • “What I’m trying to do right now is pull myself into the present and be really real.” – Jerry Colonna
  • “I have always given a shit about people.” – Jerry Colonna
  • “Things are fucked up all the time like every day, continually. You can either just react to it, or you can deal with it.” – Brad Feld
  • “I think that there are two things that I would get excited about as an investor. People and product.” – Jerry Colonna
  • “Better humans make better leaders.” – Jerry Colonna
  • “I don’t want to spend minutes with people who I don’t feel are good humans.” – Brad Feld
  • “Good people do shitty things all the time.” – Jerry Colonna
  • “If you’ve got that inquiry process and you remain curious about human beings, you can, with compassion, understand and therefore protect yourself from the bad things that even good people do.” – Jerry Colonna
  • “Men at 40 learn to close softly doors to rooms they will not be going back to.” – Jerry Colonna
  • “This idea that people are fundamentally willing to work on themselves and that they’re there for each other especially when there’s a struggle.” – Brad Feld
  • “When I’m dust and dried up, and I’m dead and whatever, please just keep paying it forward.” – Jerry Colonna

It’s all Jerry for an hour with a little bit of me nudging the discussion along. None of it is scripted. We didn’t discuss anything in advance. Just two guys, who have known each other, worked together, and have had a deep emotional intimacy together – for 22 years – talking about some things that come to mind about what they think matter.

If you are a reader instead of a podcast listener, the transcript for Reboot Podcast 78: When Did You Start to Listen to Your Heart is also available.

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Feb 25 2018

Q118 Vacation

Amy and I have learned that I need a Q1 vacation earlier in Q1 (vs. waiting until the end of March). We were apart for ten days because of a trip she took to Africa, so we went to San Diego for a week.

I played tennis every day for 90 minutes. I took a nap almost every afternoon. I got a couple of massages. We went and saw Black Panther, which we loved.

I interrupted vacation on Wednesday for some work stuff but stayed off email completely. I played a lot of chess online but realized after losing a bunch of games that I thought I was winning that it was a bad idea to play 10 minutes games while watching the Olympics in the background.

I didn’t read much. I didn’t feel like it for some reason. While unusual for me, I just rolled with it.

We had two friends visit. Ben Casnocha came down for two days of stimulating conversation. David Cohen took a tennis vacation, which he had planned for a more exotic locale that fell apart at the last minute. The friendships were warm, mellow, and enjoyable.

The month of December continues to be a huge struggle for me. I reflected on why and Amy and I came up with a plan for trying something completely different in December 2018 that we are contemplating trying.

I’m back home alone in Boulder for a few days, while Amy spends the weekend with her sisters. I decided to have an isolated, minimal human contact weekend. Yesterday was a digital sabbath that included meditation, running, a float, dinner by myself at Kasa Sushi, Lee McIntyre’s Post-Truth, Radius, and Lo and Behold.

Today is more of the same, except online plus a massage. Maybe I’ll drop the heavy and serious tonight and start working my way through Fast and Furious.

I’ll be back at it for reals on Monday …

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Feb 19 2018

New Book: The Startup Playbook

My longtime friends Rajat Bhargava and Will Herman are launching their new book today. I wrote the foreword and was a reviewer.

I’ve worked with both Raj and Will for over two decades – as a co-investor, co-founder, board member, and co-director. They both are incredibly experienced founders and entrepreneurs, so I was delighted to be involved in their book.

The book is called The Startup Playbook and it’s their personal how-to guide for building your startup from the ground up. In it, you’ll find a collection of the major lessons and shortcuts they’ve learned that will shift the odds of success in your favor as you build your business. They are sharing their tips, secrets, and advice in a frank, founder-to-founder discussion format.

Startups are incredibly difficult, as we all know. In fact, Raj and Will claim that 9 out of 10 of them fail. My view is that is optimistic. Regardless of the odds, Raj and Will focus on the steps that founders can take to improve their chances of success.

Not only do I think that this book is an important read for all founders, but I think founders should hand copies to their startup team. Execs, early employees, and anyone interested in creating or working for a startup can learn a great deal about how to build a startup.

The book is available via Amazon for an introductory price of $0.99 (Kindle version) for its first week of sales.

I know that Raj and Will would love to hear any feedback. Comment here, or email me and I’ll get it to them.

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Feb 15 2018

Nima Peanut Sensor Pre-Order

Less than a year after releasing its first product, Nima announced its highly anticipated peanut sensor is now available for pre-order, adding an allergen to its connected food sensor platform. If you have a peanut allergy, Nima is a must have.

Pre-order before March 8 to get the product for $229 ($60 off the retail price). More here about the science behind the peanut sensor.

Nima launched on the market a year ago with the Nima gluten sensor, the first company on the market to create a connected food sensor for consumers. Nima has enabled thousands of gluten-avoiding folks to test food for gluten at restaurants and packaged foods. The device takes an eight-step lab process and shrinks it to a little device that fits in your pocket.

With Nima, you can test your own food but you can also see what thousands of others are testing through the Nima iOS mobile app. To date, more than one out of four foods that are labeled or indicated as gluten-free are testing positive for gluten by the Nima community.

Let Nima take the first bite so you can enjoy mealtime with peace of mind.

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Feb 14 2018

Happy Valentine’s Day

Amy arrived home from Africa yesterday evening around 6pm. She had been gone for 12 days and, while she had an awesome trip, we missed each other terribly.

She arrived home to a bunch of early Valentine’s Day stuff like a hot bath.

I figured it was Valentine’s Day somewhere in the world yesterday at 6pm Colorado time like, well, in Kenya, where Amy was.

It’s great to have Amy back home. For some reason, Valentine’s Day is one of my favorite holidays. Love is better than everything else.

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Feb 13 2018

JumpCloud is Hiring 50 Engineers in Boulder

JumpCloud, one of the fastest growing companies in Colorado, is looking for awesome Developers, QA engineers, DevOps admins, and Customer Success Engineers. Over the next year, they are planning to hire 50 people for the engineering team and about 70 across the entire company.

JumpCloud is focused on delivering cloud-based directory services via a SaaS model. They are trying to solve some very difficult problems around identity, authentication, security, and cloud scaling.

JumpCloud’s mission deeply resonates with me because they are disrupting a two decade old monopoly in directory services and giving IT organizations freedom of choice with their IT solutions. It’s an exciting space and we (Foundry Group, OpenView, and Techstars Ventures) are betting that the JumpCloud team has the winning approach.

Since 1994, I’ve worked with the CEO, Rajat Bhargava, on eight companies and I’m psyched about the company and culture that the team is building there.

If you are up for a new challenge leveraging modern technology platforms at a well-funded startup in Boulder, drop the JumpCloud team a note or feel free to email me and I’ll connect you up with them.

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Feb 12 2018

The Greater Colorado Venture Fund

Announcing the Greater Colorado Venture Fund!

I am proud to share that the Colorado Venture Capital Authority (VCA), in conjunction with the Office of Economic Growth and International Trade (OEDIT), has selected the Greater Colorado Venture Fund to steward the state’s rural venture capital allocation.

Following a competitive application process, the state will be funding an initial $9.1 million of a target $15 million venture fund to be invested in startups across 54 eligible Colorado counties. This fund will be a cornerstone in the state’s larger initiative to support entrepreneurs in smaller communities in Colorado, an effort I have been heavily involved in.

Led by Marc Nager, former CEO of Startup Weekend and UP Global (where I was on the board, now part of Techstars), the GCVF team members are already leaders in Colorado’s Rural Startup Community. Since joining the Telluride Venture Accelerator in 2016, Marc has already led many initiatives for entrepreneurs outside of the Front Range. Marc is joined by Cory Finney, the fund’s full-time Fund Director, and Jamie Finney, Venture Partner. The Finney brothers, originally from Durango, are sixth-generation Coloradans and partners at Kokopelli Capital. Together, this team is already at the center of Rural Colorado’s rising startup.

Having worked with the team throughout the application process, the GCVF’s application embraces this fund’s national spotlight, while remaining grounded in rural Colorado communities. They have earned endorsements from local leaders across the state, as well as national players such as the Kauffman Foundation, the Economic Innovation Group, Village Capital, Seth Levine and myself.

As I first documented in 2012 in my book Startup Communities, Colorado has become a leader in building entrepreneurial ecosystems. In selecting the GCVF to invest its funds, the state is showing its commitment to building healthy communities by empowering entrepreneurs first. I look forward to collaborating with the GCVF team to redefine venture capital in small and rural communities.

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Feb 2 2018

This Is A Really Good Place To Be Right Now

As I was meditating this morning, the thought “this is a really good place to be right now” came to the front of my mind. As is my way when I meditate, I noted that I’d had the thought, placed it on a leaf, set it on the virtual river flowing in front of me, and let it drift away. Then, I brought my attention back to my breath.

I took a shower right after I meditated and the thought came back to me. This time I let it stay with me.

As I sit in our TARDIS at Foundry Group, listening to Let It Be, and catching up from a typically intense week, the thought came back to me again.

No matter how shitty, busy, or tense my day is, there are a few moments in the day where this is true. Sometimes it is long stretches or even the entire day. Other times it is only brief moments.

But we are alive, on this planet, even though we are 1 of 7.5 billion or so people, distributed across a surface area of 196.9 million miles squared, in a tiny corner of a galaxy that has a radius of 100,000 light-years, in a universe that has a diameter of 91 billion light-years (at least the observable universe.)

This is a really good place to be right now.

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Feb 1 2018

What Denver Should Do When Amazon Doesn’t Choose It For HQ2

Ian Hathaway, my co-author for my next book – Startup Communities 2: The Next Generation – has a great blog post up titled The Amazon Bounce Back.

Colorado, specifically Denver, is in the final 20 cities bidding on Amazon’s HQ2. This open bid process is an absolutely brilliant move by Amazon for a variety of reasons.

  • Enormous branding: Everyone, everywhere, is talking about Amazon. Amazon Amazon Amazon. We love Amazon.
  • Absurd market information: The amount of data about each city that Amazon is getting out of this is incredible.
  • Visibility into what cities are willing to offer: Amazon knows where its future leverage points are when negotiating with individual cities.

While I’m glad Denver approached it the way they did, focusing on strength and resources of the community rather than by throwing dollars at Amazon, our state government still provided plenty of financial incentives.

Amazon HQ2 could qualify for huge Colorado tax incentives. From the article:

“Colorado’s main tax incentive used to lure “Amazon HQ2” could add up to at least $458.9 million rebated back to the Seattle-based retail giant over several years and could top $860 million if the company’s HQ2 campus were to grow fast enough. The figures are based on the pay scale Amazon predicts at HQ2 and the formula for Colorado’s “Job Growth Incentive Tax Credit” program.”

Since I think the chance of Amazon actually choosing Denver is 0.0001%, I have a suggestion for the Colorado state government for when Amazon chooses someplace else.

Give 100% of the benefit (economic and otherwise) you are offering to the Denver-based business community, with special focus on high growth scaleup companies.

Steve Case has a brilliant Memo to the Cities Amazon Passed Over. Julie Lenzer explains how everyone can have a trophy, or how to make the most of NOT getting Amazon HQ2.

In the context of be careful of what you wish for some economists are now weighing in: Amazon HQ2 finalists should refuse tax breaks, say nearly 100 economists, professors. There is only going to be one city that ends up with Amazon’s HQ2. For everyone else, especially Denver, use what you were willing to do to drive real long-term economic growth and health for your city, rather than retreat in defeat.

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