Month: August 2019
I don’t know whether it was Jerry Colonna or my therapist who recommended this to me, but I listened to David Whyte’s Midlife and the Great Unknown yesterday on my evening run.
As part of my acceptance of midlife, which I define as the transition into the stage where you know you have fewer days to live than the number of days you have already lived, I’ve been exploring a bunch of different things. One of them is poetry, which has always been extremely difficult for me to read.
So, I decided to try a combination of poetry, memoir, and reflections by David Whyte on Audible. I usually run without headphones, but I’m trying to reacclimate to the roads around my house in Boulder after spending the summer on the trails in Aspen, so I thought I’d listen to a book on tape. I’d downloaded Midlife a few months ago and it was at the top of the Audible list on my phone, so I just rolled with it.
About two miles up St. Vrain, as I was approaching the left turn on 47th, I settled into a groove where everything fell away. Whyte has a beautiful voice and I realized that listening to poetry is a lot easier for me than reading poetry. And, as I transitioned into the flow state that is a good run after the first 20 or so minutes, a smile crossed my face.
When I finished my eight miles, I was almost done with the two-hour-long Audible recording that I listened to at 1.25x speed. Amy was downstairs watching the US Open so I made my recovery smoothie, got in the hot tub, and had a wonderful half-hour phone call with my dad where we just talked about life as the sun went behind the Flatirons.
As I get comfortable with midlife, I see more poetry in my future.
When we started Techstars in 2006 we had one core goal in mind – helping entrepreneurs succeed. While it started as an experiment with one accelerator in Boulder, we now have about 50 accelerators annually around the world funding 500 startups a year. We also run Startup Weekends and Startup Weeks in over 150 cities globally, have a venture capital fund that invests in companies after they go through the accelerator program, and have a set of corporate innovation and ecosystem development programs that help bridge the gap between large enterprises, cities, and startups.
A key part of the ethos of Techstars is to always look for more ways to help entrepreneurs succeed whether or not they are part of the Techstars network.
Recently, we decided to start publishing the best content we have in the Techstars network. David Cohen and I came out with the 2nd Edition of Do More Faster: Techstars Lessons to Accelerate Your Startup. Jason Mendelson and I are releasing the 4th Edition of Venture Deals: Be Smarter Than Your Lawyer and Venture Capitalist next week.
A new book in the Techstars Series is Sell More Faster: The Ultimate Sales Playbook for Startups written by Amos Schwartzfarb, the Managing Director of Techstars Austin.
Amos has been the Managing Director of Techstars Austin for four years and was one of the top mentors in Austin for the three years prior to him taking over MD role from Jason Seats (who is now Techstars’ Chief Investment Officer.) Prior to Techstars, Amos spent almost 20 years working at or founding startups including HotJobs.com, Work.com, Business.com, and Blacklocus where his job was always to figure out product-market fit and then build and scale the sales and client service organizations. These companies grew collectively to well over $200 million in revenue and had nearly $1 billion in exit value combined.
When Amos started his work mentoring at Techstars, he became a high demand mentor because virtually every company going through the Techstars Austin program sought him out for advice on figuring out sales. When he took over the role of MD for Techstars Austin, he quickly became one of the go-to resources for other MD at Techstars for sales related advice.
Amos decided to write Sell More Faster because he realized building early-stage sales organizations had become intuitive to him based on a simple but effective process he created back at Business.com called W3. This process stood for WHO is your customer, WHAT are they buying, and WHY do they buy it. However, he realized that of all the thousands of founders he speaks with each year, almost no one has a grasp on what it means to do “sales” in a startup. While they might understand sales in a mature company, it’s very different in a startup. In addition, as he looked around for books on sales for the founders going through Techstars Austin, while he found plenty of sales in general, he couldn’t find a great one addressing the tactical and operational side of building your sales strategy and process from day zero.
So he wrote it.
Sell More Faster: The Ultimate Sales Playbook for Startups is an awesome and straightforward playbook that takes you step by step through what you need to do from before you even start developing product all the way through to where you have found repeatability in your sales organization and are scaling the business. It’s a recipe that you’ll be able to refer back to throughout the life of your company and is the only sales book I’ve encountered for startups that address the “how-to of selling” from an operational perspective.
If you are a founder or responsible for sales in an early-stage company, do yourself a favor and grab a copy of Sell More Faster: The Ultimate Sales Playbook for Startups right now. It officially hits the stores on September 4th and you can pre-order yours now on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.
Finally, Amos will be doing a 20 city book tour this fall including a workshop on selling that accompanies the book. Watch the Sell More Faster website to see the dates when Amos comes to a city near you.
Enjoy – and don’t forgot to Sell More Faster!
Recently, I read a well-written article in Fast Company by Jon Dishotsky titled We need to be more honest about what tech culture is doing to our mental health.
In it, he had a list of lessons he has learned over the years.
- Look out for your wake-up call
- Create routines that prioritize mental health
- Work in line with your body’s rhythm
- Make time for silence
- Find space to unplug
- Give your emotions credit
- Cultivate (and listen to) your inner circle
These mental health suggestions are all right on the money. I encourage you to go read the article if this is a topic that interests you.
While an impossible mission, he would complete America.
In 2010, David Cohen and I wrote a book titled Do More Faster. It was filled with stories and advice from founders, investors, and mentors from around the first two years of Techstars.
This was the first book I wrote. David and I learned the joy and pain of writing a book. We were lucky to get to work with Bill Falloon, who has been my long-time editor on all the books I’ve written. Bill guided us through the process and helped us understand what was required to put together a real book.
Last month we released Do More Faster, 2nd Edition. We’ve freshened it up with new content, some new stories, and updates on where everyone is from the first edition.
We just released an episode of the Give First podcast with some behind the scenes back and forth on the book. Enjoy the Give First Do More Faster podcast episode and go grab a copy of the new and improved 2nd Edition of Do More Faster.
Insight Timer popped up this message after my daily morning meditation yesterday.
I’ve been meditating on and off for a while. But it’s been an on and off thing, not a daily habit.
In April, after some complex emotional dynamics (how’s that for a euphemism), I decided to start meditating daily. I missed a few days here and there and then in mid-May decided to cut the bullshit with myself and just do it first thing every morning when I woke up.
Last week, both Fred Wilson and Seth Godin blogged about the power of streaks and how they’ve both built daily blogging habits. Fred highlighted the same section of Seth’s post that I’m highlighting below, which is just pure gold.
Streaks are their own reward.
Streaks create internal pressure that keeps streaks going.
Streaks require commitment at first, but then the commitment turns into a practice, and the practice into a habit.
Habits are much easier to maintain than commitments.
I made a conscious decision many years ago that I wouldn’t blog daily, but regularly, partly in reaction to my desire to go off the grid for chunks of time (digital sabbath, weekends, weeks, or even longer in some cases.) I didn’t want the blog to be a habit that I did daily, but then took vacations from.
I’m the same with running. It’s a deeply developed habit that I love, but I know the importance of rest, so I don’t try to run every day.
But, for me, meditation is different. I’m 90 days into a daily routine and it has definitely become a habit. It’ll be interesting to see if the streak lasts 180 days, or 365 days, or 3653 days.
Techstars and Kauffman Fellows are once again running the Venture Deals online course that Jason Mendelson and I put together several years ago.
If you’re an entrepreneur who wants to raise capital and grow your business, this online course teaches you the basics you need to know for working with VCs. And, if you are starting off as a VC or a lawyer for venture capital deals and you want a refresher on the core issues in a term sheet, this online course is for you.
Venture Deals is a seven-week, collaborative, “learn-by-doing” online course where you will watch videos from us along with doing project work as virtual teams. The workload for the course is about four to six hours per week, includes several live video AMAs with me and Jason, and covers the following topics.
- 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
The course is a great accompaniment to our book, Venture Deals: Be Smarter Than Your Lawyer and Venture Capitalist, which is about to come out in a new and improved 4th Edition that will be available by the time the course starts on September 8, 2019.
It’s free, and you’ll be joining over 23,000 people have taken the course in the past. Sign up for the course here!
I didn’t read much last month, but I got an email this morning from someone who mentioned that I’d like Greg Egan’s Permutation City. I read it in April when I was in Japan on my Q219 Vacation with Amy but never really blogged much about it.
All three of these books are outstanding. They are all near term science fiction, with extraordinary world-building dynamics, and complex time narratives.
While Neal Stephenson is possibly the best world builder in the entire fiction genre today, both Blake Crouch and Greg Egan are in the same category. Some people find Stephenson’s world-building overwhelming, but as a fast reader, I’ve learned how to skim through parts while absorbing the essence of what is going on. Interestingly, this technique isn’t required for Crouch but occasionally is needed with Egan.
All three books incorporate the concept of recursion in very foundation ways. Everyone studying computer science learns the magic of recursion very early on, often through the factorial example, listed below for fans of Scheme, just to bring back memories of 6.001.
(define (factorial x)
(if (= x 0)
(* x (factorial (- x 1)))))
While Crouch hits you over the head with it in the beginning, Egan spends about 100 pages getting you ready for it. Stephenson probably takes about 200 pages before you start getting a feel for it. But, by the last quarter of each book, you are deep, deep, deep, deep, …
I thought each book ended extremely well. For all three, I found myself staying up late reading, which is always a sign the book has grabbed me since my bedtime since I was ten has been 10 pm.
While summer reading time is almost over, you’ve still got a few weeks for one of these if you want to explore the literary equivalent of a Sierpiński triangle.
Today’s Give First podcast features Harry Stebbings of the 20 Minute VC and a partner at Stride.vc on committing to building a network & giving first.
Harry is probably best known for his podcast, The Twenty Minute VC, the world’s largest media asset in venture capital, with over five million downloads per month. He’s talked with amazing VCs and entrepreneurs on over 2,800 shows.
When he was 13, Harry watched “The Social Network,” the movie about Facebook, and it inspired him to become an entrepreneur and investor. At 18, he set up the Twenty Minute VC podcast.
I was interviewed on Harry’s 65th episode in 2015. It was fun to travel back in time and listen to it. And, I love Harry’s Google Glass picture.
Harry is on episode 11 of the Give First podcast. We’ve made it to double digits which I’ve heard is a milestone for a lot of podcasts that stall out before that. Next step – triple digits. If you missed the last few along the way during my blogging vacation, they include John China (SVB), Sherri Hammons (The Nature Conservancy), and Rebecca Lovell (Create33).
I’m back from a month off from blogging. Like any good vacation, I feel refreshed.
Blogging has been a daily habit for me during the week. I occasionally miss a day and take the weekends off, but the routine has been, in general, a good one for me around my writing.
Amy has an equivalent activity called “morning pages.” This is a private blog using an ancient technology where she uses a writing stylus on bound parchment. She uses it in a similar way that I use my blogging, which is to get words flowing each day, ideas out of my head, and gear up the engine for the rest of the day.
When we got to Aspen earlier this summer, I felt like my writing was stale. The daily blogging was a chore. My efforts around other writing were challenging and I found myself procrastinating on anything that I’d categorize as medium or long-form writing. Basically, I continued to crank out hundreds of emails a day, but anything proactive that was longer than a few paragraphs had become a chore.
In early July, I decided to take a month off from blogging. I did the same with writing and reading. I knew I had an intense work stretch coming and I wanted to give myself some space to get the work done without putting extra pressure on myself. So, I took a vacation from writing and reading.
I feel refreshed. I continued several of my other habits, including meditating and running, both of which are feeling great. But most importantly, I’ve been able to spend a reasonable amount of time with Amy even in the midst of the intense work. While I’m periodically not present in the moment, which elicits a “Brad, be a person” comment (or equivalent) from Amy that snaps me back to reality, the intensity of the work hasn’t overwhelmed me.
I love the Bezos Day One philosophy, so I’ll just end with it. It’s Day One again today.