While everyone I know feels the weight of being in the midst of the Covid crisis, we are actually dealing with the overlap of three linked crises. Understanding this, and putting it in historical context, has been helpful to me as I process real-time inputs and prioritize my activities.
The three crises are (1) a health crisis (Covid-19) that has generated a (2) financial crisis, each of which has generated massive societal disruption which will generate a (3) mental health crisis.
In addition, these are both localized (in a community), at a state level, a national level, and a global level.
Yeah – that’s a lot.
Very few people alive today have experienced a health crisis like Covid-19. The closest one that people seem to reference is the 1918 Spanish Flu. That was 102 years ago. Assuming that you have to be about 8 years old to even remember this, that puts the age of people alive who remember this at 110. There are only around 100 people alive on the planet today who are 110 or older.
I’m 54. The closest analogy I have to this is HIV / AIDS, which broke out when I was in college (I was an undergraduate from 1983 – 1987). I lived in Boston, one of the cities where HIV / AIDS was visible, and the social dynamics, politics, and stigma around it were front and center. I had several close friends with HIV and my fraternity big brother died of AIDS in 1990. Around 700,000 people have died of AIDS in the US since it emerged in the early 1980s, which is a large number. However, in contrast to Covid-19, it was a very slow-moving virus, so the experience has echoes for me, but it’s not equivalent.
I’ve been through multiple financial crises. I remember Black Monday in 1987 (I was running my first company – Feld Technologies – in Boston.) I was decimated in the collapse of the Internet bubble and had an extremely rough business experience from 2001 – 2006 (which I lovingly refer to as “The Grind”). We started Foundry Group and Techstars just prior to the Global Financial Crisis of 2008 – 2009 and when I look back, was the moment in time our business world shifted from massive hierarchies to a different long term system that included networks, entrepreneurship, and the democratization of innovation. Oh, and the emergence of startup communities around the world.
I’ve been through many of my own mental health struggles and learned many things about how to manage my own issues, as well as being sensitive, empathetic, and understanding of others.
That said, we are in a moment when all three are colliding against a backdrop of fear, uncertainty, and isolation. Historical rules about things are being thrown away daily as we all try to adapt and adjust to an extremely fast-moving disease that is impacting every nook and cranny of our lives.
If your level of disorientation and anxiety feels extreme relative to what you’ve experienced, understand that we are – collectively as a society – trying to deal with three crises at the same time.
I’m involved in many things around this and am trying to help wherever I can. But, as several of my partners have reminded me, you have to take care of yourself first to be able to help anyone else. I’m fortunate to have Amy by my side, working hard also, but paying attention to what we both need to sustain our energy and focus through this.
Finally, this is not just going to “be over.” That’s magical thinking. There will be many different phases of this, but if you prepare for a long-term experience, you’ll be in a much healthier emotional place. I personally believe that April is going to be an awful month in the United States as the true extent of the health crisis finally hits in our country. The actions we are taking right now will determine whether April is the worst of it, but know that May will be rough, and the summer will be unlike “a normal summer” as, even in the best case, we being existing in the context of meaningful long-term societal adjustments.
This rant was meant to be pragramatic, not alarmist. I’m fundamentally optimistic about humanity, and especially optimistic about the United States over the long-term. But, I believe acting aggressively and with urgency today, and having an expectation that this will last for a while, is a healthy way to approach all three of these crises.
A creative group of Boulder entrepreneurs, led by Vikas Reddy and Kyle Judah and inspired by San Franciso entrepreneurs/investors Frank Barbieri and Ryan Sarver have created and put into action a program that supports both frontline health workers and local independent restaurants.
They’ve created a program called Feed the Frontlines Boulder that lets the community donate meals from local restaurants to health workers on the frontlines. Health workers get a nourishing meal, and local restaurants get badly needed business to keep running and keep staff employed.
Feed the Frontlines Boulder was conceived and implemented in a week. We have one month of meals paid for through an initial contribution of $200,000 from me and Amy Batchelor, Dan and Cindy Caruso, John Goldsmith, and an anonymous donor.
We are now looking to raise another $200,000 for month two of Feed the Frontlines Boulder.
100% of the money goes to local restaurants. The first restaurants participating are Salt, Big Red F Restaurant Group, Kitchen Next Door, Japango, Blackbelly/Santo, and Community Kitchen Table. The food services partner at the hospital, BCH Food Services, has generously offered their trained staff and facilities to help receive, distribute, and store the meals delivered by the restaurants.
I’m blown away by the generosity and execution around this. I love that we are doing something to take care of our frontline hospital workers at BCH who are putting in an incredible effort around the Covid crisis that I expect to be extremely intense in April. And, I’m psyched that we are buying meals from local Boulder restaurants.
Following are three links in case you want to contribute in some way:
We depend on our frontline hospital workers right now. And, we all want to see our local restaurants survive this crisis, especially the short-term shut down of their businesses. If you have the resources or the interest, please help any way you can.
Governor Jared Polis had an excellent and extremely data-driven press conference yesterday to provide quantitive support for his stay at home order (among other things.) The presentation is embedded and worth paging through.
The basic message is that unless it is absolutely necessary for you, please stay at home to prevent the spread of the virus. While it is frustrating and constraining in the short term, if you stay at home, your actions will contribute to saving many lives. If not, your actions will contribute to killing people. I know that’s a harsh statement, but the data shows that we are clearly in the middle of a relatively short period where our collective action of staying at home can have a huge positive impact.
There is a new, private-sector volunteer organization (and a non-profit) called Citizen Software Engineers (CSE) run by Tim Miller (you may know Tim as the Rally Software CEO from near inception through their acquisition by CA) that is part of my Innovation Response Team. CSE has a data team that is generating significant data around Covid-19 and wiring up publicly available data in a system for rapid feedback, analysis and response.
The actual data is extremely fast-moving and anyone familiar with complex systems or system dynamics knows that today’s inputs generate tomorrow’s outputs which are the new inputs. So, the action we take immediately can have profound positive or negative effects on what happens next.
Jared completely understands this and is using all the data he has to make decisions that have both short-term and medium-term impact. Right now we are in the middle of what I am calling “the surge” to help people I’m working with understand that the next 30 days (through the end of April) is a critical/urgent time to act since we didn’t act as a country 60 days ago.
While many things are setting the groundwork for dealing with Covid19 over a longer period of time, I’m not counting us a magical solution to this. Consequently, our actions every minute, every hour, and every day will make an impact on the magnitude of the surge, and whether we can flatten the curve enough so that we can handle it in Colorado.
Please do your part and stay at home. I know it’s tempting to go outside today, especially given the beautiful weather. I know it’s natural to say “fuck it” after a cooped up week and go for a hike. Understand the constraints of the stay at home order and follow them. Please. You will be saving lives.
Amy and I recently joined a campaign created by Dave and Suzanne Hoover to fund a $100,000 match for the Impact on Education Foundation for Boulder Valley Schools Critical Needs Fund.
School closures due to COVID-19 have a direct impact on BVSD students and families. This fund supports BVSD food services to ensure families receive nutritious meals. It also provides school supplies to assist with at-home learning.
On Monday, I talked about our matching gifts to Boulder Community Health Covid-19 Relief Fund and the Covid-19 Response Fund Boulder County. Both funds have happily completed their match, but are continuing to raise additional money. They are both Covid-19 Relief Funds to consider if you want to support immediate and high-impact activity in Boulder.
Amy and I are continuing to work with specific organizations and volunteer teams in Boulder County on creative and immediate matching campaigns. We have at least one more coming next week, but if you have financial resources, please support anything that appeals to you.
If you are looking for specific organizations to fund, the following are some that Amy and I are long time supporters of that have an immediate impact in Boulder County, organized by the category they address.
Seniors: Meals on Wheels and Via Transportation Services
Kids: Community Food Share, EFAA Emergency Family Assistance, Donors Choose, and Attention Homes
Domestic Violence / Child Abuse: Blue Sky Bridge and Safehouse Shelter
Hospice / Critical Illness: There With Care and TRU Hospice
If you want to see all the organizations Amy and I support, take a look at our Anchor Point Foundation site. But the ones listed above are the ones we think have an immediate impact.
If you have any others to suggest, or know of active campaigns in Boulder County highly relevant to the Covid-19 crisis, please put them in the comments.
Every day counts right now in the Covid fight, so if you have resources and the inclination to give, please do.
In addition to his leadership at Foundry, the companies he’s involved in, a number of initiatives in Colorado generally and Longmont specifically, and with his family, my partner Seth Levine has written several excellent posts in around the Covid Crisis.
His first, Dealing with evolving information about Covid-19 was deeply personal and explained why it is so important to “being open to new and evolving information is so critically important in a time when what we know about Covid-19 is changing so rapidly.”
Then, he had a post about Decision making in uncertain times. He explored several ideas: Don’t Panic, Move quickly but don’t rush, Prioritize, Be comfortable with ambiguity, You can’t control what you can’t control, and Make contingency plans. This helps explain why even though we want to make the “right” decision, we should endeavor to make the “best” decision since the idea of “right” doesn’t exist in times like these.
At the end of last week, which feels like several months ago, he has a series of practical thoughts for all CEOs that were a synthesis from all the stimuli of that week. And yesterday, as layoffs are starting to roll out extensively across all types of businesses in the US, he had a series of tips for anyone who is job hunting in the midst of a crisis.
Seth has really found his writing voice in the past few weeks. He’s always been an excellent writer, but I’m finding incredible value in many of the things he’s saying, both privately (inside our partnership) and publicly (on his blog) as we all do our best to help out in this crisis. I encourage you follow him and read everything he’s putting out right now.
My friends at Formlabs have launched a Formlabs Covid-19 Network and are working on numerous 3D printable solutions for the crisis. As of this morning, 800 people have already signed up to participate.
My premise around 3D printers when we made our first investment in 2010 in MakerBot was that ultimately everyone would want a 3D printer on their desktop. I thought this was especially true in prototyping, experimentation, and emergency situations.
Given the Covid-19 pandemic, my sense is that every hospital in the world should have multiple 3D printers. New 3D designs for the crisis, ranging from conversion kits to face shields to masks to respirator parts, are appearing daily.
Makers are rallying around this. In addition to the Formlabs Support Network for COVID-19 Response, I just joined the Make4Covid community of makers working on 3D printed medical equipment for Colorado healthcare professionals.
It’s awesome to me to see all of these efforts spinning up around innovation in this crisis. If you have other 3D printer related initiatives that you are aware of, please put them in the comments.
It’s amazing the havoc a 120-nanometer organism can wreak on the human race. Someone said that every 24 hours feels like a week. That would put us at the end of the school year, which kind of feels like what has actually happened.
I expect this week will be as intense as last week. While there was almost no positive news last week on any front, I feel well organized around the things I’m working on.
At Foundry Group, my partners and I spent most of our week focused inwardly on our portfolio, individual companies, supporting our partner funds, and providing as much content and connection as we could across all the companies in a rapidly changing environment. We have an awesome community of CEOs and GPs who are deeply connected to each other, so collective situational response and action happened fast. While this week will be more of the same, we feel very aligned on what is going on.
I’ve decided to focus all of my government-related energy on helping at the state level in Colorado, especially around business and innovation. I’ve agreed to be on the Economic Stabilization and Recovery Council responsible for small businesses, minority and women-owned businesses, entrepreneurial businesses, and rural entrepreneurship. I’ve also agreed to chair the Innovation Response Team. Both of these teams spun up over the weekend and have kicked into gear. More soon as we try to get ahead of everything coming at us.
Amy and I have decided to focus our philanthropic resources in Colorado with a focus on healthcare, food, and economic stabilization. So far we’ve announced three major grants and campaigns: Boulder Community Health Covid-19 Relief Fund, Covid-19 Response Fund Boulder County, and the Colorado Covid Relief Fund. More are coming this week. The organizations desperately need funding now so if you have resources, please contribute – any amount is appreciated.
Finally, I’ve re-engaged on Twitter, Facebook, and Linkedin as communication channels. While I’m not watching the stream, I’m broadcasting what’s going on and trying to respond to anyone who messages me directly.
Our world is in a crisis unlike any I’ve experienced in my life. I’m trying to focus my energy on areas I can help the most. If there’s anything I’m doing that you want to help with, please reach out and I’ll try to plug you in.
Over the past week, I’ve done a handful of podcasts to help entrepreneurs, leaders, and employees at startups to help think through how to respond in a crisis. I’ve requested that anything I do right now on this front is made public, so if anyone is interested, they can watch them.
The first, hosted by David Cohen, is with Scott Dorsey, Paul Berberian, and Berne Strom. Scott, Paul, Berne, and I are all “older entrepreneurs and investors” who have been through multiple crises dating back to 1987.
The next was a podcast I did with Greg Keller at JumpCloud on mental health in a crisis.
Last week I did two podcasts with Howard Lindzon on his series called Panic with Friends.
As a bonus, Fred Wilson also did a Panic with Friends with Howard which was excellent.
I’ve allocated a max one hour a day during the weekday for participating in creating content like this during the week as the Covid-19 crisis unfolds, but I’ll continue doing this as long as I feel like I have fresh things to contribute.
Earlier this evening we celebrated my dad’s 82nd birthday using the appropriate COVID-19 social distancing approach.
St. Patrick’s day has always been a special day for my family because of my dad’s birthday. Ever since I was a little kid I can remember the outrageous green outfits with the green buttons and the green bangles and a bunch of other green things my dad would drag around each year on March 17th.
My mom always makes a super delicious chocolate cake. We usually sneak in chocolate ice cream sometime during the day. If I’m lucky, we pull off a DQ Choco Brownie Extreme Blizzard when my mom isn’t looking.
While we weren’t together in person this year, we had 30 minutes of laughter on video at the end of another intense day.
My parents are healthy, happy, and settled into their own social distancing routine at home in Texas. I have a small family, but deeply love my parents, my brother and his wife, their daughter, and my wife Amy. In times like this, I realize how lucky I am.
Dad, thanks for being you, even on days when The Hulk would be jealous of your outfit. And Mom, thanks for always being there with the cake and the candles.