Month: October 2020

Oct 28 2020

The Queen’s Gambit

If you can’t imagine that a drama about chess would be riveting, you need to watch The Queen’s Gambit. And, if you love (or even like) chess, start watching it tonight.

The first two episodes are the Opening. The Middlegame happens in episodes 3, 4, and 5. The Endgame is episodes 6 and 7. Each is delicious. The Endgame is spectacular.

We watched it in three nights. Last night was episode 5, 6, and 7. We normally would have gone to bed after episode 6, but we played through rather than taking an adjournment.

So wonderful. Thanks Netflix for the distraction from everything else.

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Oct 26 2020

A Conversation With Dan Caruso About Gender Equity at the Boulder Country Club

Brad:  Hey, Dan. Like Cindy and you, Amy and I are Boulder Country Club members, but we play tennis, not golf. Is it true that only men can golf on Saturday mornings?

Dan: Yes. Believe it or not, you must indeed be male to golf on Saturday mornings. There are a few exceptions. During the winter season, women can golf on Saturday mornings. Women can also use the 9-hole Par 3 course on Saturday mornings all year round.

Brad:  Wow. Really? Women aren’t allowed to golf on the main course on Saturday mornings except during winter months?

Dan: Yes.

Brad:  That’s disappointing. Why is the policy of men-only golf on Saturday mornings still in place?

Dan: That’s a good question, Brad. I’m embarrassed to say that I never gave it much thought until recently. The past few months’ events have led us all to soul search on equity, with the primary focus being racial equity. As I reflected, I began to consider this BCC policy. It was very spontaneous. The thought came to me, and I challenged myself to bring it up to the Board Chairperson and the General Manager.

Brad:  I understand a fellow venture capitalist is Board Chair. I don’t know the GM. Did you approach them?  

Dan: Yes. I had a Zoom call with them in August, and we had an email exchange in the subsequent days.

Brad:  What did they say?

Dan: They said this issue had been brought up only once in the past 20 years. They seemed surprised that this would be viewed as a gender equity matter. They pointed out that women leagues get exclusive use of the club during blocks of time on Tuesday and Thursday morning while men get exclusive use during Tuesday evening for a men’s league and Saturday morning for men’s only usage. They said they checked with some women golfers and that they preferred this setup. 

Brad:  That sounds like an episode of Mad Men.

Dan: Mad Men was a great series. It illustrated how much the norms of one generation would give way to a more progressive era. I figured now that Saturday golf for men only was surfaced, it would get quickly on a path to change this relic from our past.

Brad:  Did they address it?

Dan: Not yet. And, to be honest, it is unclear whether they will. They are positioning this as a golf tee time preference instead of a gender equity issue. They believe most golfers might prefer the current format, where women get the course during certain weekdays and Saturday mornings are exclusive to men. 

Brad:  Amy and I are members of BCC. This is the first we are hearing about this issue. Do we get to weigh in?

Dan: As I understand it, they are preparing a general survey that they plan to send only to golfers.

Brad: I view this as a gender equity issue that pertains to all members of BCC. Does BCC have a gender equity policy?

Dan: I raised this question but have not yet received a complete answer. I’m told the application process includes statements of equity. I’ve asked if there is a statement in the Bylaws or elsewhere. I didn’t get a clear response, though a question was asked during the Annual Board meeting, and the answer suggested something is in place.

Brad: You’d think this would be an easy question to address. Strange. You know, Amy and I were taken aback by the Men’s vs. Women’s card rooms’ inequity. When we got a tour as part of our interview process to become members, I remember seeing the tiny Women’s card room that stood in stark contrast to the opulent Men’s card room. We almost didn’t join BCC for this reason alone. I understand the renovation is addressing this, at least in part, which is good. Are there other examples of gender inequities?

Dan: I don’t know. I’ve suggested that BCC do a more thorough review of equity, including gender, race, and sexual preference. Perhaps this will be part of the survey, though the survey is said to focus on golfers.

Brad: So let me get this straight. They are going to focus the survey on golfers. Aren’t most golfers men?  Won’t many of them be conflicted by their desire to have Saturday’s reserved for men only?

Dan: Yes. They are conflicted. I know that a lot of male golfers enjoy their Saturday morning golf. Some of them, I learned, are reserved specific tee times on Saturday mornings. I respect that the tradition of men’s-only Saturday morning golf has been an important part of their lives. This is why the overall issue is uncomfortable to address. A Y-chromosome shouldn’t be a requirement for golfing on Saturday mornings. 

Brad: Changing this policy seems like a no-brainer. After all, it is 2020, and this is Boulder.

Dan: The chatter is that many golfers prefer the current system and will lobby for no change.

Brad: That’s disappointing. Amy and I know lots of BCC members. I’d like to think they would rally around changing this policy.

Dan: Most, I suspect, don’t know about it. The Board and Golf Committee haven’t shared it with the broad membership. Moreover, they are viewing it as a tee time preference issue instead of a gender equity issue.

Brad: Why are you doing this? Is Cindy a golfer? I know you have daughters. Are they golfers?

Dan: Cindy is a golfer. One of our four daughters is a golfer. I have two step-granddaughters — one is a newborn, and one is two years old. The toddler took her first golf swing in September. She needs to work on shortening her backswing.

However, my reason for surfacing this is about our responsibilities as leaders in our community. Zayo has 600 employees in Boulder, and half are women. Level 3, which I helped found, has even more Boulder-area employees. I collaborate with leaders like you to drive more inclusion into the entrepreneurial and business ecosystems. Many past and future employees of all these companies have or will be members of BCC.

Everyone I know wants golf to be a more inclusive recreation from both a gender and a race perspective.  Our policies and practices need to communicate that we value all golfers equally.

For all these reasons, I’ve concluded we shouldn’t look the other way while knowing our country club has a stale male-biased practice.  

Brad: Are others behind you on this?

Dan: We raised it with others, but we have not campaigned on a widespread basis. Knowing this could be an explosive issue, I didn’t want to put our fellow members in an awkward position. We are hoping BCC will raise this to the broad BCC membership in an appropriate way. 

Brad: When you’ve raised it with others, what has been the reaction?

Dan: Every single person (excluding board/committee members) we’ve approached has rallied behind the need to open up Saturday morning golf to women. Several business and community leaders have expressed this support to the BCC board. Again, we held back raising this except to a half dozen or so friends.

Brad: How’s your back?

Dan: What do you mean?

Brad: I suspect you are taking some arrows. 

Dan: I’m a Chicago Southsider, a cancer survivor, and a serial entrepreneur. I have lots of scar tissue on my back. More importantly, though, I have friends who have my back. If you are reading this, you know who you are, and I thank you for your public and private support!!!

Brad: For what it is worth, please know that Amy and I have your back as well!

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Oct 23 2020

Zoom Secret Magic Trick – Hide Self View

Here’s a simple one to make your 10 hours a day on Zoom more enjoyable.

Hide Self View

Click on the three little dots next to Mute in your video window. Choose “Hide Self View.”

The following view …

is much better to look at that the one with my own picture in it.

Staring at yourself for 10 hours a day is exhausting. If you are having trouble relating to this, put a mirror on your desk in front of you and look at it all day. That’s basically what you are doing when you don’t hide self view.

For some crazy reason, Zoom hasn’t made this a default feature yet (Dear Zoom, make it a default to Hide Self View).

I started doing this about a month ago. It has blown my mind how less tiring the day of endless Zoom is and how easier it is to concentrate when I’m not constantly looking at my face on the screen.

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Oct 22 2020

When The Big Companies Show Up

I find it fascinating when a large company enters a new arena.

Some of you will remember this happening back in 1981 when IBM announced it was getting into the personal computer market. This was a field that up until that point had been completely dominated by smaller players like Apple. Steve Jobs’s response was the now-infamous full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal welcoming IBM to the game.

Fast forward to today. Sony just announced they are going to start shipping a holographic display. This is the first large company entering this nascent field that I’m aware up. And, as far as I know, the only company actually shipping a product at this point is Looking Glass (I sit on the board, and Foundry is an investor.)

As the quote attributed to Mark Twain says (but ironically unclear whether he actually said it), “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes.”

In an effort to rhyme, Looking Glass CEO Shawn Frayne’s welcome letter to Sony, inspired in font and spirit by the original Apple 1981 ad, follows.

When I ponder my life in 2040, I am confident that I will not be spending 12 hours a day in videoconferences on a 2D display. I’m also not going to have a headset encapsulating my face. I’m ready for my holographic future, and I’m having fun being an investor in a company that helps create it.

Let the games begin! Looking Glass has some fun stuff up their sleeves that they are releasing on December 2. Sign up here to be the first to know.

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Oct 21 2020

Simply Begin Again

One of my mantras for v54 is “Simply Begin Again.”

As I get closer to v55 (58 days from now), I’ve been thinking about it more. During my morning meditation, I repeated it for a stretch and then did the same for about a mile on my run this morning.

Garth gets so many things correct.

I made a big shift earlier this summer after I finished up some of the work I was doing with the State of Colorado around Covid, specifically around the Innovation Response Team. A lot of that energy shifted to new work around racial equity and the release of my new book with Ian Hathaway The Startup Community Way. At the same time, my Foundry Group workload intensified as companies shifted from “survive Covid” to “grow like crazy because of tailwinds from Covid and adjustments made during Q2.”

When I reflect on where we are in October, 2020, I’m amazed. There is a spectrum that has awesome at one end and awful at the other. I’m engaged on both ends and spent relatively little time in between them. The inequities that exist on so many dimensions of our existence are extremely visible to me right now.

My gear shift around each day has been profound. I’ve adopted a set of new habits for the beginning and end of the day. I start each day with 30 minutes of meditation (I’m on a year and a half streak), then have 15+ minutes of coffee with Amy, and then go running three or four days a week. It’s a full reset every morning, which has had a profound impact on my attitude to everything that then follows.

Next, Amy and I try to have a 30 minute lunch every day. We probably miss a day a week, but right after I hit post, I’m going to go have lunch with her. We’ve never done this during the week before and I hope to do this with her every day for the rest of my life.

At the end of the day, which ranges from 5pm to 8pm, I’m done. I no longer try to get through all my email. I no longer do one last check before I go to bed. I just stop for the day.

And then I simply begin again the next day.

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Oct 20 2020

Diversity, Equity, Inclusion Solutions (DEIS) Practicum

On November 5th, from 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM EDT, I’m co-hosting a DEIS Practicum with Rodney Sampson and the OHUB Foundation.

Rodney was one of the dozen Black colleagues I reached out to after George Floyd was murdered. I asked them each the question, “What are two things you are doing to eliminate racism that I can support you with time, network, and money?” If you are a regular reader of this blog, you’ve seen some of the Black colleagues and initiatives I’ve gotten involved with.

Rodney and I have embarked on several projects together. The DEIS Practicum is one of them. We selected “Practicum” rather than “Summit” or “Conference” to signal that this is a “how-to” experience rather than a “why not” event. Our goal is for DEIS to be different from other D&I conferences. 

In Rodney’s words:

  • It is not a conversation to regurgitate the dismal data.
  • It is not a self-centered, philosophical, diversity of thought, no results afterward event.
  • It is not an opportunity for whiteness as a victim.
  • It is not a performative event. No hashtags here.

Instead, we are being intentional about how to support an increasing number of Black board members, founders, CEOs, teams, suppliers, and anti-racist products. DEIS will present practical solutions for startup teams, accelerators, ecosystem builders, investors, and big tech companies.

The agenda (full agenda here) includes the following discussions:

  • DEIS in Corporate Governance & Board
  • DEIS in Human Resources & Talent Acquisition
  • DEIS in Procurement
  • DEIS in Edge Technology Product Development & Corporate Innovation
  • DEIS in Go To Market
  • DEIS in Venture Capital & Investment
  • DEIS in Impact

We chose to do this together right after the election to send a signal around the importance of acting now to actually work together to create change, especially around the economic case for DEI.

Tickets are affordable and all net proceeds from the DEIS Practicum will support OHUB Foundation. Tickets provide access to the entire event and include a copy of the following books.

Amy and I have helped underwrite this event from our Anchor Point Foundation. and I’m providing a copy of my newest book The Startup Community Way for free to all attendees. And, if you’d like to attend but can’t afford it, please drop me an email as some scholarships are available.

Please join us for the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion Solutions (DEIS) Practicum.

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Oct 19 2020

Supporting Sophie’s Neighborhood on World Pediatric Bone & Joint Day

Today, I’m helping amplify a $50,000 fundraiser for Sophie’s Neighborhood as part of World Pediatric Bone & Joint Day. Amy and I just contributed $25,000 so we are effectively matching any contributions dollar for dollar up to $50,000.

Whenever I feel exogenous stress from the world, it helps me lower it by doing something to support someone in need. The #Calwood fires just outside of Boulder that broke out on Saturday added to a pile from 2020 that is beyond anything I’ve experienced in my life.

Boulder is a magnificent city, but there are plenty of challenges for people everywhere. If you’ve eaten at Blackbelly, Santo, Jax Fish House, Dandelion, or Triana (remember Triana?), you probably know Chef Hosea Rosenberg. And you might know his wonderful wife Lauren and their delightful child Sophie.

Sophie has a rare disease called Multicentric carpotarsal osteolysis syndrome (MCTO). It is a skeletal disorder characterized by aggressive osteolysis associated with progressive nephropathy. Basically, serious stuff that is not well understood.

The Rosenberg’s have gone extremely deep on the science of the disease and are supporting a substantial amount of research, including:

  • Cell line development to study the mutation and get a readout on what is going wrong in the gene that is mutated
  • Screen existing drug libraries against the mutation to see if there is an already approved compound or small molecule (or drug undergoing clinical trials) that exists for drug repurposing 
  • Examine proteomic differences caused by the mutation and identify a target protein for the treatment
  • Development of iPS cells specific to Sophie’s variant to try and correct the error using gene-editing technology
  • Study of the molecular mechanisms underlying the disease with a genetically modified MCTO mouse model
  • Database with natural history disease tracking genotypes with disease phenotypes

It’s difficult to get sponsored research for diseases like this, so the Rosenbergs have been raising money to fund this activity.

There’s an extensive webpage if you want to learn more about Sophie’s Neighborhood, MCTO, research ongoing, and close friends supporting this like the indefatigable and remarkable Dr. Larry Gold.

Sophie is still in the “miracle window,” – the time in which her diagnosis is known, but symptoms are not yet very severe. But it is slipping away with each passing day. Funding is essential to continue the work to get closer to discovering or repurposing an effective and life-changing therapeutic.

If you are a Boulderite, have enjoyed any of Chef Hosea’s food at Blackbelly or Santo (or any of the other restaurants he’s worked at in the past), or just want to help try to figure out the cure for this rare disease, please join the fundraiser today and contribute to helping find a cure for MCTO.

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Oct 15 2020

Come Join Us at Foundry Group: Hiring a Head of Network

At Foundry Group, we are hiring a Head of Network. Following is a repost of the overview of the role and why we are adding a Head of Network to our team.

If you are interested in applying, please reach out to us at apply@foundrygroup.com. And please help us get the word out!


We’re looking for a leader to create a more robust, dynamic, and connected network program at Foundry Group. The Foundry Network, as we’ve been calling it, encompasses founders, CEOs, executives, general partners of our underlying venture capital fund investments, limited partners (our investors as well as other investors in the funds we have investments in), and other members of our ecosystem. We regularly bring together members of this community to connect, share, and learn from each other. 

We know we’re just scratching the surface for how powerful this network can be. We’re looking for someone with the vision, background, experience, and skills to help us form the next chapter for The Foundry Network and to continue to grow and adapt how we work with our ecosystem in ways that support and empower our portfolio of companies and VC funds.

ABOUT US
Foundry Group is a venture capital firm that invests in early-stage technology companies and venture fund managers. Our passion is working alongside entrepreneurs to give birth to new technologies and to build those technologies into industry-leading companies. We also seek to leverage our experience and relationships as fund managers to help the next generation of venture firms create industry-leading investment businesses. We invest in companies and funds across North America.

SOME INITIAL THOUGHTS ON THE DETAILS OF THE POSITION
We’ve put a lot of thought into the development of our network and need help taking it into the future. Below are a few ideas we have about this position and the future of The Foundry Network. We’re looking for someone who can help us craft the vision, not just execute on ours. So take this as a rough draft. 

As Head of Network you will participate in our weekly partner meetings and be a member of the senior team, which includes our CFO and General Counsel as well as all of the Foundry Group partners. You’ll have access to and know pretty much everything that’s taking place across The Network and our portfolio. At its core, this role will help strengthen connections between the people with whom we work- we believe strongly in mesh networks, not hub and spoke models. We are also excited to continue to expand The Network and the work we do in this area, such as in talent sourcing, data sharing, and community support. 

We’ve historically engaged our network through active digital communication channels, in-person events, virtual events, webinars, and small group meet-ups. Many of these we’ll likely want to continue. Some we may together decide don’t further our key goals any more and will stop doing. And, most importantly, there are opportunities to expand beyond the base that we’ve created to support our portfolio in new and creative ways. 

A LITTLE ABOUT YOU
It’s hard to put into words exactly what we’re looking for because the right person for this role could come from a number of different professional backgrounds. But there are a few things that we know will be important to success in this role and our firm culture. 

This is a relationship-centric role and we are looking for someone who has a demonstrated aptitude for building and maintaining professional relationships. You have built your own network and are driven by helping others succeed and connecting the dots between people and companies. You have connections in and around the tech industry and have interacted with executives at a senior level in prior jobs and experiences.

At Foundry, we are not top-down managers. Our Head of Network will need to be comfortable working independently and own this core functionality of our business You will be included in and supported by the core team, but the role is primarily self-directed. While we will provide input and help you understand our goals for The Network, there is a lot of room for creativity and expansion. 

In addition to creativity and vision, the ability to execute and achieve high-quality outputs are imperative for success in this role. Every senior role at Foundry – including our partners – is an individual contributor. We work collaboratively and in close coordination with one-another, but we do our own work and, while we have people on board to help with implementing events, much of the work of the Head of Network will be not just coming up with ideas, but seeing them through personally. 

We live by a #givefirst mentality at Foundry, and we hope you can show us how you’ve done the same. 

Finally, we want to be clear that this role isn’t a pathway to an investment role at Foundry. We want you to be excited about this role and this position. We think it’s a great opportunity to work alongside us as we continue to build out the Foundry Network.

EXPERIENCE
There is not one particular background that fits this role and we are open to candidates across the board. Given the autonomy of the role, we believe an individual with at least 7 years of professional work experience and who has previously held a senior level role will thrive. We’re focused on how your experiences drive your interest in this position and how they will contribute to your success in this role and at Foundry.

SOME DETAILS
Our firm is based in Boulder, but we’re open to you living anywhere, so long as (once travel resumes) you’re able to be here from time to time (most of our in person events are in Boulder, for example). This is a senior position and will be compensated as such. Additionally, we offer a generous benefits package (fully paid health insurance, along with a number of other benefits). 

Foundry Group is an equal opportunity employer. We strongly encourage and seek applications from candidates of all backgrounds and identities, across race, color, ethnicity, national origin or ancestry, citizenship, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, veteran status, martial status, pregnancy or parental status, or disability. We are committed to creating a supportive and inclusive workplace. 

NEXT STEPS
If you’ve read this post and think, “this is me!”, we’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to be creative and choose a medium that allows you to express yourself and give us a sense for whether you are a fit for this role. To apply, please contact us at apply@foundrygroup.com. We’d love to hear from you by the end the day on Friday, November 6, 2020 if you’d like to be considered.

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Oct 14 2020

A $25K Matching Gift To Boost Entrepreneurship in Kansas City Through Storytelling

Today, Amy and I are announcing a matching gift from our Anchor Point Foundation to the Startland News’ Give A Start donor campaign. We will match any contributions from this point forward, up to $25,000.

Since 2015, Startland News has helped Kansas City entrepreneurs shout their triumphs from the rooftops — a critical piece of storytelling as the local startup community evolves beyond good ideas written on napkins to the home of powerhouse startups and nine-figure exits.

Startland News is part of Startland, formerly the Kansas City Startup Foundation, and is a community-building 501(c)3 nonprofit activating a thriving and inclusive culture of innovation in Kansas City through stories, experiences, and talent.

A thriving startup community also explores its failures, the ongoing challenges plaguing entrepreneurs, and how innovators not only can learn from them but also accelerate past the roadblocks to success. Startland News has been unafraid to identify and confront these issues and grow along with its ecosystem. When the nonprofit newsroom recognized the economic and racial inequity represented in its coverage of mainstream entrepreneurs, it expanded the scope of stories to include more innovators from outside the world of high-growth, high-tech startups and actively opened its platform for the voices of diverse risk-takers, creatives, makers, and small businesses.

While the Covid crisis has been eating up the headlines in 2020, nearly half of the year’s more than 360 Startland News stories have featured underserved or underestimated entrepreneurs — all while the digital publication continues to focus on the city’s latest tech and startup developments.

Equity in startup communities will be a concern for years to come. Still, the solution begins with tangible action to increase access to entrepreneurship and the support and resources that abound in a healthy ecosystem.

In The Startup Community Way, Ian and I discuss storytelling as a factor that helps shape outcomes and included a sidebar on the Startland News story as an example for other startup communities worldwide. Pairing storytelling with diversity only makes that rooftop shouting more clear and compelling.

While I no longer have a house in Kansas City, I have a deep affection for the city, as it has played an important role in my own entrepreneurial journey, starting with a major software project in the early 1990s for a client of Feld Technologies and accelerating with monthly trips in 1994 to work with The Kauffman Foundation on various projects. 

Like many non-profit (and for-profit) organizations, 2020 has been a challenging year. Join me in helping Startland News give a start to more innovators in the Kansas City area.

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Oct 13 2020

Definition of #GiveFirst

Jaclyn Hester, one of my Foundry Group partners, recently asked if there was an online definition of #GiveFirst. I spent some time looking around, and, while it’s embedded in numerous podcasts and video interviews, I couldn’t find a clear definition on the web. The closest I found was from January 1, 2013, in a post titled Give Before You Get.

#GiveFirst first appeared as “Give Before You Get” in my book Startup Communities published in 2012. It was turned into the #GiveFirst hashtag by someone at Techstars around 2014. I updated it in the 2nd Edition of Startup Communities (2e) which was published in 2020. I also defined it in The Startup Community Way, also published in 2020.

The definition, from The Startup Community Way, follows:

#GiveFirst means you are willing to put energy into a relationship or a system without defining the transactional parameters. However, it’s not altruism because you expect to get something. But you don’t know when, from whom, in what form, in what consideration, or over what time frame. 

While I generally use #GiveFirst to refer to the idea, it often shows up at “Give First.” It’s become the official mantra of Techstars, and there’s even a podcast called Give First.

It’s a deeply held personal philosophy of mine. However, it’s not a static idea, and I’ve been thinking a lot about both the positives and negatives of it lately. But, for now, if you are looking for a definitive definition circa 2020, here it is.

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