Category: Books

Aug 2 2020

Book: Across That Bridge: Life Lessons and a Vision for Change

Saturday is reading, running, resting, and playing with Amy day. Digital sabbath.

I was tired from the week and slept for ten hours. I also took a 90-minute nap in the afternoon. I had a good, albeit short (4 loops) run in the morning. I ran ten loops this morning, so getting back in the groove after a week of not feeling great.

My book was John Lewis’ Across That Bridge: Life Lessons and a Vision for Change. Amy suggested that I read Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement, which is in our infinite pile of books (and near the top). Instead, I decided I wanted to read this one first because several other people had suggested it to me after John Lewis died.

It was powerful. While there are elements of memoir in it, Lewis paints a clear vision of the future based on his lifetime of work on civil rights. He regularly tied his vision back to his childhood, his early work alongside Dr. King, and his leadership of organizations like the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.

While I knew of the principles of nonviolence in the Civil Rights movement, I didn’t understand them. I knew the history of the Freedom Riders. Still, I didn’t understand the magnitude of the physical abuse and violence they encountered while operating with the principles of nonviolent protest.

When I read and reflect on this history, I’m embarrassed, horrified, and furious with elements of White America.

Reading the book by John Lewis inspired me on multiple levels. I know that, in addition to reading Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement, I’m going to add some Gandhi to my reading list. If anyone has a suggestion for a great Gandhi book, toss it in the comments.

John Lewis was an American hero. And, his posthumous OpEd in the NY Times, Together, You Can Redeem the Soul of Our Nation, which starts:

Though I am gone, I urge you to answer the highest calling of your heart and stand up for what you truly believe.

ends with something I wish everyone in the United States would read, ponder, and take action on.

Though I may not be here with you, I urge you to answer the highest calling of your heart and stand up for what you truly believe. In my life I have done all I can to demonstrate that the way of peace, the way of love and nonviolence is the more excellent way. Now it is your turn to let freedom ring.

When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war. So I say to you, walk with the wind, brothers and sisters, and let the spirit of peace and the power of everlasting love be your guide.

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Jul 31 2020

Book and Podcast Suggestions for This Weekend

The week after George Floyd was murdered, I decided to read a book a week by a Black author. I went online and found a bunch of lists that had popped up. I bought about 25 books, all in physical form, and piled them up on my reading table near my couch.

On Saturdays, my primary activities of the day are reading, running, napping, and being with Amy. Two weeks ago, I read Ibram X. Kendi’s book How To Be An Antiracist. Last weekend I read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ book Between the World and Me. Tomorrow, I’m going to read John Lewis’ Across That Bridge: Life Lessons and a Vision for Change. And then, for the rest of August, I will read books written by Black Women.

The books by Kendi and Coates were both spectacular. I learned a lot from each, and they caused me to reflect on a lot of things while challenging a bunch of assumptions I had (many of which I’ve now modified or eliminated, although I’m sure I’ll need reinforcement to have the premises disappear from my brain.)

I read Lewis’ March Trilogy in comic book / YA form about a year ago. It was great. But, sitting with and reading his autobiography seems like a powerful thing to do this weekend.

Last night, I read COVID-19: The Pandemic that Never Should Have Happened and How to Stop the Next One by Debora MacKenzie. She wrote it in two months as the pandemic started, and did a great job. It goes well beyond just Covid, exploring past pandemics, things we could have done, didn’t, and why we are in the situation we are in now. As with my new book The Startup Community Way, she builds her framework on complex systems, explains them clearly, and applies the structure to the Covid crisis.

Finally, if you are a podcast person, I have two personal ones that I really enjoyed doing. The first is from the Techstars GiveFirst podcast and is with Len Fassler, titled Brad Feld and the mentor who changed his life.

The other is with Harry Stebbings on his 20 Minute VC podcast and is around mental health. I’m a guest, along with Jerry Colonna and Tracy Lawrence. 20VC: Brad Feld, Jerry Colonna, and Tracy Lawrence on Depression and Mental Health, Why You Cannot Tie Happiness to Milestones & Why Fear, Anxiety and Guilt are Useless Emotions.

The podcast with Len gave me chills when I listened to it, and Harry’s was excellent other than the missing Oxford comma in the title.

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Jul 14 2020

Book: Startup CEO: A Field Guide to Scaling Up Your Business

Seven years ago this week, I posted about a new book in our Startup Revolution series called Startup CEO: A Field Guide to Scaling Up Your Business, by my friend Matt Blumberg, then CEO of email marketing company Return Path in the Foundry portfolio. Today, with more around 40,000 copies sold all over the world and in multiple languages and formats, Matt and our publisher Wiley & Sons in partnership with Techstars have published a Second Edition of Startup CEO, which you can pre-order here

Matt and I originally conceived of Startup CEO when I was writing Venture Deals where Matt organically ended up writing a sidebar for many of the chapters which we called “The Entrepreneur’s Perspective.”  At the time, we talked about him writing a full “instructional manual” for first-time CEOs, and that’s what Startup CEO became, with over 50 short chapters with practical “how to” advice on everything from Fundraising, to People issues, to Board management, to Self-Management. 

In the Second Edition, Matt, who led the sale of Return Path last year, added six new chapters on Selling Your Company, which really rounded out the book.

I have given or recommended Startup CEO to hundreds of CEOs over the years. Matt has been very generous with his time in mentoring other entrepreneurs or bringing his book to life in online education and webinars.  Today, he posted one of the new chapters from the Second Edition of Startup CEO on Techstars’ blog, TheLine, on Preparing Yourself for An Exit:  How Do You Know It’s Time to Sell? which is a great example of the new material in the book.

Matt and others are working on a companion/sequel to Startup CEO which will come out in late 2020/early 2021. So, get Startup CEO now so you’ll be ready for that one when it comes out.

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Jul 12 2020

Book: Tulsa 1921

I heard the phrase “Greenwood” a few days after George Floyd was murdered. I’d never heard of it, or of the Tulsa race massacre before.

It’s 2020, so I went looking around on the Internet. The more I read, the more upset I became. Amy and I then watched the first few episodes of The Watchman, and I suddenly had a desire to get a full picture of what happened.

I do this by reading a book. I’m not a history buff, so I don’t spend a lot of time going deep on a particular historical event. Most of the surface level history I know comes from high school in Dallas (where, of course, we began with Texas history), a lifetime of museums, occasional TV documentaries, Wikipedia, or conversations. And books.

When I’m interested in something, I read a book on it. Since I’m reading one book on racial injustice each weekend this summer (and, given the pile of books I’ve accumulated, I expect I’ll continue into the fall), I decided to make my Saturday book Tulsa 1921: Reporting a Massacre.

I chose it carefully after reading the backgrounds of a few other books. I was looking for a reporting of the event, which I expected would be challenging given both the time frame (99 years ago) along with what I expected to be a lot of historical bias. I chose this book because the author, Randy Krehbiel, has been a reporter for the Tulsa World (Tulsa’s daily newspaper since 1905) for over 40 years and a Tulsa native. I figured, if anyone, he’d be able to mine the history from a reporter’s perspective, while balancing the topophilia he had for Tulsa, against the backdrop of a horrific event in the city’s history. Finally, Karlos K Hill, the Department Chair, African and African American Studies at the University of Oklahoma, wrote the foreword and endorsed the book, giving it more credibility in my eyes.

I lost myself in Tulsa in 1921 yesterday afternoon and into the evening. The Tulsa race massacre was an injustice on multiple levels. It included the willful destruction of what at the time was one of the most successful Black communities in America. In addition to the 24-hour destruction of the Black community by a variety of White Tulsans in pogram-like fashion, the ensuing several years of efforts to relocate the community, rather than allow the Black property-owning residents to rebuild, was deeply disturbing. Alongside this was a continual denial of any sort of meaningful redress or compensation by the White leadership of Tulsa.

During this period, the KKK had a new resurgence, which reinforced many aspects of systemic racism, both related to this period in Tulsa, as well as across the entire United States. Black leaders, with a few White allies, fought for justice for the residents, victims, and families of Greenwood. They also fought against the corruption, blame-shifting, and systemic racism that existed at the time in Tulsa. The Black Tulsans of Greenwood eventually prevailed and rebuilt their community.

Krehbiel handled this story exceptionally well. There are many ambiguities and unknowns. Rather than rendering an opinion, he tried to acknowledge the biases, the potential perspectives, and citied whatever he could find in history. Rather than tell the reader what to think, he painted a full story, incorporating many voices from different frames of reference, and allowed the reader to form a view and decide when the record was ambiguous, what had happened.

While an emotionally challenging book to read, I ended my day Saturday with another layer of understanding of how systemic racism is and has worked, for many years, in the U.S.

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Jul 8 2020

Book: The Startup Playbook

If you are working on your first startup, this is the book for you. Hopefully, the Foreword I wrote reflects my belief in the quality and importance of this book.

My friends @willherman and @rajatbhargava put their hearts and souls into the creation of the first edition of The Startup Playbook, and it paid off. Over 13,000 people bought the book, it’s a 4.8-star review book on Amazon (with 100 reviews), and it sold out.

I’ve known Will since 1984 and Raj since 1993. Will and I made our first angel investment together in 1994 – in Raj’s first company NetGenesis (which went public in 1999). Since then, Will and I have made many investments together (including most of Raj’s company). Raj and I have done seven companies together, including his most recent company JumpCloud which is one of the fastest-growing B2B SaaS companies in our portfolio (and in Colorado.)

The book is Will and Raj’s how-to guide for building your startup from the ground up. It has a collection of the major lessons and shortcuts they learned starting 11 companies between them – a lot of successes, but some nasty failures too. They wrote the book to shift the odds of success in your favor. They share their tips, secrets, and advice in a frank, founder-to-founder discussion with you.

The Startup Playbook is not a recipe; it’s not a template; it’s not a list of tasks to do. It’s their insider’s guide to starting a company and running it successfully in those critical early months. It’s full of our advice, guidance, do’s, and don’ts from their years of experience as founders, investors, mentors, and advisors.

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Jul 7 2020

Expanding My Perspective

I’ve become aware that my existing network creates and perpetuates systemic inequities. Rather than abandon my existing network, I’m investing time and energy in expanding my perspective and network through the various things I pay attention to and get involved in.

Today’s post covers two things I love to do: run and read. When I reflect on my running and fitness heroes, they are mostly men. If you asked me to name ten world-class marathoners, it would be mostly men. And when I think of people who I go running with, which is rare since I prefer to run alone, it’s men.

A year ago, I decided I needed to permanently change my diet and hired Katie Elliott as my nutritionist. She’s become a good friend and has been extraordinarily helpful with changing my diet and helping me permanently lose some weight. She’s also an outstanding athlete, so I’ve gotten bonus coaching from her.

Next week Katie is leading a day-long online symposium called Women.Thrive. Amy and I sponsored it, and I have ten free tickets, so if you want to attend, email me (the first ten get the tickets.) Or, if you wish to attend and don’t need a free ticket, please sign up as all proceeds go to Covid relief. I’ll be attending some of the sessions to learn and expand my perspective on women athletes and health. Plus – Martina Navratilova – one of my childhood tennis heroes – is speaking about motivation.

Next, I’ve been reading a bunch of stuff that is outside my normal reading zone. Each weekend I read at least one book from my now very large pile of books by Black authors about a wide variety of topics. Saturday night, I chose a memoir and read White People Really Love Salad by Nita Mosby Tyler, Ph.D.

I love memoirs. I separate this category from “autobiography” because I’m not that interested in autobiographies (I prefer biographies). Memoirs are more than just a person’s history. They interweave one’s history and experiences with personal philosophy, advice, reflection (both the author’s and mine), and inspiration.

Nita wrote about her experience growing up in Atlanta as a Black girl. Each chapter ended with her reflections about race, diversity, equity, and equality that related directly to the story she had just told. I read it from beginning to end, realizing that almost every experience was new to me.

Last night, I read Piloting Your Life by Terri Hanson Mead. Terri wrote about her experience shifting into, exploring, and getting used to midlife as a White, professional, happily married woman with a husband and two kids in the bay area. Oh, and she’s a helicopter pilot (so cool) so she uses a lot of flying metaphors to structure the book (hence the title). She includes stories and interviews with many other women going through the transition from “pre-midlife” to “midlife,” along with endless, direct, and compelling examples of the struggles relative to men going through a similar age transition.

I’m in my mid-50s (wow – when did that happen?) Many of my transitions are completely different from Terri’s. As I read the book, in addition to getting to know Terri better, I also ended up with a bunch of insights, from a woman’s perspective, about midlife.

Every time I finish a book like one of these I think “I should read more books like this.”

When people, who are roughly the same age as me (or at least the same generation) write about completely different life experiences and from an entirely different perspective, they give me a lot to think about and help me ponder my strengths, weaknesses, limitations, and biases. And, in this case, these books were different but beautiful complements to read one after the other.

I appreciate the energy that Nita and Terri have put into these books. Now that I’ve written a bunch of books, including one very personal one with Amy (Startup Life: Surviving and Thriving in a Relationship with an Entrepreneur), I understand how much work it is to write a book like this.

And, most of all, I appreciate their willingness to put their story out into the world, which helps me expand my perspective.

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Jun 29 2020

Book: So you want to talk about race

I’m continuing my weekend reading goal of a book on racial equity. Last week was Kingonomics: Twelve Innovative Currencies for Transforming Your Business and Life Inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by Rodney Sampson who I’m partnering with on the #RacialEquityEcosystemPledge.

Yesterday I read Ijeoma Oluo’s So you want to talk about race. It was excellent.

My goal with reading these books is to bring a beginners mind to racial equity, allow myself to feel uncomfortable while reading, and let the impact of what I read over the summer accumulate, with a hope that I can personally eliminate many of my unconscious biases, unhelpful behavior, while unlearning (or challenging my own) perspectives that I’ve built up over my 54 years as a White person in America.

Several of my Black friends recommended Ijeoma’s book as one that I should read early on. As book #3 on my weekend reading, I’m glad I put this at the front of the list. It has 17 chapters – each which answers a very specific question about race. Following is the list.

  • Is it really about race?
  • What is racism?
  • What if I talk about race wrong?
  • Why am I always being told to “check my privilege?”
  • What is intersectionality and why do I need it?
  • Is police brutality really about race?
  • How can I talk about affirmative action?
  • What is the school-to-prison pipeline?
  • What can’t I say the “N” word?
  • What is cultural appropriation?
  • Why can’t I touch your hair?
  • What are microaggressions?
  • Why are our students so angry?
  • What is the model minority myth?
  • But what if I hate Al Sharpton?
  • I just got called racist, what do I do now?
  • Talking is great, but what else can I do?

A day after George Floyd was murdered, I called a Black friend and asked, “what are two things you are involved in that I can immediately support with time and money.”

He had a response that I then heard echoed in slightly different ways in several conversations. The composite is below:

Thank you so much for approaching things this way. I’m so tired of explaining to White people what I’m going through, what I go through every day, and why so many things in America are horrible when you aren’t White. It’s not my responsibility to do that anymore, and I’m glad you are trying to get involved, rather than ask me to explain what’s going on.

Ijeoma’s book was extremely clear and enlightening on all of these questions. Near the end, there was a paragraph in the chapter “Talking is great, but what else can I do?” that really hit home.

“Talk. Please talk and talk and talk some more. But also act. Act now, because people are dying now in this unjust system. How many lives have been ground by racial prejudice and hate? How many opportunities have we already lost? Act and talk and learn and fuck up and learn some more and act again and do better. We have to do this all at once. We have to learn and fight at the same time. Because people have been waiting far too long for their chance to live as equals in this society.

I strongly recommend Ijeoma Oluo’s So you want to talk about race.

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Jun 15 2020

Book: The Blacker The Berry

As I begin to work my way through the NY Times Antiracist Reading List (by Ibram X. Kendi), I thought I’d start with The Blacker The Berry by Wallace Thurman.

I started with the Wikipedia page for Wallace Thurman.

Langston Hughes described Thurman as “…a strangely brilliant black boy, who had read everything and whose critical mind could find something wrong with everything he read.” Thurman’s dark skin color attracted comment, including negative reactions from both black and white Americans. He used such colorism in his writings, attacking the black community’s preference for its lighter-skinned members

I didn’t know the phrase colorism nor had I ever thought about bias around it. Over the weekend, Lucy Sanders pointed me at an NCWIT article on Colorism Bias in the Tech Industry. I then went down a rabbit hole on colorism, which caused me to realize how oblivious and ignorant I was to this type of discrimination.

Emma Lou Morgan, the protagonist of The Blacker The Berry, geographically follows Thurman’s life, from Boise, the USC, to Harlem. The book is beautifully written and deeply engrossing as Emma’s story unfolds. Some of it is a coming of age story, but also a continual struggle, from a Black woman’s perspective, on dealing with discrimination from all sides, since she is darkly colored and subject to endless colorism.

The book was written in 1929. It was Thurman’s first novel. Per Wikipedia:

The novel is now recognized as a groundbreaking work of fiction because of its focus on intra-racial prejudice and colorism within the black community, where lighter skin has historically been favored.

Thurman died in 1934 at age 32 of tuberculosis. He only wrote two other books: Infants of the Spring and The Interne. I just purchased Infants of the Spring but couldn’t find The Interne.

Next up – Rodney Sampson’s Kingonomics: Twelve Innovative Currencies for Transforming Your Business and Life Inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Jun 12 2020

Book: It’s About Damn Time

My digital sabbaths are often running, reading, and napping days. That’s tomorrow for me as I’m feeling fried from another week. I’ve ordered (and received) most of the books from the NY Times Antiracist reading list along with a number of other recommendations. Most are physical books and will be my digital sabbath reading this summer.

A month ago, I read Arlan Hamilton’s book It’s About Damn Time: How to Turn Being Underestimated into Your Greatest Advantage. It’s been on my to blog list since, which is kind of lame on my part since I usually write about books right after I read them, so I’m just going to own that I missed here.

Arlan’s book is outstanding and everyone should read it, especially if you are in tech as an entrepreneur, investor, or aspiring entrepreneur.

Arlan is also outstanding. She first emailed me in January 2013, I was an early investor in her first fund, and have tried to be available anytime she’s reached out. I’ve been an avid listener to her, especially when she’s called me out on something I missed, was stupid or ignorant about, or just needed to change my perspective on something around gender, race, or sexual orientation.

That said, I haven’t invested in any of the Backstage Capital companies. I’ll own that. I’ve committed to Arlan to get to know her portfolio better and try to be helpful with some of them. I understand that ultimately investing in them is the key goal, so I’ll engage with that perspective.

Back to It’s About Damn Time: How to Turn Being Underestimated into Your Greatest Advantage. I love books that combine memoir with personal philosophy with life lessons with deep and personal experience. I prefer storytelling over lecturing or prognosticating. And while straightforward biographies can be informative, I prefer autobiographies (which I often refer to as memoirs.)

Arlan completed rocked it. Like Jerry Colonna’s book Leadership and the Art of Growing Up and Melinda Gates’ book Book: The Moment of Lift, Arlan navigated the challenge of an autobiography and wrote something that will stand the test of time. It’s her story, but it’s a story that everyone can learn from. It’s not a linear biography, but a book full of experiences and lessons, including for the reader. It’s crisp and easy to read with endless moments that stopped me in my tracks, even though I knew some of Arlan’s story.

I count Arlan as a friend and mentor. I hope she does also, as peer mentors (where both people learn from each other) is my favorite type of relationship. And, I look forward to doing a lot more with her over what hopefully will be a long future for both of us.

My book recommendation for this weekend, if you haven’t read it yet, is Arlan Hamilton’s It’s About Damn Time: How to Turn Being Underestimated into Your Greatest Advantage.

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May 26 2020

Q2 Vacation Reading

I took an off the grid vacation last week. I needed it as I was pretty fried feeling on May 15th when I checked out.

Amy and I went … nowhere. We stayed at home. I slept late each day. I exercised. I read. I napped. We finished watching Breaking Bad. I played with my Glowforge and made a bunch of Ear Savers. I wrote a little, but not too much, on my next book (The Entrepreneur’s Weekly Nietzsche: A Book for Disruptors.)

I read two great memoirs, both by women I respect a lot.

Madeline and Arlan are each incredible leaders, brave people, and women that I have learned a lot from. I’ve been fortunate to spend time with both of them and be involved in things that they created (in Madeline’s case, The Albright Institute; in Arlan’s case, Backstage Capital). I loved reading these books and recommend them for everyone, especially if you are interested in leadership.

I also read two books that are pertinent to this moment in time.

They were also each excellent and gave me useful perspective on our current reality, along with how our government responded during two other major crises (one health, one economic.)

It’s a beautiful day in Boulder today. I’m glad to be back from what was a much needed vacation.

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