Category: Crisis

Mar 25 2021

Processing the Supermarket Shooting in Boulder

Thanks to everyone who sent a note to me in the past few days about the shooting in Boulder on Monday.

10 people murdered in a city of 100,000 people, in a place that I love where I’ve lived since 1995, is an extremely difficult thing for me to process.

On Monday, Amy and I were shocked. On Tuesday, we were both shaken and stunned. The emotions really hit us both on Wednesday.

Last night I went for a long run with some of my favorite childhood music (Pink Floyd). I listened to Dark Side of the Moon, The Final Cut, and half of The Wall before getting back home. I sat in the hot tub for 30 minutes and then went to bed. I woke up this morning feeling a little calmer but still unsettled.

Some of you have asked if there’s anything you can do. The Boulder County Crisis Fund is the best choice. The Community Foundation: Boulder County is partnering with others to support the victims, their families, and our community in dealing with and processing the March 22 supermarket shooting in Boulder. Some of the partners include:

9News, the City of Boulder, The Daily Camera, iHeartMedia, The Colorado Healing Fund, Community First Foundation, The Denver Foundation, Longmont Community Foundation, Rose Community Foundation, Boulder Mennonite Church, Community Church of Lyons, Congregation Bonai Shalom, Congregation Har Hashem, First Congregational Church, First UMC of Lafayette, Islamic Center of Boulder and Westview Church.

If you are up for making a financial contribution to help people out in the crisis, please make a donation to the Boulder County Crisis Fund.

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Mar 23 2021

A Sad and Scary Day In Boulder

A mass shooting happened at a King Soopers on Table Mesa in Boulder Monday afternoon.

Amy and I are safe. So are our friends and family. But 10 people in Boulder, including one police officer, are dead.

The King Soopers was the one that Amy and I shopped at from 1996 – 2014 when we lived in Eldorado Canyon. I’ve been there hundreds of times. It was at the six-mile mark of my ten-mile run to town. Many friends live within minutes of it, including my brother and his family, my partner Chris Moody and his family, Amy’s current assistant Rebecca and her family, and Amy’s prior long-time assistant Naomi and her family.

Amy’s nephew Jason had gotten his groceries there fifteen minutes earlier. A friend of a board member worked there and snuck out the back. So did a neighbor of my brothers.

Whenever something tragic happens, the quick rationalization is “Well, at least that won’t happen here.” Boulder has always felt incredibly safe to me. I won’t even read a popular crime/thriller novelist whose books are set in Boulder because I don’t want anything to damage my calm.

My calm is very damaged right now. I was going to head out for a long run at the end of the day but couldn’t leave the house. I just sat with Amy, while she doom scrolled through Twitter and texted with friends and family. I ate something but don’t remember what it was. Upon reflection, that sounds a little like a shock response to me.

Last night, an endless set of IMs and emails rolled in checking on us. That calmed my nerves a little, to be loved, but I kept realizing how fragile and arbitrary things are. The phrase “the victims are in our thoughts and prayers” is nice, but it seems so inadequate. We find ourselves in 2021, still in a pandemic, with extraordinary heath, financial, and emotional stress everywhere, and then this.

Boulder has been a special place for me and Amy since we moved here in 1995. Evil showed up in our town yesterday.

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Mar 10 2021

One Year Ago Today

My first full day in isolation was one year ago. My last dinner out was on Tuesday, March 10, 2020, with Mike Platt. I remember driving home that night pondering when I’d be back in the office.

On Wednesday, March 11, 2020, I had a full schedule at home, starting at 9 am and ending at 5:45 pm. Little did I know that would be the pattern for at least a year.

Amy and I each had a long day yesterday, so we spend the evening having “morning coffee #2 without the coffee.” It was an emotional reflection on a year with a vast range of positives and negatives for both of us.

By far, the biggest positive has been spending 365 days together. We spent the first 25 years of our relationship apart more than 75% of the time as I traveled constantly. To spend 365 days together, waking up and having coffee each morning, and saying goodnight in person each night, has been amazing.

As we both look forward, we are talking a lot about what we’ve learned from the last year – both good and bad. It sets the table for how we want to live the rest of our lives, however long that may be.

Amy shared an article from The Atlantic titled We Have to Grieve Our Last Good Days, which impacted me. I encourage you to read it and ponder as you reflect on the anniversary of the start of the Covid crisis in the US.

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Jan 13 2021

How Is The 54th Week of 2020 Going For You?

At lunch today, Amy said “Welcome to January 112th.”

I just got an email from a friend that included the line, “I’m writing off the first 20 days of the year, so here’s to a much different 2021 starting next week!”

I didn’t really mark the end of the year as the “end of this phase.” The Covid crisis continues. The economic crisis continues. The mental health crisis continues. The racial equity crisis continues. Economic inequity is accelerating at a crazy pace. We just had an armed insurrection in the United States. 4,406 people died of Covid in the US in the last 24 hours.

I’m a long term optimist. But I’m also from Generation X, with the typical Gen-X characteristics of being cynical and disaffected. I embrace my slacker tendencies.

We are experiencing the culmination of many things. Amy and I have been talking about them each morning over coffee. In the midst of this, we are trying to stay centered, calm, and grounded. It’s hard.

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Nov 19 2020

Can Do Colorado – A New Energize Colorado Project

During the Covid crisis, I’ve been regularly discussing the dramatic amplification of inequities that already existed. From a business perspective, some businesses have benefited during this crisis, while other businesses (and entire categories of business) are being wiped off the face of the earth.

Here’s a blunt statement of what’s going on that showed up in a Slack channel yesterday.

Working through my market portfolio this am and thought This metric would be of interest to this group. Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Google, Netflix and Microsoft have added 3 trillion dollars to their value since COVID started. This is a deep wealth transfer from small businesses. These 6 companies have more market cap than the entire emerging market sector.

I’d like to introduce a new project – Can Do Colorado.

Covid has had a dramatic negative impact on local (or main street) businesses. Energize Colorado was set up in March to help companies with less than 500 employees survive and emerge from the Covid crisis. As part of the rapid scale-up of a new non-profit (now hundreds of active volunteers across the State), Energize Colorado has worked with many other non-profits supporting small businesses and has engaged in several public-private partnerships such as the Energize Colorado Gap Fund.

Can Do Colorado showcases small businesses’ hard work across the state through a series of short videos that strengthen customer confidence by connecting Colorado’s consumers with small businesses. The campaign extends a direct call to consumers to support businesses within their communities that are open, adhering to public health orders, and following best practices.

None of these activities would go anywhere without the deep, embedded, and optimistic spirit of Coloradans helping Coloradans. Starting today, let’s all embrace Can Do Colorado and help our local small businesses survive and emerge from this crisis.

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Oct 30 2020

Coloradans – Activate Exposure Notification on Your iPhone/Android to Help Keep Colorado Safe from Covid

We’ve learned many things in the last six months that help slow the spread of the Covid, such as social distancing, outdoor vs. indoor activity, and mask-wearing. We’ve also learned a lot about how to treat the disease.

But, regardless of what you think of the severity or impact of Covid, the transmission characteristics of the disease remain unchanged.

Many people worldwide, and in Colorado, are working tirelessly on controlling and mitigating the disease. Technology-based solutions around exposure notifications have been under discussion since April (here’s a post of mine from 4/23/20 titled Names Matter: Exposure Alerting vs. Digital Contact Tracing.)

Last week, the State of Colorado rolled out an exposure notification application built on and integrated into the Apple/Google approach. It’s privacy-first – completely anonymous, confidential – and extremely simple to turn on and use. In one week, over 10% of Colorado residents have enabled it.

The team at the State, led by Sarah Tuneberg, have been working intensely on this for many months. They’ve evaluated many different approaches, made privacy a critical feature, along with ease of implementation and use.

I’ve also been deep in this with several other initiatives, including a national Covid Tech Taskforce led by John Borthwick and Andrew McLaughlin. After seeing many different tech approaches, I’m confident Colorado has chosen the right one and built an application that can help mitigate the spread of Covid.

If you have an iPhone or Android phone, please enable the Colorado exposure notification. The FAQ covers all this in detail, especially around privacy and data.

Coloradans – please help each other keep each other safe from Covid!

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Oct 5 2020

Fundraiser for the Energize Colorado Gap Fund on October 8th

$135 million.

That is the amount that over 5,600 Colorado small businesses requested from the Energize Colorado Gap Fund in our first three weeks of open applications. 

According to the SBA, small businesses in Colorado employ more than 1.1 million Coloradans, almost half of the state’s private workforce. 90% of the applicant pool came from one or more of the Gap Fund’s priority groups: BIPOC, women, veteran-owned, or companies in rural Colorado. 

We anticipated that the demand for the Gap Fund would be massive and that we needed to provide a model that could offer a sustainable path through the post-Covid economic recovery. To that end, the Gap Fund provides a combination of grant and loan funds to recipients. We are using a Program Related Investment (PRI) model to offer ultra low-interest loans and guarantee repayment to our loan partners. We pair the PRI with philanthropic donations to cover the overhead and expected losses from running the ultra low-interest loan program. As a result, our financial model creates a 5x multiplier on grant dollars.

We need your help to meet the need and to maintain our commitment to rebuilding a statewide economy that is more inclusive and more resilient. On October 8th at 5:30 pm MST, I’m co-hosting a virtual fundraiser with my good friends Governor Jared Polis, Gap Fund Chair Kent Thiry, and Energize Colorado’s CEO, Wendy Lea. While we’ve raised over $25 million to date, we are looking to raise another $25 million. While we have a PRI contribution minimum of $50K, we accept donations at any level to help fuel our ability to provide loans to small businesses in need.  

If you’re available, please register here to join us as part of the effort to help small businesses in Colorado navigate and emerge stronger from the Covid crisis.

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Sep 1 2020

The Energize Colorado Gap Fund Application Process Is Open

The Energize Colorado Gap Fund is open for applications. At some point, I’ll write a blog post about the story of how this came together via a public-private partnership to fill a much-needed gap in the Federal funding for small businesses throughout Colorado due to the Covid crisis, but for now either send this to people you think it is relevant to or, if it is relevant to you, please apply for funding.

If you are a business or nonprofit with less than 25 full-time employees (including sole proprietors) you can apply for up to a $15,000 grant and a $20,000 loan for a possible combined total of $35,000 in financial assistance.

The applications and awards will be done in rounds to allow the Energize Colorado Gap Fund to provide assistance through December 2020. This is not a first-come-first-serve process, but rather one that will be focused on helping those in need receive priority access to assistance.

A detailed FAQ for the Energize Colorado Gap Fund is available, but here are a few summary points around eligibility and priority.

Who is Eligible?

  • Small Businesses/Enterprises – Colorado sole proprietors and registered small businesses including LLCs, S-Corps and other business types.
  • Nonprofits – Colorado nonprofits whose mission and/or programs directly support economic development, small businesses, or tourism.
  • Fewer than 25 employees – Applicants must have fewer than 25 full-time equivalent (FTE) employees. An employer may use its off-season employee count.
  • Impacted by COVID-19 – Applicants must be able to show the economic hardship their business is facing due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The business’s story of hardship plus documents such as bank records, point of sale receipts, profit and loss statements, or other documents can be used to show economic harm.

Priority Will Be Given to the Following:

  • Any eligible Colorado small enterprise is welcome to apply. Priority will be given to applicants:
    • Who are majority-owned by Black, Indigenous, People of Color, Veterans, or Women
    • In rural areas with a population of less than 50,000 people
    • In the tourism sector
    • With limited or no access to capital financing or other federal, state or local grants/loans

I’m incredibly proud of the hard work of the many volunteers at Energize Colorado and the leadership of Wendy Lea who helped get this up and running. And, the Energize Colorado Gap Fund Executive Committee, under the leadership of Kent Thiry, is amazing to see in action.

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Aug 30 2020

Are You At Your Best Right Now?

I’m not.

And I know a lot of people who aren’t.

I’m trying hard, but I’m aware that there are many moments where I’m nowhere close to being my best.

Every day, I feel confused by behavior from someone I know well which is inconsistent with how I think of them. Sometimes it’s unsettling or upsetting. Often it is perplexing. Occasionally it is disheartening.

Everyone I know is some element of tired, stressed, anxious, frustrated, or just running at maximum speed trying to keep it all together. People are short-tempered, irritable, irrational, and lashing out or thrashing around.

Give yourself a break and acknowledge to yourself and your loved ones that you are not at your best right now. Understand that your loved ones, colleagues, co-workers, friends, and everyone else is probably not at their best right now. While you might not be able to give them a hug, you can try a smile, an apology, or laughter when the moment passes.

Give them, and yourself, a break for not being at your best.

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Aug 27 2020

Pondering the Commercial Real Estate Market

Since Covid started, I’ve had many conversations about office space. In April, almost all of our companies were unable to use their office space because of stay at home orders. Today, even though strict stay-at-home orders are no longer in place in most of the country, the vast majority of our companies are still in a primary work-from-home mode.

Most of these companies are locked into long term office leases. Over the past few months, they’ve all tried to negotiate some relief with their landlord. While, in a few cases, there have been small rent deferrals in exchange for tacking on a few months at the end of the lease, and in a few other cases landlords have offered “meaningful cash now to buy out the lease” deals, these have been few and far between.

Most of the time, the answer is some version of “Tough luck.” And, if you dig into the lease agreement, it usually reinforces the message of “tough luck.”

In a moment where landlords could generate enormous goodwill, especially with smaller companies, I believe they are doing the opposite. Rather than showing some flexibility, they are telling their customer (the tenant) who literally cannot use the physical space they are renting, “sorry – not my problem.”

All over our portfolio, I’m seeing CEOs increasingly asking the question, “why am I spending all this money for something I can’t use?” Since work-from-home is continuing, and these CEOs realize that remote or distributed work, rather than having an expensive, central office, is attractive both culturally and economically for many of their employees.

When we discuss this, I always ask the question, “If you could allocate 100% of your rent expense to your employees, would this be a positive or a negative to your employees?” That’s easy to answer, and when I remind CEOs that their all-in cost of being in an office is probably double what they pay in rent, they quickly realize it’s not a zero-sum game.

I think we are in a phase of total denial by the commercial real estate industry about the dynamics going on. It’s a classic example of short-term, zero-sum thinking, which is antithetical to my way of approaching things, so it grates on me.

I hypothesize that there are massive structural, cultural, and financial changes that are happening that are being exacerbated by the behavior of the commercial real estate owners. We’ll see, but I know the amount of money that we are indirectly spending on commercial real estate via our portfolio will be dramatically less in 2023 than it is today.

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