Category: Education

Oct 4 2013

NEXT by Startup Weekend in Boulder

HiRes_GFExNEXT_Logo_RGB-[2100x1828]-5_10 (1)I’ve been a big supporter of Startup Weekend, locally and nationally, since the very beginning and I’m continuing to do so by both sponsoring and mentoring in the NEXT Boulder program. NEXT by Startup Weekend is a wonderful next step for entrepreneurs looking for feedback on their idea or early business, while heavily leveraging the Lean methodology. Below are the words of Ken Hoff, an up-and-coming leader in the Boulder startup community. As the City Coordinator of the NEXT program, check out what he has to say about why he thinks the program is valuable. Ken can be found at @ken_hoff or thekenhoff@gmail.com. Following are Ken’s thoughts on NEXT Boulder.

NEXT Boulder is a 5-week pre-accelerator program, beginning on 10/15. Entrepreneurs will be immersed in the skills and tactics their startup needs and will get consistent advice and feedback from the best mentors in Boulder. Sign up here!

As a recent graduate of the Computer Science department at CU Boulder, I’m really lucky to have found what I want to do for the rest of my life, even if it was only recently. During my senior year, I took “Startup Essentials for Software Engineering” (taught by Zach Nies of Rally Software) and I can confidently say it was the best class I ever took at CU.

We learned how to take an idea and turn it into a company the right way using the Lean Startup process. We learned how to do customer development, conduct empathy interviews, and build a real MVP (not just an alpha version). We learned hands-on, functional, pragmatic skills for building a startup; not high-level theory or “how to write a business plan.” We got off the ground and out of the building right away.

Not everyone gets to have this experience – I was lucky to be a student at the time it was offered. For those of us who aren’t in school, you can try to do it all on you own, but you have to rely on the generosity of mentors to give you their time and their feedback. Accelerators and incubators can offer this, but they require you to have your business already in motion and are difficult to get into.

That’s why when NEXT decided to hold an event in Boulder, I jumped at the chance to help. I want to give entrepreneurs the same awesome resources I had as a student. NEXT can give aspiring entrepreneurs three major tools:

1. A cohesive, comprehensive curriculum on how to build your startup, with clear, pragmatic directions on what steps to take next.

2. The ability to work on your idea – something that you’re vested in and passionate about – and the confidence to take that idea to a competition or accelerator.

3. Copious advice and feedback about your company from the best mentors available, like Brad Feld, Nicole Glaros, Brad Bernthal, Robert Reich, and more!

NEXT Boulder runs from 10/15 to 11/12, and consists of weekly 3-hour sessions on Tuesday nights at the Silicon Flatirons Center in CU Law. Single founders can sign up, but co-founders are encouraged to attend together.

If you’d like to:

Attend NEXT, head over to NEXT Boulder to get your tickets, or contact me at boulder@swnext.co for more questions.

Sponsor NEXT, contact me at boulder@swnext.co for more information. It’s a great way to get your product or brand in front of lots of early-stage entrepreneurs and great mentors from Boulder.

Mentor for NEXT, contact me at boulder@swnext.co for more information. This is a great chance to give back to the Boulder startup community and see what the next generation of entrepreneurs has to offer!

A big thanks to Brad Feld for his generous donation, as well as Silicon Flatirons Center for the use of their space. NEXT provides entrepreneurs with the right combination of everything they need: skills, feedback, and the motivation to keep it going. I’m really looking forward to seeing a lot of great companies come out of the program!

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Oct 3 2013

Recreating Law School

Ah Latin - we love latinI spend a lot of time hanging around CU Law School. I know it’s a strange place to find a venture capitalist and entrepreneurs, but it happens to be the epicenter of entrepreneurial activity at CU Boulder. I wrote a chapter about this in my book Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City explaining why and how CU Law has taken a different approach to the engagement of the of a university and the entrepreneurial community.

Step back and think about it a little. A surprising number of entrepreneurs have legal backgrounds. A legal education is a great grounding in systems thinking, which can be applied to many businesses, especially as their scale up dramatically. And, in a world that needs less lawyers and more entrepreneurs, repurposing some of the brightest non-technical graduate students to be entrepreneurs is a neat idea. See – that’s not so strange.

Phil Weiser, the Dean of the CU Law School, is a good friend. Phil also totally groks entrepreneurship and is aggressively applying it to the vision, the curriculum, and the operations of CU Law. Following are some thoughts of his that recently appeared in an article in the ABA Journal titled Five initiatives that legal education needs.

Just like every other corner of the profession, legal education is grappling with a New Normal that was barely appreciated as recently as four or five years ago.

Even as law schools welcomed incoming classes this year, the mood has changed. And it’s no secret why.

Applications are down nationally for the third year in a row. And larger law firms aresignificantly cutting back on their entry-level hiring. The American Bar Association is also starting to focus on changes to legal education, recently releasing a draft report (PDF) from the Task Force on the Future of Legal Education.

Change is happening, and that’s a good thing.

The upside of today’s New Normal is that law schools have the opportunity to develop a new generation of lawyers who are more purposeful than ever before about how to develop and navigate their careers. These graduates will be legal entrepreneurs. By that, I mean lawyers—whether working in government, nonprofits, law firms, consulting firms, or businesses—who take ownership of their career paths and develop the tool kit necessary to add value and succeed wherever they work. Developing legal entrepreneurs, however, requires a commitment to innovation and experimentation that until recently has not been traditionally associated with legal academia.

To underscore the range of emerging innovations needed in legal academia, consider the following five initiatives now taking place in legal education:

1. Build an entrepreneurial mindset. Training law students to develop an entrepreneurial mindset is foundational for the New Normal. The reality is that large law firms are employing fewer and fewer law graduates, and the early interview week model is not what it once was. As such, law schools need to reorient their students’ thinking about their careers. An entrepreneurial mindset is a must in the New Normal, and law students need to heed LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman’s teachings in The Start-up of You. How law schools will transmit those lessons to a notoriously risk-averse group remains to beseen. But the age of law school as a risk-free option for people who expect a job to be handed to them at the end is over.

2. Challenge employers on entry-level hiring. Challenging employers to think differently about entry-level hiring and summer jobs is a critical to adjusting to the New Normal. The marketplace for legal talent is incredibly traditional, and the resistance of employers to experiment is a formidable challenge to creating new opportunities for recent law school graduates. Most law students would welcome the chance to work at any number of successful law firms or in-house organizations in a temporary capacity over the summer or even upon graduation—even at lower rates than traditional summer associate or associate positions—because such jobs can offer valuable opportunities to build marketable skills and develop important networks, connections, and references. And such opportunities present firms with the chance to use the talents of these students or recent graduates. But a big impediment to developing such an opportunity is that firms often believe that they cannot provide them if they are not prepared to offer a long-term job when the student graduates. A number of law schools are taking this issue head on, such as the Cardozo New Resident Associate Mentor Program and, in Colorado, where both law schools (the University of Colorado and the University of Denver) are collaborating on a Legal Residency program that encourages law firms or other employers to hire a recent graduate for 12 to 18 months, offer a quality experience, and provide apprenticeship outside of the traditional associate track.

3. Compress law school education and couple with experience. Law schools can couple a 2.5 year degree with a quality experience. The opportunity to graduate in 2.5 years, which can be achieved through accelerated schedules that permit saving a semester, is increasingly appealing as tuition costs has risen greatly over the past decade. Law schools encouraging such paths can work with partners like Cisco’s general counsel Mark Chandler, who is welcoming paid interns for seven months at Cisco from June 1st after their second year until the following January, enabling students to graduate not only with less debt, but with more experience.

4. Provide multidisciplinary training. Law schools increasingly are providing their students with multidisciplinary training, including but not limited to key business skills. The New Normal means that “thinking like a lawyer” is not enough; we need lawyers who can “think like clients.” For lawyers to understand their clients, they need to learn their businesses. This concept applies to those working in the public sector as well as the private sector; lawyers with domain knowledge of the fields they are practicing in are simply more likely to succeed than those without such knowledge. This means more nontraditional courses, more interdisciplinary courses, and more “boot camp”-type experiences.

5. Engage with the community. Law schools need to engage with their communities, get to know their success stories, and reverse-engineer them. The reality is that law firm hiring is not coming back, and a core challenge for law schools is to develop nontraditional opportunities—such as ones in business development, compliance, human resources, and public policy—for law school graduates with the right skill sets. The challenge is that developing such partnerships and opportunities is a long game. But the forces that shaped today’s New Normal were a long time coming; the actions that will enable law schools to adapt will take time as well.

Experimentation, innovation, and the New Normal. In 2008, most law school deans were living in the Old Normal. Today, all law school deans know that they are in a New Normal. The reality is that the shaping of today’s environment took place over a long period of time, even if we did realize it while it was happening. As such, developing a new model will not happen overnight. But momentum is building. The broad outlines of the New Normal—the need for a more entrepreneurial mindset, more community engagement, more multidisciplinary training, and new (and nontraditional) employment pathways—are now taking shape through experiments all over the country. The exciting part of this emerging paradigm is that it is still very much a work in progress, and law schools have the opportunity to develop creative partnerships and innovations to support our students in a changing and challenging environment.

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Sep 30 2013

Interviewing Luke Beatty on 10/7 at Entrepreneurs Unplugged

I got to work closely with Luke Beatty this summer while he was running the Techstars Boulder program. In one word, he’s “awesome.” Deeply, truly awesome.

I knew Luke from a distance – we’d crossed paths a few times but never worked together. I watched him build a real company with Associated Content and sell it to Yahoo for $100 million. When David Cohen asked me what I thought of him for Managing Director of Techstars Boulder, I responded “Awesome if you can get him.”

Luke ran an amazing program this summer. I spent at least an hour a week with him and all the CEOs in the program in our top secret weekly CEO session. We worked together on the Intuit acquisition of GoodApril. And a bunch of other things.

I wasn’t surprised when Tim Armstrong at AOL made him an offer he couldn’t refuse and Luke joined AOL as Head of Strategic Partnerships. I knew Luke and Tim had gone to school together, were close friends, and that Tim was the first investor in Associated Content. While I’m bummed that Luke isn’t running Techstars Boulder anymore, I’m psyched I got a chance to really know him over the summer. Plus, it amuses me that he now has to use AOL Mail as his email system.

Come join us at Entrepreneurs Unplugged on Monday 10/7 at 6:15 at ATLAS. Register here.

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Aug 29 2013

NovoED MOOC on Raising Venture Capital

I’m spending the new two days filming the content for a MOOC on raising venture capital. The content is based on my book with Jason titled Venture Deals: Be Smarter Than Your Lawyer and Venture Capitalist. After exploring a few different MOOCs for this, I think NovoED is the most interesting platform.

I’ve been impressed with the quality of the courses that currently exist. Several of my friends have done courses, including Chuck Eesley, a professor in Stanford University’s Management Science & Engineering group. Among other things, he’s got a great NovoEd course starting in a month titled Technology Entrepreneurship as well as a superb reading list for anyone interested in entrepreneurship.

Matt Blumberg finished filming the course around his book – Startup CEO: A Field Guide to Scaling Up Your Business – a few weeks ago. I got a preview of a few segments – it’s excellent and exceeded my expectations for what NovoED was planning to do.

I’m looking forward to yet another experiment in content creation, this time around a MOOC. In addition to creating the content, I’ll be an active participant / teacher in the course when it comes out.

I’ve often talked about how I learn things by doing them. As I wrote a few weeks ago, I’m fascinated with what I perceive will be a radical transformation over the next decade in how education works. I’ve been participating in it already through experiments like Techstars, which has completely changed how I think about entrepreneurial education. Creating – and participating – in MOOCs in another step in my learning process as I form a view about what is really interesting here.

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Aug 27 2013

Want To Help Fight Patent Trolls? – Boulder Event 8/28

Patent Summit

Join the Application Developers Alliance at a Boulder Developer Patent Summit August 28 at 6 PM at FUSE Coworking. The event is a chance to share stories of demand letters and lawsuits from trolls, discuss legal strategies and litigation costs, and share ideas for software patent reform.

DATE: August 28th | FREE | 6pm
LOCATION: The Riverside (FUSE Coworking) | 1724 Broadway | Boulder, CO 80302
AGENDA:
6:00pm Welcome (registration, drinks, food, and mingling)
6:30-8:00pm Brief Presentation, Panel Discussion, and Q&A
8:00pm Enjoy food and drinks, meet the panel, and network

Register today!

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Aug 14 2013

The One Trillion Reasons To Rethink How Higher Education Funding Works

Last night at dinner I got into a conversation with Greg Gottesman about the trillion dollars of student loans outstanding in the United States. Greg pointed me to this awesome TEDx Talk that he did recently on the topic. I just watched it – if you are interested in higher education in any way it’s worth 12 minutes of your life to watch it right now. I’ll still be here when you finish.

While Amy and I don’t have kids, we’ve funded the college educations for several relatives and the children of several friends. We’re fortunate that we can write these checks as the parents couldn’t have, and in each case the experience has been life changing, with no strings attached, for the young men and women. They went to schools they previously couldn’t have afforded and when they graduated they had no student debt.

When I consider their paths without our support, it would have been harder. Each of them is an amazing young person, but they are able to explore more things, in different ways, because of the education they got. And as I watch them continue to learn and grow, through their work experience, additional education, and online activities, I realize that the chance they had to go to college is still a critical part of the American dream.

I’m interested in this at many levels. My wife Amy is on the board of trustees of Wellesley College and cares passionately about her alma mater, the amazing experience of going to school there, as well as the increasing cost of education. I’m on the CU Boulder Chancellor’s Strategic Advisory Council and one of the major topics we have been discussing is the escalating cost of education and the dramatically decreasing public funding of education. I’m an investor – directly and indirectly – in a number of companies creating new online education systems. I’m a content provider for some of these MOOCs, with some courses coming out over the next twelve months. And I’ve started to take some courses as a way of learning new things while understanding what works – and what doesn’t work – with this new approach.

Up to this point, I’ve been focused on the cost and content side of the equation. Until last night, I didn’t think much about the implication of the student funding side (e.g. debt) of the equation – either the long term macroeconomic effect on society or the short term microeconomic effect on the recent graduate now saddled with student debt.

There are plenty of creative approaches to this, including many experiments underway with schools like MIT and Stanford in conjunction with new companies like Udacity and Coursera. The activity on the course and content side seems vibrant, which has the opportunity to lower overall costs.

But I don’t have a clue about the financing side, and am going to think more about it. If you have any insights, feel free to toss them in the comments or point me at stuff I should read.

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Jul 12 2013

Special Boulder Event – Bill Aulet from MIT and Me on Friday 7/19

disciplinedent

On Friday July 19th, I’ll be hosting Bill Aulet in Boulder to discuss his new book, Disciplined Entrepreneurship: 24 Lessons To A Successful Startup.

Bill, the managing director for the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship, is a close friend and amazing thinker on entrepreneurship. The book is a result of many years of his work and thinking on creating and scaling startups.

The event will take place at Rally Software in Boulder, CO from 9am – 12pm. Seating will be limited to 150 people which means you better get your tickets NOW!

Tickets are free and you can register for them on our Eventbrite page found here.

Bill’s book Disciplined Entrepreneurship is currently available for pre-order, but will officially go on sale August 13th.

I hope you will join us!

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May 7 2013

Less Than Three Weeks To Gluecon 2013

Enterprise development is once again white hot. More evidence is this year’s Gluecon. Not only does Gluecon have the usual raft of amazing startup/early stage sponsors, but this year, the “big guys” are showing up (SAP, Intel, HP, Google, IBM, General Motors, Rackspace). And, I also know (because Eric’s told me) that we’re seeing a leap in the number of enterprise developers that are registering for the show.

Is it cloud computing adoption that’s driving this? Or mobile? or Big Data, or APIs? I’m not sure if it’s one topically-driven thing, but it sure does seem like the little developer conference that we helped to start just over five years ago is turning into *the* place to be if you’re looking for technical content.

The most recent agenda is here. Click on the link and you’ll see loads of juicy, technical content. I don’t know of anywhere you can go to get this depth of content.

So, I hope to see you at Gluecon (in just under 3 weeks). I’ll be there  – absorbing everything that I can along with the rest of you. Use “gluespring” to take 10% off of the registration price.

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Apr 10 2013

The NVCA 2013 Annual Meeting

I’m going to the NVCA annual meeting May 14 and 15 and if you are a VC, you should also.  I haven’t been to one in many years, but this year is different.  First, my partner Jason is running it.  That being said, if the meeting was going to suck I still wouldn’t go.

I’m excited about the agenda.  Not only is my good friend Dick Costolo, CEO of Twitter speaking, but so are General Colin Powell, IBM CEO Ginni Rometty, and CEO of 23andMe CEO Anne Wojcicki.  And for the first time, “fun” is part of the meeting in the form of NVCA Live! featuring Pat Monahan from Train and Legitimate Front, headed up by Jason and our other partner Ryan.

If you are a VC, I hope to see you there.  If you are an entrepreneur, ask your VC funders for tickets to NVCA Live!, as that is open to everyone, although tickets are only purchasable by NVCA members.

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Apr 2 2013

Gluecon Year 5

As we enter the 5th year of Gluecon, I’m very excited to see it come together. Eric Norlin has been saying year after year that his goal is to make Gluecon “the most technical, developer-focused conference” out there and I love watching him try.

You can check out the most recent agenda here, but some of the sessions that are indicative of what Eric’s talking about include:

  • Building a distributed data platform with Node.js, Storm, Kafka, and ZeroMQ
  • An Enterprise Mobile Reference Architecture
  • Building using Netflix’s Open Source Architecture (a 4 hour workshop)
  • Using Swagger to Build a Great API Interface
  • The Pros and Cons of Choosing Go
  • Availability During Cloud Outages: Multi-Regional, Self-Healing MySQL
  • Node.js is for APIs

Beyond the content, I can personally testify that you’ll find an amazing group of people to hang out with, a truly welcoming atmosphere, and the best conference wifi you’ll find anywhere. Plus, it’s in Boulder at the beginning of summer!

Be sure to grab the early bird price (which ends April 7th) while you can — and use “brad12” to take an additional 10% off.

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