Category: Places

Jul 18 2018

Binary Star Startup Communities

I had dinner with Ian Hathaway a few weeks ago when I was in London. It was a delight to see him in person. While we’ve been collaborating on Startup Communities 2 (which we are now calling The Startup Community Way), which will come out at the “end-of-the-year-ish,” having dinner was a delight and reminded me how much I like him.

A few months ago he wrote a post on Waterloo, and activity in Canada in general, titled The North Star. It’s a good post worth reading but reminded me of a concept that we are weaving into The Startup Community Way.

There is an increasing number of “binary star” startup communities. If you aren’t familiar with binary stars, they are a system of two stars in which one star revolves around the other or both revolve around a common center.

Boulder and Denver is a canonical example of this, where each city has developed a strong startup community, but the relationship between the two makes each stronger as they grow and develop.

Other examples that I’m familiar with that jump out at me include:

  • Toronto – Waterloo
  • Detroit – Ann Arbor
  • Provo – Salt Lake City
  • Cleveland – Akron
  • Brisbane – Ipswich
  • Wellington – Auckland
  • Vancouver – Victoria
  • Tampa Bay – St Petersburg

If you know of other binary star startup communities, especially if you are a participant in one, leave a note in the comments.

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Jun 20 2018

Do You Consider Yourself a Texan?

Did you know that 28.5714% of the partners at Foundry Group are Texans?

Recently, I was asked if I consider myself a Texan. I answered that I grew up in Texas, live in Colorado, was born in Arkansas, and went to school in Massachusetts. While I have a house in Alaska, I never lived there (that’s where Amy grew up.)

I hadn’t really thought about this before I answered the question. While Massachusetts was very good to me, I never felt at home living in Boston or Cambridge. I left Dallas 35 years ago (although my parents still live there.) I only lived in Blytheville for a year, although I just visited it with my dad a few months ago.

I’ve now lived in Colorado longer than anywhere else (22.5 years). But, I’m occasionally told by people who have lived in Boulder for over 25 years that I’m still a newbie. So, maybe I’m a Texas for a few more years, although Amy says definitively, “You are not.”

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Dec 7 2017

Welcoming Bobby Schnabel Back to CU Boulder

Bobby Schnabel has returned to CU Boulder as the College of Engineering and Applied Science faculty director for entrepreneurial leadership, external chair of computer science, and campus thought-leader on computing.

I first met and worked with Bobby in the mid-2000s at the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT), where he was a co-founder and on the board with me. Bobby is awesome and I’m really psyched he’s back in Boulder at CU.

While you may not know Bobby, this is a huge add for CU Boulder and the Boulder Startup Community. Bobby has a long history with CU Boulder. He was on the computer science faculty of the University of Colorado Boulder from 1977-2007, and Vice Provost for Academic and Campus Technology and Chief Information Officer from 1998-2007, and founding director of the Alliance for Technology, Learning and Society (ATLAS) 1997-2007.

In 2007 when he left CU Boulder to become the Dean of the School of Informatics and Computer at Indiana University I was bummed for CU Boulder (but happy for Bobby and Indiana University.) When he joined the Association for Computer Machinery as CEO in 2015, I had the sense in the back of my mind that he might make his way back to Boulder at some point.

Bobby is returning to CU Boulder to strengthen the partnership between the incredible tech business and startup community we have in the Boulder area and in Colorado, and the tech-programs at CU Boulder.

Welcome back, Bobby! And, if you are in the Boulder Startup Community and want to connect with Bobby at some point, just give me a shout.

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Oct 11 2017

On The Road Again

I was in Atlanta yesterday for Techstars Atlanta Demo Day. I’ll be here again today for Venture Atlanta and then I’m on to Kansas City for Techstars Kansas City Demo Day.

Rule #1: Don’t eat the bugs on the window of the 23rd floor of your hotel.

I’m being a lot more deliberate about my travel these days. I’m also being more careful about how I do it. I’m eating a lot smarter, not drinking at all, and making sure I get at least seven hours of sleep a night. While I hate shaking hands, I’ve given up trying to do fist bumps because I end up with numerous awkward semi-handshake-hand-grab moments. And I’ve stopped staying up late trying to get all my email from the day responded to like I did for 20 years.

I like Atlanta. I haven’t been here in a while but it’s pretty awesome to see how the startup community has grown in the past five years. While hot and humid today, it’s different from my norm so it’s an intriguing but easy adventure. While the bugs aren’t as big as the ones I grew up with in Dallas, they remind me of my childhood.

I had dinner with my brother Daniel and my cousin Kenny (who lives here) last night at the original Ted’s Montana’s Grill that’s on the corner of Luckie Street and Ted Turner Drive. We sat in the booth next to the one Ted frequents. The conversation was intense and wonderful. Something about all that made me smile just now.

Rule #2: Keep a sense of humor through all the absurdity. And, there’s a lot these days.

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Jun 5 2017

Wandering Around Cambridge

It’s a gray and rainy early summer day in Cambridge. As I was walking home from dinner last night through Kendall Square, I had a thought as I passed the Otto Piene designed Galaxy Earth Sphere sculpture. “I will never be lost here.”

I lived in Cambridge for four years when I was an undergrad at MIT. I then lived in Boston for eight more years after moving across the river to downtown while running Feld Technologies. Twelve years as a young adult in one city will cement the place in one’s brain.

While I only lived in Cambridge for four years, the essence of it is woven into the fabric of me. I immediately think of Toscanini’s Ice Cream, a place I at which I ate chocolate ice cream at least four times a week for the better part of four years. Gus’s smile is imprinted on my brain as he hands over the cone with the evening treat in it. Or the greatest food of all for a 170 pound 20-year-old – a giant scoop of chocolate ice cream with hot fudge generously poured over it.

While Kendall Square is all grown up with gleaming glass buildings, as I peer down Main Street to Mass Ave, I can almost see Tosci’s to the right, across the street from the U-Haul place. And then I remember my first real office, at 875 Main Street.

On the drive from the airport, we passed Rogers Street, and I immediately thought of NetGenesis’s first office. The Lotus building loomed large, the Royal Sonesta Hotel was still there, and the zig from First Street to Third Street remained the same. Amy and I were starving so after we dropped our bags off at the hotel, we wandered over to Legal’s for some food

I’m here for a couple of things. On Monday, I’ll be spending the day at the MIT Media Lab for the Formlabs Digital Factory event. At 11:30 am EST Formlabs is announcing something new and exciting.

Tuesday I could be anywhere, as I’ll be holed up in my hotel room on an endless stream of conference calls. On Wednesday, Amy and I are spending the day at Wellesley College. I’ve got a fun dinner with old friends each night and will run a few bridge loops if I can shake the time zone fatigue tomorrow and Wednesday.

It feels very comfortable here. And I like that.

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Apr 6 2017

What Is Boulder Like?

I spent the last month in Arizona. I missed Boulder and thought I might need a refresher on what it’s like.

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Feb 16 2017

Ode to Keystone

Dave Jilk, my first business partner and one of my closest friends, wrote the following Ode to our Keystone house. For the poetry nerds out there, Dave informed me that this is a villanelle.

Recently, Amy and I decided to sell our Keystone House. We bought it a decade ago and have had a wonderful time with it. But, we’ve decided to spend the next 20 years in a different mountain town. Dave and his wife Maureen were frequent visitors and I recall many delightful Saturday mornings where I’d slowly wake up in the bedroom while listening to Amy and Dave discussing something from downstairs.

Dave – thanks for the Ode. It’s beautiful. And thanks for all the great times together in Keystone.

A structure, nothing more, where once we played:
Will memories we made there long endure?
The spirit of that house will never fade.

Four golden beasts, their role through years relayed,
Here welcomed family, friend, entrepreneur —
A structure, nothing more, where once we played.

Upstairs were puzzles solved and books displayed;
Below buzzed films or sports or Rock Band tour.
The spirit of that house will never fade.

Great field of snow, or sage, with hill and glade
Beside, two rocky peaks beyond, contour
A structure, nothing more, where once we played.

Each day we skied or hiked, or napped and stayed
Near fireplace communing themes obscure;
The spirit of that house will never fade.

O house at Keystone Ranch, be not dismayed
To cede this post, your history secure!
A structure, nothing more, where once we played,
The spirit of that house will never fade.

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Feb 1 2017

This Page Intentionally Left Blank

For some strange reason, I woke up thinking about one of my favorite things to discover in a book or an article. I know there’s deep meaning in the notion that it was the first think that floated up to my consciousness when I awoke this morning. Like any good zen koan, I’m going to let it roll around all day. In the mean time, I look forward to my digital sabbath on Saturday to put the thought into practice and just do nothing.

Several years ago I told Amy “no more three city days.” She reminded me this morning that yesterday was a three city day (Boston, San Francisco, Los Angeles.) It was also a three board meeting day (Chorus, Mattermark, Nima), although Nima was a lovely dinner instead of a board meeting. And this trip has three California cities in it – San Francisco, Los Angeles (for the Upfront Summit, which is turning into one of my favorite annual work events), and then Santa Barbara for a TrackR board meeting.

As I got out of the shower, I realized I had slept in a very similar room at this hotel the week after my 50 mile race in April 2012. That was an uncomfortable shock, as I attribute a lot of physiological damage from that race as one of the root causes of the depression I ended up having in early 2013.

Which, reminded me of the first thing I thought of when I awoke today. Maybe the meaning of the koan is as simple as “Don’t forget to rest, grasshopper.”

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Dec 29 2016

The Year of Startups Everywhere

I’m not a predictor so you won’t find me participating in the “best/worst of 2016” and “predictions for 2017” lists. But there is a trend that feels inevitable to me: “Startups everywhere.”

While Agent Smith was wrong, I don’t think I am. When the phrase “Startup Communities” started to become mainstream around 2012, I made the strong assertion that you could create a startup community in any city with at least 100,000 people. I used Boulder as a canonical example of it in my book Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City and have been beating the drum about startups everywhere ever since.

While the meme that the only place to build a company is in Silicon Valley has softened, there’s still a strong belief that the best place to be if you are a first time entrepreneur is Silicon Valley. My argument is, and has never been, against Silicon Valley, but rather for the rest of the planet.

I saw three articles yesterday that reinforced the inevitability of startups everywhere.

When I reflect on where some of our investments are, they are in cities like Portland, Seattle, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Minneapolis, Boulder, Denver, Charlotte, Lexington, New York, and Boston. And then there’s Techstars which is now all over the world.

Sure – we have plenty of investments in Silicon Valley, or whatever you want to call it. I’ve asserted for a long time that Silicon Valley is a collection of startup communities, which includes San Francisco, Marin (the first board I was on – in 1994 – was for a company in San Rafael), Oakland, Redwood *, Palo Alto, Mountain View, Menlo Park, and Sunnyvale. Or you can just call it San Francisco, Oakland, and the Peninsula. Or maybe toss SOMA in. Or, well, does it really matter?

As a bonus, I’ve been hearing Amazon referred to regularly by mainstream media (and some people in the tech world) as a Silicon Valley company. Having invested in and spent a lot of time in Seattle over the last 30 years, I smirk whenever I hear this. I love seeing articles like How Amazon innovates in ways that Google and Apple can’t which should prompt entrepreneurs to Think Different (sorry, I couldn’t help myself).

As a bonus, I leave you with Amazon’s patent for a flying warehouse.

While Silicon Valley is an amazing thing, if you are in the rest of the world, you are in a special and interesting place. Don’t lose sight of that.

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Jul 31 2016

Reflecting on July 2016 from Adelaide

I’m sitting in a hotel room on the other side of the planet from where I’m usually hanging out. I just got back from a super run (4.5 miles in 45 minutes – nothing like sea level and flat to speed things up), am drinking some Mount Franklin bottled water, and reflecting on what was an intense month.

While I live a busy life, the pace ebbs and flows. The last 30 days were particularly busy, with a handful of deals (yeah – that’s foreshadowing for some announcements coming up), a final draft of the next version of Venture Deals (with Jas0n), lots of other typical stuff, and a colonoscopy. This would have been plenty except it was against the backdrop of the RNC and DNC circuses along with the amplification of what was already an emotionally complex presidential election cycle.

While I’ve had plenty of ups and downs, dealt with my share of failure, and struggled through emotionally difficult periods, I’m fundamentally an optimist. As I sit here in Adelaide, I feel incredibly fortunate to be alive in 2016. On Friday afternoon, I got in my car, made a bunch of phone calls on the drive from Keystone to DIA, got on a plane, took an Ambien, and woke up in Sydney. It’s not quite time travel, but it’s pretty fucking close.

As I was running on the river through downtown Adelaide, I mostly people watched as my mind wandered. There was a football game starting so there was a crowd at two segments of my loop. I could have been anywhere – I just happened to be here. It made me smile.

For a few weeks in July I fought with my emotions around the election. I vacillated from trying to ignore it to paying too much attention to it. I have clear opinions about it and a general ability to filter out the noise, but I found myself being drawn into it as though I was watching a slow motion multi-car pileup that never ends.

In the past few days, I came to terms with my emotions around everything. If you’ve read my last few posts, you can probably infer the internal conversation I’ve been having with myself. Fortunately, I spent the last week with Amy so I got a chance to work through some if it in conversations with her.

As I sit here getting ready for an interesting and stimulating week in Adelaide, I’m ready for August.

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