Quick Left is hosting a Startup Life event with me and Amy on April 25th at their office in Boulder. Registration is open – as of now there are 20 tickets left (it’s a free event). Everyone who attends will get a signed copy of Startup Life: Surviving and Thriving in a Relationship with an Entrepreneur, get to hear us talk about how we manage our Startup Life, and ask questions / join in a conversation about how to manage through the madness of a relationship when one – or both – of you are entrepreneurs.
Amy and I have decided to do a number of smaller events around Startup Life as we travel around the world together in 2013. We like the smaller events as they are more intimate and allow for a deeper conversation, where we learn things also. If you want to see if our paths will intersect in 2013, feel free to email me. We know we’ll be in New York, Boston, Dallas, San Diego, Iceland, and London this year. And of course we are in Boulder and Denver plenty if you want to do something with us.
We’ve gotten incredible feedback on Startup Life: Surviving and Thriving in a Relationship with an Entrepreneur. We are open to any and all thoughts – good and bad – anytime. In addition, if you have a special story of your own to tell, we’ve got a lot of guest blogs up on the Startup Revolution site – just holler if you want to add one of your own.
Simplifilm created a one minute book trailer for Startup Life: Surviving and Thriving in a Relationship with an Entrepreneur. Based on feedback from the last trailer for Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City, I did the voice over this time.
Take a look and tell me what you think. And, don’t forget to enter the Startup Life – Operation Win A Dinner With Us – it’s still going on until Saturday 2/2/13 @ 11:59pm EDT.
In yet another insane move by government against entrepreneurs and job creators, the Colorado PUC is proposing a new set of rules that would shut down Uber in Colorado. This is protectionism and misuse of power in an egregious form. Government supporting powerful incubants (the taxi industry) that are threatened by disruptive innovators through regulation. Yuck.
As a Colorado entrepreneurial community, we shouldn’t stand for this. As citizens and tax payers in Colorado, we shouldn’t stand for this. And as innovators, looking forward, we shouldn’t stand for this. My call to action is at the end of this email – if you do nothing else, go sign the petition right now. And tell everyone you know.
I think our governor, John Hickenlooper, is awesome. I hope he focuses on this quickly and demonstrates his own background as an entrepreneur, as an innovator, and as a proponent of innovation. Given the launch of his new effort to rebrand Colorado for the next 20 years, I hope he focuses his brandCO effort on innovation, entrepreneurship, and the future, rather than protecting incumbents in regulated industries through the misuse of power, especially in areas – such as the taxi industry – where the service, at least in Colorado, is uniformly poor. Colorado’s new brand shouldn’t be “backwater protectionist state” – yeah – that doesn’t sound very good to me.
The Uber story has already played out in a number of other states. The regulators quickly back down from the powerful lobby / industry groups that are influencing the new regulations. In some cases, it’s a simple misuse of power. In others, it’s a lack of understanding of what is going on. And in others, it has been a backward looking regulator, or government, that momentarily forgets that it serves its citizens, not a small constituent of incumbents.
The PUC rule changes are extensive, but there are several cleverly woven in that effectively shut down Uber if implemented. Read the following examples and be appalled.
– Section 6301: Uber’s pricing model will be made illegal: Sedan companies will no longer be able to charge by distance (section 6301): This is akin to telling a hotel it is illegal to charge by the night.
– Section 6309: Uber’s partner-drivers will effectively be banned from Downtown — by making it illegal for an Uber car to be within 200 feet of a restaurant, bar, or hotel. This is TAXI protectionism at its finest. The intent is to make sure that only a TAXI can provide a quick pickup in Denver’s city center.
– Section 6001 (ff): Uber’s partner-drivers will be forced out of business — partnering with local sedan companies will be prohibited.
These rules are not designed to promote safety, nor improve quality of service. They are intended to stop innovation, protect incumbents, hurt independent drivers, and shut down Uber in Denver.
There are several things you can do right now.
1) Contact Gov. Hickenlooper and tell him, “Save Uber in Colorado! Withdraw PUC Rules Changes to sections 6001, 6301, & 6309.”
2) Contact the Colorado PUC Directly:
3) Sign the petition that shows the PUC your #UberDENVERLove.
Disclosure: I am NOT a direct investor in Uber, although I have personal investments in several VC funds that are invested in Uber. However, my ownership is tiny and the amount I’ve spent on Uber services since they launched several years in the bay area dwarfs the amount of money I’d ever expect to see from my indirect investment. I’ve written this because I love the service, love the company, and love their innovation. Society improves when innovators like Uber are able to do their thing – it’s a deeply held belief of mine – that’s why I’ve written this post.
TechStars New York City has just been a great program. With close to 200 awesome mentors, investors, and seasoned entrepreneurs that roll up their sleeves and dive in, it’s no surprise that we’ve already seen an exit from the 2011 class, and the average company raises over $1.5M after the program. Foundry Group has an investment in SideTour, a 2011 TechStars grad, and I’m personally planning on spending quite a bit of time in the spring to hang out with the program’s participants.
This year, the program is being run by TechStars CEO David Cohen, and six-time Managing Director Nicole Glaros. If you’d like to meet them in person and learn more about the program, you can attend an informational event on Tuesday, Jan 15th (virtually, or live).
Application deadline is Friday, January 18th at 11:59:59 – so get your applications in!
I’m starting to integrate a bunch of new stuff into the Startup Revolution site now that I’ve finished book #2: Startup Life: Surviving and Thriving in a Relationship with an Entrepreneur.
I’m looking for someone with web design chops who has experience with WordPress to work with me on some stuff. I’m using the TechStars HackStar model – I’ll pay a modest amount of money for a full-time or part-time and will plug you in aggressively to the TechStars and Foundry Group portfolio after three months if your work is awesome.
If you are interested, send me an email along with links to examples of what you’ve done. You don’t have to be in Boulder, but it’s an advantage if you are in or near one of Boulder, Boston, New York, Seattle, or San Antonio as it makes it easy to plug you into the network.
It’s 2012 and the “contact information problem” is getting exponentially worse. I’ve personally been struggling with this for 20+ years since I remember going from a custom database we built at Feld Technologies (in DataFlex) to Act! to try to manage the contacts across the company. While all the technology has changed, the problem has gotten substantially worse, as every web-based and mobile app now has some kind of contact info associated with it.
Today, there is no single authoritative contact record for an individual. I’ve been through a bunch of different iterations of technology around this such as SAML, FOAF, and Oauth. I remember Firefly and Passport. I’ve been involved in a number of companies who have tried to build “clean contact lists” and tried virtually every service I’ve ever run into. I’ve completely fucked up my address book more than once, especially as I tried to wire in data from other services that use Oauth or an email address to join data across web services. And yet we still have address blocks in emails, vcards, and crappy, incomplete, and incorrect data everywhere. And I still get referred to as Brad Batchelor in physical mail that I get from Wellesley College (which both Amy and I think is cute.)
Nothing works and it’s just getting worse. Fragmented data, incorrect data, changed data, duplicated data – it gets proliferated. All you need to do to see the core problem is look at the same data for a person in LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. Multiple email addresses, lots of different contact info, time-based information that isn’t treated correctly, and huge errors all over the place.
That’s why we’ve invested in FullContact. They are on a mission to solve the world’s contact information problem. Imagine a unified address book in the cloud that has perfect information for every single person with a contact record of any type. This unified address book is continually updated, cleansed, enriched, and validated. It integrates with every web-based or mobile application that uses any sort of contact data, and it is available to every developer via an API.
This is a massive data problem. The team at FullContact is approaching it as such. It’s one where the machines do all the work and don’t rely on us silly humans, or the IT people, to change behavior and systems. For a look behind the curtains watch this short example from FullContact’s Identibase.
If you are a developer, FullContact’s goal is for you to use their cloud address book via their API. If you are an individual, you can use the FullContact cloud address book as your source address book. And if you are a business, you can finally get a unified contact management system across your organization without having to do very much. Data will automagically get cleaned up, enriched, de-duplicated, validated, and backed up, making it easily accessible in any context.
We’ve gone after the world’s contact information problem a number of times in a number of different ways over the years with different investments. We’ve never been involved in conquering it and it’s just gotten worse. This is the first time I feel like we are investing in the right approach to solve the problem once and for all.
Oh – and we love the team. If you want a fun view of why, take a look at From Basements to Brad Feld: The Story of 126 NOs and 1 Big YES.
Amy and I collect contemporary art. If you’ve been in my office, or my house, or many of the companies in Boulder we’ve invested in, you’ve probably seen some of it. We ran out of wall space long ago and now have a bunch of it in storage. So we started collecting sculpture a few years ago.
Sculpture is a lot harder for us – we know what we love when we see 2d art so it’s a quick decision. But we have different tastes in sculpture and struggle with “do we like it” or “do we love it.” We subscribe to the “buy it if you love it and want to live with it” approach and don’t really care what the future value potential is. Some of our art has gone up a lot in value, so I suppose we are probably considered good value collectors, especially since we often buy early in an artist’s career and then keep buying deep when we find artists we love. But that’s not why we do it.
One of our favorite places to hang around in New York is the Chelsea gallery district. Many of the galleries are priced out of our zone, but we’ve made friends at a few like Danese and have bought regularly from them. Others, like Bertrand Delacroix, are regular stops for us when we are into.
Yesterday we wandered into Bertrand Delacroix. I immediately fell in love with two pieces by Beth Carter – the red Horsechild above and the Minotaur below. We now own both of them – the Horsechild will keep me company in my office and the Minotaur will guard my office door.
We had our Foundry Group annual meeting yesterday. I enjoy our annual meetings – we get to spent a focused chunk of time with our investors. We have a straightforward meeting – a dinner for our advisory board the night before, drinks after for all LPs, our advisory board meeting first thing in the morning, and then the full meeting until lunch time. There’s no crazy party, no big events – just substance on our part and direct interactions with the investors supporting us. Our goal is simple – provide a clear update about what is going on in our funds, talk about what we are thinking about, and get direct feedback from our investors.
We spend the day before the meeting as a team putting the final touches on our presentation and reflecting on the previous year. We always talk about our key principles that we established when we started Foundry Group in 2007. One of these key principles is a “thematic investing approach.” An important part of our themes is that they are continuously evolving (if interested, we publish details on how we are currently thinking about themes on our Foundry Group website.) Our LPs understand this well and always like to hear how we are currently thinking about themes at our meeting.
On Tuesday, we realized that we have made several investments yesterday that have a concept in common – that of raving fans. I first thought of raving fans when I read Ken Blanchard’s book by the same name in 1993 when I was CEO of Feld Technologies (my first company). The message rang true for me then and still does today. The tl;dr version is “Your customers are only satisfied because their expectations are so low and because no one else is doing better. Just having satisfied customers isn’t good enough anymore. If you really want a booming business, you have to create Raving Fans.”
Our investment in Sympoz (owners of Craftsy) is an example of a company built on raving fans. Craftsy is a community of people who love to make things – knitters, quilters, sewers, jewelers. If you know a knitter (I do – Amy is a fanatical knitter as is my mom Cecelia) you know that knitters are “raving fans of knitting.” We invested in Sympoz in our Distribution theme, but it has this special characteristic around its community that felt a little different to us.
We classify our investment in SideTour as “Other”. We say that we aren’t slaves to our themes – we’ll occasionally do something outside of a theme if we love the entrepreneurs and have a special connection to them. In the case of SideTour, they were one of our favorite companies in their TechStars New York class and we were infatuated with the types of experiences they were talking about providing in their marketplace. As we were talking about Sympoz (which is doing extraordinarily well) and SideTour, we realized that the “raving fans” concept applies to each of them.
I had a call yesterday with another entrepreneur running a company that we passed on the seed round. We all like the entrepreneur a lot, but the company didn’t feel like it fit in any of our themes and was too vertically oriented for us. The company is doing great and as we were talking about it a week or so ago we said “it feels a little like Sympoz, but has some characteristics of SideTour.” Yesterday, when I was talking to the entrepreneur, I realized it also was about a community of raving fans.
I love raving fans as the phrase for this theme since it sets an incredibly high bar of the dynamics of the people in the community these companies appeal to. These aren’t “vertical social networks” or “vertical exchange marketplaces” – there is something deeper going on in the relationship between the people and the company, and the people and community. And it’s something that is magically enabled by the current state of technology – mobile, video, real-time social – a bunch of things have come together than make this work.
Look for more on raving fans from us as it evolves. For now, you have a little bit of a window into how we think about themes.
Update – My partner Seth reminded me that our investment in CrowdTap (in our Adhesive theme) is all about helping brands interact with their raving fans, Todd Sawicki said “dude – how about Cheezburger” (in our Distribution theme) and Jeff Malek, the co-founder of BigDoor (in our Glue theme) said “ahem!” So it seems like we’ve got a lot companies involved in the construct of raving fans!
I am so psyched about the launch of Sphero. I’ve got mine (one of the first 10 made) and the line is gearing up to start shipping them out soon. Today I saw some of the new things getting cooked up to add on to the product and they are super amazing fun.
Today is Finance Friday and post #2 has been drafted by the Finance Friday team from University of Chicago Booth and is waiting for my edits. I’m procrastinating so I thought I’d write one of my periodic public service announcement for entrepreneurs. This one is more specific than “ignore the macro economy” – instead, it’s “ignore the Dow and the stock market and get back to work on your business.”
Tom Evslin had a post up this morning titled Don’t Watch The Dow! that caused me to say “right on.” In 1999, 2000, and 2001 I had a my.yahoo.com page up with a bunch of stocks, including a number of companies I was an investor in, as my home page. I’d hit refresh 5,321 times a day, generating plenty of CPM-based revenue for Yahoo. I’ve written about the emotional ups and downs in the past so I won’t repeat myself here other than to say this activity had zero impact on the stock market (I couldn’t do anything about it), it didn’t change my short term decision making (I’m not a trader), and all it resulted in was sucking a huge amount of emotional energy out of me.
When the market went down, I felt sad. When it went up I got the emotional equivalent of a sugar high. When it went back down again, I was bummed. Up – smile. Down – depressed. Up – happy. Down – cranky. And this was all before lunch time. Maybe it was too much coffee or not enough sleep, but it got even worse when the market shifted from 1/8s too 0.01s.
As an entrepreneur, this was all noise. As a long term VC investor, it was also all noise. Sure – the broad cycles had impact, although lots of people disagree on what they actually mean (e.g. do VCs actually benefit long term from down cycles, are the best companies started in recessions when everything is cheaper and more available).
Over time, I’ve learned that none of the short term moves in the stock market matter at all in my life. It’s occasionally entertaining to turn on CNBC and see my friend Paul Kedrosky in the octobox telling all the other people that they don’t actually understand macro-economics, but it’s no different than watching McEnroe when he’s announcing a Nadal – Federer match. It’s just sport.
So – for all the entrepreneurs in my world, take Tom’s great advice. Don’t Watch The Dow! And if you think Scott Kirsner is being sarcastic in his post titled How the players in the innovation economy rationalize away stock market dives, take a deep breath and consider whether the use of the word rationalize is correct or not.
Now, get back to work on something you can have an impact on!