Brad Feld

Category: Venture Capital

There have been many different approaches to ranking VC Firms over the years I’ve been an entrepreneur and a VC. Each approach I’ve seen has issues. Most are easily gamed or have statistical bias issues.

I got the following note from Roy Bahat at Bloomberg Beta a while ago about a new approach called Founder’s Choice.

We and a few other firms sponsored a “founders choice” version of the Midas List, with a legit (IMHO) rating methodology, built by two Penn students. No vitriol possible (unlike The Funded, etc.). We’ve wanted this to exist for a long time — NPS of us as a firm is too forgiving a metric, everyone scores well.

My first question was:

How are they dealing with sampling bias on this one? For example, we send to all our founders and say “please fill this out and give us high scores.” Mostly just curious on methodology.

Roy had a thoughtful answer that made me a believer after a few more questions.

You are literally the only one (and I’m relieved someone did) to ask on sampling bias. For context, the general way it works is founders auth with LinkedIn and then the product tosses away their identity (or, more accurately, only keeps a hash and disconnects it from their ratings). Then the founders get asked for pairwise comparisons of only the VC firms who have backed them (so this is about who founders like as investors, not who has sour grapes from a pitch). How this addresses, to a degree, sampling bias:

1. Dampens outliers: because it only asks for pairwise comparisons between firms (like an ELO rating in chess, if you’re familiar), one very un/happy respondent can only affect so much, and same for a sample. (As opposed to giving one firm a 10 and everyone else 2’s or something.)

2. At the same time, it forces comparisons. A firm can ask founders to rate them highly, but ultimately founders have to choose who gave them more value. Can’t rate everyone a 10.

3. This is why we’re looking for as broad participation as possible, because the sampling bias will actually probably most show up in which firms even have enough ratings to count. (Like ELO in chess, more ratings doesn’t necessarily help you — you get more “points” if a founder rates you as better than a highly-rated firm. More ratings can just as easily hurt as help.)

If you are a founder, go spend five minutes and anonymously rank your VCs on Founder’s Choice.


Registration for the Venture Deals Fall 2022 course is open.

The course is free and starts on September 20, 2022. This is the second time we are running the new version of the course (v2!) that was co-created with Techstars and Kauffman Fellows.

If interested, sign up now. I hope to see you there in one of the AMAs we will host for anyone who takes the course.


Connie Loizos is one of the long-time tech industry writers who I respect. I don’t respond to many interview requests these days, but I’ll always talk to her.

She has a good article today in TechCrunch titled Embrace the down round (it’s going to be okay, maybe). I like the quote she pulled out of me in our conversation.

[Brad Feld] says his “strong belief” that “just doing a clean resetting — at whatever the valuation so that everybody is aligned and dealing with reality —  is much, much better for a company.”

Now, I’m not encouraging anyone to do a down round if unnecessary., especially when many existing investors are currently willing to add on additional dollars at the most recent valuation. If you can do this cleanly, take the money.

Rather, when you have a choice between a financing at a lower valuation and a financing with all kinds of crazy structure to try to maintain a previous valuation, negotiate the best price you can but do a clean financing with no structure.

If you don’t know what I mean by structure, they are terms like:

  • Multiple liquidation preferences (you’ll start seeing lots of 2x and 3x on new money)
  • Participating preferred on new money
  • Weird ratchets (other than the typical weighted average), including full ratchets, on next round financings
  • Annual preferred return, including PIK and cash pay on new money
  • Blocks on all kinds of things that a new investor should not have blocking rights on

… and a bunch of other things.

Sometimes, given your syndicate configuration, you have no choice but to take structure in a new round. But if you can do a clean financing at a lower price, I always think that’s a better option for everyone (founders, employees, and existing investors.)

While my optimistic personality hopes this downturn/adjustment is short-lived, I fear it won’t be. So, as an entrepreneur, I encourage you to deal with reality.


Like many people, I’m currently deep in SPACland. I’ve been writing privately about it a lot but have now crossed over into a zone where I feel like writing more publicly about it.

When Jason and I wrote the first edition Venture Deals in 2011, we built off a series of 30+ blog posts we wrote in 2005 about Term Sheets. It’s fun to explore them for historical reference since Jack Bauer plays a major part in the posts.

While these posts were the seed for what is now a book (Venture Deals: Be Smarter Than Your Lawyer And Venture Capitalist), it was also a way for us to think through all the elements of a VC financing, back at a time when there was enormous opacity about how these worked, along with massive information asymmetry between people who did them all the time (e.g., us) and the entrepreneur, who did a few of these over her lifetime.

While the web is a much noisier place in 2021 than it was in 2005, the opacity and information asymmetry around SPACs are remarkably similar to what existed 16 years ago around venture deals.

The cliche “everyone’s an expert, but no one knows anything” applies. Yes, there are some experts, but not that many. And the amount of misinformation, misperception, opacity, and information asymmetry is enormous.

As I continue to write privately, I’m going to start writing more publicly. And I encourage comments, feedback, and corrections.

While there is much debate about SPACs, I believe they are a long-term part of the capital stack. They are evolving rapidly, which is part of what is so interesting about them, at least to me.


We are running the Venture Deals Online Course from March 7, 2021 – April 30, 2021.

We’ve moved the Venture Deals Community from Slack to Mighty Networks where we have much more functionality and flexibility.

Once again, we’ll do a weekly AMA with a variety of people participating.

For now, registration is open. Please sign up if you want to take the Spring 2021 Venture Deals Online Course.


We are running the Venture Deals Online Course from September 13, 2020 – November 6, 2020.

Our summer session had over 10,000 registrants and over 2,000 people completing the course. We got a lot of feedback about things to improve, several of which we are introducing into the Fall session.

Once again, we’ll do a weekly AMA with a variety of people participating. We are also creating a new Venture Deals online community available to all past and current participants of the course. We’ll provide the link for the online community on day one (we’ll be using Mighty Networks, which I’ve loved for my virtual Startup Community.)

For now, registration is open. Please sign up if you want to take the Fall 2020 Venture Deals Online Course.


I had a really nice week off the grid. More on that in another post.

I woke up this morning with a very long run in mind. The air quality in Longmont is awful because of the forest fires and, after checking the weather on my iPhone and seeing an air quality index of 138, I decided that a run wasn’t going to happen.

So, I ate breakfast with Amy and read the Sunday New York Times.

That was an error. Breakfast was great, but the NY Times was awful. Well, the paper wasn’t awful, but it made me feel awful. I hadn’t read any news all week, including any tech news, and 15 minutes of turning the pages made me anxious.

I think that’s the last time I’m going to read the NY Times.

I needed a palate cleanser. I saw on Slack that my partner Moody released episodes two and three of his Venture Kills vlog. Since I’d finished off The Last Dance during the week, I figured watching Moody might work to shift my mood.

I should have just watched this and skipped the NYT. I feel mostly back to normal now.


My partner Chris Moody decided to be a vlogger and has started a new video series. I suggested he hang out on TikTok but he prefers trying to get famous on Youtube.

So far he has 57 Views but 102 Subscribers. I find that fascinating.

Enjoy!


We are running the Venture Deals Online Course again this summer. But before I get to that, I want to highlight a blog post from a Black colleague. I’m getting, and reading, many of these each day. For the foreseable future, I’ll highlight and amplify one at the beginning of each post I do, in case you are interested.

Today’s post is from Ruben Porras, who is a Techstars alum (Director of Operations at CreatorBox.) He wrote Black Lives Matter. At Work. In Life.

The country, collectively, has grieved five times in 60 years. People of color have collectively grieved five times in 2 weeks. And we carry that into work, school, our relationships, and are expected to be okay— even if and when we’re not.

Well, white friends, white allies, I’m done being uncomfortable alone. If you’re a white ally in racial justice, if you’re committed to being anti-racist, if you see that our peace, our harmony, our healing, and progress are bound together, then its time for you to share in this uncomfortability.

I encourage you go to read Ruben’s post Black Lives Matter. At Work. In Life.


We are running the Venture Deals Online Course from June 28, 2020 – August 21, 2020. We usually only run it twice a year (Spring and Fall), but given the Covid crisis, we’ve had many requests to run it this summer.

We’ve now had over 20,000 people take it. The last cycle was particularly fun as several of the AMAs I did had around 1,000 people on it. Someone also set up a Slack channel for the course which I was active in and met a number of new friends.

Registration is open now. Please sign up if you want to take the Summer 2020 Venture Deals Online Course.