I’ve decided to hire two people for 2017: a full time writer and a full time WordPress Goddess (or God – I’m good with either gender …)
I’ve been very reticent to add people to our team. However, at this point it’s clear that I can get a lot of leverage from two very specific people.
Writer: I’m looking for a full time non-fiction writer. This is not a research function, but rather a writing / editing / coordination function. The amount of writing I do is significant, but there is 5x more to do than I can handle. I’m turning down a lot of stuff that I’d like to write and putting off stuff into an infinite backlog which doesn’t feel good. So, having someone writing first drafts, editing stuff I slap together, writing some primary content, and helping get it posted in the right places would be a big help.
WordPress Goddess: I contribute to four – soon to be five – blogs that my best assessment of is a hot mess of different configurations. Every time I fiddle around with something on one of them I break something else. Ideally I’d be able to normalize everything into one configuration, but I accept that this will always be changing. The person I’m looking for here has a mix of design skills and WordPress programming / config skills. In addition, there’s a bunch of other stuff in the infinite backlog of goodness to work on.
Each of these people would work directly for me. Optimally they’d live in or move to Boulder, but that’s not a requirement. They must be interested in entrepreneurship and be able to deal with lots of ambiguity. They must be comfortable with a lack of daily structure and reporting. They must be able to work remotely at times.
I’m willing to make a two year commitment to them, so they need to be willing to make a two year commitment to me.
If you are interested, just email me at email@example.com. If you know someone who might be a fit, please forward this post to them.
In the cold light of morning, I just deleted three draft blog posts that I wrote last night during a bout of insomnia.
Their titles are telling about what was on my mind at 1am in the morning.
I usually write posts in real time (like this one). I don’t have a lot of drafts stored up nor do I spent a lot of time editing and trying to get the posts just right. Instead, I use my posts to think out loud as I play with ideas, explore my thoughts, or just write what is on my mind. I generally do one edit pass after I’ve written the post and then hit publish.
When I have a thought that occurs to me during the day and don’t have time to write a post, I toss a title into my WordPress Drafts folder and add bullet points on what is in my mind to the body of the post. Each of the three posts above were in my WordPress Draft folder (which had 18 this morning and now has 15) which accumulated over the past two months. The number ebbs and flows as I use a draft about once a week to stimulate a post.
I jammed through all three of these last night – it was probably an hour of writing. I just read through them to see what I had written. I found a bowl of illogical word soup mixed with random crap. While there were plenty of interesting thoughts, the sum total of them was a giant pile of incoherence.
I started rewriting SaaS + Transaction Fees and then got bored. I realized it’d be better to just delete the crap and start over some time in the future when the urge to write about this hit me again.
Over the last twelve years of blogging I’ve deleted many draft posts. When I think about the books I’ve written, it probably takes 150,000 – 200,000 words to get a 50,000 page book. Highlighting something and hitting Cmd-X is second nature.
I often get asked how I write so much. As any writer knows, the answer is to write a lot more than you actually publish. Accepting that part of the process of writing is deleting a lot of what you write is soothing, at least to me.
Yesterday’s post titled The Silliness Of Recapping Seed Rounds generated a robust discussion. It also inspired Joanne Wilson to write a post titled Recapping a round?? which is a description of a different situation and a different company, but generated a similar negative response from Joanne. In her case, the new investor insisted that the cap on the notes (for money that had already been spent) be raised so the seed investors would get less ownership than they’d signed up for, regardless of the investment the new investor is making.
I’ll just let Joanne, who works harder than almost anyone I know, and certainly adds more value to her angel investments than many VCs do, simply speak for herself.
“How do I feel about this? I am furious. I feel like I got hosed. I took a big risk by putting money in early on and now a VC with power behind them comes in and says here is the deal or we won’t let you in to our fold. What should have the investors done? Revolt? What is the point of that? Then we all lose. So I did what I believe in first and foremost and that is supporting the entrepreneur. The one caveat I made with the entrepreneur (which is purely blowing air) is that if this VC doesn’t secure a killer Series A for you then I will personally come out to SF and make this all public and have a showdown. If you are going to screw me and all the investors who came in around me then you better make it something we can all feel good about in the long run because right now I am just holding my nose.”
In my comment thread, and in Joanne’s, a number of folks asked us to call out the various players (especially the investors and the company) by name. I have no interest in doing that and I’ve said so. I’ve gotten a number of private emails asking me about the players. Same response – I’m not interested in calling people out by name.
Someone eventually asked me why and I thought it was worth a response.
I don’t write things like this blog to attack people. I don’t do it because I need to vent when I get upset. My motivation isn’t to create public fights. It’s also not to use this blog as a bully pulpit to negotiate, as someone suggested.
Instead, I do it for the same reason that Jason Mendelson and I wrote around 30 blog posts about the term sheet in 2004 and 2005 and then followed it up with our book Venture Deals: Be Smarter Than Your Lawyer and Venture Capitalist. We started writing stuff like this to demystify the process for entrepreneurs.
I think stories and examples are often the best way for people to learn things, including me. By writing down my thoughts about situations, I process them. I put them out there for anyone who wants to learn from them, explore them, or match them against their own experience. I try to do it in a way that contrasts all the rah rah bullshit that goes around with the resistance, hesitation, or inability for people to talk clearly and directly about the challenging stuff. And it’s especially pertinent as time passes, as things continuously change.
Not everything I write ends up being correct. I miss nuances. I don’t understand all the pieces. I learn by putting my thoughts out there and engaging with people in their reactions to what I write.
As a result, there are many cases like this where there is no value in naming names. The actual participants are just part of the story, but not the central theme. It’s my interpretation of what happened. Whomever else is involved with this situation (the investors and entrepreneurs) can decide whether it matters to them, or not, and act accordingly.
But I’m not a reporter. I’m just trying to teach. And learn. And observe. And hopefully help a few more entrepreneurs as they continue through an endlessly challenging, complex, and stressful journey.
Every few years I update the look and feel of my blog. This year is a significant upgrade, both on look and feel as well as the entire back end infrastructure.
In the past six months, I’ve started to notice complexity creep into everything in our world. While design is still front and center for many developers and entrepreneurs, I’ve gotten tired of the overwhelming UIs, confusing UXs, and immense complexity under the hood. It’s kind of like a calendar that just keeps getting stuff added to it – all of a sudden you are busy for all of your waking hours with meetings, and have no time to really get any work done.
We took a completely bottoms up approach this time and started from scratch. We tossed everything out and rebuilt everything – the infrastructure, the blog, and the design – from the ground up.
A thing you probably won’t notice, but is the starting point, is that we’ve moved feld.com to Pantheon. We are investors and love the company. The only thing you should notice is lightning fast response all the time, regardless of traffic load. If you ever notice anything different, please tell me.
Next, we approached the design from a minimalist perspective, which is coming back into vogue in a lot of places. My blog was starting to feel like a Geocities site to me, with all kinds of additional crap on it beyond my writing, and I decided I just wanted it to focus on my writing and my community in the comments. I copied Fred Wilson in this regard as he made this shift a while ago. After looking at many popular blogs, I kept coming back to his approach.
We’ve tried to do this in a way that keeps the writing front and center but still has easy access to other things on feld.com. On the left is site specific stuff, such as additional feld.com content (About, Investments, and Marathons), clear discovery (Search, Categories, and Tags). On the right is post specific actions (Comments, Category for the Post, Tags for the Post, and Sharing options.)
If you want to subscribe to anything or follow me anywhere, that’s on the top right.
We’ve also rebuilt the data underlying things from scratch. We’ve gotten rid of a ton of plug-ins that either weren’t being used or didn’t add anything (other than slowing the site down). We worked hard on a site that could be viewed on any platform, regardless of browser or mobile device. And we’ve tried to keep the principle of clean, minimal, and readable – with the focus on the content – throughout.
I’m sure there are many, many things we could improve. As I roll into 2015, we are going to finalize this theme with your feedback, and then apply it to all the other active sites in our universe, especially StartupRev.com which desperately needs an overhaul.
So – comment with any feedback you have – good, bad, and other. Constructive or flamey. In the comments, or via email to me. And, if we blew it, we’ll keep iterating.
I’ve been stalled trying to get through two books: Startup Opportunities (with Sean Wise) and Startup Metrics
(with Seth Levine). Dane McDonald (FG Press CEO) and my assistant Eugene Wan created a book cover recently to try to inspire me, as an homage to Do More Faster (with David Cohen).
It worked. I’ve gotten a lot of writing on Startup Opportunities done in the last week and I expect this week to be a good one.
Last year Inc. Magazine invited me to write a quarterly article for them for both Inc. Magazine and Inc.com. I wrote three – this is my last one. I’ve enjoyed writing for Inc., but earlier this year decided to stop writing for other web sites, at least for a while, as it had become a burden with all the other writing that I’m doing. I thought it would be fun for my last article in Inc. to be self-referential, so I wrote this article about why I write. You can find it on Inc.com at The Best Way to Improve How You Think.
I set out to be an entrepreneur and then an investor. I became a writer almost by accident. Now, I can’t imagine not writing–it’s something I do daily. It’s how I problem solve. And it’s crucial to my continued learning and growth.
In the late 1980s, I started my first company, Feld Technologies, which wrote custom software for companies. This was back when personal computers were becoming popular in a business context. But they were complex. Computer salesmen hawked them speaking a language you didn’t understand, in a style that could have worked equally well on a used-car lot.
Our clients wanted to understand what they were buying. They didn’t care about RAM or CONFIG.SYS settings. So I started writing memos about how the computers and the software they were buying would solve their business problems.
I moved my writing online in the mid-1990s and eventually to my own blog, Feld Thoughts. I had become an angel investor using some of the money I’d made from the sale of Feld Technologies, and those experiences provided plenty of blog fodder. My partner Jason Mendelson and I even churned out a series on venture capital financing. This was during a time when venture funding was in the dumps, and the process was opaque. In about 30 posts, we demystified it. Finally, after almost 20 years of writing, the light bulb went on for me.
I write to think.
Forcing myself to sit down and work through these ideas in a logical sequence for an audience of readers required me to refine my thinking on how I invest in startups. How could I make the financing process more efficient? What’s the best way to structure a deal? I learned a lot, both from my writing and my readers’ responses.
As a result, my approach to VC deals changed after those posts. I simplified my deal terms. I stopped negotiating over nonsense. I had no patience for long arguments over things that didn’t matter.
My thoughts really began to crystallize when I started writing books. In 2010, I co-wrote Do More Faster: Techstars Lessons to Accelerate Your Startup, with Techstars CEO and co-founder David Cohen. During this process, David and I nailed down many of the startup strategies that had been rolling around in our heads. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Techstars’s growth accelerated, as did the growth of the companies we worked with, after publishing that book.
This is not to say that everyone should write books. But some form of regular writing is one of the best ways to give yourself time for reflection and analysis. It could be any kind of writing. Consider Jeff Bezos’s approach to meetings. Whoever runs the meeting writes a memo no longer than six pages about the issue at hand. Then, for the first 15 to 30 minutes of the meeting, the group reads it. The rest of the meeting is spent discussing it. No PowerPoint allowed. Brilliant. (I’ve long felt that PowerPoint is a terrible substitute for critical thinking.)
As helpful as I find writing daily to be, it doesn’t always come easily. I often go through long, dry stretches where my writing is uninspired. I stare at the screen, pecking out a few words hesitantly. This used to frustrate me, but now I realize it’s just part of the process. Part of the trick is figuring out your most productive writing conditions; for me, it’s early in the morning or late at night, preferably with Pink Floyd, electronic music, or classical piano blaring.
Many people might find a blank screen with its blinking cursor terrifying. Where do I even begin? you might ask. These days, I much prefer staring at that screen to standing up in front of a crowd. I think better, and I learn much more.
One of my goals, and a tactic for being happier, this year is Doing More By Doing Less More Deeply. To that end, I’ve decided to stop writing for other web sites and magazines.
Over the past few years, I’ve expanded the “channels” that my original writing appears in. In some cases, I’ve written specific content for sites and magazines like Inc. and Entrepreneur. In other cases I’m participating in the grand content expansion strategies of sites like LinkedIn, Huffington Post, WSJ, and Forbes. And in others, it’s just random stuff on sites from people building up their content in a particular area.
While it’s been a fun experiment, it has become an overwhelming chore. I get a request for something new from somewhere multiple times a week. I say no a lot, but I’m constantly having to think to myself “do I want to do this or not.” I’ve never been good at moderating, so it’s much easier for me to abstain and just say no to everything.
In some cases I’ve done this to learn about the content expansion strategies of either tradition or new media companies. I feel like that learning has hit very significant diminishing returns – sure there is more to learn, but it’s not significant enough to outweigh the effort and cost.
I love to write. And I very much appreciate the opportunity others have given me to contribute content to their sites. But I’ve gotten tired of the pressure from external sites to produce material for them on a particular time frame or in response to prompted topics, which some people love but I’ve grown to dislike. And most importantly, I’ve realized that I really like three types of writing best.
I’ve been spending a lot of my writing energy recently on a new project that we are about to unveil. I expect that by stopping writing for other sites, I’ll free up enough energy to allocate what I want to for this project. And that feels like Doing More By Doing Less More Deeply.
Every year or so I freshen up the Feld Thoughts design. This time I did it with the help of Cole Morrison, who is the Hackstar I hired at the end of last year.
I’ve gotten some feedback so far but am looking for more. And I’m happy to get whatever you’ve got for us – nice, constructive, or harsh. Whatever comes to mind – just toss it in the comments or email it.
For an example of “substantial” and “harsh” take a look at this. Like all helpful feedback, it’s very precise and actionable.
Historically, most of my writing has been either on my blogs or the books that I’ve written. Occasionally I’ve written for magazines, like a year-long stretch I did for Entrepreneur a few years ago, and longer form articles of mine appear in different places every now and then. But pretty much everything I write ends up on Feld Thoughts at some point.
I’m going to experiment with some different channels this year. The two that I’ve already gotten into a regular, once a week rhythm with are LinkedIn Influencers and the Wall Street Journal Accelerators. I’m putting up a lot more content on the Startup Revolution site and I’ll be adding at least one more channel in the next 30 days. Finally, I’m doing more guest posts, such as the article I wrote for Amazon Money & Markets titled Startups Are Everywhere.
Up to know I’ve been generally reposting these on Feld Thoughts. But in the next 30 days I plan to change the landing page for feld.com to include all the different channels, and I’ll also do my best to splice up a single feed for everything I write.
Like all things, this is an experiment. I haven’t figured out whether I like this or not, but I’m enjoying playing with different channels, different audiences, and engaging with an audience and other thought leaders around a specific topic.
For example, this week’s WSJ Accelerator question was “Is it possible for a startup founder to work on two or three products (or startups) at once?” Some posts include mine, which was “No, Mostly“, Steve Blank saying “Don’t Confuse Science Experiments With Commitments“, and Joanne Wilson stating “Choose One Company and One Company Only.” Each different article adds to a broader thought, which is part of the joy of “mentor whiplash” we talk about all the time in TechStars. Ultimately, you have to make your own decision as an entrepreneur – we are just providing data for you.
I’m at CES this week. If you want to see why, check out my LinkedIn post titled Why I Go To CES. And, if you are at CES and want me to stop by your booth, leave a comment here.
If you’ve figured out a great way to be a multi-channel content publisher, I’m all ears. Or, as a reader of this blog, if you have a strong opinion about what I’m doing, please weigh in. Remember – this is just an experiment.
As Amy and I continue to crank away on Startup Life: Surviving and Thriving in a Relationship with an Entrepreneur, I learned a funny, perplexing, and strange thing. There apparently is an editorial standard, at least at Wiley, for the words “fuck” and “fucking”.
Fuck = F%^$
Fucking = F*&^%$#
Crazy. Hilarious. Fun. Bizarre.
I discovered this yesterday as I was going through and making all the changes to the feedback from our “publisher draft” submission which we got back on Friday. We’ve got plenty of dialogue with the words “fuck” and “shit” in them because (a) that’s how a lot of humans, including us, talk and (b) when there’s conflict, which we cover a lot in the book, the words “fuck” and “shit” tend to fly.
For some reason “shit” is ok. It made it through this particular edit pass. But “fuck” did not, except in a particular phrase, “fuck you money.” Let’s see if that one survives the next edit pass. And, when the final book comes out, we’ll see if shit did as well.
Back to working on the book. The final deadline is 10/22 so if you see me in the next nine days and you want to torture me, just ask “how’s the book going.” I expect you’ll hear some variant of f%^$ in my response.