Tag: dave jilk

May 25 2021

Shipped! The Entrepreneur’s Weekly Nietzsche

My newest book, The Entrepreneur’s Weekly Nietzsche: A Book for Disruptors, shipped today. It’s available on Amazon in Kindle, Paperback, and Hardcover. If you are so inclined, go buy a copy today!

I’m particularly proud of this book, as it is a more philosophical approach to entrepreneurship than my other books. I wrote it with Dave Jilk, the co-founder of our first company (Feld Technologies, 1987) and one of my closest friends for 38 years.

The book contains 52 individual chapters (hence the “Weekly” in the title) and is divided into five major sections (Strategy, Culture, Free Spirits, Leadership, and Tactics). Each chapter begins with a quote from one of Nietzsche’s works, using a public domain translation, followed by our own adaptation of the quote to 21st-century English. Next is a brief essay applying the quote to entrepreneurship. About two-thirds of the chapters include a narrative by or about an entrepreneur we know (or know of), telling a concrete story from their personal experience as it applies to the quote, the essay, or both.

Our goal with this book is to make you think, rather than try to tell you the answers. For example, here’s the Nietzsche quote from a chapter titled “Obsession” from the section on “Free Spirits”.

“The passion which seizes the noble man is a peculiarity, without his knowing that it is so: the use of a rare and singular measuring-rod, almost a frenzy: the feeling of heat in things that feel cold to all other persons: a divining of values for which scales have not yet been invented: a sacrificing on altars which are consecrated to an unknown God: a bravery without the desire for honor: a self-sufficiency which has superabundance: and imparts to men and things.”

Our interpretation is:

In other words: A noble man has exceptional passion, but does not realize just how unusual it is: he has high standards for success, enthusiasm for things that others find dull, a sense of what will be valuable in the future, intense but unexplained motivations, courage without the need for praise, and the ability to sustain and revel in this intensity without support from others.

And the chapter begins with:

You may have noticed that this chapter is titled Obsession, but Nietzsche seems to be talking about passion. For several years, Brad has written and spoken about the pitfalls of “passion” in entrepreneurs, distinguishing it from “obsession,” which is a quality he looks for. Dictionaries generally speak of passion as a strong emotion, while obsession is a preoccupation of the mind. We have a hunch that Nietzsche is trying to make a similar distinction here. The word “obsession” did not come into common use until later. Earlier in the text, he says, “What then makes a person ‘noble’?…Certainly not that he generally follows his passions; there are contemptible passions.” It is worth asking yourself whether you are obsessed with your business and the problem it solves for customers or merely passionate about it.

If you intend to disrupt an industry or change the world, you must expect people to see you as crazy, intransigent, and possibly sociopathic. Maybe you are. To sustain yourself and your efforts in such a climate, you must find your drive within. You must know your vision and why it matters to you. Importantly, you cannot feel that its correctness depends on your ability to explain it to others. You must be obsessed.

Each essay from us is two to three pages long, so they are easy to quickly consume and then reflect on. The narratives from entrepreneurs telling their story as it applies to the quote are also a few pages long.

For one more taste, here’s the Nietzsche quote and our interpretation chapter called “Attracting Followers” from the chapter on “Leadership”.

“Men press forward to the light not in order to see better but to shine better.—The person before whom we shine we gladly allow to be called a light.”

In other words: People are drawn to light because it shines on them, not because it shows them the way. A person who makes us shine is someone we gladly call a light.”

I hope this inspires you to get a copy of The Entrepreneur’s Weekly Nietzsche: A Book for Disruptors. I’d love to hear what you think about it.

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May 19 2021

New Book: The Entrepreneur’s Weekly Nietzsche

My newest book, The Entrepreneur’s Weekly Nietzsche: A Book for Disruptors, comes out next Tuesday, May 25th.

This has been an on-again, off-again project with Dave Jilk that began in 2013. We were spending the weekend in Keystone with our wives (Amy and Maureen), which generally involved a lot of sitting around reading. Dave was reading On Nietzsche by Eric Steinhart. He read a quote to me and asked if I thought it sounded like an entrepreneur. Dave remembers me saying, “Hmmm, it sure does.” Then we both went back to our books. 

At the time, I knew nothing about Nietzsche. Actually, I knew less than nothing since everything I knew about him was wrong.

Dave is one of my best friends. We met over 38 years ago, on my first day at MIT, right after the freshman picnic, when I ended up in a van that took me to ADP, the fraternity I ended up joining and living at for four years. Dave was a senior, and we became best friends. We started a company that year with Sameer Gandhi and Andy Mina called Martingale Software that failed pretty quickly. Several years later, we started Feld Technologies, which we ran together from 1987 to 1993 when we sold it to Sage Alerting Systems, which later renamed itself to AmeriData Technologies. We kept working together – him as an entrepreneur, me as an investor.

But “business” is only a small part of our relationship. For any close friendship that lasts 38 years, he has a better understanding of me than almost anyone else on this planet (Amy has him beat.) So, theoretically, he knew what he was getting into when we decided to start writing a book together. I expect there was a moment, though, where he shouted at the top of his lungs, “Brad, enough with the fucking commas.”

We made progress in fits and starts. Most of the fits were a result of me getting distracted by something else. Sometimes it was work. Sometimes it was another book that got in the way. Sometimes it was burnout – writing, work, or just general lassitude. Dave hung in there each time, giving me space, moving things forward without me, and then when I resurfaced, quickly kicking back into gear on his end to respond to whatever I was doing.

I’ll write plenty more about the book, Nietzsche, and why we think Nietzsche is so relevant to entrepreneurs, but I want to end with two paragraphs of appreciate for people.

The first is Ryan Holiday, who was an inspiration for me with his book The Daily Stoic. I read a page almost every day. Ryan inspires me at so many levels, but his ability to make stoicism accessible to entrepreneurs has been magical and transformative for many people I know, including me. I’m hopeful Dave and I can emulate even a tiny bit of what Ryan has accomplished, but this time with Nietzsche.

The second is Reid Hoffman. He agreed to write the foreword several years ago when I first told him about this project. He waited patiently, and he produced a brilliant foreword that captures the essence of what we’ve tried to do with the book. In addition, as a bonus, he used Nietzsche’s writing style for some of it. Reid is a great human, and I deeply appreciate his involvement in this project.

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Mar 17 2021

Happy Birthday Dad and Dave

Two of my favorite men on planet Earth have birthdays today.

Happy birthday Dad.

Happy birthday Dave.

I’ve learned an incredible amount from each of you. And, given all the time the three of us have spent together, from both of you.

One of the best things I’ve learned from each of you is a love of wide-open physical spaces. Dad – I’m so glad you and Mom created Woodcreek Ranch.

Dave – thank you for all the 14ers. I hope to climb many more with you.

Even though we’ve spent a lot of time together as a threesome, one, in particular, stands out. We had a Feld Technologies board retreat in the fall of 1987. I remember the date because it was during the Bork confirmation hearing. We spent the time in New Hampshire, drove around looking at leaves, and talking about what Feld Technologies could become now that the summer of 1987, which was full of missteps, was over. We did a huge reset that weekend on what we were doing, which set Feld Technologies on a path where it was profitable every month for the rest of its life. The other path could have been the death of the company, so it remains a potent and formative moment for me.

Happy birthday to you both!

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Jan 29 2020

Distilled Moments: Poems By Dave Jilk

Dave Jilk was my first business partner (we co-founded Feld Technologies). The photo above is from Dave’s office at 155 Federal Street around 1991. We worked closely together for seven years before selling the company in 1993 to a public company called Sage Alerting Systems, which renamed itself Sage Technologies and then finally AmeriData Technologies. Well, at least the “Technologies” survived that naming transition …

Dave recently published a book of poetry titled Distilled Moments. I read it Sunday night and it’s delicious. If you are into poetry, a friend of Dave’s, or just want a taste of something different from your normal reading stuff, grab a copy.

If, when I met Dave in 1983, you had told me that he would become a poet later in his life, I would have spit out whatever food or drink was in my mouth at the time and rolled around on the ground laughing for a while. I think the only time I ever associated poetry and Dave in my mind is when he would use a phrase like “Physics for Poets” to describe a class at MIT I was considering taking.

Dave and I met on my second day in Cambridge in 1983. I spent my first day alone, feeling very confused and lonely as I wandered around MIT trying to figure out where I was. I crossed the Mass Ave bridge into Boston, had dinner by myself, and went to back to my assigned room in Baker House with three other guys, two of whom immediately got stoned and smoked pot for the rest of the evening (not my thing.)

The next afternoon was the MIT Freshman picnic. On a beautiful fall Cambridge day, Paul Gray (then president of MIT) gave a welcoming speech where, in typical MIT fashion, he said something like:

Look around. Your fellow freshmen are the best and brightest from around the world. Never forget that it is simple math that 50% of you will be in the bottom half of your class.

After talking for a few minutes, he ended by shouting “Let the Rush begin!”

Suddenly, hundreds of people descended on us with signs for their fraternities and living groups (there were no sororities at MIT in 1983.) Two guys I didn’t know – Mark Dodson and Ramanujam Manikkalingam – grabbed me and said, “Come with us.” I jumped in a van, was driven to ADP at 351 Mass Ave, and never left.

I met Dave that first night and we have been best friends ever since. He was a senior when I was a freshman, so we didn’t live together for that long, but we spent a lot of weekend time together. I became close with his first boss, Will Herman, and with Warren Katz (who we met through our seventh employee, Ilana Katz), continue to be extremely close friends.

Now that you’ve got the backstory, I’ll finish this post off with a few teasers from Distilled Moments that I loved.

Following is Twenty-Three, a poem about the morning after a night out together.

This one is my favorite business-related one, titled The Elephant in the Room.

I’ll end the teasers with the beginning of Take the Gloves Off, which is awesomely creative and full of business cliches.

There are many more. Support a friend, a Boulder-based poet, someone who I never expected would be a poet, or just a dear, dear friend by buying a copy of Distilled Moments.

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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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Jul 2 2012

The Simple Formal Beginnings Of Feld Technologies

My first business partner, Dave Jilk, emailed me our original partnership agreement for Feld Technologies. It’s one page.

We incorporated a month later as an S-Corp. It cost us $99 to do this – I remember using an organization called The Company Corporation – we called an 800 number, gave them some information, and the documents were automatically generated and filed. A short letter agreement specifying the equity splits and the boilerplate legal docs were the only legal docs we had until we sold the company in 1993.

As my partner Jason Mendelson told me after I sent him this the other day, “If things go well, it’s fine. If they don’t, it’s a fucking disaster.”  And he’s completely correct – in this case things went well so there were no issues.

I continue to try to do deals this way. I lay out the terms, will negotiate a little, but am clear about what I want. If it works, great. If it doesn’t, I move on. Once the simple terms are agreed to, I let the lawyers generate hundreds of pages of documentation to support the deal. I used to read every word on every page myself (I learned that from Len Fassler, who bought Feld Technologies). I still look through the documents, but I only work with lawyers who I deeply trust to do it right (like Mike Platt at Cooley) so I focus on the stuff that matters for the specific deal.

Trust matters more than anything else to me in a deal. Sure, I occasionally get screwed in a deal, but never more than once by the same person. And, for people like Dave Jilk and my dad, I’ll work with them over and over and over again because I trust them with my life.

Keep it simple. It’s much better.

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