At Foundry Group, we have a deeply held belief that we benefit from our local community (Boulder, in our case) and that we have a responsibility, as we have success, to give back to our local community.
My partner Seth Levine just had an excellent OpEd in the Boulder Daily Camera explaining this. It’s titled Entrepreneurs can give back, by giving early to EFCO. In it he explains more about Entrepreneurs Foundation of Colorado (EFCO) and Pledge 1%, two organizations we have helped create.
Seth also describes our recent gift of $300,000, via EFCO, to Boulder-based non-profits, to fill a gap in funding from Foothills United Way that happened recently.
“The Community Foundation Serving Boulder County announced last week it will grant an additional $300,000 to local Boulder County nonprofits this summer in response to a 62 percent cut in funding from Foothills United Way. The grants will be funded by Foundry through our membership in the Entrepreneurs Foundation of Colorado (EFCO).”
While many people view Boulder as a wealthy town, we have our share of people struggling to make ends meet. In fact, as Seth highlights in his OpEd:
“We hope this money will impact the thousands of local families and individuals who struggle to make ends meet in what is viewed by many as a wealthy, prosperous community. In fact, Boulder County has higher poverty rates than Colorado as a whole, and more than 9,000 children in our community live below the poverty level (defined as just over $24,000 per year for a family of four.)”
Amy and I contribute personally to several of the non-profits that this funding will go to. But, with EFCO, many more people can help. This gift is from Foundry Group and involved all the people (11 of them) who work for Foundry Group, not just the four partners. And, when you go to the EFCO page and see the list of the other 70+ or so companies that are members, you start to get a sense as to the power of the startup community in giving back to the broader community.
To date, Boulder-based startups such as Rally Software, Gnip, Revolv, Mocavo, DocPopcorn, Techstars, and Filtrbox have joined Foundry Group in distributing more than $3.5 million to Colorado community nonprofits since 2007 at the point of exit — when companies are either acquired or go public.
If you are a founder of a company and subscribe to the #GiveFirst motto that is so central to the Boulder startup community, give me a shout if you want to get plugged into EFCO (if you are in Colorado) or Pledge 1% (if you are anywhere else in the world).
Part of the fun of having a blog for a long time is that it captures some of the history – in the moment – of what’s going on. For example, from a post in 2008 about Rally’s $16.85m financing, I riffed on the origins of the company.
Rally started out life as F4 Technologies. I remember my friend Ryan Martens sitting down with me and Chris Wand around 2001 and walking us through his idea for changing the how he approached managing the software development process. I can’t remember if Ryan used the word Agile at that time, but I remember scribbles on a white board that listed out all the different software that Ryan had used at BEA to manage his dev team and how maddening it was to try to integrate information in Word, Excel, Project, a dev workbench, a set of testing tools, and the support / QA system. Ryan had a vision for an integration web-based system to layer on top of all of this to help support and manage the software development process.
We weren’t the first investor in Rally. Ryan quickly raised about $400k of friends and family money. We offered Ryan space to work out of our office which he did for a year or so as he got things up and running. About a year after he got started, he was ready to raise a venture financing. At the same time, his partner at his previous company – Tim Miller – was doing an entrepreneur-in-residence at a local Boulder VC firm (Boulder Ventures). Ryan was encouraged to team up with Tim and shortly after that happened we co-led the first round VC financing with Boulder Ventures.
It has been a rocket ship from there. Tim, Ryan, and team have created a phenomenal company that is built on two trends that have picked up massive speed in the past few years: (1) Agile and (2) SaaS. In 2003 – while Agile was known – it was largely limited to ISVs and a few leading IT organizations. SaaS was beginning to be talked about as Salesforce.com’s success (and leverage from the SaaS model) became apparent.
Or if you want to go back to 2004 and 2005 when I was really learning about Agile, well before it had become a household name, you could read my posts Agile Software Development with SCRUM or Do You Develop Software For A Living? – Get Agile with Rally Release 5.
Or maybe dip into the 2006 and 2007 time frame when Rally was in an award cycle with my posts Rally’s New Financing and the E&Y Entrepreneur of the Year Award and Boulder 2007 Esprit Entrepreneur Awards.
Over the fast dozen years, Rally has gone from a raw startup to a 500 person public company. Tim Miller (CEO) and Ryan Martens (CTO, founder) have been working together from the start of the journey. Jim Lejeal, the CFO, was an original angel investor, then board member, and then CFO joining full time when the company was around 200 people.
It makes me so happy to reflect on my relationship with each of Tim, Ryan, and Jim. I first met Tim when he had just started Avitek (his previous company) working in the same office space as Andrew Currie, who had just started Email Publishing (my first angel investment in Boulder.) I met Ryan via Young Entrepreneurs Organization – we were both in the same YEO forum. And I was the seed investor, via Mobius, in Jim’s second company (Raindance, which he co-founded with Paul Berberian – CEO of Orbotix and Todd Vernon – CEO of VictorOps.) But more importantly, I’m close friends with each of them, even though my direct involvement in Rally ended about two years ago when the company went public.
There are hundreds of paragraphs I could write about all of the amazing things Rally Software has done for the Boulder Startup Community and for the extended city of Boulder. But I’ll end with one of them – the creation of the Entrepreneurs Foundation of Colorado (now Pledge 1%). The story starts in 2007 with the founding of EFCO, which Ryan and I spearheaded and had a huge punch line in 2013 when Rally Made a Gift of $1.3 Million To The Boulder Community after their IPO. Ryan continues to head up EFCO and is co-founder of Pledge 1%, which is the effort to take EFCO international.
To the extended Rally Software family past and present – congratulations. You’ve built something very special that is part of the long arc story of Boulder. And – to Tim and Ryan – thank you for letting me participate in your journey.
Whenever a company gets acquired or goes public, there is often a fancy closing dinner. It’s usually at a nice restaurant in a private room. The wine is expensive and the toasts are many. The people in the room are the founders of the company, the executives, the board members, other major investors, the lawyers who worked on the deal, and the investment bankers – if any were involved.
I’ve been to more of these than I can remember. They were fun at first, but now they feel strange to me. The group celebrating is often a very small subset of the people who were involved in helping the company reach its success. I can have a exotic, over the top dinner with friends anytime I want, so it often feels like a burden to me to do yet another fancy dinner. If I’ve been deeply involved in a company, I always look around the room and notice at least one key person missing. Enough time has passed that the celebration seems a little stale.
As Boulder Startup Week kicks off today, I woke up thinking about how many people lead, and contribute to, the Boulder Startup Community. This magic of this place is not top down control, a singular leader, or a grand plan. Instead, it’s the organic beauty of a messy network of people, all who are contributing their own talents and energy, in an ongoing, continuous effort around entrepreneurship.
Kind of like how Twitter grows and evolves. Twitter’s acquisition of Gnip is a big deal for Boulder as it brings one of the most interesting and creative companies in the world to our town as Gnip will serve as the foundation for the first Twitter office in Colorado. This is a #BoulderWin.
So, instead of having a closed, inward facing closing dinner for Twitter’s acquisition of Gnip, a bunch of us in the Boulder tech community are throwing a celebration on the evening of June 4 at the Boulder Theater to welcome Twitter to town. We’ll have food, drinks, entertainment, and lots of mingling with folks in the Boulder Startup Community.
Tickets will be available for purchase the week of May 19 with proceeds going to Entrepreneurs Foundation of Colorado. And, as Gnip was a member of the Entrepreneurs Foundation of Colorado, there will be a special gift that night.
Come celebrate with me the hard work of the 90 people who helped make Gnip a reality.
The Entrepreneur’s Foundation of Colorado, the Living Green Network, and Mocavo are hosting a roofdeck bash on Halloween to benefit first-responder families and local farms devastated by the recent Boulder-area flood. Let’s rally the entrepreneurial community together and raise some money for those in need. I’ll be there to support the cause and would love for you to join me.
Cliff and the Mocavo gang are opening a one-night-only bar in downtown Boulder in the name of charity. Anyone who’s been to Boulder on Halloween knows it tends to be a pretty wild night, especially when it’s on a Thursday. Between the gong for donation milestones and the flatscreen broadcasting the money raised, it should make for a fun event. Donations made by employees of local companies will also optionally join a company leaderboard for some healthy competition.
Existing sponsor list includes KKO, Silicon Valley Bank, and Goldman Sachs. More sponsors are welcome – a restaurant sponsor would be great.
Register for the free event at EventBrite (link to https://halloweenfloodrelief.
My day started out great. After getting up at 5, having a delightful run at 6, walking Brooks, and then hanging with Amy for four minutes, I got in my car and drove over to Rally Software for their Big 1% Give Back event.
The picture to the left is of Ryan Martens, Rally’s founder and CTO, giving Josie Health, the CEO of The Community Foundation Serving Boulder County, a check for $676,000. This check is for The Community Foundation and for the Entrepreneurs Foundation of Colorado (EFCO) and results from a gift of 24,793 shares of common stock from Rally at the time of its first financing that represented approximately 1% of the equity of the company.
I remember numerous conversations with Ryan about this. Ryan started Rally (formerly F4) out of our previous office and could regularly be found scribbling all over a white board. He had a huge vision that started to be turned into practice when Tim Miller joined him as CEO about a year after he started the company. Part of that vision became the agile software development products that Rally makes.
But Ryan’s vision was always bigger than that. He wanted to build a sense of corporate social responsibility into Rally from day one. He was inspired by Salesforce.com and the Salesforce Foundation so he wanted to do something similar in Boulder – contributing 1% of the equity and 1% of the employees’ time to local philanthropic efforts.
With a handful of others, including my partner Seth Levine and Cooley’s Mike Platt, Ryan helped created the Entrepreneurs Foundation of Colorado. Rally was one of five founding members – the others were NewsGator, Collective Intellect, Me.dium, and Tendril. At the time, no one really knew how this would end up, but we all believed that it was important for the local startup community (which included companies anywhere in Colorado, not just Boulder) to give back to the community that helped support it.
We talked about creating millions of dollars of philanthropic contributions through the success of companies in Colorado over the next few decades. Some people rolled their eyes when we talked about this, some thought we were crazy, and some jumped on board. Throughout, Ryan’s leadership of EFCO was unbounded and today over 50 companies are members of EFCO.
Today’s gift represents the largest to date. Oh – that check is only for $676,000. Well the other one – for $643,000 – is the second check Josie got today – this one from an additional gift Rally made when they endowed the Rally for Impact Foundation.
Gang – well done. Thanks for leading by example. And we are only just beginning.
I’ve continued to be emotionally distracted by all the devastation around Boulder from our recent floods. I’ve gotten a ton of emails from all over the world in support as well as some meaningful financial contributions adding on to the $100,000 my partners and I just gave to the Entrepreneurs Foundation of Colorado to provide direct support for the flood victims.
Amy’s assistant Naomi hiked up to our house in Eldorado Canyon today to finally check on our house there. The house is fine, but there is damage to a bunch of our property. At some intellectual level it’s incredible to see the power of water. At some other level it’s emotionally distressing. The picture above is our meadow. And yes – the crevasse is “new” – so we have a new creek in our meadow.
Then – there’s the lower part of our driveway – well, at least what used to be a driveway.
And then there’s the road through Eldorado State Park, which no longer works as a road.
We are all ok and have plenty of resources to deal with this. So we’ve turned most of our energy to helping our friends, neighbors, and extended Boulder County community deal with the destruction the floods have caused. But it’s really amazing to see the power of mother nature unleashed.
Today, my partners at Foundry Group and I are contributing $100,000 to the Entrepreneurs Foundation of Colorado (EFCO) to help with the Boulder Flood Relief Effort. This is our second gift to the EFCO – we previously contributed a portion of our carry across all of our funds.
The floods in Boulder and the surrounding area the past week have been devastating. I went for a run last night around town just to get a feel for things – the water is still at dangerously high and fast levels in Boulder Creek and the damage near the creek in downtown is visible. I smelled smells that I’ve never smelled in Boulder before and saw water in places it simply didn’t belong.
But downtown Boulder is quickly getting back to normal. That’s not the problem. If you’ve ever been to Boulder, you know we are surrounded by incredible mountains. It’s part of the magic of the place, but also part of the challenge. A friend told me recently, “think of the mountains as giant slanted roofs and Boulder as the basement of the house.”
There are two natural forces here that can be massively destructive. The first, which have made the news the past few years, are wildfires. Amy and I have endured these for the past 17 years – we’ve been evacuated from our house twice, once for three days during my brother’s wedding. The massive Lefthand Canyon Fire destroyed a huge neighborhood. Awful, terrifying stuff.
But that just set us up for what looks like the real disaster. The entire mountain area around Boulder is wrecked. Roads are destroyed. Towns in the “basement” – including Lyons – are literally wiped off the map. Major parts of Longmont are now submerged. The water ran downhill, destroying everything in its path as gravity did it’s magic, and then just sat at the bottom wherever it ended up.
My partners and I are lucky. None of our lost our houses. We all have roofs over our heads. And we have plenty of resources.
But many of our friends and neighbors were not so lucky. The stories are endless – the friend who lost her house and has no place to live. Another friend who made a mad dash off the mountain with his family and has no idea what the status of his home is. The entrepreneur who worked out of his basement, which is now a swimming pool. The business owner who’s office is now cut in half – and destroyed – by a mudslide. The tech leader who recently had a major back injury, just got out of the hospital, and had to evacuate his house. The people stuck up in the mountains who can’t get out. And the people stuck down in the foothills that also can’t get out.
The magnitude of this hit me yesterday afternoon when I heard estimates of $100m – $150m to fix the “infrastructure damage.” I have no idea what that really means, but for a region of a couple of hundred thousand people, knowing the range is low, and it’s only “infrastructure”, this is going to be a long, hard mess to dig out of.
I’ve always felt a strong responsibility to the community I call home. Boulder has been and continues to be very good to me. And it’s my responsibility, especially in times like this, to be good back. This is not the only financial support we’ll be giving to the Boulder Flood Relief Effort. In addition, we’ll give plenty of functional support. But it’s a step – and one we hope can have direct impact.
My partners and I encourage every entrepreneur in the area who has had a meaningful financial success to consider giving something through EFCO to the Boulder Flood Relief Effort. If you are an entrepreneur who hasn’t yet had a financial success, consider joining EFCO and contributing 1% of the equity in your company today, to help build the endowment for the future. And, if you are a venture capitalist or an angel investor in – or with investments in – the Boulder area, please consider joining EFCO and contributing directly to the relief effort today. Just email me and I’ll get you connected.
Finally, if you are a reader and part of the Feld Thoughts community and you want to help out, please contribute directly to the Foothills Flood Relief Fund. We greatly appreciate any support you can give.
In 2007 when I co-founded Entrepreneurs Foundation of Colorado with a bunch of folks our mission was to create wealth that we could give back to the community that has been the foundation for so many of our entrepreneurial endeavors. We envisioned that this would be a long term build, just like the creation of many of the companies we are involved in. Over the last six years we’ve now generated gifts of over $500,000 that have gone back directly to our community, with the most recent one being from Intense Debate, a company that went through Techstars Boulder in 2007.
Today my friends from GoodApril, who went through the Techstars Boulder 2013 program, just gave $20,000 to EFCO to help with the victims of the massive Boulder-area floods. In addition, Eric and Kim Norlin from the Defrag Conference offered to give $250 to EFCO for everyone who register for Defrag this week.
I asked Mitch Fox and Benny Joseph from GoodApril to write up their thoughts on why they did this. It follows.
A month ago, the sun was shining in Boulder, Colorado as my co-founder, Benny Joseph, and I as we announced the biggest news of our lives. Our startup, GoodApril, had been acquired by Intuit (maker of TurboTax) in the final days of the TechStars Boulder accelerator program.
In this last week, rain clouds have overwhelmed Boulder and several other Front Range towns. We’ve been distressed by the devastation, and inspired by the Boulder community’s resilience.
While we were a part of the Techstars program, Benny and I pledged our support to the Boulder community through the Entrepreneurship Foundation of Colorado (EFCO), a program that enables startup founders to give back through the contribution of equity in their companies. In light of the flood and its impact on Boulder, we have agreed to accelerate that gift.
Startups cannot succeed in a vacuum. They are as much the product of the sweat and tears of their founders as they are of the mentors, customers, and investors that shape them.
This summer, we experienced the power and generosity of the Boulder community as we built GoodApril. The Techstars program matched us with phenomenal local business leaders like Vijay Bangaru, JP O’Brien, and Brett Jackson, who helped us find both the strengths and weaknesses in our business plan. We were welcomed into Boulder’s tech scene, and quickly connected with dozens of potential customers who shared their expectations and excitement for our product. As we progressed, the Techstars leaders, especially Luke Beatty, David Cohen, and Brad Feld, guided us through many tough decisions, including finally whether to accept Intuit’s acquisition offer.
We are extremely appreciative for what Boulder has given us, so we hope our donation to EFCO can help the community recover from this flood.
Thank you Boulder. Here’s to seeing that sun shine again,
Mitch Fox and Benny Joseph
I’m a huge fan of the The Entrepreneurs Foundation of Colorado. In fact, Foundry Group is such a fan that we’ve donated a part of our profits to this state-wide organization that gives back to local communities through the success of our entrepreneurs. This Saturday, September 7th, EFCO is holding a big fundraiser. It’s at the Boulder Theater and should be a ton of fun.
It also happens to be the 20th Anniversary of Cooley’s office in Colorado. Cooley is being incredible generous donating the resources to make this event happen. I hope everyone can attend, have a good time and support a great cause.
A few weeks ago I did an event with Built In Denver where I interviewed Tim Miller and Ryan Martens, the founders of Rally Software, on their journey from a startup to a public company (NYSE: RALY). As part of the event – held at Mateo in Boulder – the gang from Built In Denver announced they were rebranding as Built In Colorado.
The attendance at the event was roughly 50% Boulder entrepreneurs and 50% Denver entrepreneurs.
The past two days the Colorado Innovation Network held it’s 2nd annual COIN Summit. As part of it, Governor Hickenlooper rolled out a new brand for all of Colorado, an effort led by Aaron Kennedy, the founder of Noodles & Co. The focus was on Colorado, not on Boulder, or Denver.
Powerful startup communities start at the neighborhood level. They then roll up to the city level. And then cities connect. Eventually it rolls up to the state level.
It’s a powerful bottom up phenomenon, not a top down situation. And inclusive of everyone. This is one of the key parts of my theory around Startup Communities.
Export the magic of the Boulder tech community to Fort Collins, Denver, and Colorado Springs by expanding New Tech Meetups, Open Coffee Clubs, and Community Office Hours to these cities.
When I look at what is happening in Denver, and the connective tissue between Boulder and Denver, I’m incredibly proud of what has been accomplished in less than two years on this front.
When I see questions on Quora like Should I start my start-up in Boulder or Denver? and then read the answers, my reaction is “poorly phrased question” and “wrong answer!” It’s not an either / or – the two cities are 30 minutes apart. They are both awesome places to start a company. It depends entirely on where you want to live – do you want a big city (Denver) or a little town (Boulder). If you choose Boulder, when you reach a certain size, you’ll end up with offices in both like Rally and SendGrid.
I’m psyched that Built in Denver is rebranding to Built in Colorado. I’m going to spend most of the week for Denver Startup Week in Denver, and CEOs and execs from most of our portfolio companies are converging on Denver in the middle of the week for a full day session together.
You’ll note that we have deliberately named things like The Entrepreneurs Foundation of Colorado (EFCO) with “Colorado” in their name to be inclusive of all entrepreneurs in the state. And we we do things to celebrate the startup community, like The Entrepreneur’s Prom that EFCO and Cooley are putting on September 7th at the Boulder Theatre, we focus on the entire startup community.
Innovation and entrepreneurship is off the charts right now. Let’s make sure we work together to continue building a base for the next 20 years.