One of my favorite public events is the CU Boulder Silicon Flatirons Entrepreneurs Unplugged series. I was the co-host for the first couple of years, sharing the interview job with another Brad (Bernthal) who now is generally on his own.
On Thursday, 9/13/18 at 5:30pm, Bernthal will be interview David Cohen and David Brown, the co-CEOs of Techstars (who we often fondly refer at Foundry Group as the “the David(s).” The event will be held at the CU Boulder Law School.
If you know the David(s), I expect this will be a treat as I know Bernthal will start with their early entrepreneurial career (Pinpoint) and stick with it for a while. While many people know the Techstars story, the PinPoint story is much less well known but equally fascinating. And, if you need any hints on Q&A (which Bernthal always leaves time for), just drop me a note.
Lucy Sanders, the founder/CEO of the National Center for Women & Information Technology is a remarkable person. I’ve worked with Lucy since 2005 and she’s done more advancing the cause of engaging women in IT, computer science, and entrepreneurship than anyone I know.
As a bonus, she – and NCWIT – are based in Boulder. I like to refer to them as a gem of CU Boulder that is hidden in plain site.
Next Wednesday, as part of the Entrepreneurs Unplugged interview series I’ve been helping host for the past few years, Jill Dupre and I will interview Lucy at the ATLAS Center in Room 100.
I promise you that it will be a special one. Lucy started her career as a young woman at Bell Labs in the 1970s. She was one of the only ones. When she retired from Avaya Labs in 2001, she was CTO, R&D Vice President and Bell Labs Fellow and had about 600 people reporting to her. Her journey up to this point was amazing, but she was just getting started. What she’s done in the last decade as the CEO of NCWIT is amazing.
My work with Lucy has been one of the most satisfying non-profit experiences I’ve been involved in. In addition, I’ve learned an incredible amount from her about the dynamics of women in technology, business, and entrepreneurship. She’s had a dramatic impact on my thinking and behavior and I’d love to share some of her magic with you.
I had a wonderful time interviewing Larry Gold last night at Entrepreneurs Unplugged. Larry is a special guy and someone I learn from every time I’m with him. Among the many great stories he told, including a doozy about the time he was a sophomore at Yale, he had a powerful one about how entrepreneurs assess potential outcomes. It resulted in a fun version of entrepreneurial math.
Envision a scenario where you there are 10 separate things you need to do to have a successful outcome. Each one has a 90% probability of success. What’s the probability that you will achieve a successful outcome?
I struggled with 6.041: Probabilistic Systems Analysis and Applied Probability (the probability course I took as an undergraduate) – it was one of those courses where I felt like I was a week behind for the entire semester. I did better in 15.075: Statistical Thinking and Data Analysis – maybe I was a little older, it was a little easier than 6.041, or I was more interested because I liked the professor better. If you are having trouble with a quick answer, both courses are available to you on MIT OpenCourseWare.
Back to the question. If you guessed around 35% you are correct. It’s actually 34.87%, which is (.9)^10. Now, by using the word separate, I’m implying 10 independent events, but this is the nuanced joy of theory versus practice.
Larry pointed out with glee that regardless, entrepreneurs believe when they start down the path of doing these 10 things there will be a successful outcome. Hence entrepreneurs math is (.9)^10 = 1.
Whether you agree with the math or not, it’s a great anecdote. So many things that we try as entrepreneurs and investors fail. We never make an investment thinking “this isn’t going to work”; we always invest thinking “this will work.” I don’t know any entrepreneurs who started their business thinking “this will fail” or even “this only has a 35% chance of working out.”
This shit is hard. And it’s low probability. Even if you have an ultimately successful outcome, many of the things you are going to try along the way are going to fail. But to do them, you’ve got to believe they are going to work. You’ve got to enter into the illusion that (.9)^10 = 1.
I got to work closely with Luke Beatty this summer while he was running the Techstars Boulder program. In one word, he’s “awesome.” Deeply, truly awesome.
I knew Luke from a distance – we’d crossed paths a few times but never worked together. I watched him build a real company with Associated Content and sell it to Yahoo for $100 million. When David Cohen asked me what I thought of him for Managing Director of Techstars Boulder, I responded “Awesome if you can get him.”
Luke ran an amazing program this summer. I spent at least an hour a week with him and all the CEOs in the program in our top secret weekly CEO session. We worked together on the Intuit acquisition of GoodApril. And a bunch of other things.
I wasn’t surprised when Tim Armstrong at AOL made him an offer he couldn’t refuse and Luke joined AOL as Head of Strategic Partnerships. I knew Luke and Tim had gone to school together, were close friends, and that Tim was the first investor in Associated Content. While I’m bummed that Luke isn’t running Techstars Boulder anymore, I’m psyched I got a chance to really know him over the summer. Plus, it amuses me that he now has to use AOL Mail as his email system.
Come join us at Entrepreneurs Unplugged on Monday 10/7 at 6:15 at ATLAS. Register here.
I adore Jeremy Bloom. He co-founded Integrate, which we are investors in. I’ve interviewed him for the Entrepreneurs Unplugged series I do at CU Boulder. We’ve been part of a few events together. He’s got an enormous heart, soul, and brain.
Amy emailed me a great article in the Denver Post from earlier this week titled Dreams come true, thanks to Jeremy Bloom’s Wish of a Lifetime Foundation. Amy and I gave a major gift last year and just agreed to make another gift to Wish of a Lifetime.
If you are so inspired, contribute to Wish of a Lifetime right now. And if you want some motivation, or just want to see an interview with an awesome entrepreneur, human, friend, philanthropist, athlete, leader, and role model, watch the video below.
On Monday night 9/24 from 6:15 to 7:45 I’m co-hosting the first Entrepreneurs Unplugged session of Fall 2012 at CU Boulder. We’ll be at ATLAS in Room 100 and I’ll be interviewing Rustin Banks (CEO) and Holly Hamann (VP Marketing) of BlogFrog.
If you are interested in coming, please register here. It’s free, but we do have a limited number of seats. I love doing the Entrepreneurs Unplugged sessions – it’s a chance for me to interview some of the great Boulder entrepreneurs, especially up and coming ones like Rusty and Holly. I’ve known Holly since her time as VP of Marketing at Service Metrics, a company in which I was an investor in the late 1990’s and was a huge Boulder success story when they were acquired in 1999 by Exodus for $280 million. I met Rusty more recently, a few years ago when he was just starting BlogFrog. While I’m not an investor, I introduced him to a few friends of mine including David Cohen of TechStars who helped him put together his angel round.
Since Rusty and Holly started BlogFrog, they’ve create a rapidly growing company that is another Boulder success story. They raised a $3.2 million round in the spring and have gained national visibility in the past year for creating a great new approach to influence marketing.
Rusty, Holly, and BlogFrog have a great story. Come hang out with me Monday at CU Boulder and hear it.
I’ll be interviewing Nancy Phillips on Monday, November 14th for our latest installment of Entrepreneurs Unplugged. I’ve worked with Nancy over the past few years on a couple of things, including the National Center for Women & Information Technology, and she’s awesome.
Nancy is the co-founder and COO of ViaWest, a leading co-location and managed services provider well known to many companies in Colorado. Her entrepreneurial experience includes RMI.net, ITC Worldwide (now Genesys Conferencing), and ConferTech International (now Global Crossing). She’s also been a big supporter of many technology related organizations in Colorado, including NCWIT and the Colorado Technology Association.
Come join me on Monday (11/14) from 6:15pm – 7:30pm to hear Nancy’s story. We’ll be at ATLAS Room 100 at the University of Colorado at Boulder. The event is free, but please register.
Last spring Brad Bernthal and Jill Van Matre turned the tables on me and interviewed me for CU’s Entrepreneurs Unplugged series. Normally I’m the interviewer (with one of Bernthal or Jill) – this time I was the interviewee. We went on for about 90 minutes at which point Bernthal asked me if I’d come back for a part 2 in the fall to cover a bunch of stuff he wanted to get to that we hadn’t yet talked about.
Part 2 is happening on Monday night at CU in ATLAS Room 100 from 6:30 – 7:30 pm (or maybe longer if they can’t get me to shut up.) Admission is free but please register if you are going to attend.
I was able to dig up two of the segments on from part 1 that Larry Nelson of w3w3.com recorded. I also found a nice summary of the interview. I know Bernthal and Jill will have plenty of new, juicy questions for me so come join us if you are around and interested.
On Monday, 10/11/10 from 6:15pm to 7:30pm I’ll be interviewing Greg Maffei (CEO of Liberty Media) and Michael Zeisser (SVP of Liberty Media) as part of the Silicon Flatirons Entrepreneurs Unplugged series. Over the past few years I’ve become good friends with Michael as he’s been a dedicated mentor to TechStars Boulder and contributed a chapter to Do More Faster. I’ve also gotten know Greg as he’s been active in and provided leadership to the broad Colorado technology landscape, as well as being CEO of one of the most significant and important technology companies in Colorado.
Tomorrow, I’ll be at the Liberty NetLeaders Forum ’10, an invite only event for 200 software / Internet executives that Liberty hosts once a year. I’ll be introducing my friends and colleagues Mark Pincus (Zynga CEO) and Bing Gordon (KPCB partner and Zynga board member) who are going to talk about “Building Zynga”. I’m sure the conference will give me plenty of interesting things to bring up at our Entrepreneurs Unplugged session on Monday.
Please join us on Monday at the Wolf Law Building (2450 Kittredge Loop) at the CU Law School. I really enjoy being the interviewer for these sessions and the feedback on our events continues to be great. I think Greg and Michael will be particularly interesting guest.