Brad Feld

Tag: entrepreneurship

Next week is the first annual entrepreneurship week at CU Boulder.  There is a full schedule of great events for anyone interested in entrepreneurship.

Monday 4/13: 11:30am – 2:00pm: Starting Companies at CU: Technology Entrepreneurship Luncheon @ University Memorial Center

Tuesday 4/14: 10:00am – 11:30am: Panel Discussion on Social Entrepreneurship @ University Memorial Center Room 247

Tuesday 4/14: 5:30pm – 8:30pm: Silicon Flatirons Center’s Entrepreneurial Mash-Up @ Dairy Center for the Arts

Wednesday, 4/15: 5:00pm: Feld-Weiser One-on-One: The Entrepreneurial Ecosystem @ Wittemeyer Courtroom, Wolf Law Building

Wednesday, 4/15: 6:00pm: Entrepreneurs Unplugged featuring Glenn Jones @ Wittemeyer Courtroom, Wolf Law Building

Thursday, 4/16: 3:00pm – 8:00pm: Putting The Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Perspective @ Wittemeyer Courtroom, Wolf Law Building

Friday, 4/17: 9:00am – noon: CU New Venture Challenge Semifinals @ Atlas

Friday, 4/17: 2:00pm – 5:00pm: CU New Venture Challenge Finals and Post-Challenge Reception @ University Memorial Center

Also, if you are in Boulder for lunch on Tuesday, come by Spud Bros at the Corner of 10th and Pearl behind Pasta Jay’s between noon and 2:00pm.  I’ll be the “guest chef” (more like “guest spud slinger”); 50% of proceeds will go to The Community Foundation Serving Boulder County.

“There is a category of people that do stuff and a category of people that stuff gets done to.”  The following short video is from the end of the event I did a few weeks in Seattle that was summarized nicely by Xconomy Seattle in Greg Huang’s post VC Model Is Not Broken: Insights from Brad Feld of TechStars and Foundry Group.

Brad Feld – cofounder of Tech Stars – "Do Stuff!" from Seattle20 on Vimeo.

Entrepreneurs are in the category that do stuff.  Get up every morning and do stuff.

I’m heading out to Seattle for a board meeting and a few other things.  Tonight, I’m going to be doing an event called Beers and Boulder with Brad.  I’m going to talk about entrepreneurial communities, the critical importance of entrepreneurship and innovation today,  TechStars, what we’ve done in Boulder to drive entrepreneurship that can apply to other cities such as Seattle, and why we are expanding TechStars to Boston.  I’m then going to stick around until they kick us out answering any and all questions and talking with whoever wants to hang out.

The event was the idea of Dave Schappell of TeachStreet and TA McCann of Gist.  They’ve done an awesome job making it easy for me to “just show up, talk, and answer questions.”  Three great sponsors – Beacon Law Advisors, Square 1 Bank, and Microsoft BizSpark are underwriting the event.

If you aren’t in Seattle tonight, the event will be streamed live.  If you are in Seattle, come join us.

I received the following email earlier this week from an exec at a company that I am on the board of.  He sent it out to his entire company.  I thought it clearly described the different between panic and urgency and explains why – in a business context – panic is useless, but urgency is critical.  I don’t think I could have said this better if I had tried.

In recent weeks, many of my business contacts have discussed the economy and the pressure we are all feeling on a daily basis. They all have a sense of pressure. I am sure many of you can relate. If you are not feeling the pressure these days, then you may want to step outside or turn on the TV, or read a newspaper.

It has brought up a topic to me that has always been a challenge for me. The difference between panic and urgency. Panic is a sudden overwhelming fear, with or without cause, that produces hysterical or irrational behavior, and that often spreads quickly through a group of persons. We have all seen what panic looks like. Panic has no sense of purpose. Panic makes us run away from the problem. Panic gives a sense of hopelessness. Panic says there is no way out. For example, I am claustrophobic. When I feel trapped, I panic.

On the other hand a sense of urgency is different. John Kotter, Harvard professor, stated that true urgency may sometimes involve moving fast. But the most important aspects of true urgency are relentlessness, steadiness and the purposeful pursuit of a goal while “continuously purging irrelevant activities to provide time for the important and to prevent burn-out.” Go back and read that again and let it sink in.

Kotter gives a few suggestions to organizations and leaders:

  1. Create a sense of urgency: he believes that organizations need a sense of urgency if they are going to change and be successful. I believe we need a culture of urgency. NOT PANIC. But urgency. We need a relentless, steady, purposeful culture that is pursuing our goals, purging irrelevant activities, and spending time on the important things.
  2. Team Members must behave with urgency every day. Anxiety, panic, or anger are bad responses – team members should transmit their urgency in meetings, emails and in everything else they do each day
  3. Look for the opportunities that are obscured by emerging crises. Fear can paralyze a business and prevent us from taking necessary action. A sense of urgency can carry us successfully through to success.
  4. Deal with the NoNos – those “relentless urgency-killers” who would rather that their complacent existence was left undisturbed. Basically, Kotter is saying that complacency is a feeling that a person has about his or her own behavior, about what he or she needs to do or not do. “This point is also extremely important, because it is possible to see problems and yet be astonishingly complacent because you do not feel that the problems require changes in your own actions. So, we become complacent and lose the sense of urgency.”

Panic makes things worse. Urgency should make things better. I hope you can see that our leadership team is communicating a sense of urgency. Let me be clear, we are not in panic mode. I refuse to panic at work or at home. I hope you see us focused on pursuing our goals. I hope you see us purging irrelevant activities which include expenses, etc. I hope you see our relentlessness and steadiness. I hope you see our sense of determination to achieve our goals.

My challenge to each of you is that you wake up each day and have a sense of urgency both at work and in your personal life. I challenge you to evaluate your surroundings and look for opportunities to drive revenue and to make a difference in your clients. Look for ways to be productive for yourself and for our company.  One key ingredient I know without a doubt you all have is talent unlike some of the singers in the last few weeks on American Idol. I know each of you have the talent for this business. So…

Don’t panic…but be urgent!

My monthly column in Entrepreneur Magazine is up (and on the newsstands).  This month’s article is titled VC or Angel Money? and has some suggestions for how to think about whether you should be approaching VC’s or Angel’s when raising a round of financing.

Are you a VP or C-level exec at a Boulder (or Denver) based startup?  Eric Marcoullier, the CEO of Gnip has created a Boulder Startup Exec Email ListIt’s open to people that fit the following criteria.

  1. Funded company (at least some angel financing)
  2. VPs and C-level folks
  3. Any vertical market (not just tech / Internet)

Eric moved to Boulder from San Francisco last month and is getting deep in the startup scene here.  He promises that VCs will not be invited to participate in this list – I tried and was solidly rejected.

While the criteria don’t include “profitable companies that never received any financing”, I’d encourage anyone that is self-funded / bootstrapped that is generating over $500k of revenue a year to get involved also.

2008 was a fantastic year for entrepreneurship in Boulder.  While the VC firm I’m part of (Foundry Group) invests nationally, the partners have made a deliberate decision to live and work in Boulder.  As a result, we believe it is our responsibility to participate actively in Boulder’s entrepreneurial community.  I’ve been living here since 1995 and have seen and helped Boulder evolve into a serious entrepreneurial hub, as written about by my friend Ben Casnocha in his article Start-Up Town in The American Magazine.

There are many people that are now engaged in the Boulder entrepreneurial community in a wide variety of ways.  I believe that entrepreneurship and innovation are the fundamental drivers of long term economic growth in the United States and have dedicated my work life to this area.  Even thought no one really knows what the 2009 holds for us, I’m hopeful that the entrepreneurial energy and momentum that has been generated in Boulder over the past few years will continue strongly in 2009.

To get us started, Andrew Hyde put up two posts that are relevant to all Boulder-based software and Internet entrepreneurs.  The first is HackSpace at TechStarsOn January 15th at 5pm, the TechStars space (the Bunker) will be opened up for anyone to come hang out and hack together.  If you know where the Bunker is, just show up.  If you need more info, drop Andrew an email at andrew {at}

Also up on the Boulder is for Startups site, Andrew has a post titled Boulder Jobs.  If you are a company in Boulder that is hiring, drop Andrew a note (andrew {at}  If you are looking for a job, drop him a note also.  Look for a steady evolution of a local job site that builds off of the very successful Boulder Job Fair event a few months ago.

Fred Wilson has a magnificent post up this morning from Berlin titled Bits Of Destruction.  In it, he nails a critical point about innovation.

“This downturn will be marked in history as the time where many of the business models built in the industrial era finally collapsed as a result of being undermined by the information age. Its creative destruction at work. It’s painful and many jobs will be lost permanently. But let’s also remember that its inevitable and we can’t fight it. Technology and information forces are unstoppable and they will reshape the world as we know it regardless of whether or not we want them to.”

Go read the whole article – he gives several real examples (publishing, banking, retailing, and auto).  Then come back here to finish up and hear my punch line.

I’ve been living and working in and around innovation and entrepreneurship my entire adult life, starting with my first company and the research I did as a masters and Ph.D. student at MIT Sloan School under Eric von Hippel.  My life experiences, along with all the history I’ve studied, come back to the same notion.

Innovation is a continual process of creative destruction of the norm.

People talk about economic cycles and waves of innovation.  These are intersecting forces that drive each other.  But innovation is not just limited to business, technology, and science – it impacts all of our existence on this planet.  Think about innovation in religion, philosophy, art, architecture, social structures, forms of government, urban planning, economic theory, expression of human sexuality – whatever you want.

In the late 1990’s, there were a bunch of people, myself (and Fred) included, who believed that the Internet would have a dramatic impact on the way our world works and we live our lives.  After the Internet bubble burst in 2001, there were a lot of people in “the established business world” who said something akin to “see – that was just a fad.”  Anyone who has clung to the idea that the Internet was a fad is in a world of hurt right now, as the premise, functions, and implications of the Internet revolution of the late 1990’s becomes deeply instantiated across the global economy. 

The next 20 years are going to be awesome.  We inevitably will have lots of challenges and pain along the way as the waves of creative destruction pummel existing norms.  But that’s just the way innovation works – and has always worked.