I attended the second Open Angel Forum in Boulder tonight. Simply put, it was dynamite.
This is an intense week for seed stage stuff in Boulder as TechStars Demo Day is tomorrow where 11 new companies are having their coming out party. The Boulder New Tech Meetup had a special double header (Tuesday and Wednesday) where six teams practiced their pitches to a room of 300+ people on Tuesday followed up by the other five on Wednesday. The streets are crawling with angel and early stage investors – local and from other parts of the country – and the vibe feels great as tomorrow is the big day.
I had high expectations for Open Angel Forum after the first one in Boulder in the spring. Jason Calacanis came up with a great format when he created Open Angel Forum and David Cohen has done an awesome job of hosting and coordinating the two Boulder events.
The format is ideal. 20 qualified angel investors – to qualify you must be active making angel investments (at least three in the past year). Six companies all raising seed rounds ($1m or less). Dinner and drinks paid for by sponsors. No fee to either the entrepreneurs or the angels. Casual setting (we did it in the TechStars Bunker) – some mingling before it got started, followed by five minute pitches + five minutes of Q&A for each company. The whole thing took an hour – just the right amount of time.
All six companies – Pavlov Games, Rapid.io, Adapt.ly, Awesomebox, PlaceIQ, and BrowseAndPay did excellent jobs. They were each high quality and totally fundable and I heard several commitments happen during the evening. I left about 45 minutes after the pitches ended – the event was still in high gear and with Jason leading a table full of angels and entrepreneurs in a game of Texas Hold’em while the beer drinking and discussions continued.
The thing that is so cool to me about this is that it’s a super high signal to noise ratio – all the companies had clear, tight, and relevant pitches and the entire audience was accessible angel investors. No BS, no posturing, no fees for anything – just entrepreneurs and angels doing their thing.
Over two days, 17 early stage software / Internet companies are having high quality exposure to angel and seed investors in Boulder. And on Saturday, we have TEDx Boulder. It’s good to be back in town.
This week’s special guest are Jeff Clavier from SoftTech VC and Rob Hayes from First Round Capital. Among other things, you get to hear Jeff define the Three Asses Rule and Rob explain what happens after you finish the TechStars program. As a special bonus, there’s a cute clip of me near the end watching the incredible record tennis match between Isner and Mahut. And some funny running footage. And a glider. And Ari Newman and how sandpaper and rubbing alcohol intersect with the fundraising process.
Eric Ries is this week’s guest star on The Founders. Eric is an incredible speaker and is traveling the world on a mission to help people stop wasting other people’s time. If you don’t follow Eric’s thoughts on Lean Startups on his blog Lessons Learned, you should.
You get a little taste of the shift Omniar is making while they wander around the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art along with a surprise birthday party for David Cohen at The Lazy Dog on a beautiful Boulder evening. And a few special bonus visitors. And some great shots of Boulder in the summertime. I love Homer but I’m starting to miss Boulder.
A few weeks ago I had my weekly mentor meeting with Ian and Adam from Gearbox. We messed around with the latest version of “the ball” on an Android phone and then talked about a bunch of things that were going on. I am totally amazed at the technical progress they are making this summer – these guys are magicians. But they’ve been shy about getting out there and showing off what they’ve been up to. My sense after talking to them is that their hesitancy was a combination of prioritization, focus, and “the need to get everything right.”
I can’t remember exactly what I said, but it was something like “this stuff is so fucking cool – just start blogging about what you are doing, get the API out there, and get out in front of the world with this.” Two days later they sent me a note that their first blog post Gear What? was up and they’ve been blogging and talking up a storm ever since, including emerging on the bunker to play on the Pearl Street Mall and flying to Aspen in Paul Berberian‘s plane to spend the day at Mini Maker Faire Aspen.
Now they are having a Hackathon on the weekend of July 24th/25th. An early version of their API is out and I’ve seen some cool shit running on an Android phone so I know it’s hackable. If you are an Android developer, this is going to be fun, plus there’s the staple of every hackathon (free food, beer, and red bull.) If you want to play, send an email to ian [at] gearbox [dot] me.
Oh – and if you are into robots, go check out the 2010 Denver Robot Expo & Mini Maker Faire. Yup – the Gearbox guys will be there.
This week’s episode of The Founders is all about “the team.” Ryan Sarver from Twitter is the guest of honor so all my links will be twitter handles. David’s mom (gingerale) makes a nice appearance (follow her and follow my dad sfeld while you are at it) along with Eric Norlin of Glue, Defrag, and now Blur.
The second Boulder Open Angel Forum event is happening on August 4th at 7pm. In case you aren’t familiar with the Open Angel Forum, the organization is dedicated to providing entrepreneurs with access to the angel investor community based solely on merit and without any fees.
The first Open Angel Forum in Boulder was dynamite. David Cohen, the founder/CEO of TechStars drove the event and is also hosting this one. He has scheduled it the night before the TechStars Boulder 2010 Demo Day with the hope of having some out of town angels that are here for Demo Day attend.
This week’s episode of The Founders appears to be “baby themed.” With cupcakes. Fun stuff.
Mobile Monday Colorado is hosting a member of the TechStars mentor family, Dion Almaer, for their July 19th event. Dion is Managing Director of Developer Relations at Palm (now part of HP). Besides his involvement with TechStars as a mentor, he is a celebrity in the AJAX community as the co-founder of Ajaxian.com, and previously held senior positions within Mozilla and Google. Dion will be able to shed some light on how the largest consumer device company in the world will be integrating WebOS into various product lineups including tablets and intelligent printers. He will talk about the direction of the WebOS operating environment specifically and the future of mobile and the web. It is sure to be a solid event worth checking out.
Gearbox, one of the teams that I’m mentoring in this year’s TechStars Boulder program, is starting to blog about their product. One of their taglines is “reinventing the ball” and while this potentially generates plenty of 14 year old boy jokes it’s pretty amazing stuff.
The ball, which consists of a custom circuit board inside a 3D printed spherical shell (which is pretty cool all by itself) with lots of fun things on it, is completely controlled by a smartphone (in this case, an Android).
The software is still evolving rapidly but if you know anything about trying to control a spherical shell remotely, watching this video will make you pretty excited.
They are planning to release at least one Android based game by demo day along with an open API to let anyone write applications that incorporate the ball. I’m totally psyched to get my hands on one of these.
After a long and awesome day in Seattle ending with a great dinner with the BigDoor board at Emmer & Rye, I came back to my room and watched Episode 6 of this year’s TechStars Founders video serious. It was about the TechStars reunion event and included scenes from the world’s largest Ignite event as well as some beautiful Boulder pictures. It made me smile a big smile. Whenever I see stuff like this and reflect on what I spent my life doing, I’m just a happy little kid.