Jul 16 2020

Colorado Statewide Mask Requirement

Colorado now has a statewide mask requirement.

Individuals will be required to wear face coverings for Public Indoor Spaces if they are 11 and older, unless they have a medical condition or disability. Kids 10 and under don’t need to wear a mask.  All businesses must post signage and refuse entry or service to people not wearing masks.

It is well understood that wearing a mask substantially helps slow the spread of Covid.

I can’t, for the life of me, understand why the message isn’t getting through. The mask prevents other people from you if you are infected. And, you often won’t know if you are infected, since you could be pre-symptomatic (which is often confused with asymptomatic) for 14 days.

So, let’s keep this simple. You can have Covid, not have symptoms, but be infecting other people for up to 14 days. Wearing a mask significantly cuts down on your spread of the virus if you have it, because the mask catches your spread of the Covid “droplets.”

The mask doesn’t do a lot to protect you from others. So, if you say “I’m not afraid of getting Covid”, that doesn’t matter since the mask doesn’t protect you. It protects others from you. And, you can’t know if you are infectious.

Some people will say “I’ve had Covid so I don’t have to wear a mask.” That’s not true either, for several reasons, including social convention (if we all wear masks, then it’s socially acceptable; there is still ambiguity about how long immunity lasts; there are some concerns, but not scientific evidence, that you can still be a spreader if you think you’ve recovered.)

If you wear a mask, you are respecting your fellow humans. And, if we all wear masks, we can dramatically slow the spread of Covid.

So please, wear a mask.

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Jul 16 2020

How To Write An Email Intro Request

Multiple times a day, someone in my network asks if I’ll make an intro to someone else. I’m almost always happy to do this and, if not, I will explain why.

I like to do opt-in intros, where I ask the person on the potential receiving end of the intro if they are open to the intro. Most of the time people say yes. Sometimes they say no. Very occasionally they don’t respond to me.

In the past, I’ve written posts about the best way to do this, at least from my perspective (and for me). However, as the number of requests of me increases, the ease and clarity by which people ask for the request has gone down.

So, here’s a new post on the topic, with simple directions that both (a) help make it easy for me, and (b) in my experience, make the ask a lot clearer and easier for the person the receiving end of the request to say yes to.


For the email title, do something like, “Intro to <company> for <mycompany>”. For example, if you are the CEO of Xorbix and you want an intro to GiantBigMonsterCompany, title the email “Intro to GiantBigMonsterCompany for Xorbix”

Write the email “to me” but make most of it about you. Start with something like “Brad, thanks for the offer to intro me to someone at GiantBigMonsterCompany.”

Then, quickly follow with the ask in another paragraph. “I’m interested in talking to GiantBigMonsterCompany about sponsoring the Xorbix conference in July for underrepresented founders.” Include a sentence describing the “why” such as “This is a great opportunity for GBMC to get exposure to an audience of diverse founders.”

Next, write up to three paragraphs, with links, about Xorbix and the specific activity you are addressing

End with whatever you want, including a repeat (in slightly different words) of the ask.

I’ll then forward it with an introduction from me to add credibility and ask if they are willing to connect with you, or ask them to forward on to the right person in the organization to make the connection.

They will either reply with Yes, forward me on to someone else in the organization to see if they are game, say No, or ignore me. The Yes / forward happens about 80% of the time, so you’ll usually get the intro and it’ll have context. And, for me, it’ll take me 60 seconds to do it, rather than a few minutes to put a thoughtful email together.

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Jul 15 2020

Predictions, Prognostications, and The Future

I have never liked being asked to predict things. I try not to prognosticate, especially around things I’m not deeply involved in.

At this moment, people everywhere make continuous predictions and endless prognostications. At some level, that’s not new, as the regular end of year media rhythm for as long as I can remember is a stream of famous people being asked their predictions for the next year. There are entire domains, such as economics, that are all about predictions. Near term predictions drive the stock market (e.g., future quarterly performance, what the Federal Reserve is going to do in the future.)

As humans, we want to control our present, and one way to do that is to predict the future.

I think the Covid crisis has turned that upside down. As I was reading How Pandemics Wreak Havoc – And Open Minds last night, a few paragraphs at the end hit home.

The first comment is from Gianna Pomata, a retired professor at the Institute of the History of Medicine, at Johns Hopkins University who is now living in Bologna.

Pomata was shocked by the direction that the pandemic was taking in the United States. She understood the reasons for the mass protests and political rallies, but, as a medical historian, she was uncomfortably reminded of the religious processions that had spread the plague in medieval Europe. And, as someone who had obediently remained indoors for months, she was affronted by the refusal of so many Americans to wear masks at the grocery store and maintain social distancing. In an e-mail, she condemned those who blithely ignored scientific advice, writing, “What I see right now in the United States is that the pandemic has not led to new creative thinking but, on the contrary, has strengthened all the worst, most stereotypical, and irrational ways of thinking. I’m very sorry for the state of your country, which seems to be in the grip of a horrible attack of unreason.” She continued, “I’m sorry because I love it, and have received so much from it.”

It’s followed by a comment by Lawrence Wright, a staff writer at The New Yorker since 1992 and author of the incredible and timely book The End of October.

I understood her gloomy assessment, but also felt that America could be on the verge of much needed change. Like wars and depressions, a pandemic offers an X-ray of society, allowing us to see all the broken places. It was possible that Americans would do nothing about the fissures exposed by the pandemic: the racial inequities, the poisonous partisanship, the governmental incompetence, the disrespect for science, the loss of standing among nations, the fraying of community bonds. Then again, when people confront their failures, they have the opportunity to mend them.

These paragraphs reflect the reality that I’m observing in the US right now. However, you can see Wright’s human optimism creep in as he “[feels] that America could be on the verge of much needed change.” While not a prediction (thankfully), it raised the question at the end of the paragraph, which is:

[W]hen people confront their failures, they have the opportunity to mend them.

But how?

As I worked on The Startup Community Way and got my mind into how complex systems work, I concluded that change has to come from the bottom up, not the top down. While in the book, we apply it to startup communities, I’ve internalized it across any complex system.

We are living in the collision of a series of complex systems that are beyond anything I’ve experienced in my 54 years on earth. It’s happening against the backdrop of instantaneous global communication, which allows anyone to distribute and amplify any sort of information.

In a crisis, anger and fear generate irrational behavior, especially given the need to control things. History has taught us this, but all you need to do is watch the bad guys in popular movies implode to be reminded of it.

Consequently, predicting the future is not just impossible; it’s more irrelevant than ever. Fantasizing about what the future will look like, while comforting, is pointless. And anchoring hopes around the future (e.g. “schools will open up in the fall”) simply generates even more anger and fear if it doesn’t come true.

For many years, I’ve tried to avoid predicting the future or prognosticating about it. My answer, when asked, is often some version of “I don’t know, and I don’t care.”

I think this crisis has shut that off entirely for me, as I’m shifting all of my energy to the present. I’m focusing on doing things today that I believe in, want to do, and that I think has the potential to impact positive change. But I know I can’t predict the outcome of any of it.

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Jul 14 2020

Book: Startup CEO: A Field Guide to Scaling Up Your Business

Seven years ago this week, I posted about a new book in our Startup Revolution series called Startup CEO: A Field Guide to Scaling Up Your Business, by my friend Matt Blumberg, then CEO of email marketing company Return Path in the Foundry portfolio. Today, with more around 40,000 copies sold all over the world and in multiple languages and formats, Matt and our publisher Wiley & Sons in partnership with Techstars have published a Second Edition of Startup CEO, which you can pre-order here

Matt and I originally conceived of Startup CEO when I was writing Venture Deals where Matt organically ended up writing a sidebar for many of the chapters which we called “The Entrepreneur’s Perspective.”  At the time, we talked about him writing a full “instructional manual” for first-time CEOs, and that’s what Startup CEO became, with over 50 short chapters with practical “how to” advice on everything from Fundraising, to People issues, to Board management, to Self-Management. 

In the Second Edition, Matt, who led the sale of Return Path last year, added six new chapters on Selling Your Company, which really rounded out the book.

I have given or recommended Startup CEO to hundreds of CEOs over the years. Matt has been very generous with his time in mentoring other entrepreneurs or bringing his book to life in online education and webinars.  Today, he posted one of the new chapters from the Second Edition of Startup CEO on Techstars’ blog, TheLine, on Preparing Yourself for An Exit:  How Do You Know It’s Time to Sell? which is a great example of the new material in the book.

Matt and others are working on a companion/sequel to Startup CEO which will come out in late 2020/early 2021. So, get Startup CEO now so you’ll be ready for that one when it comes out.

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Jul 13 2020

West Slope Startup Week

Manufacturing, agriculture, retail, and tech. These are just a few of the many industries in Colorado led and supported by local businesses. But what are we doing to support them through the current health and economic crisis?

West Slope Startup Week (WSSW) launched last week (this year in a virtual format) — a full month of online programming open to businesses across the state. Programming includes sessions from people such as Energize Colorado (EC) CEO Wendy Lea and myself.

Equally innovative is the new element of digital mentorship. Led by Energize Colorado’s Mentorship team, we have brought together more than 45 mentors with expertise in finance, tech, sales, and more. This mentorship program is an opportunity for organizations, including EC and Techstars, to nurture Colorado’s rapidly growing talent on the Western Slope and throughout all of Colorado. 

Helping Colorado’s economy recover is about more than just a return to normal – it’s preparing for a fundamental transformation. Our future economy is one driven by a belief that equity and empathy are key strategies for inclusivity and long-term success.

Energize Colorado, a non-profit founded by many of Colorado’s business leaders, including myself, is here to lead this transformation. There are three key steps in Energize Colorado’s plan for economic recovery and growth:

  1. Foundational Support: Access to mentorship, mental health resources, and research about reopening a business in the time of Covid.
  2. Financial Access: EC’s Gap Fund (launching at the end of July) is a $25m+ fund that mixes grants and low-interest loans to assist rural, women, and BIPOC-owned businesses.
  3. Fortitude: Providing the thought leadership Colorado needs to increase inclusivity, help small businesses remain competitive, and lead the nation in innovation.

During times like this, I am reminded why I, and many others, became entrepreneurs –  to satisfy a never-ending curiosity and drive to learn. This is, in part, why mentorship is so valuable to me and integral to EC and Techstars’ startup week programming.

Regardless of your age or expertise, there is always something to be learned and gained. Now more than ever, we have to come together across the state to support each other and lead this transformation. I am calling on all of you to recognize the value mentorship has had on your journey and participate.

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Jul 13 2020

The Startup Community Way – Table of Contents

My new book with Ian Hathaway, The Startup Community Way, comes out on 7/28. We’ve begun the pre-order campaign. Since every author loves pre-orders, so if you want to do something that will make me smile today, pre-order your copy here.

To give you a sense of the book, following is the Table of Contents, in detail.

CHAPTER ONE: Introduction
– The Next Generation
– Our Approach
– A Deeper Motivation
– The Boulder Thesis
– Startup Communities are Complex Adaptive Systems
– Where We Were in 2012
– Where We are Now in 2020
– Using Complexity Theory to Explain Startup Communities
– Evolving the Boulder Thesis to the Startup Community Way

PART I: INTRODUCTION TO STARTUP COMMUNITIES

CHAPTER TWO: Why Startup Communities Exist
– What Entrepreneurs Do
– The External Environment Networks over Hierarchies
– Networks of Trust
– Density and Agglomeration Quality of Place

CHAPTER THREE: The Actors
– Leaders, Feeders, and Instigators
– Actors

CHAPTER FOUR: The Factors
– The Seven Capitals
– Factors

CHAPTER FIVE: Startup Communities versus Entrepreneurial Ecosystems
– Entrepreneurial Ecosystems
– Alignment of Actors
– Different, but Mutually Reinforcing, Purpose
– Systems within Systems
– Entrepreneurial Success
– Community/Ecosystem Fit

PART II: STARTUP COMMUNITIES AS COMPLEX SYSTEMS

CHAPTER SIX: Putting the System Back into Ecosystem
– Introduction to Systems
– The Whole System
– Simple, Complicated, and Complex Activities
– Moving from Activities to Systems

CHAPTER SEVEN: Unpredictable Creativity
– Emergence
– Synergies and Nonlinearity
– Self-Organization
– Dynamism
– The Study of Interactions

CHAPTER EIGHT: The Myth of Quantity
– More of Everything
– Outliers, Not Averages
– Entrepreneurial Recycling
– Leaders as Supernodes

CHAPTER NINE: The Illusion of Control
– Not Controllable
– Not Fully Knowable
– Feedbacks and Contagion
– Getting Unstuck
– Letting Go

CHAPTER TEN: The Absence of a Blueprint
– Initial Conditions and Basins of Attraction
– The Narrative Fallacy
– Building on Strengths and Learning from Failures
– Cultivating Topophilia

CHAPTER ELEVEN: The Measurement Trap
– The Fundamental Measurement Problem
– Actor and Factor Models: A Categorical Approach
– Standardized Metrics Models: A Comparative Approach
– Network Models: A Relational Approach
– Dynamic Models: An Evolutionary Approach
– Cultural-Social Models: A Behavioral Approach
– Logic Models: A Causal Approach
– Agent-Based Models: A Simulation Approach
– Applying the Different Models

PART III: FROM THE BOULDER THESIS TO THE STARTUP COMMUNITY WAY

CHAPTER TWELVE: Simplifying Complexity
– The Boulder Thesis
– The Rainforest
– Applying Systems Thinking
– Looking Deeply
– Leverage Points

CHAPTER THIRTEEN: Leadership is Key
– Be a Mentor
– Entrepreneurs as Role Models
– Key Leadership Characteristics

CHAPTER FOURTEEN: Think in Generations
– Progress is Uneven and Often Feels Slow
– The Endless Long-Term Game

CHAPTER FIFTEEN: Diversity is a Feature, Not a Bug
– Cultivate Diversity
– Embracing Diversity
– Think Broadly about Entrepreneurship

CHAPTER SIXTEEN: Be Active, Not Passive
– Self-Similarity and Replication
– Don’t Wait or Ask Permission
– Play a Positive-Sum Game
– Continuously and Actively Engage

PART IV: CONCLUSION

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN: Conclusion
– Reflections
– Summary of the Book
– Final Thoughts

Remember – it’s pre-order time! And, the Startup Community community is now over 2,000 people and very vibrant so jump in.

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Jul 12 2020

Book: Tulsa 1921

I heard the phrase “Greenwood” a few days after George Floyd was murdered. I’d never heard of it, or of the Tulsa race massacre before.

It’s 2020, so I went looking around on the Internet. The more I read, the more upset I became. Amy and I then watched the first few episodes of The Watchman, and I suddenly had a desire to get a full picture of what happened.

I do this by reading a book. I’m not a history buff, so I don’t spend a lot of time going deep on a particular historical event. Most of the surface level history I know comes from high school in Dallas (where, of course, we began with Texas history), a lifetime of museums, occasional TV documentaries, Wikipedia, or conversations. And books.

When I’m interested in something, I read a book on it. Since I’m reading one book on racial injustice each weekend this summer (and, given the pile of books I’ve accumulated, I expect I’ll continue into the fall), I decided to make my Saturday book Tulsa 1921: Reporting a Massacre.

I chose it carefully after reading the backgrounds of a few other books. I was looking for a reporting of the event, which I expected would be challenging given both the time frame (99 years ago) along with what I expected to be a lot of historical bias. I chose this book because the author, Randy Krehbiel, has been a reporter for the Tulsa World (Tulsa’s daily newspaper since 1905) for over 40 years and a Tulsa native. I figured, if anyone, he’d be able to mine the history from a reporter’s perspective, while balancing the topophilia he had for Tulsa, against the backdrop of a horrific event in the city’s history. Finally, Karlos K Hill, the Department Chair, African and African American Studies at the University of Oklahoma, wrote the foreword and endorsed the book, giving it more credibility in my eyes.

I lost myself in Tulsa in 1921 yesterday afternoon and into the evening. The Tulsa race massacre was an injustice on multiple levels. It included the willful destruction of what at the time was one of the most successful Black communities in America. In addition to the 24-hour destruction of the Black community by a variety of White Tulsans in pogram-like fashion, the ensuing several years of efforts to relocate the community, rather than allow the Black property-owning residents to rebuild, was deeply disturbing. Alongside this was a continual denial of any sort of meaningful redress or compensation by the White leadership of Tulsa.

During this period, the KKK had a new resurgence, which reinforced many aspects of systemic racism, both related to this period in Tulsa, as well as across the entire United States. Black leaders, with a few White allies, fought for justice for the residents, victims, and families of Greenwood. They also fought against the corruption, blame-shifting, and systemic racism that existed at the time in Tulsa. The Black Tulsans of Greenwood eventually prevailed and rebuilt their community.

Krehbiel handled this story exceptionally well. There are many ambiguities and unknowns. Rather than rendering an opinion, he tried to acknowledge the biases, the potential perspectives, and citied whatever he could find in history. Rather than tell the reader what to think, he painted a full story, incorporating many voices from different frames of reference, and allowed the reader to form a view and decide when the record was ambiguous, what had happened.

While an emotionally challenging book to read, I ended my day Saturday with another layer of understanding of how systemic racism is and has worked, for many years, in the U.S.

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Jul 10 2020

Trying a “No Scheduled Meeting” Week

I was going to take a week off the grid next week, but I’ve got a bunch of podcasts and media recordings to do for my upcoming book The Startup Community Way. I also want to continue spending time in the new Startup Community community, which now has over 2,000 people in it and is growing and self-organizing at a rapid clip. And I have a few Foundry things to do.

So I’m going to try something I’ve never done before. I’m going to have a No Scheduled Meeting week. The recordings are on my calendar, but nothing else is.

When I ponder this, it amazes me that I’ve never tried this before. I often feel oppressed by my calendar and I’ve tried lots of different approaches to managing it. However, I’ve never had a week of no scheduled meetings.

Rather than take a week off the grid, I’ll work all week. It’ll just be almost entirely unscheduled work. I have no idea how it will go, but that’s the nature of endless small experiments.

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Jul 8 2020

Book: The Startup Playbook

If you are working on your first startup, this is the book for you. Hopefully, the Foreword I wrote reflects my belief in the quality and importance of this book.

My friends @willherman and @rajatbhargava put their hearts and souls into the creation of the first edition of The Startup Playbook, and it paid off. Over 13,000 people bought the book, it’s a 4.8-star review book on Amazon (with 100 reviews), and it sold out.

I’ve known Will since 1984 and Raj since 1993. Will and I made our first angel investment together in 1994 – in Raj’s first company NetGenesis (which went public in 1999). Since then, Will and I have made many investments together (including most of Raj’s company). Raj and I have done seven companies together, including his most recent company JumpCloud which is one of the fastest-growing B2B SaaS companies in our portfolio (and in Colorado.)

The book is Will and Raj’s how-to guide for building your startup from the ground up. It has a collection of the major lessons and shortcuts they learned starting 11 companies between them – a lot of successes, but some nasty failures too. They wrote the book to shift the odds of success in your favor. They share their tips, secrets, and advice in a frank, founder-to-founder discussion with you.

The Startup Playbook is not a recipe; it’s not a template; it’s not a list of tasks to do. It’s their insider’s guide to starting a company and running it successfully in those critical early months. It’s full of our advice, guidance, do’s, and don’ts from their years of experience as founders, investors, mentors, and advisors.

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Jul 7 2020

Expanding My Perspective

I’ve become aware that my existing network creates and perpetuates systemic inequities. Rather than abandon my existing network, I’m investing time and energy in expanding my perspective and network through the various things I pay attention to and get involved in.

Today’s post covers two things I love to do: run and read. When I reflect on my running and fitness heroes, they are mostly men. If you asked me to name ten world-class marathoners, it would be mostly men. And when I think of people who I go running with, which is rare since I prefer to run alone, it’s men.

A year ago, I decided I needed to permanently change my diet and hired Katie Elliott as my nutritionist. She’s become a good friend and has been extraordinarily helpful with changing my diet and helping me permanently lose some weight. She’s also an outstanding athlete, so I’ve gotten bonus coaching from her.

Next week Katie is leading a day-long online symposium called Women.Thrive. Amy and I sponsored it, and I have ten free tickets, so if you want to attend, email me (the first ten get the tickets.) Or, if you wish to attend and don’t need a free ticket, please sign up as all proceeds go to Covid relief. I’ll be attending some of the sessions to learn and expand my perspective on women athletes and health. Plus – Martina Navratilova – one of my childhood tennis heroes – is speaking about motivation.

Next, I’ve been reading a bunch of stuff that is outside my normal reading zone. Each weekend I read at least one book from my now very large pile of books by Black authors about a wide variety of topics. Saturday night, I chose a memoir and read White People Really Love Salad by Nita Mosby Tyler, Ph.D.

I love memoirs. I separate this category from “autobiography” because I’m not that interested in autobiographies (I prefer biographies). Memoirs are more than just a person’s history. They interweave one’s history and experiences with personal philosophy, advice, reflection (both the author’s and mine), and inspiration.

Nita wrote about her experience growing up in Atlanta as a Black girl. Each chapter ended with her reflections about race, diversity, equity, and equality that related directly to the story she had just told. I read it from beginning to end, realizing that almost every experience was new to me.

Last night, I read Piloting Your Life by Terri Hanson Mead. Terri wrote about her experience shifting into, exploring, and getting used to midlife as a White, professional, happily married woman with a husband and two kids in the bay area. Oh, and she’s a helicopter pilot (so cool) so she uses a lot of flying metaphors to structure the book (hence the title). She includes stories and interviews with many other women going through the transition from “pre-midlife” to “midlife,” along with endless, direct, and compelling examples of the struggles relative to men going through a similar age transition.

I’m in my mid-50s (wow – when did that happen?) Many of my transitions are completely different from Terri’s. As I read the book, in addition to getting to know Terri better, I also ended up with a bunch of insights, from a woman’s perspective, about midlife.

Every time I finish a book like one of these I think “I should read more books like this.”

When people, who are roughly the same age as me (or at least the same generation) write about completely different life experiences and from an entirely different perspective, they give me a lot to think about and help me ponder my strengths, weaknesses, limitations, and biases. And, in this case, these books were different but beautiful complements to read one after the other.

I appreciate the energy that Nita and Terri have put into these books. Now that I’ve written a bunch of books, including one very personal one with Amy (Startup Life: Surviving and Thriving in a Relationship with an Entrepreneur), I understand how much work it is to write a book like this.

And, most of all, I appreciate their willingness to put their story out into the world, which helps me expand my perspective.

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