Mar 22 2021

BIPOC Artists in Colorado

Amy and I have been collecting contemporary art since we started dating in 1990. Every morning at our place in Aspen, over morning coffee, we get to enjoy this amazing piece by Julie Maren.

When I wrote the original post, I got a short email from Phi Pham.

I hope you’ll be mindful of collecting art from Black and POC artists too! 

My response was:

We have some, but not mindfully. For example, we are a huge collector of Emilio Lobato.

It’s a good reminder.

Do you have any recommendations for artists in the Western US who are Black or POC?

A few months later, I got another email from Phil with an amazing list that was compiled by Phil and his sister with help from Hannah Leathers and Solomon “Solo” Muhammad,

Phil, Hannah, and Solo – thanks for the great list.

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Mar 19 2021

What I Mean When I Say I’m Indifferent

I no longer subscribe to many daily email newsletters, but I’ve kept a few. My favorite to wake up to is Ryan Holiday’s The Daily Stoic.

Today’s headline was It’s Possible to Tune These Things Out but it linked to an older post titled The True Power Behind Stoic “Indifference”.

At morning coffee a while ago, Amy and I had a long conversation about the phrase “I don’t care.” I struggled to explain what I was trying to say and how it was often misunderstood when I said it. Through her reaction and feedback, she helped me better understand what people heard when I said “I don’t care.”

I tried shifting to the phrase “I’m indifferent” instead of “I don’t care.” I continued to feel that I was being misunderstood when I said this. I’d often provide strengths and weaknesses of each option presented but then end with “I’m indifferent.” I knew that this was confusing to some, but I didn’t know why until I read The True Power Behind Stoic “Indifference”.

Of all the loaded words in Stoic philosophy, “indifferent” is one of the most provocative. Marcus AureliusSeneca, and Epictetus each tell us that the Stoic is indifferent to external things, indifferent to wealth, indifferent to pain, indifferent to winning, indifferent to hope and dreams and everything else. You hear it enough times and it starts to sound like these people don’t care about anything. Especially since the modern definition of the word means precisely that. But this is a dangerous misreading.

Recently, I got feedback from several people that I was profoundly unhelpful in a particular situation by saying, “I’m indifferent.” I thought about it on a run, which is unusual for me as I rarely focus on one thing during a run but prefer to let my brain go all over the place. In this particular situation, my brain seemed to lock down on the dissonance around this phrase.

The situation in question had two paths: A and B. I had a modest preference for A, but I was good with either A and B. I had explained this, but when asked which I preferred, I said, “I’m indifferent.”

After my run, I explained this more clearly, reiterating that I had a modest preference for A but was good with either A or B. Instead of “indifference,” I stated that I was “tranquil.” After even more reflection, I think a better concept would have been “equanimity.”

Back to the The True Power Behind Stoic “Indifference”.

The Stoics were not indifferent in that sense at all, it’s that they were good either way. It’s not that they didn’t care, it’s that they were good either way. Does that make sense? The point was to be strong enough that there wasn’t a need to need things to go in a particular direction. Seneca for his part would say that obviously it’s better to be rich than poor, tall than short, but the Stoic was indifferent when fate actually dealt out its hand on the matter. Because the Stoic was strong enough to make good of it—whatever it was.

Boom. After reading this, I got the disconnect people were having, which was reinforced by the contemporary view of equating “I’m indifferent” to “I don’t care,” which is very different from “I’m good either way.”

Think of that today, that it’s not about apathy or even a lack of expectation. It’s simply the quiet strength of not needing a preference, because you’re that strong.

Ryan – thanks again for helping me understand myself a little better.

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Mar 17 2021

Happy Birthday Dad and Dave

Two of my favorite men on planet Earth have birthdays today.

Happy birthday Dad.

Happy birthday Dave.

I’ve learned an incredible amount from each of you. And, given all the time the three of us have spent together, from both of you.

One of the best things I’ve learned from each of you is a love of wide-open physical spaces. Dad – I’m so glad you and Mom created Woodcreek Ranch.

Dave – thank you for all the 14ers. I hope to climb many more with you.

Even though we’ve spent a lot of time together as a threesome, one, in particular, stands out. We had a Feld Technologies board retreat in the fall of 1987. I remember the date because it was during the Bork confirmation hearing. We spent the time in New Hampshire, drove around looking at leaves, and talking about what Feld Technologies could become now that the summer of 1987, which was full of missteps, was over. We did a huge reset that weekend on what we were doing, which set Feld Technologies on a path where it was profitable every month for the rest of its life. The other path could have been the death of the company, so it remains a potent and formative moment for me.

Happy birthday to you both!

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Mar 16 2021

Writing about SPACs

Like many people, I’m currently deep in SPACland. I’ve been writing privately about it a lot but have now crossed over into a zone where I feel like writing more publicly about it.

When Jason and I wrote the first edition Venture Deals in 2011, we built off a series of 30+ blog posts we wrote in 2005 about Term Sheets. It’s fun to explore them for historical reference since Jack Bauer plays a major part in the posts.

While these posts were the seed for what is now a book (Venture Deals: Be Smarter Than Your Lawyer And Venture Capitalist), it was also a way for us to think through all the elements of a VC financing, back at a time when there was enormous opacity about how these worked, along with massive information asymmetry between people who did them all the time (e.g., us) and the entrepreneur, who did a few of these over her lifetime.

While the web is a much noisier place in 2021 than it was in 2005, the opacity and information asymmetry around SPACs are remarkably similar to what existed 16 years ago around venture deals.

The cliche “everyone’s an expert, but no one knows anything” applies. Yes, there are some experts, but not that many. And the amount of misinformation, misperception, opacity, and information asymmetry is enormous.

As I continue to write privately, I’m going to start writing more publicly. And I encourage comments, feedback, and corrections.

While there is much debate about SPACs, I believe they are a long-term part of the capital stack. They are evolving rapidly, which is part of what is so interesting about them, at least to me.

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Mar 15 2021

$avvy: Women. Money. Freedom.

$avvy, the latest movie that Amy and I helped underwrite, is now out. It’s another movie from Robin Hauser and Finish Line Features.

$avvy investigates the historical, cultural, and societal norms around women and money. This documentary questions why women often take a backseat to their finances. Interviews with business and financial experts like Carrie Schwab, Farnoosh Torabi, Sallie Krawcheck, and Haley Sacks (aka Mrs. Dow Jones) show why it is so important—now more than ever—for women to take control of their financial futures.

The first screening of $avvy is at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival from March 31st to April 10th.

Sign up here to register to watch $avvy.

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Mar 10 2021

One Year Ago Today

My first full day in isolation was one year ago. My last dinner out was on Tuesday, March 10, 2020, with Mike Platt. I remember driving home that night pondering when I’d be back in the office.

On Wednesday, March 11, 2020, I had a full schedule at home, starting at 9 am and ending at 5:45 pm. Little did I know that would be the pattern for at least a year.

Amy and I each had a long day yesterday, so we spend the evening having “morning coffee #2 without the coffee.” It was an emotional reflection on a year with a vast range of positives and negatives for both of us.

By far, the biggest positive has been spending 365 days together. We spent the first 25 years of our relationship apart more than 75% of the time as I traveled constantly. To spend 365 days together, waking up and having coffee each morning, and saying goodnight in person each night, has been amazing.

As we both look forward, we are talking a lot about what we’ve learned from the last year – both good and bad. It sets the table for how we want to live the rest of our lives, however long that may be.

Amy shared an article from The Atlantic titled We Have to Grieve Our Last Good Days, which impacted me. I encourage you to read it and ponder as you reflect on the anniversary of the start of the Covid crisis in the US.

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Mar 8 2021

Helping to Eliminate Racism in America

Last summer, I shifted my personal behavior around racism. I realized that I had spent the previous 20 years providing “passive” support to social justice causes. I decided that I’d spend the next 20 years actively helping to eliminate racism in America. That includes learning, doing, supporting, and being an accomplice.

At the end of last week, two articles written by CEOs in our portfolio made the rounds on our CEO list.

This first is from Xiao Wang, the CEO of Boundless. The article is an NBC OpEd titled Violence against Asian Americans means we must fight for ourselves, not just pursue success. It’s extraordinary (as is Xiao) and includes a gem in the middle of it.

For too long we’ve been passive observers, reveling in how much better America is compared to where we or our ancestors have come from, instead of actively shaping how good America could be.

Xiao’s son just turned one year old. He ends his OpEd with:

And, yes, I will make my son do his math homework and learn how to play piano, but I will also teach him how to be proud of who he is. He doesn’t need to be ashamed about the size of his head, his face flushing after a beer or his last name. I want him to grow up in an America that will treat him equally as a U.S. citizen, and not one where he will be asked “But where are you really from?”

But if they do, I want him to be sure of himself when he says, “The United States. Just like you.

The next is by Craig Lewis, CEO of Gig Wage. It’s an article on TechCrunch titled Investors are missing out on Black founders. It’s broken up into the following sections.

  • Black founders: Forget what you think works in fundraising
  • Become an irresistible force: Leverage your expertise
  • Connect in the common goal of brilliance
  • Get in front of as many investors as you can
  • Own your resiliency, own your power

Black founders need to own their resiliency and leverage the power that has resulted from their unique experiences. The victory mentality that ensues thereafter is the type of mindset that venture capitalists should want to invest in, and if they do not, they are undoubtedly missing out.

I’m glad I get to work with, learn from, and support Xiao and Craig.

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Mar 5 2021

Techstars Foundation Accelerate Equity

The Techstars Foundation recently announced a new program called Accelerate Equity.

We created the Techstars Foundation in 2015 to help make innovation and entrepreneurship more accessible and inclusive. Since then, the Techstars Foundation has been investing in and accelerating nonprofits that deliver scalable impact for underestimated entrepreneurs.

Through Accelerate Equity, the Techstars Foundation identifies early-stage nonprofits and ideas to empower and support underestimated entrepreneurs. Each non-profit has a significant nominating donor. We then call on the Techstars network to pitch in, provide mentorship, and add additional financial donations. The Techstars Foundation will add a 5% match to the total raised at the end of the calendar quarter.

Amy and I helped get this program started by nominating and underwriting initial grants to Grid 110, Sistahbiz, and HBCUvc. The Techstars Foundation added Knox St. Studios to the list.

  • Grid 110 – pathways to success for entrepreneurs in LA
  • Knox St. Studios – building community wealth through entrepreneurship in North Carolina  
  • Sistahbiz – membership organization for Black women entrepreneurs 
  • HBCUvc – directing how capital is formed and distributed to increase opportunities for Black and Latinx innovators

If you are interested in supporting any of these organizations, please click on the respective link above or reach out to the Techstars Foundation. Or, for the three I’m involved in, drop me an email also, and I’ll make an appropriate connection.

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Mar 3 2021

The 15 Second Commute

At 7:52, I was upstairs having coffee with Amy. It’s a new routine that we started at the beginning of Covid. Every morning we have coffee together. Long-time readers of this blog or our book Startup Life: Surviving and Thriving in a Relationship with an Entrepreneur will recognize this as the evolution of our daily “Four Minutes in the Morning” ritual.

“Morning coffee” lasts about 30 minutes. We each make a cup of coffee in our magical Nespresso machine. Mine is simple – put a random capsule in and press the button. Amy’s is more elaborate since it involves milk, a microwave, sugar, and the Nespresso machine. We then sit together in the living room and talk about how we slept, our Whoop recovery scores, and what is to come for the day ahead. That’s the four-minute part. We then let the conversation take us wherever it goes. The last few days, we’ve talked about octopuses, the Nature Conservancy, a Zen garden we are designing, tents, the dog next door who barks hello to us, winter turning into spring, summer adventures, estate planning, friends who just had a great exit for their business, and knitting.

When I finish my first cup of coffee, I make an exaggerated “grunt.” This is a new part of the ritual that makes us both laugh. Amy loves to do acts of service, and making my second cup of coffee (decaf) during our morning coffee ritual is a daily one that makes both of us smile.

After I finish my second cup of coffee, we get up, hug for eight seconds, and then I go to the office. Which, in this case, is a 15-second commute downstairs from our living room.

This used to be a 30-minute drive from my house to my office in downtown Boulder. We’ve repurposed this 30-minute drive into our morning coffee. Not surprisingly, I enjoy our 30 minutes together a lot more than I enjoyed my 30-minute drive to the office.

So, at 7:53 this morning, I was in my office, at my desk. While I’ve worked from home part-time for 30 years, I’ve never had a continuous rhythm of this. It’s been almost a year where I’ve done this every day. My last day in an office was March 10th, 2020. My last dinner out for business was at Jaipur in Boulder with Mike Platt that night. It wasn’t really a business dinner since we talked about life and our anxiety about this new thing called Coronavirus.

While many people want to get back to an office, I don’t. I’ve found a much better rhythm. While it took a 120-nanometer virus to reinforce it for me, I embrace it.

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Mar 2 2021

Movie: My Octopus Teacher

After my blog post Book: The Soul of an Octopus I received a flurry of emails telling me I needed to watch the movie My Octopus Teacher on Netflix.

I watched it last night and it was beautiful.

I’m fascinated by which blog posts generate email responses. Sometimes is zero. Sometimes it is a lot. This one was a lot.

Octopuses are crazy interesting. And Craig Foster is pretty awesome.

Thanks everyone for the email with the recommendation.

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