Having been an entrepreneur and VC for over 20 years, I’ve now seen plenty of economic cycles – both at a macro level and specifically in the areas I invest in. As a result, I smiled when I received three conflicting pieces of information today from two people I know and like and one person that I don’t know but know is respected.
Matt McCall at DFJ Portage calls the current VC cycle "dead" as of Q2 2008 in Rough Ride Ahead: Buckle Up & Get Your Money Now (if you can). He says it with conviction, although he does acknowledge that he hopes he is Peter the Wolf.
Fred Wilson at Union Square Ventures asks (and answers) the question Am I Bored With “Web 2.0”? Fred is heading off to Europe for a month with his family "to see how the web is changing the world and I want to see how entrepreneurs who are operating with a different worldview are thinking about the power and potential of the web. I could do the same thing in Asia or some other part of the world, but Europe is particularly easy place to do this because of the range of cultures and countries within a couple hours plane ride from each other."
Merrill Lynch’s chief strategist Richard Bernstein in "Some thoughts on alternative investments (6/23/08)" says "The growth in alternative investments seems linked to the growth of the credit crisis" but then goes on to say "There may be two areas of alternative investments that seem relatively attractive in the current financial environment. In both cases, these are areas that might benefit from the tightening of global credit. The first is early-stage venture capital. … If return-on-investment does indeed tend to be higher when capital is scarce, the significant tightening of traditional credit funding to smaller companies seems to make early-stage venture capital strategies more attractive."
While Bernstein’s definition of "early stage venture capital" is mostly likely different than mine (given my interpretation of his assertion), knowing how sound bites work, the three tag lines are "VC is dead", "I’m bored of Web 2.0 and need more meaning in my investments", and "early-stage VC is attractive again."
Like Fred, I also am about to embark on a month outside of my normal context. Amy and I are about to head to our house in Homer, Alaska for the month of July. I’m looking forward to going to a place where the Supreme Court rules Homer voter initiative invalid and thinking big (but not big box) thoughts.
I spent the weekend in Duluth, Minnesota with Amy knocking off Marathon #11 in my quest to run a marathon in all 50 states. #11 was Grandma’s Marathon, consistently one of the best regarded marathons in the US.
After a couple of frustrating marathons, including a steadily escalating personal worst, I put some effort into training for Grandma’s. My goal was modest – break 5 hours. Since my PR is currently 4:05, this felt achievable.
I started off strong. Too strong. Rule #1 of the marathon is to hold plenty back at the beginning so you have it left at the end. I went through the halfway point (13.1m) at 2:20 which put me on track for a sub 4:45. I lost it a few miles later – tightening up at mile 15. I slowed it down a notch and thought I still had a shot at sub 5:00. At mile 19 I went down another notch and was now slogging through 13 minute miles. At this point I knew I wouldn’t break 5:00 and my goal shifted from "break 5 hours" to "finish this fucking thing." I did in 5:09:21.
While I didn’t beat my time goal, I’m pleased with the result. Finishing is always my key goal (I’ve finished every marathon I’ve entered – no DNF’s yet.) While 5:00 would have been nice, the course was tougher than advertised (it’s known as a flat course; I’d describe it is "a mild undulating hill for most of 26 miles.") It was also on the warm side – this eventually took its toll on me.
I saw Amy cheering me on just as I crossed the finish line. I was completely used up so I was a little confused about where to find her since they shunted the marathoner finishers off in a direction away from the crowd. I stumbled around for a few minutes until I luckily ran into her. I was claustrophobic and a little freaked out feeling so I missed the finisher food and water as I rapidly (as rapidly as I could manage) headed out away from the crowd. We’d covered about 200 yards when my left calf cramped up and I went down hard on the ground. Amy was great – worried – but patient with me as she worked out the knots. Someone passing by gave me a Coke which helped a little; we were in front of a Subway so Amy went in and got some more Coke and some potato chips while I laid on my face on the sidewalk. While I was lying there, the other calf started cramping, resulting in me thrashing around like a hooked fish as people wandered by. A few stopped to help, which was nice, although fortunately none of them knew how to perform a leg amputation which was what I imagine I was crying out for.
We eventually made it back to the hotel (a 10 minute walk took us about an hour) after which I slept the rest of the afternoon. Mexican food for dinner, a very chilled out day today (e.g. lots more napping), and Indian food for dinner tonight has me mostly back to normal, albeit with two very sore calves. Once again, Sherpa Amy was phenomenal to have along.
My big (yet obvious) lesson is that I just haven’t been doing enough long runs. I consistently do 14 to 16 mile training runs, but I’m not doing enough 20+ training runs. My next marathon is the Mesa Falls Marathon in Ashton, Idaho on August 23rd – I plan to do at least three runs of 20+ between now and then. I’m ready to set my goal for Ashton, ID at 4:45 – if it has been a little cooler, I’d held back a little more in the first half, and had done a couple of 20 mile runs, I’m confident I would have been under 5 hours yesterday.
We’ve had fun in Duluth – it’s a cute little town at the very west end of Lake Superior. Grandma’s Marathon is apparently the biggest event of the year in Duluth; by Sunday evening there was nothing going on in downtown on Superior Street. We did – however – manage to find a good Indian restaurant.
The Roomba Song and My Brother Daniel The Video Star
Every time I see a cool Roomba-related thing (including the Roomba itself) I remember torturing Colin Angle when I was his pledge trainer. Too bad I didn’t have the foresight to invest in iRobot early on (oh well). Today, Colin sent around a new song by Mr. Pitiful titled "Brand New Friend" – the Roomba prominently stars in it.
I also received a note from my brother Daniel that the new StillSecure web site is up and he stars in it. Hilarious and well done. Yes – it was inspired by the awesome Slingbox web site.
Getting up at 3:45am to travel ruins my morning routine that includes jamming through email, web, and blogs. I’ve had some time to catch up this afternoon (while Amy naps to recover from the early morning silliness) and I’ve got some good stuff for you.
I’m Training To Ruin A Marathon: A gem from The Onion. On Saturday I’m going to run a marathon; this dude has a plan to ruin a marathon.
How to be a TechStar Part 2: A guide to Boulder’s Coffee Shops: Another gem – this time from Rob Johnson of EventVue (one of the TechStars companies). Coffee is a very important part of Boulder. Rob breaks it down for us all.
An evolution of definition: Eric Norlin talks about how "definitions" like "enterprise 2.0" evolve by comparing remembering how "digital identiy" works. He has some constructive suggestions and explains what "Defrag" means – sort of.
Email Productivity: Albert Wenger at Union Square Ventures explains how he processes his inbox.
Validate Your Own Market: Josh Kopelman of First Round Capital explores common pickup lines. He explains why the answer to a VC asking an entrepreneur "What happens if [INSERT LARGE ESTABLISHED PROSPECTIVE COMPETITOR HERE] decides to get into the market" is not "their entry will validate the market."
Have fun. Drink your coffee and eat your wheaties.
As my quest to run a marathon in every state by the time I’m 50 continues on Saturday with Marathon #11 (Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, MN) – I’m excited to announce that Return Path has agreed to sponsor my effort. Matt Blumberg – the CEO of Return Path wrote about it on his blog at Run, Brad, Run!
We’ve been investors in Return Path since 2000 and I’ve gotten to know Matt well over the years. He was at my side for Marathon #5 – New York, 2005 and he’s going to hang out with me for Marathon #12 in Ashton, Idaho in August.
Five years ago, one of Return Path’s early employees – Sophie Miller Audette – was diagnosed with MS. I introduced Sophie and Matt to Art Mellor of Accelerated Cure and Return Path adopted it as their charity as Matt wrote in Doing Well by Doing Good, Part II. When I told Matt that I has also decided to adopt Accelerated Cure as my official charity for my effort, he and his team started cooking up a way to support both of us.
Return Path has pledged $1,000 to Accelerated Cure for every marathon I run with a bonus of $500 for every marathon I run under four hours. Including the marathons that I’ve run to date, this is half of my goal of $100,000. Return Path is hoping their gift will help inspire other people to help me blow away my goal.
Since I wrote about this a few days ago, several blog readers have already contributed $300. Assuming I finish my goal and not counting any sub four hour marathons, I’ve now have commitments and funding of $50,300. Come play along – more contributions welcome – just click on the "Click here to Donate" button in the widget above.
I’ve also received a commitment from another blog reader for a dollar for every minute under five hours (thanks Len!) I have one more sponsor to announce – probably after I finish the race but you can guess who they are from the logo listed on my Marathon page. Finally, in the "wow – that’s cool" category is that Kate Smyth – a member of the Australian Olympic team for the marathon – was on our flight to Duluth. I introduced myself and we hung out and talked while we waited for our bags at baggage claim. She could win the women’s race!
I’m sitting in the quiet zone in the airport lounge at MPLS so I’m not allowed to talk on my cell phone or listen to stuff on my laptop. But you can!
ReadWriteWeb posted an interview with me that Alex Iskold did – it’s titled People in Tech: Brad Feld, Foundry Group (nice SEO btw – I’m very surprised it’s not #2 on The Google for "Brad Feld"). I love working with Alex (I’m a small investor in Adaptive Blue) and think he has an enormous and fun brain. I’ve already gotten a few nice comments, emails, and tweets on my answer to the question "What is the meaning of life."
Do you like dogs? Do you like cats? Then you’ll love Ted Rheingold, the founder / CEO of Dogster. He’s on WallStrip this week. W00f.
Finally, don’t forget all of the TechStars Community action.
- Meeting Flux Capacity (what a great name)
- Brad Feld with Foodzie (boy do I have a crush on these guys)
Oops. I just made Amy annoyed. "Brad – it’s time to shut down your computer and board the plane." Gotta go to Duluth!
When I was at MIT, I loved the idea of office hours. I didn’t use them often, but when I did they were incredibly helpful to me. When I had focused one on one time with a professor, it took some of the intimidation out of the learning experience and gave me a tight window to be open about the ideas and concepts that I was struggling with, while not worrying about being graded on that stuff.
I received a note from a blog reader recently in response to one of my work-life balance posts. In it he said "I have kids that I like to spend time with so one thing that I do that quite a few of my peers have adopted is have office hours from 8pm-10pm. People know they can reach me and it’s the one time I don’t mind getting "have you heard of this or that" type of emails. Then I can get in later and leave earlier. "
I thought this was a brilliant idea. I’ve been doing this with TechStars, although not late at night since I’m basically useless after 10pm. Instead, I schedule a block of "office hours time" once a week and get through a bunch of focused 30 minute interactions. I’ve also got this scheduled in July while I’m at my house in Homer, AK for when I want to do phone calls; there’s a block of time every day that are the equivalent of office hours. I’m sure I’ll periodically have other phone calls throughout the day around urgent stuff, but anything that doesn’t need to be dealt with in real time will be relegated to office hours.
When I step back and think about my work pacing, the office hours concept plays a big role. I already schedule almost all of my phone calls and my assistant Kelly has blocks throughout the day when she knows she can do this. Overall, most of my time is scheduled so I have specific blocks when I am "in class" (usually board meetings or meetings with companies), "office hours" (when I’m on the phone or taking blocks of short meetings such as the random meetings that I do), and "research time" (when I have time to work on exploring new stuff, writing, reading, and thinking.)
I hadn’t ever put it together that a lot of my pacing mirrors what I’d do if I was in an academic setting. When I was at MIT, I watched my advisor Eric von Hippel have an excellent rhythm for his work. I think I’ve unconsciously mirrored some of it, albeit with a different tempo.
If you’ve been following my running efforts, you know that I have a goal of running a marathon in every state by the time I turn 50 years old. I’ve completed ten to date and am 42 so it’s time to get moving! My next one is Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, MN next Sunday (6/21). My times have been steadily increasing the past few marathons with my personal worst (5:47) coming at Sedona in February after I completely blew up at mile 19. So – I’ve been training harder and more consistently with a goal of breaking 5:00 at Grandma’s followed by 4:45 in August at Ashton, ID and 4:30 in October at Bar Harbor, ME. Having run a 4:05 in Chicago several years ago, there is no doubt that I can do a majority of these marathons under 4:00 – I just have to get serious about it.
I’ve had a few people approach me about sponsorships for this endeavor and have decided to finally get my sponsorship act together. My first sponsor is the Accelerate Cure Project for Multiple Sclerosis. In 2000, an entrepreneur and friend of mine from Boston – Art Mellor – was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Art subsequently founded the Boston Cure Project (now Accelerated Cure Project) with his doctor, Timothy Vartanian, to try to find a cure for Multiple Sclerosis.
Amy and I have been steady supporters of the Accelerated Cure Project over the years. When I started thinking about a charity to dedicate my 50×50 running to, they immediately came to mind. From this point forward, they are my adopted charity for my marathon quest.
If you have an interest in supporting my marathoning, please click through on the widget below on the "Click here to Donate" tab. While it says my goal is $1,000, that’s because I haven’t figured out how to modify this yet. My goal is actually $100,000, or $2,000 per marathon (yes – I have a little catching up to do – $20k worth – but I’ll figure that out.)
If you are interested in sponsoring my efforts in other ways, drop me an email and we will figure something out. At this point I have three sponsors (the other two will be revealed shortly.)