Build Your Life Where You Want To Live

Amy and I just got back from a great week off the grid in Paris. We were both exhausted and badly needed a break. When we want to get away from humans, we go to our place in Homer. When we want to lose ourselves in a big city, we go to Paris. We both are incredibly refreshed feeling and happy to be home with the rapidly growing puppy Super Cooper and his friend Brooks the Wonder Dog.

Before I left I did 15 minute interview on WGBH’s Innovation Hub program. I’m happy to do an interview with WGBH anytime they call given the number of hours of my life I spent listening to them during my twelve years living in Boston.

I listened to it on the ride home from the airport yesterday and thought it was one of the better short interviews I’ve done in a while. Enjoy!

  • “Time and Space to think” – made me think of Ex-machina a little. My wife and I moved to Switzerland for this (not to build Ava : ).

    Our company team is distributed and refines a piece of the puzzle until it is strong enough to build on and we then move on to another component – Each is like a “Ground-hog Day” completion where “getting to tomorrow” allows the start of another cycle of refining some other dependency.

    The goal is to build something you can trust and place them in a foundation which you can then build on. (If as an entrepreneur you only raise what you can put to work at a real value and do so on fair terms your bubble does not go pop when the others do)

    The foundations at Cape Canaveral took a while to pour, and they didn’t pick the site until they considered equatorial proximity and a good low population splash zone. And that is a part of how the US got to the moon.

    So when I look at fluffy investments in our sector and see companies experimenting on flawed value propositions while burning Series C and D at speed – I think that is what “Time and Space to think” can prevent.

  • Matt Kruza

    Good talk as usual. The one thing I guess I challenge a little (and perhaps its just a matter of time) is that you can get old dogs (aka old money) to learn how to invest / think differently. Cleveland is pretty terrible at this (I know you have a few connections here in town and they seem to be an exception, but broad based much of the old money here is very clueless). Not meaning this as a complaint machine 🙂 but rather leading to this question. How do you best recommend as a community that we entice outside angel investors. The value proposition is pretty simple: 2-3x the runway for the same investment. $500k may by 18-24 months here vs. $1.5 million in the valley. We had a startup event last Friday (run by a great local entrepreneur who has tried to do a lot here), and I posed this question to a Chicago based angel and he pretty much stumbled over the question in front of the whole room and did not have much of an answer except “maybe follow-on funding” is hard to find. Which is ironically what everyone in Cleveland says (govt. and the older investors) but I disagree that should be the major barrier, and it seems you would agree that is a bogus excuse. I have purchased your most recent book, but haven’t read all of them so perhaps you have talked about this in other ones, but just curious high level how to compellingly talk about the 2-3x run way extension Cleveland can provide. Its the reason I will be part of building a business empire here over the next 2 decades, but any advice on accelerating this realization for others is much appreciated!

    • 1. It takes a long time.
      2. You have to stay after it.
      3. You have to be patient with the old money and get them excited.
      4. See #1.

      • Matt Kruza

        Time. you want me to be patient? blasphemy 🙂 I jest. Good perspective and I agree it certainly will take time! Thanks for the reply. Only quick follow up is it wisest to focus on local old money, or does it make sense to make the case to out of towners how far their money goes in Cleveland? (which still is an amazing business city / tier 2 overall city at simply half the price). Have you seen that work or is it usually organic / local old money ?

        • While both will work, I think it’s more powerful to work on people who have been long time Clevelanders and believe in the health of the city.

      • HA

    • Where I’m at we have the capital, but it’s not an area that has a lot of movement into startups right now. This creates a huge wall to climb if someone just jumped out there to try and raise a small seed from local money. There experience gap is also a problem. Trying to start something in a field that is relatively alien to an area just increases the height of that wall.

      My approach will likely fall to finding a experienced leaders from the region that is interested in investing with an asterisk that makes them available to help encourage local money who value community growth around the startup location. I want to get the local community involved and push them to learn. Most of those who have capital to invest made it with some form of risk. Fire up that old dog inside.

      Patience and strategy is definitely key.

  • Yeah, great interview and you cover a lot in 15 min.

    Even though I have listened to Startup Communities, this interview has managed to drive some of the points home even further.

    Speaking of books, any idea when Startup Opportunities will be available on Audible?

    • Startup Opportunities should be ready on Audible in a month or two. The recording is done at this point.

  • edzschau

    Nice interview Brad. Agree with all of the points of your Boukder Hypothesis. Only thing I would add is the availability of a young employable workforce that can join startups, which usually means a decent sized university? Any examples of cities with small, but thriving start up communities without a four year university. Bend OR is the only example I can think of.

    • I talk about this extensively in my book Startup Communities. The value of the university is exactly what you describe – which I like to call “fresh meat.” You need vibrant new movement into (and out of) a community over a long period of time or it will stagnate. This is one of the highest impacts of a university.

      A lot of people think that a top 20 type research university is critical. This isn’t true at all – just a place that imports fresh, smart, young people to be part of the community is what is needed.

  • David Telleen-Lawton

    Brad,
    I focused on the Headline of your comment because I attribute the decision of building our life where we want to live — second only to who would be my life partner — as the most important decision in our lives and one that contributed greatly to our enjoyment of life…despite the limits it may have on income and opportunity.

    As a matter of fact, I pass this PLACE advice (or place consideration) on to every one of MY customers…which are students; I’m the career development manager for a new Master of Technology Management degree program at UC Santa Barbara.

    One great positive about building one’s life around where one wants to live is that you can take adventures…you’re not stuck at home…instead it’s safe harbor awaiting your return. Besides living everything startup in Santa Barbara since 1980, we had an adventure to Boulder and I participated in your startup scene with Bruce Holland for 5 years, making SpectraLink a success in the mid-1990’s.

    Back Home and several startups later, I’m working hard with many others on making sure Santa Barbara continues to be a vibrant startup community by crafting a degree program for those who want to be leaders of product, people, and process in technology ventures. My advice to startup veterans, one great way to give-back is to work at a local college with young women and men launching their career…I get them going on what I call Career Discovery and Exploration (The ABCs of C, D & E).

    Think Market Validation/Customer Discover where the product (and CEO) is the graduating student, the customers are employers, and the problem to be solved is what career path (at this time) is a great fit for their “company” and “product”.

    For those that don’t know Santa Barbara startup-wise, we have a vibrant startup community, active mentors, investors with old money and new, and of course plenty more challenges on which to work relative to the workforce and cost of living.

    I believe, Brad, you may already know several of our startup evangelists. Come visit again sometime…I’ll be glad to show (and introduce) you around…and our students would love to hear about YOUR journey!

    • I’m a big fan of Santa Barbara. It’s been a long time since I’ve been there but this is a nice reminder to make it another stop on an extended west coast trip.

  • Great first five points. Agree on early stage money. It’s extremely hard to convince the wealthy to invest in startups. (Been doing it for the last ten years in Chicago) I wonder what it will take to change risk appetites, and educate them? Maybe angels should try to publish anon returns?

    I love the notion of silent killers as well. In newer startup communities, it’s a terrific balance. We like to hype local success stories-but sometimes local success stories are actually pretty boring because all they do is build a great business

    • I need to write more about Silent Killers. They are such an important part of the dynamic around long term entrepreneurial arcs.

  • Wanted to throw a non-US perspective into the Feld of discussion.. I’m sitting in Boston right now having traveled from UK > Bulgaria > Armenia, but also having realized that to “Build your life where you want to live” you will also need to sacrifice the scale in which you do things… So here I am in the USA (ignoring your advice Brad).

    Having jumped the pond to this side, I see boundless more opportunity and I guess I hope in the longer term to find a way to bridge the two worlds I care so deeply about and find a way to freely be between both.

    I don’t want to get caught up in the illusion that i’ll leave when I have “enough”. Instead i’m here to build ties, and then bridge all those ties together over the remainder of my life…. I wonder if anyone else has successfully done the same before?

    • Bridging the ties is a wonderful construct. I live in Boulder but am connected to many places – mostly in the US, but also around the globe.

  • I have gone Complete Nomad. I now “live” in Seoul, Bangkok, Bali, Hong Kong and in whatever part of Africa I feel like visiting for startups research as I build my company. Like Nigel, I have to advise about how your scale changes correlated to how often and how far you move. Luckily, my work is mostly computer based and in person meetings, so I have no problems with travel. I only have a problem with scaling myself.

    Should this company work out, though, I do hope that I can hire staff in each one of these cities I visit on a regular basis and therefore solve that sticky wicket.

    • When I was younger (in my 20s) is wish I had done this. My most common “what would you do differently in your 20s response” is “travel a lot more.”

      • That’s interesting. I somehow imagined that you had done this in your 20s. Well, if you are ever interested in investing in Asia, I am more than happy to be your Virgil / guide through this area, as I have done work here for seven years before and my connections are pretty solid here. Hope to see you soon on a vacation, though!

  • “Help me out… are there any rich people in your city?” …great stuff, Brad. It’s awesome to see people take your strategies and try to implement them in their own cities. I was in a meeting just last week with some Established Chamber-types (you know the folks I’m talking about) and they said something about feeders and leaders . . .

    “Have you by any chance read Brad Feld’s book on startup communities?” I asked.

    “Oh my gosh, I LOVE that book. You’ve read it? I mean a loooooove that book!” the suit said, beaming from the other side of the table.

    It’s so refreshing to have some common ground from which to have a conversation and take action. Keep doing what you do, man. It helps more than you realize. From my hometown of Indianapolis, to Startup America, to the Philippines (where I spent the summer last year), startup community growth seems to be accelerating.

    • Thx – glad it’s having impact. Keep beating the drum!

  • way agree

  • I love this post.

  • Great interview – great stuff!