Brad's Books and Organizations

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Hi, I’m Brad Feld, a managing director at the Foundry Group who lives in Boulder, Colorado. I invest in software and Internet companies around the US, run marathons and read a lot.

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The Largest Startup Community In The World

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As Boulder Startup Week 2014 comes to an end, I have been reflecting on the power of startup communities today.

When I wrote Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City, I made some assertions about how to build startup communities and what the impact of them would be on society. As I sit here at the end of a week pondering everything that is going on in the world around startup communities, I believe I have vastly underestimated their potential impact. And this makes me feel very happy.

Startup Week is a great example of an activity and event that I talk about in my Boulder Thesis. It was also another creation from Boulder, just like Startup Weekend, Techstars, and the Boulder Thesis. Andrew Hyde, the founder of Startup Weekend, was also the founder of Startup Week. After a hiatus of a few years, Andrew came back to run Boulder Startup Week. But he is also about to do something magical with Startup Week – look for more on that soon. And, if you enjoyed Boulder Startup Week, go check out Fort Collins Startup Week which is happening from 5/20 – 5/25 and looks awesome.

This reflection led me to think about how to wire up the largest startup community in the world. Geography is one boundary, but the Internet allows us to create a global startup community that is a network of startup communities. UP Global, which I’m on the board of, is doing just that.

You might know UP Global by the names of the two organizations that combined to form it – Startup Weekend and Startup America Partnership. This combination happened about a year ago and the progress in the last year has been remarkable.

I encourage you to take a look at the UP Global 2013 Impact Report. It’s 28 slides and when I looked at it early today it blew my mind. Here are a few key metrics:

  • 310,000 alumni and volunteers
  • 4,500 mentors
  • 132,000 businesses
  • 87,000 developers
  • 39,000 designers
  • 501 cities
  • 126 countries

Go look at the UP Global 2013 Impact Report. It’s insanely wonderful how many people and startup communities this organization has touched.

The network is getting incredibly strong and powerful. I believe that networks are now more important in our society than hierarchies. Sure – we’ll have hierarchies forever, but I’m going to spend as much of my time as possible in the network. And for everyone who is part of the network of people engaging in startup communities, thanks for all your efforts on this mission!

Launch Party for Sleep Your Way To The Top And Other Myths About Business Success

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Jane Miller’s launch party for her first book (and FG Press‘s second title) Sleep Your Way To The Top And Other Myths About Business Success  is happening in Boulder this coming Tuesday, 5/20 at eTown Hall.

Profits benefit the CU Leeds Professional Mentoring Program.

Around the Foundry Group offices we’ve been referring to Sleep Your Way To The Top as “Sheryl Sandberg meets Chelsea Handler.” Jane is an awesome CEO (who just sold Rudi’s Organic Bakery to The Hain Celestial Group) with an incredible amount of experience on the front lines building and guiding businesses. Her writing style is hilariously funny but packs a serious punch.

Jane will reveals the tips and tricks she learned on her journey from small town Illinois girl to shattering the glass ceiling at more than one male-dominated corporation. She’ll cover myths such as:

MYTH: Size Doesn’t Matter
MYTH: You Have Nothing To Learn From Barbie
MYTH: Only Extroverts Win In The Corporate World
MYTH: If She Plays Dirty, Play Dirty Back
MYTH: Bad Guys Are Just In The Movies

Jane offers specific steps and practical advice for grads, pre-grads, and new or seasoned execs. She shows us where it’s easy to get tripped up, who might trick us, and how to make it past the pitfalls on our way to the corner office.

If you’d like to join Jane and the FG Press team for the celebration of Sleep Your Way To The Top’s Book Launch Party – rsvp here: http://janemillerbook.eventbrite.com

I’ll let you know as soon as Sleep Your Way To The Top hits the virtual book shelves or pre-order your copy here: http://bit.ly/sywtbook.

Book: Sailing an Alien Sea

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I love reading books written by friends. Knowing how incredibly hard it is to write a book, I enjoy fiction even more, since it’s something I’ve never tried to write.

My friend Cindy Gold wrote Sailing an Alien Sea about a year ago. I read it last month and loved it.

I’ve known Cindy and her husband Terry Gold since 1996, shortly after I moved to Boulder. I was an early board member, then angel investor, and subsequently VC investor in Terry’s company Gold Systems. Terry worked incredibly hard at Gold Systems, along with many people who worked for the company through the years. It went from an idea and a few founders to an almost $10 million revenue company, before growth peaked about a decade ago. Over the past five years, the company had a steady, but slow decline, being close to break even every year, but never becoming solidly profitable or generating additional growth. After numerous painful layoffs and several near misses to sell the company, Gold Systems finally shut down early this year. Throughout the entire process, Terry was a tireless leader who never gave up and, even after two acquisitions feel apart at the end, he still tried to find a home for the remaining employees. While my investment in Gold Systems returned $0 to me, I’ll have lifelong respect for Terry and will always consider him a close friend.

Ok – that paragraph should put you in the mood for this book. Cindy is a genius writer. Her story likely has some autobiographical parts, as most first novels do. She writes the story of two teenage girls growing up in Santa Fe. They are an unlikely pair of friends and they travel down different paths as they get older. Much of the book is through the eyes of Sylvie, who is expect is channeling some of Cindy’s wit, style, and personality, which is sharp and deliciously direct. This is no romanticized story of coming of age – it’s complicated, challenging, often disappointing, and sometimes heartbreaking. But against this challenging backdrop, these girls are amazing. I’m not a reader of “chick lit” and this doesn’t fall in that genre, but rather something I enjoy to read, which I refer to as “human fiction.”

Entrepreneurship isn’t easy. Relationships aren’t easy. Life isn’t easy. And writing a first novel is really fucking hard.

Cindy – well done. Gang, if you want some a great first novel to chew on, grab Sailing an Alien Sea.

Book: Things A Little Bird Told Me

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There will be a lot of books written about the story of Twitter. As far as I know, there have now been two, but there are probably 71 more coming out soon.

Biz Stone’s new book, Things a Little Bird Told Me: Confessions of the Creative Mind is outstanding.

I’ve read two really awesome books in the past month that combine first person startup accounts with personal philosophy and advice. Biz’s is the second. Ben Horowitz’s book The Hard Thing About Hard Things is the other.

Ok – enough effusiveness. There is a simple reason these two books are outstanding. They both mix the author’s direct and very relevant experience with their personal philosophy and lessons learned from the experience. While moments of Ben’s book are dramatic, Biz tells the story of Twitter in an understated way. He’s fun and playful while covering enough of what happened so you have a feel for it. But it’s not overwrought with drama.

Instead, Biz focuses on highlighting critical moments, and key experiences that he had, which help the reader understand the path of a remarkable company. I’ve heard most of the stories before, although a few were new to me. Biz drills into the essence of what matters and not the noise surrounding it. As a result, I felt like I could really process the experience and understand the lessons he learned, rather than be distracted by stuff around the edges.

While I don’t know Biz, I immediately related to him. He drew me in. He’s a guy I’d like to hang out with. Someone I’d like to know, who I’d be happy to go into battle with, or just have a long playful dinner. Basically, he’s real.

If you are an entrepreneur, or a student of entrepreneurship, Things a Little Bird Told Me: Confessions of the Creative Mind is another must-read on my list.

Empirical Support for the Boulder Thesis

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Yesterday, Kauffman Foundation released a study that provided empirical support for the Boulder Thesis that I came up with in my book Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City. The study is excellent if you are interested in this topic and can be read at ad “Think Locally, Act Locally: Building a Robust Entrepreneurial Ecosystem.”

Kauffman did a study of 1 Million Cups, a program that was launched at Kauffman Foundation in Kansas City and is expanding rapidly around the US with it now in 33 communities in 21 states. Colorado has two – a 1 Million Cups in Denver and 1 Million Cups in Fort. Collins. 1 Million Cups Denver was also a recipient of one of the first Startup Colorado Community Fund grants.

The study found:

  • Entrepreneurship is a local phenomenon.
  • Entrepreneurs follow local entrepreneurs.
  • Local networks thicken over time.
  • Entrepreneurial demand is high for peer-based learning and networking.
  • Different programs reach different entrepreneurs.

In the report, Kauffman lined this up clearly against the Boulder Thesis, which, if you don’t know it, is:

  1. Entrepreneurs must lead the startup community.
  2. The leaders must have a long-term commitment.
  3. The startup community must be inclusive of anyone who wants to participate in it.
  4. The startup community must have continual activities that engage the entire entrepreneurial stack.

Or, if you are a video person and want to go a little deeper, take a look at the great StartupVille video Kauffman did when I released the book as part of their Sketchbook series.

I gave a 30 minute interview on this and other topics at the Atlanta Tech Village yesterday – nice summary from David Cummings. And there was a good student survey at  showing Chicago and the Midwest as an Evolving Hub for Entrepreneurship.

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