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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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Help Repeal The Amazon Tax (Colorado HB10-1193)

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Colorado HB10-1193 – also known as the “Amazon Tax” – really upset me as I wrote about in Amazon Fires Its Affiliates in Colorado (Including Me) Because of Colorado HB 10-1193.  While I discovered a partial solution via a service from a company called Viglink which I wrote about in I’m An Amazon Affiliate Again – Sort Of I’m still really annoyed with the myopia of our Colorado state representatives around this issue. 

I’m also disgusted by the protectionist turn this took as our governor, many representatives, and several progressive organizations that I’ve supported called for a ban on Amazon because of the need to “level the playing field for local merchants.”  When I talked to a number of folks about this, including the organizations that I had previous supported, they demonstrated that they didn’t really understand the issue, were getting confused about states rights vs. federal rights (an issue I expect we’ll see come up a lot over the next few years given our federal, state, and local government search for additional revenue wherever they can find it), and didn’t get that a protectionist attitude was actually offensive to most business people (except, presumably, those being protected by the government.)

Finally, legislation like this is completely tone deaf to both the growing impact of technology on our society as well as a huge shift in the way information based goods are bought and sold.

I’ve been told by several Colorado representatives that didn’t support this bill that there is no way this tax will be repealed, but I haven’t given up yet.  I’ve enlisted my friend David Binetti to crank up another Twitter Campaign To Repeal Colorado’s Internet Tax.  If you are a Colorado citizen with a twitter account, it’ll take less than a minute to tweet out this message along with delivering a physical letter to your specific representatives. 

Let’s make sure our representatives know that this is a piece of legislation that should be repealed.

Amazon Fires Its Affiliates in Colorado (Including Me) Because of Colorado HB 10-1193

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I’ve been an Amazon Associate (Amazon’s affiliate program) for many years.  Today I got the following notice in my Amazon Associates account.


and I woke up to the following email.

Dear Colorado-based Amazon Associate:

We are writing from the Amazon Associates Program to inform you that the Colorado government recently enacted a law to impose sales tax regulations on online retailers. The regulations are burdensome and no other state has similar rules. The new regulations do not require online retailers to collect sales tax. Instead, they are clearly intended to increase the compliance burden to a point where online retailers will be induced to “voluntarily” collect Colorado sales tax — a course we won’t take.

We and many others strongly opposed this legislation, known as HB 10-1193, but it was enacted anyway. Regrettably, as a result of the new law, we have decided to stop advertising through Associates based in Colorado. We plan to continue to sell to Colorado residents, however, and will advertise through other channels, including through Associates based in other states.

There is a right way for Colorado to pursue its revenue goals, but this new law is a wrong way. As we repeatedly communicated to Colorado legislators, including those who sponsored and supported the new law, we are not opposed to collecting sales tax within a constitutionally-permissible system applied even-handedly. The US Supreme Court has defined what would be constitutional, and if Colorado would repeal the current law or follow the constitutional approach to collection, we would welcome the opportunity to reinstate Colorado-based Associates.

You may express your views of Colorado’s new law to members of the General Assembly and to Governor Ritter, who signed the bill.

Your Associates account has been closed as of March 8, 2010, and we will no longer pay advertising fees for customers you refer to after that date. Please be assured that all qualifying advertising fees earned prior to March 8, 2010, will be processed and paid in accordance with our regular payment schedule. Based on your account closure date of March 8, any final payments will be paid by May 31, 2010.

We have enjoyed working with you and other Colorado-based participants in the Amazon Associates Program, and wish you all the best in your future.

I’ve been a supporter of Governor Ritter since his campaign for governor and have worked hard to positively impact Colorado’s software / Internet / technology / entrepreneurial ecosystem.  Over the past two months, I’ve privately expressed my outrage over HB10-1192 and HB10-1193 to several people in Ritter’s administration.  I watched as numerous people in the software / Internet community tried their hardest to help our legislators, the governor, and their staffs understand why this is such a huge step backwards for Colorado.  I was told several times “don’t worry – we’ll take care off all the silly stuff.”  There seemed to be enough folks showing up to discuss this that I thought rational minds would prevail.

I made a huge mistake.  I should have come out very publicly about this when I first heard about it, made sure everyone that I supported during the elections that supported these bills (including one of the co-sponsors) knew my opinion and understood why they had the potential to be so detrimental to the software / Internet / entrepreneurial climate in Colorado.  Shame on me for not being more aggressive, although there are some days I definitely feel like there are only so many fronts I can deal with outside my very full time day job.

I’m not at all surprised by this action on Amazon’s part.  I expect the Internet Affiliate business in Colorado will completely die within the next thirty days (every company that has an affiliate business will turn off all of their Colorado-based affiliates.)

I then received the following email from Colorado Governor Ritter

Gov. Bill Ritter issued the following statement today criticizing’s decision to abruptly end its financial relationship with Amazon Associate businesses in Colorado:

“Amazon has taken a disappointing – and completely unjustified – step of ending its relationship with associates. While Amazon is blaming a new state law for its action, the fact is that Amazon is simply trying to avoid compliance with Colorado law and is unfairly punishing Colorado businesses in the process.

“My office worked closely with Amazon’s affiliates and associates to modify House Bill 1193 to specifically protect small businesses, avoid job losses and provide a fair, level playing field for on-line retailers and Main Street, brick-and-mortar retail shops alike.

“Amazon’s position is unfortunate, and Coloradans certainly deserve better.”

I’m especially disappointed in the Governor’s statement – it’s completely tone deaf to the actual issue and what Amazon is clearly stating.  I’ve heard several people saying “Amazon is the problem” or “well – this is good – now people will buy locally.”  Neither of these statements is valid – Amazon behaved like a rational company in the face of government regulation that had no upside for them and substantial downside.  Also, this has zero impact on consumer purchasing activity as this doesn’t impact the end customer of Amazon products in any way.

Rather, the many small businesses and solo entrepreneurs who make money off of Amazon’s affiliate program just lost a revenue stream (which, by the way, is used to employ people and pay state taxes.)  Colorado just got a big black eye in their historical effort to be a place that is friendly to business, especially high growth technology companies.  And our state government likely now has lost more tax revenue than it was going to gain through the bill in the first place while simultaneously damaging the revenue streams for many small Colorado businesses.

The only logical solution in my book is what Amazon says in paragraph 3.

There is a right way for Colorado to pursue its revenue goals, but this new law is a wrong way. As we repeatedly communicated to Colorado legislators, including those who sponsored and supported the new law, we are not opposed to collecting sales tax within a constitutionally-permissible system applied even-handedly. The US Supreme Court has defined what would be constitutional, and if Colorado would repeal the current law or follow the constitutional approach to collection, we would welcome the opportunity to reinstate Colorado-based Associates.

Entrepreneur Magazine Interviews Boulder Entrepreneurs (and a VC)

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Amy Cosper, the editor-in-chief of Entrepreneur Magazine, swung through Boulder recently and interviewed me, Scott McDaniel & Christian Vaneh of Survey Gizmo, Ari Newman of Filtrbox (recently acquired by Jive Software), Todd Vernon of Lijit Networks, and Tim Enwall of Tendril Networks.  Unlike my two hour TWiST interview with Jason Calacanis, these are all short (less than three minutes each), punchy, and give you a great feel for some of my favorite Boulder entrepreneurs.

Snow and Ski Data for Colorado

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At my last Boulder Community Hours (or Random Day, or Bunker Hours, or whatever the latest branding of “office hours” is), I spent 15 minutes with Joel Gratz who runs the great site Colorado Powder Forecast

Even though we only spent 15 minutes together, Joel sent me a nice comment:

“Office hours is such an amazing resource – many thanks for making yourself and others available to the community.  This must be a unique concept in the professional, non-academic world!

Thanks Joel!  And if you are a skier in Colorado, this is a must read site either by email, RSS, or Joel’s twitter stream.  And Bunker Hours for me for 1/26 still has plenty of slots in case you are interested.

But wait, there’s more.  Josh Larson, a TechStars graduate now working at NewsGator, also writes a great blog titled Colorado WeatherJosh has an uncanny ability to predict the weather on the front range better than – er – most weathermen.  It could be that he used to work at the NOAA Climate Prediction Center – or maybe he’s just that good.  Apparently, Ari Newman, another TechStars graduate and CEO/founder of Filtrbox asked Joel if he was more accurate than Josh.  Joel graciously replied that they are good friends.

But wait, there’s more.  When on a long, cold run with Kelly Taylor of The Fuel Team (now owned by PR Newswire), he told me about the new Vail iPhone app named Realski that is an augmented reality trail map of Vail Mountain.  Since I haven’t skied on Vail recently, I haven’t been able to test it out but if you are an iPhone user on Vail, try it and tell me how it rates.

Update: The Boulder Daily Camera wrote an article today that lists Five iPhone apps that will help you plan skiing, snowboarding trips.

The Boulder Snow Myth

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For the last three years I’ve been laboring to help propagate the myth that it doesn’t snow much in Boulder and when it does it’s 55 degrees the next day and the snow all goes away.  After getting back from a week of vacation on the beach in Mexico on Friday and now being on day five of the thermometer hovering around zero, tons of very frozen snow on the ground, and no chance that I’m going to contemplate heading outside for a run, I’ve decided to call bullshit on myself.

It snows here. Plenty.  It’s a really fun snow.  Beautiful, overwhelming storms that roll in, dump a foot, or two, or even three. (the record at my house – 48 inches). 


Sometimes it’s really cold, but it’s a “dry cold”, it’s not windy, and it you wear the right number of layers, a hat, and gloves it’s actually kind of fun.  Some crazy people (ahem – moi) even like to go for a trail run while it’s snowing, as long as it’s not zero degrees outside.  For example, the view from my house yesterday morning after I left my car running for a while to warm up.


It does eventually warm up and get very, very sunny.  Then all the snow and ice goes away, unless you live near Mapleton, in which case you are screwed for a while, or in Eldorado Canyon, where you actually prefer the snow and ice doesn’t go away so people have a harder time coming to visit you. 

The snow usually starts in December, although a mid-October snowstorm of a foot or more isn’t unusual.  But that early one is just a tease since it goes away in 24 hours when it’s 55 degrees.  The December one sticks around for a while because of the temperature.  And the angle of the sun.  And the next storm that comes before it all melts.  On the bright side, it usually means the ski slopes are getting hammered also.

It’s only really cold in December and January.  Well, sometimes February.  And occasionally March.  And then it really snows just to make sure spring skiing is awesome.  But by now it is actually getting warm on a regular basis so the snow comes and goes.  And it’s no big deal, unless you live near Mapleton.

From 1997 to 2005 there really was very little snow here in the winter.  The people that have been living here for 30+ years tell me that’s because there was a major drought going on.  When I moved her in the winter of 1995, I experienced two years like the past three.  But 1997 to 2005 dimmed my memory, along with all the talk about global warming.  Well – apparently the drought is over.

I’m really fucking cold this morning (-8) although my weather app tells me it’ll get up to 20 degrees today.  Oh goody.

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