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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I’m Dead To Your Suggestion That X Is Dead

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Ah – the joy of a meme.  Today’s meme is “The Web Is Dead.”  Whatever.  My favorite article about this in the past 24 hours is The Tragic Death of Practically Everything – this is basically what I would have written if I’d had time today.

This latest round apparently started with the new Wired cover story “The Web is Dead.”  Yeah, I read it.  My reaction to it was “whatever.” Are books dead?  Is email dead?   Are memes dead?

Whatever.

Who Wants To Be A Tech Star?

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Today’s first Tech Star video has nothing to do with TechStars.  Instead, it will go down in history as another nerd period piece by Terry Kawaja from GCA Savvian.  I first met Terry when we hired him to be CFO of Raindance Communications to help take it public.  We had a twisted sister streak then which he maintains to this day.  Enjoy the video – it’s a great one.  And – I’ll see you later this morning with the real TechStars Founders 2010 Episode 4 video.

Platforms vs. Developers

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In the last few days there have been a large number of posts about two platform companies – Apple and Twitter.  These posts covered a wide range of perspectives (a few of the better ones are linked to below) but fundamentally came down to the tension between a platform (e.g. the iPhone OS or Twitter) vs. third party developers that build applications on top of the platforms.

Several of the Twitter related posts include The Twitter Platform’s Inflection Point, Twitter and third-party Twitter developers, and Developers In Denial: The Seesmic Case Study. Several of the Apple related posts ones include  and Adobe Vs. Apple War Generates Rage, Facebook Group, Why Apple Changed Section 3.3.1, Steve Jobs response on section 3.3.1.  If you missed the leads to the story, Apple made a major change in their TOS and Twitter launched an official Blackberry client and acquired the Tweetie iPhone client, rattling their developer community.  And Twitter Officially Responds To Developers and Tries To Calm Fears.

While there has been an amazing outburst of reaction – including much surprise and criticism – to both of these situations, they should come as no surprise to anyone that has been in the computer business for a long time.  What we are experiencing is the natural evolutionary struggle that exists between a platform and its developers.  In the past few years, both Twitter and Apple have created amazing platforms and build incredible network effects on top of their platforms.  One way they have done this is to embrace developers, who have flocked to these platforms in droves, building a huge variety of awesome, great, good, mediocre, and crummy products on top of the platforms. Some of these products have created meaningful revenue for the developers, others have generated fame, and many have generated a giant time sink of work that hasn’t resulted in much.  This is the nature of being a developer on top of a platform.

True platforms are special things that are rare.  Fortunately, developers have a lot of choices and that is a powerful dynamic that keeps both the platforms and developers evolving.  I think the next few months are going to be pretty exciting ones as the current phase we are in sorts itself out.

Universal Videoconferencing

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While Fred Wilson has his review of his Google Phone up already, I’m more intrigued with all the pre-CES announcements.  I’ll be walking the floor on Thursday soaking it all in and I’m pretty excited this year based on all the chatter.  One thing that has me particularly stoked is what I’m going to call “universal videoconferencing.”

I saw my first “videophone” around 30 years ago.  It sucked but the idea was magical (and still is).  Like my personal jetpack, I’ve been waiting patiently for it.  Very patiently.  For 30 years.

I think 2010 is the year it finally happens.  Engadget has a review of Skype HD (720p) and videocalling from PCs or Internet connected LG & Panasonic HDTVs (damnit – I knew I shouldn’t have bought that new Samsung.)  720p is plenty for me on my 30” computer monitor or my 50” TV.  With Skype (I’m bradfeld btw) the video / audio layer is free and broadly compatible (no more fighting with specialized hardware). 

I’ve been doing low-res Skype videoconferencing for a while and now chat with my dad a few times a week.  I finally got Amy using it and while she’s in Keystone and I’m in Boulder it’s almost like we are together (without the smell-a-vision).  But the video quality is mediocre and it still feels limited to being in front of a computer to use.

Now, put it on a TV in your living room.  In HD.  On a 50” screen.  The picture in the NY Times article A Venture Integrating Skype Into the Family Room is perfect. 

The only thing wrong here is the remote control.  There is no good reason why the 50” screen with the video camera built in can’t do simple gesture recognition to “answer”, “volume up”, “volume down”, and “hang up.”  That’s next.

One of my goals in 2010 is to get HD videoconferencing set up across all of the places I live and work.  My 30” screens are a good start.  And – with some of the announcements coming (and stuff I expect to see at CES) I’m optimistic that I might be able to get this working with standard equipment and Skype this year.

The Metaverse Is So Very Fragile

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I’m still really cold this morning and I’m dreaming of a time when I can put my meat puppet into hibernation for a while and just romp around in the metaverse.  Then I lost 30 minutes of my life to “restarting my connection to the metaverse” and it reminded me that if I went into hibernation, there’s a pretty good chance the metaverse would crash and I’d be in suspended animation forever.

CIMG0718 

It started while I responding to a Facebook message from a friend who is a senior executive at AT&T.  I twhined (whine on twitter) last night that “I think AT&T might have lost me today.”  He saw this message and this morning I woke up to a Facebook message from him asking “I see you had a bad experiece with AT&T, something I can help you with?”.  I give my friend (and – by reference AT&T) – huge props for reaching out.

As I was responding about the tragic AT&T iPhone coverage in Boulder along with the noise yesterday that AT&T was exploring trying to give high-bandwidth users incentives to reduce or modify their usage (which the pundits immediately turned into “AT&T is going to charge high-bandwidth users more”) Firefox crashed.  This was the second Firefox crash I’d had this morning so I decided to reboot.  Rebooting hung so I forced reboot.  Ten minutes later W7 and all my apps were running again (of course, in this process, W7 installed an upgrade) but I had no network.  I messed around on my computer for a little while but quickly checked my iPhone which also had no network (via my home WiFi).  I stumbled around in the dark, found my Comcast modem, and reset it by unplugging it from the wall and plugging it back in.  I sat and meditated for about five minutes – eventually I had Internet connectivity again.  However, the message to my AT&T friend that was half completed was gone when I brought up Facebook again (no surprise there, just more reinforcement of how fragile it all is.)

I’m feeling mentally bipolar about all of this.  It’s absolutely incredible to me that this stuff even works.  The range and pace of innovation is awesome.  And when I project out 20 years my brain explodes with joy and anticipation.  Yet, as I watch the little cylinder shaped LED on my laptop computer light up as the hard drive is pinned, I shudder a little.

Did I say that I’m cold?

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