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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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In Downtown Las Vegas at the UP Global Summit

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I just landed in Downtown Las Vegas for my first trip for business in over a year. I’m here for the UP Global Summit and then our UP Global board meeting on Sunday. I’m most definitely NOT in Las Vegas (which I don’t like very much) – instead I’m in Downtown Las Vegas which is a magnificent experiment in revitalizing a downtown city that was more or less left for dead a while ago.

My decision to come here isn’t part of a grand plan to start traveling again. Instead, it was a result of being inspired by Boulder Startup Week 2014. Andrew Hyde, the original creator of the Startup Week concept, came back to run BSW 14 and then joined UP Global to roll out the Startup Week concept around the world. It’s already happened organically in a number of cities so we’ll just be adding the proverbial fuel to the fire.

During our Q2 Vacation last week I mentioned to Amy that I kind of wanted to go to the UP Global Summit in DTLV. I was a little nervous about what her reaction would be – we’ve been having an amazing time being together almost all the time and the no travel, after 20+ years of non-stop travel, has been delightful.

She was excited that I felt like traveling again. She correctly realized that it meant that I’m feeling really rested and rejuvenated, as well as in a great mental health space, which is a huge contrast from 18 months ago. Her support on this, and so many other fronts, are so important to me, as she knows and can read me better than any other human on this planet.

So I sit here in my hotel room, freshly showered after a very early morning flight from Denver to Las Vegas, excited about seeing 500+ members of the UP Global extended community, while exploring DTLV, meeting about startup communities, startup weekends, startup weeks, and lots of other things related to startups.

It feels good. Now, if I had only remembered to bring an iPhone charging cable, I’d be at 100%.

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!

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.

Turnstone Decks Out My Kansas City House

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It’s been a blast to have a house in Kansas City. I’ve made a bunch of new friends from it and have been able to participate in the radical growth of the startup community there, especially in the KC Startup Village where my house is located. I’ve gotten to experience Google Fiber first hand and also helped mentor a neat startup called HandPrint who has been living in the house for the past six months. And it continues to be really fun to tell the story of the look on Amy’s face when I came home and said “hey – I bought a house in Kansas City today.”

When I bought the house, it had an attic that was a mess. A really gross mess. Think mouse turds, busted boards, and damp rotting wood mess. I hired a contractor who the HandPrint folks hung out with and he turned it into a great new loft. Turnstone (a Steelcase company) offered to furnish the house as a way of highlighting their furniture in a startup environment.

It turned out awesome. If you’ve been following the story at all, the video below will give you a few minute glimpse into the house, some of the players including the amazing Lesa Mitchell who helped make it all happen, the snazzy Turstone-loft, as well as give you a look at the HandPrint team.

I’m trying to figure out the next fun place to buy a house like this.

Building Startup Communities to Last

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One of my heroes is Jim Collins. Of all books that I’ve ever read about business, Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies and Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…And Others Don’t are two of the most important ones I’ve ever read. While I read Built to Last first, I didn’t really get how important it was until I read Good to Great. I went back after, read Built to Last again – and slowly – and realized how powerful Collins’ research and thinking was.

So it was an incredible honor to interview Jim for 45 minutes last week at the Startup Phenomenon event about Startup Communities. We spent the time applying the ideas from Jim’s books and research to the idea of Startup Communities.

I learned a lot. I also had a lot of fun. And I came up with a few new ideas as Jim tossed out a few absolute gems during our 45 minutes together.

If you are interested in Startup Communities, or are a Jim Collins fan, I think you’ll like this a lot. Enjoy!

Startup Phenomenon | Brad Feld talks with Jim Collins from 23rd Studios on Vimeo.

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