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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 Feld Fiberhouse Is Now The Handprint House

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Handprint HouseThe winners of the Feld KC FiberHouse competition, that I’ve done in conjunction with the Kauffman Foundation, is a company called Handprint!

Handprint is working on some amazing 3D printing and editing technology. We had plenty of applications for the competition – many of them very interesting – but Handprint really captured our imagination.

As winners of the competition, they’ll get to live in the house rent free for a year. I’ll pay for Google Fiber and the house; they cover their own expenses. There are no strings attached – I don’t get any equity and there are no downstream obligations for them.

Google Fiber was installed last week so when they move in they’ll immediately have access to 1 gigibit Internet.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m doing this as an experiment around Startup Communities. I’m fascinated about what is going on in Kansas City around Google Fiber and rather than observe, I decided to participate.

Thanks to Ben Barreth for inspiring this project with his Homes for Hackers discussion with me when we met at Thinc Iowa. And thanks for Lesa Mitchell at Kauffman Foundation for all of her support. Both Ben and Lesa have done all the hard work on this project – I’m deeply appreciative of their help. Also, thanks to Scott Case of Startup America for helping judge the competition.

A huge congrats to the Handprint team which consists of Mike DemaraisAlexa Nguyen, Jack Franzen, and Derek Caneja. I look forward to getting to know you better over the next year. Welcome to the Fiberhood!

Government Shouldn’t Be In The Accelerator Business

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This article originally appeared online at Inc.com in an article titled Government Shouldn’t Be In The Accelerator Business. I talk more about this and lots of other topics in my recent book Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City

As a co-founder of TechStars, I’m a huge believer in the mentor-driven accelerator model. But I don’t think government should be funding these accelerators, nor do I think they need to.

A good accelerator can be run in any city in the world for $500,000. Entrepreneurs with a compelling track record and approach should be able to easily raise, or even provide this capital. As evidence of this, there are already hundreds of accelerators in the U.S., without government funding, being run as entrepreneurial ventures for profit by entrepreneurs.

When we started TechStars in 2006, the idea of an accelerator was brand new. We funded the first TechStars program in Boulder in 2007 with $230,000. There were four investors – me, TechStars CEO David Cohen, David Brown, and Jared Polis. All four of us had been successful entrepreneurs and we decided to try TechStars as an experiment to help create more early stage start-ups in Boulder. We figured out the downside case was that we’d spend $230,000 and end up attracting 20 or so new, smart entrepreneurs to Boulder.

That first program went great and has already returned over two times our invested capital with several of the companies still having future value. We ran the second program in 2008, expanded to Boston in 2009, and adopted a funding strategy for each local program which we continue to use to this day. TechStars surpassed our wildest expectations and now runs over 10 programs a year for over 100 start-ups around the United States. We’ve begun expanding internationally with our first program running this summer in London. And there are many other accelerators around the world using the TechStars mentor-driven model that are members of the Global Accelerator Network.

All of this is privately funded. We’ve never taken a dollar of government funding, nor do we plan to.

While the amount of money required to run a program has increased from the original $230,000, it’s still well under $1,000,000 per program cycle. As a result, the amount of capital we need to raise to run a TechStars program is modest, and since we run it to make a financial return, it is actually an investment, rather than an expense. And, by being focused first on the financial return as well as playing a long-term game (we expect to be running TechStars accelerators for a long time), we are very thoughtful about how we allocate capital.

If entrepreneurs can’t figure out how to fund it, why should the government do it? That just seems like a situation where capital is going to be allocated poorly and the incentives won’t be tightly aligned.

The Last Week of the KC Fiber House Competition

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KC Fiber HouseThe chance to apply to win a slot to live in my Google Fiber enabled house in Kansas City are open for one more week – ending on March 25th at 17:00 CDT. Last week Google opened up Fiber access to the neighborhood my house is in and I registered for the $120 / month plan (which will be included in the house – no charge for that, or for rent, for the winners.)

I’m looking for entrepreneurs who are committed to living in Kansas City for a year who have a unique and novel approach to taking advantage of 1 gigibit Internet. The house is next to Homes for Hackers and down the block from KC Startup Village. The winners get to live for free in the house for a year and get to be kept warm by 1 gigibit Internet.

Apply now.

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My New FiberHouse in Kansas City

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KC FiberHouseI bought a house in Kansas City on Monday. It’s next door to the Homes for Hackers and KC Startup Village. It will have Google Fiber in it. I hope it becomes an integral part of the nation’s first Google Fiberhood.

I’m not going to be living in it. Instead, I’m going to let entrepreneurs live / work in it. Rent free. As part of helping create the Kansas City startup community. And to learn about the dynamics of Google Fiber. And to have some fun.

Here’s how it’s going to work. The Kauffman Foundation and I are running the Feld’s KC Fiber House Competition. Entries can be submitted online starting now. Entries are open through Friday March 22. Applicants must be at least 18 years old. Up to five winners will be selected from among the applications received. They’ll get to live and work in the house for a year rent free. I’m not taking any equity in these companies – I using a “give before you get” philosophy here to experiment, learn, and help the Kansas City startup community.

The judges will be me, Scott Case of Startup America Partnership,  David Cohen of TechStars and Lesa Mitchell of the Kauffman Foundation. We’ll be looking for the innovative potential of their startups and their companies’ ability to leverage Google Fiber. We’ll all be informal mentors and friends to the people who win and end up living in the house.

This came about through meeting with Ben Barreth, who created Homes for Hackers, at the Thinc Iowa conference. I loved what Ben was up to and offered to help. I thought about it more over the next month and then wrote him and Lesa Mitchell at Kauffman a note asking if it would be useful for me to buy a house near the Hacker House and open it up to entrepreneurs. This is what resulted.

I have a couple of very specific goals. First, I want to set an example using some of the principles I talk about in Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City. Next, I’m fascinated with Google Fiber and the idea of 1GB Internet access to the home so I want to experiment and see what smart entrepreneurs can come up with. I have a long relationship with Kauffman and Kansas City going back to the mid-1990′s and I want to support the development and growth of the Kansas City startup community. And finally, when Amy and I talked about the idea of it, we agreed it would be a fun thing to do.

If you are an entrepreneur at a startup and want to live rent free for a year in a house with a 1GB Internet connection, apply now!

Read Startup Communities With Me On BookShout!

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I don’t think I’m breaking new ground by saying that book publishing is going through a rapid transformation. I’ve learned a lot about traditional publishing after working with Wiley for the past few years on Do More Faster, Venture Deals, Startup Communities, and Startup Life. I’ve also experimented with self-publishing with HyperInk for the book Burning Entrepreneur. And, as I continue to publish books in the Startup Revolution series, you’ll see a lot more experimentation from me, both around the writing and publishing process, as well as with regard to engaging with everyone reading these books.

Recently, I starting pondering what would happen if a book wasn’t simply static content, but an actively-engaging, community-building platform?  What if a class could read and share notes, an executive team could collaborate around a book, or a community of readers could interact within the text itself?

I recently found a social reading technology called BookShout!, and, after spending some time with them, think they are addressing a lot of things I want in my current book reading experience. As a result, I’ve launched Startup Communities: Creating an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City on BookShout!

If you download the book and join the community, you not only get the book, but you can also connect with me, see my notes, invite others to join you, and create robust communities and in-line conversations inside the book.

To help entrepreneurs worldwide, Startup America is also using its full resources to reach out to millions of entrepreneurs so that we can all read the book together.  Leaders of Startup America, including Steve Case (the founder of AOL) and Scott Case (the CEO of Startup America) are going to read and share their notes as well.

We listen to music together and go to movies together – now we can read books together.  I hope you’ll join me, participate, and give me feedback on what you think.

SPECIAL OFFER:  Thanks to BookShout! and Startup America, I’m giving away 250 free digital copies of Startup Communities on BookShout!  The first 250 people to create an account at Bookshout.com and send an email to promos@bookshout.com will get a copy.  All I ask in return is that you make notes on areas that help you, invite others, and engage with me, give me feedback on what you think.

Build something great with me