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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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Getting a New Receptionist with TextUs.Biz

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While I have nothing against receptionists, I’ve always felt like it was a thankless job that should be able to easily be replaced by the machines. Many of the people I know who are receptionists spend their time doing lots of other things and I’ve always felt like it would dramatically improve their life if they could focus on all the other things, rather than split their attention between those and being a receptionist.

We’ve never had a dedicated receptionist at Foundry Group but our office was oriented so the people “in the line of fire” were constantly interrupted whenever someone came in the office. So, we asked a local startup, TextUs.Biz to solve this problem for us.  They came up with an iPad app called “Receptionist” which freed up anyone from having to pay specific attention to the front door. As a result, we redesigned the entrance to our office with “Receptionist” front and center, a new lobby, and a Mezzanine room.

The team at TextUs.Biz hasn’t slowed down. They have taken the idea to market and recently launched TextUs.Biz Receptionist for the public (it’s available in iTunes now.) The functionality and feature set of the app are intuitive. Visitors can ping who they are here to see and can directly interact with the person or their assistant. It also has some fun tricks like taking a picture of the visitor and storing it automatically in the visitor log for future reference.

We like the gang at TextUs.Biz – they did great work for us. The machines have taken over the world anyway, so why not let them help check people in? Check it out the app here and their AngelList profile here.

The Return of Random Day

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I woke up late today (yay – 12:06 hours of sleep) to the last 15 minutes of the elite women in the NYC Marathon. Watching them finish and then watching Mutai crush the men’s field over the last six miles was pretty inspiring. I haven’t run a marathon since October 2012 when I ran the Detroit Marathon but after a year of struggling to get into a rhythm I’m once again motivated – and interested – in doing another marathon. I’ve committed to being one of the 14 in 2014 that run the Boston Marathon – there’s a gang of well known tech entrepreneurs and investors that are doing this together as part of a big fundraiser. I’ll definitely try to get at least one marathon in before then just to be confident that I’ll get it done.

Last week I added back in something I used to do regularly, but had stopped for a year or so given my schedule and then ensuing depression. I did a full day of random day meetings on halloween. I sat at Amante Coffee all day, mostly in my cookie monster outfit, had random meetings, drank coffee, and ate cookies. I had a blast.

If you’ve never heard of random day, I’ll meet with anyone who signs up for 20 minutes. I’ve been doing this for almost a decade – it’s part of my “give before you get” philosophy that’s deeply embedded in the Boulder Startup Community psyche. I have no expectation of what I’m going to get out of these meetings, but some pretty magical things, including the creation of Techstars, have occurred as a result of them.

During the course of the day I had 12 meetings, three cups of coffee, a yogurt, a burrito, and two cookies. I met with the following people.

  • Friend starting a COO / CEO search
  • Attorney in town thinking of starting a seed fund
  • Founder of a non-profit I recently supported
  • Person looking for a new BD gig
  • Founder of a natural foods company I just invested in
  • BD person looking to get into the VC or Boulder scene
  • Tech entrepreneur I hadn’t seen in a decade describing his new thing
  • Content marketing person looking to be plugged into Boulder
  • Founders of non-profit looking to expand outside of Boulder
  • Partners in a non-profit looking for support for a robot competition
  • New VC in town in the natural foods market
  • Two entrepreneurs just starting their tech business looking for feedback

I was immediately able to help at least six of the 12. I have no idea what will come from the other meetings, but that’s part of the fun of random day.

I plan to do this again six times in 2014. So that’s about 80 random meetings – people I wouldn’t have met with – and who wouldn’t have had some time with me. If one powerful thing comes out if it, then it’s worth it. Regardless, I had a good day on Thursday and feel like I did something that contributed to the glue in the Boulder Startup Community.

Startup Phenomenon, November 13th-15th in Boulder

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An event called Startup Phenomenon is happening In Boulder on 11/13 – 11/15. It gets to the heart of how startup communities are developed and I’d love to have you join me at it. If you register to come, use the code “feldfriends” for $100 off the $995 price.

You may have seen the recent Kauffman Foundation study that ranked Boulder tops among all cities in the U.S. in terms of tech-startup density. That Boulder was number one was interesting, but what’s more exciting is that there are so many emergent startup communities around the United States that it’s now worth ranking them.

Startup Phenomenon is designed to bring attention to these communities, from small towns to large cities, as we explore how this startup phenomenon works. We’ll cover topics including:

  • The Finance Chain: How VCs, angels, crowdfunding models, and all the rest fit together
  • Startup Kitchens: Transformative accelerators, incubators, and mentorship programs
  • Big data: New tools for measuring growth, investments, and economic activity
  • Networking models: The meetups that are truly improving the businesses of those who attend
  • Case studies: Entrepreneurs and investors who are building startup communities around the world
  • Culture: The major shift taking place away from hierarchical structures to collaborative networks
  • City governments: Why some are better than others at nurturing local startups
  • Corporations: How large, established companies can help startup communities
  • The silos: Biotech, food, the Internet of things, clean energy, and all the other sectors providing fertile ground for entrepreneurs and investors

On the third day of the conference we will provide a deep look into what’s going on here in Colorado. That Kauffman report of densest startup communities actually had four Colorado cities in the top 10 (Boulder, Ft. Collins, Denver, and Colorado Springs.) And you may have seen that the New York Times recently dubbed Boulder “Silicon Valley for Ad Agencies.”

The speakers list is awesome. As a special treat, I get to interview Jim Collins author of Built to Last, Good to Great, How the Mighty Fall, and Great By Choice who happens to live in Boulder.

This will be a great opportunity for you to bring attention to your work and to learn about the entrepreneurs and investors who have come together around the world to build vibrant, open startup communities.

Rally Gives $1.3 Million To The Boulder Community

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Rally 1% - EFCO Check
My day started out great. After getting up at 5, having a delightful run at 6, walking Brooks, and then hanging with Amy for four minutes, I got in my car and drove over to Rally Software for their Big 1% Give Back event.

The picture to the left is of Ryan Martens, Rally’s founder and CTO, giving Josie Health, the CEO of The Community Foundation Serving Boulder County, a check for $676,000. This check is for The Community Foundation and for the Entrepreneurs Foundation of Colorado (EFCO) and results from a gift of 24,793 shares of common stock from Rally at the time of its first financing that represented approximately 1% of the equity of the company.

I remember numerous conversations with Ryan about this. Ryan started Rally (formerly F4) out of our previous office and could regularly be found scribbling all over a white board. He had a huge vision that started to be turned into practice when Tim Miller joined him as CEO about a year after he started the company. Part of that vision became the agile software development products that Rally makes.

But Ryan’s vision was always bigger than that. He wanted to build a sense of corporate social responsibility into Rally from day one. He was inspired by Salesforce.com and the Salesforce Foundation so he wanted to do something similar in Boulder – contributing 1% of the equity and 1% of the employees’ time to local philanthropic efforts.

With a handful of others, including my partner Seth Levine and Cooley’s Mike Platt, Ryan helped created the Entrepreneurs Foundation of Colorado. Rally was one of five founding members – the others were NewsGator, Collective Intellect, Me.dium, and Tendril. At the time, no one really knew how this would end up, but we all believed that it was important for the local startup community (which included companies anywhere in Colorado, not just Boulder) to give back to the community that helped support it.

We talked about creating millions of dollars of philanthropic contributions through the success of companies in Colorado over the next few decades. Some people rolled their eyes when we talked about this, some thought we were crazy, and some jumped on board. Throughout, Ryan’s leadership of EFCO was unbounded and today over 50 companies are members of EFCO.

Today’s gift represents the largest to date. Oh – that check is only for $676,000. Well the other one – for $643,000 – is the second check Josie got today – this one from an additional gift Rally made when they endowed the Rally for Impact Foundation.

Gang – well done. Thanks for leading by example. And we are only just beginning.

Rally 1% - Rally for Impact Foundation

The Power Of Mother Nature

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I was going to blog about the Yesware $13.5 million financing but I’ve been buried in Denver Startup Week so I’ll do that tomorrow.

I’ve continued to be emotionally distracted by all the devastation around Boulder from our recent floods. I’ve gotten a ton of emails from all over the world in support as well as some meaningful financial contributions adding on to the $100,000 my partners and I just gave to the Entrepreneurs Foundation of Colorado to provide direct support for the flood victims.

Eldorado Canyon New Crevasse

Amy’s assistant Naomi hiked up to our house in Eldorado Canyon today to finally check on our house there. The house is fine, but there is damage to a bunch of our property. At some intellectual level it’s incredible to see the power of water. At some other level it’s emotionally distressing. The picture above is our meadow. And yes – the crevasse is “new” – so we have a new creek in our meadow.

Then – there’s the lower part of our driveway – well, at least what used to be a driveway.

Eldorado Canyon Destroyed Driveway

And then there’s the road through Eldorado State Park, which no longer works as a road.

Eldorado Canyon State Park Road

 

We are all ok and have plenty of resources to deal with this. So we’ve turned most of our energy to helping our friends, neighbors, and extended Boulder County community deal with the destruction the floods have caused. But it’s really amazing to see the power of mother nature unleashed.

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