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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Corporate Bad Activity Against Innovators

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There’s an amazing amount of bad activity going on in the world of tech right now. It’s predictable – when things start going well the switch flips from fear back to greed and all sorts of craziness ensues. One of the things I see appear is a steady stream of crap aimed at innovators. Patent trolls are an easy one, but heavy handed regulatory activity by incumbents and random lawsuits around acquisitions are also part for the course.

I was going to write about how the FCC’s potential action on net neutrality could seriously jeopardize Internet innovation, but Fred Wilson beat me to it (he’s got an east coast time advantage over me) with a phenomenal post titled The Fast Lane, The Slow Lane, and The No Lane. I love the phrase “permissionless innovation” as well as the way Fred describes the issue:

“But that period of “permissionless innovation” is likely to come to an end soon if we all let it. The FCC has responded to a court ruling by proposing a convoluted set of rules that will allow fast lanes, slow lanes, and what’s even worse, no lanes. The FCC’s proposal will allow the telcos and cable companies that provide the last mile connection to your home or office to prioritize some bits over others. That’s how they create the fast lane and the slow lane. It also allows discrimination in which they can decide not to allow your bits through at all, creating a “no lane”.”

Go read Fred’s post The Fast Lane, The Slow Lane, and The No Lane and then hit the back button to continue here. I’ll wait.

If you wonder who is driving this, it’s the telcos and cable companies who control the last mile. Please don’t pretend that you are surprised.

But that’s just one category of bad activity that falls in the “incumbents trying to use government regulation to control their industry and suppress innovation.” Nothing new here – it’s been going on since the beginning of time.

A different version of this popped up last week. If you recall, a month or so ago Facebook announced that it was buying Oculus Rift for an eye popping $2 billion. Amazing and congrats to everyone involved in Oculus Rift. I’ve long been a John Carmack fanboy since I first played Doom and realized id Software was based in Mesquite, TX, near where I grew up. I’ve always loved his hacker spirit, amazing ability to do things no one else could envision, and willingness to open source a lot of his work to lead the way for others. So I thought it was pretty awesome when he went to be CTO of Oculus Rift to pursue the next generation of virtual reality software.

Now, I don’t know John, I’m not an investor in Oculus Rift, or Facebook, or Zenimax, but I wasn’t particularly surprised when Zenimax decided to assert that it owned part of Carmack’s brain. You can read an enormous amount of chatter about the situation, and form your own conclusion, but mine is that Zenimax is a bad actor here. Given that Zenimax wouldn’t let Carmack pursue any virtual reality work while at Zenimax resulted in the logical conclusion that he’d leave and do something else. Asserting that whatever was in his brain while employed at Zenimax belongs to Zenimax is nonsense. There’s a phrase for that: “intellectual slavery” and it’s not one I support.

If you are interested in this situation, here are some good links to understand what is going on and being asserted.

Now that I’ve been clear about what I think, I’m curious what you think.

SEOmoz Acquires Followerwonk – A Perfect Small Acquisition

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When I saw this graph I was hooked. If you are a Twitter user and you don’t use Followerwonk, go try it now – I’ll be here when you return.

Yesterday, SEOmoz announced that it had acquired Followerwonk. The acquisition closed about six weeks ago and the Followerwonk product has been fully integrated into SEOmoz. And the Followerwonk team is now fully part of the SEOmoz team. And it’s awesome.

Rand Fishkin (SEOmoz’s CEO) blogs openly about how the deal happened. It’s instructive for anyone in a startup – either one that is acquiring someone else or being acquired.

If you know me, or have worked with me, you’ll recognize this as a common part of my startup playbook. I think it’s incredibly powerful to accelerate the growth of a company via targeted acquisitions. Fred Wilson once referred to this as a “venture rollup” which, while many are allergic to the word “rollup”, is probably as good a label as any for this. Another recent example from my world just to see what I mean is Rally Software’s acquisition of Agile Advantage.

Doing this well is hard. I’ve been fortunate to work with several amazing CEOs who I’ve learned a lot about how to do this with, including Matt Blumberg (Return Path), Tim Miller (Rally), Mark Pincus (Zynga), and JB Holston (NewsGator). And I learned the basis of everything I know about acquisitions from Len Fassler and Jerry Poch, who acquired my first company. Each has used the strategy skillfully and effectively.

I think Rand, who is using this strategy as part of continuing to build out SEOmoz, is going to be a master at it. If you read his post carefully, you’ll see that he has immense respect for the people behind Followerwork. His behavior pre-deal is consistent with his values and signals his behavior post deal. The entire company embraced Followerwonk and made them part of the SEOmoz gang immediately. He, and the entire team extended trust up front, unambiguously, and without hesitation or reservation.

Peter, Marc, and Galen – welcome to the team!

An Amazing Deal On SEOmoz Pro

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Today on Brad Feld’s Amazing Deals you can get three months of SEOmoz PRO for only $99 dollars. Normally three months of PRO service is $198, so this deal saves you $99.

If you’ve been wondering about how to effectively manage your SEO and monitor your social media, today’s Amazing Deal will get you going and at low, low, price (ok – I couldn’t resist – I just love to say low, low price.)

Seriously, my experience as an investor in SEOmoz has been extraordinary so far. I love working with this gang and I’m psyched to be able to provide you a low cost way to give their PRO product a try.

You Are The Sustainable Future Of Daily Deals

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Deal Co-op, the company that powers Brad Feld’s Amazing Deals, released their software last week as a self serve, SaaS product. This means anyone reading this post can go to dealcoop.com and create their own deal store like I did with Brad Feld’s Amazing Deals. This type of software works great for bloggers, entrepreneurs, publishers – basically anyone with an existing online presence looking to monetize their audience.

I was a lead mentor for Deal Co-op during TechStars Seattle 2010. Back then, the founders (and brothers) Nate and Mike Schmidt had already created a great white label software that powers daily deal and group buying sites. Now that their software is self serve, you can hop on their site, sign up, and start designing your store with an Interactive Store Designer tool. It’s fun and you can build a new business in seconds. On average, I make $555 for each deal I post and blog about. Not bad!

Nate and Mike have spent a bunch of time thinking about the long term sustainability of daily deals and group buying. Brad Feld’s Amazing Deals is a good example of Deal Co-op’s vision for the industry. Relevant offers to a targeted audience are the key – and you don’t have to make offers every day to be successful. To explain this with real numbers, they  just put up an excellent blog post discussing the history of Brad Feld’s Amazing Deals.

But that’s not all. Don’t miss our deal this week, Learn How to Build iPhone Apps! Check it out – a $49 course that is normally $197. Yet another amazing deal brought to you by your favorite huckster.

Brad Feld’s Amazing Deals: Invisible Shoes

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If you are a running enthusiast you’re going to love today’s Brad Feld’s Amazing Deal. Today’s deal takes the barefoot running phenomena to its logical conclusion. Invisible Shoes, created by two former lead designers from Nike and Reebok, are the closest you will ever get to feeling barefoot, even if you aren’t. They’re perfect for running or walking or yoga. Did I mention that you put them together yourself for the perfect fit? Awesomely loving the DIY world.

At $16 (normally up to $35) these are definitely worth a look.

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