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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Current Fascination With Google+

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Jeff Clavier is hanging out with Amy and me in Paris for a few days. We had an incredible dinner last night at L’Arpege - we’d been there once before with another friend (Ed Roberto) about five years ago and it was even better than we remembered it to be. We got home five hours after we started dinner which included an epic cheese course and two dessert courses.

Jeff’s been spending a lot of time on Google+ as have I and many of the VCs and tech early adopters that I know (my VC Circle is my largest circle.) Google+ is rumored to have reached 10m users already and show no sign of slowing. My experience with it has been fascinating – I didn’t do much beyond set up my account, figure out the right login approach since I use Google Apps and Google+ doesn’t yet work with a Google Apps account, and put up a few posts. I’ve got 1400 followers already who presumably simply auto-discovered me via Google’s algorithms (they do have a great social graph already given all the Gmail emails and address books.)

Recently I wrote a post titled Rethinking My Social Graph. I’ve struggled to get my Facebook social graph in order (3000 friends later – lots of acquaintances, not that many friends) and pondered how I use LinkedIn (promiscuously – I link with pretty much anyone). Twitter has been my ultimate broadcast tool and when I think about Google+ vs. Facebook, I realize that the power is the “follow” model vs. the “friend” model.

Facebook has become not that useful for me because while it’s the friend model, I’ve treated it as a follow model. As a result, there isn’t that much intimate communication on it for me, or if there is, it’s completely lost in the noise of the people who I’m acquaintances with. I’ve tried to solve this by sorting them into Lists but there are two problems. The UI for doing this is awful / tedious / excruciating and the control over what you do with lists is weak, especially in places where you really want the control (such as the news feed).

In contrast, Google+ nailed this with the follow model, letting anyone that is interested in what I have to say follow me, while I only follow people I’m interested in. While this is the Twitter model, you get much finer control over both consumption and broadcast through the use of Circles. Now that I have enough activity on Google+, I’m starting to understand and see the impact of this. Oh – and I guess I should start calling it G+ like all the cool kids do.

As Jason and I are about to launch our new book Venture Deals: Be Smarter Than Your Lawyer and Venture Capitalist I’ve been once again thinking about communication and promotion via social media. My experience setting up the blog and twitter feed for Startup Marriage reminded me how easy it is to get the tech set up, but how challenging it is to get engagement. And my investment in Gnip is showing me the continued geometric expansion of social data across an ever increasing number of platforms.

Get ready – I think we have now finally “just begun.”

Rethinking My Social Graph

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I’ve had a number of interesting conversions about the intersection of the virtual and the physical world since I wrote the post Did Someone Ruin Foursquare For Me Yesterday? Kashmir Hill in Forbes did a quick email interview with me titled Venture Capitalist Gets Creeped Out by Foursquare which captured a few new thoughts and I spent some time the other night at a TechStars Mentor dinner talking with Alex Rainert, the head of product for Foursquare, who had spent some time digging into this issue to try to figure out what was going on.

When I reflect on this, it’s clearly a “me problem” and not a “Foursquare problem.” Specifically, I’ve been chaotic and much too promiscuous with regard to my social graph. I don’t have a clear rule set about who I accept as friends on different services (I pretty much accept everyone) and as a result don’t have much control over what I broadcast. When I reflect on this, I also realize that it has rendered services like Facebook and LinkedIn largely useless to me as an information consumption mechanism.

Given my social network promiscuity I realize that I’ve fallen into a broadcast-only trap. Basically, I’m broadcasting on all the various services I use, but not consuming much new information, except on Twitter. When I extend this to my overall information consumption pattern, I realize that a lot of signal is once again getting lost in the noise, especially around the RSS feeds that I try to read regularly versus the endless amount of web media that is now distributed by RSS.

Toss in Quora, Stack Exchange, Disqus, and a few other high signal services into the mix and my approach has broken down. While I’m still able to manage my email, I’m struggling to get the right kind of utility out of my social graph.

As a result, I’ve decided to make one of my Q2P1s to rethink and re-architect my entire social graph. While this will require lots of effort, my expectation is that I’ll get two clear benefits out of this. First, I’ll reset how I use my social graph. But more importantly, I’ll get a better handle on the dynamics – and gaps – that exist in using and managing a very active social graph. Once again, I get to use my corner of the universe as a laboratory and hope to find some new important technologies and companies as a result. And I’ll blog the experience so you can help me figure it out while learning from what I do.

100% Click Through Rate

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I was thinking about how to drive CTR’s up via different mechanisms this morning when this email arrived in my inbox.

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I remembered talking about high CTR email response rates with Dave McClure and Shervin Pishevar when we were in DC on our Startup Visa trip at the beginning of March.  I’d forgotten about this conversation until this email showed up while I was thinking about this.  Of course, I clicked to see where Dave had tagged me (it was on a Huffington Post article about innovation.)

I thought about it for a few more seconds and realized that to date I have a 100% CTR on an email from Facebook that says “<X> tagged you on Facebook.”  I can’t come up with anything else that I have a 100% CTR on, but I’m now looking out for it.

Do you have any examples of transaction emails like this you receive that have 100% (or even 50%+) CTRs?

I Am Afraid of the Big Blue Horse at DIA

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Anyone who has driven to DIA has seen the mysterious big blue horse.  Yes – it has special powers.  It has killed before (its creator – Luis Jimenez) and may kill again.

I am afraid of the big blue horse at DIA

I’ve just joined the I am afraid of the big blue horse at DIA Facebook group.  Here’s one of the best quotes from the wall.

Approaching DIA, my heart began to thump. Summoning all my resolution, I gave my Suby half a score of kicks to the gas pedal in an attempt to hasten my journey. At just that moment a splash of blue caught my eye. In the dark shadow of the field, on the margin of the airport, I beheld something blue, so blue, and towering, a gigantic monster ready to pounce upon this weary traveler. "What are you" I whispered, and received no reply. Agitated, I repeated my question. Pushing the gas pedal, I closed my eyes and uttered an involuntary psalm. I opened my eyes. The shadow took shape, a huge horse with powerful frame, whose eyes burned red and followed me, keeping pace. I rounded the curve, bringing the relief of the giant against the sky and I was horror-struck on perceiving it was…art? ~ Jenn Bma (Boulder)

I am – in general – afraid of horses so it’s appropriate that I am fucking terrified of the Big Blue Horse.  I am so glad Facebook has provided me with a place to find some new friends.  Thanks Jill for pointing this out to me.

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