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I love this time of year. I get up at 5am, catch up on email (holy shit – is it already 6:37?), write a blog post, go for a run, and then have a completely jam packed day full of working with amazing people. Some days are awesome, some days have crushing challenges, all of them are stimulating.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve run incredibly hot from Labor Day through Thanksgiving. The boundaries seem to be the holidays and the bookends are Amy‘s birthday (9/14) and my birthday (12/1). We often find ourselves in New York around Amy’s birthday and in some exotic warm beach place (like Mexico) on mine. Between the two is complete and total chaos, which is delicious when I give myself up to it rather than fight it.
Here are a few of the things going on this fall.
- We just closed Foundry Group 2012 – a new $225 million fund. We’ll start investing out of it before the end of the year.
- Companies we’ve invested in are doing major launches. Fitbit launched two new products yesterday (Fitbit Zip and Fitbit One), Return Path launches three today (Email Intelligence!), and MakerBot launches several magical things on Wednesday. Who needs Christmas – every day is Christmas around here.
- My fourth book, Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City comes out at the end of the month.
- The Startup Revolution has begun. If you wonder why this matters, take a look at this Kauffman Foundation research on The Ascent of America’s High Growth Companies.
- I’m running a marathon in Utah (St. George), Vermont (Burlington), and Michigan (Detroit) in October. This is the first time I’ve done three weekends back to back (I’ve done two before).
- Amy and I are traveling all over the United States like nomads – San Francisco, Boise, Oklahoma City, St. George, Chicago, Des Moines, Burlington, Seattle, Detroit, Boston, Montreal, Toronto, Lexington (KY), and Palm Desert. I love this country (and Canada). I’ve learned how to ship my clothes to different places – that makes the travel a lot easier.
- Amy and I are finishing up the next book in the Startup Revolution series – Startup Life: Surviving and Thriving in a Relationship with an Entrepreneur which should be out by the end of the year.
- A second edition of Venture Deals: Be Smarter Than Your Lawyer and Venture Capitalist – which I wrote with my partner Jason Mendelson comes out, along with a teaching guide that Jason and Brad Bernthal (CU Boulder) wrote.
- I’m spending all of my extra time with my three partners at Foundry Group, who I love working with, including a top secret two day retreat, time together at Defrag and Blur, and a few magic meals along the way.
As my dad likes to say, “if you aren’t living on the edge, you are taking up too much space.” I’m enjoying the edge this semester.
If you happen to talk to Kelly along the way, tell her thanks for putting up with me. Or send her flowers. Or chocolate.
I met Andy Swan at Lindzonpalooza in San Diego this year. Andy towers over me (he’s 6′ 9″) and I’m always attracted to people who make me (at 6′ 1″) feel short. Among other things, he’s got a super creative blog and is a successful entrepreneur, so we had a great discussion. We also talked about weight loss, which I was focused on because I was squarely in the middle of my Retrofit experience (where I’ve lost a solid 20 pounds in the last six months.) Recently Andy sent me a note saying he’d lost 40 pounds with just Fitbit – I asked him to write a blog post about his story. Here it is – it’s inspiring.
It had been 6 months since my knee surgery where they replaced my busted ACL (wakeboarding). I hadn’t weighed myself since, but I distinctly remember seeing “299.2″ on the scale in pre-op. That was a new all-time high, and “300″ seemed really high, even for a guy standing 6 ft 9. Just as the anesthesia started to kick in I thought to myself…. “well, this could go one of two ways. Either you get sedentary and fat while your knee heals or you take it as a wake-up call and start kicking ass.”
I decided to start kicking ass. I woke up from surgery incredibly optimistic and with absolute certainty that the year post-surgery was going to be BETTER than the year prior. Funny how obstacles can motivate.
Fast-forward 6 months of no official “rehab”, but a lot of weight training and gradual but intense increases in movement. I was as strong as I was 15 years ago as a college basketball player, and my knee felt great. Ya!
But…. I still felt big. Too heavy. Too soft in the middle. This was a problem. I’d worked really hard. Ugh.
Then I went out to San Diego and chatted with Brad Feld. Naturally, I looked through the companies he had invested in.
Interesting. The fitbit tracker keeps track of your movement during the day (how?! Who cares!). The fitbit scale is wifi-enabled and keeps track of your weight. Both sync online and work with MyFittnessPal, which I could use to keep track of my calories.
Tracking input. Tracking output. Tracking results in “real-time”. This was a perfect storm of awesome for a guy that really loves excess in all directions– and knows that what gets measured gets done.
I bought both with expedited shipping.
Instant obsession. 3 months later, I still feel completely incomplete if I haven’t burned more calories than I’ve taken in. I’m fixated on “doing more”. 20,000 steps is a good day. 10 miles moved is awesome. Partly to lighten up, partly so I can eat more and drink more. It works.
Every year my partners at Foundry Group and I go to CES. We aren’t boondoggle guys – our expeditions together are limited to a quarterly offsite, often at Jason’s house (10 minutes from our office), and one trip a year with spouses and significant others somewhere. So CES has been a nice tradition for us where we get to travel together for a few days, hang out in nerd and gadget heaven, and spend time with a bunch of entrepreneurs we work with who are here.
There were two memes going around that I heard about CES earlier this week. The first came out of a set of entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley who said something like “CES is irrelevant – no one important is there and nothing interesting gets launched.” The second come out of a set of VCs in Silicon Valley who said something like “we go to CES to look for new companies to invest in that are outside the mainstream.”
I found both of these comments bizarre since we don’t view CES through either of those lenses. First, I think CES is incredibly relevant as it is a forward view of what the broad consumer electronics industry will be releasing and shipping over the next 12 months. Many of the CE companies and products operate on an annual product cycle and this helps me understand what is going to this year, at which point I don’t have to think hard about it for another year (yeah – I pay attention – but I have a really useful context). In addition, every technology buyer and supplier in the world is here wandering around so if you interact with any of them, it’s an extremely efficient way to spend time with them.
Next, we don’t actually search for new investments at CES although we tend to have some interesting meetings with folks who happen to be here. There are definitely cases where we got face time with entrepreneurs who we hadn’t yet spent a lot of time with previously – Pogoplug and MakerBot come to mind from years past. But we were already talking to them – CES was just an efficient way for all four of us to spent time with them.
If you want the multimedia version of what I just said, watch Jason’s interview on Bloomberg from yesterday.
We had three companies with large presences here this year – MakerBot, Orbotix, and Fitbit. They are each having an awesome show and I’m super psyched about their new products. It’s extremely fun – as an investor – to just hang out in a booth and watch the traffic and listen to the interactions.
We always have two dinners – one with just entrepreneurs we work with and one that is a broader audience. Each dinner was a highlight for me and if I do nothing else at CES, I’ll always come for these dinners.
I ended up with a series of meetings on Tuesday – three of them were with entrepreneurs who I’ve been talking to about various things. All three were really relevant and interesting and not surprising each was in our human computer interaction theme which I discussed on an NPR interview yesterday with Steve Henn titled Humans and Machines: Beyond Touch.
Finally, I had plenty that is the weirdness of Las Vegas. I had a total meltdown Wednesday morning and ended up spending the day in my room. I had a death defying run on the Las Vegas strip. And I’m just came back through a smoke filled casino from a breakfast with some of the leaders of the Las Vegas startup community (see more on the Startup Communities site soon.) This afternoon I board a plane to Boston and bid CES 2012 farewell. But I’ll be back again next year.
If you’re a regular reader, you know about my interest in the quantified self and exercise. You also know my struggle with losing that “last 20 pounds” which I’ve finally decided I am going to do once and for all. As part of this, I’m using a new program called Retrofit which was created by Jeff Hyman, a long time friend and entrepreneur, and some of the leading weight loss experts in the country .
Retrofit uses a Fitbit and a Withings scale to make tracking your sleep, activity and weighing yourself easy. Your data is shared with your personal weight loss team: a registered dietitian, exercise physiologist, and behavior coach. Your experts meet with you one on one via Skype videoconference. Not only do they help you lose weight, but also they help you establish the skills to keep weight off for life.
I’ve been doing the program for a month and my experience so far has been great. I’ve learned a lot about what I’m eating wrong and have started to reprogram my bad patterns. I’ve lost a few pounds already, but am taking a long term view toward losing the 20 pounds over the next 12 months and then maintaining my weight at 190 for the balance of my life.
Jeff has created this program for people like me – busy, on the road all the time, constant meals out, and the endless struggle with getting rid of a little extra weight. The goal is not a classical “lose weight right now and then gain it back” diet. Instead, it’s focused on gradual weight loss with long term behavior change.
While it’s not inexpensive, if you look at the overall cost and what you get for it, it’s a great deal. And, even though the program is never discounted through the website, Jeff was willing to give anyone reading this blog a 50% discount if you sign up before 12/31/11. If you are interested, just call 1-800-774-5962 and use the code word “Feld” to receive the special pricing.
If losing some weight is on your upcoming new years resolution list, take a look at Retrofit.
I love Fitbit. We had a board meeting yesterday and there is so much amazing stuff coming from this company in the next few quarters. James and Eric are product creation machines – they love what they do, love their products, obsess about every bit of them, and have a vision about human instrumentation and where it can go that dwarfs anything I’ve heard from anyone else. Oh – and they’ve built a killer team that shares this vision as well as the ability to execute on it.
The newest Fitbit (the Fitbit Ultra) is out – if you’ve been holding off buying one don’t wait any longer. And today they just released the iPhone app for the Fitbit. I’ve been using it for a few months and it’s a great companion to the Fitbit.
My belief that in a decade humans will be fully instrumented – and be able to have the instrumentation create realtime feedback loops – is one that causes some people to look at me funny. But, whenever someone who has a Fitbit hears this, and then asks me to explain more, I see their head start nodding up and down.
I’m really lucky I get to work with these guys.