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Today, my partners at Foundry Group and I are contributing $100,000 to the Entrepreneurs Foundation of Colorado (EFCO) to help with the Boulder Flood Relief Effort. This is our second gift to the EFCO – we previously contributed a portion of our carry across all of our funds.
The floods in Boulder and the surrounding area the past week have been devastating. I went for a run last night around town just to get a feel for things – the water is still at dangerously high and fast levels in Boulder Creek and the damage near the creek in downtown is visible. I smelled smells that I’ve never smelled in Boulder before and saw water in places it simply didn’t belong.
But downtown Boulder is quickly getting back to normal. That’s not the problem. If you’ve ever been to Boulder, you know we are surrounded by incredible mountains. It’s part of the magic of the place, but also part of the challenge. A friend told me recently, “think of the mountains as giant slanted roofs and Boulder as the basement of the house.”
There are two natural forces here that can be massively destructive. The first, which have made the news the past few years, are wildfires. Amy and I have endured these for the past 17 years – we’ve been evacuated from our house twice, once for three days during my brother’s wedding. The massive Lefthand Canyon Fire destroyed a huge neighborhood. Awful, terrifying stuff.
But that just set us up for what looks like the real disaster. The entire mountain area around Boulder is wrecked. Roads are destroyed. Towns in the “basement” – including Lyons – are literally wiped off the map. Major parts of Longmont are now submerged. The water ran downhill, destroying everything in its path as gravity did it’s magic, and then just sat at the bottom wherever it ended up.
My partners and I are lucky. None of our lost our houses. We all have roofs over our heads. And we have plenty of resources.
But many of our friends and neighbors were not so lucky. The stories are endless – the friend who lost her house and has no place to live. Another friend who made a mad dash off the mountain with his family and has no idea what the status of his home is. The entrepreneur who worked out of his basement, which is now a swimming pool. The business owner who’s office is now cut in half – and destroyed – by a mudslide. The tech leader who recently had a major back injury, just got out of the hospital, and had to evacuate his house. The people stuck up in the mountains who can’t get out. And the people stuck down in the foothills that also can’t get out.
The magnitude of this hit me yesterday afternoon when I heard estimates of $100m – $150m to fix the “infrastructure damage.” I have no idea what that really means, but for a region of a couple of hundred thousand people, knowing the range is low, and it’s only “infrastructure”, this is going to be a long, hard mess to dig out of.
I’ve always felt a strong responsibility to the community I call home. Boulder has been and continues to be very good to me. And it’s my responsibility, especially in times like this, to be good back. This is not the only financial support we’ll be giving to the Boulder Flood Relief Effort. In addition, we’ll give plenty of functional support. But it’s a step – and one we hope can have direct impact.
My partners and I encourage every entrepreneur in the area who has had a meaningful financial success to consider giving something through EFCO to the Boulder Flood Relief Effort. If you are an entrepreneur who hasn’t yet had a financial success, consider joining EFCO and contributing 1% of the equity in your company today, to help build the endowment for the future. And, if you are a venture capitalist or an angel investor in – or with investments in – the Boulder area, please consider joining EFCO and contributing directly to the relief effort today. Just email me and I’ll get you connected.
Finally, if you are a reader and part of the Feld Thoughts community and you want to help out, please contribute directly to the Foothills Flood Relief Fund. We greatly appreciate any support you can give.
Sean Wise, a professor at Ryerson University in Toronto, has an awesome web interview series called The Naked Entrepreneur Show. Sean is the interviewer for a 45 minute studio show that is entirely produced by students at Ryerson.
When I was in Toronto in the fall, I did an episode with him – it’s definitely in the top 10 of the interviews I’ve done.
David Cohen, the CEO of TechStars, also did an interview on The Naked Entrepreneur.
Enjoy. And it’s going to be fun to see what happens with the SEO on this.
Woof! We just announced Foundry Group’s investment in Rover.com this morning. We led a $7m financing in the leader in digital dog boarding that connects dog owners with approved, reviewed, and insured sitters. Rover.com is part of our marketplace theme, which now includes investments in SideTour and PivotDesk. I’m psyched to be joining the board, working with my good friend Greg Gottesman at Madrona on another Seattle-based company.
Two years ago we probably wouldn’t have considered Rover.com as it would have fallen outside our active themes. Marketplace is a good example of how our themes evolve. Seth and I worked together on ServiceMagic in the 1999 – 2004 time frame (IAC acquired it in 2004 for $180m) so we had a deep understanding of how a heavily metric-based buy/sell marketplace worked. However, at Foundry Group, we didn’t start paying attention to this theme again until we made a seed investment in SideTour coming out of the TechStars New York program. In this case, Seth had been SideTour’s mentor and we classified it as “other” as we sometimes make exceptions and invest in companies outside our themes when (a) we love the founders and (b) we are interested in what they are doing.
Last summer, Jason mentored the founders of PivotDesk as they went through TechStars Boulder. At the end of the summer, we decided to invest as well as categorize SideTour and PivotDesk together in the same theme, which we originally named RAM, after Ryan’s initials, which happened to be the same as the abbreviation for “remnant asset monetization”, the key element of each of these companies that we were interested in.
Specifically, we aren’t interested in investing in any two-sided marketplace. Instead, we are looking for ones that have a very clearly defined inefficiency around “remnant assets”, or assets that expire if not used in a timely fashion. We’re also looking for ones that have huge under-accessed supply or demand, where mobile and location have an immediate impact on utilization, and where existing transaction friction – either as a result of process or trust – exists.
Rover.com was the first of over 100 companies we’ve seen in the last three months that fit these criteria. As a bonus, we loved the entrepreneurs and the domain, as three of the four of us are dog lovers (Jason, sadly, goes for cats, but we have Cheezburger for that.) Furthermore, it’s our fifth investment in Seattle, joining SEOmoz, Cheezburger, BigDoor, and Gist (now part of RIM). And it’s got two linkages to Startup Weekend (where I’m a board member) – they are both Seattle-based and Rover.com was conceived at a Startup Weekend.
I’m psyched to be an investor. And, every time I get in my Range Rover, I’ll think of Aaron. Especially when I’m with my golden retriever Brooks.
I always enjoy hanging out with Jason Calacanis. We first met in the mid-1990s when Jason was hanging out in NY doing Silicon Alley Reporter. I can’t remember who initially introduced us – it was probably Fred Wilson.
We covered a lot in the hour+ interview for This Week In Startups. Things like why I didn’t retire at age 30, what Amy’s ring tone is, Startup Communities, Boulder, what motivates me, the different between mentors and advisors, my biggest failures in the Internet bubble, the Foundry Group investment strategy, my angel investment strategy, why Fred Wilson and USV has been so successful, why the objective of a VC is a straightforward and how to define success as a VC, why the answer to “how is a VC fund doing” is “check back in a decade”, hiring for culture fit vs. competence., why entrepreneurs get to – and should – define their culture, why you can’t change people (and how my first marriage blew up), why investors are like D&D characters, examples of bad behavior of VCs and entrepreneurs, more stuff about VC and entrepreneur interactions, what the best board meetings are, a reminder that people lie, Lance Armstrong and ego, CEO coaches, the first person I ever fired, and a bunch of other stuff.
Jason – you are the Internet’s Charlie Rose. Well done.
I’ve been a huge fan of Xconomy since its debut several years ago. It’s been a refreshing resource for a bunch of startup communities, including Boston (where it started) and Seattle. Over time they’ve added New York, Detroit, San Francisco, and San Diego and are now considering expanding to Boulder / Denver (I encouraged them to combine both as each city is on fire and there’s no reason not to link them together at this point.)
We (my partners and I at Foundry Group and David Cohen at TechStars) are helping them get enough initial sponsors to bring on a full time writer in the Boulder / Denver area. The sign up for the Bring Xconomy to Boulder/Denver page has all the details.
Companies who have already signed up include Application Experts, Foundry Group, FullContact, GoSpotCheck, Gnip, Linksmart, Orbotix, PaySimple, PivotDesk, Precog, Rally Software, SendGrid, Simple Energy, SnapEngage, Standing Cloud, Swiftpage, Sympoz, and TechStars.
Come join us, sign up as a founding sponsor, and help get a great new resource covering the activity in our startup community.