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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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Tickets for #BoulderWin Event – June 4th

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A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about an event a bunch of us in the Boulder startup community are putting together called #BoulderWin, a celebration for the sale of Gnip to Twitter. Instead of having a secretive closing dinner for a small number of folks, we are going to have a big party to welcome Twitter to town.

#BoulderWin is happening on June 4th from 7pm – 10pm at the Boulder Theater.

You must register to attend and tickets cost $20 per person. All of the proceeds are going to Entrepreneurs Foundation of Colorado. There are a limited number of tickets available and it’s first come first served.

In addition to the proceeds from the sales of the tickets, I’ll be matching the $4,000 with a personal gift of $4,000 from me and my wife Amy Batchelor to the Entrepreneurs Foundation of Colorado. And, my partners at Foundry Group are sponsoring the event, along with a bunch of other local companies including:

These companies represent a big part of what makes Boulder such a great place for entrepreneurs.  Thanks for everything you do!

Once again, you can get your tickets here.

Public Closing Dinner For Gnip/Twitter Deal – #BoulderWin

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Whenever a company gets acquired or goes public, there is often a fancy closing dinner. It’s usually at a nice restaurant in a private room. The wine is expensive and the toasts are many. The people in the room are the founders of the company, the executives, the board members, other major investors, the lawyers who worked on the deal, and the investment bankers – if any were involved.

I’ve been to more of these than I can remember. They were fun at first, but now they feel strange to me. The group celebrating is often a very small subset of the people who were involved in helping the company reach its success. I can have a exotic, over the top dinner with friends anytime I want, so it often feels like a burden to me to do yet another fancy dinner. If I’ve been deeply involved in a company, I always look around the room and notice at least one key person missing. Enough time has passed that the celebration seems a little stale.

As Boulder Startup Week kicks off today, I woke up thinking about how many people lead, and contribute to, the Boulder Startup Community. This magic of this place is not top down control, a singular leader, or a grand plan. Instead, it’s the organic beauty of a messy network of people, all who are contributing their own talents and energy, in an ongoing, continuous effort around entrepreneurship.

Kind of like how Twitter grows and evolves. Twitter’s acquisition of Gnip is a big deal for Boulder as it brings one of the most interesting and creative companies in the world to our town as Gnip will serve as the foundation for the first Twitter office in Colorado. This is a #BoulderWin.

So, instead of having a closed, inward facing closing dinner for Twitter’s acquisition of Gnip, a bunch of us in the Boulder tech community are throwing a celebration on the evening of June 4 at the Boulder Theater to welcome Twitter to town. We’ll have food, drinks, entertainment, and lots of mingling with folks in the Boulder Startup Community.

Tickets will be available for purchase the week of May 19 with proceeds going to Entrepreneurs Foundation of Colorado. And, as Gnip was a member of the Entrepreneurs Foundation of Colorado, there will be a special gift that night.

Come celebrate with me the hard work of the 90 people who helped make Gnip a reality.

Today’s Fun – Gnip, Twitter, Uncommon Stock, and Pre-Seed Rounds

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FSA (Feld Service Announcement) – my version of a “public service announcement”: Moz is on the hunt for a VP of UX and Design. This role is one of our most crucial hires this year. The ideal candidate will come to us with experience and examples to show of very complex, technical projects that s/he made simple and fun. I would love for you to share this job description with your network or if you have anyone in mind I would love for you to send them our way.

Yeah, it’s been kind of busy the last week. Congrats to my friends at Gnip on becoming part of the Twitter flock. I have a great origin story about the founding of Gnip and the first few years for some point in the future. But for now, I’m just going to say to everyone involved “y’all are awesome.”

Last week Manu Kumar had a spectacular post titled The New Venture Landscape. While it’s bay area centric, I especially agree with the punch line:

Pre-Seed is the new Seed. (~$500K used for building team and initial product/prototype)
Seed is the new Series A. (~$2M used get for building product, establishing product-market fit and early revenue)
Series A is the new Series B. (~6M-$15M used to scale customer acquisition and revenue)
Series B is the new Series C.
Series C/D is the new Mezzanine

Today at 5pm I’m doing a fireside chat with Eliot Peper, the author of Uncommon Stock, the first book published by FG Press. Join us for some virtual fun and a discussion about fiction, books, and startups.

And – if you miss that, Eliot is doing another event on Friday at 5pm at Spark Boulder.

Dilbert on Cultural Fit

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I’ve written before about hiring for cultural fit, and about the importance of prioritizing cultural fit over competence when hiring at startups. I started thinking about it again when I saw this Dilbert comic, because it pokes fun at the culture of startups and their propensity only to hire people who fit into them. But what are we talking about when we talk about cultural fit, anyway?

You’re probably familiar with some of the stereotypes around startup culture (free massages and dry cleaning, craft beer, cool art on the walls and dogs at the office, pulling all-nighters to ship on time) and the kinds of people who work at startups (according to Dilbert, “self-conscious hipster” types with “an earring and headphones.”) Stereotypes like these give you a picture of what startup culture might look like to an outsider, but they don’t reflect the intrinsic values that define startup cultures.

Gnip CEO Chris Moody explains this distinction really well when he talks about values vs. vibe. He defines values as “the guiding principles or code-of-conduct” that inform a company’s daily operations, whereas vibe is “the emotional side of the company … highly influenced by outside factors.” To figure out whether an aspect of your startup culture is a value, he says, try asking yourself these questions:

-      Is this aspect of the company important to our long-term success?

-      Does this aspect need to be maintained forever and is it sustainable?

-      Does this aspect apply to all areas of the company and to all employees?

-      Will establishing this aspect help us make important decisions in the future?

So, for example: riding your fixi to the office or playing foosball between coding sessions are vibes. Treating people with respect or being passionate about your work? Those are values.

Your company values should be clear, accessible, and pervasive – take, for example, Zappos’ 10 core values. Having clearly defined values is important because they drive your company culture, not the other way around. It’s also important when you’re hiring for cultural fit, because without clear company values you run the risk of making poor hiring decisions: hiring people because they look or act or talk like you, and not hiring people because they don’t.

Here’s an example: Businessweek says hiring managers are now asking candidates questions like, What’s your favorite movie? Or, What’s the last book you read for fun? If you’re asking interview questions like these at your startup, you need to make sure you’re screening for values and not for vibe. Just sharing your love of The Big Lebowski doesn’t make someone a good cultural fit for your company: in fact, it’s often the people who give unexpected answers who end up being your company’s most creative problem-solvers.

I chair the board of directors for the National Center for Women & IT (NCWIT), whose Entrepreneurial Alliance works with startups to help them recruit and retain more women in tech roles. There’s strong ROI for including more women on technical teams: women improve collective intelligence, make startups more capital-efficient, and bring the perspectives of half the population. But if you’re a “dude brew” startup, you may not even know why you don’t hire more technical women, and you might need help from NCWIT removing gender bias from its portfolio companies’ job ads.

Gnip recently told NCWIT that they added three women to its engineering team. They credited this in part because the VP of Engineering, Greg Greenstreet, attended every local women-in-tech networking event, recruited on campus, and talked to as many female candidates as possible. But fundamentally they succeeded in hiring more women because, like Etsy, they made diversity a value. Gnip assigned strategy, money, and resources to their recruiting efforts, and factored diversity into evaluations of cultural fit.

Every startup is going to have a company culture, by design or by default, so you might as well design yours with values that attract and keep the best possible talent. Once you’ve distinguished between your values and your vibe, hiring for cultural fit won’t just be easier; it will give you better – and likely more diverse – employees.

If you’re interested in more information about joining NCWIT’s group of startups, let me know.

Foursquare and Gnip Form A Powerful Partnership

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Our investment in Gnip keeps getting better and better.  While the company is growing like crazy and the financial results would make any investor giddy, what really gets me excited is to see how Gnip is disrupting how business decisions are made.  Gnip believes that someday every significant business decision will include social data as an input and they’ve been working hard for the last five years to make this vision a reality.

Last week, Gnip made another significant step forward towards their ultimate vision. Foursquare and Gnip just announced an exclusive partnership that allows Gnip to provide full coverage of anonymized Foursquare check-in data to Gnip’s extensive network of customers.  Gnip is delivering over four billion social activities to their customers every day and their distribution network is delivering insights and analytics to over 95% of the Fortune 500.   As much progress as they have made, location-based activity is one area of social data where the ecosystem has lacked significant coverage.  Companies wanting to analyze geo-based activities around locations have been begging for more location-based activity.  With the partnership between Foursquare and Gnip, the entire social data ecosystem gets a big win with this key signal of physical presence.

I’ve been a user and believer in Foursquare from the earliest days. It will be fascinating to see what types of analytics are built upon this new data.  Both Foursquare and Gnip discuss some examples in their blog posts. It doesn’t take much imagination to think about how businesses can capitalize on this unique data set.  And with this partnership, we no longer have to imagine!

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