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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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Dear VCs: What Happens When Your Words And Your Actions Don’t Match

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Almost exactly a year ago I wrote a post Your Words Should Match Your Actions. It was a generic rant that resulted from me watching a couple of VCs blow up their reputations with entrepreneurs I know because of how they treated them.

This morning I ended up on an email thread about this. I’m going to anonymize it, but you’ll get the point. The two people (who I’ll call “Entrepreneur” and “VC”) are both very successful, extremely smart, and very visible.

Entrepreneur: Thread below is 2+ years old, but resulted from VC asking me similar questions. Interestingly, when I (a year later) pinged VC about my new company, not even the courtesy of reply from him. Bad mojo. :-)

Me: Welcome to the “assholeness-VC-factor.” Hey – I’m important – give me info. Oh – you are now raising money – fuck off.

Entrepreneur: I’m amazingly appreciative to short, polite “no thank you’s”. I don’t know whether VCs think that’s too much work, or whether they want to leave open the possibility of the “must have been caught in my spam filter” excuse when the startup becomes a rocket in 2 years?

I then went on a more serious rant explaining what I think is going on.

It’s worse that that.

In my book Startup Life (that I wrote with my wife Amy) I said that one of the key things that has made our relationship work is that I realized “my words had to match my actions.” After about decade of telling her she was the most important person in my life, and then being late to dinner, canceling things at the last minute because something else came up, or taking a phone call without even looking at who was calling when we were in the middle of a conversation, she’d had enough and our relationship almost ended.

My biggest behavior change 14 years ago was to focus hard on having my words match my actions, and my actions match my words. Simple to say, really hard to do.

Of course, it also works in a business context. I’ve learned, and deeply believe, that it’s the essence of being authentic. You can have any style you want – these two things just have to match up.

Sadly, many very successful people simply don’t understand or appreciate this. They put huge amounts of energy into developing a public persona. It could be PR, it could be speeches, or writing, or systematic campaigns over a period of time about themselves and their businesses.

But then their words and their actions don’t match up. Over and over again. It can be subtle or overt. It can be mild or jarring. It doesn’t matter – if they haven’t internalized the idea of their words and actions matching up, there is a long negative reputational effect.

And, as our email exchange demonstrates, it lingers. I have heard the same thing about that VC and I’ve experienced it personally. Yet his public persona is “entrepreneur friendly”, “very accessible”, “incredibly smart”, and “highly capable.” Yet, he completely blew you off, after asking you for something when you were a powerful and well-connected executive at a large company. Stupid behavior on his part.

Oh, and in addition, this VC missed a chance to invest in what is now a rocket ship. And the entrepreneur didn’t go back to him for the Series B because he got blown off the first time, so the VC missed two chances to invest.

Do your words match your actions? If you don’t know, ask yourself at the end of each day “did my words today match my actions.”

Love and Knowledge Conquer All

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As we head into the weekend (which I need very badly), I thought I’d toss up a fun video that the gang at Name.com made recently. They’ve done some funny videos as part of their promotional campaigns (they are our domain registrar – good folks) and asked if Amy and I would do one that references our book Startup Life: Surviving and Thriving in a Relationship with an Entrepreneur.

It’s short and I get a silly grin on my face every time I watch it. There are a handful of inside jokes and in the spirit of never taking oneself very seriously, we execute this spirit well. And, as every good salesperson should say, “If you like the video, you’ll love the book – grab your copy of Startup Life now.”

Living the Startup Life

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I loved this video review of Startup Life: Surviving and Thriving in a Relationship with an Entrepreneur. I watched it this morning and smiled a huge smile.

Thanks  Cynthia Morris for taking the time to do this. And, as the sun shines in my world again, I’m happy that others are spreading the love around.

Surviving the Startup Life: The Toll of Merging Identity and Work

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My close friend Jerry Colonna is giving an extraordinary seminar in Boulder on 4/19 with Parker Palmer called Surviving the Startup Life: The Toll of Merging Identity and Work. Jerry is the best CEO coach I know, a dear friend, and one of the best investors I ever have gotten to work with (we did a lot together in the 1990s when Jerry was partners with Fred Wilson at Flatiron Partners.)

Context on the event comes from Jerry’s blog post titled The Hand of A Friend:

“A distraught client emailed me the day after Jody [Sherman] died. So many people were hurt by the news–whether or not they knew him. I tweeted, emailed, reached out to friends. I wrote to Parker [Palmer].

My request was simple: Help me help them. We decided the best way to respond was to embody what we believe: that speaking about the existential difficulties, being authentic even in our collective guilt, pain, and fear, is–as Parker coined it in Let Your Life Speak–Leading from Within.  We would have a conversation about the ways in which this merger of self and work exacerbates the pain as well as Parker’s notion of the Tragic Gap. We’d invite others to join us.

The conversation is sponsored by Cojourneo and the Center for Courage and Renewal and will be in person on April 19 at 2 p.m. at Naropa University in Boulder.

It’s free. Register here.

Friday Community Hours At Boulder Book Store for Startup Life

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Order me, email Brad, and maybe win dinner with Brad and AmyAmy and I are going to be hanging out at the Boulder Book Store on the Pearl Street Mall on Friday from 4:15pm to 6:00pm. We’ll be signing copies of Startup Life: Surviving and Thriving in a Relationship with an Entrepreneur and talking with anyone who shows up about the challenges and joys of a startup life.

Our friends at the Boulder Book Store will have plenty of books so come by, (buy a book), (get it signed), ask questions, get feedback, or just say hi. Hugs welcomed!

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