Work Hard. Be Kind.

For your Sunday video watching, I encourage you to spend ten minutes of your life and watch Chris Moody‘s Commencement Address to the Auburn 2016 graduates.

His message is simple: Work Hard. Be Kind.

Having worked with Chris for many years, it’s a great summary of how he lives his life. And he ends with a magnificent Dalai Lama quote. “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.”

Boulder Startup Week 2016

Fresh off a week of vacation, I’m rolling into the annual joyful madness that is Boulder Startup Week. If you don’t know the history of Startup Week (now owned by Techstars), it was founded by Andrew Hyde in Boulder in 2010 and subsequently begat the overall Startup Week program (powered by Chase) happening all over the world.

The schedule begins Monday morning (5/16) and continues through Friday night (5/20). I’m speaking at / co-hosting the following events.

Tuesday, May 17 – 10:30am – 11:30am: It Takes Two To Tango – The Working Relationship Between Venture Capitalists and Angel Investors

Tuesday, May 17 – 2:00pm – 3:00pm: Why and How we Invest in Women

Thursday, May 19 – 11:00am – 12:15pm: Mental Health and Wellbeing in the Startup Realm

Thursday, May 19 – 7:00pm – 9:00pm: CODE: Debugging the Gender Gap documentary

Friday, May 20 – 10:00am – 11:00am: The Birth of BB-8

Friday, May 20 – 7:00pm – 10:00pm: FounderFights – The Struggle Is Real, You Might As Well Hit Something!

While there are many great events, I think one of the best is going to be my partner Seth’s on Thursday, May 19 from 2:00pm – 3:00pm titled Seth Levine: Let’s Get Real About Angel Investing In ColoradoI’ve seen the slides and if you are an angel investor or a founder raising an angel round, this is a must attend event.

Enjoy the week! I hope to see you around.

Book: Cumulus

If you are a looking for an awesome sci-fi book to read, download Cumulus by Eliot Peper right now. And, if you want some independent confirmation from others not named me, this just happened.

Cumulus #1 on Amazon Cyberpunk

Eliot nails a dystopian future set in Oakland that incorporates the evolution of all the tech we are currently using. The early reviews are outstanding – including ArsTechnica’s Cumulus is your new favorite surveillance-fueled dystopian novel and Tech.co’s Startup Thriller Book ‘Cumulus’ Warns of a Dystopia Under Surveillance – and match my experience of the book.

I’m super proud of Eliot. He was the first author that FG Press published and I wrote about getting to know Eliot in my post about his first book Uncommon Stock 1.0 in 2014. If FG Press hadn’t failed I expect we would have published Cumulus. I’m happy that Eliot is continuing to write and finding the success he deserves from his efforts.

If you want the story of the book in Eliot’s words, read his thoughts about Cumulus on his blog. Or – just cut the chase and grab Cumulus right now.

The Upcoming Weekend With My Dad In Chicago

Every year, my dad and I go on a father son trip somewhere for the weekend. We go wherever he wants to go. This year we are going to Chicago – I’m heading out in about an hour. In the past, we’ve gone to Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Austin, Miami Beach, Las Vegas again, and a few other places.

I think Chicago will be perfect for us. Our goal is just to hang out. This afternoon we are doing the Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise, having a drink with my long time friend Jeff Hyman (my very first VC investment was in his company Career Central, which ended up changing it’s name to Cruel World, which was fitting for its ultimate demise), and then dinner at Swift & Sons.

Tomorrow morning I’m going for a long run, we are going to the Cubs game, getting a tour of Wrigley Field, and then having dinner at Coco Pazzo with Troy Henikoff (who runs Techstars Chicago) and his wife Kristin. We are heading home Sunday morning.

Dad Asleep at a Cubs Game with Daniel's Support

There will be a lot of chocolate ice cream. It’s our favorite food and we will have it at least twice each day.

Stan Brad Chocolate Ice Cream

Maybe we’ll have it three times on Saturday if they sell it at Wrigley Field.

My only regret about my father son trip with my dad is that we’ve only been doing it for a decade. I wish we had started 40 years ago. If you are a father and your son is at least ten years old, I strongly encourage you to consider this tradition. If you are a son and you are at least 20 years old, I encourage you to take the initiative and just start doing this with your dad.

Your Wall Is Dingy

As I procrastinate from going for a run this morning, I started writing a post titled The Pro-Rata Gap Myth. After two paragraphs, I got tired of writing it and hit the “this is bullshit” wall – it’s too complicated to explain a myth that I’m not sure even matters.

So I deleted the post and decided to tell a story instead. This is a story I roll out occasionally with CEOs to help them explain how their words can easily be misinterpreted by their teams, especially as the teams get bigger. But it’s also a way that CEOs misinterpret what their investors or board members (or chairperson) is saying. And it creates endless organizational waste and misalignment when the CEO / investor / board member / leader isn’t clear about what she is saying and who her audience is.

Between 1996 and 2002 I was co-chairman of Interliant, a company I co-founded with three other people. Interliant bought about 25 companies during its relatively short life, helped create the ASP business (the pre-cursor to the SaaS world we know and love today), went public, and then blew up post-Internet bubble and ultimately went bankrupt before being acquired, partly because we created a capital structure (through raising a bunch of debt) that was fatally flawed, ultimately wiping out all the equity value.

While I learned a ton of finance lessons from the experience, I also learned a lot a leadership lessons. Your wall is dingy is one of them.

We had just acquired a company (I don’t remember which one or in which city) sometime in 2000. I was visiting the company post acquisition and wandering down the main hallway with the founder of the company we had just acquired. We were having a causal conversation and I offhandedly said “wow – your wall is dingy.” We kept walking, I did a Q&A thing with the founder and the company, and then went out to a mellow company lunch celebration type thing.

I had other stuff to do in the city so I stayed overnight and came back in early to have some meetings at the company the next day. As I was wandering down the same hall, I saw that there was a crew already in the office painting the wall with a fresh coat of paint. I got my coffee, wandered over to the founder’s office (he was also already in early), and asked why there was someone in the office painting the wall?

Founder: “You told me the wall needed to be painted.”

Brad: “I did?”

Founder: “It was while we were walking down the hall. We were talking about the new car I was thinking about buying and you said that the wall was dingy.”

Brad: “Oh yeah – that was said out of admiration for how frugal you are. You were telling me how this is the first new car you will have, since all of your other cars have been used cars. I admire how thrifty and scrappy you’ve been and thought I was paying you a compliment.”

Founder: “Shit, I thought you were unhappy with how low rent our offices are and were commenting that we needed to make things a lot nicer.”

Brad: “Double shit. I was saying the opposite. Part of the reason you’ve been so profitable is that you don’t waste money on your offices. This is part of what we love about your company. And it’s part of why we were willing to stretch in the deal – we knew you know how to make money and that you value every dollar.”

We eventually both started laughing. It was a good bonding moment. Fortunately, it was just paint and didn’t cost that much, although it was one of 27,393 incremental expenses that helped sink Interliant, especially in a time when rent was skyrocketing and everyone needed fancier and fancier offices because, well, because everyone else had fancier offices.

Ever since that moment I’ve been a lot more tuned into what I say. I still talk the way I did then – plainly and with whatever is on my mind – but I try to add the reason so that I’m not misinterpreted. If I could teleport myself back to that hallway in 2000, I’d say “Wow – your wall is dingy, and I love it, because it reminds me how frugal you are.”

As a leader your words matter. It’s not that you have to necessarily choose them carefully, but make sure you explain them and try to confirm that they are understood.