The Second Reboot VC Bootcamp

On Saturday night I got on a plane and flew to the other side of the planet, where I am now. I’m in Melbourne, finishing my coffee, getting ready for one last meeting here before I fly with David Cohen to Adelaide for the day.

When I left, I had the voices and energy of 25 people in my head. Last Thursday evening was the beginning of the second Reboot VC Bootcamp at my house just outside Boulder.

Amy and I have a second house on our land, which we refer to as “the Carriage House” and the Reboot gang calls “Chez Feld.” The first floor is an event center that we use for non-profit events. The second floor was going to be a man cave, but my idea of a man cave is carrying my laptop around the house wherever Amy goes and sitting down next to her. The idea of hiding out from her a separate place has never made any sense to me so we turned the second floor into a retreat center which friends and companies in our portfolio are starting to discover and use, especially since it’s a lot less expensive (free) than renting a hotel conference room for the day – and a lot more pleasant.

About 20 VCs from around the world showed up for an intense four day experience lead by Jerry Colonna and his Reboot team. The website is understated about the experience.

“Over this long weekend with Jerry, Brad Feld and Team Reboot, we’ll work to uncover your authentic leadership style and teach practical skills for managing the array of feelings that can be triggered–all in the name of helping you become the best investor/board member/supporter you can be.”

To really understand it, read the following four posts from attendees of the second bootcamp.

I was a little sad to leave Saturday and not be part of everything, but reading each of these posts this morning made me very happy. It’s not just that “VCs are people too”, but that the 20 people who showed up in Boulder for four days opened themselves up completely as they each went down their own path of radical self-inquiry. Jerry and the Reboot team continue to amaze me (and many others) in their magical abilities around personal exploration and growth in a professional context (well – and a personal context.)

For everyone who showed up – thank you for coming and letting me be a part of it. As I sit here on the other side of the world with my soul gradually catching up with me from the jetlag, it’s powerful to ponder that we are all just bags of chemicals.

Joining the Defy Ventures Board

I recently joined the Defy Ventures board. If you aren’t familiar with Defy Ventures, here’s a post that I wrote after my first prison trip with them at the end of last year.

Early this morning, on my run in Melbourne as I tried to shrug off jet lag, I listened to a Reboot podcast that Jerry Colonna did with me and Cat Hoke, the CEO of Defy Ventures, a few weeks ago.

I had tears in my eyes while running, and I don’t think it was from my pace. Among other things, I’ve committed to bring Defy Ventures to Colorado in 2017. If this is something that is interesting to you either reach out to me or keep your eyes open for a broader fundraising initiative coming up (we’ve already raised 40% of the money needed to do this.)

And – enjoy the podcast. I think it’s one of the most powerful (at least to me) that I’ve participated in.

Dealing With The Pessimist In the Room.

My wife Amy sent this HBR article – How to Handle the Pessimist on Your Team – to me. It’s almost a decade old but seems timeless.

I’m an optimist. With rare exceptions (usually when I’m depressed), I can carry an optimistic view point about things (business, projects, humans, life, existence on this planet, my ability to some day go to a parallel universe) around in most of my interactions.

I very much respect and value different opinions as I learn from them and from being challenged. I’m not “right” and don’t view my approach to discussions as “telling the truth”, but rather “providing data”, “telling stories”, and “helping a person / team get to a decision.”

Pessimists are useful to counter balance my optimistic view point. But endless pessimism does tire me, especially when it is only used to put up objections. When the objections are part of a discussion that leads to a more thoughtful outcome, it’s great. When it’s just negative, reactive, tone deaf to context, or relentless, I often feel like I just want to crawl under my desk and take a nap.

This article is prescriptive for the non-pessimist. But, if you have a pessimistic orientation, it’s also useful. I’d be surprised if you don’t have at least one pessimist on your team, and numerous teammates who have pessimistic tendencies. Turn them into a positive, not a negative.

Announcing Techstars AngelList Funds for Mentors and Alumni

A key ingredient of Techstars accelerator programs is our experienced and engaged mentor community. Mentors embrace the Techstars “Give First” philosophy by offering founders their time, advice, and connections. We treat mentorship seriously – you can read about it in our Mentor Manifesto and my blog series on the mentor manifesto. And, my book Give First, coming out at the end of 2017, will cover mentorship in depth.

Our global network now consists of over 5,000 mentors, including many successful Techstars alumni. As Techstars continues to selectively expand into new geographies and industry verticals, our mentors are important as ever.

Serving as a mentor is intrinsically rewarding on multiple levels. Guiding founders through the ups and downs of entrepreneurship creates a deep sense of contribution. It provides an outlet for mentors to engage in their local startup communities and keep a pulse on emerging technologies. It’s a chance to learn by teaching, and engage with a new generation of entrepreneurs. And it’s fun.

Beyond the intrinsic rewards, Techstars has been considering creative ways to recognize our mentors while deepening their relationships with founders. Today we’re happy to announce a new partnership with AngelList to offer Techstars mentors and alumni an exclusive opportunity to invest early in accelerator companies. Our first two pilot funds will be the 2017 city programs in Austin and Boston, launching on January 23rd. The AngelList funds will give mentors and alumni early investment access while providing companies with additional early stage capital.

At Foundry Group, we learned a lot by running our own FG Angels syndicate. AngelList syndicates helps enable seed stage investing at scale. We believe in the model and its power to further enhance the Techstars network.

If you are a Techstars mentor or alumni founder and would like to learn more about the Techstars AngelList funds, or an experienced entrepreneur or tech executive interested in becoming a Techstars mentor, please contact help@techstars.com.

The Ideal Financial Reporting Tempo For A VC-Backed Company

Over the past few days, I’ve had a similar conversation about reporting tempo with three different people (2 CFOs and 1 CEO). In each case, we snuck up on the issue, rather than starting with it.

The fundamental question addressed what the reporting tempo to the board should be.

A number of years ago, I decided to shift to quarterly board meetings. Historically, the number of board meetings I had per company was all over the place. Some had four per year, some six, some eight, and some had twelve. This was an artifact of the last 30 years of venture capital, where VCs often would use the board meeting as the way to primarily engage with the company.

I wrote about this in my book Startup Boards: Getting the Most Out of Your Board of Directors. I’ve shifted to a cadence I call “continuous board interaction” which is gated by the desire and need of the CEO as well as the needs of the company. As such, a quarterly board meeting is plenty since I’m having continuous interaction with the CEO and board. This approach was originally stimulated by Steve Blank’s posts Why Board Meetings Suck and Reinventing the Board Meeting – Part 2 of 2 but modified to fit the more varied and flexible reality that I operate in.

This does not mean that quarterly financials work for me. When the financials are tied to the quarterly board meeting, it’s almost impossible to have continue board interaction. There’s just not enough financial context about what is going on in the business. On the other hand, with a few exceptions (hyper-growth cases or ones where you are focusing on specific metrics), daily financing reporting is not helpful either, as is it overly burdensome on the company. It also quickly turns into metric reporting, which is very distinct from financial report, and often extremely helpful, especially in a continuous board interaction approach. However, many board members can’t handle daily anything, especially if they are on ten boards, except for the companies that they need to spend daily attention on.

That’s the context for how we wandered up to the discussion in each meeting. After the second conversation, I thanked the person I was talking to (she knows who she is) for providing the content for today’s blog post. Of course, since the conversation came up again with someone else after that, it sealed the deal that this would be a blog post.

Here is how I like to do board level financial reporting for private companies I’m on the boards of. I don’t force this – if the CEO wants to do something different that’s up to her. But I encourage this, or something like this.

Quarterly board meetings: The financials are decoupled from the board meeting. There is a quarterly financial and metric review in the board meeting, but it’s not the meat of the meeting unless there is a specific set of financial issues that need to dominate, such as the 2017 budget, a big financial miss, or a significant change to the plan for some reason.

Monthly financial package: This is a full financial package distributed to the board and executive team. It includes P&L, Balance Sheet, and Cash Flow statements. It has actuals to budget for monthly, quarterly, and YTD. It also has trailing 12 months of each (P&L, BS, CF). In addition, there is a cover MD&A (hopefully written by the CFO – not a formal SEC one, but a comprehensive management discussion and analysis). I prefer this package to be distributed by the CFO and not the CEO – it then becomes part of the operating rhythm. I also like the Q&A that occurs (in email, or in a Google doc around the MD&A) to be driven by the CFO with support from the CEO.

Optional monthly financial state of the company board call: This is a call with the CEO, CFO, and the board. Ideally it is led by the CFO. It’s limited to one hour, is completely independent of the board meeting, and is optional. The CFO sends out a short (less than 10 page) presentation summarizing the key financials, key metrics, and any topics for discussion at least two days in advance of the call. While I rarely attend these, I find that the board members who don’t engage continuously can use this to keep current on the financials and in the rhythm of the company.

This rhythm works around the monthly financial close cycle. The CFO sets the schedule. An example would be (based on day of the month) that the financials are closed by day 15. The monthly financial package goes out on day 17 with the presentation for the optional monthly state of the board call. The call happens on day 20.

If you’ve got a different, or better, rhythm, I’d love to hear it.