Glowforge Pre-order With 50% Discount

Glowforge has started taking pre-orders with an expected ship date of the pre-orders of before the end of the year. It’s one of the most magical products I’ve ever been involved with. It’s in the “show, don’t tell” category, so spend three minutes of your life and see what you can do with it.

For the next 29 days, Glowforge 3D laser printers are available for 50% off the retail price. In addition, if you buy using my referral code, you get another $100 of the price.

There are many times when I love what I get to do. Watching a product like Glowforge come to life, and being involved as an investor, is one of them.

When Anxiety Attacks

Three weeks ago, Mardy Fish wrote an amazing article on The Players’ Tribute site titled The Weight. I stopped halfway through the article and took a deep breath.

“This is a story about how a mental health problem took my job away from me. And about how, three years later, I am doing that job again — and doing it well. I am playing in the U.S. Open again.

This is a story about how, with the right education, and conversation, and treatment, and mindset, the things that mental illness takes away from us — we can take them back.

Tens of millions of Americans every year deal with issues related to mental health. And the journey of dealing with them, and learning to live with them, is a long one. It can be a forever one. Or, worse, it can be a life-threatening one.

And I want to help with it.”

If you’ve ever struggled with anxiety, had an anxiety attack, or know someone close who has struggled with anxiety, go read The WeightI wait (see what I did there …)

If you aren’t a tennis fan, Mardy Fish is one of the great contemporary American tennis players. He fought his way into the top 10 during the epic era of Federer/Nadal/Djokovic/Murray. A massive anxiety attack in the 2012 US Open against Gilles Simon shattered him. He beat Simon, but then couldn’t go on the court two days later against Roger Federer and withdrew from the tournament. The article and quotes are interesting – they say nothing about anxiety and are vague about the issues, referring back to a previous heart-related issue that had been discussed.

“We are not 100 percent sure what the issue is and if it is related to his previous issues,” Fish’s agent, John Tobias, wrote in an email to The Associated Press. “Mardy is fine and will return home to L.A. tomorrow. This was strictly precautionary and I anticipate that Mardy will play in Asia this fall.”

Three years later Marty Fish has done an incredibly brave thing. He owned his anxiety, rather than let it own him.

“And just like that, it hit me — I remember it so vividly, and so powerfully. Oh god, I thought. I’m … not going to do it. I’m not going to go out there, anxious, in front of 22,000 people. I’m not going to play Roger. I’m not going to play. I didn’t play. First, I didn’t play Roger. And then, I didn’t play at all.”

He turned a weakness into a strength.

“But I am here to show weakness. And I am not ashamed.

In fact I’m writing this, in a lot of ways, for the express purpose of showing weakness. I’m writing this to tell people that weakness is okay. I’m here to tell people that it’s normal.

And that strength, ultimately, comes in all sorts of forms.

Addressing your mental health is strength. Talking about your mental health is strength. Seeking information, and help, and treatment, is strength.

And before the biggest match of your career, prioritizing your mental health enough to say, You don’t have to play. You don’t have to play. Don’t play …

That, too, is strength.”

His fearlessness about being open about his struggle is so powerful. We are all humans. We are all big bags of chemicals. The chemicals mix in lots of different ways.

“I still deal with my anxiety on a daily basis. I still take medication daily. It’s still in my mind daily. There are days that go by where I’ll think to myself, at night, when I’m going to bed: Hey, I didn’t think about it once today. And that means I had a really good day.”

How we deal with the mixture is what ultimately matters. I loved watching Mardy Fish play tennis. It was fun to root for him. It was pretty awesome to see him drop 30 pounds and totally transform his game. And now it’s even more awesome to know that he’s playing the game of life every day, doing his best, and helping the rest of us understand that having and dealing with mental health issues isn’t a weakness, but instead it’s just part of life.

Who Just Raised A $225 Million Financing in North Carolina?

Last Tuesday, while I was enjoying a week off the grid, AvidXchange announced they had raised a $225 million financing led by Bain Capital Ventures. I’m psyched to be joining the board of a company co-founded and run by Mike Praeger, a friend of mine for over 20 years.

It was big news in Charlotte, North Carolina where AvidXchange announced the groundbreaking on a new headquarters complex in the N.C. Music Factory. And, Matt Harris from Bain Capital Ventures wrote a good thought piece titled Submerging Payments, Part II on why AvidXchange is such a big deal.

This was an atypical investment for us as we participated in the financing through our Foundry Group Select fund. While we do late stage investments via Foundry Group Select, up to this point we’ve only used it to invest in companies we are already investors in. AvidXchange is our first Foundry Group Select investment that we weren’t previously investors in.

The price of admission for us to make an investment like this is that we think the company is extraordinary and will be an unambiguous long term market leader. But we see lots of late stage investment opportunities like that and consistently pass on them as it’s not where we engage. And, when Mike initially called me for advice on the financing he was putting together with Bain Capital Ventures, it didn’t even occur to me that it might be something we’d invest in.

But then Mike called me about some more stuff a week later. During this call, he asked if I’d be open to joining the board of directors as part of the financing. I told him that I couldn’t as we don’t join boards for companies that we aren’t investors in. Mike then asked if we’d be willing to invest if he could get Bain Capital Ventures to give us some of their allocation (they committed to the entire round.) I told Mike I didn’t think this made any sense given our strategy and we left it at that.

A few days later, Mike emailed and asked if he and his wife Cindy could come to Boulder to spend some time with me and Amy. We hadn’t seen each other in many years and it seemed like a fun evening if they were already traveling. A week later we had an awesome dinner at Oak and then Mike, Cindy, and I stayed up until after midnight at the St. Julien talking about AvidXchange. Mike again asked me if I’d consider investing. This time I told him I’d run it by my partners and get their feedback.

Seth, Jason, Ryan, and I had a long conversation about it after going through the AvidXchange financing deck and monthly financial package. I expected that we’d decide to pass and set up the conversation with them this way. But I was pleasantly surprised that they were all interested in exploring it more. Besides thinking this was an outstanding business at first blush, there were three other things that caused us to consider breaking our rule about late stage investing.

1. My long standing relationship with Mike. We met through YEO in Boston in the early 1990s when we were each running our first company. Through YEO, I got to know Mike and Cindy (who is also an entrepreneur and was in YEO) very well. A few years after Amy and I moved to Boulder, Mike and Cindy sold their first company and moved to North Carolina. Their experience in Charlotte has been similar to ours in Boulder, as they made it their home and immediately went to work building their next business and their life. In 2000, Mike co-founded AvidXchange and has been building it ever since. While we haven’t seen each other in person for a while, we periodically go back and forth on email and have a deep emotional intimacy that comes from the relationship we built through our time in YEO.

2. We are very interested in investing in fast growing companies in different geographies. When we started Foundry Group in 2007, we stated that we would invest in companies throughout the United States. While roughly 33% of our investments continue to be in California (San Francisco, Los Angeles, and a third city to be named in a week or so) and 33% of our investments are in Colorado (primarily Boulder and Denver), we have developed deep networks in many different cities, including Boston, New York, Seattle, Portland, and Minneapolis through the other 33% of the investments we’ve made. And, through our deep relationship with Techstars, our reach and network is even further and includes cities like Detroit, Kansas City, Austin, Chicago, San Antonio, and San Diego. When the opportunity to invest in one of the fastest growing, and most significant tech companies in Charlotte appeared, we couldn’t resist.

3. We could do our unique thing alongside one of the best fintech investors in the industry. We have enormous respect for Matt Harris and his work at Bain Capital Ventures. While this is the first time I’m working with Matt, my partner Seth has known him going all the way back to high school and Mark Solon, one of the managing partners at Techstars, worked with him during his time at Village Ventures. While fintech is not one of our themes, we think of AvidXchange as Glue in the fintech world, which gave us a comfortable lens to view it through.

Before making a decision to invest, we talked to each member of our advisory board to get their feedback. We knew we were onto something when several of them asked if they could invest alongside us in the round. Their feedback, as one would hope from an advisory board, was direct, clear, and ultimately supportive.

With that, we decided to invest and Mike got me to join the board after all.

OMG I Needed That Vacation

AspenAmy and I are back in Boulder after spending a week off the grid in Aspen. We sent my mom a birthday present from the Prada store and she responded with an OMG so I figured it was ok for a 49 year old to use it publicly if his mom used it privately.

On our way to Aspen last Friday, I spent most of the time in the car asleep. I could tell I was super grumpy based on the tone of some of my recent blog posts, what was rolling around in my head, and Amy’s mildly concerned questions about how I was doing.

After a week doing nothing but reading, sleeping, eating, running, hanging out, being in the mountains, shopping, and adult activities I feel a lot better. I was just very, very tired. Fitbit tells me that I got an average of 10 hours and 27 minutes of sleep each night last week, which confirms things on the fatigue-o-meter.

I paid very little attention to the world last week. Other than watching the first hour of the Republican Debate, mostly just for the amusement factor, and the finals of the US Open, the TV was off all week, along with the computer and the phone. Yesterday I took a look at the Techmeme River and saw all the tech news I missed. I took a deep breath and archived all my email. And then I was back and refreshed.

The most enjoyable book of the week was The Quantum Door by Jonathan Ballagh. While it’s perfect for a teenager interested in sci-fi (the heroes are all kids), the concepts played around with are fun for any age. After bailing on The Girl in the Spider’s Web after 10%, I gave it another shot on the behest of Howard Morgan and enjoyed it a lot. Ironically, these were both on my Kindle, as all the “good for me hardcover books” sat on the shelf, other than Kafka which was excellent.

My favorite day was shopping day. I hate shopping and the idea of spending time in a retail store makes me need to go to the bathroom. So, I made sure I was empty and then ventured out into the mean streets of Aspen with Amy. She loves to shop so my birthday present to her this year was a day of shopping together, with me paying full attention, offering opinions, and supporting whatever purchases she decided to make.

I knew I’d scored when her first guess of what her “experience present” was the day prior was “shopping.” We had a blast together, just wandering around and being together while she lit up on a zillion different things, buying only the ones she really loved. Yes, she has a few more purses now.

When we went to Paris for our Q2 vacation, we were both exhausted. Once again, we found ourselves in a state of deep fatigue, reenergized by a week in a beautiful place away from humans (other than the friends who came to visit). And, as I return to Boulder, I’m more determined than ever to stop wasting my time on stuff I don’t care about or want to spend time on, which I know is just wearing me out in the midst of an otherwise extremely busy life.

Are Individual Angel Investors Starting To Get Tapped Out?

I got the following question from a friend yesterday.

“I’ve had a few conversations recently about how individual seed investors are getting kind of tapped out – for a variety of reasons, but in general it’s not that easy to find people who are still actively investing. I don’t recall your having blogged about this – are you seeing it too? Lots of talk about Series A crunch but maybe there is a seed crunch too?” 

I blasted out a response by email, which follows. If you are an active angel, I’d love to hear what you think.

I’m not seeing much evidence of this – yet …

I have seen some of the more prolific angels start to slow down because capital is not recycling as fast as they are putting it out. That’s a pretty common phenomenon. But generally the pool of angel investors is increasing and the prolific ones who have a strategy (such as the angel strategy I advocate) seem to be keeping a steady pace.

There is also a huge amount of seed capital available from seed funds. Some angels are no longer competitive as they are overly price focused (e.g. if the valuation goes above $3m pre it’s too late for me). And the convertible note phenomenon hasn’t helped as many seed deals just keep raising small amounts of convertible debt.

The supply / demand imbalance is way off. While there is an increasing amount of seed capital / seed investors, the number of companies seeking seed investment has grown much faster in the last 24 months.

Also, I think some angels are just tired of the deal velocity. You have to work at it now more to stay in the flow because there’s just so much more of it, and that makes angels, especially semi-retired ones, tired.

If there is a big public market correction and angels feels (a) less wealthy and (b) less liquid (or not liquid), you’ll see a major pullback.

I feel like we are in a sloppy part of the cycle. Everyone is suddenly nervous. There are lots of uncomfortable macro signs, but it’s hard to get a feel for where things are really heading. And, at the same time, the cycle of innovation is intense – there is a huge amount of interesting stuff being created at all levels. And there is a massive amount of capital available that is seeking real returns, vs. low single digits.