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I turned 48 on December 1st. I took a week off the grid (from the Wednesday before Thanksgiving until the Wednesday after my birthday) – part of my quarterly off the grid routine with Amy. We had a very mellow birthday this year, spent it with a few friends who came to visit us in San Diego at the tennis place we love to hide at, and basically just slept late, played tennis, read a lot, got massages, ate nice food, and had adult activities.
I returned to an onslaught of email (no surprise) which included a long list of happy birthday wishes. I had 129 happy birthday wall posts and about 50 LinkedIn happy birthday messages.
As I read through them, I was intrigued and confused.
- The Facebook wall posts were nice – almost all said either “happy birthday” or “happy birthday + some nice words.” I received one gift via Facebook (a charitable donation – thanks Tisch, you’ve got class!) Ok – that felt pretty good.
- The emails were mixed. Many of them were like the Facebook wall posts. A few of them were online cards. But about 10% of them asked me for something, using the happy birthday message as an excuse to “reconnect.”
- About 50% of the LinkedIn messages were requests for something. The subject line was “Happy Birthday” but the message then asked for something.
I decided not to respond to any of them. There were a few emails with specific stuff that I wanted to say, but the vast majority I just read and archived.
I found myself noticeably bummed out after going through the LinkedIn ones. I woke up thinking about it again today, especially against the backdrop of reading Dave Eggers awesome book The Circle (more on that coming soon.)
I’m an enormous believer in the idea of “give before you get.” It’s at the core of my Boulder Thesis in my book Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City and how I try to live my personal and business live. Fortunately, many of the people I am close to also believe in this and incorporate it into the way they live.
When processing my birthday wishes, especially the LinkedIn ones, there was very little “give before you get.” That’s fine – I don’t expect that from anyone – it’s not part of my view of an interaction model that I have to impose it on others. But I was really surprised by the number of people that used my birthday as a way to “get something” without “giving something” other than a few words in a social media message.
This confused me. The more I thought about it, the more I was confused, especially by the difference between email, Facebook, and LinkedIn. When I tried to organize my thinking, the only thing I could come up with was that email was “variable”, Facebook was “generic”, and LinkedIn was “selfish.” I didn’t love these characterizations, but this prompted me to write this post in an effort to understand it better.
I’m going to ponder the “culture of different communication channels” more, but I’m especially curious if anyone out there has a clear point of view on the different cultures between email, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Feel free to toss Twitter in the mix if you want.
David Cohen (Techstars Founder) and I are doing a Google Hangout On Air that is open to anyone on 11/13/13 (what a prime day for something like this). It’s part of a Google Enterprise series on Colorado pioneers driving the local economy and culture. We’ll be talking about Techstars, Colorado, tech, and anything else that comes up.
This came out of a series of interviews with Google recently where we explained why Foundry Group takes venture capital to the cloud with Google Apps and how Techstars assists tomorrow’s entrepreneurs with help from Google Apps.
Come join us! Register here if you want to hangout.
Last week our portfolio company, JumpCloud - who is deep in the DevOps market with their automated cloud server management product – hosted the first annual DevOps conference here in Boulder. It was a huge success – we had over 200 people show up and engage in a full day of deep discussions on DevOps.
We are huge fans of the DevOps movement. Similar to how we got involved in the Agile movement early with our investment in Rally Software, we are long on DevOps with investments in companies such as JumpCloud, VictorOps, SendGrid, Pantheon, Authentic8 and others. We see DevOps instantiating the lean startup culture throughout an organization. DevOps promotes short cycle times, automation, and deep integration across a company with the goal of innovating quicker and more effectively against customers’ needs. In short, we view it as a cultural methodology that increases the odds of success for a company.
The day was fantastic, starting with Raj Bhargava (CEO of JumpCloud) and Paul Ford (SoftLayer) kicking things off with a short discussion about what DevOps is. I was next with a quick discussion framing why DevOps is critical to our companies and their customers. From there, we had presentations by Ryan Martens (CTO of Rally) on learnings from Agile, Nathan Day (Chief Scientist of SoftLayer) on the incredible automation at SoftLayer, and a number of great panels from CEOs, CTOs, and VPs of Engineering of DevOps related companies. Three of our portfolio companies – SendGrid, Mocavo, and Gnip – closed the formal part of the day with case studies on different areas of DevOps.
Later, the full group headed to Bacaro for more casual conversations around DevOps. I ended the night at Walnut Brewery with Raj and a few close friends watching the Red Sox lose game two of the World Series to the Cardinals.
The engagement on the topic of DevOps was really powerful. The questions flowed quickly – it’s clear everyone is struggling with how to define DevOps – what it means, who should be involved in an organization, and how to recruit for it. While the word is quickly becoming entrenched, it’s a new category with a wide range of opportunities.
When Raj came to me several months ago suggesting that we should put on a conference around DevOps for all of the Foundry Group, Techstars, and Bullet Time Ventures companies it was easy to be excited about it. I expected about 50 people to participate – it was amazing to look around the room and see 200 really engaged people. I’m proud of Raj and Paul for putting this on and thankful for all of the effort that our companies made to get there and participate!
An event called Startup Phenomenon is happening In Boulder on 11/13 – 11/15. It gets to the heart of how startup communities are developed and I’d love to have you join me at it. If you register to come, use the code “feldfriends” for $100 off the $995 price.
You may have seen the recent Kauffman Foundation study that ranked Boulder tops among all cities in the U.S. in terms of tech-startup density. That Boulder was number one was interesting, but what’s more exciting is that there are so many emergent startup communities around the United States that it’s now worth ranking them.
Startup Phenomenon is designed to bring attention to these communities, from small towns to large cities, as we explore how this startup phenomenon works. We’ll cover topics including:
- The Finance Chain: How VCs, angels, crowdfunding models, and all the rest fit together
- Startup Kitchens: Transformative accelerators, incubators, and mentorship programs
- Big data: New tools for measuring growth, investments, and economic activity
- Networking models: The meetups that are truly improving the businesses of those who attend
- Case studies: Entrepreneurs and investors who are building startup communities around the world
- Culture: The major shift taking place away from hierarchical structures to collaborative networks
- City governments: Why some are better than others at nurturing local startups
- Corporations: How large, established companies can help startup communities
- The silos: Biotech, food, the Internet of things, clean energy, and all the other sectors providing fertile ground for entrepreneurs and investors
On the third day of the conference we will provide a deep look into what’s going on here in Colorado. That Kauffman report of densest startup communities actually had four Colorado cities in the top 10 (Boulder, Ft. Collins, Denver, and Colorado Springs.) And you may have seen that the New York Times recently dubbed Boulder “Silicon Valley for Ad Agencies.”
The speakers list is awesome. As a special treat, I get to interview Jim Collins author of Built to Last, Good to Great, How the Mighty Fall, and Great By Choice who happens to live in Boulder.
This will be a great opportunity for you to bring attention to your work and to learn about the entrepreneurs and investors who have come together around the world to build vibrant, open startup communities.
Yesterday Yesware announced that Battery Ventures led a $13.5m round that we participated in. A few days ago Xconomy wrote a great article about the very first Yesware board meeting on April Fools Day, 2011. When I reflect on the journey of Yesware over the past 2.5 years it’s a pretty awesome example of a company going from a seed investment with three founders (Matthew Bellows, Cashman Andrus, and Raj Bhargava) to a rapidly growing 40 person company.
On 4/1/11 Yesware had a vision, a crappy prototype (that we threw away immediately after the financing), and a huge obsession around a vexing problem that no one was addressing effectively. Today they have over 300,000 users, a broad product set that includes a recently released deep integration with and between Gmail and Salesforce, and a leadership team and culture that is clear about what it is trying to accomplish and is true to itself.
In March, I wrote a blog post about Shifting My Focus To Scaling Up. When I look at our Foundry Group portfolio of over 60 companies, I see many of them in two distinct scaling up phases. The first are companies like Yesware that are rapidly growing revenue and customers, are in the 30 to 100 employee range, are dealing with balancing resources to accomplish their goals, but have an incredible amount of open ground in front of them. The second are companies like Fitbit that are clear leaders in their market, are on the 100 to 500 person ramp, and pacing the innovation in their market segment. Many of them are companies that aren’t overhyped because they are Silent Killers, a particular type of company we love to fund and work with.
Yesware has now shifted from the startup phase to the scaling up phase. There’s an entirely new level of organizational development, different set of challenges, leveling up of leadership and management skill sets, and massive opening of new opportunities given the resources that the company now has.
I find this a particularly exciting time in the life of a company. And a very challenging one. Fortunately, Matthew continues to surround himself with amazing people, such as his first outside board member, Dave Girouard, who recently ran the entire Google Apps business and is now CEO/founder of Upstart and his newest board member Neeraj Agrawal from Battery Ventures.
Plus, Matthew has a bunch of peers in our portfolio to talk to. We are together with many of them today in another Foundry Group summit – this time for full executive teams across our portfolio right in the middle of Denver Startup Week. Like all of our internal events, our goal is an extremely high signal to noise ratio. We leave the pomp and circumstance to others.
The enormous and powerful conversation around “startups” will continue. But as I turn more of my attention to “scaleups” I believe the next phase is even more powerful.