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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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Help Me With Some Bathroom Inspiration

Comments (49)

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you’ll know that one of my curious obsessions is bathrooms.  I don’t have an explanation for it – just chalk it up to self-awareness (that I view at it as a curious one.)

Five years ago, I had a conversation with Heidi Roizen.  She had recently been approached by Stanford (her alma mater) about participating in a capital campaign for a new building.  She offered to sponsor a bathroom; Stanford denied this request (something like “not dignified enough.”)  I said “I bet that I can get a bathroom sponsored at MIT” (where I went to school.)  After we had a good laugh, she told me I was on.

I tried.  For a year.  I made several different offers.  Ultimately I was denied.  I never really got a straight answer, but I can only imagine the conversations that were held in the MIT development office.  My inference was that there was a concern that my gift would undermine the name sponsor on whatever building the bathroom was in. 

At MIT, all buildings are known by number (E53, 16, 4) and rooms are correspondingly numbered (E53–301, 16–134, 4–104 – several of the more famous ones are 26–100 and 10–250.)  After wandering the halls for seven years, I don’t know the actual name of a single building or classroom (other than the Green Building), but could find my way around blindfolded if you gave me a number.  Given the culture of MIT, the building that my bathroom would be in would first be known as Building X (90% of the people), then as “The Feld Bathroom Building” (9% of the people), and finally by the actual name associated by whoever gave the $20m+ naming gift (1%).  Oops.

Since moving to Boulder, I’ve been involved in several programs at CU Boulder.  My most significant engagement is with NCWIT (the National Center for Women & Information Technology) where I’m chairman.  It has been an awesome experience and is now housed in one of the newest buildings on CU’s campus – the ATLAS Center.

I was in a meeting with John Bennett, the new president of the ATLAS Institute (ATLAS stands for “Alliance for Technology, Learning, and Society) a few weeks ago.  We were talking about NCWIT and a few other ATLAS related things and the MIT bathroom story came up.  John said “I’d be delighted for you to sponsor a bathroom at ATLAS.”  We quickly came to a price for a gift with one condition – that I got to put a plaque up on the wall outside the bathroom with a quote on it that pertains to entrepreneurship.

So – I’m asking for your help.  I’ve come up with a few quotes – none of which I’m happy with yet.  An example is “The Best Ideas Often Come At Inconvenient Times – Don’t Ever Close Your Mind To Them.”  I’m shooting for something that combines entrepreneurship, bathrooms, and the various things people do in bathrooms and is witty while not being obscene or grotesque.

Please comment freely.  Who knows, maybe your name will end up on the plaque also.

  • http://dpn.name David Novakovic

    There is only one immutable law in life – in a gentleman’s toilet, incoming traffic has the right of way. – Hugh Leonard

    ….think about it :)

    I’ll be back with more cheese….

  • http://lagesse.org Rob La Gesse

    “I entered here, without a clue,
    to sit and think and let things stew.

    But now my business here is done;
    I’ll do a startup, based on fun”

    - or -

    “Some of the greatest minds on this planet HAVE given a shit in this room”.

    -or -

    “I giveth then, I giveth now – don’t matter how, just giveth now”

    OK, I gota stop. really.

    Oh – one more:

    “I sit right here upon this throne, but idle thoughts won’t leave me alone.

    So instead of finishing my dissertation;
    I sit here awed at my imagination”

    Or something like that ;)

    Rob

  • http://www.adaptiveblue.com Alex Iskold

    “This Eureka! Station is Sponsored by Mr. Brad Feld”

    Alex

  • http://www.adaptiveblue.com Alex Iskold

    I have a theory about bathrooms and showers – they break us our of routine. In a way, they are not dissimilar to travel, where we are through out of the context. Running is similar, as I am sure you know.

    Bathrooms give us a tiny bit to think and often, thats all we need – just a tiny bit to get it right.

    Alex

  • http://dondodge.typepad.com/the_next_big_thing/ Don Dodge

    No business is done until the paperwork is complete.

  • noah

    The Feld Lavatory- Caution! Innovation in Progress

    this wouldn’t qualify, but i’m going to throw it out there anyway…
    As Edison said “Genius is 1% inspiration, 98% perspiration and another percent of defecation” (or urination)

  • http://thesecomefromtrees.blogspot.com Peter Kazanjy

    “The Feld Entrepreneurial Thinking Salon: Get it out of your system now. The market will not tolerate people who are full of it.”

  • http://www.balance2posture.com tlanger

    Out with the Old; In with the New Technology.

  • http://nick.typepad.com/ Nick Bradbury

    1) “I’d rather be able to face myself in the bathroom mirror than be rich and famous.” – Ani DiFranco

    2)

  • Evan Robinson

    “It is not our choice to think beyond our station, but rather, it is our duty.”

  • http://www.venturedeal.com Don Jones

    Garbage in…garbage out.

  • http://eneighbors.wordpress.com/ Chris

    The best innovations are the ones we use everyday.

  • http://www.foleeo.com Vada

    Release early … release often

  • Timothy Chen

    When you mix raisins with turd, it’s still turd — Warren Buffet when asked about his viewpoint on some companies

  • Jeffrey Vrielink

    My 96 year old Dutch grandmother, Oma Betsie, has a saying on her toilet roll dispenser in “het kleinste kamertje” (“the smallest room,” a polite Dutch euphemism for the WC)Which says: “Wanneer de nood het hoogst is, is de redding nabij.”
    Which means: “When the crisis is at its peak, the rescue is close at hand.”

    With her having nearly a century of experience and gone through 2 World Wars, how can I not share the other 5 pearls of wisdom I recall?

    #2: “Graag, of helemaal niet!”
    Which means: “Delighted, or not at all!”
    With regard to job offers: If they are not absolutely thrilled about you, it’s not the job for you.

    #3: “Goedkoop is duur.”
    Which means: “Cheap is expensive.”
    If you buy cheap quality, it’s gonna cost you in the long run.

    #4: “De pap word nooit zo heet gegeten als het afgedient is.”
    Which means: “The oatmeal is never eaten as hot as when it is served.”
    Things usually don’t turn out to be as bad as one expects.

    #5: “Spreken is zilver, Zwijgen is goud.”
    Which means: “Speaking is silver, Silence is gold.”
    I always tell my kids: “You can’t learn if you’re talking.”

    #6: “De mens leid meestal het meest, voor het leiden dat hij vreest, doch dat niet op komt dagen. Daarom heefd hij meer te dragen dan God te dragen geefd.”
    Which means: “Man usually suffers the most, from the suffering he fears, but that does not come to be. Therefore he carries more than God gives him to carry.”
    I believe Winston Churchill once put it this way: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

    Here are some words of wisdom from my precious wife:
    #1: “Every day is fresh with no mistakes.”
    In other words, every day is a new opportunity. Let go of the past and “Carpe Diem”
    (Seize the Day).

    #2: “Good news can wait. Bad news won’t go away.”
    With regard to protecting family time and not answering the phone during supper, etc.

    Here are my words of wisdom:
    #1: “Marry well!”
    It’s not just a union of two people,
    but of two families.

    #2: “Keep the pace, life is not a race.”
    Enjoy each day so you don’t burn out.

    #3: This one is from my dad: “The turtle only moves when he sticks his neck out.”
    Take some chances or you will get nowhere.

    #4 This one is from my friend Eric Freeman:
    “Happy wife, happy life.”

  • kip

    1. Welcome to the Feld Atlas bathroom. Atlas was known for holding the weight of the world on his shoulders…(couldn’t come up with something funny here)

    2. “The best measure of a man’s honesty isn’t his income tax return. It’s the zero adjust on his bathroom scale.” Arthur Clarke

    3. “If someone tells you like you eat like a bird, the implication is that you don’t eat much. Yet for their body weight, birds eat a lot. The peripatetic hummingbird, for example, eats the equivalent of 50 percent of its weight every day. (If you’re a 200-pound male, imagine eating 100 pounds of food every day!)

    Chances are no one will tell you that you poop like an elephant because elephants poop 165 pounds per day. So far you’re probably thinking, “Guy is into the weirdest things. No wonder Apple had so many problems.” However, there two are messages for revolutionaries in these biological facts.

    First, a successful revolutionary relentlessly searches for, consumes, and absorbs knowledge, about the industry , customers, and competition. You do this by pressing the flesh of your customers, attending seminars and trade shows, reading journals, and browsing the internet.

    Second, you need to spread the large amount of information knowledge that you’ve gained–pooping like an elephant. This means sharing information and discoveries with your fellow employees and occasionally even with your competitors.”
    —-Guy Kawasaki
    Source: Rules For Revolutionaries: The Capitalist Manifesto for Creating and Marketing New Products and Services, Page: 113-114

  • http://www.feld.com Brad Feld

    via email: “Remember to think big. This is the foundation for every successful venture.””

  • http://www.feld.com Brad Feld

    via email: “Empty your mind of extraneous thoughts, relieve yourself from distraction, and let your imagination roam to find inspiration, invention, intuition, and discover truth.”

  • http://techstars.org David Cohen

    You have to go with Dodge on this one.

  • druce

    Vaporware-free zone.

  • Chip Schooler

    This room is dedicated to movement -in thought and action.

  • bwyman

    Hm, I’m surprised that nobody has mentioned the obvious.

    “Shit or get off the pot”

    I think it works for all your constituencies, albeit differently.

    If you’re looking for other bathrooms to name, let me know. I *guarantee* you can get one more — I had suggested it internally before when thinking about how to recognize your contributions.

  • http://www.feld.com Brad Feld

    Heidi’s proposal to Stanford: “The least glamorous functions of an entity are often the most essential to its survival”

  • blake

    Sit down and make shit happen.

  • http://www.lorencastillo.com Loren Castillo

    Take a moment and make a movement!

  • http://www.feld.com Brad Feld

    another email: “stay awhile, read a lot” or, “the best ideas are often flushed”

  • http://www.feld.com Brad Feld

    Another via email.

    This morning I was checking the businesspundit blog and saw a great quote, from John Maynard Keynes via Charlie Munger:

    “It’s not bringing in the new ideas that’s so hard. It’s getting rid of the old ones.”

    If that’s not a perfect, but clean, bathroom quote, I don’t what is :-)

  • http://www.joshchristie.com/ Josh Christie

    Entrepreneurs are driven by the urge to create something new in the world.

    Imagination, creativity, and persistence make up an entrepreneur’s life… sometimes all at the same time.

    Aim high or your hard work may just go down the tubes.

    Sometimes jumping in head first isn’t the best idea.

  • http://sco.tt Scott Yates

    I vote for “release early and often.”

    By the way, have you ever used the urinal downstairs at the Oxford Hotel in Denver? That’s an experience.

  • http://www.balance2posture.com todd langer
  • http://www.soaringmountain.com Kimm

    How about something along the lines of…

    Ideas come and go all the time; choosing to act on the best ideas is what makes them great.

    Or a bit more obliquely topical…

    Always write down your ideas on whatever paper is available. Action isn’t always possible or prudent when the inspiration strikes and you can’t make the idea a reality if it’s accidentally flushed from your buffers.

  • Steve Murchie

    Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.

    - Ralph Waldo Emerson

    The undertaking of a new action brings new strength.

    - Evenius

    Money is a lot like toilet paper: you notice it most when it’s gone.

    - very successful grandfather of a friend of mine

  • Anagha

    “Answering your nature’s call? But what about the other one? Call the VC now!”
    or
    “Answer your nature’s call. Promptly. Always. Don’t wait for the bubble to grow and burst. Get in now!”

  • Derald

    South Hampton Institute of Technology

    Please tell me that you all get this. LOL.

  • http://tachophobia.com Rick

    “Flush twice: It’s a long way to the kitchen.”

    That was the quote of my 8th grade (second floor) bathroom.

    Still makes me laugh.

  • http://www.feld.com Brad Feld

    Another email suggestion:

    “I grew up feeling that the most important thing in life was to have good manners and to enhance the lives of others.”

    Legendary NY Philanthropist Brooke Astor

  • http://www.feld.com Brad Feld

    YAQVE (yet another quote via email.)

    “In life there are talkers and doers. Be a doer.”

    or

    “Get your business started here.”

    And before I go, I have to say this one from blake
    is genius:

    “Sit down and make shit happen.”

    Congrats on pulling off the bathroom sponsorship to begin with – very funny stuff!!

  • http://www.feld.com Brad Feld

    Another email response: Assuming this would be a men’s restroom…how about “Think freely. Aim strategically

  • http://www.gregcohn.com/blog Greg

    The most brilliant idea is no match for a strong #2 well executed.

  • http://www.altosresearch.com mike

    The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not “Eureka! (I found it!)” but “That’s funny…” Isaac Asimov

  • http://workinprogress.blogs.com Catherine Kunst

    There’s an idea in buddhism (beginner’s mind) that one can only begin to explore new ideas (i.e. innovate) by getting rid of the old ideas as demonstrated by this story:

    Empty Your Cup

    A university professor went to visit a famous Zen master. While the master quietly served tea, the professor talked about Zen. The master poured the visitor’s cup to the brim, and then kept pouring. The professor watched the overflowing cup until he could no longer restrain himself. “It’s overfull! No more will go in!” the professor blurted. “You are like this cup,” the master replied, “How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup.”

    So I would recommend that visitors to the Feld Rest Stop empty their cups

  • http://www.eightfatswine.com phil

    make no mistake, the can is hallowed…

    a caveman invented god on the can,

    einstein thought up relativity on the can,

    bannister broke the 4 minute mile on the can,

    heck, crapper invented the can on the can…

  • http://www.anitataylor.typepad.com Anita Taylor

    “let’s get this potty started”

  • lisa

    The average person spends 6 months of their life sitting on the toilet. Don’t waste it!

  • virgilio

    Be a king, use your throne

  • http://hivelive.com/ Carlos Rodriguez

    Does it have to be a quote? How about simply using an image? One idea comes to mind: Rodin’s The Thinker. Of course, the image could be remixed, with the Thinker sitting on the can (“The Stinker”? sorry…).

    Non-remixed would probably be better, actually, allowing the viewer to use his imagination to do his own remixing, if he so pleases.

  • Thomas Niss

    I’d leave some creativity to the users. Would change the rules a bit and use a simple graphic instead of words. Something like a classic American bathroom stall–the ones where you can see through between the doors and the walls–pretty iconic, at least for a European… I guess you could show some feet below the door and a simple idea icon–like a bulb–above the door. Or, to give it some additional meaning, you could have two stalls next to each other: one door closed and the other one open; both stalls occupied though. I’d show an idea icon above the open one… I can send you a ms paint picture–that’s all I can handle…

  • http://www.globalgiving.com Dennis Whittle

    I am afraid that 4 donors beat you to it in Coimbatore India in 2002! The first project ever funded through GlobalGiving (then called DevelopmentSpace) was a toilet block at a school in Coimbatore. I was kind of embarrassed by this, since before starting GlobalGiving I was used to funding hundred-million-dollar projects at the World Bank. Then my co-founder, Mari Kuraishi, whacked me a good one and reminded me of the research. Girls’ education is one of the best investments you can make, since keeping girls in school results in much higher income for them in later life, better health, healthier kids, and much more. In the developing world, girls tend to drop out of school at puberty if they do not have a private place to go to the bathroom. We estimate that the $5,000 these four donors (including David Kirkpatrick from Fortune Magazine) provided will keep over 400 girls in school over the coming year – an amazing bang for the buck!

    Two pictures of the plaques are here:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/dbw001/1205591401/
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/dbw001/1206453036/

    Good luck with the naming of the ATLAS toilet. (Maybe name it John’s John in honor of John?)

    Best, Dennis Whittle, co-founder, GlobalGiving

    http://www.globalgiving.com

    (dennis at globalgiving.com)

  • http://www.mesawasteservices.com/restroom_trailer.php Mobile Bathroom

    Not a whole lot of things that irk me more than nasty public restrooms…

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