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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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Why Boulder?

Comments (6)

My partners Jason Mendelson and Ryan McIntyre have written a long post on the Foundry Group web site titled What We Learned By Moving To BoulderIf you live in Boulder and want to get a view on how they think about this place 18 months after moving here, take a look.  If you aren’t from Boulder and wonder "Why Boulder?" (which is a question I’ve heard over and over again the last dozen years), here is Jason and Ryan’s perspective.  And yes – last winter really sucked.

  • http://ben.casnocha.com Ben Casnocha

    (cross posted on the Foundry blog)

    I love Boulder. And I think this is a good post, Jason. But I wanted to challenge your benefit “Boulder helps us focus our west coast activities” where you say that, contrary to the concern that you miss out on deals, you find it “genuinely useful” to be outside of the echo chamber.

    My sense is that anybody who's in tech who's not in the Bay Area spends a lot of time rationalizing this decision in weird ways. I think the most compelling reason why being outside the Bay Area can be helpful is not that you don't waste time on unnecessary meetings (in fact, I think part of what makes the Valley work is all the spontaneity and randomness that comes from a giant ecosystem) but that you can be a big fish a small pond. Like many markets, the Valley is winner-take-all, and a handful of firms get to see the best deals before anyone else. In secondary markets, like LA, Boston, New York, and Boulder, there is less competition and thus a greater chance you can be the 800 pound gorilla and scoop up all the best local deals. And who knows? The best Boulder deals may be as good as the best Valley deals.

    The reason no one talks about this is because it implies that they're not good enough to be the 800 pound gorilla in the biggest market. Maybe this is true, maybe it isn't. But they don't like this implication.

    Just like a California firm that tries to invest in Colorado is, in time, going to lose deal flow to Colorado firms, so will California firms that re-locate to Colorado, as their local networks in California grow stale. Location still matters.

    • Jason Mendelson

      Ben, this is not what we are seeing from our collective experience. We've seen nothing but a solid increase in the size and quality in our network since moving to Boulder. I think this is due in part to the fact that between Ryan and I we have close to 30 years of residency in the Valley. We have long-term relations with a lot of people and I frankly don't see see them any less often then when I lived there. I think one other factor is that our thematic investment approach attracts entrepreneurs from all over the country that want to work with us, regardless of where we are located. I think the last factor is that we've all been successful in this business and we spend a lot of time with outwardly facing activities that only enhance our contact base. I strongly believe that you don't have to be in the Bay Area to be successfully involved in the tech community there. There are advantages (see our prior post on Geography), but as national investors, we've not found Boulder to be a hindrance whatsoever to our national (including the Bay Area) networks and I certainly see no evidence of them growing stale.

  • http://ben.casnocha.com Ben Casnocha

    Hi Jason, all fair points, and I'd certainly defer to your experiences as you've made the move and have been involved in the industry longer than me. (Though I would say more time needs to pass – like 5-7 years – to better understand how not living in the Bay Area affects your Bay Area deal flow.)

    I would just say that I don't think you can have it both ways. You can't at re-locate to a secondary market and be the 800 pound gorilla there (which it seems Foundry is in Boulder) AND have nothing change vis-a-vis your Bay Area deal flow and street cred. If being physically rooted in the Bay Area didn't matter, then I think more people would bail and go to a place that, for example, has a better school system or more affordable housing market or whatever. While in the short term / transition period you might be able to have the best of both (all the Bay Area friends you had AND all the new Colorado friends and deals), in the long term, one of them will start to give. That's my guess….again only time will tell.

    I only go on about this not as some kind of dig on you guys — you know i love you! — but because one of the myths of globalization seems to be that place no longer matters, that you can work from anywhere in the world, etc etc, and while that's true to an extent, and I think it's way overblown, particularly in situations involving team-work oriented creative enterprises (ie, start-ups.)

  • Jason Mendelson

    Ben, out of the first 6 deals we've done, 4 are in California. None of these deals were seen by any VCs other than our syndicate partners and in 2 cases we are the only VC in the deals. I think you can have it both ways. You can be a successful investor in geographies that aren't your home turf if you work hard, are successful and are folks that people want to work with. I've been gone nearly two years and my network has greatly expanded in the Bay Area.

  • http://chrisyeh.blogspot.com Chris Yeh

    Jason,

    I've got to agree with Ben here. It's too early to tell what the impact will be of moving to Boulder. 2 years isn't enough time. I'd rather wait an entire business cycle before rendering judgment.

    Also, at the end of the day, you simply run into the laws of physics. Let's say that I'm based in the Valley, and I can go out and meet one interesting per day for lunch (this is a vast oversimplification, but bear with me). Over the course of the month, that's about 20 good, face to face meetings.

    If you're flying in from Boulder to spend a week here each month, you could cram those 20 meetings into that one week, 4 meetings per day, but I doubt you'll get the same value out of those meetings.

    That's not even counting the travel time, though you might make much of that up by avoiding traffic on 101/280.

    I'm all about making choices based on happiness, and I think it's commendable that you've made the choice to move to Boulder. I just think that it's tough to have your cake and eat it too.

  • Jason Mendelson

    But Chris, you are rendering judgment without waiting a full business cycle. And as for moving and keeping networks, I've been away from Ann Arbor for more than a decade and still have a strong network there. It's all about effort and creating real and sustainable relationships.

    Furthermore, I don't understand what inherent advantage you have in having one meeting per day versus me having a more concentrated schedule. I get into a groove when I have a concentrated meeting schedule and do the same when I'm home in Boulder.

    Make no mistake about it. I did not move here for the lifestyle, rather I moved here because I believed this would be the best platform for me to increase my network and be a national investor. The lifestyle advantages are what have become apparent two years into the move and thus the blog post.

  • Chris Yeh

    Jason,

    I've got to agree with Ben here. It's too early to tell what the impact will be of moving to Boulder. 2 years isn't enough time. I'd rather wait an entire business cycle before rendering judgment.

    Also, at the end of the day, you simply run into the laws of physics. Let's say that I'm based in the Valley, and I can go out and meet one interesting per day for lunch (this is a vast oversimplification, but bear with me). Over the course of the month, that's about 20 good, face to face meetings.

    If you're flying in from Boulder to spend a week here each month, you could cram those 20 meetings into that one week, 4 meetings per day, but I doubt you'll get the same value out of those meetings.

    That's not even counting the travel time, though you might make much of that up by avoiding traffic on 101/280.

    I'm all about making choices based on happiness, and I think it's commendable that you've made the choice to move to Boulder. I just think that it's tough to have your cake and eat it too.

  • Ben Casnocha

    Hi Jason, all fair points, and I'd certainly defer to your experiences as you've made the move and have been involved in the industry longer than me. (Though I would say more time needs to pass – like 5-7 years – to better understand how not living in the Bay Area affects your Bay Area deal flow.)

    I would just say that I don't think you can have it both ways. You can't at re-locate to a secondary market and be the 800 pound gorilla there (which it seems Foundry is in Boulder) AND have nothing change vis-a-vis your Bay Area deal flow and street cred. If being physically rooted in the Bay Area didn't matter, then I think more people would bail and go to a place that, for example, has a better school system or more affordable housing market or whatever. While in the short term / transition period you might be able to have the best of both (all the Bay Area friends you had AND all the new Colorado friends and deals), in the long term, one of them will start to give. That's my guess….again only time will tell.

    I only go on about this not as some kind of dig on you guys — you know i love you! — but because one of the myths of globalization seems to be that place no longer matters, that you can work from anywhere in the world, etc etc, and while that's true to an extent, and I think it's way overblown, particularly in situations involving team-work oriented creative enterprises (ie, start-ups.)

  • Jason Mendelson

    Ben, this is not what we are seeing from our collective experience. We've seen nothing but a solid increase in the size and quality in our network since moving to Boulder. I think this is due in part to the fact that between Ryan and I we have close to 30 years of residency in the Valley. We have long-term relations with a lot of people and I frankly don't see see them any less often then when I lived there. I think one other factor is that our thematic investment approach attracts entrepreneurs from all over the country that want to work with us, regardless of where we are located. I think the last factor is that we've all been successful in this business and we spend a lot of time with outwardly facing activities that only enhance our contact base. I strongly believe that you don't have to be in the Bay Area to be successfully involved in the tech community there. There are advantages (see our prior post on Geography), but as national investors, we've not found Boulder to be a hindrance whatsoever to our national (including the Bay Area) networks and I certainly see no evidence of them growing stale.

  • Jason Mendelson

    But Chris, you are rendering judgment without waiting a full business cycle. And as for moving and keeping networks, I've been away from Ann Arbor for more than a decade and still have a strong network there. It's all about effort and creating real and sustainable relationships.

    Furthermore, I don't understand what inherent advantage you have in having one meeting per day versus me having a more concentrated schedule. I get into a groove when I have a concentrated meeting schedule and do the same when I'm home in Boulder.

    Make no mistake about it. I did not move here for the lifestyle, rather I moved here because I believed this would be the best platform for me to increase my network and be a national investor. The lifestyle advantages are what have become apparent two years into the move and thus the blog post.

  • Ben Casnocha

    (cross posted on the Foundry blog)

    I love Boulder. And I think this is a good post, Jason. But I wanted to challenge your benefit "Boulder helps us focus our west coast activities" where you say that, contrary to the concern that you miss out on deals, you find it "genuinely useful" to be outside of the echo chamber.

    My sense is that anybody who's in tech who's not in the Bay Area spends a lot of time rationalizing this decision in weird ways. I think the most compelling reason why being outside the Bay Area can be helpful is not that you don't waste time on unnecessary meetings (in fact, I think part of what makes the Valley work is all the spontaneity and randomness that comes from a giant ecosystem) but that you can be a big fish a small pond. Like many markets, the Valley is winner-take-all, and a handful of firms get to see the best deals before anyone else. In secondary markets, like LA, Boston, New York, and Boulder, there is less competition and thus a greater chance you can be the 800 pound gorilla and scoop up all the best local deals. And who knows? The best Boulder deals may be as good as the best Valley deals.

    The reason no one talks about this is because it implies that they're not good enough to be the 800 pound gorilla in the biggest market. Maybe this is true, maybe it isn't. But they don't like this implication.

    Just like a California firm that tries to invest in Colorado is, in time, going to lose deal flow to Colorado firms, so will California firms that re-locate to Colorado, as their local networks in California grow stale. Location still matters.

  • Jason Mendelson

    Ben, out of the first 6 deals we've done, 4 are in California. None of these deals were seen by any VCs other than our syndicate partners and in 2 cases we are the only VC in the deals. I think you can have it both ways. You can be a successful investor in geographies that aren't your home turf if you work hard, are successful and are folks that people want to work with. I've been gone nearly two years and my network has greatly expanded in the Bay Area.

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