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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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My Daily Atlas Shrugged Moment

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I’m having more and more Atlas Shrugged moments these days.  Today’s was courtesy of an add on LinkedIn.

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My first response to the ad was “I’m not sure I want to see my concerns addresses by the White House.”  The White House – after all, is a building. 

It turns out that this is an event that is titled “The Effects of Health Care Reform on Small Business.”

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At least the White House is spending money on social media.

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TechStars: Episode 9: It’s About Doing

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One of my favorite quotes is “Do, or do not.  There is no try.”  When you say it (or think it), you must use Yoda’s mix of a gravelly+whiney voice and pretend you are short and green.  Variations of the quote show up regularly throughout TechStars including on the walls. 

The video this week is about “doing” and includes guest appearances from friends and mentors Howard Lindzon, Jeff Clavier, and Dave McClure.

As a special bonus, the Vanilla guys (sort of) sing the Canadian National Anthem in exchange (or not) for a term sheet.

Holes In The Mainstream Media Wall

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I’ve always hated walled gardens.  Before I started blogging in 2004, I had a point of view that was driven from my desire to share interesting information with my friends and colleagues.  Since I’m a big reader, I run across a lot of stuff and have always enjoyed sharing, going back to the late 1980’s when I used to cut articles out of magazines and mail them to people.

When I started blogging, I gained an entirely new perspective.  As a writer, I was proud when people referenced things I wrote.  I loved the debate and discussion around topics that were controversial.  I’ve always been comfortable expressing my opinion and having people express a different opinion, as I almost always learn something as long as there is a real discussion.

Over the weekend, Fred Wilson wrote a post titled Why Comments MatterFred and I had a discussion about comments several years ago shortly after Intense Debate and Disqus appeared on the scene.  Fred went on to invest in Disqus (WordPress acquired Intense Debate) and Fred has demonstrated that he’s a master at building a community that really engages with his blog (167 comments so far on Why Comments Matter – a little recursive, but proves the point.)  Fred ends his post (well worth reading) with:

“So my advice to the world of journalism is to ignore Douglas Bailey’s advice and keep the comment threads at the end of news stories. But doing that is not enough. You need to use the best comment systems out there and they are usually from third parties like Disqus, not from your CMS vendor. And you need to have your journalists participate actively in the discussions. If you do all of that, you can host great discussions at the end of your news stories and who wouldn’t want that?”

I was pondering the last sentence as I read Sam Harris’ Op-Ed titled Science Is in the Details in the New York Times this morning.  It’s a sharply written op-ed about Obama’s nomination of Francis Collins as the next director of the National Institutes of Health.  Harris – a well known atheist who recently wrote Letter to a Christian Nation – dissects a recent presentation by Collins which scared the shit out of me.  As I worked my way through the article, I was looking forward to the comments (which I expected would be strongly polarized) and noticed that – voila – there were no comments.

I then decided to tweet the article.  As this is the NYT, I remembered that if I just used the base URL, then anyone who came across it would be forced to register for the NYT to read the article that I had just shared (dumb).  But – there’s a solution – using the NYT “E-mail” option I emailed the article to myself and then tweeted that URL (after running it through awe.sm to shorten it).  I thought about this some more and realized that I could have chosen the “Share” option on the NYT site (instead of the “E-mail” option) which gives me a “permalink” for the article.

“To link to this article from your blog, copy and paste the url below into your blog or homepage. Using this link will ensure access to the article, even after it becomes part of the NYT archive.”

For a few minutes, I thought I was really clever to figure out the “email to myself” thing.  Then I realized I wasn’t actually clever at all; instead, the NYT was being obtuse by making this hard to figure out.  Most people don’t know what a permalink is – they are just going to forward the article around using the “Send Link” feature in their browser.

Sam Harris should just get a blog and follow Fred’s lead.  Oh wait – he has one.  Sam – turn your comments on!  Like so many things, the debate is the most interesting and important part.

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The Illusion of Progress

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I’ve had a busy July – lots activity in my portfolio, travel, and interesting stuff to deal with.  Most of the companies in my portfolio had solid Q2’s (recession?  what recession?), I’ve watched the TechStars teams in both Boulder and Boston grow up quickly, and the tech M&A market has woken up nicely.

At the same time, I watch the mainstream press report on the same old nonsense, our government struggle with “big issues” that seem to polarize everyone, and I listen to chatter in trains, planes, and automobiles about all the problems that exist.

This weekend I went on my annual “Feld Men’s Trip”.  This year we went to Chicago, ate at Mortons and Follia, went to a Cubs game, and had chocolate ice cream (twice) at Ghirardelli’s.

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I was exhausted from the week so I slept a lot.  But, I did notice an amazing amount of activity in downtown Chicago and on Michigan Avenue on Friday and Saturday night.  Chicago was buzzing, everyone was enjoying the warm weather, and the mood was very positive. 

There’s dissonance between the broad sentiment echoed by the mainstream media that seems to hang over everything and the energy and attitude “on the street.” I can’t decide if it’s me and my innate optimism, if there’s an illusion of progress, or if there’s a massive disconnect between reality and what mainstream media reports.

I’m going to be in Seattle, LA, and San Francisco this week; my antenna is going to be tuned to the tone of the cities.

Eric Ries Is Coming To Boulder

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I’ve been interested in different approaches to software development going back to 1987 when – in my first company Feld Technologies – my partner Dave Jilk and I started talking about “semi-custom software development” (way ahead of its time).  During the same period (1987 – 1990) and I did some work at MIT under Eric von Hippel on “user driven innovation with regard to software development” which today would probably fall under the heading of “open source software development approaches.”

In 2002 I became exposed to the idea of “agile software development” and subsequently was a first round investor in Rally Software which is now the market leader in Agile application lifecycle management software.  Building on this, I’ve recently become fascinated with the notion of continuous deployment, a concept that has been popularized by Eric Ries and others.

I gave a talk at the fbFund Rev program about a month ago on the same day that Eric gave a talk.  Since I was hanging around for the day, I listened to Eric’s talk, which was great.  I mentioned it to David Cohen at TechStars who told me that he had been emailing with Eric about having Eric come to Boulder to do his thing.

Eric has decided to come to Boulder on 8/19 and 8/20 and give two talks.  The first – on 8/19 – will be about The Lean Startup and will happen over dinner, followed by a moderated table discussion and then a final Q&A with Eric. Tickets include dinner with a discounted price is available for early stage entrepreneurs and students.

On 8/20, Eric will lead a half day in-depth workshop on the Lean Startup. This is a great chance to really go deep on some of the concepts behind building Lean Startups. A limited number of tickets are also available for this workshop. Early bird pricing expires on August 6th.

Eric has superb ideas around software development and lots of experience to back it up – it’s awesome that he’s coming to Boulder to share some of this with the community here.

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