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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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Startup Visa Videos From Our DC Trip

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In March, I went to DC with Dave McClure, Eric Ries, Shervin Pishevar, and a bunch of Geeks on a Plane to discuss, advocate, and support the Startup Visa initiative.  As part of the effort, we did two videos about the trip – one staring me and one staring Shervin. Ben Henretig of Micro-Documentaries produced them – they have some striking images of DC along with plenty of commentary from me and Shervin about why the Startup Visa is important.

Eric Ries has a few other thoughts about the trip and things you can do to help the Startup Visa initiative.

Are Storytellers The Best Programmers?

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As Fred Wilson likes to say, often the best content for blogs is in the comments.  In this case, it was in an email I got from Boaz Fletcher in response to my post Web Sites and Books for Novice Programmers.  Boaz made a very interesting observation:

“As for learning how to code, I think good storytellers make the best programmers. I used to freak prospective employees out by having them write a story for me instead of the “what’s wrong with this code?” tests. But it showed me who was able to think well, organized, creatively, and filled in the details.”

He also had an insightful comment about teaching kids to program.

“I had an exchange with someone in the industry about teaching kids how to program – or, more appropriately, how little there actually is to start kids off (think Alice or Scratch). Considering the ubiquity of computers in our lives, I think it’s untenable that most people are just passive users of the things. It should be mandatory to teach kids how to program. They don’t all need to become software engineers (never mind that I think most software engineers today, aren’t) but a basic understanding of how to build something simple and useful to them. Think about “shop” in junior high – hands-on manipulation of the physical world. So you may never need to lathe out a wooden bowl again, but at least you can hang a picture straight. Kids can browse the net, but don’t have a clue why their computer gets stuck when they’re trying to print a webpage.“

I’ve been thinking and talking about this particular construct a lot lately, especially in the context of NCWIT.  A person younger than 15 years old has never experienced life without the existence of the web.  Their view of the world, especially 29 years from now when they’ll be as old as I am today, will be radically different because of how the computers and the web are integrated with their life.

I never took shop in high school.  I’m not mechanically inclined (or skilled) at all.  Not only can I not hang a picture straight, I’m not sure I know what to do with a power tool.  And forget changing the oil in my car.  When I reflect on things I wish I had done more as a kid, it’s tinker with mechanical things so I’d be more comfortable with them.  In contrast, I’m completely comfortable with anything that’s “not physical” – I like to say "I’m only interested in it if I can’t touch it.”

We are definitely living in a world where both are important, but the not-physical is becoming increasingly pervasive.  Making sure that young people are tuned into this seems critical.  When I think hard about this, there’s real insight in Boaz’s comment about the power of storytellers.

What Software Was Used To Create Everlater?

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Thanks for all the feedback and comments on the Learning to Program series with Nate Abbott and Natty Zola from Everlater.  In the last post, titled Web Sites and Books for Novice Programmers, I foreshadowed some of the tools that Nate and Natty chose to build Everlater.  Now that you know how they got started, here’s what they ended up choosing.

Everlater is built on Ruby on Rails, postgreSQL and is hosted on Engine Yard using a passenger/nginx combination.  Nate and Natty use several standard Ruby/Rails packages (gems) to extend the base functionality of Rails.  On the front end, they use a combination of jQuery and Prototype for Javascript.

The technology stack that they’ve ended up with has evolved over time.  The very first decision – which web framework/backend language to use – was the toughest.  Once again, our friend Google appeared – this time for the phrase “web framework comparison.”  A few days later, the exploration shifted from simply finding and poking around in the various languages (most notably Ruby/Rails, PHP/CakePHP/CodeIgniter, Python/Django, ColdFusion, .net, and Java), to figuring out the salient points in the debate: speed, ease of use, active development of the platform, security, and cost. 

Over beers, Nate and Natty put on blindfolds and threw darts at a board.  After incorporating these results into their decision matrix, they chose Ruby/Rails mostly because they felt that it had an active community developing it and seemed to be the easiest to learn the quickest.  It took roughly a week to come do a decision, start to finish.

After choosing Ruby as the main language they would be working with, they immediately began searching out every possible Ruby coding Meetup. Through those meetings they became connected with Boulder’s Ruby community which is an amazing group of incredibly smart people.  They also found two great people, Charlie and Ryan who began working with Everlater for equity early on and helped make some of the key early decisions.

Desperately Seeking Senior Java Developers in Boulder

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If you are a senior Java developer anywhere in the US and are interested in moving to Boulder, I’d like to hear from you

There was a nice article in Bloomberg Businessweek last week about Why Boulder Is America’s Best Town for Startups.  With the combination of the new startup activity over the past few years combined with the rapid growth of a number of medium sized companies and renewed hiring from some of the outposts of major tech companies based here, we’ve clearly entered another cycle in Boulder where talent is tight and demand for senior folks is once again at a high point. 

Of course, if you are living in Boulder or Denver and aren’t happy with your current job, feel free to reach out to me.  But I’m also game to talk to people that are interested in relocating to what I think is the best small city in America.

Confused Boulder Weather

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Amy and I stayed in downtown Boulder over the weekend.  It was pouring rain on Friday afternoon, flawlessly beautiful on Saturday through Sunday morning when we went for a long walk on the Boulder Creek Path, and then it snowed overnight last night.  Here’s the view from our window.

2010-04-26 07.51.40

My iPhone tells me that it’s going to be 70 degrees on Wednesday.  Welcome to spring time in Boulder.

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