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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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The Power of TAGFEE and Just Executing

Comments (26)

So far I’m pleased with my shift to Maker Mode this summer.  I’ve managed to get in a solid four hours of writing on my Startup Communities book each day and will have a full draft to circulate to a small group of people on Saturday. I chose deliberately to skip TechStars New York Demo Day (which looks like it went great) this year, which was a hard choice for me but I just didn’t want to break the flow of what I’m doing. And I’m still running on inbox zero and – other than physical proximity – haven’t heard any concerns about my responsiveness or availability. As a bonus, I’m getting to spend 24 hours a day (except when I’m out running) with my amazing wife Amy.

Yesterday I saw a post from Gnip titled You Are What You Do. Gnip is one of the companies we’ve invested in that I refer to as a Silent Killers - they are building an amazing company by just doing things that customers care about, not hyping themselves, and delivering what they say they are going to deliver, ahead of and beyond expectations. No hype – just substance – and execution.

This was coincidentally followed a few minutes later by an email exchange between Ben Huh (Cheezburger CEO) and Rand Fishkin (SEOMoz CEO). Rand and SEOMoz run on a set of principles called TAGFEE (Transparent, Authentic, Generous, Fun, Empathetic, Exceptional) and if you want to see this in action, take a look at the post Rand wrote recently about the financing we led titled Moz’s $18 Million Venture Financing: Our Story, Metrics and Future.

Ben (to:Rand, Brad): Just a random thought… Maybe I don’t have the balls to do it, maybe I just think that I want to run my biz differently, but the more I do this, the more I converge on TAGFEE. Thanks for putting it out there in the world.

Brad (to:Ben, Rand): I am 100% convinced TAGFEE is right. It’s so unbelievably liberating. 

Rand (to:Ben, Brad): This email put a huge smile on my face. That said, it’s fucking hard. So hard I can barely believe it. Being TAGFEE yourself when there’s always pressure not to sucks bad enough. But working with a large team and getting managers and individual contributors to act this way (and figure out when/where/how/whether it’s being broken) is the toughest challenge I’ve ever had. Thankfully, it’s incredibly rewarding, too. Oh – and there’s a missing “H” in TAGFEE. For humility. In fact, empathy and humility in potential hires are the best predictors that they’re going to fit with our team and be TAGFEE.

In contrast, I got an email from a VC earlier this week who said “aren’t you worried that one of your LPs will see your post about spending the summer at your place in Keystone?” My immediate reaction was to point him to TAGFEE and say that we try to be 100% TAGFEE with our LPs so I hope they see what I’m doing and appreciate why I’m doing it. I know unambiguously what my job for my LPs is – they give me a box of money and my job is to give them back – over time – a much bigger box full of money. I’m never confused this and I always try to do it in a way that maximizes the size of the box I give them back.

If you line up You Are What You Do, TAGFEE, and Silent Killers you start to get a feel for the type of entrepreneurs we love to work with. An awesome part of it is watching them learn from each other and learning from what they are learning. It informs everything I’m thinking about and the last 24 hours once again reinforced for me the power of TAGFEE and just executing.

  • http://jackdempsey.me Jack Dempsey

    Reminds me of something I heard years ago. Paraphrased, if you never lie, you never have to think about what you’re saying, or how. Just telling the truth, and really living it, is extremely liberating.

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      Exactly.

  • http://twitter.com/friedmank Kevin Friedman

    We LOVE TAGFEE on our team! We’re pretty proud of our values too that I thought I’d share: http://cojourneo.com/about/values

    The values were created as a collaboration among the co-founders and largely inspired by @jerrycolonna. :-)

    Thank you for being such a powerful voice for the values-driven entrepreneurial journey… and for life in general!

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      Awesome – great values statement.

    • Tim MacDonald

      values-driven entrepreneurship….I like that!

  • http://freepository.com John Minnihan

    TAGFEE is incredibly liberating when applied to your life.

    You know what I mean.

    • http://twitter.com/friedmank Kevin Friedman

      Yes. I think so much of life is about deciding what your values REALLY are. It’s amazing how easy it is to do, do, do and not know and be guided by what’s really important to you. That’s why I think a values statement like TAGFEE can be incredibly helpful and liberating.

      • http://freepository.com John Minnihan

        In a word, yep. In two words, yeppity yep.

  • Walter

    Just stole TAGFEE from Rand.

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      It’s yours for the taking!

  • http://twitter.com/dr_pete Dr. Peter J. Meyers

    TAGFEE has a way of getting into your head – the more time I work with SEOmoz, the more it manages to permeate my daily life. I even have a wristband with “TAGFEE” on one side and “WWRD” (What Would Rand Do) on the other ;)

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      Awesome. Can you send me a photo (brad@feld.com) of WWRD – seriously – I’m going to see him this weekend and I want to put it on his pillow.

      • http://twitter.com/dr_pete Dr. Peter J. Meyers

        Haha – will do. The marketing team actually has a set of them, too – I had to share the joy (and also needed plausible deniability if my sanity was every under question).

  • http://www.davidmcohen.com/ David Cohen

    This part almost made me cry: “…they are building an amazing company by just doing things that customers care about, not hyping themselves, and delivering what they say they are going to deliver, ahead of and beyond expectations. No hype – just substance – and execution.”

    To anybody thinking about developing a product, starting a company, or building a brand do that and don’t stop doing that. Please.

  • http://twitter.com/ShahMenz Sha Menz

    TAGFEE “rubs off” too, but the best part of all is that when it does you actually find yourself building a more effective product “by default”.

    We discovered this in a project we started working on recently … a tool that actually had the potential to annoy a lot of people in getting its job done. Remarkably though, we found ourselves determined to make it as safe, easy and painless for those people as it is for those who use it – in a nutshell, we built in a healthy dose of TAGFEE.

    The result has been putting a smile on my face every day – it works, but more importantly, it works for everybody!

  • http://blog.kwiqly.com/ James Ferguson @kWIQly

    Great thanks for the pointer.

    My wife once challenged me to do an wildly enthusiastic days work without hype, arrogance, bravado, exaggeration and with 100% honesty in all respects – but with one caveat – discretion where required !

    I tried it and found it was very, very hard – It still is, and actually it gets harder as you explore your motives for the things you say, it requires bravery. She said I might see if it changed people’s response to me – it does, dramatically and it’s rather exciting.

    It also appears to be mildly contagious – which is not such a bad thing.

  • http://blog.kwiqly.com/ James Ferguson @kWIQly

    Great thanks for the pointer.

    My wife once challenged me to do an wildly enthusiastic days work without hype, arrogance, bravado, exaggeration and with 100% honesty in all respects – but with one caveat – discretion where required !

    I tried it and found it was very, very hard – It still is, and actually it gets harder as you explore your motives for the things you say, it requires bravery. She said I might see if it changed people’s response to me – it does, dramatically and it’s rather exciting.

    It also appears to be mildly contagious – which is not such a bad thing.

  • http://www.paligap.com/ Iain Bartholomew

    I’m interesting in finding out how the acronym was ordered. Could it easily have been FAGTEE or EAFGET or is there a priority order there?

    • http://twitter.com/randfish Rand Fishkin

      The acronym simply worked best (in terms of pronounce-ability, being memorable, etc) in that order. But we do have some deeper general rules about TAGFEE. For example, empathy is actually the most important part, and thus, when it conflicts when transparency or exceptionalism, our bias is to make the empathetic decision.

      I’ve actually got a whole presentation on TAGFEE that I’ll try to post online at some point in the near future.

      • http://www.paligap.com/ Iain Bartholomew

        Thanks, I appreciate you taking the time to answer this. I’d say that if I could change the world in one way, making everyone a little more empathetic would be high on the list.

        Looking forward to seeing that presentation. Cheers.

  • http://goteamspark.com chrispa

    Brad/Rand – Thanks for continuing to push TAGFEE in post after post. I just had to write a tough email saying ‘No’ to a developer I had been working with on a proposal. It would have been too easy to not be transparent or empathetic…..but it wouldn’t have felt right or been the right thing to do. TAGFEE made me think through the email a lot deeper, and the result is a much better message for the recipient. It’s also better for me – I know I’ve done everything I can, so I’m not going to dwell or agonize over the decision. Great stuff.

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