Brad's Books and Organizations

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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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A Brain Transplant For Your Robot

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Orbotix just released a new version of the Sphero firmware. This is a fundamental part of our thesis around “software wrapped in plastic” – we love investing in physical products that have a huge, and ever improving, software layer. The first version of the Sphero hardware just got a brain transplant and the guys at Orbotix do a brilliant job of showing what the difference is.

Even if you aren’t into Sphero, this is a video worthwhile watching to understand what we mean as investors when we talk about software wrapped in plastic (like our investments in Fitbit, Sifteo, and Modular Robotics.)

When I look at my little friend Sphero, I feel a connection to him that is special. It’s like my Fitbit – it feels like an extension of me. I have a physical connection with the Fitbit (it’s an organ that tracks and displays data I produce). I have an emotional connection with Sphero (it’s a friend I love to have around and play with.) The cross-over between human and machine is tangible with each of these products, and we are only at the very beginning of the arc with them.

I love this stuff. If you are working on a product that is software wrapped in plastic, tell me how to get my hands on it.

Human Instrumentation at the New York Marathon

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Fred Wilson emailed me a link to Dennis Crowley’s post I’m running the NYC Marathon tomorrow! Fred knows my obsession with human instrumentation, marathons, and social media.  And if you recognize Dennis’ name, that’s because he’s the founder / CEO of Foursquare.

As I write this from my house in Eldorado Springs, Colorado, I can see that Dennis is at mile 4.64 of the NYC Marathon via RunKeeper.  He just checked in at mile 5 on Foursquare.  And yes, Twitter and Facebook are active also.

While some people may not like this future, I love it.  Yeah, it’s kind of a pain to carry a bulky iPhone around on a marathon, but there are armbands for that and – in a decade – it’ll just be a thing you inject into your arm under the skin.  But for now, guys like Dennis are helping us create the future.

Oh – and he’s running a marathon.  He’s now at mile 5.64.  Way to go Dennis!

My Quest For Measuring Everything

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I’ve written in the past about my obsession with measuring things.  While my manual measurements via Daytum include miles run, books read, flights taken, and cities slept in, I’ve become much more focused in the past year on what I’ve been calling “human instrumentation.” This resulted recently in Foundry Group leading a $9 million financing in a San Francisco company called Fitbit.

fitbit.jpg

If you want to see the type of data I’m tracking, take a look at my Fitbit profile.  For now, I’m focused on the data that Fitbit tracks automatically for me, primarily derived from the step and sleep data.  But from my profile page you can see a variety of other data which I can currently enter manually (I’ve entered a few examples) even though I use other sources to track them (for example, my weight using my Withings scale.)

I now have a house full of personal measurement devices and an iPhone full of apps to track various things.  A few are still active; many have long been relegated to the “closet of dead, useless, obsolete, or uninteresting technology.”  During this journey over the past year, I feel like I tried everything and finally found a company – in Fitbit – that has a team and product vision that lines up with my own.

A year ago when I first encountered the company, they were just launching their product.  I was an early user and liked it a lot, but hadn’t clearly formed my perspective on what the right combination of software and hardware was.  As I played around with more and more products, I started to realize that the Fitbit product vision as I understood it was right where I thought things were going.  The combination of hardware, software, and web data integration are the key, and the Fitbit founders (James Park and Eric Freidman) totally have this nailed.  That made it easy when we explored investing again to pull the trigger quickly.

One of the things my partners and I love about products like the Fitbit are the combination of hardware, software, and a web service that lets the product continually improve without having to upgrade the hardware.  Fitbit is a great example of this which I expect you’ll see over the next quarter if you buy one today.

I firmly believe that in 20 years we’ll simply swallow something that will fully instrument us.  Until then, we still have to clip a small plastic thing to our belt or keep it in our pocket.  But that’s ok since it now knows how to talk to my computer, which is connected to the web, which is getting smarter every millisecond.

Oblong’s TED Talk from 2010

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“In five years when you buy a computer you’ll get this.” John Underkoffler, Oblong’s Chief Scientist, at 14:20 in the video.

I’ve been friends with John Underkoffler since 1984 and we’ve been investors in Oblong since 2007.  Ever since I first met John I knew that he was an amazing thinker.  John, his co-founders at Oblong, and the team they have assembled are creating the future of user interfaces.  This year has started off incredibly fast for them – they’ve spent the last five months scaling the business as the result of several large customers and are in the home stretch of releasing their first “shrink wrapped product” in Q3.  Get ready – the future is closer than you imagine.

Our World Is One Big Game

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Following is an outstanding 30 minute presentation by Jesse Schell at DICE 2010 explaining how our life is just one big game. 

Points everywhere, followed by an optimistic call to use this to make us better.

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