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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Users and Usability

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I did a quick podcast interview with Outside In Innovation a few weeks ago when I was at MIT at Eric von Hippel’s Innovation Lab seminar.  There are two segments – How VCs View Users and Usability and Innovation Through Acquisition.  I’m not sure it’s appropriate to generalize my comments for all VCs (in fact, I’m sure it’s not), but I thought Jim and Jonathan did a nice job of rapping on these topics.  If you are into the 53,651 meme (or the idea that the first 25,000 users are irrelevant) or you just like to listen to me talk (hi Mom), there is some good stuff in here that pre-dates those posts.

Sputnik vs. Atlas Shrugged

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I spent a delightful few days in Aspen with Amy, my uncle Charlie, and his wife Cindy.  My first computer experience was at a Frito-Lay office in Dallas when I was 10 where Charlie sat me down in front of a terminal with a green screen, fired up an APL interpreter, gave me a big book called APL: A Programming Language, and then left me alone for the next five hours.  Over the years Charlie and I have worked together on a variety of things, most recently when I was a major investor in his previous company, The Feld Group (acquired by EDS in January 2004). 

We covered a wide range of topics over a dozen meals and several long walks together (neither of us are skiers).  One theme that we kept revisiting was the current decline of the United States in the world order (ahem – China, India anyone?)  I’ve been rolling around the idea of living in a country equivalent to post-Edwardian England (e.g. we peaked, life can still be great, but we aren’t at the top of the mountain anymore) since a rollicking dinner with Pat Kenealy a few months ago and have started to get comfortable with the idea.

While I accept that the United States can’t be the unambiguous leader of the world (if you disagree with that statement, read Thomas Friedman’s The World Is Flat again), the future of the United States as defined by Atlas Shrugged is profoundly unappealing.  On the heals of yet another piece of empirical evidence that our government is trying their hardest to emulate the moochers in Atlas Shrugged (e.g. “Oops – yes – we were spying on you – a lot – even more than we said we were – but it’s for your own good”), it’s hard not to be just a little bit discouraged.

As someone who has been playing in the sandbox of entrepreneurship and innovation his entire adult life, I’ve never really thought much about the need for a catalyst for our country since I have always been immersed in a zone of endless overstimulation.  However, as I get older and watch many of my venture brethren hop on airplanes to Beijing, Shanghai, and Mumbai, I’ve been thinking about the United States’ place in the next wave of innovation.  As the Web 2.0 meme finally starts to fade (or maybe it’s just that 2005 is coming to an end), I’ve been waiting for something to replace it, just to see if anyone had any new non-China/India innovation juice.

While sitting at the St. Regis in Aspen the other day having a hot apple cider, Charlie said something simple, but completely profound. “We need another Sputnik.”  I hadn’t been born yet when the Sputnik Crisis happened, but as a kid I was fascinated with space (like most nerd-boys) and it always stuck in my mind how Sputnik focused and rallied the United States around innovation.

I don’t know what the next Sputnik is for the United States, but I’m keeping my eyes open for it.

SpaceX To Launch the Falcon 1 on Friday 11/25

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On Friday 11/25, Elon Musk’s new company, SpaceX will launch their first rocket, the Falcon 1, at 1pm PST.  I got a note from Elon’s brother Kimball – who now runs an awesome restaurant in Boulder called The Kitchen – with some photos.

DSCF1072

Yes – that’s a rocket ship on a remote island called Kwajalein Atoll.  According to Kimball, Kwaj is the largest Atoll in the world, 1,400 miles away from Guam, 2,100 miles away from Hawaii, has a population of 2,500, a runway, a small military base, and a lot of excited rocket scientists hanging around.

Aluminum Foil Deflector Beanies

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An MIT study delves into the reality of Aluminum Foil Deflector Beanies.  Is it a great innovation?  Is it a government plot?  Is the FCC involved in some way?  Or – is mind control in our future?

Sky-Scapes Flourescent Light Diffuser

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I can’t stand fluorescent lights.  I literally can’t sit in a room with them on for very long without noticing them.  For years, people walk by wherever I’m working and ask me if I like working in the dark (I’ve got a long list of catty responses – all various derivatives of “being in the dark.”)

Yesterday, I was a judge at the DaVinci Institute’s A Night with the Visionaries.  I thought it was going to be a strange way to spend a Friday evening, but I ended up having a great time and being completely blown away by the inventions and inventors that were competing.  The evening was extremely well done and Thomas Frey who runs the DaVinci Institute should be proud on the event his organization put on.

While I saw plenty of cool things including an infra-red pistol mounted camera, a self-tuning guitar, a personal cooling device, and an ambient light dome for photographers, my favorite was the Sky-Scape decorative fluorescent light diffuser.  It’s a brilliant idea that is one of those inventions that the instant you see it, you get it, and fall in love with it.

Happiness for fluorescent light haters in now only $37.95 per light away.

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