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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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Funding Computer Science Education In NY

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Last week Fred and Joanne Wilson announced that they are helping create a $5m seed fund to invest in computer science education in the NYC public school system.

A few weeks ago Fred sent me a note and asked if Amy and I would make a contribution from our foundation. We’d previously contributed to another project Fred and Joanne spearheaded for the Academy of Software Engineering last year. It was easy to say yes for two reasons.

- The Warren Buffett / Bill Gates Rule: Remember that Warren Buffett gave all of his money to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation because Buffett trusted Gates judgment and ability to allocate his massive philanthropic gift wisely and intelligently? We completely trust Fred and Joanne’s judgment and easily support whatever they do in areas Amy and I are interested in.

- Computer Science Education: This is one of the areas Amy and I support significantly. Two weeks ago Wellesley unveiled their new Human-Computer Interaction Lab which we underwrote. I’m chair of the National Center for Women & Information Technology. And we have a few more fun things coming soon. So the Computer Science Education Venture Fund was something that was right up our alley.

Fred and Joanne are doing this with The NYC Foundation For Computer Science Education (the executive director, Evan Korth, is a total star.) If this is interesting to you, they are hosting an event at USV on Monday, November 18, 2013 for 6pm to 8pm for those who can consider making investments of $5,000 and above due to space constraints. Separately, there will be a crowd-funded campaign to allow donations of between $50 and $4,999 for those who can’t participate at these levels.

This is another great example of private philanthropic support to help transform something really important that public funding just isn’t getting done. If this is an important area to you, I encourage you to support Fred, Joanne, Evan, and this effort. If you are willing to consider contributing at the $5,000 or great level and can attend the event at USV on Monday, November 18th, register here.

Rally Gives $1.3 Million To The Boulder Community

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Rally 1% - EFCO Check
My day started out great. After getting up at 5, having a delightful run at 6, walking Brooks, and then hanging with Amy for four minutes, I got in my car and drove over to Rally Software for their Big 1% Give Back event.

The picture to the left is of Ryan Martens, Rally’s founder and CTO, giving Josie Health, the CEO of The Community Foundation Serving Boulder County, a check for $676,000. This check is for The Community Foundation and for the Entrepreneurs Foundation of Colorado (EFCO) and results from a gift of 24,793 shares of common stock from Rally at the time of its first financing that represented approximately 1% of the equity of the company.

I remember numerous conversations with Ryan about this. Ryan started Rally (formerly F4) out of our previous office and could regularly be found scribbling all over a white board. He had a huge vision that started to be turned into practice when Tim Miller joined him as CEO about a year after he started the company. Part of that vision became the agile software development products that Rally makes.

But Ryan’s vision was always bigger than that. He wanted to build a sense of corporate social responsibility into Rally from day one. He was inspired by Salesforce.com and the Salesforce Foundation so he wanted to do something similar in Boulder – contributing 1% of the equity and 1% of the employees’ time to local philanthropic efforts.

With a handful of others, including my partner Seth Levine and Cooley’s Mike Platt, Ryan helped created the Entrepreneurs Foundation of Colorado. Rally was one of five founding members – the others were NewsGator, Collective Intellect, Me.dium, and Tendril. At the time, no one really knew how this would end up, but we all believed that it was important for the local startup community (which included companies anywhere in Colorado, not just Boulder) to give back to the community that helped support it.

We talked about creating millions of dollars of philanthropic contributions through the success of companies in Colorado over the next few decades. Some people rolled their eyes when we talked about this, some thought we were crazy, and some jumped on board. Throughout, Ryan’s leadership of EFCO was unbounded and today over 50 companies are members of EFCO.

Today’s gift represents the largest to date. Oh – that check is only for $676,000. Well the other one – for $643,000 – is the second check Josie got today – this one from an additional gift Rally made when they endowed the Rally for Impact Foundation.

Gang – well done. Thanks for leading by example. And we are only just beginning.

Rally 1% - Rally for Impact Foundation

Random Acts of Kindness – Wish of a Lifetime

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I adore Jeremy Bloom. He co-founded Integrate, which we are investors in. I’ve interviewed him for the Entrepreneurs Unplugged series I do at CU Boulder. We’ve been part of a few events together. He’s got an enormous heart, soul, and brain.

A while ago he created a foundation called Wish of a Lifetime. It’s a magnificent example of what I call “Random Acts of Kindness” and is a deep part of my value system.

Amy emailed me a great article in the Denver Post from earlier this week titled Dreams come true, thanks to Jeremy Bloom’s Wish of a Lifetime Foundation. Amy and I gave a major gift last year and just agreed to make another gift to Wish of a Lifetime.

If you are so inspired, contribute to Wish of a Lifetime right now. And if you want some motivation, or just want to see an interview with an awesome entrepreneur, human, friend, philanthropist, athlete, leader, and role model, watch the video below.

 

Request for Laptops for Monarch High School Students

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Following is a guest post from Lura Vernon, President of the Monarch High School PTSO. Lura is also a good friend, contributor to Startup Life: Surviving and Thriving in a Relationship with an Entrepreneur, mother of two awesome young women, and wife of Todd Vernon, CEO of VictorOps

Lura’s request is for laptops for Monarch High School Students. Any amount will do – 1, 2, 5, 10, 25, 50, or even 100. If you have any extra, please email me and I’ll get you connected. Foundry Group is contributing a MacBook Air this week.

What can a student learn from bringing a laptop to school every day?

Sure, she can learn to make a mousetrap car by watching a YouTube video, she can watch population densities dynamically changing over time, and she can hear an unknown French word pronounced correctly without asking the teacher.

But there’s a ton of learning that happens that wouldn’t be obvious to the casual observer.

She also learns that her father would kill her if she breaks the laptop, not figuratively, but literally.  She learns that Facebook bullying can be overwhelming but also easily dealt with by simply not reading Facebook for a while.  She learns that her grades will greatly improve if she pays attention in class rather than surfing the web behind the teacher’s back.  And she learns that her parents have WAY OVERREACTED to that new Snapchat app.

Monarch High School is in its second year of requiring its students to bring a laptop to school.  It’s Principal, Dr. Jerry Anderson, has worked long hours to bring state of the art WiFi to the building, give the teachers the training, and bring the parents up to date.  Any student who’s parents couldn’t afford a laptop was provided one; all they had to do was ask.  It’s my opinion that this program will do more to improve the achievement gap between genders, races, and different learning abilities than any other program conceived by the district.

The problem?

Dr. Anderson has conducted fundraisers, partnerships with local businesses, and worked with the district to provide free refurbished computers to those who need them.  Up until now, she had the resources she needed so that all students had a laptop in school.  Unfortunately, because of a high percentage of refurbished computers that crapped out, Monarch has five students who haven’t had a laptop since the beginning of the semester.

If your business has used laptops that they are considering getting rid of, Monarch will take them!  We’ll provide you with our non-profit tax ID # and give you a receipt.

If you can help, please email me.

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Random Act of Kindness – Jedi Max

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[embedit snippet="jedimax"]

On Sunday I’ll be running the Detroit Marathon with a bunch of friends including my partner Jason Mendelson who is running his first marathon. Becky Cooper, our CFO, and Jill Spruiell (Jason’s EA) are also running their first marathon, as is Andrew Tschesnok, the CEO of Organic Motion.

As this is my second marathon in my Random Act of Kindness series, Amy and I are again raising $10,000 for someone on GiveForward. We’ll be matching $5,000 of contributions from this community with a gift from us of $5,000. Our recipient this time in Max Simmons who we refer to as Jedi Max. We don’t know Jedi Max – we just know he’s fighting cancer and is awesome.

Here’s Jedi Max’s story:

Max is a fun-loving, spirited seven year old who has been diagnosed with Glioblastoma Multiforming or GBM, a type of brain cancer. It is one of the most aggressive forms of cancer. The doctors have already removed most of the tumor, though he still has a long road ahead. He will be receiving chemo and radiation. Max’s treatments are an hour’s drive each direction and he will be receiving them for six weeks, five days a week. His parents, Jay and Scott, are concerned about not meeting the non-medical expenses such as gas, food, and other things that may come up. With how things stand now, Jay may not be able to return to work. Max loves everything Legos and Star Wars. He is doesn’t have a mean bone in his body and wears his heart on his sleeve and his heart is as big as Texas. He is a true Jedi Warrior!

In our last Random Act of Kindness campaign, we raised over $10,000 for Justin Salcedo who is now cancer free! Let’s show Jedi Max the power of the community and do it again.

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