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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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TSA Starts Designing Luggage

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As I was contemplating how to optimally pack my liquids and gels into a single quart sized ziplock bag I came across an article in the NY Times titled Bag Helps Laptop Pass Air Security.  Apparently, the TSA has been testing new luggage as a result of an RPF they sent out recently.  They won’t certify these bags – rather they’ll encourage manufacturers to adopt a universal logo akin to "this bag is checkpoint friendly."

So here’s what’s going to happen.  50+ luggage / backpack / briefcases are going to appear on the market that say "this bag is checkpoint friendly" on them.  They’ll work for a little while.  Then 200+ knockoffs will come on the market at 50% lower price points.  All of them will say "this bag is checkpoint friendly."  Half of them won’t work.  It’ll now take even more time to get through security because TSA will have to manually check all of these bags. 

I’m sure this will settle itself down quickly into a nice routine, just like the Clear line has in Denver.  Oh – wait – the Clear line in Denver no longer really gets me to the front of the line anymore because the TSA decided it shouldn’t.

Are there any airports left in the US that haven’t been completely infected by TSA procedures?  I know of a small part of one major airport.  Any others out there?  Leave a comment, but not before you buy a new bag for your laptop.

A Stunning Week in Positano

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My Q2 vacation came quickly on the heels of my Q1 vacation (since I didn’t manage to take my Q1 vacation until April).  Amy and I spent a delightful week in Positano, Italy with David and Jil Cohen.  This was their big vacation before David goes heads down all summer on TechStars so it was great fun to hang out, relax, and enjoy the magic of some of the best Italy has to offer.

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After a week of vacation bliss, we took the train from trash-filled Naples (what a dump) to Milan where we met up with Jeff and Judy Herman for a week on Lake Como.  We arrived to a two day monsoon.  While Lake Como is beautiful when the sun is out, we all quickly got cabin fever.  Amy and I decided to bail and come home a few days early; everyone else decamped to Milan to wander around the city.

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Since I had just been on a week off the grid, I stayed connected this trip.  I got plenty of downtime yet kept up with everything going on.  I did take a vacation from blogging which was nice.  Hopefully it will translate into more pith and creativity.  I ran a ton, played tennis and swam every day in Positano, so I’m officially feeling ready for my June marathon.  I did manage to counterbalance any potential weight loss with the omnipresent gelato.

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How Do I Fly?

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In response to my Planes, Trains, and Automobiles post, I’ve already gotten several questions along the lines of "how do you deal with our insane air travel system" such as:

How do you keep your sanity traveling to the east coast? I’ve just spent the past 6 weeks traveling to New York from Denver and it’s either: get up at 4am only to waste an entire day traveling or take the red-eye.

For starters, west coast travel is much easier than east coast travel.  Denver to SF is about the same amount of effort as Boston to NY (+1 hour each way which means you get up a little earlier.)  I regularly get to 8:30am meetings in SF or Palo Alto when leaving from Denver on the 6am flight.

East coast travel is trickier.  I’ve found the best solution is to take the later afternoon / early evening flight (4pm – 6pm) out of DIA to LGA.  I get to my hotel between midnight and 1am and sleep until 30 minutes before my first meeting.

Now for the magic.  I don’t try to work on airplanes. Instead, I sleep.  I get settled in as quickly as I can and go lights out until I wake up.  Most of the time I’ll make it the entire flight.  If the flight is more than three hours, when I wake up I read a book rather than whip out my laptop (unless I’m going cross-country or to Europe, at which point I’ll do some work.)

The extra two hours of sleep makes all the difference (at least to me) on the travel.  On west coast travel, I have a 30 minute "transition wakeup" (where am I, who am I, what am I, what is that taste in my mouth?) but once I wake up, brush my teeth, and have a large coffee, I’m good to go.  On east coast travel, I get to the hotel, take a shower, and crawl right into bed.  Wham – deep sleep.

I didn’t used to be able to sleep like this on planes (and know a lot of people who claim they can’t.)  I don’t buy this – I trained myself to do this.  When I started this approach I used to sit – wide awake – for two hours doing nothing except relaxing.  I quickly got bored of myself and feel asleep.  As Amy likes to remind me – most of us are so sleep deprived that it’s actually easy to fall asleep if you let yourself (unless you are truly an insomniac – in which case you might actually fool yourself.)

So – if you see me asleep on a plane, please don’t wake me up to say hi!  Just go to sleep.

Heathrow Travel Hell

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It looks like Chaos Reigns a Second day at HeathrowThe spiffy new Terminal Five has some "glitches."  Who said modernization was easy?

The Clear Way to Pay $100 / Year to Cut in Line

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I travel a lot.  I always have.  The ease of air travel runs in cycles – we seem to be at another low point where lines are long, planes are full, flights are late / delayed / canceled, and almost all travel personnel (except apparently those on Southwest) are somewhere on the spectrum between grumpy and rude. 

But that’s just travel.  You’ve got to get past the crazy TSA people before you can actually embark on your trip.  The experience of standing in a long line, having to take your id out of your wallet so they can inspect it carefully, unpacking all your liquids and gels, listening to the same inane announcements over and over again, and having a completely random "inspect board pass as you go through the metal detector" algorithm gets old.  Really old.  Oh – and don’t forget to take your shoes and belt off.  All in the quest to fly safer.

When Clear came out with their Registered Traveler program, I was immediately sold on it.  For a mere $100 / year plus a one time $28 TSA vetting charge, they promised me that I could fly through security "faster, with more predictability and less hassle."  Their PR machine has done a nice job of promoting their fast lane.  I paid my money, got my retina scan, and now have my Clear card (actually – my second one – the first one was apparently lost in the mail – ah the secure irony.)

I’ve been using my Clear card regularly in the supported airports that I fly through (so far only DIA and SFO – but they promise many more soon.)  And I can affirm Clear’s marketing pitch – I am flying through security much faster.  But not because of a separate line or a reduction in "are you safe to get past the TSA people" algorithm based on my key biometric data matching up.

Nope – Clear has a simpler approach.  They help me cut in line.  I go to my special Clear line (there’s only one at DIA – you’ve got to find and it remember to go to "the other left" when you enter on the west side of the airport.)  I show the Clear person my boarding pass and id (just like the TSA person, but this person says hi and smiles at me.)  I go to the biometric machine and get asked for the Nth time if I’ve used this before (I say yes.)  I put my card in the machine and do a retina scan (most of the time it works – sometimes it takes a few tries.)  Once I pass, a nice person grabs my bags, helps me undress myself and my laptop into two TSA buckets, and leads me, shoeless – but with the two TSA buckets – to the very front of the TSA check line.  The 126 people behind me in line sneer at me.  The TSA person gives me a really dirty look and then proceeds to double check my boarding pass and ID.  Once I’m cleared, the nice Clear person once again takes me to the very front of the line – this time the front of the metal detector / x-ray machine / whatever it’s called line. 

Pause.  The reactions here have generally been priceless.  Last week the the woman that I cut in front of said "why are you cutting in line?"  I explained that I had paid $128 to Clear (including pointing at the Clear line machine) to "get through security faster."  She smiled a very cynical smile and said "ok – I was just checking to make sure you weren’t an asshole."  And that was one of the nice ones.

Overall, I’m saving a ton of time getting through security with Clear.  It’s easily worth the $100 to me since I get hit with a $40 change fee by United on a regular basis when I miss a flight (even though I’m a treasured 1k / Million Mile flyer with one of those fancy dark brown get out of jail free treat me nicely cards.)  But it’s not because of any fundamental innovation or extra magic biometric security.  It’s because I just paid $128 to cut to the front of the line.

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