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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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It’s Award Season At Occipital

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Structure-Sensor

Just under two months ago, Occipital launched their new Structure Sensor on Kickstarter. Over the course of 45 days, it raised more than $1.2M to become the 6th most funded tech-category project ever on the site.

Kickstarter backers aren’t the only people who are enthusiastic about Occipital’s new creation. Two of the technology world’s biggest names have now added the Structure Sensor to their roster of award-winning new technology products for 2013 and 2014.

Every year, Popular Science chooses 100 products they consider to be the “Best of What’s New.” This year, they chose the Structure Sensor as one of 8 products in their “Gadgets” category to receive this honor, alongside other products like Google Glass. Check out Popular Science’s “Best Of What’s New” for 2013 here.

The 2014 International CES show in Las Vegas is just two months away. Along with organizing CES, the Consumer Electronics Association also runs the annual CES Innovation Awards to recognize those new consumer electronics products that are outstanding in their field. For 2014, the Structure Sensor is one of 11 products to be named a CES Innovation Design and Engineering Honoree in the “Tablets, E-Readers & Mobile Computing” category, alongside others like the new Sony VAIO Flip PC. See the CES Innovation Awards for 2014 here.

If you missed the Kickstarter campaign but want to get a sensor, Occipital just launched pre-orders today at structure.io.

Focus Focus Focus

Comments (37)

In my mid-20s I was part of an amazing experience called Birthing of Giants. It was a gathering of 60 entrepreneurs over four days (for three years) who were all under 40 and founders of companies with more than $1m in revenue. It was the first time I discovered my peer group and while I was young (24 years old) and small ($1m in revenue) I felt like I immediately fit in.

One of the guys in the group from from Brazil. He had this delicious accent and intense passion whenever he spoke. I remember being across from him in some conversation when he pounded on the table in reaction to something and said “focus focus focus.” But it came out as “fuck us fuck us fuck us.” And I’ll never forget that moment.

The message has stuck in my head. I was in several meetings the past few weeks where I wanted to bang on table and scream “focus focus focus.” In each case, I restrained myself and tried to be constructive. Each situation had differences, but fundamentally there was a vector where the company had no focus. Each company has an amazing core technology. Each one has a clear mission. But in one case, they don’t know what “word” they own, in another they are serving two entirely different customers that had no relationship to one another, and in the third they were going after three completely different markets with different products.

Now, there are plenty of cases where it makes sense to have two threads going at the same time. If you’ve got an API business and an end-user business that deal with the same core data and feed off of each other, you can effectively combine them as long as you own a single word or concept. If you’ve got enough scale, you can go after different market segments. As you get bigger, you can expand your product line.

But early on, especially pre or early revenue, lack of focus is the death of so many companies. Sure, there’s a point where you are still thrashing around looking for “the thing.” You are using all the Lean Startup and Lean Launchpad techniques to find your product-market fit. You are iterating and pivoting. You’ll want to use a freemium model to capture the low-end customer while selling directly to a high-end customer. How’s that – I just used a bunch of buzzwords to help rationalize the “search for focus” – clever, eh?

But at some point you have to focus. What word do you own? Who is your customer? What are you selling them? How are you selling them it? Why are they buying it?

This is especially true when something is working. You’ll feel like hedging your bets. But don’t – go all in on the thing that is winning. Do it over and over again. And build scale quickly with it so that you can start experimenting with more things.

Focus focus focus. Or you will end up saying “fuck us – it’s over.”

Defrag 2013 – Year 7

Comments (10)

Defrag is entering its seventh year of existence. That’s kind of amazing to me. What started as a simple email exchange between myself and Eric Norlin almost eight years ago resulted in a conference that has grown in importance, had meaningful impact on my thinking (and that of many others), and spawned other shows, most notably Gluecon. Most tech conferences don’t last seven years, and they certainly don’t get better with time. Defrag has and is.

Eric has been outlining his thinking for this year’s agenda here, but let me point out a couple of things of note:

  1. Defrag is 3 days long this year, as we’ve rolled the Blur content into the overall Defrag agenda. This means that if you register for Defrag, you’re registered for 3 days (not 2, as in previous years). By the way, we did not increase the price as we did this.
  2. We limit Defrag to 325 people (25 press/analysts; 300 attendees) on purpose, as the primary goal of the Defrag conversation is intimacy. All of which is to say, don’t delay in grabbing a spot - it will sell out.

This year’s Defrag is covering everything from drones to robots to the cloud to APIs to big data. The full Defrag 2013 agenda is here (and it will continue to evolve) but topics will include the following:

  •  The History and Future of Calm Technology (Amber Case)
  • The Identity Manifesto: Seven Points On The Future of Identity (R Ray Wang)
  • Great, Software Ate My World. Now what? (Oren Teich)
  • Industrial Entropy and the Future of Work (Chris Devore)
  • The Coming Digital Dark Ages (Maggie Fox)
  • The Girl Geek Imperative (Lorinda Brandon)
  • How to make Skynet User Friendly (Bret Tobey)
  • Security in the Cloud for the API Economy (Andy Thurai)
  • Healthcare After The Deluge (John Wilbanks)
  • Existence as a platform: Quantified Self meets the internet of Things (Chris Dancy)
  • The Future of Flying Robots (Chris Sanz)

Jerry Colonna and I are also going to have a special fireside chat about surviving the startup life.

Use “brad12″ to take an additional 10% off of the early bird pricing (which ends September 20th).

See you there!

The Toxicity of Arrogance

Comments (54)

Last night Amy and I saw Closed Circuit. We both walked out of there completely bummed out. It was a good movie, but the arrogance of some government agencies (in this case British MI-5) was overwhelmingly real and upsetting. We went to bed when we got home and I tossed and turned for awhile, thinking about nasty government shit. I had a crazy dream that seemed to go on forever about being tangled up in some kind of spy related thing with old college buddies and woke up with it completely unresolved.

It was very early when I got up so I sat down at my computer to start cranking on the last bit of Startup Boards since I’m submitting the final draft on Monday night. But I made a mistake – in an effort to procrastinate a little I read the newspaper headlines, my feeds, Techmeme River, and HackerNews headlines.

And then I was completely bummed out. There were the predictable articles that reinforced the incredible arrogance of government. But there were also a bunch of articles, including some that were first person posts, making strong statements about specific things, defending positions, and arguing points that were one sided and didn’t make much sense to me. While everyone is entitled to their opinion, there was a common thread. The first person accounts were almost all incredibly arrogant.

I felt myself getting angry. Several of the articles directly undermined broad initiatives that I care about. Ironically, several of the writers actually appear to support the same position I do. But their delivery was horrible. And arrogant.

I spent a little time on my book and then Amy woke up. I took her out to Snooze for breakfast and as we were walking over I described a few of the things that were bothering me to her. I had a two hour advantage on her since she had just woken up and her first response was “What? What’s got you so riled up?” We kept going and just talking to her calmed me down. And she helped me think through what I was reacting to.

It is arrogance. And bias. Which just makes me crazy – it’s 50 years since Martin Luther King Jr’s I Have A Dream speech, and bias – both conscious and unconscious – is alive and well. Everywhere. I’ve been spending a lot of time over the past two years exploring, understanding, and explaining unconscious bias. It’s at the heart of one of the key issues that we are trying to address at NCWIT. But conscious bias is maybe more offensive and grotesque. And it’s even worse when coated with arrogance.

I don’t expect to solve anything with this post – I’m just venting. And I don’t feel like calling anyone out – I’m not really interested in provoking a fight and giving arrogance more of a voice. Arrogance and hubris is an ancient problem – our Greek friends knew it well. The power, and value, of humility was reinforced to me again this morning. I respect humility so much more than I like arrogance.

Quick Left Startup Life Event In Boulder

Comments (6)

registernowQuick Left is hosting a Startup Life event with me and Amy on April 25th at their office in Boulder. Registration is open – as of now there are 20 tickets left (it’s a free event). Everyone who attends will get a signed copy of Startup Life: Surviving and Thriving in a Relationship with an Entrepreneur, get to hear us talk about how we manage our Startup Life, and ask questions / join in a conversation about how to manage through the madness of a relationship when one – or both – of you are entrepreneurs.

Amy and I have decided to do a number of smaller events around Startup Life as we travel around the world together in 2013. We like the smaller events as they are more intimate and allow for a deeper conversation, where we learn things also. If you want to see if our paths will intersect in 2013, feel free to email me. We know we’ll be in New York, Boston, Dallas, San Diego, Iceland, and London this year. And of course we are in Boulder and Denver plenty if you want to do something with us.

We’ve gotten incredible feedback on Startup Life: Surviving and Thriving in a Relationship with an Entrepreneur. We are open to any and all thoughts – good and bad – anytime. In addition, if you have a special story of your own to tell, we’ve got a lot of guest blogs up on the Startup Revolution site – just holler if you want to add one of your own.

Build something great with me