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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I Love My Weeks Off The Grid

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Amy and I spent the last week at Canyon Ranch in Tucson, Arizona. It was awesome.

I was tired and needed a break. I also needed a focused week to finish the final draft of Book #2 (Venture Deals: Be Smarter Than Your Lawyer and VC) that I’m writing with my partner Jason Mendelson. The submission date is March 31st and I think we are going to be three days early.

While I wasn’t completely off the grid last week, I hid behind a different email address and didn’t check my email, or the web, or any of my traditional news and info services. It was fascinating to be able to quickly catch up using Gist as I could look at the last seven days of news for the people I cared about in the Dashboard view (they prioritized). There were a few interesting things but like most weeks there was a lot more noise than signal.

So I got to spend my entire week on signal, which consisted of three things:

  1. Spend a lot of time with Amy.
  2. Finish the final draft of the book.
  3. Run and exercise (I rediscovered pilates).

I had huge success on all three fronts, I’m refreshed, and ready for Q2.

24 Hours In Las Vegas With My Dad

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Last night during my two mile post dinner walk from the Hard Rock (where I had an awesome dinner at Nobu) to the Venetian (where I subsequently had a very short night of sleep), my mind wandered around about the great time I had with my dad at CES.

My dad and I have developed several annual traditions including a really delightful father-son weekend.  Our annual 24 hours (usually more like 30) together in Las Vegas every January for CES is another one.

My dad is a retired doctor.  He’s also a computer nerd – he has loved playing around with computers since I got my first Apple II computer 32 years ago.  He’s an endless tinkerer and a gadget guy – always curious and excited about the latest, greatest (or not so great, but still brand new) technology gizmo.

My Foundry Group partners and I have been coming to CES together for the past few years.  We’ve discovered new investments at CES (such as Cloud Engines – for the long version of the discovery process check out my dad’s post on it titled I Love My Popoplug!!) as well as have companies we’ve invested in be at the show such as Orbotix and Sifteo this year.  We keep it short (two nights, one day) but have a lot of fun together.  And my dad tags along.

Each of the two nights we are there we have a great dinner with a bunch of the execs in companies we’ve invested in as well as friends of Foundry Group (other VCs, some journalists, angel investors, other entrepreneurs who are friends.)  The first dinner is always somewhere fancy (this year it was at Bouchon).  The second night is sushi orgy at Nobu.

As I walked home from the sushi orgy, I kept thinking how lucky I was to completely adore my father.  With the exception of several months when I was in seventh grade (and was a complete pain in the ass), we’ve been best friends.  I have enormous respect for him, have learned a ton, and even when I get frustrated with him (as any son will), I usually end up in an semi-amused state about whatever is going on.

And – as far as I can tell, my friends and close work colleagues also love hanging out with him.  This is icing on the cake, because I know he’s having a blast with them and vice-versa.

Dad – thanks for coming to CES again this year – I love you.

My Life May Be Half Over But The Glass Is Half Full

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After reflecting over the past few weeks on Turning 45 as well as Death and Dying, I’ve reached a conclusion that I’ve said out loud several times: “My life is most likely more than half over.”  The singularity not withstanding, the chances, at least today, that I’ll live to be over 90 aren’t great.

Over the weekend, I saw two blog posts from friends – one from Joanne Wilson about her mom passing away titled Judy Solomon, Entrepreneur and one from Ken Smith (I’m actually close to Ken’s brother Keith, the CEO of BigDoor) titled A Eulogy for Elmer Smith.  Both are beautifully written – Judy was 73 and Elmer was 97.  Joanne starts off with a very insightful statement:

“Old enough to have lived a full life yet young enough to have had her life cut short.  I always thought she would live to the ripe old age of 90 something, but life doesn’t always turn out as expected. “

Several of you recommended that I read Younger Next Year: Live Strong, Fit, and Sexy – Until You’re 80 and Beyond.  It was one of the books I read during my week off the grid the first week of December and I enjoyed it a lot.

It had two key graphs in it.  The first is the normal “human being decay cycle.”  Basically, at the age of 45, most humans start a long, slow, gradual decay ending in death.

Normal Decay Cycle

The second is the “desired decay cycle.”  Desired Decay Cycle

The book talks about how to live your life from 45 forward so you experience the second curve.  As Amy likes to say, there are usually only a few things you need to do to accomplish physical health (e.g. if you want to lose weight, (1) eat less and (2) exercise more.)  In this case, it’s (1) don’t eat crap and (2) exercise six days a week, at least two of them with weights.

There’s a lot more in the book, including plenty of real medical, health, and physiology explanations from Dr, Harry Lodge (the co-author).  But just internalizing these graphs along with the two tips from the book have enabled me to re-commit to the six-day a week exercise approach (at least two of them with weights).

I sure do like the second graph a lot better than the first graph.

Turning 45

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I’m turning 45 next week and I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately.  For some reason this seems like a more significant birthday to me than 30 or 40 was.  I know some of my thoughts are a result of a few colleagues dying recently (in their 50′s and 60′s), me completely wearing myself out this fall, and spending about half the year struggling with a back injury, but I think something deeper is going on.

At my core, I’m profoundly happy with my existence on this planet.   I’m married to an amazing person who I’ve been involved with for 20 years. My direct family is healthy and very functional.  I have three superb partners who I get to work with on deeply satisfying activities.  I’ve structured my life so that I get to spend most of my time on really interesting things.  I get to work with fascinating entrepreneurs on long term projects that I care about almost as much as they do.  Finally, I live in what I think is the best town in the world (Boulder) and spend plenty of time in several great cities in the US (New York, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Boston.)

When Amy and I talk about turning 45 the phrase “mid-life” comes up.  Both of us want to live a long time but are realistic that living until 90 based on our family histories is a long shot, the singularity notwithstanding.  So I think we’ve accepted that this is the pivot point where we can start viewing our lives as “at least half way finished.”

Reflecting back on the last 45 years, I’m really pleased with how I’ve lived my life.  If I died tomorrow, I wouldn’t have any regrets.  Of course, I’d be dead, so that’s kind of an odd phrase.  I believe when it’s over, it’s over, but my inner editor refuses to change the sentence.

In some way, that liberates me to think about the next 45 years with a freshness that I wouldn’t otherwise have.  I love my work and my daily life so I don’t feel like I’m in need of any fundamental changes.  But there are plenty of tweaks, especially when I look back at the last year of injury, illness, and fatigue. For example, I got an email from a blog reader a few days ago in response to my Death and Dying post with the following key paragraph:

“So, what do I do differently now that I’m zooming towards 50?  While the work load peak-to-average (crest factor) will always be high in our businesses, I now try for a healthy mix of work, exercise, eating right and relationship building on a 2-7 day window instead of the 30-90 day window.  The “week off the grid” model seemed to work in my 20′s and 30′s, but the swings from low and high (energy, mental acuity, happiness, etc.) would be unsustainable today.”

My engine has always run hot – I work and play hard until I run out of gas, and then I crash for a while.  I’ve solved this for the past decade by taking a quarterly week of the grid to recharge and spend focused time with Amy, but I’m starting to feel like the 90 day tempo isn’t working as it’s too much physically and emotionally.  The idea that I should shift to a weekly or some better defined monthly rhythm is appealing.

There are plenty of other things, both physical and mental, that I’ve struggled to change such as trying to lose 25 pounds for several years, learning a new programming language like Python, trying to stop using the telephone except for family, partners, and CEOs, and trying to back off of being completely scheduled from Monday to Friday.

Fortunately, next week is one of my quarterly weeks off the grid (although I have several things going on that will keep me a little engaged) so I’ll have plenty of time to ponder this.  But, for any of you out there that have read this far and are willing, I’m interested in the suggestions, ideas, and tweaks you might have for me as I turn 45.

The 5 to 1 Rule Applied to Relationships

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I heard a brilliant thing recently concerning making mistakes in a relationship. The person I heard it from described it as “the 5 to 1 rule.”

“When you screw up, recognize that you need to do five good things for every one bad thing. So, when I do something that makes my wife mad at me – or which she considers “wrong”, I consciously focus on making sure that I do the next five things right.”

I think this simple rule can be applied to all relationships, not just the one with your spouse or significant other. As humans, we make plenty of mistakes and have plenty of failures. We also do plenty of things that annoy, distress, and anger people around us. Sometimes we realize it; sometimes we don’t.

Assume that you’ve done something, in the context of a relationship, that you’d consider to be a mistake and that you realize it, either because someone pointed it out to you or you figured it out yourself. If you consciously focus on doing “the right thing” the next five times you interact with that person, you’ll likely neutralize the impact of the mistake.

More importantly, you’ll develop a pattern of doing the right thing. This leads to all kinds of positive second order effects, like being generous, happy, and content with the people around you.

It’s especially powerful when you apply it to your spouse or significant other. I annoy my wife Amy on a regular basis. I show up late. I forget to do something she asked. I’m inconsiderate about something. But I try hard and over 18 years of being together the ratio of “good to bad” is much better than 5 to 1 in both directions. And it shows whenever one of the bad things happen, as each of us knows there is plenty of good coming next.

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