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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Steve Jobs – Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish

Comments (16)

Last night, during dinner with the Return Path board, Fred Wilson interrupted the discussion we were having to tell us that Steve Jobs had just passed away. All of us were stunned silent for a minute as we reflected on the amazing impact that Steve has had on our lives. While I don’t have a personal relationship with Steve, he’s been a hero of mine since I was a teenager when I bought an Apple II computer with 16K of RAM in 1978 with my Bar Mitzvah money. To this day I still remember the sound the disk drive made when I typed PR#6 and how excited I was when I got a Silentype printer.

After dinner, as I reflected on what I knew about Steve and watched as my Twitter stream revealed link after link in tribute to him, I thought about the contemporary moment that meant the most to me. I recalled watching his Stanford Commencement Speech from a few years back and having chills. So – in tribute to the passing of this amazing man, I encourage you to spend 15 minutes and hear something powerful, in his own words.

Steve – while you didn’t know me, thank you for everything you’ve done that has inspired me and impacted my life.

One more thing…

Start With Customer Experience

Comments (271)

I was reminded of the importance of starting with the customer experience while I was watching this brilliant video from WWDC 1997 of Steve Jobs. In the video, Jobs appears to be responding to attack by a troll, but is actually doing something much more interesting. Rather than take the bait and react, he thinks carefully in real time and makes a critical philosophical point about his – and Apple’s – approach to creating new products.

The punch line happens early when he says “you’ve got to start with the customer experience and work backwards for the technology.” It’s five minutes long and worth watching, if only to see how incredibly durable Jobs’ philosophy has been over the past 15 years.

When I think about the companies we’ve invested in, some of them embody this philosophy deeply in their culture. Oblong, MakerBot, OrbotixFitbit, and Cloud Engines immediately come to mind. The entrepreneurs running these companies are completely and totally obsessed with the consumer experience of their products, even though their products embody an incredible amount of technology (in each case, both hardware and software innovations.)

As an investor, I often lose sight of this, especially when I’m working on non-consumer facing companies (e.g. enterprise software companies). But I believe very strongly in the consumerization of IT – namely the notion that innovation in software is now being driven by consumer applications, and correspondingly by consumers, not by enterprise IT organizations and enterprise software vendors. If you accept this, it means that if you are working on enterprise applications, you also need to be obsessed with the customer experience.

When I think about this abstractly, especially in the context of “software eating the world” or my view that the machines have already taken over and resistance is futile, I completely buy the premise that the consumer experience trumps all technical decisions in any context. Apple has proven this throughout the entire customer experience, including being exposed to the product, buying the product, implementing the product, upgrading the product, and getting help with the product. And I think it’s going to get a lot more important going forward.

My Quest For The Perfect Smartphone

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Now that my Apple and Google experiments have been huge successes, I thought I’d try an Android phone one more time.  I like my iPhone 4, but it’s pretty weak with all the Google apps.  Specifically, I badly want better contact integration, clean email sync, and Google voice.  Plus, AT&T still blows in Boulder.

Any suggestions out there for the “best Android out there today.”  I was using a Sprint EVO for a while (and liked it a lot) until it was stolen by my assistant Kelly.  So, I open to any choice – suggest away.

The Mac Won Me Over

Comments (85)

On June 20th, I declared that I was going to try A Month of Mac.  I took my Macbook Pro (an older model from about 18 months ago) up to Alaska, left my Lenovo x300 in Boulder, and went native Mac.

I’m typing this on my brand new spiffy MacBook Pro 2.66 GHz Intel Core i7 with 8GB RAM, with a 500GB solid state hard drive.  I can’t figure out why I’ve been so stubborn about really switching to the Mac.  This is a beautiful computer.

The key to this switch was that the native mac apps (Mail, iCal, and Address Book) sync seamlessly with Exchange.  So I don’t have to deal with the abortion that is Entourage but at the same time I don’t have to mess around with our email server and impact everyone else in our organization.  That’s sweet.  I had a feeling this would work this time since it works flawlessly on my iPhone and iPad, and it did.  The only thing missing is Tasks, but I started using Evernote instead which actually worked even better than the Outlook Task manager.

So – no Parallels or Fusion – I don’t even have a Windows image on this machine at this point.  I didn’t use Windows a single time in the last month and now that I’ve rewired my brain for Mac shortcut keys I think it’d be a pretty amusing thing to watch.

I’ve found peace and happiness with iWork as a replacement for Microsoft Office – it’s more than adequate for what I do.  MarsEdit is a spectacular blog post editor, Chrome works happily on the Mac as does Skype and TweetDeck, and Adium replaced Digsby.  Pogoplug works just like it did before – all my files are where I want them to be.  Best of all, my iPhone actually does what it’s supposed to with iTunes.

Did I say that this is a beautiful piece of hardware?  Sleep mode – check.  Flawless super high resolution screen – check.  Super fast everything – check.  Find a piece of software you want to play around with – download and run.

The most remarkable thing was the transfer of all my data, applications, and settings from my old MacBook Pro to my new MacBook Pro.  I connected them by Firewire.  I restarted my old MacBook and held down the T key.  After the transfer started, I went and had a meeting for a hour.  I came back and my new Mac was set up exactly like my old Mac.  Perfect.

Ross – you owe me $100.

A Month of Mac

Comments (295)

My post yesterday titled Rethinking The Laptop resulted in three very specific pieces of feedback followed by me taking one specific action.  The feedback was:

  1. Dump Outlook
  2. Get a solid state drive
  3. Get a Mac

After mulling things around for 24 hours, I decided to once again try my annual switch to the Mac. Fortunately, I have a very nice Mac from last year’s effort (a MacBook Pro 2.4 GHz with 2 GB) so I fired it up, configured Mail and iCal to work with my Exchange server, downloaded Chrome, Xmarks, and Tweetdeck, and away we go.  I’m still getting used to the option key and trying to learn all of the key sequences that my cool Mac friends use, but I’m enjoying the screen and so far haven’t reached for my Lenovo x300 once today.

While I was swimming I decided that since I was going to be in Alaska for July, I’d bring only my MacBook, my iPhone, and my iPad.  As much as I like my HTC EVO, I figure that if I’m going to really give the Mac a try, I need to go cold turkey (or – well – cold non-Mac) and see if I get over the shakes during my four week exile.  I’ll either come back a Mac user or not.

As one of my friends tweeted, “get a Mac – friends don’t let friends use Windows.”  So – be a good friend and remind me of all the fun apps that I need for my Mac to be extra cool.  And where’s a tutorial for all those fun keystrokes that make the windows fly around the screen?  Oh – and is there a great blogging client for WordPress or do I have to use WordPress’s web UI?  And what about Digsby – is iChat good enough or should I try something else for all of my various chat accounts.  Yeah – the list goes on, but what the hell.

Ross (my IT guy) bet me $100 that I’d beg him to ship my Windows desktop to me within a few days of getting to Alaska.  Help me win the bet.

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