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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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A Confusing Social Media Birthday

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I turned 48 on December 1st. I took a week off the grid (from the Wednesday before Thanksgiving until the Wednesday after my birthday) – part of my quarterly off the grid routine with Amy. We had a very mellow birthday this year, spent it with a few friends who came to visit us in San Diego at the tennis place we love to hide at, and basically just slept late, played tennis, read a lot, got massages, ate nice food, and had adult activities.

I returned to an onslaught of email (no surprise) which included a long list of happy birthday wishes. I had 129 happy birthday wall posts and about 50 LinkedIn happy birthday messages.

As I read through them, I was intrigued and confused.

  • The Facebook wall posts were nice – almost all said either “happy birthday” or “happy birthday + some nice words.” I received one gift via Facebook (a charitable donation – thanks Tisch, you’ve got class!) Ok – that felt pretty good.
  • The emails were mixed. Many of them were like the Facebook wall posts. A few of them were online cards. But about 10% of them asked me for something, using the happy birthday message as an excuse to “reconnect.”
  • About 50% of the LinkedIn messages were requests for something. The subject line was “Happy Birthday” but the message then asked for something.

I decided not to respond to any of them. There were a few emails with specific stuff that I wanted to say, but the vast majority I just read and archived.

I found myself noticeably bummed out after going through the LinkedIn ones. I woke up thinking about it again today, especially against the backdrop of reading Dave Eggers awesome book The Circle (more on that coming soon.)

I’m an enormous believer in the idea of “give before you get.” It’s at the core of my Boulder Thesis in my book Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City  and how I try to live my personal and business live. Fortunately, many of the people I am close to also believe in this and incorporate it into the way they live.

When processing my birthday wishes, especially the LinkedIn ones, there was very little “give before you get.” That’s fine – I don’t expect that from anyone – it’s not part of my view of an interaction model that I have to impose it on others. But I was really surprised by the number of people that used my birthday as a way to “get something” without “giving something” other than a few words in a social media message.

This confused me. The more I thought about it, the more I was confused, especially by the difference between email, Facebook, and LinkedIn. When I tried to organize my thinking, the only thing I could come up with was that email was “variable”, Facebook was “generic”, and LinkedIn was “selfish.” I didn’t love these characterizations, but this prompted me to write this post in an effort to understand it better.

Oh – and the best thing I got electronically for my birthday was from Andrei Soroker via a different channel – Kato.

I’m going to ponder the “culture of different communication channels” more, but I’m especially curious if anyone out there has a clear point of view on the different cultures between email, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Feel free to toss Twitter in the mix if you want.

Happy 7th Birthday Techstars

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It’s amazing to me that Techstars is now 7 years old. We are involved in over 300 active companies who have now raised over $400 million. 27 of them have been acquired. They’ve created over 2,000 jobs. And we are just getting started.

There’s some awesome classic footage from the last 7 years in the 3:37 video below. Enjoy. And thanks to EVERYONE who has been part of the Techstars community – we wouldn’t exist without you.

Happy 75th Birthday Dad

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Mom and Dad in San Antonio on Dad's 75th BirthdayMy dad is one of my best friends. I’ve known him for 47 years and other than a few relatively brief moments where we have struggled with classical father / son stuff as I was growing up and separating my identity, he’s always been a buddy, mentor, friend, cheerleader, and confidant. I’ve learned an enormous amount from him, and continue to treasure every moment I have with him.

My mom arranged a 75th birthday this weekend for my dad in San Antonio. They live in Dallas so I’m a little perplexed why we ended up in San Antonio, but when you are 75 you get to decide where you want to celebrate your birthday. So me, Amy, my brother Daniel, his wife Laura, their daughter Sabrina, and my dad’s brother Charlie and his wife Cindy descended on the Eilan Hotel. As expected, there was no shortage of confusion when there were Felds in four different rooms, but we had our usual fun tormenting the hotel staff who tried their hardest to keep us all straight.

As part of the birthday, my mom asked us all to write some thoughts to my dad about our relationship with him. She has compiled them and has them waiting for him when they arrive back in Dallas, but I thought I’d spring my thoughts on him a little early. Here they are!

Dad – as I sit here at 6:46am on 3/11/13 pondering all the amazing things we’ve done together, I closed my eyes and thought back as far as I could to some memories from my childhood. As I get older, I find that the memories fade to snippets, rather than entire concepts, but here are a few that I remember when I close my eyes and let my thoughts drift back to when I was a kid.

- Reading a little green book on endocrinology in my bedroom.

- Being in your very white and organized office at Endocrine Associates looking at all the New England Journal of Medicine books on the wall.

- Driving past the KERA building downtown in the car on the way to something with you and mom.

- Running the 1.5m loop around our neighborhood early in the morning with you.

- Sitting at the round kitchen table in those painfully uncomfortable white mesh chairs eating dinner and talking about what happened during the day.

- Having you hand me the keys to mom’s Corvette while you said “Enjoy it – be careful – don’t kill yourself.”

- Going to a store in Addison to buy my Apple II computer – I remember it was in the shopping center near where Houstons used to be.

- Driving to Frito-Lay’s data center to play on Charlie’s mainframe.

- Sitting in your study at 7310 being extremely frustrated with Hebrew a few weeks before my Bar Mitzvah.

- Sitting in our living room with all my friends who were seniors figuring out how to redesign our high school schedule, and then creating a movement to change it, so that we weren’t stuck in school all day.

- Doing algebra with you. I loved learning algebra. That was probably my favorite time in school at any point in time.

- Walking around Concord, MA with you and mom in October of my freshman year at MIT and wanting to quit because I was homesick and lonely. You told me to give it a year. I did, and by the time a year was up I was fine.

- Being pissed off at you so much that you said something like “I think it’s time for therapy” at which point I let a few days pass and then decided I wasn’t pissed off any more. This was 7th grade or something around there. I remember walking on the 1.5m loop with you as you tried to get through to me.

- Getting a huge hug from you after missing a the final sudden death playoff kick where we lost. Scott Albers (wow – where did that name come from) missed his kick – he was the star of our team – and I let the last one go by me and I cried.

- Doing rounds with you at Presbyterian and hating the way the hospital smelled. Hating the bright florescent lights. And hating the beeping noises.

- Sitting in the back of Cy Arnold’s convertible on the way to a Dallas Cowboys game.

- Getting picked up from Camp Champions when you had gallstones and just hoping we could get home so you could be ok.

- Saying something totally dumb on the CB Radio on a trip to Big Bend that caused a big backlash. I think my handle was “Teddy Bear.” You calmed me down and were very nice about it. We were with the Segals I think.

- Mrs. Waters Chocolate Cake. That stuff was awesome. I think she put drugs in it.

- Having the flu in my old bedroom and puking for a few days during Chanukah. There was a big Hefty trash bag full of stuff involved somehow.

- The first night of every trip to see your parents in Hollywood. It was one giant food orgy.

- Playing tennis with you.

- Riding in your Porsche and thinking I had the coolest dad in the world.

I love you!

Wow – That Was Intense

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Fuck You Kidney Stone

As they wheeled me into surgery, I thought to myself “If this is the end it has been pretty amazing.” This is a photo my brother Daniel took of me just after they wheeled me out of the recovery room and back into my little cubby hole where Amy and Daniel were hanging out. While I don’t remember any of this, probably due to being under the influence of Versed (a truly amazing drug) at least I had the right attitude in response to Daniel saying “take that kidney stone!”

I had an 8mm kidney stone removed using Laser Stone Surgery using Flexible Pyeloscopy on Friday 11/16. While not a major surgery, I still went under general anesthesia for two hours for the first time as an adult. Amy describes this as “they take you to death’s door, open it a crack, let you peer in for a while, and then pull you back and close it.” I probably didn’t need her to tell me that description prior to the surgery.

On Sunday 11/18 I went to Cabo San Lucas for a two week vacation which included my 47th birthday. I don’t remember much of the first week – I was stoned on Vicodin and in a happy, warm, cuddly, very constipated, fields of golden retriever puppy haze. I stopped taking Vicodin on Thursday 11/22 but it still took a few more days to start feeling normal. I dropped off the grid entirely for the week of 11/8 but resurfaced to do some email and writing the week of 11/25. By 12/1 (my 47th birthday) I felt about 90% and was very relieved to have the surgery, and the prior three months behind me.

This period started off on 9/5 in Kobarid, Solvenia with a bike accident. I broke a tooth, got some stitches, and badly bruised my ribs. It was entirely my fault and my partner Ryan McIntyre, who I crashed into, saved me from much more severe damage. I then proceeded to spend the next three weeks on the road, totaling a month away from home. That was mistake #1, as I underestimated how tired I’d get from it. Mistake #2 was underestimating the damage from the bike accident. I ended up running the Detroit Marathon on 10/21 and did fine, but I was completely wiped out physically by the end of October. I continued to spend a lot of time in October and November on the road and found myself exhausted and depressed by the end of it. And then our dog Kenai died.

Oh – and Amy and I wrote the bulk of Startup Life: Surviving and Thriving in a Relationship with an Entrepreneur during this time period (it’s done – we submitted the final page proofs over the weekend.) I recognize the irony of completely burning myself out during the writing of this book – fortunately we talk about this challenge plenty in the book and we communicated extraordinarily well as a couple during this time frame about what was going on. Finally, I do have a full time job and spent the bulk of my time working on that, so all of this other stuff was the extracurricular activity that filled in the cracks around the 60+ hours a week of VC work I was doing during this time.

I had a lot of time to reflect on this last week after I came out of my Vicodin-induced haze. At 47, I realize, more than ever, my mortality. I believe my kidney stone and depression were linked to the way I treated myself physically over the 90 days after my bike accident. While the kidney stone might not have been directly linked to the accident, the culmination of it, the surgery, and my depression was a clear signal to me that I overdid it this time around.

I’m back in Boulder and very refreshed. I’m also determined to learn from this experience. Amy and I spent a lot of time last week talking about changing the tempo on some things, including adding in some new daily habits like yoga that prioritize higher than other things. And I’ve accepted that part of my travel pacing has to include being home over the weekends to so I can recharge my extrovert.

Thanks everyone who gave me well-wishes and support the past few weeks. It means a lot to me. I leave you with the sunrise from Cabo that I saw each morning during the past two weeks.

Smile - it's the morning

Happy Birthday @sether

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My partner Seth Levine turns 40 today. I’ve known and worked with him for 11 years. It’s been awesome.

My first memory of Seth is him showing up in our office at 100 Superior Way with red velour platform shoes. There wasn’t much I could say since I was probably wandering around barefoot or in sandals at the time. But it made an impression – I knew he’d always be more stylish than me.

Seth started working with me in the fall of 2001. This was a truly shitty time for me for a variety of reasons, some having to do with the implosion of many of the companies I was an investor in due to the collapse of the Internet bubble, some having to do with 9/11, and some having to do with the overall stress on the system from lots of directions. Seth didn’t seem to mind that most of our conversations started with me saying something like “well – this is all fucked up, but I need your help on …”

I remember when I realized I was going to learn a lot from working with Seth. We were working together on Service Magic. He’d dig in deep and really understand what was going on. I had a pretty strong sense of it using my jedi number mind trick. But when I really wanted to understand something about their extremely highly analytical business, I just asked him. And he always knew the answer.

There came a point early in our work relationship when I realized I completely trusted his judgment. I knew he’d get whatever work done that was put in front of him, and this was good, but it was really table stakes for being a VC. Seth quickly took it to the next level and within a few years we were working as partners on things, even if we theoretically weren’t partners. That would change – in 2007.

In 2006 we started talking about creating Foundry Group. The early conversations were clear – this would be an equal partnership, not a “Brad thing” with other people working for me. The last thing I wanted was a hierarchy of any sort, especially since I’d fully embraced the concept of a network in all aspects of my life. Seth embraced this and on day one when we started Foundry Group was an equal partner with me.

Five years later I realize how unbelievably lucky I am to have three equal partners – Seth and our partners Ryan McIntyre and Jason Mendelson. We are best friends, love working together, and treasure each moment of life that we get to spend together.

Seth – your 40th birthday is a special one. I remember 40 like it was – well – almost seven years ago – and it was the beginning of what has been an awesome decade so far for me. I’m thankful that I got to spend so much time with you when you were in your 30s and I now get to spend so much time with you while you are in your 40s. It’s going to be an amazing time!

Happy birthday @sether.

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