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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Book: Worm – The First Digital World War

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I’ve been reading a lot more lately – mostly on the weekends – but I’m getting back into a good book rhythm. I can feel it helping my brain and my soul – I’ve always been a huge reader and when I go through phases where I’m not reading something is clearly off.

The second of the three books I read this weekend was Worm: The First Digital World War. It was crap in your pants scary in that real life, cyberwarfare way. If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of a DDOS attack, you have to read this book.

The author, Mark Bowden, does a great job of telling the story of the Conficker worm in English. Even if you aren’t technical, you’ll enjoy this book as it borders on cyberthriller while telling a real live story that unfolded over several months in late 2008 / early 2009. I was vaguely familiar with Conficker (as in I remember the hoopla about it) but I didn’t know the backstory.

Now I do. And it’s terrifying. And amazing. At many different levels.

We continue to visibly see the impact of physical war and terrorism all the time. But we are just beginning to see cyberwarfare and cyberterrorism. On one of the participants, Paul Vixie, is quoted near the end brilliantly in his “one command away from catastrophe” rant.

These problems have been here so long that the only way I’ve been able to function at all is by learning to ignore them. Else I would be in a constant state of panic, unable to think or act constructively. We have been one command away from catastrophe for a long time now. . . . In a thousand small ways that I’m aware of, and an expected million other ways I’m not aware of, the world has gotten dangerous and fragile and interdependent. And that’s without us even talking about power grids or the food stocks available in high population areas if rail and truck stops working for a week. AND, in a hundred large ways that I’m aware of and an expected thousand I don’t know of, ethically incompatible people out in the world have acquired and will acquire assets that are lethal to the industrial world’s way of life—criminals and terrorists using the Internet for asymmetric warfare is the great fear of our age, or at least it’s my great fear. But I’ve lived with it so long that I have lost the ability to panic about it. One day at a time, I do what I can.

We are just at the beginning of this.

Book: Tech and the City: The Making of New York’s Startup Community

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On Digital Sabbath #5, I read Tech and the City: The Making of New York’s Startup Community. I got through half of it on my flight home from New York on Saturday morning; the balance laying on the couch next to Amy on Saturday evening.

I gave a talk with Alessandro Piol on Tuesday night at the Apple Store on Prince Street that was sponsored by the Women Innovate Mobile accelerator. We had a fun hour long talk with Q&A, a lot of it about Startup Communities. I hadn’t read Alessandro’s book in advance (but I did have it on my Kindle) so I was inspired to gobble it down this weekend.

It was excellent. If you are involved in the New York startup community, this is a must read book. If you are interested in startup communities in general, it’s a substantive history and current explanation of what is going on in New York.

One thing that jumped out at me that Alessandro segmented the New York startup community into six neighborhoods.

  • Flatiron / Union Square: The Heart of Silicon Alley
  • The Meatpacking District and Chelsea: Tech and the City
  • East Village, Soho, and Lower Manhattan: The Boheme of the Third Millennium
  • Brooklyn: The Do-It-Yourself Revolution
  • The Bronx: Sunshine Fortress
  • Long Island City in Queens: The 3D Generation

If you’ve heard me talk about startup communities, you’ll recognize this as the same approach I take when talking about larger communities like New York, the Bay Area, Los Angeles, and Boston/Cambridge. In these cases, the startup neighborhoods look similar to a startup community like Boulder – there is an incredible density of startup activity in a small geographic area. In a city like New York, rather than having everything in one place, you have a series of neighborhoods that have this entrepreneurial density, but are connected together to form the overall startup community.

I experience this all the time in New York. But I got a new taste of it on Thursday. I went to Brooklyn after an early meeting near Greeley Square Park. I started off at 20 Jay, saw NYU Poly Incubator, went for a long walk around DUMBO with Charlie O’Donnell, had an awesome lunch with Chad Dickerson (Etsy CEO), and then walked to MakerBot and hung out with the team there for a while. I did all of it on foot – including the back and forth from Manhattan.

The last third of the book is forward looking, talking about where things can, and are, going in the New York startup community. Finally, while there are plenty of VCs and government folks involved, it’s very clear that this is an entrepreneur led phenomenon, and Alessandro does a good job of balancing all the players.

Oh – and Digital Sabbath #5 was excellent. Even though I was on a plane for four hours, I woke up Sunday once again feeling refreshed and as though I had a weekend stretching out in front of me.

Book: Let Your Life Speak

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I did Digital Sabbath #4 yesterday. I spent the day on Coronado with my dad at Lindzonpalooza, the annual retreat put on by Howard Lindzon. We had a nice time hanging out Friday night as people arrived and then spent Saturday morning hearing short pitches from many of the companies Howard has invested in. I went for a two hour run in the early afternoon and then read Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation by Parker Palmer while my dad took a nap and practiced his snoring.

I haven’t been reading much the past six months. Usually I’m a voracious reader – 50 to 100 books a year is not unusual for me. But for some reason I haven’t felt like reading lately. I know some of it is my general mood and some has been the mental exhaustion from writing two books, but I’ve decided to start reading again as part of Digital Sabbath.

My good friend Jerry Colonna recommended Parker Palmer’s book to me. Jerry and Parker are doing a seminar in Boulder on 4/19 called Surviving the Startup Life: The Toll of Merging Identity and Work and, while I’ve heard of Parker numerous times, I’d never read anything by him.

Let Your Life Speak was really good. I read it at a good time for me as I continue to struggle with a depressive episode. Parker covers a lot of stuff but goes deep in one chapter about his own struggles with depression. It’s powerful – and very helpful to me – to read the first person stories about other people who sort through a real clinical depressive episode. Parker covered it bravely – and openly.

I had an excellent talk on Friday afternoon with my dad about what I’ve been struggling with since October. My dad is one of my heroes and closest friends. It’s hard to really connect deeply about this stuff over the phone so we sat for two hours in the sun outside a gelato store, ate our chocolate gelatos together, and talked. I’ve been processing a lot of the root cause of what’s going on and feel like I’m getting underneath some of it, and our conversation helped me get deeper into some of the issues. Parker’s book was a good reinforcement of several of the things I was struggling with.

We finished last night with a nice dinner with everyone overlooking the water and a very lit up San Diego. I just got back from a short run on the beach and am heading out for breakfast with my dad. Then, I’m off to the airport to spend a week in New York.

Boulder Startup Life Event Tonight at Riverside

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I’m going to be doing the first public Startup Life: Surviving and Thriving in a Relationship with an Entrepreneur talk tonight at Riverside at 7pm. If you don’t know Riverside, it’s a new co-working, event, and cafe space on 1724 Broadway in Boulder. It’s a beautiful old building that’s been a fixture in Boulder for a very long time. There’s a nice article about what Christian Macy and Richard Moser are working on with Riverside in the Boulder iJournal.

If you want to attend tonights event, please sign up. I’ll be there with a bunch of copies of Startup Life that I’ll be selling thanks to the magic of Square, my green pen to sign books, and to talk and hang out.

And, as the Startup Life marketing machine kicks into gear, don’t forget to enter Operation Win A Dinner with Us. It’s going on through Saturday, 2/2/13 at 11:59pm EDT.

Book: Wool Omnibus Edition (Wool 1 – 5)

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Wool Omnibus EditionI received a bunch of great scifi suggestions from my post The Best Science Fiction Books of All Time. One of them was Wool Omnibus Edition (Wool 1 – 5) which I gobbled down the past two days. The writer, Hugh Howey, has an inspirational arc which, if I ever get into writing scifi, I hope I follow.

I love post-apocalyptical Earth stories that just dump you into the middle, take off like a shot, and leave it to you to catch up as you slowly piece together what is going on. After a while, you get caught up to the current time and start trying to figure out how we got there. In the case of Wool, Howey stays one step ahead of you, feeding a little big of history a few pages before you need it, which gets you thinking down a new path for a while until just before you need a little more history, at which point he gives it to you.

After a hundred pages, I couldn’t put it down. We had friends staying over and I ended up on the couch, in a discussion, but sneaking pages when the conversation shifted away from me.

As I like to write no-spoiler book reviews, I loved the metaphor of the silo. If very effectively grounds the reality of the world that its citizens inhabit, while leaving open a series of horizontal questions about what the entirety of the world actually is. This doesn’t get answered in the first five books (which is what you get with the Omnibus edition) but the world does expand well beyond the silo.

I especially love the juxtaposition of politics (the mayor and the sheriff), IT, and mechanical in the arc of the story. Each of the three of these categories of people play critical roles and Hugh mines them extraordinarily well.

I’ve got book 6 and 7 on my Kindle. I’m going to read them after I read Rainbow’s End.

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