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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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Entrepreneurs and #RubyRiot In Boston

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If I’ve learned one thing in my life, it’s that nothing is static.

Periodically the meme surfaces that “the only place you can create a great software / Internet company is in the bay area.” While I think the bay area is a special place, anyone that knows me knows that I strongly believe there are several great entrepreneurial communities throughout the US and the potential for many more.

Boston has always been a great entrepreneurial community. Sure – it’s had it’s ups and downs, but when I lived here from 1983 to 1995 the entrepreneurial vector was awesome. I started my first company (Feld Technologies) here in 1987 and made my first angel investment (NetGenesis) here in 1994.

When TechStars opened a Boston program in 2009 there was definitely new energy around the software / Internet startup scene in Boston and TechStars was excited to be part of. When I say “Boston”, I actually mean “Boston/Cambridge” where the center of mass is really near MIT in Cambridge. The venture capital community has finally realized this (again) and much of the physical location of the VCs is shifting to the Cambridge / Kendall Square area with a little in Harvard Square (a 10 minute cab or train ride from Kendall Square.)

I spent the day at TechStars Boston yesterday meeting with all of the TechStars Boston 2011 companies. They are halfway through the program and are stunning. Three months ago I was super psyched about the quality of the TechStars NY 2011 companies as they were halfway through the program. The Boston program, under the leadership of Katie Rae, has taken it up another notch!

Last night at dinner I met a bunch of the TechStars Boston mentors. Katie has recruited some folks I’ve never met before and I asked her to put together a dinner with the people I didn’t know. It was just awesome – super food at Evoo, great conversation, and really impressive people. Tonight we have a TechStars Boston mentor happy hour so I’ll get to see a bunch of old friends and the rest of the TechStars Boston mentors.

At the end of dinner, Matt Lauzon, the founder/CEO of Gemvara, told me about this thing he and some friends had created called #RubyRiot. It’s a “pay-it-forward” event where everyone that comes asks for an introduction to one person (anyone on the planet) and everyone in attendance works together to make the introduction happen. Matt asked me if I’d sponsor the event – Fred Destin piled on and said he’d put up $1k if I did, then Reed Sturtevant did also, and Gus Weber from Dogpatch finished us off. I’m an easy mark so I jumped in the boat.

As I walked back to my hotel, I was buzzing from the day. I believe to my core that the entrepreneurs create and sustain entrepreneurial communities. Everyone else, including VC’s like me, are participants. And it’s just awesome to see the next generation of Internet entrepreneurs reignite the fire in Boston (well – Cambridge) and drag the last generation back into it.

TechStars Boston Applications Are Heating Up

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The TechStars Boston application deadline is 1/31/11.  However, the early application deadline is actually 1/13/11 – anyone that applies by this date is eligible to come to TechStars for a Day in Boston on 1/19/2011.

Katie Rae, the new TechStars Managing Director is doing an awesome job.  I just got a note that we’ve already gotten more applications this year than we had last year.  Even more excitingly, they are covering a wide range of companies – some deep tech, social media, health care informatics, robotics, and ecommerce.

Boston has always had a wide range of early stage companies with unique characteristics, most notably robotics and network and system layer software, so it’s great to entrepreneurs from these segments show up.  We’ve also got some fun surprises on new mentors for 2011 in Boston that match up with these segments that we’ll be announcing soon.

So – don’t wait – apply to TechStars Boston now!  TechStars Year 3 in Boston is shaping up to be the best yet.

Angel Boot Camp in Boston on June 1

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Jon Pierce of BetaHouse has decided to organize an Angel Boot Camp in Boston on June 1st. The idea is that anyone interested in learning more about how to get started with angel investing can attend and learn from some people who’ve been there and done that.

David Cohen at TechStars wrote about why he thinks it’s important.  Jon Pierce also wrote about why he’s doing Angel Boot Camp as well as listing some of Boston’s Best Angel Investors.

While June 1 is still several months away, sign up and put Angel Boot Camp on your calendar now.

Are You A Boston Based Entrepreneur Looking for a Mentor?

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My long time friend Warren Katz pointed me out to an event on March 3, 2010 called EO Boston Accelerator Shark Bowl 2010.  It’s a competition for entrepreneurs under 40 with businesses between $100k / year and $1m / year in revenue.  You present to a group of judges including Warren (MAK Technologies), Rich Farrell (Full Armor), Clark Waterfall (Boston Search Group), and Michael Hackel (DiningIN) who are all EO Boston members.

In 1993 I was the founder of the Young Entrepreneurs Organization Boston Chapter and member #1.  My forum group, “Forum Group 1” is apparently still meeting monthly.  And while YEO changed its name to EO, my friend Warren who has been a member from the very beginning tells me the group is still going very strong (the stats look like 88 members with total sales of $427m and 2,231 employees across all of the companies.)

If you fit the qualifications, I’d encourage you to participate.  It’s free, you’ll get some great practice and advice, and meet a bunch of new entrepreneurial peers.  To participate, you must register and to present you must sent your presentation to Caryn Saitz by March 1st. 

Go Boston (and Cambridge) – you are making me proud these days!

Startups at 351 Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge, MA

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Scott Kirsner had a fun article in Boston.com today titled The Red Line Tour of Innovation in Boston. Several of the stops were regularly hang outs of mine between 1983 and 1995 most notably #10 (Miracle of Science) and #11 (Toscanini’s) but also including #5 (MIT Media Lab), #6 (Muddy Charles Pub), #7 (MIT Lobby 7), and #8 (Central Square and the Necco Factory – back when they made Necco wafers.)

I lived at ADP at 351 Massachusetts Avenue for four years as an undergraduate at MIT.  It was the first frat I went to when the freshman picnic ended (Mark Dodson grabbed me, shoved me in a white van, and said “you are coming with me.”)  I stayed the first night and never left.  Yes – it was a fraternity.Our Annual Foam Party

But we were also nerds.  There was something in the water and a lot of companies were created.  Scott got a few of them such as Colin Angle of iRobot, Jeet Singh and Joe Chung of ATG, and Frank van Mierlo of Bluefin Robotics, but I thought I’d add a few more.  While the founders of Harmonix (the guys that brought us Rock Band and Guitar Hero) came from the Media Lab, one of them (Eran Egozy) also lived at ADP.  As did my first business partner Dave Jilk, who is now CEO of Standing Cloud.  And two of the founders of Oblong – John Underkoffler and Kevin Parent.  Let’s not forget two well known VCs – Sameer Gandhi (Accel) and Mark Siegel (Menlo).  Oh – and Carl Dietrich’s flying car from Terrafugia.  We also lived next door (WILG – 355 Mass Ave) to some other impressive entrepreneurs including Megan Smith (Google and PlanetOut).  There have been plenty of others through the years – these are just the ones I can remember off the top of my head.  If you should be on the ADP entrepreneur list, please comment on this blog and add your name for posterity (and Google searches).

My first company (Feld Technologies) used 351 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA  02139 as my office address for the first few years of its life (I officially started the company as a sophomore, although my partner Dave Jilk joined me shortly after I got my undergraduate degree.)  But Feld Technologies wasn’t the first company I started at 351 Massachusetts Avenue – that honor went to Martingale Software and my partners Dave Jilk, Sameer Gandhi, Andy Mina, and Jeff Pierick.  We raised $10k, bought a Lisa and a Compaq luggable, earned about $7k, and eventually folded the company and sent the $7k back to our investors.

During the four years I lived there and the two years I had an office at 875 Main Street, I ate an enormous amount of ice cream at Toscanini’s. To this day, Cocoa Pudding with chocolate fudge syrup on top rates as the best ice cream choice I’ve ever had on planet Earth.

One fall, after Feld Technologies had moved to Boston, we hired a recent graduate from Brown named Jonathan Lutes.  While interviewing him I asked what he had done over the summer.  He mumbled something like “screwed around a lot and built a bar called Miracle of Science with my brother Eric.”  Yup – same bar – this was 1990-ish – and it was at 321 Massachusetts Avenue.

Sometimes I actually miss the smell of Necco wafers in the morning.  It smells like ADP.

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