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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 Math: (.9)^10 = 1

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I had a wonderful time interviewing Larry Gold last night at Entrepreneurs Unplugged. Larry is a special guy and someone I learn from every time I’m with him. Among the many great stories he told, including a doozy about the time he was a sophomore at Yale, he had a powerful one about how entrepreneurs assess potential outcomes. It resulted in a fun version of entrepreneurial math.

Envision a scenario where you there are 10 separate things you need to do to have a successful outcome. Each one has a 90% probability of success. What’s the probability that you will achieve a successful outcome?

I struggled with 6.041: Probabilistic Systems Analysis and Applied Probability (the probability course I took as an undergraduate) – it was one of those courses where I felt like I was a week behind for the entire semester. I did better in 15.075: Statistical Thinking and Data Analysis - maybe I was a little older, it was a little easier than 6.041, or I was more interested because I liked the professor better. If you are having trouble with a quick answer, both courses are available to you on MIT OpenCourseWare.

Back to the question. If you guessed around 35% you are correct. It’s actually 34.87%, which is (.9)^10. Now, by using the word separate, I’m implying 10 independent events, but this is the nuanced joy of theory versus practice.

Larry pointed out with glee that regardless, entrepreneurs believe when they start down the path of doing these 10 things there will be a successful outcome. Hence entrepreneurs math is (.9)^10 = 1.

Whether you agree with the math or not, it’s a great anecdote. So many things that we try as entrepreneurs and investors fail. We never make an investment thinking “this isn’t going to work”; we always invest thinking “this will work.” I don’t know any entrepreneurs who started their business thinking “this will fail” or even “this only has a 35% chance of working out.”

This shit is hard. And it’s low probability. Even if you have an ultimately successful outcome, many of the things you are going to try along the way are going to fail. But to do them, you’ve got to believe they are going to work. You’ve got to enter into the illusion that (.9)^10 = 1.

Interviewing Luke Beatty on 10/7 at Entrepreneurs Unplugged

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I got to work closely with Luke Beatty this summer while he was running the Techstars Boulder program. In one word, he’s “awesome.” Deeply, truly awesome.

I knew Luke from a distance – we’d crossed paths a few times but never worked together. I watched him build a real company with Associated Content and sell it to Yahoo for $100 million. When David Cohen asked me what I thought of him for Managing Director of Techstars Boulder, I responded “Awesome if you can get him.”

Luke ran an amazing program this summer. I spent at least an hour a week with him and all the CEOs in the program in our top secret weekly CEO session. We worked together on the Intuit acquisition of GoodApril. And a bunch of other things.

I wasn’t surprised when Tim Armstrong at AOL made him an offer he couldn’t refuse and Luke joined AOL as Head of Strategic Partnerships. I knew Luke and Tim had gone to school together, were close friends, and that Tim was the first investor in Associated Content. While I’m bummed that Luke isn’t running Techstars Boulder anymore, I’m psyched I got a chance to really know him over the summer. Plus, it amuses me that he now has to use AOL Mail as his email system.

Come join us at Entrepreneurs Unplugged on Monday 10/7 at 6:15 at ATLAS. Register here.

Random Acts of Kindness – Wish of a Lifetime

Comments (6)

I adore Jeremy Bloom. He co-founded Integrate, which we are investors in. I’ve interviewed him for the Entrepreneurs Unplugged series I do at CU Boulder. We’ve been part of a few events together. He’s got an enormous heart, soul, and brain.

A while ago he created a foundation called Wish of a Lifetime. It’s a magnificent example of what I call “Random Acts of Kindness” and is a deep part of my value system.

Amy emailed me a great article in the Denver Post from earlier this week titled Dreams come true, thanks to Jeremy Bloom’s Wish of a Lifetime Foundation. Amy and I gave a major gift last year and just agreed to make another gift to Wish of a Lifetime.

If you are so inspired, contribute to Wish of a Lifetime right now. And if you want some motivation, or just want to see an interview with an awesome entrepreneur, human, friend, philanthropist, athlete, leader, and role model, watch the video below.

 

Entrepreneurs Unplugged Monday 9/24 With BlogFrog

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On Monday night 9/24 from 6:15 to 7:45 I’m co-hosting the first Entrepreneurs Unplugged session of Fall 2012 at CU Boulder. We’ll be at ATLAS in Room 100 and I’ll be interviewing Rustin Banks (CEO) and Holly Hamann (VP Marketing) of BlogFrog.

If you are interested in coming, please register here. It’s free, but we do have a limited number of seats. I love doing the Entrepreneurs Unplugged sessions – it’s a chance for me to interview some of the great Boulder entrepreneurs, especially up and coming ones like Rusty and Holly. I’ve known Holly since her time as VP of Marketing at Service Metrics, a company in which I was an investor in the late 1990′s and was a huge Boulder success story when they were acquired in 1999 by Exodus for $280 million. I met Rusty more recently, a few years ago when he was just starting BlogFrog. While I’m not an investor, I introduced him to a few friends of mine including David Cohen of TechStars who helped him put together his angel round.

Since Rusty and Holly started BlogFrog, they’ve create a rapidly growing company that is another Boulder success story. They raised a $3.2 million round in the spring and have gained national visibility in the past year for creating a great new approach to influence marketing.

Rusty, Holly, and BlogFrog have a great story. Come hang out with me Monday at CU Boulder and hear it.

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Entrepreneurs Unplugged With Nancy Phillips

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I’ll be interviewing Nancy Phillips on Monday, November 14th for our latest installment of Entrepreneurs Unplugged. I’ve worked with Nancy over the past few years on a couple of things, including the National Center for Women & Information Technology, and she’s awesome.

Nancy is the co-founder and COO of ViaWest, a leading co-location and managed services provider well known to many companies in Colorado. Her entrepreneurial experience includes RMI.net, ITC Worldwide (now Genesys Conferencing), and ConferTech International (now Global Crossing). She’s also been a big supporter of many technology related organizations in Colorado, including NCWIT and the Colorado Technology Association.

Come join me on Monday (11/14) from 6:15pm – 7:30pm to hear Nancy’s story. We’ll be at ATLAS Room 100 at the University of Colorado at Boulder. The event is free, but please register.

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