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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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CU Deming Center of Entrepreneurship Is Hiring A New Director

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Deming Center LogoThe Deming Center for Entrepreneurship at CU is looking to hire a new Director. As part of the Leeds School of Business, the Deming Center prepares students across CU’s campus to think like entrepreneurs, act as social innovators and deliver as successful business leaders. It actively engages the community members of Boulder in order to accomplish this. The Deming Center also partners closely with Silicon Flatirons and other CU organizations to put on events such as the New Venture Challenge, Productive Collisions, and annually hosts the regional Venture Capital Investment Competition for MBA students.

This is an exciting opportunity to be part of CU and the larger Boulder entrepreneurship community. The person who serves in this Director role will have a unique opportunity to work with individuals both inside and outside the University to help foster and shape entrepreneurship on and off the campus. This person will also be responsible for the overall brand of the center as well as its operational and financial oversight. If you want to be part of a unique contributor to Boulder’s startup ecosystem, apply here!

The Power of Peer Groups

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For the past two days I’ve been at an even called SERGE (Seasoned Entrepreneurs Gathering Exchange). I co-founded it with two long time friends, Martin Babinec (founder of Trinet) and Keith Alper (founder of Creative Producers Group). Martin, Keith and I have known each other since the mid-1990s when we were much younger entrepreneurs playing leadership roles at the Young Entrepreneurs Organization (now simply “EO”).

We each invited about ten entrepreneurs and their partners to the event. 50 people showed up – 25 entrepreneurs and their partners – and we spent two days on Miami Beach hanging out and covering a lot of different topics. All of us were between the ages of 40 and 50 (+/- a few years), have each had at least one successful business, and were from all over the US and in plenty of different industries.

We had a solid 12 hours spread over two days in a conference room where the following eight topics were discussed.

  • How Will You Measure Your Life?
  • Mentor Manifesto
  • Impact in the Public Interest – Doing Something That Matters
  • Finding and Managing High Impact Board Members
  • B Corps – Leveraging Social Purpose To Drive A Business
  • Setting Up Family Office to Manage Diversified Portfolio
  • Leading the Team: CEO Habits That Set The Pace
  • Maximizing Impact of Your Angel Investing

One of led on each topic (for example, I kicked things off with “How Will You Measure Your Life?” – talked for about 15 – 30 minutes, and then facilitated a discussion for the balance of an hour.

It was amazing. If you’ve ever been in an organization like YEO, YPO, EO, Birthing of Giants, or Gathering of Titans, it was like a “super forum”. Two days with peers, talking confidentially and intimately about a wide range of issues, and getting to know each other at a different level. In this case, there were three intersecting groups (mine, Martin’s, and Keith’s) so you got the added bonus of meeting a set of new people that were highly vetted to be your peers that you could immediately trust and engage with.

Partners were included. Some – like Amy – participated for most of it. Others didn’t. This was the only big miss – we should have worked harder to include all the partners in the entire discussion, and have several of them lead topics. Next time.

Once again I was reminded of the power for entrepreneurs of spending time with your peers outside of the craziness of the daily schedule. 50 people invested two days of their life in this event – the feedback I’ve heard so far was awesome. And – for me personally – it was very rewarding.

If you are an entrepreneur, do yourself a favor and find a peer group. If you don’t know where to start, try Entrepreneurs Organization. You’ll thank me in 10 years.

Dying Much Too Early

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I woke up to an email today from Aaron Schwartz, founder of Modify. I don’t know Aaron other than our email exchanges but he thanked me for Venture Deals which he said has been very helpful to him.  His note went on to say:

A close friend of mine, and one of my best friend’s co-founders just passed away after a 15-month battle with non-smoker’s lung cancer. I thought the below article was incredibly revealing about how meaningful a partner and leader can be for a start-up. If you think it would be useful to other entrepreneurs, I hope you’ll take a moment and share it.

I went on to read Farewell Hansoo, We’ll Miss You, a beautiful tribute by Bhavin Parikh, the CEO and co-founder of Magoosh. At the end, I had tears in my eyes. Hansoo is 35 and just died of cancer, which was discovered a year ago. I have several friends fighting cancer right now and had one die last year and this story really touched me – of the intimacy of the relationship between co-founders, the beauty of spirit of Hansoo, and how rapidly loved ones and partners can be taken from us.

I just made a donation to the The Hansoo Lee Fellowship to support entrepreneurs. The fellowship will provide  a stipend and mentorship to help Berkeley-Haas MBA students pursue their venture full-time for their summer internship, as Hansoo did. MBA students will receive a summer stipend of $5 – $10K, Mentorship from Haas alums focused on entrepreneurship, and office space.

At the minimum, I encourage you to read Farewell Hansoo, We’ll Miss You. And if you are inspired, make a contribution to the Hansoo Lee Fellowship.

Shifting My Focus To Scaling Up

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I’ve spent the past two days at the Global Entrepreneurs Congress in Rio. It’s been really powerful for me as it’s shown how broadly the message of Startup Communities has taken hold across the world. At the point I can see that the Startup Communities movement is in full swing, the language and principles that I introduced in the book are being talked about, dissected, and improved on, and many entrepreneurs around the world are leading the development of the startup community in their city.

In a discussion with my long time friend Paul Kedrosky, we talked about a paper he’s writing about the number of “important companies” that get to $100 million in revenue. Our discussion shifted to the magic number – was $100m the right number for “important”, or was it $50m, or $25m, or even $10m. At some point we both realized it wasn’t about a magic number, but about the concept of “scaling up” a business once it had started up.

I’ve been hearing the phrase “scale up” a lot lately. The first time I noticed it being used was in Daniel Isenberg’s post Focus Entrepreneurship Policy on Scale-Up, Not Start-UpWhile I didn’t agree with the tone of Daniel’s article, the meta-point, that we need to put more attention into focusing on scaling up businesses, range true with me.

I view the concept of startup and scale up as linked. You have to have a vibrant “startup community” to get to the point where you have enough interesting companies to “scale up.” Many geographies haven’t had enough focus on “startup.” That has dramatically shifted and entrepreneurs around the world understand what “startup” is, are learning and doing it, and a phenomenal amount of activity is happening around it.

So, I’m shifting my focus for the balance of 2013 on “scaling up.” Fortunately, I’ve got a great laboratory for this – the Foundry Group portfolio. Of the 55 active companies we’ve got in our portfolio, more than half are solidly in the “scale up” zone – some scaling very rapidly. In the same way that I used Boulder to form my thesis on Startup Communities, I’ll use our portfolio, and my activity with it, to form my thesis around scaling up. That’s where I’m going to turn my intellectual attention over the balance of the year.

This is consistent with the next three books in the Startup Revolution series – Startup CEO (written by Matt Blumberg, CEO of Return Path), Startup Boards (written by me and Mahendra Ramsinghani), and Startup Metrics (written by me and Seth Levine). Each of these are a lot more about “scaling up” than “starting up.”

As part of this, I’ve shut down all my travel for the rest of the year (starting in May, as I’ve got some commitments for the next six weeks that are too close in to cancel.) But I’m going to spending a lot more time in one physical place (Boulder), going deep on the notion of scaling up, while continuing to support the incredible energy around startups that has a wonderful and amazing life of its own.

Startup Visa Act 2013 Introduced By Udall (D-Colo) and Flake (R-Ariz)

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Today appears to be government day on Feld Thoughts. This morning I wrote about the Colorado PUC trying to shut down Uber in Colorado (bad). Now I get to write about Senators Mark Udall (D-Colo.) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) re-introducing the Startup Visa Act of 2013 (good).

Mark – thank you – you’ve been an awesome supporter of this and leader of the effort since the first day we discussed it in 2009. Senator Flake – thank you for showing leadership on this issue.

Yesterday, as part of his Comprehensive Immigration Report plan, President Obama explicitly listed the Startup Visa as one of the initiatives.

Obama: “Create a “startup visa” for job-creating entrepreneurs.  The proposal allows foreign entrepreneurs who attract financing from U.S. investors or revenue from U.S. customers to start and grow their businesses in the United States, and to remain permanently if their companies grow further, create jobs for American workers, and strengthen our economy.”

He also supported stapling green cards to diplomas, something I’ve been advocating since my OpEd with Paul Kedrosky in the Wall Street Journal on 12/2/09 titled Start-up Visas Can Jump-Start the Economy.

Feld/Kedrosky: We also think science and engineering graduates should get visas stapled to their diplomas. You complete your higher education here, you get to stay so that you can get out and create jobs, innovate, and grow the economy. Uncle Sam wants you, if you’re a prospective entrepreneur.

Obama: “Staple” green cards to advanced STEM diplomas.  The proposal encourages foreign graduate students educated in the United States to stay here and contribute to our economy by “stapling” a green card to the diplomas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) PhD and Master’s Degree graduates from qualified U.S. universities who have found employment in the United States.  It also requires employers to pay a fee that will support education and training to grow the next generation of American workers in STEM careers.

Fred Wilson, who has also been a vocal leader for these initiatives, expressed his appreciation that these issues are now part of the national immigration reform discussion in his post The Startup Visa.

Wilson: The President announced yesterday that he was in favor of a Startup Visa. Hallelujah. … It’s a shame that it takes almost four years before a good idea gets the President’s support. And its a greater shame that there are many in Congress who will still vote against this idea.

Fred and I are both paranoid optimists – we both hope this gets done this time around. Our country deserves it. Senators Udall and Flake – thank you for the leadership here.

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