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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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Glue Conference Invites New Startups To Apply To Participate For Free

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Eric Norlin is a conference master organizer.  The original conference we helped Eric create – Defrag – is happening for the fourth time in ten days in Boulder (11/17-11/18).  I know of several major announcements that are happening around the conference along with a long list of amazing people that are attending that I’ll get to hang out with for two days.

In the run up to Defrag, something awesome happened last week as Eric continues to work on the two other conferences he runs – Glue and Blur.  Alcatel-Lucent signed on to be the Community Underwriter and Partner Sponsor of Gluecon 2011.

Before I explain why that’s exciting, let me describe Glue in Eric’s words:

Glue is aimed aimed at developers, The topics are far technical and because Glue isn’t defined as “a cloud computing” conference, it’s not caught in the echo chamber of “defining” this, that and the other thing. Glue seeks to explore the connective “tissue” of the web and IT infrastructure. That connective tissue can be called a lot of things: service oriented architecture, web services, APIs, cloud computing, etc. But call it what you will, developers know that it’s not the name that counts, it’s the building of the application, and the underlying infrastructure that supports it.

His goal is simple: make Glue the gathering place for developers in the API/Cloud space.  Alcatel-Lucent has agreed to underwrite 15 companies to have free demo space at Gluecon (i.e., the demo pod includes passes to the show, signage, internet — everything you need; just show up with a laptop).

The companies will be selected by merit by the following group of people.

  • Eric Norlin
  • Chris Shipley (Guidewire Group)
  • Mathew Ingram (of MESH and GigaOm)
  • John Musser (Programmable Web)
  • Laura Merling (Alcatel-Lucent)
  • Alex Williams (ReadWriteWeb)
  • Jeff Lawson (Twilio)
  • Jeff Hammond (Forrester)
  • Ian Glazer (Gartner)
  • Ben Kepes (Diversity.net)
  • Vinod Kurpad (Best Buy)
  • Seth Levine (Foundry Group)

The process will be simple: Eric will accept applications for the 15 spots, every person on the selection committee gets one vote, and the top 15 vote getters have a demo pod.

Eric is trying to change the game with this one. If you take away the company specific conferences (Google i/o, Twitter, F8), there really just aren’t that many national-level gathering spots for developers in the cloud/API space. The key word here is “developers.”

Eric’s goal (with Alcatel-Lucent’s sponsorship) is to make it easy for 15 new and exciting companies to show up and participate. If you are one of those companies, apply now for the Alcatel-Lucent Demo Pavilion at Glue.

Standing Cloud Launches Business Edition

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In March I wrote about Standing Cloud‘s public launch of a free service to test drive open source applications.  As reported today in TechCrunch, Standing Cloud has now launched it’s Business Edition, a service that enables users to also host applications on any of four cloud providers. As with the free edition, they have made it remarkably easy to get started: you register (including providing payment information), select your cloud provider and application, and go.  Currently, the easiest setup is with Rackspace, where Standing Cloud can automatically assign a billing account to you; this easy setup is coming soon for GoGrid and Amazon EC2.

In the Business Edition launch, the Standing Cloud service provides fast and simple installation, automated regular and manual backups and simple application monitoring.  Importantly, the backups can be restored to any cloud service, not just the one where you started.  You can also easily reboot the application if it seems troubled, upload text files (including templates or other customizations), and if you are so inclined, access the server command line through a terminal window that operates within your browser.  Through September 30, the only fees Standing Cloud is charging is for the server time and bandwidth usage; after that it will cost an additional $19.95/month for their service – which by then will include a number of additional features.

There are now more than fifty open source applications available in Standing Cloud – so they’ve organized them in a searchable list format. There is also no technical limitation requiring that the applications be open source, so if you are looking to promote or enable users to host your commercial application, send me an email and I’ll connect you with the right person at Standing Cloud.

Fun and Games with BigDoor

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We recently invested in a Seattle company called BigDoor Media.  The founder/CEO Keith Smith wrote a wonderful love story about the deal which was picked up by the WSJ VC Dispatch in a post titled A Summer Romance Between Founder And Venture Capitalist.  Yes, I’ve fallen in love (in a very non-sexual way) with Keith, his co-founder Jeff Malek, and BigDoor.

Over the past year I’ve become increasingly obsessed with the idea that the computers are going to take over.  I’ve even begun to think that we are already working for them. So – why not have fun while we are at it?  By using a light weight API approach, BigDoor enables any non-game publisher to quickly integrate game mechanics such as points, badges, levels, leaderboards, virtual currency, and virtual goods into their web and mobile applications.  They’ve already rolled out integrations with Cheezburger Networks and BuddyTV and have a pile of additional publishers launching in the next 90 days.

BigDoor straddles our Glue and Distribution themes.  While Glue may be familiar to you, Distribution is a new theme that we’ll be talking about soon when we re-segment Glue into a couple of new themes to more clearly delineate what we’ve been investing in over the past two years.

I’ve already been spending plenty of time in Seattle due to Gist, Impinj, TechStars Seattle, and some other good friends that I have there.  In fact, according to Daytum, I’ve spent 14 nights there in the past eighteen months.  I expect I’ll be spending plenty more there soon, including a few next week on my way to Alaska.

If you are a web publisher, take a look at what BigDoor can do for you.  And, while you are at it, check out Lijit if you haven’t already incorporated the slickest publisher search on the planet – now with an ad network and a fresh $6m – into your site.

Things To Hate About API-TOS

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I’m at the Glue Conference all day.  So far, it’s far exceeded my already high expectations.  I’m now sitting in the API track and the first two presentations have been dynamite.  Clay Loveless from Mashery just did a presentation titled “5 Things I Hate About Your API-TOS“.  He nailed it.  Here are his top five (most important last), along with some commentary from me. 

For simplicity, I’ll call the company providing the API’s the “platform company” and the companies using the API as the “ecosystem partners.”  Also – I’m not picking sides here as I’m an investor in both “platform companies” and “ecosystem partners”.  Rather, I’m just trying to summarize Clay’s points, bring out a few ideas, and give you a sense of the kind of stuff we are talking about at Glue.

5. Do You Think My Code is Yours?  While it may seem like a stretch that a platform company trying to create an ecosystem would try to assert this, the phrase “derivative rights” appears in a surprising number of platform company API’s.  And I’ve run into people that actually believe they own the code (or rights to the code) developed by their ecosystem partners.  The only thing I can say to this one is “be careful and don’t accept absurd assertions.”

4. It’s Just Tooooooo Loooooong.  This one is related to the next one, but it’s what happens when the lawyers take over.  See #3.

3. It’s Written in Legalese, But I Speak Geek.  Thanks for the 14 page TOS – now what the fuck does it mean?  Give me a one page summary in plain English and bullet points.  Be “ecosystem friendly” – all the time.  Don’t bury the lead on page 11.  Just tell me the rules so I can play by them.

2. Commercial Use OK Or Not?  I’m seeing this become increasingly contentious between some platform companies and their ecosystem partners.  Until the platform company is successful, this is a mellow and happy situation.  Once the platform company becomes successful, often in part to the adoption of their API by their ecosystem partners, the platform company starts trying to split out commercial and non-commercial use, at least in certain areas.  If you are an ecosystem partner and you think this evolution should be against the rules, just check page 10 of the TOS (per point #4) where it says “Company reserves the right to change any aspect of the TOS at any time in the future.” 

1. TOS != Product Roadmap Communication Platform.  As an ecosystem partner, you should assume the platform company will change its roadmap over time to support its business goals. It can be painful when this happens in the context of a TOS change, although I think there are some cases where the platform company just has to say “ok – here’s how we are going to do things going forward – deal with it.”  The solution to this one is clear and open bi-directional communication – as long as there is trust and no one is trying to hide the ball or do things that are clearly “over the line” in terms of the TOS, these situations are usually quickly resolvable with an appropriate commercial agreement.

Oh – and if you want to run Java on an Apple IIc, here’s how you do it.

Google I/O and Glue Conference Up Next

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Early tomorrow morning, I’m heading out to San Francisco to spend two days at Google I/O 2010.  I love technical conferences – the Google I/O 2010 agenda looks killer.  I’m also on two panels – they’ve invited some VCs who code to participate in Technology, innovation, computer science, & more: VC panel moderated by standup comedian Twitter COO Dick Costolo and Making Freemium work – converting free users to paying customers moderated by Microsoft evangelist Google Developer Advocate Don Dodge.

Then, next week I’m spending two days in Boulder (well – Broomfield, but close enough) at the second annual Glue Conference.  The agenda is also killer, is built around the Foundry Group’s Glue theme (e.g. it’s super relevant to us), and has a superb list of sponsors who will be attending and participating.  Did I say the agenda was killer?  The amazing thing about Glue is that the speakers are part of the conference – part of the reason we have it in Boulder is to drive deep multi-day engagement amount all attendees (speakers, attendees, and sponsors).  Eric Norlin, who created Glue (and Defrag, and Blur) is a master at creating these types of specialty conferences.

I know many of my friends will be at both and I’m looking forward to seeing a lot of folks that I have mostly an email relationship with.  While you can’t get into Google I/O anymore, Glue is still open for registration.  And Eric has set up a discount code of “googleio” for 10% off the conference price.  Finally, to all my local Boulder and Denver friends that have been thinking about coming, your cost is about a round trip plane flight to the bay area and a night at a hotel, except this time everyone is coming to you.  So come out and play!

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