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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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Free Shared Office Space In Downtown Boulder

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Trada is no longer doing Codespace – they’ve filled up the area with other companies. However, if you are looking for office space in Boulder for your startup, take a look at PivotDesk and give it a try.

When developers come through Boulder, I regularly get asked if I know a place for them to camp out and work for the day. There’s now a great solution – Codespace – hosted by Trada.

Boulderites know the local coffee shop / sushi scene where wifi is abundant. However, you now have a dedicated, free co-working space for developers on Walnut Street right in the middle of downtown (in the old Daily Camera building, now home to Trada). The Codespace philosophy is a simple one:

Code is free, so should be the space you create it in. If you’re in the neighborhood, come over and hang out – for an hour or the whole day. Enjoy some free wireless, scrawl on the whiteboards, rack up on endless caffeine, and enjoy hanging out and working with the smartest development talent in Boulder.

In addition to daily free options, there are a few dedicated spaces that you can apply for. Go check out the Codespace page or my partner Seth Levine’s longer description about Codespace. Most importantly, go check out Codespace. And please thank the gang at Trada for providing this for the Boulder entrepreneurial community.

I’ve Been Decloaked By The Folks At Big Red Scarves

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I went on vacation for a few days to celebrate Amy’s birthday and those sneaky scarf makers at Big Red Scarves expose me on the Internets.

I’ve been trying for months to discover their secrets to no avail. I’ve even had Amy take up knitting to try to figure it out.

But now I know. It’s Trada. The real secret is out – Big Red Scarves has been using Trada for their search engine marketing campaigns.  I should have been able to figure it out from the previous videos on the Internets staring Niel Robertson and Seth Levine, but I guess I missed them because I was too busy sheering sheep and cleaning off my sneakers.

I’m not done with them yet – just you wait.  Bwahahahahahahahaha.

- Vladamir Schlockfeld, Chief Researcher at Globoscarf (Brad’s evil twin)

VC Seed Funding Example: Trada

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My partner Seth Levine has a detailed post up today titled Trada – from the beginning that describes the creation and financing of Trada. Foundry Group is the seed investor in Trada and Seth’s post describes one example of what I think is effective VC seed investing.

The meat of the funding story follows:

“Of course coming up with the idea is the easy part. Executing against that idea is another matter. In this case neither Niel (nor I) had any interest in creating a traditional syndicate to fund the company. Instead we quickly put our heads together about a financing (we like to say it was over beers, but the truth is more mundane – we hammered out the details in a 10 minute conversation in the conference room of the Foundry office). We decided that we wanted to bring in some experts to help us with the business and together flew around pitching the business to a small handful of strategic angel investors to pull together a small syndicate that became the initial Trada investor base. Niel and I hammered out a second financing in similar fashion (again around the Foundry conference table, this time without the need for an angel roadshow). It’s a great example of how we like to work with entrepreneurs – especially those that we have a long history with. We like to be involved early (in this case before an idea for a business even existed) and we think of our angel investments as a down payment on a subsequent investment in the business (we’ realize that we need to give early businesses some time to develop).”

The short version is that the seed round was figured out in ten minutes – this was the “Series A”.  A few strategic angels were added to this round.  We did a second financing by ourselves at an increased valuation – this was the “Series B”.  Recently Google Ventures led the a $5.75m “Series C” round.

The terms on the Series A and B were straightforward as Niel Robertson, the founder/CEO of Trada is a sophisticated entrepreneur (Trada is his third company) so he had no patience (nor did we) for silly, complex early stage terms.  More importantly, the two key aspects of any deal – price and control – we able to be negotiated quickly between Seth and Niel, partly because of their long history working together which was built on mutual respect and trust.

When we funded the Series A (the seed round) of Trada, we fully expected we were at the beginning of a multi-round journey.  Seth does a great job of explaining how it got started – I encourage you to read his post for an example of one of the financing cases where I think a VC can be an excellent seed investor.

How Trada Works, Now Improved with Bing

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Trada – one of our investments that is based in Boulder – is absolutely killing it.  It was started by Niel Robertson, who we’ve worked with in various forms going back to the mid-1990’s.  When Niel first came up with the idea, he and my partner Seth Levine spent a few months really going deep and figuring out how (PPC) pay per click marketing campaigns (e.g. Google AdWords) worked and whether a crowdsourcing approach could materially improve their performance.  It turns out that it does – if you are doing any sort of PPC marketing you will see dramatic improvements by using Trada’s service.  And – if you are a PPC expert, you can make extra bucks by being one of the optimizers for Trada’s service.  But don’t take my word for it, hear it directly from Niel the scarf maker.

Recently, Trada announced that in addition to Google and Yahoo, they now support Bing.  Rather than putting out a turgid press release, Niel and Seth made a second video in a series that continues the saga of Niel the scarf maker.

If your company does anything around PPC marketing, take a look at Trada.  And – if you run into Seth on the street, ask him what he thinks of the Yankees.

New Thoughts on Stealth Mode

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We’ve been having a running joke within Foundry Group for several years about “stealth mode.”  My partner Seth alludes to it in his blog post a few years back titled To stealth or not to stealthI’ve always been on the side of “not to stealth” but after watching the remarkable stealth experience of Trada, thinking about how Niel Robertson (Trada’s CEO), Seth, and the Trada team have effectively used stealth mode, and reflecting on what “stealth mode” actually means, I’ve changed my mind.

Niel wrote a brilliant post on this titled The Stealth Mode: Trada’s Position on Staying Stealth.  I read it carefully when he first wrote it.  I just read it carefully again.  You should also.  It’s one of the best posts I’ve ever read on this topic.

Even though I enjoy hazing Seth, after reading the post again this morning, I thought about how other companies in our portfolio have been effective at using stealth mode principles from Niel’s post.  Even though Zynga is extremely visible these days, a number of the principles have consistently applied throughout the business, especially in the first year.  Oblong, which is absolutely crushing it, has been “playing their own game” for a long time.  AdMeld, another company that Seth is on the board of, adhered to many of these principles as they built up a massive position in their market.  And we’ve got another stealth company quietly building something amazing which I’m sure they’ll start talking about when they are ready.

Niel redefines stealth mode very nicely in his post and then applies it to how Trada went from an idea being bounced around between him, Seth, and a few other folks to a very unique business, growing like crazy, with no direct competitors or fast followers.  Sure – competitors may appear over time, but the head start that Trada has is dramatic and their ability to lead their market segment now that they’ve emerged from stealth mode is insured.

Read Niel’s post The Stealth Mode: Trada’s Position on Staying Stealth.  Actually, read it once, send it around to your executive team, read it again, and then discuss how it applies to your business.  It’ll be worth your time.

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