I’m Honored That I Get To Work With Ayah Bdeir At littleBits

I’ve been consistently public, for almost a decade, about my belief that we should significantly change our approach to immigration in the US, especially for entrepreneurs. As one of the original advocates of the Startup Visa, I continue to be bummed out that our government can’t seem to figure out why this is important or doing anything productive around it.

But, I’ve been appalled the past few days, as Amy and I spend time in Germany, to watch the Trump immigration enforcement that separates children from their parents and detain the children in separate locations. While we had a joyful anniversary yesterday, I felt a bitter emotional undercurrent that upset me.

I’m lucky that I was born an American citizen. Over the years, I’ve invested in many immigrant entrepreneurs. Amy and I have supported a number of organizations that help immigrants and refugees. But when I saw Ayah Bdeir’s blog post titled Zero Tolerance for Zero Tolerance on the littleBits blog, it brought tears to my eyes.

We’ve been investors in littleBits since 2013. I’ve gotten to know and deeply respect Ayah as a leader and an entrepreneur. But I especially appreciate her as a human being. Her story is an amazing one, and she continues to be brave about her experience and the values that have come from it.

In her words:

I know firsthand the strife of being a refugee. In 1982, my family fled my home country of Lebanon because they feared for our lives during the Lebanese-Israel war; we were welcomed in Canada with open arms. In 1989, a civil war broke out and my parents fled violence again to Canada, where we were again welcomed and allowed to live with dignity and respect. In 2006, a war broke out between Israel and Lebanon; my sister and I separated from my mom and other sisters to flee to Jordan, then the United Kingdom, then the United States.

I was 24-years-old, I was fully aware of what was going on, I spoke fluent English, and I had means to buy flights and hire a lawyer. Yet it was still a massively traumatizing experience. I cried for weeks afterwards and I remember every second vividly. The kids we are talking about today do not have any of the resources I had, and they will be scarred for life.”

The post is powerful and an example of the kind of intellectual leadership that makes me proud to know someone. She states clearly her view:

“History will judge us if we sit still and allow this to happen. Our kids will not forgive us if we don’t stand up for them. Our conscience will not rest if we allow something so basically human to appear partisan. We must speak out.”

Please read her entire post. In our current world of tweets and soundbites, I think it is even more important to read slowly and thoughtfully, especially from people who have direct experience with different situations that we are confronted with as a society.

And – if you want to help, here is a list of activist groups supporting families at the border that need your help right now.

Ayah – I’m honored to know you and get to work with you. Thank you for your very public leadership.

Happy 25th Anniversary Amy

Amy Batchelor and I have been married for 25 years today. Here’s what we looked like a long time ago on a vacation together in Cabo.

R.E.M. and Dilbert together kind of says it all.

Here’s another picture of us in our apartment at 15 Sleeper Street in Boston on Amy’s 25th birthday. Amy remembers that I took her out that night to Biba for dinner.

That keyboard is the one that almost burned down an entire fraternity building on 351 Mass Ave one night. But that’s another story. I loved Amy’s permed hair – maybe that look will come back in fashion some day.

Amy and I are in Dresden on our way to Berlin with my parents right now. They just celebrated their 55th anniversary, which is a remarkable achievement. I hope to have at least another 30 years with Amy.

Happy anniversary my beloved.

Do You Consider Yourself a Texan?

Did you know that 28.5714% of the partners at Foundry Group are Texans?

Recently, I was asked if I consider myself a Texan. I answered that I grew up in Texas, live in Colorado, was born in Arkansas, and went to school in Massachusetts. While I have a house in Alaska, I never lived there (that’s where Amy grew up.)

I hadn’t really thought about this before I answered the question. While Massachusetts was very good to me, I never felt at home living in Boston or Cambridge. I left Dallas 35 years ago (although my parents still live there.) I only lived in Blytheville for a year, although I just visited it with my dad a few months ago.

I’ve now lived in Colorado longer than anywhere else (22.5 years). But, I’m occasionally told by people who have lived in Boulder for over 25 years that I’m still a newbie. So, maybe I’m a Texas for a few more years, although Amy says definitively, “You are not.”

Capital Should Follow Talent

I love today’s post from Fred Wilson titled The Valuation Obsession. It has some good hints in it about valuation vs. ownership dynamics for founders, employees, and investors. It also calls out the silliness about focusing on the wrong things.

Go read it.

I’m even a bigger fan of a statement Fred makes in the post that William Mougayar calls out in the comments.

“I like to invest in companies that smart people are joining. Capital should follow talent, not talent following capital.

This is not just a statement on capital. It’s another hint to the importance – to a founder – of building an awesome team at every level of the journey. It matters at the beginning, as things ramp, and as a public company.

Capital should follow talent. That’s a line I know I’ll be using. I’ll try to remember to say “Fred Wilson says capital should follow talent, not the other way around, and I strongly agree.”

Colorado Health & Wellness Interview On Depression

Since I wrote about depression yesterday, I figured I’d highlight a long interview with Colorado Health & Wellness magazine on my history dynamics with depression titled Brad Feld’s Village.

I was interviewed by Sarah Protzman Howlett, who did a lot of research before the interview, and then spoke with a number of people close to me after we talked. She did a great job and the subsequent article captured a bunch of important things about depression. The only thing she got wrong was that I was wearing a Fitbit, not an Apple Watch.

There was a good summary of tactical things at the end of the article that a few people in my village (my wife Amy Batchelor and my close friends Dave Jilk and Jerry Colonna) suggested.

Call the doc. “Your primary-care doctor is a good place to start,” Batchelor says. “They have a much more public health component now, asking things like, ‘Are you safe at home?’ Take advantage of that access.”

Care for yourself. If you’re seeing your friend, loved one or spouse struggle, “It’s not selfish to take good care of yourself; you shouldn’t feel guilty if you need a break,” Batchelor says.

Give the gift of armor. By just showing up, you’re giving someone “an exoskeleton that they don’t themselves have or can’t create,” Colonna says.

Just be there. “You can’t really help actively,” Jilk says. “Consolation is kind of an error. It’s more about being there and listening.”

And don’t try to fix. “I see you’re struggling today” is a good jumping-off point, Colonna says, but don’t use it as a way to talk about your own experience (a common problem known as conversational hijacking).

Laugh. Or try to. “This is serious stuff, obviously,” Batchelor says, “but humor and laughter buoys the spirit and gives some relief in the moment.”

If you have a friend or colleague who is struggling with depression, I hope this is helpful.

The Discomfort of Depression and Suicide

While not a comfortable thing to talk about on Monday morning – or any morning for that matter – the suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain last week generated much public discussion. And, while the suicides were tragic, some of what people said and wrote were powerful and helpful to me.

I’ve talked openly about my struggles over the years with depression. I’ve been fortunate that suicidal ideation has not been a part of this for me. I’m also fortunate that I have a partner – in Amy – who I have a set of rules with if I ever start to go down that path. Basically, I feel safe, even in my worst distress, that someone is watching and is there for me, even in my darkest moments.

The stigma around depression in our society continues to be a huge burden for people suffering from it. This is especially true for high profile and successful people. In addition to the internal loops that get created by depression, there is external judgment, as in “You are successful – what business do you have being depressed – just shake it off!” that weighs on the depressed person. And, anyone who has ever been depressed knows that when the black dog is barking at you, it’s hard to hear anyone, or anything, else.

Several people I know wrote great posts worth reading to get more context. Each post touches on a different aspect of depression, against the backdrop of the suicides, in a very personal way.

Christopher Schroeder – Anthony Bourdain and the “Impossible” Suicide

Laura Rich – Kate Spade and Depression After Business Exit

Mike Porath – The First Person I Thought of When I Heard of Anthony Bourdain’s Suicide

If you, like me, were rattled by the suicide of either Kate Spade or Anthony Bourdain, I encourage you to let yourself feel the emotions you are feeling. It’s a line Amy uses with me all the time: “Brad, feel your emotions.” Don’t suppress them. Just feel them. Process them. And then reflect on what you are feeling. Any, more importantly, explore why you felt them.

It’s probably uncomfortable. But it’s part of being human. And, while tragic, we can learn from it to help ourselves, and help others.

It’s a sunny morning in Toronto, so it’s time for a run. That always helps me clear my mind.

Ray Dalio’s Principles of Success

I became a Ray Dalio fan earlier this year when I read his book Principles. I went on my Ray Dalio journey, read a bunch about him on the web, and watched some of his videos and interviews.

While on vacation last week, I watched his new 30-minute cartoon adventure Principles for Success. It’s spectacular and worth 30 minutes of your life to watch and ponder.

His Episode 4: The Abyss, made me think “just another one of those” (a Dalio construct that I’ve come to love.) My abyss happened between 2001 and 2003 and, while I wasn’t alone in my mistakes as Dalio was in his, I related deeply to it.

Interview: Have the Machines Taken Over?

I did a fun interview with Jeff Martin of Collective Genius as part of his LeadByChange interview series.

It’s 20 minutes on the Boulder Creek Path. We talk about Leadership, Obsession, Battlestar Galactica, Techstars, Privacy, The Wire, and a few other fun things, including whether the machines have taken over (or rather, when they took over.) Enjoy!

GP/LP Fit

The idea of product/market fit has been around for a long time. And, while founder/market fit is a newer concept, it turns out to be just as important.

Recently, Beezer Clarkson at Saphirre Ventures wrote a post titled Raising A Fund? 9 Questions That Help Get You To GP/LP Fit. If you are a GP raising a fund, you should go read this post right now. In it, Beezer goes through, in depth, the top questions she recommends you ask an LP to determine GP/LP fit.

  1. What are you currently investing in?
  2. Why venture and how long have you been investing in it?
  3. How much capital do you have under management, and how much of that is invested in venture?
  4. How many venture managers are you currently allocating to? Will you be allocating to any new managers this year?
  5. What strategies and geographies are you actively investing in?
  6. What is your preferred check size and fund size?
  7. What has been your history of supporting fund managers in follow-on funds? When you have not followed on in a fund, why not?
  8. Who is on the investment committee and what is your process for allocation approvals?
  9. Outside of great returns, what are your expectations of GPs post investment?

Seriously, go read Beezer’s post.

There’s an interesting graph in the post, which shows that a typical LP is going to add less than five new managers a year to their portfolio (and, on average, only two or three.) While an LP takes a lot of meetings, they don’t do a lot of investments.

GPs – does that sound familiar?

Book: What Made Maddy Run

I took Saturday off, slept a lot, and read What Made Maddy Run: The Secret Struggles and Tragic Death of an All-American Teen.

Kate Fagan has written a must-read book for every parent of a high school or college athlete.

The story of Madison Holleran is a heartbreaking one. Maddy was a star athlete in high school, in a big (five kids) happy family with two engaged parents. She played soccer and track and, after almost going to Lehigh for soccer, ended up going to Penn for track.

And, that’s when everything started to go wrong.

Maddy committed suicide a few days after returning for the second semester of her freshman year after trying, unsuccessfully, to quit the track team.

Maddy’s family gave the author, Kate Fagan, incredible access, which allowed Fagan to write a powerful book. Many different themes are explored, against the backdrop of Maddy’s development as a teenage athlete, the internal pressures of today’s teen, the struggle of entry into college and separation from home, and how depression can take hold of someone. While Maddy’s story is central to all of this, Fagan includes her own experience as a college athlete in areas, that make the writing incredibly relatable.

It’s not an easy book since you know the ending when you start it. It’s simple to fall in love with Maddy – she’s a delightful American kid. The joy in her friendships and experiences start off rich and light. You see the turn into darkness happen slowly. And, because it unfolds against the backdrop of Fagan’s analysis and intellectual exploration, it makes it more accessible.

On Sunday, I came across a full-page ad in the NY Times with Michael Phelps talking about his own depression for a new product called TalkSpace. I found a short video for it, which is below.

As a bonus, there’s a section in the book about Active Minds with some interviews with members. This is an organization for mental health in college students, which Amy and I support through our Anchor Point Foundation and that I wrote about in the post Mental Fitness, the NFL, Active Minds, and the Competitive Workplace.

If you are a parent of a teenage or college athlete, read this book. If you want to learn more about mental health and depression, read this book. And, if you want to get involved in organizations like Active Minds, just drop me an email.