Month: May 2016

May 31 2016

Homer, Alaska and the Super Bowl

I was at a Nima board meeting today and was asked by a new friend on the team about my link to Homer, Alaska. After a brief explanation, I said “McDonald’s made Homer famous around some Super Bowl by making a completely inappropriate TV ad there.” I couldn’t remember the year – I thought it was in the 1980s somewhere.

It was 1990. Google found it immediately. It’s hilarious, and completely inappropriate. This is where Amy and I live, some of the time.

And then after the game.

San Francisco destroyed Denver 55-10. Don’t ask me why I knew that.

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May 30 2016

Writing, Running, and Reading

Snoopy in SummertimeIt’s summertime and Snoopy is happy.

I’m happy also. Summer is my favorite season. I’ve always been at my most creative in the summer and some of the profound life experiences that influenced me happened during the summer.

When I was a pre-teen, summer meant tennis. Endless tennis. Eight+ hours a day in the Texas heat except for the three weeks I went to Camp Champions.  It was awesome. I remember one summer with over 30 days of temperatures over 100 degrees. A break for lunch inside at the North Dallas Racquet Club felt really decadent. It was always a challenge to get back outside at 1pm, but we did it. And kept playing tennis.

I spent the summer between 11th grade and 12th grade living in Knightsbridge, just outside of London, and working for Centronics at their office in South Kensington. I wrote software on an Apple ][ to design the character sets for Centronics printers, ran a lot, learned how to drink beer, got into the drama of the Falklands War, and endured a Tube strike.

In college, summer meant going back home to Dallas. I worked for PetCom for several summers, putting in 80 – 100 hours per week writing software. Then one summer I rented a house at 2430 Denmark in Garland, Texas from my mom where Feld Technologies really got its start. I drove my mom’s Mercedes 240D around that summer – it went from 0 to 60 in about two minutes.

You get the idea. Every summer is a different adventure for me. Several years ago I wrote Startup Communities and Startup Life over the summer. This summer I’m finishing up the 3rd Edition of Venture Deals and writing the first draft of my newest book #GiveFirst. I’m gearing up to be in marathon shape with the goal of running the Portland Marathon in October. And I plan to make a healthy dent in my infinite pile of books.

This summer is going to be about writing, running, and reading. While the rest of the US is playing politics, I’m going to side step that since I expect the amount of negative energy around it will be legendary this cycle. I’m in a great rhythm around our portfolio and investing so I know what that tempo will be like. And, while I’ll travel a little, Amy and I planning on spending the summer in Boulder.

I’ll see you around town, if you are here. And now, I’m off for a two hour run.

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May 27 2016

Venture Deals 3rd Edition Teaching Materials

We are starting to work on the teaching materials for the 3rd edition of Venture Deals, which is coming out in the fall of 2016.

If you have either taught or taken a class using Venture Deals and are willing to talk to our publisher at Wiley about what kind of teaching materials would make the book even more useful, please send me an email.

As part of this, we are doing a refresh of the Ask the VC website so if you have suggestions for that, just toss them in the comments.

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May 26 2016

The Next Reboot VC Bootcamp

Signups are open for the second Reboot VC Bootcamp happening January 19-22, 2017. It will – once again – be at my house in Longmont, Colorado.

If you are interested, here are some reactions to the first Reboot VC Bootcamp.

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May 25 2016

Book: Startup Rising

On my vacation a few weeks ago, I read Chris Schroeder‘s book Startup Rising: The Entrepreneurial Revolution Remaking the Middle East. It was outstanding.

I had dinner with Chris recently in Boulder. We were introduced by our joint friend Ben Casnocha. Chris made the effort to come visit me in Boulder, which I always appreciate as it’s a way for me to be completely in the moment for an extended period of time when meeting someone new. We met at Wild Standard around 7pm and left when they closed the restaurant.

It was one of my most enjoyable conversations so far in 2016. I immediately felt a kinship with Chris. While we’ve wandered different paths, we’ve overlapped a lot including on this a16z Podcast about How Innovation Ecosystems Grow Around the Globe. I had a copy of Startup Rising on my Kindle from a while ago but had never read it. Our meeting, dinner, and long conversation inspired me to move it to the top of my infinite pile of books.

Chris goes extremely deep on the state of entrepreneurship in the Middle East. His travels through the region are extensive and his story telling, interviews, and examples are as well done as any that I’ve read in a book about entrepreneurship. It’s all prose – he doesn’t take the shortcut of just telling standalone examples or having others write segments about what they are doing. The people he spends time with – along with the businesses – come to life as he paints a rich picture of things that are actually going on and the people behind them.

But the book isn’t just storytelling. Chris creates a framework for how to think about the different participants in the Middle East startup community. He describes various challenges in different countries along with how entrepreneurs work around or through them. And he isn’t afraid to address difficult subjects, like religion and geopolitics, as he explores what was going on at the time.

Chris wrote the book in 2012 and it was published it in 2013. While it stands the test of time and is an excellent introduction to entrepreneurship in the region, I’d love to see a second edition updated for the current reality of 2016. But, for now, I view this as the definitive guide the entrepreneurship in the Middle East.

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May 24 2016

Taking My Running Up to Another Level

I spent the day yesterday with Seth, Ryan, and Jason at our quarterly offsite. We finished, as is our tradition, with dinner at Frasca, which involved a lot of wine. I rarely drink wine anymore as I never feel good the next day (I’ve switched to mostly drinking scotch.) But Frasca is a special place and the wine choices I end up with when I’m with my partners are spectacular.

I’m running enough now (around five hours a week) to be in a disciplined routine where I follow what my coach Gary gives me each week. When I went to bed last night, I knew I’d have a hangover in the morning and it’d be tough getting out the door. I had a one hour run – a typical Tuesday run for me after a long run on Sunday – that’s a combination of recovery and gearing up for whatever is really coming at me this week.

I was not surprised that when I woke up at a few minutes before 7am I felt like shit. It wasn’t the “I have a cold” feeling, but “Wow – I drank too much last night” feeling. I drank about a liter of water,went to the bathroom, brushed my teeth, put my running clothes on, and Facetimed Amy. I had a fantasy that when I got off the line with Amy I’d feel better, but I knew it was a fantasy.

As I got out the door to start my run, I decided to punish myself today. I knew that I wouldn’t have any speed in me, so instead I took a right on the Boulder Creek Path and headed to Eben Fine Park. I knew that I’d be going uphill on a steady grade once I got to the park and by that point I’d feel completely crappy as the hangover started to burn out of my system. I also knew it would be worth it, as by the time I hit the 30 minute mark and turned around, I’d feel good.

And I did. I glided down the hill back toward home, hangover gone, legs moving, and sweat flowing. I let my thoughts go wherever they wanted to, and as some point I thought “Ok – I’m at a new level and ready to start thinking about a marathon again.” The breakthrough was that I got out there and did a real run even though it would have been easy to roll over in bed, moan, and go back to sleep at 6:50.

If you are a runner, I expect you know this feeling. It’s the redemption after a night of excess, followed by the joy of the next day when your system is recalibrated.

The sun is out, it feels like summer, and life is good.

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May 23 2016

New Registration Status at Foundry Group

We have some entertaining news to share with you today. We have recently registered with the SEC and are now considered Registered Investment Advisors. Did we do this so that we can have cooler business cards? No. Did we do this because our back office was lacking in purpose? Heck no.

We had to, per the SEC rules. And the reason you ask? Well, we can’t tell you that or we could possibly break some other SEC rules. So for now, just accept that your friendly neighborhood venture capital firm is now subject to a lot of new and stimulating paperwork.

Why are we even bothering telling you this? Because it will affect what we can say on the Foundry Group blog and personal blogs that we write. We’ll have to be careful with statements that we make about companies we invest in. We’ll also be cautious in what we write about our funds or the industry in general. According to the SEC rules, we can no longer write anything that “promotes” our funds. While we’d argue that we never try to promote our firm, but just write anything that comes to mind and try to have fun doing it, with our new registration status comes new responsibilities.

This will be a learning process for us and our goal is to bring you content that is still 100% transparent. Please be patient with us if there are hiccups along the way, or perhaps even questions that we can’t legally answer in the comment sections anymore.

And as always – thank you all for the support. We love what we do and the community, and our interaction with you through our blogs, is a big reason why. And, don’t worry, there will be a third VC video from us – someday.

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May 22 2016

Book: Neon Fever Dream

Neon Fever Dream by Eliot Peper was outstanding. But you can’t read it yet as it’s still in draft form.

Eliot’s last book Cumulus was published a few weeks ago and has gotten awesome reviews. He’s turned into a writing machine and already had a draft of Neon Fever Dream ready to go when Cumulus was finalized.

I first met Eliot several years ago when he emailed me a few chapters of the first book he was working on about a fictional tech startup in Boulder. With it he was pioneering a genre that I referred to as “startup fiction” – kind of on the edge of Cyberpunk and near-term science fiction that I love dearly, but set in the immediate present. Uncommon Stock was the first book that FG Press published and I spent plenty of time with Eliot as chief cheerleader and mediocre editor and, when the book was finished, loved it.

Eliot went on to write a trilogy starting Mara Winkel. While a fictional character, I became good friends with Mara and would have invested in her if I could have.

When Eliot wrote Cumulus, he moved away from Mara but retrenched in his home town of Oakland. This time he wandered a little further into the future and wrote a great dystopian thriller that fits clearly in my near-term science fiction category and puts him in the same zone as one of my other favorite contemporary writers, William Hertling.

And then came Neon Fever Dream. You’ll have to wait a little while for it, but this time, instead of Oakland, Eliot takes us to Burning Man and spend 90% of the book there over the course of a week. His writing has matured with each book and he totally nails it at all levels. I love that his protagonists continue to be these incredibly powerful female characters who are simultaneously introspective and totally kickass heroic leaders. The pacing is great – I read the entire book in one evening on day two of my vacation last week. I noticed Mara in the background in one scene early on and paid attention for a few more easter eggs, but didn’t find any. But I loved it nonetheless.

Eliot – I’m deeply proud of you. Thirty years from now I get to point at these blog posts and say “I knew him way back at the beginning …”

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May 20 2016

Why Do Apple iOS Mail and Calendar Apps Suck?

Before I get into my rant of the morning, if you have a gluten intolerance, or just want less gluten in your life, we just invested in a company called Nima that can help you.

Today, as I was going through my daily reading, I read Fred Wilson’s Feature Friday: GBoard about Google’s new third-party keyboard app for iOS. I clicked on the link to download and try it and, as it was doing its thing, though to myself “why does Apple iOS Mail suck?” And then I thought “why does Apple iOS Calendar suck?”

When I’m using my iPhone, I spend a lot of time in Mail and Calendar. I’ve always been unhappy with Apple’s Mail and Calendar. I’ve gone through using lots of other ones, but in most cases, once the Mail or Calendar app is acquired by another, bigger company, it eventually stales out and vanishes. About a year about I started using Outlook on My iPhone and used it for a long time. I can’t remember what happened, but at some point I abandoned it and switched back to Apple Mail and Calendar.

As Gboard was downloading, I decided to try Gmail and Google Calendar on iOS for a while. I used them when they first came out and they were inferior to Apple’s Mail and Calendar. I tried them again about a year ago and they were good, but for some reason I didn’t stay with them.

I know that if I don’t use something for at least some extended period of time it won’t stick. Some I’m going to try having Google World on my iPhone until at least June 1st. At that point I’ll re-evaluate.

If you have any hints or suggestions, I’m all ears.

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May 18 2016

What Is Your Next Career?

I was recently asked the question “What is your next career?” as part of a discussion with an LP.

I thought it was the best diligence question that I have ever been asked. Upon reflection, the LP was clearly asking me indirectly about my long term commitment to venture capital and, without asking “how much longer are you going to do this VC thing?” she was looking for how I answered the question to get an understanding for how I thought about what I was currently doing along with an indication of how much longer I’d be doing it.

My quick answer was “I don’t have one.” I then unpacked this a little, explaining that I’ve never really thought about what I did as “a career.” While I have a LinkedIn profile, I’ve never had a resume, nor do I really feel like I’ve been on a career path.

But I realized that wasn’t an answer so I continued reflecting out loud in real time. I stated that when I think about it, VCs typically end up doing three different things after they stop being VCs: (1) be a CEO of a company, (2) politics, or (3) academia.

None of these appeal to me. I’ll never be a CEO of a company again – I did this for seven years between age 21 and 28. I was a good CEO but I never enjoyed the job. I have exactly 0.000000% in ever running for a political office. And, I was kicked out of a PhD program when I was 24 and have no interest in ever being a professor or an administrator.

I’m sure there are other things VCs do after stop being VCs, but I’m quite clear that I don’t have a next career in me.

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