Techstars Mentor Manifesto In Detail

I’ve been working on my next book, #GiveFirst, again. There’s a lot in it about the Techstars Mentor Manifesto and how to be an effective mentor.

Yesterday, I got a note from Jay Batson, longtime Techstars Boston mentor and now the Mentor-in-Residence for the program, asking if I had ever compiled the lists I posts I wrote about the Techstars Mentor Manifesto.

I hadn’t. He had conveniently done it in a Google doc so it was easy for me to list out the posts with links. They follow.

1/18: Be Socratic

2/18: Expect nothing in return

3/18: Be Authentic – Practice What You Preach

4/18: Be Direct. Tell the Truth, However Hard.

5/18: Listen, too

6/18: The Best Mentor Relationships Eventually Become Two Way

7/18: Be Responsive

8/18: Adopt At Least One Company Every Single Year. Experience Counts.

9/18: Clearly Separate Opinion From Fact

10/18: Hold Information In Confidence

11/18: Clearly Commit to Mentor, or Do Not. Either Is Fine

12/18: Know What You Don’t Know. Say “I Don’t Know” when you don’t know.

13/18: Guide, Don’t Control

14/18: Accept and Communicate With Other Mentors That Get Involved

15/18: Be Optimistic

16/18: Provide Specific Actionable Advice

17/18: Be Challenging/Robust but Never Destructive (No post)

18/18: Have Empathy. Remember That Startups Are Hard (No post)

Jay also reminded me that I hadn’t written posts on #17 and #18. They are now on my list to do. Thanks, Jay!

Pyongyang, Vonnegut, and Depression

Amy and I had another wonderful digital sabbath yesterday.

It started Friday at sundown when I put my computer to sleep. I’m using Inbox When Ready and have locked my inbox from Friday at 6pm to Saturday at 11:59pm. I also put my phone in Do Not Disturb mode for this same time period. While I’m not committed to doing this every weekend in 2018, I’m going to do it most of the time.

I woke up Saturday morning and meditated for 30 minutes. Amy and I then had breakfast and then we retired to the couch to read. I’ve decided that in 2018 when I’m at home I’ll read physical books, since I have an infinite pile of those along with my infinite pile of Kindle books. I scanned my shelves of unread books, picked four that I thought varied widely, and dug in.

I started with Architectural and Cultural Guide Pyongyang. North Korea has been on my mind lately (fathom that), although I had bought this book a few years ago after Eric Schmidt’s trip to in North Korea. It was mentioned in one of the articles I read at the time, but it had been sitting on my shelf since then. It was a fascinating and beautifully done book (well – pair of books). The first was a detailed architectural overview of Pyongyang with official descriptions of all the buildings. The second was a series of essays on different aspects of the architectural and historical dynamics of modern Pyongyang. Everything was otherworldly and mysterious.

I then moved on to If This Isn’t Nice, What Is?: Advice to the Young-The Graduation Speeches – a short volume of nine graduation speeches by Kurt Vonnegut. It turns out there is a second – expanded – edition, but I didn’t notice that until after I’d finished and logged the book in Goodreads. I love Vonnegut. One summer over a decade ago I bought all of his books in hardcover, ordered them by publication date, and started working my way through them. In addition to being a delightful writer, Vonnegut was an in-demand and excellent public speaker. Each graduation speech was unique even though there were some lines and jokes repeated. What stuck with me was the contrast between the Beatitudes and the Code of Hammurabi and how Vonnegut applied them to our modern world.

Amy and I had lunch and then took a nap. I went for a run as I’m starting to ramp up again, although I still have some issues with my left calf.

After a shower, I settled into Playing Hurt: My Journey from Despair to Hope by John Saunders. I’m not a sports fan and never watch ESPN (unless I’m at a Ruby Tuesday or other place where it’s playing on the TV during a meal) so I didn’t know who John Saunders was. I can’t remember who recommended the book to me, but it was in the context of a well-known person’s memoir where they reveal – in depth – their struggles with depression. In a cruel twist, Saunders died before the book was published, but his family bravely supported publishing it posthumously. The book is incredibly intimate, linearly told, but with Saunders going deep on his life. He struggled with depression. sexual and physical assault as a child. continuous racism. endless suicidal ideation, health issues including diabetes, a major brain injury in 2011 from a fall on the ESPN set, and a heart attack in 2014. Through it all, he rose to the top of his field as a sports journalist, with a 30-year career at ESPN / ABC.

After I finished it, I reshelved the fourth, unread book and went to bed. When I woke up this morning, there was snow everywhere.

Reflections on Bored Meetings

Over the past 25 years, I’ve attended approximately 14,387 board meetings. My partners and I talk a lot about how to improve them and today released The Foundry Group Manifesto on Board Meetings. It follows:

In 2013, I wrote a book with Mahendra Ramsinghani about board meetings titled Startup Boards: Getting the Most Out of Your Board of Directors. It was a tough book to write because every time I dug into it, I got bored, but I think it ended up being a contribution to the corpus of entrepreneurial knowledge. However, I anticipate Bored Meetings will be an even more significant contribution.

It Can All Go To Zero

Perspective can be a useful thing. Cryptocurrencies have had a bad 24 hours.

Last night Amy and I watched The Big Short for the second time. If you’ve never seen it, it’s a must watch movie. If you haven’t seen it in at least a year, watch it again. While the events are from 2005 – 2008, they feel like they happened yesterday. And, the cast, including Brad Pitt (my favorite character), Steve Carell (my second favorite), Christian Bale, and Ryan Gosling play their parts spectacularly well.

There are hundreds of lessons in the movie. But, like most things human, we quickly forget them. Or we pretend like they couldn’t happen again. Or we justify what’s going on today as “but it’s different this time.”

In 2000 I was co-chairman of a public company called Interliant. The company had gone public in 1999 and the market cap rose to just under $3 billion ($55 / share, up from $10 / share at the IPO). By the end of 2000, the stock price was at $13. I was on a walk at my house in Eldorado Springs with one of the VPs who asked me how low the stock could go. I can’t remember the exact phrasing, but I remember it being something like “There’s no way the stock will go below $10 / share, right?”

My response was simple. “It could go to $0. I hope it doesn’t, but it could.”

In 2002 Interliant went bankrupt and the stock went to $0.

Now, I don’t have schadenfreude about cryptocurrencies going down. Like many, I’m fascinated by them and the potential implications of both cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology. I hold plenty of cryptocurrencies – either directly or indirectly in funds I’m an investor in. So I benefit financially from them going up.

But I’m not a trader. I never have been. I never will be. It’s not my temperament. I don’t enjoy it. I don’t want to spend mental energy thinking about the gyrations of the market – any market. I don’t want to make money on short-term financial trades, but rather by helping create new things over the long-term.

We all eventually die, at least for now. Some people learn from history. Some people suppress or deny it. Many people ignore it. I prefer to reflect on it and make sure the big lessons are inputs into my thinking. If you want a quick, 128-page frame of reference on this, read The Lessons of History by Will and Ariel Durant. The cliche “the more things change, the more they stay the same” is a cliche because it applies to a lot of things.

My scan of my morning news feeds included Researchers find that one person likely drove Bitcoin from $150 to $1,000BlackRock’s Message: Contribute to Society, or Risk Losing Our SupportGE Shares Dive on $6.2 Billion Charge for Problems in Its Finance Unit, and a very interesting post titled Impatience: The Pitfall Of Every Ambitious Person.

I’ll leave you with this.

 

Colorado Startup Summer

Every entrepreneur starts her journey somewhere.

Colorado is a premier location for entrepreneurs and innovative thinkers. This is why I co-founded and commit a portion of my time to Startup Colorado; an organization that empowers and sustains startup communities across Colorado. One of the programs that Startup Colorado runs – called Startup Summer – cultivates and engages undergraduate entrepreneurs looking to get involved in the Front Range startup community.

Startup Summer is an immersive 10-week program that includes weekly seminars from local entrepreneurs who teach the fundamentals of entrepreneurship. The student entrepreneurs form teams and build companies while receiving coaching and mentorship from alums of the program and local entrepreneurs, culminating with a pitch competition. The program admits 50 student entrepreneurs from around the country, bringing together different backgrounds while exposing them to the Front Range startup ecosystem.

Startup Summer is now in its sixth year. All internships are paid. If you are interested or know a promising student who wants to take advantage of this opportunity, the application is here and closes on January 31st.

Oh, and if you’re a company in Boulder or Denver that wants to participate and host an intern, email me and we’ll see if we can fit you in this year.

I’m A VC

As a preparation for something new and exciting, let’s reminisce a little. In 2011, we did our first Foundry Group music video “I’m a VC.”

I remember being amazed when the Youtube views went over 100,000. I recall being equally amazed when I heard that our IT guy (Ryan) had cleaned up our random Google accounts, deleted video@foundrygroup.com, and as a result deleted the video. When it was restored, the view counter was at 0.

Oops.

Welcome Jamey Sperans To Foundry Group

My partners and I just announced that our long-time friend and LP – Jamey Sperans – has joined Foundry Group.

We’ve been working with Jamey since the beginning of Foundry Group in 2007 (he was one of our first LPs via Morgan Stanley AIP) and have become extremely close friends.

Jamey and his family have moved to Boulder, so in addition to working with us, he’ll become a part of the extended Boulder/Denver startup community.

We are delighted to have Jamey in town and on our team. If you want the backstory, take a look at the post on the Foundry Group site titled Introducing Our New Partner – Jamey Sperans.

Supporting Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund

Yesterday, my partners at Foundry Group announced financial support for the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund.

We strongly believe that sexual harassment is unacceptable in any form. While there can be a debate about whether sexual harassment is about sex, power, or something else, there’s an additional pernicious element of it when the harasser threatens to sue the person being harassed. This extends the harassment and reinforces the issue around the power dynamic, especially when the harasser has much more financial resources than the person being harassed.

My partners and I were considering establishing a VC / Entrepreneurs Sexual Harassment Legal Defense Fund. When we saw the launch of Time’s Up and the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, we decided to financially support this activity and try to create a sub-group for the tech industry. As a starting point, Foundry Group is contributing $100,000 to the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund and Anchor Point Foundation is contributing $100,000.

In addition, we are reaching out to VCs and Angel Investors that we know to see if they will join in our effort. If you are a VC or Angel Investor who wants to financially support this effort, please email me. And, if you are an individual who wants to directly support the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, please do so on the Time’s Up GoFundMe page.

Finally, for some inspiration, watch Oprah Winfrey’s powerful speech at the 2018 Golden Globe Awards.

@bfeld User Manual: Business Dinners

I love the idea of A User Manual To Working With Me. A number of the CEOs we work with have written them and Seth sends out a letter to all new founders about working with us.

While I occasionally think about writing an @bfeld User Manual, I never manage to get around to it. On our Q4 vacation, Amy and I talked a lot about dinners out, especially my own struggle with dinners with large groups of people, which caused me to reflect on how I approach dinners out in general.

Business dinners have become increasingly challenging for me for a number of reasons. I’m an introvert, so when the dinner is more than four people, it’s extremely draining for me. I no longer drink, so every dinner lasts at least 33% too long. I’m a vegetarian and am now eating very lightly at dinner, so the experience of dinner is much less important to me. I’ve been to all the restaurants in Boulder many times, so there’s no novelty in the experience. I’ve got a 30-minute drive home from downtown Boulder to my house, so getting home is dinner_end_time + 30 minutes.

I go to bed early (usually before 10 pm) so dinners often are the only thing I do in the evening before going to bed. I love to lay on the couch with Amy and read in the evening before I go to sleep, so this decompression from the day is almost always lost when I have a business dinner. I also love evenings at home with just Amy, business dinners out take time away from this for us.

That said, business dinners are part of my work. I’ve been to at least 1,351 board dinners in the last 25 years. I typically have business dinners three or four times each week, every week. I almost always have at least four major dinner-related events (with greater than 25 people) each month. Simply deciding not to do business dinners isn’t an option as long as I do the work I’m doing.

To solve for this, and make business dinners more enjoyable and productive from my frame of reference, following is the best way to have a business dinner with me.

  • The maximum number of people at dinner should be eight.
  • Dinner should start early (I love 6 pm start times).
  • I’m indifferent to the restaurant – you choose.
  • I’m going to be fully engaged during dinner, but as the group gets larger, my focus becomes on the people seated immediately next to me.
  • Don’t worry about what I do, or don’t, eat. And don’t be surprised if I don’t eat anything.
  • I don’t mind if you (and the other people) stay later than 8 pm, but I’d like to leave then.

I’m sure I’ll end up at some dinners, and events, that don’t fit this profile. By default, I’m no longer going to board dinners, although I’ll make exceptions when necessary. Amy occasionally likes to go to galas and big public events, so I’ll tag along for those. And, of course, I can comfortably do these periodically. But, if you want to get the most out of me, and have me enjoy the experience, the bullet points above are a good guideline.