Unintended Consequences of the Upcoming Drone Apocolypse

On Monday, I wrote a post titled Look Up and Don’t Give Up that included the 2:48-second video of a mama bear and her cub struggling across a steep cliff covered with snow. 20+ million people have also looked at it and, I expect, found inspiration from it as I did.

I didn’t think very hard about this until this morning when I read The Atlantic article titled The Problem Behind a Viral Video of a Persistent Baby Bear: What appears to be a life-affirming triumph is really a cautionary tale about drones and wildlife.

As I was reading the article, I flashed back to several books from two different authors – William Hertling and Daniel Suarez – that included autonomous drones (and drone swarms) as part of their plots. I remember being incredibly anxious during the sections on killer drones controlled (or programmed) by bad guys, and then even more

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Seth Levine’s Designing the Ideal Board Meeting Blog Series

My partner Seth Levine is writing a blog series on Designing the Ideal Board Meeting.

Seth and I have each attended over 27,367 board meetings. Ok, I don’t know the actual number, but it’s a lot. We’ve both been on good boards and bad boards. Boards that have helped companies and boards that have sunk companies. Boards that know how to resolve conflict and boards that have multiple passive-aggressive actors engaged in a complex dance that serves no one, especially the company.

So, I’m totally digging Seth’s new series. Not surprisingly, since Seth and I have been working together for over 17 years, there’s a lot that is the same as my board approach. But, I’m also learning something from each post which I plan to incorporate into my board world going forward.

The first four posts are up. In order:

  1. Designing the Ideal Board Meeting
  2. Designing the Ideal Board
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Look Up and Don’t Give Up

This is how I think about my work and my marathon running.

My spirit animal is a bear. Generally, I think of myself as a big polar bear, but I’m going to spend the day relating to my little friend. And, when the day is done, I’m going to go run into the woods.

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A Great Example of A Professor’s Involvement With A Startup Community

I received a Silicon Flatirons email from Phil Weiser this morning in his role as Silicon Flatirons Founder and Executive Director. My partners and I, especially Jason Mendelson, have been very involved with Silicon Flatirons over the past decade. I have a chapter in Startup Communities that uses CU Boulder – and specifically Silicon Flatirons – as an example of a much better way than the traditional approach (circa 2012) for a university to engage with the startup community.

One of the key leaders in this activity is Brad Bernthal. While BradB has become a close friend over the years, I think that he doesn’t get anywhere near the recognition he deserves for his endless and tireless engagement in and across the activities of CU Boulder + the Boulder startup community. It made me extremely happy to see Phil’s email and I decided to reblog it because I think it does

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I Was That Kid. Were You? #MakingChangemakers

Watch the following one minute video and ponder whether or not you were that kid (or have one of those kids.)

I was totally that kid. But, most of it was in my mind, which I why I ended up being a software version of that kid. About the only machine I played with was my Apple ][ because it was a computer. I hated the lawnmower, never worked on cars, was afraid of the Cuisinart we had (and all the sharp blades), ignored power tools, and stayed away from anything that plugged into an electrical socket on the wall.

Ironically, I have excellent hand-eye coordination which I think came from three things: (1) playing video games, (2) playing tennis, and (3) having crummy eyesight.

I still have crummy eyesight. Even though my glasses correct most of it, I know that my brain works extra hard to compensate for it. So,

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Innovation and Venture Capital in New Jersey

If you are a fan of Startup Communities, there’s a lot going on around new initiatives on this front.

Ian Hathaway and I are hard at work on a book called The Startup Community Way, which is modeled after Eric Ries’ evolution of The Lean Startup to his recent book The Startup Way. I’m a big fan and long-time friend of Eric’s so I hope he’s ok with our using the same conceptual labeling approach from the evolution of the Startup Communities concept to a much broader audience than just startup communities (Eric – if you aren’t, tell me and I’ll adjust …)

One of my approaches to writing a book is to blog a lot of early content and get reactions to it. It helps me frame my thinking, connects me with people who are interested in what I’m writing, and forces me to put out content in

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Time Off To Vote on November 6th #TimeOffToVote

I have felt for a long time that election day in the US (by law, the first Tuesday after November 1) should be a national holiday.

In some states, like Colorado, we now have an excellent mail in ballot system, but many people still physically show up at the polls to vote. The idea of voter suppression has never made sense to me, ever since I learned about the constitution and amendments 15, 19, 24, and 26 in elementary school civics class. I just went on Wikipedia and reviewed the timeline of voting rights in the United States, which reminded me of the awesomeness of the book Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History.

At Foundry Group we’ve decided to make sure that all of our employees have the time they need to vote on 11/6 by participating in #TimeOffToVote – a nationwide effort to encourage employers

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Disagree and Commit

One of my favorite Bezo-isms is “Disagree and Commit.” I’ve seen it in articles a handful of times recently as the adulation around Amazon and Bezos’ management reaches a fever pitch.

Notwithstanding the disappointing forecast for Q418, Amazon’s recent operating performance has been spectacular. But, more interesting is that it has been “spectacular at scale” and across a very large and complex business.

While Revenue Growth YOY has been strong,

the real story has been YOY growth in Operating Income.

Those are beautiful numbers. It’s clear that in the past few years the company has turned on the profit machine.

For many years, Amazon (and Bezos) trumpeted their focus on revenue growth. The mantra was “we are reinvesting all of our profits in growth.” This is the same thing most startups say (and most VCs push for) as growth compounds rapidly if you can keep the growth

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Pioneer In Skirts Sizzle Trailer

Amy and I are proud executive producers of the upcoming movie Pioneer In Skirts. It has been part of our activity supporting independent documentaries about gender diversity, especially in science and tech.

The daughter/mother leadership of Ashley Maria and Lea-Ann Berst along with their team has stayed after it and are close to the finish line. Watch the trailer and then if you are inclined toss a little money into the GoFund Me campaign to help finish off the film.

Pioneers in Skirts Sizzle Trailer from Pioneers in Skirts ® on Vimeo.

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DonorsChoose.org Book Match Day

Amy and I love to read. Growing up, one of my favorite places in the world was the hammock in our backyard with a book. As an adult, one of my favorite places is our living room, on my couch, with Amy on her couch, and the dogs laying on the floor between us, while we read.

I also love DonorsChoose. Whenever I’ve had a crummy day, I often go online and fund a project or two.

Today, DonorsChoose has a match across the entire site for any donations for books. It’s DonorsChoose Book Match Day. How cool is that?

Amy grew up in Alaska and we have a house there so I just went and funded all the book projects in Alaska. Hopefully, by the time you read this post, there won’t be any left.

If you are a reader, love books, or want to help kids around the

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Silicon Flatirons GiveFirst Conference: Feld and Zell

I had a lot of fun at the Silicon Flatirons #GiveFirst conference last week and the smaller academic colloquium session the next day. It was a challenging topic, as we are simply exploring the idea of GiveFirst, how it works, and putting some scaffolding on the overall concept, both practically and intellectually.

Brad Bernthal, who spearheaded the two-day effort, led off with a short overview. Scott Peppet then interviewed me and Sam Zell as a kickoff to the event.

My fireside chat with Sam Zell starts at 14:00. While we come at things with different styles and experiences, when I watched it again to reflect on it, I found some really interesting overlaps and new ideas that hadn’t occurred to me.

If GiveFirst is a construct that is interesting to you, I encourage you to spend some time soaking in this video. When my book about it comes out in 2019,

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The Superhuman Change To My Current Email Tools

It’s 2018. I’m still an incredibly heavy email user. It’s the primary tool in my workflow and has been since the early 1990s. I’ve tried a lot of different things over the years, but always come back to email.

I’ve been a Gmail user for almost a decade. While I’ve tried client-side apps, Gmail in Chrome has been the only thing that has stuck for me. I’ve also tried many of the iOS email apps and always end up back at Gmail for iOS.

Until now.

An increasing number of people in my world have been using Superhuman so I decided to give it a try. I was skeptical that it would capture my attention beyond a day. Two weeks later it is, in fact, superhuman. I’m using the Chrome app and the iOS app as my primary email clients.

The other tools I have in my email workflow are 

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Weekend Reading

I was really tired this weekend (from the week) and didn’t feel like doing anything other than laying on the couch near Amy and reading. She was also tired, as she spent the week in Wellesley at a board meeting and a bunch of other Wellesley related stuff, so even though the Boulder weather was magnificent, we stayed home other than a quick trip to Boulder to get our eyes checked and have sushi with some friends. Oh, and took really long naps both afternoons.

By Sunday night I was tired of reading (but Amy wasn’t) so I went downstairs and watched Finding Traction, the documentary about Nikki Kimball’s monstrous performance on the 273 mile Long Trail in Vermont. While I’m limited to running marathons, I find inspiration from watching ultras …

The book list started with me finishing a book I’d started earlier in the week. I read mostly on

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How Asking Someone How to #GiveFirst to Them Undermines #GiveFirst

I got an email this morning from a close friend who asked how I reconcile a particular issue around the concept of #GiveFirst. Following is the setup from the email I got.

“I was thinking of you yesterday. I recently met with someone in town who was looking to connect. I took the meeting because, well, I always take such meetings. I’m just wired that way and you never know what good things can come from such random meetings.

So I love doing them. But yesterday the person I met with showed up with an agenda and, at the top of his list was “GiveFirst to <my organization> and <me>.” He had an agenda…he had an ask of me…but he wanted to “give first” by asking me how he could help me.

I think he misunderstands the mindset. And I think he’s not the only one. By opening up

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Refreshing Websites

Every year or two I refresh the formatting on this website along with a few others that I help manage and generate content for. I work with a great firm called Valet that I really like and everything is hosted on Pantheon, so the process works smoothly for me.

In addition to the refresh on Feld Thoughts, I also just refreshed Venture Deals (which used to be Ask the VC) and Startup Revolution. Amy and I also recently put up a website for the Anchor Point Foundation (our foundation). And, Seth and Micah did a big refresh on the Foundry Group website.

As part of this, each of them now has a separate subscribe by email option in addition to an RSS feed. If you want to skip searching for it and just subscribe, click on the following links as you desire.

Book: Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History

Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History was awesome. Given that Sears filed for Chapter 11 today, I’ll start with some perspective from 1976.

America is remarkably dynamic. Humans constantly create narratives about things and how they work. Suddenly, popular books are appearing, such as Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, that challenge the relevance of our narratives.

There is so much to reflect on when reading a book like Fantasyland or Sapiens. Pondering the meaning of life is an endless human pastime.

It’s particularly interesting in the context of the growth and development of a country, which in and of itself is a temporary construct, just like everything else.

I’ve always loved reading fantasy. And, after reading Fantasyland, I realize I’ve been living in it also.

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The Expanse

As the weekend approaches, I sense the need in the universe for some people to find a new TV show to binge watch.

If you fit in this category and haven’t yet watched The Expanse, give it a try. If you are a BSG fan and haven’t seen it yet, start tonight. If you like sci-fi, drama, space opera, global political intrigue, underdogs, detective noir, the risk of mass extinction, and believable human history a few hundred years in the future, this one is for you.

There’s a ton of setup, so you need to hang in there for the first five or so episodes. As the friend who referred me to it stated, it’s “Boring boring PROTOMOLECULE…” You get there quickly enough.

There are three seasons, and Amazon just picked up the fourth, so there is a lot to catch up on along with a future. And, after reflecting

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Eniac Ventures Seed to Scale Podcast

While we aren’t LPs in Eniac Ventures, we are big fans of the team. So, it was my pleasure to be interviewed by Hadley Harris as part of their Seed to Scale Podcast.

The interview ended up being two episodes and, while listening to it in the car, I felt like it was one of the better recent interviews that I’ve done. Hadley and I talked for about an hour and then he edited the discussion down into two ten minute podcasts, so he pulled out the good stuff and left all the garbage on the cutting room floor.

Episode 1 includes advice I’d give to a much younger me and discusses why I think it is important to build long-term fund strategies with conviction and consistency.

Episode 2 covers what makes an excellent board member, the biggest reasons startups fail, and the three machines that must work together in

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Book: The Messy Middle

This summer I read the page proof version of Scott Belsky’s new book The Messy Middle. It is excellent and is now out and available. I bought 100 copies and am sending them out to every CEO in our portfolio. If you are a CEO of a fast-growing company, I strongly recommend it.

The letter I sent out to the CEOs in our portfolio (with the book) follows:

Since you are a member of the Foundry Group Book of the Almost Every Month Club (bet you didn’t know that was part of the deal when we invested), enclosed is a copy of The Messy Middle by Scott Belsky.

It’s outstanding. Many of you are either in the messy middle or aspire to be (whether you realize it or not.) And, if you don’t aspire to be in the messy middle, but hope to one day be a large

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We Just Got It Simplified – Now Let’s Complexify It

Complexify is such a delicious, underused word. I’ve been using it a lot lately, hopefully with great effect on people who are on the receiving end.

CEOs and founders struggle with this all the time (as do I). They are executing on a strategy and a plan. A new idea or opportunity comes up. It’s interesting and/or exciting. Energy gets spent against it. Momentum appears. While some people on the team raise issues, suddenly the idea/opportunity starts taking on a life of its own. Things get more complex.

Eventually, there’s a reset. The core of what is going on is good – there’s just a bunch of complicated crap happening that is distracting everyone and undermining the goodness in the business. So, the CEO and the leadership team go on a mission to simplify things. This takes a while, usually involves killing some projects, and often results in some people

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