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.

The post Book: Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History appeared first on Feld Thoughts.

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

Continue reading "The Expanse"

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

Continue reading "Eniac Ventures Seed to Scale Podcast"

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

Continue reading "Book: The Messy Middle"

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

Continue reading "We Just Got It Simplified – Now Let’s Complexify It"

Community, Creativity, and #GiveFirst Event at CU Boulder on 10/18/18

I’m participating in an event at CU Boulder (sponsored by Silicon Flatirons) on 10/18/18 called Community, Creativity, and #GiveFirst.

#GiveFirst: A New Philosophy for Business in The Era of Entrepreneurship is the name of an upcoming book of mine. It’s also the mantra of Techstars.

In addition to a few of the usual cast of characters (me, Brad Bernthal, Jason Mendelson, Nicole Glaros) and some CU folks, a number of interesting people are joining us including Sam ZellStephanie CopelandAnnaLee (Anno) SaxenianBrian BroughmanSonali Shah, and Krista Marks.

The first panel is titled #GiveFirst and is a moderated chat between me and Sam Zell. I promise it won’t be dull.

If you are interested in learning more about this topic, already view #GiveFirst (which I first talked about in my book Startup Communities in the section “Give Before You Get”) as part of

Continue reading "Community, Creativity, and #GiveFirst Event at CU Boulder on 10/18/18"

Q318 Staycation: Resting, Reading, and Little Running

I took last week off the grid for my Q318 vacation. Amy and I were originally going to Alaska to look at polar bears but canceled everything after I got sick and did a staycation in Boulder instead. I got at least 10 hours of sleep each day, did a bunch of self-care things (PT, massage, meditate), ran a few times (to the extent that 14-minute miles can be considered running), and read a half dozen books.

I’m feeling a lot better. I’m off antibiotics, feel well-rested, and have renewed energy as Q4 begins. The vacation was well timed and it was awesome to spend a full week just relaxing and recovering.

For the readers out there in blogland, here are quick summaries of the books I read.

One Bullet Away: The Making of a Marine Officer: Recommended by Christopher Schroeder, I wouldn’t have ordinarily picked up a book

Continue reading "Q318 Staycation: Resting, Reading, and Little Running"

Book: The Fixer

I enjoyed Bradley Tusk’s new book, The Fixer: My Adventures Saving Startups from Death by Politics. It’s another memoir, a category which seems to be ending up on the top of my reading list a lot these days. It also was in the pile of books I get sent regularly by publishers hoping I’ll read and review them (as in “Dear Brad Feld, here is a form letter about my book, I hope you like it.”)

While I don’t know Bradley Tusk, I know of him, have heard him speak once, and like his first name. When I started reading The Fixer, I had no idea whether I’d end up engrossed, or end up turning the pages every 15 seconds as I skimmed through it looking for the good bits.

I was engrossed, at least for the first half. I started it on Monday night after dinner and got

Continue reading "Book: The Fixer"

Book: How to Meditate

Over the past few years, I’ve incorporated meditation into my daily routine. I started by using Headspace, shifted to using Insight Timer, and now do whatever I feel like doing.

A week ago, while proofreading a draft of Jerry Colonna’s upcoming book, I noticed a few sections where he mentioned Ani Pema Chödrön. When he referenced her book How to Meditate, I went on Amazon and bought a physical copy to read.

Last night, as Amy and I laid on our respective couches reading, I flowed through How to Meditate. With Brooks the Wonder Dog at my feet, I relaxed into what was a wonderfully written book on Meditation. It’s less about the mechanics of meditation (although there are some described) but more about the philosophy of meditation. And, as a human, how to relate to what meditation is, and what it can do, for and to

Continue reading "Book: How to Meditate"

Book: A Gentleman in Moscow

“How did your book end?” asked Amy from her position reading on the couch across the room.

“Perfectly,” I answered.

A Gentleman in Moscow was magnificent. While there’s still a chance I’ll read something better in 2018, for now, I’m declaring it the best book I’ve read this year.

I started A Gentleman in Moscow earlier this week after finishing Bob Woodward’s Fear: Trump in the White House, which was also excellent, but of a very different nature. Several people had recommended it to me (including, I think Maureen, so this may count as a women’s book club recommendation). According to Amazon, I’ve had it on my Kindle since I purchased it on 9/5/16. After consuming it two years later, it seems fitting that I let it age a little.

I didn’t really know what to expect, so I was startled to begin in Moscow on June 21,

Continue reading "Book: A Gentleman in Moscow"

Acknowledging The Value of Coaching and Therapy for Founders

I’ve long written about the stigma around entrepreneurship and depression / other “mental health-related issues.” I was delighted to see two articles in the last day about others addressing this.

First, Felicis Ventures is committing 1% on top of every check the firm writes in non-dilutive capital earmarked for “founder development” in coaching and mental health. I love the way Aydin Senkut has characterized what they are doing and why they are doing it.

“Felicis’ bet is that by making such resources available and publicly known, founders won’t feel too proud, or too much pressure to seem successful, to address personal and team issues. Tactical marketing help can only go so far, Senkut says, when founders aren’t telling their investors that they’re unable to sleep from anxiety, or not speaking to their cofounders.”

Next, Mahendra Ramsinghani has a long article in Techcrunch titled Investors are waking up to the

Continue reading "Acknowledging The Value of Coaching and Therapy for Founders"

Book: Uncensored

A few months ago Andy Sack got me a subscription to The Next Big Idea Club. Every quarter, a box with two books in it shows up. These books were chosen by Adam Grant, Susan Cain, Malcolm Gladwell, and Daniel Pink – several of my favorite contemporary writers and thinkers.

A box showed up at the end of last week. On Saturday, I read one of the books in the box – Uncensored: My Life and Uncomfortable Conversations at the Intersection of Black and White America by Zachary Wood. I was pleasantly surprised that it landed squarely in the memoir category even though Zachary is only 22.

While Zachary is clearly an incredible human, his story is even more remarkable. The first 75% of the book is his story of growing up in poverty, with an abusive mother, an emotionally distant father, with time split between Detroit and DC, while

Continue reading "Book: Uncensored"

Reading Memoirs

I’ve always included a steady mix of biography (and autobiography) in my reading diet. Recently, I’ve added in memoirs, which I’ve always felt was easily distinguishable from autobiography.

“an autobiography is a chronological telling of one’s experience, which should include phases such as childhood, adolescence, adulthood, etc., while a memoir provides a much more specific timeline and a much more intimate relationship to the writer’s own memories, feelings and emotions.”

Over the past few weeks, I’ve read Omarosa Manigault Newman’s Unhinged: An Insider’s Account of the Trump White HouseLisa Brennan-Jobs Small FryMark Epstein’s Advice Not Given: A Guide to Getting Over Yourself, and Gail Honeyman’s fictional Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine.

While it can be argued that each of these (other than Small Fry) belong in a category other than the memoir, reading each of them resulted in a lot of self-reflection on my

Continue reading "Reading Memoirs"

Entrepreneurs Unplugged – The David(s) on 9/13/18

One of my favorite public events is the CU Boulder Silicon Flatirons Entrepreneurs Unplugged series. I was the co-host for the first couple of years, sharing the interview job with another Brad (Bernthal) who now is generally on his own.

On Thursday, 9/13/18 at 5:30pm, Bernthal will be interview David Cohen and David Brown, the co-CEOs of Techstars (who we often fondly refer at Foundry Group as the “the David(s).” The event will be held at the CU Boulder Law School.

If you know the David(s), I expect this will be a treat as I know Bernthal will start with their early entrepreneurial career (Pinpoint) and stick with it for a while. While many people know the Techstars story, the PinPoint story is much less well known but equally fascinating. And, if you need any hints on Q&A (which Bernthal always leaves time for), just drop me a note.

Continue reading "Entrepreneurs Unplugged – The David(s) on 9/13/18"

Two Weeks Ago …

On the afternoon of 8/21, I had a Foley Catheter put in. I didn’t think I was going to die (that was the afternoon of 8/22), but I did think I was going to explode.

I feel better today. Not 100%. But on the mend. But two weeks ago I was in the midst of a blooming E. Coli infection that started Sunday 8/19 and probably came from some fruit and vegetables I bought at the Aspen Farmers Market on Saturday. Note to self – always, always, always wash your fruits and vegetables carefully.

By Thursday, 8/23 I was very sick. So I canceled everything on my calendar through yesterday. I addition to my dance with E. Coli, I am healing from a bone bruise I have on my left tibia and something miserably wrong with my right shoulder – both which came from a tumble down the stairs on

Continue reading "Two Weeks Ago …"

Will Someone Please Tell Me Exactly What a Looking Glass Can Do?

A few weeks ago I wrote about the launch of the Looking Glass, a desktop holographic display made for 3D creators. Since then, over a thousand people have purchased a Looking Glass for their desks. I think part of the reason for this attention is that the Looking Glass is filling a much-needed hole in the REPL for Hardware flow alongside additive and subtractive desktop 3D printers and laser cutters. It also helps that the Looking Glass works without a VR or AR headset.

If you have ever used a 3D printer, has Unity, Maya, or Blender on your computer, or isn’t scared by terms like “volumetric video” and “light-field photography”, you should probably have a Looking Glass. For 48 more hours, you can get one of your own for 25% off here.

It’s right around this point in the post that I can hear the skeptics asking themselves

🙃
😲
🎉
🥳
🥳
🎉
Continue reading "Will Someone Please Tell Me Exactly What a Looking Glass Can Do?"

Deleting Facebook

Yup. I’m done with Facebook. However, it’s tough to delete your account. Read the message above. I exited out of this screen, suspended my account instead, but then went back 15 minutes later and actually deleted it. Well – I started the deletion process. I don’t know what day I’m on, but I think I’m close to 14 days. So, I’m still “deleting” apparently.

The only inconvenience I’ve noticed so far are all the sites where I used Facebook as the sign-on authenticator (rather than setting up a separate email/password combo.) I think I’m through most of that – at least the sites I use on a regular basis. For the first few days, I accidentally ended up on the Facebook login screen which was pleasantly filled out with my login beckoning me to log back in. I resisted the siren song of restarting my Facebook account before the 14

Continue reading "Deleting Facebook"

RSS: The Persistent Protocol

One of our themes is Protocol. We’ve been investing in companies built around technology protocols since 1994. One of my first investments, when I moved to Boulder in 1995, was in a company called Email Publishing, which was the very first email service provider. SMTP has been very good to me.

We made some of the early investments in companies built around RSS, including FeedBurner and NewsGator. RSS is a brilliant, and very durable, protocol. The original creators of the protocol had great vision, but the history and evolution of RSS were filled with challenges and controversy. Like religious conflict, the emotion ran higher than it needed to and the ad-hominem attacks drove some great people away from engaging with the community around the protocol.

And then Facebook and Twitter took over. RSS Feed Readers mostly vanished, and the feed became the “Twitter feed.” After a while, Facebook realized this

Continue reading "RSS: The Persistent Protocol"

Every Generation Learns The Same Lessons

While it’s easy to tell people things, it’s much more powerful to learn things. And, as I get older, I see the same lessons being learned by subsequent generations. While this isn’t a post that says “everything is the same as it was before”, there are foundational lessons in life that play out over and over again.

I spent the weekend with a friend from the last 1990s who was the lead banker on the Interliant IPO (I was a co-founder and co-chairman.) Last night, at the Aspen Entrepreneurs event, I was asked to describe several failures and I rolled out my story about Interliant, which, for a period of time (1999 – 2000) appeared to be hugely successful before going bankrupt in 2002. If you like to read IPO prospectuses, here’s the final S-1 filing after INIT went effective and started trading on July 8, 1999.

A few

Continue reading "Every Generation Learns The Same Lessons"

The Economics of VCs Recycling Management Fees

Several years ago, I wrote a post titled Why VCs Should Recycle Their Management Fees.

From the start of Foundry Group in 2007, we have felt strongly about this. We feel that if an LP gives us a $1 to invest, we should invest at least that $1, not $0.85 (the average fee load over a decade for a typical VC fund is 15%.) Our goal for each fund is actually to invest closer to 110%, which means if an LP gives us a $1 to invest, we are actually investing $1.10.

Our long-time friends and LPs at Greenspring recently wrote a great post titled Creating GP-LP Alignment: Why Terms Matter. The post specifically discussed three items: Management Fees, Recycling, and Carried Interest.

The entire post is worth reading, but I especially liked their section on Recycling which includes a handy chart showing that recycling means that

Continue reading "The Economics of VCs Recycling Management Fees"