Women Who Venture


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I recently met Renata George through a referral from Katie Rae (MIT Engine CEO, previously Techstars Boston MD). Renata told me about a book she was working on called Women Who Venture and asked me if I’d write the foreword.

I was honored to be asked to do this. The foreword I wrote follows. The book is out and available now in hardcover and on the Kindle.

As an avid writer and reader, I feel that a book is a unique medium that serves a different purpose than the other written media that we consume regularly. A book can display a variety of perspectives at once, providing enough details on the subjects it explores, while giving us space to contemplate.

When Renata George told me she was going to write a book about Women Who Venture, featuring around a hundred female investors of different generations, I immediately said I’d be

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Every Lie We Tell Incurs a Debt to the Truth


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I watched HBO’s Chernobyl the past few nights. I finished it last night, took a deep breath, and said out loud to myself, “that was spectacular.”

One of the final quotes that stuck with me is the title of this post. The full quote is “Every lie we tell incurs a debt to the truth. Sooner or later that debt is paid.”

Read it again. “Every lie we tell incurs a debt to the truth. Sooner or later that debt is paid.” Pause and ponder it. Think about our current world. Let the line linger a bit in your mind.

Now, watch the following ten-minute video for the comparison of Chernobyl to real historical footage. It’s incredibly powerful to watch this after you’ve watched Chernobyl, but may be even more powerful to watch it prior to watching the miniseries, which some are calling a docudrama. While some

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Deeply Vulnerable Writing on Startup Failure


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Jasper Nathaniel recently wrote a long, detailed post titled When Your Startup Fails. It may be the most vulnerable and honest post I’ve read on failure, certainly in a while.

I spent the day yesterday in Grand Junction at Techstars Startup Week West Slope. After a full day of meetings, events, and talks, I ended up at dinner with a half-dozen CEOs of startups in the area (Grand Junction, Carbondale, Eagle, and Telluride.) I was pretty wiped out from the day and general bail out of dinners between 7:30pm and 8:00pm but we ended up going extremely deep on a bunch of personal and emotional stuff so when I got back to my hotel around 10:00pm I was pleasantly surprised with the tenor of the evening.

While there is endless writing about what to do to build your business, how awesome things are going, and why startups are so

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Mary Grove on the Give First Podcast


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David Cohen and I just released Episode 4 of our Give First podcast.

We interviewed Mary Grove on the origins of Google for Startups & Startup Weekend among other things. Mary has been a long time friend and supporter of Techstars and is currently a partner at Rise of the Rest Seed Fund, the co-founder of Silicon North Stars, and on the Advisory Board for the Techstars Foundation.

David and I are starting to get better at the podcast thing. It’s a new medium for both of us so we are learning and iterating quickly on what makes a good podcast interview. Any feedback – good and bad – is welcome.

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Book: King of Capital


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One of my guilty pleasures is reading biographies about financiers and their companies. On Saturday, I gobbled down King of Capital, which is the story of Steve Schwarzman and Blackstone from inception through 2011.

While I’ve never met Schwarzman, I’ve had a handful of experiences with Blackstone, mostly with the Blackstone Foundation and the head of it, Amy Stursberg. The two most notable are the Blackstone Entrepreneurs Network Colorado and the Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars. Both have been great and impactful organizations and Amy has been a delight to work with.

King of Capital was a really useful book to read on a number of levels. One thing it reminded me of was to read histories of contemporary organizations that were written in the past. While 2011 is only eight years ago, it’s a lifetime in the world of finance, private equity, venture capital, and business. And, the

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The Future Is Not What We Anticipate


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Stan Feld at his 60-year Columbia Reunion

My dad had his 60-year reunion at Columbia this weekend. He looks great.

This morning, I did a talk with Om Malik at the Startup Iceland 2019 conference. Om was in a hotel room somewhere and I was in my office in Boulder. We used Zoom, took about 30 minutes of our lives, and had fun riffing off each other. I hope it was useful for the audience, as doing talks this way is so much easier for me than flying halfway around the world, which is something I simply don’t want to do anymore in my life now that I’m 53. But, I’ll happily do a video talk anytime.

Bala Kamallakharan, who is the founder of Startup Iceland, asked a question of us at the end about the future. I went on a rant that is an evolution of my “machines

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Board Meeting Slide: What Are We Trying To Get Out of This Section


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I was at a board meeting last week that introduced something new into the mix that I thought was brilliant.

At the beginning of each section of the board meeting, there was one slide that was titled: “What Are We Trying To Get Out of This Section.” Before we started into a section, whoever was leading it walked everybody in the room specifically through what she was expecting to get out of the section.

I think we did this five times over a 3.5 hour board meeting. The first time it felt a little pedantic, but by the last time it was clearly magical. Each “What Are We Trying To Get Out of This Section” was different. Sometimes it was a decision. Other times it was feedback. Once it was a set of introductions.

You could feel the people in the room get recalibrated whenever this slide came

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Wartime CEO


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I read Ben Horowitz’s The Hard Thing About Hard Things last weekend. This is the third time I’ve read it. It gets better each time. If you are a CEO and you haven’t read it, buy it right now and read it next weekend.

There are endless gems in the book, many of them from Ben’s own experience. My favorite of all time, that stays with me through all the work I do, is his distinction between “peace time” and “war time.”

I think the first time he wrote about this was in his post in 2011 titled Peacetime CEO/Wartime CEO. There has been plenty of commentary on the web about it (see The Myth of the Wartime and Peacetime CEO, which really only says a CEO has to be effective in both wartime and peacetime to be successful.)

Ben has an incredible rant in the post

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Holograms Are Open For Business


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In February 2017 I met Shawn Frayne, one of the founders of Looking Glass Factory, a Brooklyn-based company with ambitions to make holographic interfaces a reality. Their team was scrappy and had sold an impressive variety of volumetric display kits to fuel their R&D efforts, and since our human-computer interface investment theme is one of my favorites, we led their Series A round.

Last summer they launched their flagship product, a dev kit called the Looking Glass. It was the first desktop holographic display to come to market for, well, extreme nerds (like yours truly) that have been hoping for holographic displays their/our whole lives.

The Looking Glass dev kits and the adjoining Unity and three.js SDKs sparked a wave of holographic app creation over the past few months, with thousands of hologram hackers creating new and wonderfully weird apps in their Looking Glasses every day. Looking Glass

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Dream Tank Summer Programs For Kids in Boulder


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Imagine that when you were a kid, someone told you that your dreams are important for the world and that what you do matters right now.

Dream Tank Kids Exploring the Techstars Boulder Accelerator

Now, match that with an epic adventure of creating future realities, throw in rockstar mentors, entrepreneurship skills training, tech, the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, and you have Dream Tank.

Big things happen when someone imagines an awesome new reality. While adults can do this, we are often stuck in a system that is limited in its thinking and driven by incrementalism. We are oppressed by the now, rather than inspired by what could be.

Kids see things in a different way. Take a look at the student climate strike that a 16-year-old girl in Sweden started. Greta Thunberg, who is currently on the cover of TIME magazine, started striking from school on Fridays last

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Improving My Handwriting


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I have awful handwriting.

I used to not care, but at age 53, I find myself writing on paper more than I have the past 30 years. I’ve decided that I’m going to improve my handwriting because I think it will increase my joy of writing on paper.

I’ve always rationalized that my bad handwriting comes from being the son of a doctor who has terrible handwriting, being left handed, and spending most of my time typing instead of writing on paper.

But that’s nonsense. I’m also the son of an artist who has beautiful handwriting. I’m married to a woman with delightful handwriting. I learned to type in sixth grade and have been practicing ever since in direct contrast to writing by hand, which I mostly avoid.

One of my summer projects is to improve my penpersonship (why is it called penmanship – what a silly word which apparently

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Bad Entrepreneurial Cliches: Strong Opinions Loosely Held


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Michael Natkin at Glowforge recently wrote a great post titled Strong Opinions Loosely Held Might be the Worst Idea in Tech.

I have never liked this entrepreneurial cliche. While I have a large personality, I don’t have a temper and I’m not argumentative. I try hard to listen (although I’m not always great at it), try to express my thoughts as “data” rather than “opinions”, and try to evolve my thinking based on the inputs that I get.

I’ve always felt that people who had “strong opinions loosely held” (SOLH) were simply being bombastic. Sometimes I could see that they were being provocative. Occasionally I’d give them credit for changing their mind about something based on new data. But usually, I discount their first opinion (or assertion) since I knew they didn’t have much conviction around it.

Michael’s post opened up an entirely new way for me to think about

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Tariffs and Hardware Startups


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If the majority of your understanding of how tariffs work is from Twitter, CNN, or Fox News, I encourage you to go read Trump’s China Tariffs Hit America’s Poor and Working Class the Hardest. And, if you think China is paying the U.S. directly for the tariffs, well, no …

We have a lot of hardware companies in our portfolio so I’ve been living in the world of “what to do about tariffs” for several quarters. My fantasy at the beginning was “ignore and hope they go away.” This quickly evolved through “are there any ways around this” to land at “deal with the reality of increased cost, research, and compliance.”

Fun.

It also became apparent, almost right away, that startups had a huge disadvantage over larger companies that had significant U.S. lobbying activities. We explored a few paths to engaging with the U.S. government

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CSbyAll: An Interactive, Crowdsourced Timeline of the CS Education and Diversity in Tech Movement


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The modern computer science education movement, commonly referred to as Computer Science for All or #CSforALL, has been gaining momentum nationwide since 2004 and is poised to be the most significant upgrade to the US education system in history.

History is recorded and codified through the journalism, social media, and public policy, and tends to emphasize the voices of those already in the public eye. Moreover, we know that media frequently amplifies the loudest voice in the room, and often misses the contributions of those without social capital and power, including women and minorities. Recent films like Hidden Figures and The Computers show this phenomenon by documenting the lost history of women’s contributions to engineering and technology fields.

Unfortunately, reporting on the Computer Science for All movement is already showing evidence of the erasure and dismissal of the contributions of educators, and in particular women and minorities.

On March

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Book: The Moment of Lift


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I had surgery recently and a few friends, including Chris Moody and Sarah Ahn, gave me some books as gifts. They knew I’d be spending a lot of time on the couch either napping or reading, so my pile of infinite books to read became more abundant with a few good ones including The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World by Melinda Gates.

While I’ve met Melinda’s husband Bill a few times, but I’ve never spent any time with Melinda. I know plenty of people who know her or work for her and have overlapped with a few organizations that we both support. However, after reading The Moment of Lift, I feel like I now know her. And, she is awesome.

The book is a combination of a memoir, a manifesto, a case study, and a roadmap. While it uses the backdrop of empowering women as

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Book: Everything Is Fucked


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Yesterday, I started my day by finishing A People’s History of American Empire: The American Empire Project, A Graphic Adaptation and ended my day by finishing Everything Is F*cked: A Book About Hope.

In between Amy took me to see John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (or maybe I took her to see it.)

All three experiences were satisfactory.

Mark Manson is a phenomenal writer. While the book is about hope, it’s not in the way you might think. He mixes philosophy, literature, opinion, self-help, inappropriate jokes, and thought experiments. His footnotes are in the spirit of David Foster Wallace. He has mastered when to include the word “fuck” in a sentence, although his publisher is apparently afraid to use it in unmodified in the book title.

The first half of the book is a setup for the really good stuff in the second half. He defines what he

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Book: Machines Like Me


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If you are looking for a great book to read this weekend, I recommend Ian McEwan’s Machines Like Me. I read it last weekend and am still thinking about it.

McEwan is a magnificent writer. When the hardcover ended up on top of my infinite pile of books to read, Amy said, “Wow, you’ll love Ian McEwan’s writing.” Whenever Amy says something like that, I know I’m in for a treat.

The setting is London in 1982. But it’s a parallel universe. Alan Turing chooses jail over chemical castration, lives, and has created massive innovations that are 40 years ahead of their time. Lennon and JFK didn’t die. Jimmy Carter wins a second term. Margaret Thatcher gets booted after botching the Falklands War.

That’s the backdrop for the introduction of our protagonists Charlie and Miranda. Charlie uses his inheritance to buy an Adam, one of 25 first production models

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University of Michigan Joins the Global EIR Network


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I’ve been working on the Startup Visa since I first wrote about it 2009 in my post The Founders Visa Movement. After a decade, it’s clear that our federal government has broadly failed us on this front.

In 2015, I announced the Global EIR initiative to try something different. Today, I’m happy to welcome the University of Michigan to the Global EIR network. Applications are now open to become a Global Entrepreneur in Residence at the University of Michigan’s Economic Growth Institution (EGI). Interested applicants can learn more about the program, fill out an application form, and reach out to Millie Chu at Global Detroit.

For founders, this announcement means access to a startup visa, with a long runway, and a path to a green card. Global EIR founders will use their experience as founders to support EGI’s mission of helping other Michigan-based companies develop and execute growth

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New Story and 3D Printed Homes


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In July 2015, I wrote about New Story asking readers to crowdfund one $6k house for a family in Haiti. At the time, Brett was only a few months into building New Story and had built less than twenty total homes. They were young and inexperienced but had a strong conviction to do things differently as a nonprofit which appealed to me.

In the past four years, New Story has funded over 2,200 homes, building 17 communities for over 11,000 people across Mexico, Haiti, El Salvador, and Bolivia. They started out by chasing one crazy idea, and have grown nearly 100x since my original post.

They have now come up with a unique model for scaling their impact. There are over a billion people living without safe shelter. The need for safe housing is as staggering as the lack of solutions to meet the need — one traditional home

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Keynoting Techstars Startup Week West Slope 2019


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From June 5 to June 8, Techstars Startup Week West Slope will be happening on the western slope in Colorado, with the main event in Grand Junction.

I’m doing a Keynote at on Thursday, June 6 from 11:30am – 1:00pm at Colorado Mesa University. I’ll be talking about building startup communities outside Colorado’s front range in a fireside chat / AMA format.

Startup communities in Colorado that are outside the front range (Boulder, Denver, Colorado Springs, and Fort Collins) have become something that my partner Seth Levine and I have been very involved in the past few years. Seth’s providing a lot of on the ground leadership, through his work with Startup Colorado and the Greater Colorado Venture Fund. I try to show up or help remotely whenever I can and Amy and I have been writing plenty of checks from our Anchor Point Foundation to support various initiatives.

We

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