Brad Feld

Brad Feld

Managing Director Foundry Group and Author of Venture Deals and Startup Communities

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON September 03, 2015

Discussion

Brad Feld
Brad Feld@bfeld · Managing Director, Foundry Group
Hi all. Brad here. I've been an early stage investor and entrepreneur for over 20 years. I've written a number of books including Start-up Communities and Venture Deals. I've also completed 23 marathons as part of my mission to finish a marathon in each of the 50 states. Ask me about anything!
Alessio Santo
Alessio Santo@alessiosantocs · Tech entrepreneur, Anywhere
Hi Brad, Thanks for this amazing opportunity. My wife and I loved the book startup life. It was really inspiring for us and it supported and improved our relationship together. It's 3 years now and we've had a baby this year We've recently started working as co-founders and we can already feel how much this multiplies the challenges of our relationship. In your personal experience and seeing all the startups you have seen, is there anything you would suggest to couples starting a company together that want to be successful and still enjoy life and family? Thank you very much Alessio
Brad Feld
Brad Feld@bfeld · Managing Director, Foundry Group
@alessiosantocs Have a clear set of rules for how you engage with work and not-work. Think about all the rules / tactics that Amy and I discuss in Startup Life. Have your our set / rules for engagement.
Linnea Passaler
Linnea Passaler@linneapassaler · founder
@bfeld Thanks from the wife :)
Sydney Liu
Sydney Liu@sydney_liu_sl · Co-Founder of Commaful.com
Hi Brad! Thanks for doing the AMA! You've put out a lot of great content: books, consistent blog posts, interviews, and more. I know you’re an avid reader as well. How much time would you recommend an early-stage founder allocate to consuming content (if at all)? During that time, what would be some of the staples you’d recommend founders to read to minimize mistakes/help the founder think in the right ways? Could be blog posts, books, videos, papers, even tweets. Thanks! Sydney
Brad Feld
Brad Feld@bfeld · Managing Director, Foundry Group
@sydney_liu_sl You should always be learning. I'd encourage deep intellectual engagement in a set of things that you think will move you / your business forward and then light engagement in stuff that is relevant to you / your business. Don't get hung up paying attention to a bunch of noise that has nothing to do with you or your company, but is general prognostication about the industry, the macro, or the universe. And, if you are in tech, read a lot of science fiction.
Danielle Newnham
Danielle Newnham@daniellenewnham · Founder, The Junto Network. Author
@bfeld Hi Brad, thank you for talking so openly about depression in startup world. From your own experience, do you think there is a way to change startup culture to better deal with the signs of overwork, stress, depression? Is there a way to alleviate the pressure on founders and, if so, how?
Brad Feld
Brad Feld@bfeld · Managing Director, Foundry Group
@daniellenewnham I don't know how to specifically alleviate pressure in a generic way. However, identifying that it exists and doing a bunch of specific tactical things for yourself as a human can help enormously. The biggest mistakes are either (a) ignoring / being in denial about the dynamic or (b) believing that there can be just one way and one way only. And, I think talking about it and being vulnerable as a leader is a great start. For more - go listen to the Reboot.io podcasts - they are excellent on this dimension.
Brad Feld
Brad Feld@bfeld · Managing Director, Foundry Group
And - I'm done. Off to the next meeting. Sorry for anything I didn't answer. Email me anytime at brad@feld.com
Graham Gardiner
Graham Gardiner@gbgardiner
@bfeld haha this was pretty epic. Take a breath.
Varadh Jain
Varadh Jain@varadhjain
If you weren't allowed to invest anymore starting tomorrow, what would you be doing?
Brad Feld
Brad Feld@bfeld · Managing Director, Foundry Group
@varadhjain Read a lot. Hang out with my wife Amy. Write.
Kamil
Kamil@kamilszybalski · Growth Entrepreneur. Was @Hootsuitelabs
@bfeld Brad, what books are you currently reading and what's on your shelf?
Brad Feld
Brad Feld@bfeld · Managing Director, Foundry Group
Troy Shu
Troy Shu@troyshu
Hey Brad, Found Venture Deals to be immensely helpful! My question to you is: what are a few changes you’ve made to your life that have resulted in the greatest sense of happiness (running-related or not)? Thanks!
Brad Feld
Brad Feld@bfeld · Managing Director, Foundry Group
@troyshu I'm 49 so if I look back the past two years, the biggest change has been to dramatically curtail my travel. For 20 years I travelled 75% of the time. That totally fucked me up on many dimensions, especially my long term mental health. Also, I'm now only investing in companies where I love the product and want to have a long term relationship with the founders.
@bfeld Hi Brad! Curious to hear your thoughts on when/why it would make sense to do an MBA/Executive degree . I know you've done one with the MIT-Sloan school of management and would love to hear your opinion.
Brad Feld
Brad Feld@bfeld · Managing Director, Foundry Group
@momusbah If you want a two year vacation from reality, go get an MBA. It's a great way to take a break and reposition the trajectory you are on in your work.
Drew Lawrence
Drew Lawrence@drewlawrence · Director of Business Development
@bfeld I couldn't agree more. My MBA experience gave me the ability to re-center myself as a person, really find my passion, and gave me the opportunity to make that passion a part of my daily life. Oh, and I skied 50+ days while in school. That won't happen again for a while!
Erik Torenberg
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
Hey Brad, Thanks for joining us today! In startups, books, and building communities, you have so much to be proud of. What's something you're _not_ proud of?
Brad Feld
Brad Feld@bfeld · Managing Director, Foundry Group
@eriktorenberg I'm not proud of my inability to set limits. I've always had a very difficult time being a moderator at ANYTHING (food, work, exercise, alcohol, travel) so I end up having to either be an abstainer or accept that I'm going to slam into periodic exhaustion.
Todd Saunders
Todd Saunders@toddsaunders · CEO @ adHawk
@bfeld Thanks for spending time with us at Techstars. Are you working on any new books? Loved venture deals, would suggest it to anyone on this forum.
Brad Feld
Brad Feld@bfeld · Managing Director, Foundry Group
@toddsaunders No new books until 2016. I was totally burned out on writing after I finished Startup Opportunities. My next book will be #Give First (I'll start and hopefully finish it in 2016) and then I'll write Startup Communities 2. Jason and I are also likely to do a 3rd Edition of Venture Deals in 2016.
Nicholas Spinazze
Nicholas Spinazze@spinoodle · CEO, Lynxus
@bfeld if you could start over your career today, which tech field would you work in? Also, what technologies are you most excited about being created in the next decade?
Brad Feld
Brad Feld@bfeld · Managing Director, Foundry Group
@spinoodle I've never viewed what I do as a career. If I was 21 again, I'd still be a software guy. I love being involved in creating software products. And all the hardware / consumer electronics products (like BB-8 from Sphero - have you noticed that yet? - www.sphero.com) are "software wrapped in plastic" in my mental model. I think HCI (human computer interaction) is the foundational area of excitement for me over the next 20 years.
Nicholas Spinazze
Nicholas Spinazze@spinoodle · CEO, Lynxus
@bfeld I'm a huge Sphero fan! I got my little brother their new developer model for his birthday!
Nicholas Spinazze
Nicholas Spinazze@spinoodle · CEO, Lynxus
Which I found on Product Hunt haha
Erik Torenberg
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
What's your experience / what do you think about therapy? When would you advise people to do it and how often?
Brad Feld
Brad Feld@bfeld · Managing Director, Foundry Group
@eriktorenberg I'm a huge believer in therapy. I did five years in my mid-20s which changed they way I approach life and helped get me through a very deep clinical depression. I've been doing twice a month sessions for the past two years since my six month depressive episode at the beginning of 2013. I refer to it as "an hour on Planet Brad" - I get to sit with someone (my therapist) who HAS to listen to me talk about me for a hour (well - 50 minutes). He gets to be the tour guide for me on Planet Brad, but it's still all about me. And I find this incredibly helpful.
Chris Schroeder
Chris Schroeder@cmschroed · investor
Your lens on the worlds of innovation are so unique in part because you are out of so many echo chambers. Silicon Valley and other eocosystems are extraordinary, but often risk becoming self confirming. As you look out the next five years or so -- what do you think conventional wisdom due to narrative bias in the US tech worlds are most missing?
Brad Feld
Brad Feld@bfeld · Managing Director, Foundry Group
@cmschroed We are (a) dramatically underestimating the impact on technology on the human race, (b) misunderstanding how it's going to transform wealthy and well-structured societies, and (c) struggling to understand how it will impact poor and chaotic societies. And we are no where near ready for the implications of how it changes our overall experience on this planet.
Josh Barkin
Josh Barkin@joshbarkin · Co-founder @ Janis.ai
@bfeld What's your VC perspective on the Canadian tech ecosystem? Do you subscribe to "I invest only in local startups where I can add value", or do you see yourself as well as other U.S.-based VC's starting to looking at Canada (i.e. Waterloo, Toronto, Vancouver) more opportunistically?
Craig Stanford
Craig Stanford@craigstanford · Co-Founder & VP of BizDev @ StageHound
@bfeld If you were playing SV Unicorn Five Card Hold'em, which five companies would you want in your hand? And which cards would you toss? Why?
Ben Tossell
Ben Tossell@bentossell · Makerpad.co
@bfeld Hey Brad! Thanks for doing this :) What is your craziest experience in a pitch that you can tell us about?
Brad Feld
Brad Feld@bfeld · Managing Director, Foundry Group
@bentossell At least once a year I get a letter from someone in jail pitching me something. It makes me sad to not really be able to help or respond in a useful way.
Phillip Yang
Phillip Yang@geekyyang
@bfeld Hi Brad! Love your blog and admirer of what you do. I recently watched an episode of Carpool.vc featuring you. You mentioned that you're spirit animal would be a giant like polar bear. So my question is: - What would you say your second choice for a Spirit Animal would be? Thanks!
Brad Feld
Brad Feld@bfeld · Managing Director, Foundry Group
@geeky_yang a brown bear
Phillip Yang
Phillip Yang@geekyyang
@bfeld Thanks for responding - Keeping it with the bear family! Sorry about the grammar error on my end :).
Eric Willis
Eric Willis@erictwillis · Working on something new
@bfeld Thanks for doing this AMA, Brad. I have a non-business question. Are you back riding again? I remember reading a while ago (on your blog) about the serious biking accident you had. Just saw a serious accident the other day and was just thinking about how cities need to be redesigned to accommodate walkers/bikers/runners better.
Brad Feld
Brad Feld@bfeld · Managing Director, Foundry Group
@erictwillis I will never ride a bike again. I had two bike accidents in two years. Both times I was making a left turn and just lost control. I clearly suck at riding a bike.
Kate
Kate@katesegrin · Head of Social @ GitHub
@bfeld what are some of your hobbies?
Brad Feld
Brad Feld@bfeld · Managing Director, Foundry Group
@katesegrin reading, writing, tennis, being with my wife Amy
Nicholas Spinazze
Nicholas Spinazze@spinoodle · CEO, Lynxus
@bfeld woohoo huge tennis fan! Who are your picks for the Men's and Women's singles champions at this years U.S. Open?
Tom Klein
Tom Klein@tdrewk · Product founder: LOOP Messenger
@bfeld You're my #3 top entrepreneurial inspirer ;-). In all seriousness, your life perspectives have resonated a great deal with me. I truly appreciate the sharing of your experiences and hardships. Someday, I would enjoy to hit the courts and hit some fuzzy balls with you.
Andrew Torba
Andrew Torba@torbahax · CEO, Gab.ai #SpeakFreely
@bfeld what are your thoughts on the future of digital advertising? With the rise of adblocking (especially coming soon to mobile with iOS9,) what do you think will happen to online advertising business models over the next 5-10 years?
Brad Feld
Brad Feld@bfeld · Managing Director, Foundry Group
@torbahax It's going to be very complicated. Adblocking is particularly vexing - we recently invested in SourcePoint which is going after addressing the dynamics. I don't really have a strong forward looking view of the macro - but it's not going to be straightforward.
How do you feel about the Lean Model? I've heard everything from "it's the only thing" to "glorified vapor-ware and undelivered kickstarters".
Brad Feld
Brad Feld@bfeld · Managing Director, Foundry Group
@mjklanac I am a huge fan of Eric Ries and Steve Blank. I think the notion of the Lean Startup as well as Steve's long intellectual arc on customer development is incredibly important. It's not "the answer" but it's a key part of how to get to the answer.
Halley Suitt Tucker
Halley Suitt Tucker@halley · entrepreneur
Hi @bfeld When it comes to 1st jobs in tech, do women entrepreneurs get better experience in a big co (FB, Google, Twitter) or better to start their own company?
Brad Feld
Brad Feld@bfeld · Managing Director, Foundry Group
@halley I think this is very dependent on the person, the company, her desire. I also don't think this is necessarily a gender-related answer - I think it's true for virtually anyone. Some people will get huge benefit from working at a tech company as their first job. Others won't. Some people will be well tuned to just starting something, especially if they have developed or are surrounded by a powerful support network. Others won't.
Jeremy Shure
Jeremy Shure@jeremyshure
Hey Brad! Thanks for doing this! Thought I would jump in and just say hello!
Brad Feld
Brad Feld@bfeld · Managing Director, Foundry Group
Corey Ballou
Corey Ballou@cballou · CEO, POP.co
@bfeld What advice would you give to a younger, more naive Brad Feld on building a startup, seeking product market fit, and gaining traction?
Brad Feld
Brad Feld@bfeld · Managing Director, Foundry Group
@cballou Don't waste your time on things you aren't obsessed about. It's that simple.
Steven W
Steven W@mrwongsteven · Nice guys finish lunch.
@bfeld Would you say that the market is efficient enough where VC's can spot a solid/growing company? Who are the best VC/Angels for a social startup game?
Brad Feld
Brad Feld@bfeld · Managing Director, Foundry Group
@mrwongsteven Nope. Well - NO FUCKING WAY. There is no efficiency in this market, especially around "picking things." Re: the best angels / VCs - I don't have a generic list for a 'social startup game." Instead, look at the companies you think are ones you want to grow into and then go figure out who invested in them (the people, not the firms).
James Lethem
James Lethem@sycren · Head Mentor of Google Launchpad
@bfeld Hi Brad, what one problem would you like to see a startup solve in an area that you would invest in? :)
Brad Feld
Brad Feld@bfeld · Managing Director, Foundry Group
@sycren I am desperate for a portable teleportation machine. I want to be able to teleport wherever I want, with my machine, so I can then teleport somewhere else when I want to go somewhere else.
James Lethem
James Lethem@sycren · Head Mentor of Google Launchpad
@bfeld Do you need to physically be there? Virtual Reality / Neural Interfaces? If so, how long do you think we will need to wait for this tech to be invented?
Graham Gardiner
Graham Gardiner@gbgardiner
Hi Brad, Graham here. When is your next Marathon? looks like you are due for another one http://www.feld.com/marathons. Hope all is well!
Brad Feld
Brad Feld@bfeld · Managing Director, Foundry Group
@gbgardiner I'm not training for anything right now. I've struggled with a bunch of health things the past two years so I'll gear up when I feel healthy.
Graham Gardiner
Graham Gardiner@gbgardiner
What are your thoughts on Jet.com? Instacart? & Swarm? Also do you think Amazon will buy instacart in the next 24 months? I do..... ;)
Brad Feld
Brad Feld@bfeld · Managing Director, Foundry Group
@gbgardiner No strong opinion about any of them. I don't use any of them. I tried Jet for one day and then got tired of all the spam they were sending me.
Paul Sondhi
Paul Sondhi@paulsondhi · Student
@bfeld Hi Brad! Just wanted to say thanks for Venture Deals -- currently reading it for a college venture capital club I'm starting. It's going to be an awesome resource for teaching students during weekly workshops. Question for you: What do you think is the single most important thing for college students interested in VC to do while still in school? Is it work at a startup? Or get experience at a financial firm?
Erik Torenberg
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
HUGE Thanks to @bfeld for taking the time to chat with us today!
DocSheldon
DocSheldon@docsheldon · Owner, Intrinsic Value SEO
Really appreciate you doing the AMA, Brad. My question is, what is the single most important character trait that you focus on when you're considering backing an entrepreneur's venture (may be a one man deal or a team)?
Brad Feld
Brad Feld@bfeld · Managing Director, Foundry Group
@docsheldon Her obsession with the product she is creating. Has she been put on this planet to work on this product? If yes, then awesome.
Josh Muccio
Josh Muccio@joshmuccio · Host of The Pitch
@bfeld Hey Brad! I just started reading "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep" - on your recommendation 😃- and I know you're an advocate for science fiction. One thing is for sure, it's infinitely more interesting reading than your average non-fiction business/self-help book. I'm curious if you have a science fiction book list? I'm getting close to the end of DADOES and wondering what I should read next.
Brad Feld
Brad Feld@bfeld · Managing Director, Foundry Group
@joshmuccio Read Seven Eves (Neal Stephenson), anything by William Hertling, anything by William Gibson, and then Snowcrash and Diamond Age (Neal Stephenson). That will keep you busy for a while.
Tzafrir Rehan
Tzafrir Rehan@tzafrirr · CTO at BeLive.tv
@bfeld Which would you take with you to a lonely island, an innovative but risky startup that's creating a brand new category, or one that adapts a known model to an already proven category ("Uber for X")?
Brad Feld
Brad Feld@bfeld · Managing Director, Foundry Group
@tzafrirr The first. I have no interest in BLAH for X types of startups.
Pablito M.
Pablito M.@pmarte1 · Founder, startupvali.com & Travibags.com
Hi Brad, Thanks for taking some time for this! How can you tell if someone with no startup experience and has pitched to you, that they have a great idea?
Brad Feld
Brad Feld@bfeld · Managing Director, Foundry Group
@pmarte1 Having a great idea is not the key thing. I wrote extensively about this with Sean Wise in my new book Startup Opportunities - http://www.startuprev.com/catego...
Aaron Gopp
Aaron Gopp@aaron_gopp · co-founder Triipmates
Hi @bfeld, great to see you on PH Live! You have had a huge part to play in growing a startup culture outside of Silicon Valley. SV has so much to offer in networking, talent and funding but what advice would you offer for companies attempting to grow in communities with a lesser-developed startup ecosystem?
Brad Feld
Brad Feld@bfeld · Managing Director, Foundry Group
@aaron_gopp I encourage you to read Startup Communities - it's going to be way more helpful than a short snippet that I'd leave here as I run out the clock on my 30 minutes - http://www.startuprev.com/catego...
Vijay Venkatesh
Vijay Venkatesh@vijayv · CTO, Baublebar
@bfeld Hi Brad. Do you think any potential late-stage tech IPOs and/or valuation corrections, down the pike, affect early-stage funding, and if so how? What should early stage founders be aware of?
Brad Feld
Brad Feld@bfeld · Managing Director, Foundry Group
@vijayv Lots of ink has been already spilled on this. My recent Re/Code quote is what I think - "everyone will have an opinion and no one has any idea."
Jacob Catalano
Jacob Catalano@jgcatalano · Founder
What are the top three books every young entrepreneur should read?
Thomas Brown
Thomas Brown@thomaskbrown · Soft and Hard Engineer
@bfeld Do you actively cultivate your own creativity and do you help the founders you work with cultivate theirs? If so, in what manner?
Lenny Hu
Lenny Hu@lenndizzle · Designer and Product Guy
@bfeld Hey Brad, I've heard you answer the phone whenever your wife Amy calls -- regardless of what you're doing. What's the most outrageous moment you've answered the phone?
Divraj
Divraj@divraj · divraj.com
@bfeld There are ton's of communities thriving on slack , do you think there's a market for a community platform or is it working because people like to "slack" from their primary work team ?
Vadi
Vadi@vadivelk · Craftsman
Thanks for the AMA. I am planning to invest in a team that has just one person done everything. Starting from ideation to coding to selling. I can vouch others are just dead weights. If you in my position would you be angel invest in that company?
Kapil Kanugo
Kapil Kanugo@kapilkanugo · Founder
Hi Brad! Great fan of your book Venture Deals. What are your thoughts on VR vs AR ? Do you think Investor community including the market is accepting this as mainstream market or it is still considered a high risk area? Should startups in this area be concerned about follow through funding due to its adoption rate dependent on adoption of AR/VR devices?