While I was in Seattle last week, I had a chance to stop by the Glowforge office and talk to the team during one of their biggest weeks since their historic 30-day crowdfunding campaign. An electric energy buzzed in the air along with the familiar low hum of anticipation in advance of a big product launch. Glowforge was about to launch their 3D laser printers to the world – their entire product line – for delivery in 10 days.
Foundry led a $9 million and then $20 million financing in Glowforge, the Seattle-based 3D laser printer, as it grew from just an idea to shipping a beloved product to their customers. Along the way, they’ve faced some unique challenges, not least of which was creating an entirely new product category.
Laser cutting/engraving technology has existed for many years, but it is not at all the sleek, superpowered item you envision. Instead, it has historically been an industrial, expensive, and hard-to-use piece of factory machinery. We invested in Glowforge because we were excited by what they envisioned – a way to harness the power of lasers that could be used right at home.
The feedback around what they were doing was incredible. It doesn’t hurt that lasers are super cool, but people also really, really loved the idea. Now, Glowforge reaches yet another milestone as their produce is moving out of pre-order and into commercial sale.
During my visit last week, one...
Kauffman Fellows and Techstars are once again running the Venture Deals online course.
This time it runs from May 6th to June 26th. We’ve now had over 10,000 people take the online course and have been delighted to meet or email with a bunch of them over the past few years.
If you want to learn how to be smarter than your lawyer and your venture capitalist, sign up for Venture Deals now. Yup – it’s free!
The post Venture Deals Online Course Starts Again On May 6th appeared first on Feld Thoughts.
To clean my palate after reading Comey’s A Higher Loyalty, I settled onto the couch on Sunday after my run and gobbled up John Scalzi’s Head On: A Novel of the Near Future. It was delicious and I gave it to my partner Ryan McIntyre at dinner last night (he and Katherine are in a nice rhythm of taking care of me Sunday night when Amy is away.)
If you don’t know Scalzi, he’s one of my favorite near-term sci-fi writers and joins a list that includes Hertling, Peper, Gibson, Suarez, Howey, Cline, and Weir. If those names aren’t familiar, and you like sci-fi (or want to get into it) that should keep you busy for a while. If you know those names and have others to add, leave them in the comments for me to enjoy!
Head On is the sequel to Lock In. But it’s a magical sequel (I think the official name for this is a “standalone sequel”, but I find them magical so there) – one that doesn’t require you to read the first book. If you want to quickly get into Scalzi, just read Head On, then go back and read Lock In. This morning, I discovered there is an adjacent book in the series called Unlocked: An Oral History of Haden’s Syndrome which I just grabbed.
Here are a few tidbits for you.
Haden’s Syndrome results from a virus where 1% of people exposed become Locked-in and end up in a pseudocoma. The solution, in the near...
I finished James Comey’s book A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership last night. Everyone who thinks or cares about leadership should read it and allow themselves to process it at a meta-level.
I don’t know James Comey and other than seeing his name, photos, opinions, interviews, criticisms, and analysis of him all week, have never really thought much about him. I noticed him during the 2016 election around the Hillary Clinton investigation – both when he announced it, ended it, re-opened it again, and closed it again. I noticed when he was fired and thought everything around it was odd.
I’ve never studied the FBI, know anyone who works there, or have really thought much about its relationship to the rest of the Executive Branch (or the government in general), other than knowing that it is part of the Executive Branch and that the director of the FBI reports to the Attorney General. Beyond than that, most of what I know about the FBI I’ve learned from fictional movies and TV shows, which I know is as accurate as the Fast and Furious movies.
My sense, from all the attention around the book in the last few weeks, was that this would be an important book. I didn’t know how it would be important, but the combination of the extremely aggressive criticism of Comey, the endless ad-hominem attacks on him, the promotion of the revelations that the book held, and a latent curiosity that I had around the dynamics of the director...
I said some version of the following statement several times in the past few weeks.
Assume aliens came down and one of your senior leaders was taken away to their home planet. Do they have a person reporting to them who could step into their role, even if it’s only temporary?
If you are the CEO, this includes you.
It’s remarkable to me, even in companies that are over 100 people, how the answer to this question is no. I get that this can feel theoretically challenging in a very small (less than 20) person company, but it should still be an aspirational goal. Once you get to 100, it should be a requirement for every leader to be able to identify this person.
This should not be viewed as a threat. If you have this conversation with your leadership team (or are on a leadership team having this conversation) and are threatening (or feel threatened), you are missing the point. Realize that things happen and people leave organizations suddenly. They die. They have a dramatic personal change. They get bored. They scale out of their role. They get stopped at the Canadian/US border by CBP agents and can’t get back into the country. The aliens show up.
Less dramatically, leaders go through stretches where they are in a doer mode. The company has a crisis in an area and a leader has to spent 100% of her time working on this area, rather than covering her entire span on control. Or, focus shifts...
I’m in Seattle for the next few days. I’ve built this trip around Techstars Seattle Demo, a bunch of time at PSL, and a Moz board meeting. Oh – and time with several of our portfolio companies as well as some nice social stuff with long time friends.
Today, PSL announced their new $80 million venture fund. We are significant LPs in the fund and my partner Lindel is joining the PSL advisory board. In addition to being LPs in PSL Ventures, we are major investors in PSL Studio and I’m on the board. While we don’t have an office in Seattle, I’m confident we have a comfortable place to hang out when we are in town.
Amy and I have a periodic conversation around what happens if one of us died unexpectedly. We each know that it would be impossible to keep living alone in Boulder given our deep connections to many things as a couple. So, we each have our “other place” we’d live if it wasn’t Boulder. Amy’s is Paris; mine is Seattle.
I’ve been going to Seattle regularly for business since 1990. Feld Technologies was in the inaugural Microsoft Solution Provider program that Dwayne Walker created around 1991. I fondly remember a box of happiness from Microsoft showing up at my office in Boston every month, usually full of software, books, an occasional t-shirt, or plaque. At the time, we did almost all of our Windows development using Microsoft Access, which was a remarkably...
While I’ve been writing my entire adult life, I started writing consistently on May 4, 2004, when I began this blog with my first post To Blog or Not to Blog.
I ended that first post with the sentence:
“I’m still not sure if the world needs my musings, but because you have complete control over whether or not you decide to read this, here goes.”
WordPress tells me that since then I’ve written 4,890 posts. There are 5,095 days since May 4, 2004, so I write approximately a post a day (sometimes two, sometimes none). I’ve written hundreds of articles over the years for other publications, done countless online and live interviews, and written six books.
While that’s a lot of writing, I’ve had extended periods of being stymied. During the writing of several of my books, I had long spells of boredom, which some call writer’s block, but when I reflect on how I felt, I was bored of either the process or the content of the book. I never liked the feeling of writing as “work” and there were many periods where that’s what it has been for me.
I’ve always written to think and to learn, so I know that intellectually it is work. However, I get an enormous amount of joy out of thinking and learning, so that when I’m in a mode where one of these is happening, it doesn’t feel like work.
In 2016, Foundry Group became a registered investment advisor because of our Foundry Group Next fund...
“We cannot afford the advertising business model. The price of free is actually too high. It is literally destroying our society, because it incentivizes automated systems that have these inherent flaws. Cambridge Analytica is the easiest way of explaining why that’s true. Because that wasn’t an abuse by a bad actor — that was the inherent platform. The problem with Facebook is Facebook.”
The article ends with a parallel quote from Tim Berners-Lee, creator of the World Wide Web
“The web that many connected to years ago is not what new users will find today. The fact that power is concentrated among so few companies has made it possible to weaponize the web at scale.”
I just read the article and all of the attached long-form interviews. I think my favorite, only because it’s so provocative, is the one with Roger McNamee titled ‘You Have a Persuasion Engine Unlike Any Created in History’
There are a few mentions of Zynga (which we were investors in) in the various article chain which caused me to reflect even more on the 2007 – 2010 time period when free-to-consumer (supported by advertising) was suddenly conflated with freemium (or free trials for enterprise software). The later (freemium) became a foundational part of the B2B SaaS business model, while the former became an extremely complex dance between digital advertising and user data.
Tristin’s quote “the price of free is actually too...
I have a Cray-2 showing up at our Carriage House in the next few weeks. It’ll be a permanent fixture there and, while it’s not functional, it’ll be fun to have around.
I’m now on a quest to find a Thinking Machines CM-1 or CM-2. Every supercomputer needs a friend after all.
If you know where I can get one (I’m happy to buy it), or display something publicly that is hidden away in storage somewhere, drop me a line.
In the meantime, if you want to learn more about the CM-1 or CM-2, the following promotional video is a nifty walk through memory (see what I did there?) lane. Yup – enjoy the parallel universe (sorry – I couldn’t help myself.)
Tonight, the New Venture Challenge at CU Boulder is having its 10th anniversary. It’s happening at the Boulder Theater from 5:30 pm – 7:30 pm and is open to the public. Register here to attend if you are interested.
My partner Jason is leading the judging panel, which includes:
Dan and Cindy Caruso and Amy and I contributed the prizes, which total $100,000.
A decade ago the creation of the NVC was inspired by the MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition. I was involved in the early years (1992 – 1996) as a judge and funded a number of companies that went through the MIT $100K (which was called the MIT $10K at the time.) The entire experience was foundational for me, both as an entrepreneur and an early angel investor (I started investing in 1994 after I sold my first company at the end of 1993.)
Over a decade ago, Brad Bernthal and Phil Weiser were putting real energy into Boulder Startup Community. I discuss their efforts, and impact, in my book Startup Communities (which was published in 2012). One of the things I suggested was doing something like the MIT $100K. I remember a longish discussion with Brad Bernthal and my partner Jason about the history of it and how...
My dad, brother, and I are now doing a monthly book club together. One of us chooses a book, we all read it, and then we do an hour-long video conference and talk about it. We’ve done this for about six months now and it’s wonderful.
A few months ago Daniel chose Waking Up White, and Finding Myself in the Story of Race by Debby Irving. It was a powerful book that started off strong.
“I can think of no bigger misstep in American history than the invention and perpetuation of the idea of white superiority. It allows white children to believe they are exceptional and entitled while allowing children of color to believe they are inferior and less deserving. Neither is true; both distort and stunt development. Racism crushes spirits, incites divisiveness, and justifies the estrangement of entire groups of individuals who, like all humans, come into the world full of goodness, with a desire to connect, and with boundless capacity to learn and grow. Unless adults understand racism, they will, as I did, unknowingly teach it to their children.
No one alive today created this mess, but everyone alive today has the power to work on undoing it. Four hundred years since its inception, American racism is all twisted up in our cultural fabric. But there’s a loophole: people are not born racist. Racism is taught, and racism is learned. Understanding how and why our beliefs developed along racial lines holds the promise of healing, liberation,...
I’m a fan of spring break. I’m a believer in regular vacations. I love it when people I work with get away and disconnect. And, I do it at least four times a year.
Spring break feels like it has gotten out of control. Rethinking it could be interesting. This year, at least 50% of the people I work with regularly are on spring break this week. I think the other 50% go on spring break next week. Easter seems to be the pivot point for this.
Unlike the week before Christmas, which moves around every year, if Easter is the pivot point for spring break, life would be better if everyone in the US decided the week before (or after – I don’t care) Easter was spring break. Then, the rhythm of work in the US would slow (or at least change) for that week, just like it does for the week between Christmas and New Years.
And, everyone who goes on spring break with their family and kids could actually disconnect, rather than what I’m observing, where some people disengage, but others keep one foot in, probably ruining the real value of a week-long disconnect from work for them
I’m not at all cranky about this. I’m at work this week – and next week. Amy, on the other hand, is on spring break with a girlfriend who is five years...
The first accelerator, YC, was founded in 2005. The second, Techstars, was founded in 2006. Wikipedia has a good summary of the history of accelerators.
Now that we are 13 years into the accelerator journey, an accelerator is a well-established construct that is part of the global startup ecosystem. They have evolved over the years, and many new approaches have been taken.
The question of the efficacy of accelerators has regularly been asked over the past decade. A number of academic papers have appeared in the past few years exploring this. I was asked if any existed the other day by an LP, so following is a list of papers I am familiar with.
If you know of any others, please put links in the comments or send me an email with the info.
Accelerators and Crowd-Funding: Complementarity, Competition, or Convergence in the Earliest Stages of Financing New Ventures?, Smith, Hannigan, and Gasiorowski, 6/13
Accelerating Startups: The Seed Accelerator Phenomenon, Hochberg and Cohen, 3/14
Accelerators and the Regional Supply of Venture Capital Investment, Fehder and Hochberg, 9/14
Swinging for the fences: How do top accelerators impact the trajectories of new ventures?, Winston Smith and Hannigan, 6/15
Investment Accelerators, Bernthal, 8/15
Do Accelerators Accelerate? If So, How? The Impact of Intensive Learning from Others on New Venture Development, Hallen, Bingham, and Cohen, 7/16
Whenever someone tells me about the progress humans have made, I remind them that since the beginning of humans, man has been trying to kill his neighbor to take over his backyard. And yes, as Amy likes to regularly remind me, it’s often men doing the killing.
Simultaneously, governments around the world have spent zillions of dollars building surveillance systems since the beginning of – well – humans. Or at least since the beginning of governments.
In 14 years, Facebook has created the most incredible and effective surveillance machine in the history of humankind. And we, the humans, have given the machine much of the data. John Lanchester has the best article on this I’ve read to date titled You Are the Product in the London Review of Books. It’s long – 8674 words – but worth reading every one of them. The magical paragraph is in the middle of the article and follows.
“What this means is that even more than it is in the advertising business, Facebook is in the surveillance business. Facebook, in fact, is the biggest surveillance-based enterprise in the history of mankind. It knows far, far more about you than the most intrusive government has ever known about its citizens. It’s amazing that people haven’t really understood this about the company. I’ve spent time thinking about Facebook, and the thing I keep coming back to is that its users don’t realise what it is the company does. What Facebook does is watch you, and then use what it knows about...
I recently heard the line “sandpaper only works if it is rubbing against something” and loved it.
From Wikipedia: “The first recorded instance of sandpaper was in 1st-century China when crushed shells, seeds, and sand were bonded to parchment using natural gum. Shark skin (placoid scales) has also been used as an abrasive and the rough scales of the living fossil, Coelacanth are used for the same purpose by the natives of Comoros. Boiled and dried, the rough horsetail plant is used in Japan as a traditional polishing material, finer than sandpaper. Glass paper was manufactured in London in 1833 by John Oakey, whose company had developed new adhesive techniques and processes, enabling mass production. Glass frit has sharp-edged particles and cuts well whereas sand grains are smoothed down and do not work well as an abrasive. Cheap sandpaper was often passed off as glass paper; Stalker and Parker cautioned against it in A Treatise of Japaning and Varnishing published in 1688. In 1921, 3M invented a sandpaper with silicon carbide grit and a waterproof adhesive and backing, known as Wet and dry. This allowed use with water, which would serve as a lubricant to carry away particles that would otherwise clog the grit. Its first application was in automotive paint refinishing.”
Every company I’m involved in has issues. Some are minor. Some are major. Some are easy to fix. Some sneak up on you when everything feels like it’s going great. Some are existential crises. Some just feel like existential...
A law with good intentions, but horrible side effects, passed yesterday. You probably haven’t heard about it because of the brouhaha over 97,513 other things. It’s called SESTA/FOSTA and the EFF has a good summary of how Lawmakers Failed to Separate Their Good Intentions from Bad Law. Craigslist responded immediately (and rationally) by taking Craigslist Personals offline.
Oh, and as a bonus, the CLOUD Act was buried in the Omnibus spending bill. EFF has an article from six weeks ago that explains why it is A Dangerous Expansion of Police Snooping on Cross-Border Data. The CLOUD Act is an aggressive undermining of existing privacy laws, but no one really cares about online privacy or your data, right?
If you want a glimpse as to the data Facebook has on you, take a look at the analysis Dylan McKay just posted. And then, it a magic trick of epic proportions, it turns out that ‘Lone DNC Hacker’ Guccifer 2.0 Slipped Up and Revealed He Was a Russian Intelligence Officer. I’m shocked – just shocked – that something like this could be true (actually, I’m not – I’ve been saying the DNC / Wikileaks stuff was Russian hackers since the beginning, even after several friends gave me tinfoil caps to keep me safe.)
I don’t expect the Trump campaign knew anything about any of this. Well, except for the news today that showed the Cambridge Analytica’s blueprint for Trump victory. And now, the news that Trump’s new security adviser John...
In 2008, I gave a talk at my 20th-year reunion at MIT Sloan. The title of the talk was something like “Privacy is Dead” and my assertion, in 2008, was that there was no longer any data privacy, anywhere, for anyone.
I’ve been living my life under that assumption since then.
The current Facebook scandal around Cambridge Analytica, and – more significantly – data privacy, shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. All of my experiences with companies around Facebook data over the years have been consistent with what is nicely called “data leakage” from Facebook out into the world. Facebook’s privacy and data settings have always been complex, have changed regularly over the years, and are most definitely not front and center in the Facebook user experience. And, that data has been easily and widely accessible at many moments in time to any developer who wanted access to it.
Answer the following questions:
If the answer to all of these questions is yes, good on you. But, my answers are no to all of them and, unless you do some real work, you probably are answering no to at least two or three of them.
I haven’t used Facebook for a while. I broadcast my blog posts to it, but I’ve never really figured out how to...
In case you don’t know about Jason, prior to co-founding Foundry Group, Jason was a co-founder of SRS Acquiom and a Managing Director and General Counsel for Mobius Venture Capital. Prior to this, Jason was an attorney with Cooley. Early in his career, Jason was a software engineer at Accenture.
Going further back, Jason holds a B.A. in Economics and a J.D. from the University of Michigan. He is an adjunct professor at the University of Colorado Law School. He is also an active musician with his band Legitimate Front (which has a gig in Boulder April 13th should you be around). Most importantly, he is my co-author on our book Venture Deals and he puts up with me on a daily basis.
Jason is returning to Detroit to sprinkle some of the wisdom he has learned along the way with the Detroitpreur startup community at Bamboo Detroit on April 5th from 6-8 pm.
Startup Grind Detroit is one of over 350+ chapters around the world, holding Fireside Chats with notable entrepreneurs and bringing startup communities together. The Detroit chapter has recently been reignited by Ben Seidman and Dwain Watkins, the co-organizers, who breathed new life into the program. Recent speakers include Dug Song of Duo Security, David Tarver of Wayne State University,...
I read Emily Chang’s book Brotopia: Breaking Up the Boys’ Club of Silicon Valley the day it came out. Yes – I stayed up until after midnight (way past my bedtime) reading it.
It’s powerful. I bought a bunch of copies for different people and I recommend every investor and entrepreneur in the US read it. While there are a handful of salacious stories (some of which were covered in excerpts that were pre-released), the overall arc of the book is extremely strong, well written, and deeply researched. Given Emily’s experience as a journalist, it’s no surprise, but she did a great job of knitting together a number of different themes, in depth, to make her points. She also uses the book to make clear suggestions about what to do to improve things, although she holds off from being preachy, which is also nice.
Interestingly, I’ve heard criticism, including some that I’d categorize as aggressive, from several men I know. There doesn’t seem to be a clear pattern in the criticism, although some of it seems to be a reaction to several of the specific stories. In one case, I’d categorize the criticism as an effort to debate morality. In another, I heard an emotional reaction to what was categorized as an ad-hominem attack on a friend of the person. But I haven’t been able to coherently synthesize the criticism, and interestingly I’ve only heard it from men.
As I’ve been marching slowly through historic feminist...
“Technologies that have revolutionized so many sectors of the economy have the potential to transform the way we do conservation. We’re at the front end of a new ‘nature-tech’ revolution and nature stands to win big from it.”
As many of you know, Techstars and The Nature Conservancy have teamed up to build a tech accelerator for the planet – Techstars Sustainability. The accelerator kicks off this July in Denver and companies from across the globe are applying now through April 8th. Considering how much Amy and I love both of these organizations, we’re excited to be supporting this effort to build stronger startup ecosystem at the intersection of sustainability, nature and technology.
From the state of coral reefs to deforestation, I’ll admit that it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and the work ahead is certainly not something to take lightly. But, I’m also choosing to pursue a personal path that is rooted in urgency and action. I’m inspired by entrepreneurs like Grant Canary and his team at DroneSeed (a Techstars Seattle 2016 alumni). Grant is working to innovate the future of forestry through planting trees with swarms of drones. And then there is Liané Thompson, CEO of Aquaii, who is also utilizing drone technology to build robotic fish that gather underwater data in a way that was previously unachievable.
And that’s just drones and big data. Imagine all of the enabling technologies that can be applied to build powerful...