Public Events for 2/25/2013 – 3/3/2013

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INcubes-Logo   Register: N/A

[IN]cubes Demo Day: Live Broadcast
When: Wed, February 27th, 2013 @ 1pm
Where: Toronto, Ontario.
Description: Although physically closed to the public, will be broadcasting the event live. Tune in to hear Brad Feld’s Keynote speech.

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Startup Communities with Brad Feld
When: Thurs, February 28th, 2013 @ 4:30-5:30pm
Where: Tannery Event Center, 151 Charles Street West – Kitchener, Ontario
Description: Join us to hear Brad Feld talk!
The Boulder Thesis: Four Principles for Startup Communities.
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Startup Smackdown
When: Thurs, February 28th, 2013 @ 6:30-8:30pm
Where: Tannery Event Center, 151 Charles Street West – Kitchener, Ontario
Description: Startup Smackdown is a fast pitch competition, where 10 startups are called to the ring to pitch in front of a panel of judges.
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Think Big Arkansas  Register

ThinkBig Arkansas
When: Fri March 1st, 2013 @8:00am-8:00pm
Where: Student Life & Technology Center – Worsham Ballroom Hendrix College – Conway, Arkansas
Description: Join us Friday, March1, 2013 at Hendrix College in Conway for an open discussion on building the state’s entrepreneurial and startup ecosystem.
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  *Brad talks at 6:30pm Central

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Startup Revolution: Pipe Cleaner Style!

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We had an intra-office competition today to see who could come up with the wildest image made from pipe cleaners. My assistant Kelly, came up with this…and won.

Startup Rev Pipe Cleaner -Cropped

Startup Boards: Would you like a flatscreen TV with that termsheet?

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In November 2008, T.A.McCann, (or TA) an entrepreneur based in Seattle was getting restless. (We’ll save the Sleepless in Seattle analogy for another story ;-)

It was time for him to raise his first round but what kept him up at night was (besides the funding) the board-CEO chemistry. This was TA’s sixth startup, and he wanted to make sure he did what his gut told him – seek out those investors who understand the business and not just bring money. And can stand alongside and support his entrepreneurial roller coaster ride!

TA did not start searching for money and made a few moves that show his entrepreneurial acumen. And a lot of entrepreneurs can draw some lessons from his story – he is one of the few we know who proactively built his board.

TA did his homework well and knowing Brad is an avid runner, asked him via a tweet for some suggestions on places to run in Boulder, CO.  A few weeks later, on a cold December morning, Brad and TA, not necessarily dressed in their best attires meet at 6:00 am  and head out for a run. Five months later, Foundry Group led a $6.75 million Series A investment in Gist alongwith Vulcan Capital. (Read the WSJ blog on how Gist’s new funding began with a twitter message)

Brad joined the board along with Steve Hall of Vulcan Capital and a classic three member startup board was formed. As we interviewed TA for Startup Boards book, we found a simple theme that governs and creates a good startup board dynamic:

1) Startup boards function like a team: All three were actively involved in all decisions and walked alongside – there was no hierarchy. “It would have been very weird if we had the formal stuff of motions, votes, call to order and such” says TA. We were like a team.

2) No painful board slides:  TA would prepared a pithy 2/3 slide presentation where the board would discuss top 3 issues and how they could help. “It was not a presentation in my view but more a framework for discussion – 80% of time was spent in discussing the hard issues —- and yes, it was productive” says TA.

3) Making tough decisions and delivering strong outcomes: The board and TA (as CEO) would often not agree on everything. “For example, I wanted to find a way to get some revenues and the board wanted to push for adoption  – we were split straight in the middle on this decision. But we picked a path and the board supported me at every step. I had to earn their trust by my actions – these are accomplished only after you deliver meaningful outcomes” TA says.  “The hardest part for any CEO is to admit I dont know” he adds, but if you build a trusting board-CEO relationship, this becomes easier.

With TA, it was a text book case – a great CEO, a supportive board and good market timing – in late 2011, Gist was acquired by RIM / Blackberry. Three years after the first round of investment, everyone celebrated the outcomes. Read TA  views here in his blog How VCs can be awesome board members

As CEO, you need to know how your investors can

(a) function as a part of your team,

(b) how they behave in the time of crisis,

(c) how they can support you when you are missing milestones – rest assured you will miss plenty of milestones.

If you build your board proactively, you can be assured of supportive behavior in tough situations.  We all have had our share of bad relationships – screamers and unstable minds who crumble under pressure, or worse threaten to fire / sue / emotionally blackmail you. One CEO we know was threatened of shareholder action after a down round. Entrepreneurs who focus too much only on the money (scoring a high pre-money) and not enough on the board-CEO chemistry run this risk – a non-trivial issue by any means.

In such situations, you get the money but end up dealing with all kinds of unknowns.   Its like getting married only for the dowry (lots of cash, a flat screen TV, some gold or even a convertible beemer) and having no emotional connection with your partner. So if you chose to focus only on the money, at least follow the best practices of dowry — ask for a flat screen TV with that term sheet!


Welcome to Startup Revolution!

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I’m Brad Feld, a partner at a venture capital firm called Foundry Group and based in Boulder, Colorado.  I’m also a cofounder of TechStars.

Startup Revolution is the name for a series of books I’m working on. Currently there are four of them in the series.

1. Startup Communities: Creating a Great Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City. I’m the sole author on this one and it should be available by the end of September, 2012.

2. Startup Life: Surviving and Thriving in a Relationship With an Entrepreneur. I’m writing this one with my wife, Amy Batchelor.  We expect it to be available by December 2012.

3. Startup Boards: Reinventing the Board of Directors to Better Support the Entrepreneur. I’m writing this one with my friend Mahendra Ramsinghani. We expect it to be available in March 2013.

4. Startup Metrics: Making Sense of the Numbers in Your Startup. I’m writing this one with Seth Levine, one of my partners at Foundry Group. We expect it to be available in June 2013.