#BoulderStrongTableMesa: April 10-11

Photo Credit: Unknown

I pass our neighborhood King Soopers multiples times a day and regardless of the time of day, there is a constant stream of people mourning the ten lives lost on March 22, 2021. Visitors have left countless flowers, heartfelt mementos, and inspiring words.  At the center of the ad-hoc memorial is a black and white “#BoulderStrong” sign.  

What does it mean to be #BoulderStrong? I’m not actually sure, but I like to think it has something to do with not letting this senseless tragedy define us or divide us. My hope is that this horrific event will meld our tight-knit community even closer.  I’ve experienced this  #BoulderStrong level of closeness as I’ve interacted with neighbors and other members of the community this week, and I’ve found this feeling incredibly uplifting and reassuring. Initiatives like the Boulder County Crisis Fund, which has raised over $1 million for the families impacted by the shooting, are a great example of #BoulderStrong in action.

What if the Boulder community doubled down on #BoulderStrong to show support for the small businesses located in the Table Mesa Shopping Center directly impacted by this tragedy? After an extremely challenging year trying to keep their businesses running through a global pandemic, the small shops and restaurants of the Table Mesa Shopping Center are now facing the near impossible task of trying to return to business-as-usual. I visited a few of these shops this week and have heard stories of employees hearing gunshots and being forced to shelter-in-place. The parking lots adjacent to King Soopers are occupied by police vehicles and mourners visiting the site. “Trying to hang in there, was a response I heard from one store owner when I asked how things were going. He looked exhausted.  

My proposal is simple:

  1. Put on a mask and go shop at the Table Mesa Shopping Center next weekend (April 10-11).
  2. While you’re shopping/eating, let the employees know you are thinking of them and that you appreciate the service they offer our community.
  3. Consider leaving a bigger-than-normal tip! 

I can assure you that you will find something that you need on your visit so please consider showing your support and be sure to tell your friends (#BoulderStrongTableMesa).  Here’s a quick summary of some of the shops:


Abo’s Pizza / Espizza

Caffe Sole/Caffe Nostro

Kim & Jakes Cakes

Moe’s Broadway Bagels

Murphy’s South

Southern Sun

Snarf’s at the Table

Sweet Cow

Tandoori Grill

Tsing Tao

Under the Sun

Walnut Café Southside


Boulder Cycle Sport

Boulder Map Gallery

Neptune Mountaineering

Pettyjohn’s Liquor

Pharmaca Integrative Pharmacy

Play It Again Sports

Runners Roost

Shuttles, Spindles & Skeins

Sweet Ruckus

Table Mesa Hardware


Pharmaca Integrative Pharmacy

Pettyjohn’s Liquor

Whole Foods Market


Auspicious Ink

Great Clips

Hair Rage International

Isolate Flotation Center

Natural Dentistry

Perfect Teeth

Peak Form Medical

Poshe Nail Studio

Table Mesa Barbers

Yoga Loft


Art Cleaners

Boulder Natural Animal / Holistic Wellness

Brock Publishing

H&R Block

Roadmasters Auto & Tire Center

Tinker Art Studio

Weaver’s Dive Center

King Soopers Table Mesa

We’re currently on Spring Break staying in a beautiful resort in California overlooking the Pacific Ocean. When our phones started blowing up yesterday afternoon with calls and text messages from friends and family wondering if we were ok, we were initially confused. Once we realized what was happening, we immediately started calling our neighbors and friends who live nearby to see if they were safe. Given the proximity to our home and the centralized location of the incident, it seemed inevitable that we would have friends in the area or even in the store when the shooting took place.

The King Soopers grocery store sits in the small Table Mesa Shopping Center that serves as the heart of South Boulder. My family visits this shopping center almost every day, and so do all of our neighbors. Not only is the Table Mesa Shopping Center centrally located, but you can find everything you need all in one place. There is an ice cream shop, a coffee shop, a pizza place, a Chinese restaurant, a bagel place, a brewpub, a pharmacy, and many other convenient shops. As the center of it all is the King Soopers grocery store.

To suggest our little community is tight-knit would be an understatement. It is the type of place where you are just as likely to walk or bike to the shopping center as you are to drive. I can’t remember the last time I visited the shopping center without stopping to talk to friends and neighbors. I’ll admit that I would sometimes grumble that I couldn’t run into King Soopers to pick up a quick item without having to stop for two or three chats inside the store after chance encounters with friends.

King Soopers serves as an after-school gathering spot for Southern Hills Middle School and Fairview High School students. The shopping center is a short walk from the school to the store where kids can pick up snacks and King Sooper’s famous free cookies for kids. All three of my kids have spent countless hours hanging out with friends at King Soopers after school. The older lady who works at the Starbucks inside King Soopers has often given our daughter, Amelie, free treats on her daily visits to the store. Sarah and I have often joked that the affection and corresponding free treats came from the fact that the Starbuck’s lady was Asian and Amelie is half Korean.

It is not surprising that we know three different friends that were in the store a few minutes before the shooting started. Fortunately, all of them were gone when the incident took place. One of our kids has friends who had a gun pointed at them while in their car in the parking lot. They are also thankfully safe.

To think of these events unfolding in our little neighborhood is just impossible to comprehend. People lost their lives for no reason in the same place we have bought Easter eggs for our kiddos for the last five years. Today we are holding each other tight and praying for the families who lost loved ones in this horrible tragedy.

Building A Strong Foundation for Growth

The Venture Kills journey continues. After spending three episodes on why you should Never Take Money from a VC, I’ve switched gears to a slightly more serious topic. The focus of the new series is on the building blocks founders should put in place to ensure their companies have a strong foundation for growth. The focus is not on systems or processes but on people. I’m not sure how many more episodes I’ll do in this series yet (I’ll definitely do at least one more), but I thought it would be worth a quick review of what I’ve covered so far on this topic.

The first episode in the series covers how you can ensure your business becomes more agile as you grow versus getting dumber and slower. This is a topic I get asked about all the time from founders who like the feel of their small company and they worry it will feel worse as they add more people. Values-based growth is one of my favorite topics that I’ve written about in the past, but I cover it from a different angle this time. As I say in the video “A business is comprised of a group of people making decisions” so if you want to have your business get better as you scale, you need a system for hiring people who will make the right decisions for your business.

Episode 2 in the series covers how to become a better leader. More specifically, I cover how to get the most out of every person on your team. Hopefully, we can all agree that getting the most from your team members will increase your probability of success. You may not agree with my method but you won’t know unless you watch.

This next topic I have in mind for this series will definitely cause some controversy. I’m recommending the reversal of a very popular startup trend that sounds awesome but can result in real limitations as you scale. As always, thanks for watching and keep the feedback coming

Never Take Money from a VC

A couple of weeks ago I announced my idiotic plan to launch a YouTube channel. Today I released the third video in a three-part series called “Never Take Money from a VC.” More than a few people have asked why a VC would decide to highlight this topic first. To be clear, my motivations were self-serving. I spend too much time talking to founders who haven’t invested the time to understand the implications of taking venture capital money. Unfortunately, I spend even more time talking to founders who are wasting time talking to investors when they aren’t building a venture-scale business. Hopefully, this first series of videos will help early-stage founders be more educated on their options before starting down the venture capital path.

I like the efficiency of YouTube, which allows me to say something once and have it consumed by lots of people. The response from these first videos has been super encouraging. As I write this post, viewers have streamed more than 200 hours of content from the first two videos, which as been a delightful surprise. Thanks to all the people who have liked or commented on the videos so far. Your feedback is super helpful. Please keep the comments coming!

In case you haven’t watched the series yet, here are the videos along with a brief description of why you should never take money from a VC:

Part I – You almost certainly want to build a lifestyle business instead

Part II – You’ll eventually have to sell your baby

Part II – Venture Capital is not necessarily a good value

If you haven’t subscribed to the channel yet, please do! I’ve learned a ton and I’m fairly confident that I can get much better as I get more practice. As I mentioned at the end of the third video, I’m planning a new series around the early steps you should take to ensure an awesome startup culture so stay tuned!

Venture Kills – The Preview Episode

My unofficial bio indicates that one of the goals of my blog is to “help others learn from my mistakes which means I have a near-infinite amount of material to use for inspiration”. This is very true of course, but there is one problem: I don’t love blogging. I find the process a bit tedious because I tend to overthink every word. The interesting thing is that I love to share my experiences via public speaking and my approach to that format is the exact opposite. When it comes to giving talks or speaking on panels, I like to be as spontaneous as possible. Unfortunately, with COVID19 upon us for the foreseeable future, the opportunity to share my experiences in front of an audience are much fewer. Therefore, I’ve decided to try something new.

At age 53, I’m becoming a vlogger. Yes, it is as dumb as it sounds. However, my hope is that this format will allow the more spontaneous side of my personality to come through as I share all my thoughts and experiences on startups and the world of venture capital. The goal is to share opinions and knowledge in a goofy, self-deprecating, and hopefully entertaining format. I’m sure I’ll crush the goofy part. We’ll have to wait and see if any of the other pieces come together.

The name of my new YouTube channel is Venture Kills which is a reference to how hard it is to start and build a successful business venture. The name is also a playful hat-tip to the best-selling book, Venture Deals, written by my partner, Brad Feld, and my now-retired partner, Jason Mendelson. To be clear, Venture Deals is the must-have bible for any entrepreneur trying to understand the opaque world of venture capital. The book, which is now in its fourth edition, is the result of decades of experience and years of thorough research. Venture Kills, on the other hand, is a YouTube channel that currently has zero subscribers and will be comprised mostly of content that I pull out of my butt. 

I’d like to thank my partners in advance for allowing me to do something that is almost certainly going to prove to be an embarrassment to our once prestigious firm. I’d also like to thank any future viewers for your patience while I try to figure this thing out because I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing. If you can find it in your heart to subscribe to the channel, I would greatly appreciate it.

About That Competitor That is Driving You Nuts

How have you trained your sales team to talk about your competitor with a potential customer? I see companies take different approaches from refusing to acknowledge the competitor exists to taking every opportunity to throw them under the bus.

I think there is a better approach.

When it comes to talking about competitors, there is an alternative framework that you can use to help your sales team start winning deals immediately and to create a sustainable long-term advantage. This framework can be a small adjustment for some leaders and feel entirely unnatural for others. Either way, I’m confident that adjusting your approach can lead to outsized positive results in the long run. Before I talk about this tactic, let’s first review two of the most common techniques and why they aren’t the best approach.

Competitor? What Competitor?

If a potential customer inquires about a competitor, they have already done some research and have likely formed an opinion about you and your competitor.  There is a reasonable chance they have already spoken to your competitor and might have developed an impression about your company based on input from your competitor. Even if they don’t directly ask about your competitor, you should assume they will find your competitor by doing a simple “who are company X’s competitors” Google search and will form an opinion of the competitive landscape before making a decision. For this reason, even if a potential customer doesn’t ask about your competitor, your sales team should be trained to ask “what other solutions are you considering?” because you want to have the opportunity to comment on them (more on this later).

Many companies approach direct competitor inquiries with dismissive responses like “they aren’t really a competitor” or “we don’t really see them in the market.” A particularly sneaky technique is to respond by redirecting to a non-threatening competitor with something like “Oh, we don’t compete with them, we see our competition as being {insert giant company like IBM that has 1000x your market value and who doesn’t know you exist}. The problem is that the dismissive approach is dishonest. Training your team to be dishonest is paving a slow road to hell where you will ultimately lose their respect and trust. After all, if sales management is training the team to be dishonest, why should the team assume that leadership is being honest with them?

In addition to being toxic to your company’s culture, the dismissive approach misses an enormous opportunity for you to tell the story of your competitor.  A buyer is going to form a narrative in their head about the competitive landscape before making a decision. If you don’t take the opportunity to create a narrative about your competitor, you’re leaving it to chance that the buyer will form the story that you want. Why leave things to chance?  You should talk about your competitor, but what should you say?

Dear Competitor, please lay here and wait for the bus

You want to win. You want to win badly. You’re tired of fighting your inferior competitor every day.  They suck so why are customers still even asking about them? Ugh!!! Given all the frustration of day-to-day competition, it is only natural that you would want to take a shortcut and answer an inquiry about your competitor with a litany of FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) to dismiss them as a viable rival as quickly as possible.  Some of the more popular FUD lines I’ve heard include: “I hear they are having trouble raising more money”, “Their churn is really high because the product doesn’t do what they say it does”, “They seem to be really struggling to find product/market fit”, and “Their product won’t scale”. Although some or all of these statements might be true (or have elements of truth), I don’t believe FUD is the right approach for a few reasons.  

Mudslinging is an ugly game, and it will create a negative vibe within your team in the long run.  After all, what type of employee wakes up every day excited to talk trash about somebody else? Unfortunately, those sales people do exist, and you don’t want them on your team because they will also eventually talk trash about co-workers, leadership, and customers.

By trying to throw your competitor under a bus, you are missing a significant opportunity to be helpful to a potential customer. In my experience, buyers are attracted to sellers who are thoughtful, honest, and can provide constructive input. These attributes also help build trust between a buyer and a seller.  FUD is not thoughtful, helpful, or constructive. FUD can even come across as petty and untrustworthy. This is especially true if the customer has already formed a favorable opinion of your competitor. By leading with FUD, you run the significant risk of a buyer dismissing your comments altogether which will lead them to form their own narrative instead of the narrative you want.  You’re missing the opportunity to build trust and respect between the buyer and the seller.

So what exactly is this alternative approach?

Instead of ignoring your competition or throwing them under the bus, create a healthy and constructive narrative about the competition that helps your potential customer better understand their choices while clearly differentiating your company. You can accomplish this with four simple steps.

Step 1 (approximately 50% of your response) – When asked about your competition, start by talking about your own company on a philosophical level. This answer should begin with who you see as your ideal customer and include what problems you are interested in solving for that customer. When I was at Gnip, we would make sure prospects understood that Gnip was focused on serving the largest enterprise software companies in the world who cared about reliability and scale above all else.  We would then point to customers like Salesforce, Adobe, and IBM as validation that our approach was working. There were ultimately lots of Gnip customers who were not the largest enterprise software companies, but many of those smaller customers completely aligned with our philosophy and focus and aspired to someday be large software companies.

Step 2 (no more than 15% of your response) – Talk positively but briefly about what you view as your competitor’s philosophy and ideal customer.  This part of the conversation is the tricky part, but you stand to gain real credibility and trust with your potential customer if you stay on the high road and provide a thoughtful overview.  Even if you are fighting over the same customers, you need to understand and highlight the type of deals your competitor was winning over you, especially if they were different than what this potential customer was looking for.  Again, looking back on my Gnip days, we knew that our main competitor was getting traction with early-stage startups. We would give them credit for that without a hint of negativity. It is worth noting that your competitor likely wouldn’t agree with your characterization of their philosophy, and that’s fine as long as you are providing what you view as accurate observations. The point here is that you’ve embedded a narrative for the buyer to consider.

Step 3 (20%-30% of your response) – Give recent examples of company decisions that reinforce your focus. These examples can include recent product launches, partnerships, or announced customer wins. Bonus points if you can give specific examples of how your ideal customer is already benefiting from these latest additions.

Step 4  (no more than 10% of your response) Give a straightforward example that highlights your competitor’s focus that ideally contradicts your focus. At Gnip, we would describe how our competitor offered pay-as-you-go pricing which was widely appreciated by pre-funded startups. We would also point out (without being negative) the contradiction that our enterprise customers didn’t value pay-as-you-go pricing and were actually requiring us to offer multiple-year agreements.

If your team gets this right, you will get significant credit for being helpful. Your previous statements about your product and capabilities will hold more weight with your customer because they’ll view you as trustworthy.  This trust will be especially apparent if your competitor has taken the opposite approach and tried to throw your company under the bus. The contrast in styles can be really clarifying for a prospective customer.  Most buyers are more attracted to helpful, honest salespeople than they are swayed by mudslingers.

This approach will also help a prospective customer and your team to quickly qualify an opportunity which will save everyone a bunch of time.  Yes, you do run the risk of helping a prospect select your competitor if your competitor’s philosophy is more aligned with the prospect’s view of the world.  However, I would strongly suggest you are better off losing these deals upfront versus winning a deal that will likely churn in the future when the customer realizes they made the wrong choice.

I believe that honesty is the best approach.  You’ll win more deals and you’ll build a healthy culture where your team is proud of their approach and their work.  I’ve witnessed more than one company switch to this approach, and this small mindset shift can be a game-changer. Your narrative about your own company and your competitor will be refined over time as you get more feedback from clients, and you might ultimately find that your refined narrative will start to provide more clarity for your future product roadmap.

If you decide to follow these four easy steps, I’d love to hear from you how it is working.  

p.s. I wrote this post from the perspective of having a single competitor mostly to avoid writing competitor(s) each time.  Many companies have multiple competitors and you’ll need to have a narrative for each major competitor in the beginning.  As the market matures, you’ll want to shift your approach. I’ll cover the shift in a follow-up post.


Also published on Medium

The First Rule of VC Engagement a.k.a. “Don’t Be Lazy”

After eight weeks of being heads down working with our portfolio companies, I’ve started to come up for air and do some public facing stuff. I was recently on a cool panel at Denver Startup Week where we talked about scaling towards profitability. Another highlight was doing an AMA with David Brown, co-CEO of Techstars, at an awesome event called Patriot Bootcamp. Last week I did my first interview as a VC for a monthly magazine. The interview was a great experience because it was the first time in more than three years where I didn’t have a person from corporate communications in the room to make sure I said the right things. This interview was just me and my Foundry partner, Brad Feld, answering the reporter’s questions based upon what we actually thought. What a crazy concept!

In all of the above exchanges, I was asked some version of “what’s the number one thing that you see entrepreneurs get wrong when pitching venture firms?” The answer is obvious. You would only need to live in my email inbox for one day to see the mistake for yourself. The most common mistake is that entrepreneurs often violate what I call The First Rule of Engagement. This rule is based around the notion that the results you will get out of any given communication are directly proportional to the amount of energy you put into it. To be clear, this doesn’t mean that the longer the email you write, the better the results you will get. On the flip side, the first rule usually means that a highly personalized email will get better engagement than a generic email that has been blasted to the masses.  

I became keenly aware of this basic engagement concept more than 15 years ago while working at Aquent. In my 11 years there, I learned as much about business as I learned in the 16 combined years working at EDS, Oracle, IBM, Gnip, and Twitter. Much of what I learned came from working side-by-side with Aquent’s CEO, John Chuang. The first time I remember hearing John talk about his engagement philosophy was during a business unit update meeting. The leader of the business unit was expressing disappointment around the limited feedback we were getting from customers on an important new product. The email we had sent to customers was getting a low response rate, and the open ended questions we had asked in the email were capturing very few insights. John responded with a rant that included stuff like “Why are we sending an email!? Why don’t we pick up the phone and actually talk to customers!?  Better yet, why don’t we get on a plane and go visit them!?” John explained that the low effort needed to create a generic email didn’t match the high value of the data we needed to collect. John was basically pointing out that when it comes to engaging people, you get out of it what you put into it!

Electronic communication has fundamentally changed how businesses operate over the last 25 years. From email to Slack to text messaging, it has never been easier to quickly reach people and exchange ideas. But, email in particular can be a very lazy tool.  You can write a single email in a few minutes and send that message out to thousands of people and fool yourself into  thinking you’ve accomplished something. Unfortunately, recipients can almost always identify when an email is generic versus personalized for them. The key to effective engagement is making sure you understand the importance of the response you desire and then using the right amount of effort to get the response you want.  

So, how can entrepreneurs use the First Rule of Engagement to improve their VC pitches? The first step is to personalize each email introduction based upon your knowledge of the recipient. Yes, this means you actually need to research and understand each individual VC you are pitching. The good news is that most VCs love to talk about themselves. We write blogs like this one and use lots of social media where we share our thoughts and interests. The nature of our job practically requires that we be public facing. There is also plenty of public data around which VC firms have invested in which businesses. Finally, most VC’s write about their investment philosophies on their websites.  As a point of reference, here’s our thematic approach to investing. You can and should use all these individual insights to determine if a particular VC is likely to be interested in your business before you send the email. If you determine there is a match between your business and a particular VC, focus your pitch on why there is a match. The recipient may not ultimately like your business idea, but there should be no doubt in the recipient’s mind why you decided to reach out to them specifically in the first place.

Sending a personalized email can make a real difference, but your efforts around engagement shouldn’t stop there. In my case, I’ll freely admit that I’m more likely to engage with an entrepreneur if I’m introduced to a new company/founder from someone I know and trust. Again, there are plenty of tools out there that can help you get connected to me via someone I know. LinkedIn is an obvious tool to use, but there are plenty of other creative ways if you are willing to look. For example, review our portfolio of companies. Do you know anyone who works at one of our portfolio companies who could introduce you?  Also, look at who I engage with on Twitter and other platforms. Do you know any of these folks who could introduce you?  If you are willing to put in a little effort and think creatively, you might find an introduction to a VC which will help get their attention.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of inbound emails I get from people looking for an investment can be boiled down to this: ”Hey, we’re working on something amazing. Take a look at this attachment and let me know if you are interested in investing.”  When I get these emails, I think to myself “you spent zero effort thinking about why I would be interested in investing and that is exactly how much time I’m going to spend considering it.”  I respond to these inquires with a generic message that indicates I’m not interested.  I’m always amazed when the original sender responds back “okay, can you introduce me to others who you think would be interested?” Are you kidding me?! Not only did this person put zero effort into our relationship, but they are now asking me to do work on their behalf because they were too lazy to do it themselves. Running a company is damn hard. Signaling to an investor that you are too lazy to do basic research is a strong signal that an investment in your business is not a good decision regardless of the opportunity. As the old saying goes, you only get one chance to make a first impression.


Also published on Medium

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

When I took my first business trip as a Gnip team member more than 6 years ago, I accidentally brought home my hotel key in my back pocket. My kids were very young at the time & they thought the credit card sized piece of plastic was amazing. They were actually arguing over who got to play with it next. So, on my next trip, I brought home another key. After a month or so, the novelty wore off and the kids stopped playing with the keys, but I kept collecting them for some reason that I didn’t consciously understand at the time.

This picture is of all the keys from all my business trips over the last 6+ years. Each one of these keys is one to seven nights away from my family. I don’t like to dwell on it, but I missed some important moments of my children’s young lives while I was away. There were more than a few trips where I left the house with one of my kids crying and begging me not to go. Countless calls home at night started with “Dad, when are coming home?” The most heartbreaking calls were when I would hear “Dad, I wish you could have been here to see (fill in the blank).”. I often got off the phone thinking I was living a sad and unavoidable Harry Chapin – “Cats in the Cradle” prophecy and it depressed me in ways that I can’t really put into words.

I’ve had friends admit that they sometimes look forward to business trips because it gives them a break from their families and home life responsibilities for a few days. That thought has never crossed my mind. My usual travel routine was to compress each trip to as short a time as possible. I typically tried to depart late at night or early in the morning to minimize time away. I constantly tried to cram two days worth of meetings into one day so that I could get home as quickly as possible. This routine often resulted in me coming home completely depleted of energy and desperately needing sleep, but always happy to be home!

When I reflect upon this visual tower of entrepreneurship, there were definitely some game-changing and a few life-changing wins that resulted from these trips. But, I don’t remember the wins nearly as much as I recall the setbacks. As one example, there was the time I had prepared for weeks for a big meeting in New York. The entire team knew this meeting was happening and was excited to hear the outcome. When I landed in LaGuardia, I had a voicemail waiting for me from my meeting contact: “Hey, sorry to have to miss you this trip but something has come up. Let’s get something scheduled early next year when things calm down over here.” Back on the plane I went wondering why I had allowed myself to lose an entire day of my life and weeks of prep for something that wasn’t going to happen. I also had the whole plane ride home to think about how I was going to break the news to the team. Unfortunately, these types of “setback” trips weren’t that rare. My best guess is that more than half of the trips that these hotel keys represent ended with an outcome that was not what I had hoped would be achieved on the trip. The goal of the original New York trip was eventually realized, but it took many more months and several more trips to NYC to make it a reality.

One friend recently suggested that I should convert these keys into a piece of artwork for my office as a reminder of the journey. I’m not sure if I’ll ever do that, but if I do make it into art someday I will definitely call it “Two Steps Forward, One Step Back”. Running a startup is damn hard. Being physically away from my family was hard, but they might suggest that it was harder when I was physically present but I was mentally off thinking about some issue with the company. Your startup is often on your mind in some capacity every waking moment. Failing is hard, but I sometimes think succeeding is even harder because the expectations you put on yourself and the expectations of others (investors, employees, etc.) just go up with each success. I had an amazing run at Gnip and later at Twitter. But, it came with a lot of sacrifice and some permanent scars. I try to embrace the scars because I believe that I can continue to learn from them and (more importantly) I can help others learn from my experience.

I’m two months into my new career as a partner at Foundry Group, and I’m loving every minute of it. My partners Brad, Jason, Lindel, Ryan, and Seth are incredible but I already knew that would be the case before I joined. I’ve been spending the bulk of my early days with our portfolio companies. I knew some of these teams already, but I’ve also been able to spend a ton of time with teams I didn’t know. These teams are building amazing products, but the thing that has struck me most is the quality of the teams themselves. Across the board I’ve found these entrepreneurs to be humble, smart, passionate and unwavering in their commitment to make their companies work. If there is one theme that stands out to me about our portfolio more than any other, it is that we’ve invested in really great people.

I’m still adjusting to the fact that I’m now sitting on the other side of the entrepreneurship table. Telling someone I’m a venture capitalist doesn’t exactly roll off my tongue yet. That said, I know my most important asset as an investor is that I’ve been on the other side of the table and I understand that life on that side is nothing but endless challenges. My hope for my career as a VC is that I never lose the empathy I feel now for entrepreneurs. I have a strong visual reminder if I ever forget.

Joining Foundry Group

Today we announced that I’m leaving Twitter to become a partner at the venture capital firm, Foundry Group. The blog post on foundrygroup.com does a great job explaining the background and context around this decision. Of course, I had to announce the news via a tweetstorm which you can see below. I’ll be back in the fall to talk about my journey into venture capital. See you soon!

Auburn Spring Commencement

One of the greatest honors of my life was delivering the 2016 Spring Commencement address for Auburn University. The best part was that my niece, Annie, was one of the graduates in attendance that day receiving her masters degree in speech pathology. It was wonderful to experience the whole day together.

I knew I was giving the address almost a year in advance. In theory, that was plenty of time to prepare. In reality, I procrastinated. Virtually no one outside of my immediate family knew that I was going to give the address. Looking back on it, I felt real pressure to deliver a meaningful message and just thinking about it or talking about it made the feeling worse. To put things in perspective, I’ve given lots of talks to large audiences in my day and I never get nervous. I’m always excited to address a large group. This was different.

A few months before graduation day I was having dinner with friends. One of my dinner companions was my dear friend, Jason Mendelson, who had recently performed the National Anthem to open a Cubs game at Wrigley Field. As Jason talked about his crazy singing experience, I got up the courage to talk about my upcoming speech. Jason’s response was “Wow, that’s a lot of pressure. What are you going to say?”.

I looked around the table. All the friends gathered were people who I admired for their personal and professional accomplishments. The group assembled personified my view of what you can accomplish if you are willing to work hard. More importantly, this group had accomplished their goals by doing it the right way. This was a group of incredibly kind and compassionate human beings. I blurted out my response to Jason’s question with “Work Hard. Be Kind.” A few people nodded with approval and everyone went back to eating. I wrote the key points of my speech that night in my hotel room in about 15 minutes. Here are the results if you have 13 minutes and 48 seconds to spare…