Thursday, April 07, 2011

Meeting Brad Feld



I got to meet Mark Suster yesterday, and Brad Feld today, and I get to meet Vin Vacanti next week. In Vacanti's case it will not be my first time, but still. What do you think is going on? StartUp Week, that's what.

TechStars' Geographical Advantage Over Y Combinator
Brad Feld
StartUp Week At NYU April 6-15
To: Brad Feld, Subject: Iran And Me (Digital Ninja/Commando)
Happy July 4 Fred Wilson, Brad Feld
An Immigrant Story For Brad Feld
Paul Graham, Brad Feld, Me, BBC
To Iran, With Love (3)
To Iran, With Love (1)
To Iran, With Love (2)

Both Mark and Brad recognized me right away. We have interacted online. I have interacted more with Brad than with Mark. At one point I was trying to get Brad to fund my work into Iran democracy.

"Oh, hey," Brad said when it was my turn to greet him.

"I just wanted to say hello," I said. "It is great to finally meet you in person. You already know this, but I must say TechStars has really shaken up the local tech ecosystem here."

Brad gave a great talk. I was aware of his format from having read some of his blog posts. He will talk briefly, make a few points, and then go straight into Q&A. That is his stated style.

What do Fred Wilson, Chris Dixon and Brad Feld have in common? They all wear the same outfit everyday. It is like they all made their money, and forgot they did. Well, I also wear the same outfit everyday, but I wear fancy, I wear black. Besides, I am bootstrapped.

Brad said he does not do it for money and accolades. He said he does it because he was one of those kids always curious, always asking why. Brad is another of those great entrepreneur turned great VC types.

Him and Fred Wilson go back far. I saw a picture of the two of them together from a long, long time ago. How did they end up in that picture unless they knew each other back then?

Brad said his writer wife Amy decided in 1995 that she was moving to Boulder. If you want, you can come along, she said. And that was Amy's gift to the Boulder tech ecosystem. Brad is absolutely the epicenter of the action there. No Brad, no Boulder. He is like the unofficial Mayor around there or something.

"Marijuana is legal in Boulder," he said. The city also seems to be on the cutting edge when it comes to healthy foods. Soy milk started there, among other things. Whole Foods perhaps.

Of all the states in America, Colorado is the one most like Nepal in terms of physical landscape. Denver even feels like Kathmandu, I have been a few times. I guess I could call Brad a homeboy. Keep the peace up there in the mountains, Brad.

Brad is one of the finest brains in the business. And he is a generous person. Someone as busy as him, and he has answered every single email I ever sent him. That is the treatment he metes out to everybody.

"I don't know how he does that," Fred Wilson says in exasperation.

Fred has a similar NYC story. The wife moved here. He just came along for the ride. The rest, as they say, is history.

Brad shared many insights and stories in his keynote speech of StartUp Week. The one story that really stayed with me was the story of how TechStars got founded. He would have open office hours one day a month for anyone who wanted to drop by for 15 minutes. He would do that for five, six hours until calling it a day. And the guy who ended up being his cofounder diffidently tried to meet up with him, and finally showed up after weeks of trying to get a slot. And that 15 minute conversation started the whole thing.

Think about that. This guy made enough money to last a few lifetimes in the early 1990s. But he was still hungry in 2005. He was still waiting for someone else to show up and share that idea that might still change his life. Today more people know Brad Feld for TechStars than anything else.

What if he did not have those open office hours? Those 15 minute slots? That humility on his part paid off big.

TechStars' Geographical Advantage Over Y Combinator


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2 comments:

Brad said...

It was great to finally meet you in person. Come visit us in Boulder anytime - we'll make sure you really feel like you are at home!

Paramendra Bhagat said...

I will absolutely take you up on the offer. I just don't know when. It will feel like homecoming: I grew up in Nepal.