Endeavor continues its webinar series with the aim to support and educate its network on how to handle the repercussions of the Coronavirus outbreak. Endeavor Mentor Chris Schroeder hosted a one hour strategy session featuring Brad Feld, where listeners gained valuable lessons on how to lead through a crisis.
Brad Feld is the Managing Director of Foundry Group, a Co-based venture capital firm focused on early stage technology investments, participating in select growth rounds, and identifying and supporting the next generation of venture fund managers. Brad’s renowned reputation stems from being a well known figure in Silicon Valley and other startup communities around the globe. In addition to the Foundry Group, Brad has brought to market products such as Fitbit and Trackr, and has co-founded Techstars, being one of the world’s most prestigious accelerator programs providing startups with funding, mentorship, and valuable networks. Brad’s extensive knowledge and experience emanate through the pages of the various books he has written.
In this webinar series, he explains his thought processes in life and gives applicable advice on how to build and support entrepreneurial ecosystems, especially during a time where entrepreneurial activity is needed most.
Brad opened up the session by explaining that in order to be successful in the start-up community, one does not need to move, for example, to the Bay Area.
According to Brad, at Endeavor’s core is the idea that a few years back barriers to entrepreneurship were nearly insurmountable outside of limited areas. Endeavor, therefore, focuses on stimulating global entrepreneurship activity by providing mentorship to innovative founders based on emerging markets. This reinforces Brad Feld’s crucial piece of advice, as the possibilities in areas other than the Bay Area are growing and becoming more attainable and attractive to future high impact entrepreneurs.
Brad mentioned that he believes that any city with 100,000 people in it can create a start-up community. This further supports his statement in choosing an area where you want to live and build your life as opposed to changing your life around for an opportunity. If the people are there, he has confidence that the opportunity will be there as well.
Furthermore, “a strategy as an investor is not only to invest in the area you live in. It is imperative for every city to have a startup community.” Brad has a deep belief that entrepreneurship is a key aspect to the health and growth in the development of cities. He has seen an incredible democratization of entrepreneurship which furthers the democratization of information and reflects well on the availability of information, showing positive changes in business and consumer behaviour.
Also, a piece of advice he gives in regards to interacting with investors is making your actions more personal. In addition to successfully being able to personalize the interaction, Brad suggests doing something productive such as developing a relationship with some existing portfolio companies that they are involved in. This evidently shows your engagement in their interests and leaves them wanting to know more in terms of your capabilities.
Due to COVID-19, Brad emphasizes that the initial requirement to work from home has now become an opportunity that many companies and families can take advantage of. COVID-19 has had many catastrophic consequences and looking on the bright side Brad believes that one of the positive effects of having to work from home, is the fact that your home can now be anywhere in the world.
“The ability to work from home in an efficient manner has allowed employees to be virtually connected to their company, but also be a part of another local geographic community.” This creates another layer of interactions in which he advises people to get involved in as it is an important aspect in building a startup community.
Brad also believes that there are inefficiencies in the way we spend time together and COVID-19 will be affecting us in a beneficial way. For example, a common way to meet and make business deals is through getting drinks after work, which takes what should be a one hour interaction, to around at least a 4 hour interaction. In addition, he expresses his dislike in that way of doing business as he would much rather finish his working day, and go home to his family. Virtual interactions and working from home will slowly fix the inefficiencies we have in interacting with each other because he believes that there will most likely not be time to chat over irrelevant topics and people will not only be able to communicate more efficiently but will want to.
Brad also loves working from home as he believes that the office spaces that we cram our employees in, are too dense and need to change to be more ergonomically correct, leading to more productivity. Not many people are going to want to come back to work in their cubicle surrounded by an excess amount of people if they have the option to work from the comfort of their own home.
The Managing Director of Foundry Group also discussed the Boulder Thesis, which was created right after we were coming out of the global financial crisis. According to Brad, there are only four things needed to get the community moving:
• The leaders need to be entrepreneurs. There needs to be a critical mass of entrepreneurs who are providing leadership to the rest of the community. This is a core value that we as Endeavor pride ourselves on, as we do everything for the entrepreneurs.
• You need to have a long term view of everything you’re doing. Brad Feld suggests having a 20 year view from today, making it a never-ending continuous view of what you want in your future.
• It is imperative for you to be inclusive of everything and anything that anyone wants to engage in, at any level.
• To have extremely saturated activities and events. It’s never been enough to have exclusive networking events. You need to attract people that engage entrepreneurs, so, events such as tech starter accelerators are a good start.
When thinking about capital the first word that often comes to mind is financial. Brad stresses the idea that there is not only one form of capital that can help a startup community prosper, and just because “there is not enough money,” doesn’t mean that there aren’t other resources that could be advantageous to you.
Given the consistent and common thoughts that he has heard, Brad introduces other forms of capital that not only assist in the flourishing of a startup in the community of one’s choice, but feed off of each other in a positive manner. The three out of seven that he mentioned include: Infrastructure Capital, Intellectual Capital, and Social Capital. He highly recommends: “Start with the capital you have, and then grow them to the point where they feed off of each other”
Furthermore, Brad believes that one’s skills as a leader are transferable and applicable to any location. “As your job or family moves you from location to location, your skills become not only more refined but diversified.” These skills can be easily applied to different communities on their own terms. He articulates the importance of not trying to recreate and replicate the practices that you see happening in successful communities such as Silicon Valley, but to apply your own expertise in ways you deem fit. “You can learn so much from other people and geographies but it is nearly impossible and disadvantageous to emulate or replicate them.”
In addition to location, skills, and resources, Brad explains what one needs to do to be a great leader. “In order to lead effectively, you need to simultaneously engage in radical self-inquiry and lead factually”. In doing so, he suggests embracing the unpredictableness of what our future currently looks like. Its non-deterministic nature allows us to be present in the moment, embrace our values and apply them in this context of uncertainty.
Believing in the words “we will be going back to normal” is in reality, detrimental to the future as things will not be going back to the way they were in early 2020. The uncontrollable nature of COVID-19 has visibly impacted the way in which leaders think. Brad proposes in this time, and in times to come, to look for the behaviour changes stimulated by COVID-19. This way you can play into the changes and evolve as a leader and in your company, as opposed to trying to protect yourself and putting up barriers to avoid the changes that are inevitably taking place.
Last but not least, Brad rightfully stresses the importance of one’s mental and physical health, especially during these times. The stigma around mental health has to be eliminated. Struggling with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Brad’s irrational anxieties interfered with various aspects of his life. He learned that if you’re struggling, you need to do the work on you, to get better.
Brad wrapped up the session with one liner from Len Flassler that has stayed with him throughout the years. In 2000/2001 the internet bubble was collapsing and his company worth 3 Billion dollars was following suit. He felt dejected, miserable and fearful of what could result from the days ahead of him.
Len one morning comes up behind him and says: “Alright come on, Brad, let’s go, they can’t kill ya and they can’t eat cha”. In that moment he realised that yes, the work will always be tedious and it will be sometimes dreadful, but it’s your responsibility in the moment to do the work to the best of your ability, and if you don’t like it, quit!