Today, I spoke to Brad Feld, who has been an early stage investor and entrepreneur for over twenty years. He is the co-author of Do More Faster: TechStars Lessons to Accelerate Your Startup, and the co-founder of the Foundry Group. In this interview, Brad talks about TechStars, his opinion on being born an entrepreneur, and more.
About once a month I have a day of “random meetings” – basically, anyone that wants to meet with me can sign up (the current web site is http://bunkerofficehours.pbworks.com/Brad-Feld-Community-Hours). Around four years ago, David Cohen (TechStars founder / CEO) showed up on a random day for a 15 minute meeting with me. I’d never met him before. He presented the idea of TechStars and I was immediately captivated – within five minutes of the start of our meeting I said “I’m in – let’s do this.” David talks more about this in our book “Do More Faster: TechStars Lessons to Accelerate Your Startup.” So – it was David’s idea, but I jumped in quickly with both feet.
Are people born entrepreneurs or do they become them through education?
This question is regularly debated and there are endless anecdotes around this along with some academic studies. I personally believe that it’s “both” – every great entrepreneur I know is on a constant quest for knowledge about how to be a better, more effective entrepreneur. While I think it’s very difficult for someone who is not naturally inclined to be an entrepreneur to become one, it’s not impossible.
How do you select which companies get in TechStars? What are the qualifications?
We have a three month application process for each program (http://www.techstars.org/apply/). About half-way through anyone who has applied is invited to a day long event called “TechStars for a Day” where we explore TechStars as well as get to know them. We typically get 300 to 500 applications per program per year. Once they are all in, the managing director of the city and David Cohen go through them and narrow them down to about 75 candidates. We then have a larger group that picks the 25 finalists and stack ranks them by preference. The MD then goes and meets with each company and – if appropriate – extends them an offer.
When did your entrepreneurial journey start and when did you decide to move into VC land?
I started my first company (Feld Technologies) when I was 19 and in college at MIT. I sold it when I was 28 and started making angel investments with some of the money that I made. When I was 31, I co-founded a venture capital firm that became known as Mobius Venture Capital with several other partners. Today, I’m almost 45 and am one of four partners in a venture capital firm called Foundry Group.
Can you name a few notable entrepreneurs that have inspired you over the years?
Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Warren Buffett.
Brad Feld has been an early stage investor and entrepreneur for over twenty years. He is the co-author of Do More Faster: TechStars Lessons to Accelerate Your Startup. Prior to co-founding Foundry Group, he co-founded Mobius Venture Capital and, prior to that, founded Intensity Ventures, a company that helped launch and operate software companies. Brad is also a co-founder of TechStars. Brad currently serves on the board of directors of BigDoor, Gist, Gnip, Oblong, Standing Cloud, and Zynga for Foundry Group. Previously, Brad served as chief technology officer of AmeriData Technologies. AmeriData acquired Feld Technologies, a firm he founded in 1987 that specialized in custom software applications. Brad is a nationally recognized speaker on the topics of venture capital investing and entrepreneurship and writes widely read and well respected blogs at www.feld.com and www.askthevc.com.