Notes from Brad Feld’s Presentation in Toronto on Building Startup Communities

Last night, Brad Feld spoke to a packed room of people from Toronto’s tech, social media and entrepreneurial scene at the Toronto Reference Library about building startup communities. Here are my notes from his presentation:

  • I moved to Boulder in 1995
  • It turns out that when you’re constantly criss-crossing the US, living in the middle of the country works out well
  • My wife and there came there because we liked it – we didn’t know anyone there
  • I started to get engaged with Boulder entrepreneurial community
  • For those of you who aren’t familiar with Boulder, it’s very much a hippie town, with the creative class and counterculture
  • University makes for 25 – 30% of the population
  • Lots of smarts engineers, no management or sales talent
  • Started to reflect on his journey from 95 on
  • By 2010, Boulder recognized as a great startup community
  • Done without promotion
  • Cofounded Techstars in 2006
  • Founded Founders Group in 2007
  • My book is based on four principles
  • My publisher wanted these principles to be given a name, and they suggested “the Boulder Thesis”
  • It’s their contribution to the content of the book

The Four Principles:

1. The startup community has to be led by entrepreneurs

  • Separate the world into 2 categories: leaders and feeders
  • Both are critically important; they’re just different
  • Feeders can’t lead
  • Leaders don’t have to be entrepreneurs; just a critical mass of them
  • Feeders can have individuals who have leadership roles
  • It’s the difference between a network and a hierarchy
  • Startups are inherently networked
  • Feeders tend to be hierarchical organizations
  • “The intersection of hierarchies and networks is not very pleasant”
  • They can have constructive relationships together, but they are different things

2. You have to make a long-term commitment

  • It’s a generational thing: about 20 years
  • The generational view continues far into the future
  • Most other organizations don’t run on cycles this long
  • 2 to 4 years is not long enough for an entrepreneurial company
  • In 2008, the global economic crisis was a disaster to many people, but not to entrepreneurs in Boulder
  • “Who here watches CNN? Turn that shit off!”
  • To an entrepreneur, the US election is just entertainment

3. You have to be inclusive of anyone who wants to engage, at any level

  • Yes, it means you’ll let in bad actors
  • The startup organism rejects bad actors in the end
  • It’s not a zero-sum game – we’re so far from saturating that there’s room for everyone; startups are such a small part of the business ecosystem

4. You have to have activities and events that engage the entire entrepreneurial stack across the board

  • Accelerators, Startup Weekend, a regular cadence of activities, all together and continually
  • Anyone who wants to participate should be able to
  • You don’t have to get permission or a licence: you just start it!
  • There’s a philosophy deeply rooted in the Boulder community: “Give before you get”
  • It’s the difference between being an advisor and being a mentor
  • Advisor: “I will help you in exchange for something”
  • Mentor: “How can I help you?”
  • Everyone has something to offer…everyone can be a mentor
  • In Boulder, people give more than they get in the short run, but they end up getting more than they give
  • If you want to build a long-term viable ecosystem, make sure that there’s a critical mass of entrepreneurs leading
  • It’s not a zero-sum game; everyone benefits!

Brad Feld in Toronto Tomorrow (Tuesday, October 30th)

Here’s a tweet from David Crow that he made earlier this afternoon:


The @bfeld he’s referring to is none other than Brad Feld, managing director of Foundry Group, cofounder of TechStars, investor, entrepreneur and author. He’s scheduled to come to Toronto tomorrow (Tuesday, October 30th) to talk at a StartupNorth event about building a local startup community:

In spite of Hurricane Sandy, he’s still showing up. Word has it that he’s changed his travel plans so that he’s coming in by train rather than plane and will thus be able to make his appearance tomorrow. It looks as though tickets for this event are still available, and if you want to see him and hang out with the local startup scene, register now!


Congratulations to Tris Hussey, New Editor-in-Chief of!

Congratulations to Tris Hussey, who’s the new editor-in-Chief of! iPhoneHacks is a site devoted to all things iOS, whether it’s iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, or iWhatever devices; if you’re an iOS device owner, you’ll want to check this site out every couple of days. I’ve know Tris since my days at Tucows — he’s an author who’s written a lot about social media and tech, a blogger with b5media, and an all-round internet rogue.

Once again: congrats, Tris! I look forward to seeing what you do with iPhoneHacks.


Your Signature on a Mobile Phone: Marketing vs. Reality


Mobile Developer News Roundup: Windows Phone 8 Launch, Windows 8 Dev Tutorials on Channel 9, “iOS 5 by Tutorials” Updated

The Windows 8 Launch Event

Windows Phone floating in the sky over some trees: "I Want to Believe"

The Windows Phone 8 launch takes place later today. At 1 p.m. Eastern (10 a.m. Pacific), Microsoft will unveil the latest version of Windows Phone, whose SDK has been unavailable to most developers in a bid to “build up excitement”. You’ll be able to watch the stream of the event at the Windows Phone News Center, and TechHive, PC World, and Engadget will be live-blogging it.

Windows 8 Dev Tutorials on Channel 9

If you want to learn how to develop apps for Windows 8, take a look at Microsoft’s Channel 9. They’ve got “85 videos and 17 hours of free developer content”, with most of the tutorials covering Windows 8 development in both C# and JavaScript (that’s right, you can do Windows development in JavaScript now).

iOS 5 By Tutorials Updated

The excellent ebook iOS 5 by Tutorials has been updated for Xcode 4.5 and iOS 6. Created by the team at the indispensable iOS developer site, this book is for intermediate to advanced iOS developers who want to know about ARC, storyboards, iCloud, Game Center, Core Image, JSON parsing support, Twitter support, the APIs for the address book, location, calendar and more. It’s been updated to cover the new language features in Objective-C (which I talked about in an earlier article) as well as some new enhancements that came with iOS 6.


Thought for the Day

Do you know why the flames about consumer electronics are so vicious? Because the stakes are so low.

— Reg “Raganwald” Braithwaite, adapting Wallace Sayre’s quote on academia in a call for civility on Hacker News


The New Excuse

Comic - Schoolboy explaining to teacher: 'The cloud ate my homework.'

This article also appears in The Adventures of Accordion Guy in the 21st Century.