Venture capitalist, philanthropist Brad Feld shares hindsight as insight to local entrepreneurs
August 15, 2018
Aspen-area entrepreneurs Monday evening welcomed rain outside as well as venture capitalist and philanthropist Brad Feld inside the White Steyer Impact Studio at the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) in Basalt.
Now an Aspen resident, Feld, since the late 1980s, has made his fortune as an entrepreneur and early stage investor.
Co-founder of Foundry Group, Mobius Venture Capital as well as Techstars, Feld also has authored numerous books and continues to blog and speak about his expertise.
The “Ask Me Anything Session,” co-sponsored by RMI and the Basalt Chamber of Commerce and moderated by Chris Klug, focused on topics such as failures, obsessions and relationship building.
“I thought (Feld) was great. I was really impressed,” Rocky Mountain Institute Senior Associate Kevin Brehm said following August’s installment of the Aspen Entrepreneur Showcase. “I think it sort of exceeded my expectations in terms of not just being a business talk but also just sort of having a level of thoughtfulness and disclosure.”
Feld often times talked more about his failed investments than his successful ones. A company based out of Seattle called Cheezburger, which Feld invested in six to 12 months before the company’s roughly $10 million business peak, was one of them.
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Cheezburger, which generated humorous cat pictures, was eventually bought out. However, showcasing hindsight as insight, Feld described how the internet’s shift to mobile devices as well as the rise of Facebook and Twitter taught Feld, at the time, the significance of never underestimating the power of social media.
Along with his own trials and tribulations, the entrepreneur also touched on obsessions, and how although the word can often carry with it an unhealthy connotation, in the business world it should not.
Feld told the room full of entrepreneurs how, within 30 seconds, he will know whether or not he will invest in a company based upon the founder’s obsession with his or her product, and even asks himself, “were the creators put on planet earth to do this?'”
Often, if yes, Feld would invest, but also articulated how he, too, as an investor should share a mutual affinity for the company’s work as well.
“I think it’s great to see this group of people come together. We’ve got a lot of energy and we’ve got a lot of talent. There are a lot of very intelligent and ambitious and passionate people in the valley, and that’s really inspiring,” Pitkin County Commissioner Greg Poschman said.
I kind of came down to get inspired,” Poschman said. “I think everybody in the room has a big idea and they’re trying to figure out how to execute. What they’re going to find out is execution is the hard part and the idea is the easy part, and they are hoping to get some of that from [Feld] and hopefully they did.”
At times, Feld described amounts of money the vast majority of people will never touch. However, the entrepreneur also talked about, regardless of how big or small the project, an entrepreneur’s relationship with their business partner or partners proves key.
Arguably, the main takeaway from the showcase — entrepreneurs must learn to adapt.
As Feld described, some plates get smashed on the floor, and others will float in the air. All of them, though, serve as part of the journey, he said.