Brave By Design

Thinking Like a Visionary Entrepreneur and Building Entrepreneurial Ecosystems with Brad Feld

September 30, 2020 Laura Khalil Episode 43
Brave By Design
Thinking Like a Visionary Entrepreneur and Building Entrepreneurial Ecosystems with Brad Feld
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Brave By Design
Thinking Like a Visionary Entrepreneur and Building Entrepreneurial Ecosystems with Brad Feld
Sep 30, 2020 Episode 43
Laura Khalil

“Every city with at least 100,000 people is capable of building a healthy and vibrant startup community. I’ve evolved that belief to make the assertion that every city with at least 100,000 people needs a healthy startup community as part of the infrastructure of the city. It’s not the only thing that keeps a city healthy, but it’s an important part of the continual renewal, growth, development and evolution of the city.” - Brad Feld 

Regardless of where you live in the world, having a strong entrepreneurial ecosystem in your city is crucial, in so many ways. Today’s Brave By Design expert guest is an entrepreneur, investor and author who focuses on building strong and healthy entrepreneurial ecosystems in your city, and he has so many great insights about this subject to share in this episode. 

Brad Feld has been an early-stage investor and entrepreneur since 1987. Prior to co-founding Foundry Group, he co-founded Mobius Venture Capital and, prior to that, founded Intensity Ventures. Brad is also a co-founder of Techstars.

Brad is a writer and speaker on the topics of venture capital investing and entrepreneurship. He’s written a number of books as part of the Startup Revolution series and writes the blog Feld Thoughts.

Brad holds Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees in Management Science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Brad is also an art collector and long-distance runner. He has completed 25 marathons as part of his mission to finish a marathon in each of the 50 states.

Connect with Brad: https://feld.com/

Connect with Laura Khalil online:

instagram.com/iambravebydesign

linkedIn.com/in/LauraKhalil

Learn the five habits that help women rise:

http://bravebydesign.net/fivehabits 

Invite Laura to speak at your live or virtual event http://bravebydesign.net

What You’ll Hear In This Episode: 

  • The way that Brad got his start on the journey in entrepreneurship and investing  [4:50]
     
  • What a healthy startup and entrepreneurial ecosystem will look like [9:37]

  •  The role that the city itself must play in order to foster a working ecosystem [13:44]

  • How we can create a more diverse, equitable and inclusive environment when trying to build a healthy entrepreneurial ecosystem [21:28]

  • The steps that Brad himself has taken to inform himself, and take action on gender equity [24:42]

  • Why cities, and individuals, need to be looking forward decades when planning for a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem [31:24]

Additional Links & Resources:

All of Brad’s Books  

National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT)

United Way’s 21-Day Equity Challenge 

Eric Ries (The Lean Startup) & Steve Blank


Support the show (https://www.paypal.me/bravebydesign)

Show Notes Transcript

“Every city with at least 100,000 people is capable of building a healthy and vibrant startup community. I’ve evolved that belief to make the assertion that every city with at least 100,000 people needs a healthy startup community as part of the infrastructure of the city. It’s not the only thing that keeps a city healthy, but it’s an important part of the continual renewal, growth, development and evolution of the city.” - Brad Feld 

Regardless of where you live in the world, having a strong entrepreneurial ecosystem in your city is crucial, in so many ways. Today’s Brave By Design expert guest is an entrepreneur, investor and author who focuses on building strong and healthy entrepreneurial ecosystems in your city, and he has so many great insights about this subject to share in this episode. 

Brad Feld has been an early-stage investor and entrepreneur since 1987. Prior to co-founding Foundry Group, he co-founded Mobius Venture Capital and, prior to that, founded Intensity Ventures. Brad is also a co-founder of Techstars.

Brad is a writer and speaker on the topics of venture capital investing and entrepreneurship. He’s written a number of books as part of the Startup Revolution series and writes the blog Feld Thoughts.

Brad holds Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees in Management Science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Brad is also an art collector and long-distance runner. He has completed 25 marathons as part of his mission to finish a marathon in each of the 50 states.

Connect with Brad: https://feld.com/

Connect with Laura Khalil online:

instagram.com/iambravebydesign

linkedIn.com/in/LauraKhalil

Learn the five habits that help women rise:

http://bravebydesign.net/fivehabits 

Invite Laura to speak at your live or virtual event http://bravebydesign.net

What You’ll Hear In This Episode: 

  • The way that Brad got his start on the journey in entrepreneurship and investing  [4:50]
     
  • What a healthy startup and entrepreneurial ecosystem will look like [9:37]

  •  The role that the city itself must play in order to foster a working ecosystem [13:44]

  • How we can create a more diverse, equitable and inclusive environment when trying to build a healthy entrepreneurial ecosystem [21:28]

  • The steps that Brad himself has taken to inform himself, and take action on gender equity [24:42]

  • Why cities, and individuals, need to be looking forward decades when planning for a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem [31:24]

Additional Links & Resources:

All of Brad’s Books  

National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT)

United Way’s 21-Day Equity Challenge 

Eric Ries (The Lean Startup) & Steve Blank


Support the show (https://www.paypal.me/bravebydesign)

Brad Feld :

Every city with at least 100,000 people is capable building a healthy and vibrant startup community. And I've evolved that to make the assertion that every city with at least 100,000 people needs a healthy startup community. As part of the infrastructure of the city. It's not the only thing that keeps the city healthy. But it's an important part of the continual renewal and growth and development and evolution of the city.

Laura Khalil :

Welcome to brave by design. I'm your host, Laura Khalil. I'm an entrepreneur, coach and speaker. I love thinking bait, exploring the power of personal development and sharing the best strategies from thought leaders and pioneers in business to empower ambitious women and allies to bravely rise and thrive. Let's get started. All right, everyone. Welcome to this episode of brave by design. I am so excited for you to talk to today's guest. His name is Brad Feld. He has been an early stage investor and entrepreneur for over 30 years. Prior to founding foundry group, he co founded Mobius venture capital. And prior to that founded intensity ventures. Brad is also a co founder of TechStars, which I bet a lot of you in the Detroit area are familiar with. Brad has a couple books that have just come out the startup community way evolving an entrepreneurial ecosystem and startup communities building an entrepreneurial ecosystem in your city. Brad, you're kind of a big deal. Welcome to brave by design.

Brad Feld :

Thanks, Laura. I think I'm probably a big deal only in my own mind. But I'm delighted to be here.

Laura Khalil :

Okay, so Brad, I first of all, I have to tell you something. So I'm looking at you on video right now. And I was doing this research into you before we had you on the show. And I just want to say, your button down shirt game is on point. And I'm disappointed you're not wearing a button down shirt right now.

Brad Feld :

My they're all shirts by a guy named Robert Graham. And there's a fun story about them, which is that I used to always just wear t shirts all the time. It's been a long time now I used to say five years ago, but it's probably a decade. My wife, Amy bachelor who we've been together now for 30 years, one day I came home and she said, I've decided to make a change to your wardrobe. And I said okay, and I opened my closet. And in our closet, I have like one part of one little segment of the closet because I have those t shirts, right? And I open that segment the closet and it's empty. Like there's nothing there. One of my work she says, Well, I gave you that area over there. So she pointed this hanging cause I'm like hanging closet. That's a weird thing. Where like things hang on hangers. Why would

Laura Khalil :

you hang t shirts on hangers? right?

Brad Feld :

Exactly. I had a bunch of these, these Robert Graham shirts. And that's just become, you know, the thing that I wear, I view it as armor. So I'm an introvert. I live in an extrovert world, I'm very comfortable, sort of, for short periods of time out in the world, but I really prefer to be, I actually very much prefer to be at home. And I very much enjoy the video interaction versus the in person interaction. There's a lot of layers in that. And when I go out in public, I wear these shirts that I view as armor, but when I'm home, like I just wear my T shirt.

Laura Khalil :

But why are they armor, Brad? Because they're kind of saying like, hey, look at me.

Brad Feld :

Yeah, it's very ironic. And I have plenty of conversations with people around it, who remind me that if I'm trying not to stand out, I'm worried Exactly. And you know, it didn't really occur to me, I'm mostly wearing those shirts to please say me. Oh, and what you know, what ends up happening is I just got comfortable in them. And I think this is the interesting thing about a uniform or armor, like if you get comfortable in that uniform that you're wearing, then it becomes like armor for you, regardless of what it looks like, at least for me. So I became very comfortable with these very different looking shirts in a very, you know, whether it was a T shirt world or soup world or, you know, khaki and blue shirt world, wherever I was, like, I was very comfortable in what I was wearing. And it just sort of allowed me to not have to engage around that other dimension.

Laura Khalil :

Um, you know, it's interesting, as someone who does not know, you, and I saw, you know, you and all these shirts, I thought Brad must be very approachable, and also very comfortable with himself because I really admire that and it's not typically what we think of when we talk about VCs. You know, we're typically like talking about these guys who are like, on what is it Sand Hill Road, sort of, like hidden away? So can we just sort of back up Brett? How the heck did you get into this?

Brad Feld :

Well, I started my first company when I was in college, and that was in 1987. So I'm now old. My parents My parents like to refer to me, they don't even want to acknowledge that I'm middle aged. But when you're in your 50s, you're like, not enough when you're in your 40s in your 30s. And I started a company, I sold it in 1993, to a public company. And I took almost all of the money that I made selling it to public company made a couple of million bucks. And I invested in 40 startups at the beginning of the rise of the commercial internet 94 to 96. As an angel investor, you know, 25 $50,000 Yeah. So the time and I didn't know anything about investing prior to that. And I really, you know, I found it very fun. Like, it was a really enjoyable part of the work dynamic. Okay, you to start some companies. And I was a co founder of some companies. And it wasn't until the internet bubble collapsed in 2001, recrushing, to have to sort of go through this incredible collapse for a couple of years and just dig out from under all this, that I'd created. You know, lots and lots of broken companies, lots of things have failed, lots of felt like on day one, you know, one day they were doing great. And then, you know, the next month, they were complete debacle.

Laura Khalil :

Hey, Brad, I got a question for you. If I can interrupt you when you were doing this angel investing, like, what was your criteria?

Brad Feld :

Two things, people and product? I was very focused on the people that I want to be partners with them? Did they want to be partners with me, and I was very focused on the product. You know, what do they think of the product? What do they think of the product idea? And did I care about it? Was it something I wanted to be invested in?

Laura Khalil :

Okay, so first internet bubble collapses. And what do you do?

Brad Feld :

Well, by this point, I'm a VC. But I'm still a VC and an operator. So I'm still Chairman or co chairman of some companies, I'm still playing this straddle role between being an investor and an operator. And it just was untenable. And at some point, I realized that two things one was, I needed to commit to one or the other. And the second part was that I didn't actually like the job of CEO. And subsequently, I didn't like the job of Chairman or co chairman. So this, this sort of functional role at the leader of the company was not interesting to me, I wanted to support the leader of the company, whoever the CEO of the company was. And as long as I supported her, my view was that I work for her. And if I didn't support her, I needed to do something about it, which did not necessarily mean fire her, but work to get back to a place where I support her. And if for some reason, I can't get back to the place where I support her, then, you know, I have one sort of role that I play in the context of a board and a major investor, which is to replace a CEO. And so in that moment, which is probably around 2002, or 2003, I decided, all right, I'm done. I'm done. Being an operator from this point forward. I'm just going to be an investor. And that's what I've been doing since then.

Laura Khalil :

I love it. And you're based in Boulder, right?

Brad Feld :

Yeah, my wife Amy, and I moved to Boulder in 1995. We had lived in Boston, I moved there to go to college in 1983. I grew up in Dallas, Texas, and she grew up in Alaska. Oh, wow. And Boston was good to both of us. But it wasn't home. And when I sold my first company, I was 28. And I told Amy, by the time I was 30, we'd be out of Boston without a plan. And two months before I turned 30, she told me she was moving to Boulder, and I was welcome to come with her if I wanted to. And oh my

Unknown Speaker :

god, we need to have her on the show. She's amazing.

Brad Feld :

She had a pretty strong hand because we've been married for a couple of years. So you know, I was traveling all around the country, because I was, you know, investing on the east coast in the West Coast. In San Francisco and Seattle, I spent a lot of time in Seattle, because my first company and had a pretty meaningful relationship with Microsoft. And then the company that bought mine had a very significant relationship with Microsoft. And I just heard we sort of said, let's try Boulder. If we don't like it, we'll try something else. Okay, we knew one person when we moved out here, and he moved away within a year. And so we really moved out here not knowing anybody and with no expectation of doing business. And you know, within a couple of months, I started looking around for other entrepreneurs because I wanted some local friends. And I wanted to see what was so it evolved from that. But it was really a function of us deciding to move where we wanted to build a life and then building a life around us rather than going someplace because of a specific opportunity.

Laura Khalil :

Brad, that's a really interesting point. Because I know that at least we talked prior to rolling about I spent a decade in the Bay Area, because that was kind of like the place. You know, I thought, let's go there. Let's do this. And I know a lot of people feel like that sort of a Shangri La. For you know, if you're young, you're hungry, and you want to latch on to the next unicorn or possibly found it. And it creates sort of a strange environment. So I know that a lot of your work today is focused on building healthy ecosystems for startups and communities that support them. So let's just let me ask you because you move somewhere because you want it to live there. And you help build the community around you. So what is the healthy startup entrepreneurial ecosystem even look like?

Brad Feld :

Well, in 2012, I wrote a book called startup communities. And prior to that book, The phrase startup communities didn't exist. And the premise I think that most people had, again, prior to that was that if if you wanted to build a company, especially a tech company, you know, the only place to do that was the Bay Area. And right I never subscribed to I spent a lot of time in the Bay Area. And I think there's some amazing things about the Bay Area. But I just never believed that my view was, you should be able to build your company anywhere you want. I also had a view, which I put for the first book, which is that every city with at least 100,000 people is capable building a healthy and vibrant startup community. And I've evolved that to make the assertion that every city with at least 100,000 people needs a healthy startup community, as part of the infrastructure of the city. It's not the only thing that keeps the city healthy. But it's an important part of the continual renewal and growth and development and evolution of the city. Why is that? The 100,000 person, just the habit comes from Boulder, because boulder is only 100,000 people. So like my view was, if you can do it here in Boulder, you should be able to do it anywhere. The why is that is if you look at the fabric of a city. And you look at any city in the world, every city was once a start up, people decided to put, you know, oh, let's put a city here. Yep, as cities grew and developed, they always grew and developed around a number of different characteristics. Much of them historically, were around natural resources, what the physical Natural Resources existed. They then developed intellectual resources, whether it be university or other intellectual fabric of the city, they develop cultural resources, you know, that range from on one end to the experience, sort of arts and entertainment, sports, sort of all of these things, it became part of the fabric of the city. And there was always business as the sort of the commercial fabric of the city. And if you look at every city, and the beginnings in the early stages, those cities, they always had startups that grew into meaningful businesses in those cities. And in more vibrant places, you had more creation, destruction, sometimes you have more population, sometimes you have more startups, it wasn't a matter of measurement. But it was a measure of that vibrancy, that continual change in evolution, you know, you're from Detroit. And Detroit is a great example of that, right? The auto industry was the industry that really put Detroit as a city on the map. And for many years, Detroit was a very, very significant place. Interestingly, you know, and importantly, in there, you know, many companies in Detroit at the time that the auto industry started to emerge for startups. And they grew into very, very large industrial companies that were very successful for a long period of time. One of the challenges with cities, if you look at sort of, you know, use Detroit as an example, one of the downfalls of Detroit, and one of the reasons that Detroit had a long period of stress as a city was that if you don't have continual innovation and continual renewal in your city, and you have the dominant participants, the incumbents that try to control and manage all the activity in the city, not just the innovation activity, but sort of all the other characteristics in the fabric of the city, the health and the growth of the city starts to slow and sclerotic. And over time, large companies, incumbents get disrupted by new emergent companies and new emergent things, whether that's in another city or another country, and you have this endless phenomenon. So this need for endless renewal, from an entrepreneurial perspective is key to a healthy aspect of all cities.

Laura Khalil :

Brett, that's so cool. And it makes so much sense when you talk about it. When I hear you talking, I have to wonder, what is the role of the city itself in helping to foster that kind of ecosystem, because it seems to me that that just can't be done with a few really enterprising people moving in, that they may need support from those cities is that part of what you think makes a healthy community.

Brad Feld :

So I spent a lot of time in both of the books, the older book, startup communities and the new book, which is called the startup community way, talking about this. And I make a couple of points, that sort of that link together. One is in the startup community, you have to have a critical mass of entrepreneurs who play a leadership role. So in the absence of that critical mass of entrepreneurs doesn't have to be a large number could be half a dozen. But in the absence of that your startup community won't make progress. It doesn't have to be people that come from outside the city into the city. It just has to be entrepreneurs in your city who are playing leadership roles, and modeling a bunch of different behaviors across the startup community. The second and this is the basis for the new book, startup communities function as complex systems. And it's important to so that everybody understands what I'm talking about define a complex system quickly. So I'll define three types of systems with examples. Simple, complicated and complex, a simple system is making a cup of coffee, a complicated system is doing your monthly financial statements, you got a bunch of more steps, they don't have to be in a certain sequence. But in the end, you get balance sheet income statement, cash flow statement, a complex system is raising a child, if you tell that child when they're born, if you have a plan for that child so that when they're 25, a whole bunch of things are going to be in place, they're going to a certain way, they're going to have a certain profession, they're going to marry a certain person, they're going to live in a certain place. Like what you're doing is you're basically setting your kid up to need a lot of therapy, right? Because that's not how, right they they evolve, they adapt, all the inputs become outputs that become new inputs and changes. So all of this sort of dynamic. So in the notion of a complex system, if you think of a startup community as a complex system, you can't from the top down, define and control it. You can't say in year five, it's going to look like this. And in your 10, it's going to look like that, because it's this evolutionary emergent, dynamic. And as a result, I categorize things like local government, as feeders. And in that first book, I separated between leaders and feeders and we added a third category called instigators. It turns out that the leaders and instigators are people. Okay. The leaders are entrepreneurs. This is the startup community leaders are entrepreneurs instigators are people who work for feeder organizations who are basically not entrepreneurs who are playing a leadership role. So a lot of them work for organization, large companies, city government, nonprofits, venture firms, service providers, lawyers, accountants, but they play a leadership role in the startup community. And the key thing then is that all of the organizations are feeders. So government, university, large companies, etc. And I separated that taxonomy in that in that first book very deliberately, because the leaders and the instigators are playing a bottoms up emergent phenomenon. They're not trying to control things. There's no CEO of the startup community, there's no vice president of marketing of the startup community, right. Whereas organizations naturally try to organize and control things. I mean, organization organized, like the word is in the thing. And so they tend to be very focused on planning and top down control and top down management. That's not bad. It's just different from the way the startup community evolves. And so I try to very clearly lay out this notion of how feeders, local government, universe, etc, could participate in a startup community effectively, to help the startup community grow and evolve. One last comment on this, I think that's so important is that if you look at a startup community over time, the startup community has one goal, and one goal only. And that's to help entrepreneurs succeed. That's it. That's the goal startup to me. In the new book, we define an entrepreneurial ecosystem as something bigger than a startup community. A lot of times the phrases get conflated. A lot of people say startup ecosystem or entrepreneurial community, and Ian Hathaway, my co author, and I really wanted to separate those two phrases, the startup communities goal is to help entrepreneurs succeed. That's it. That's a whole shooting match. An entrepreneur ecosystem has that as one of its goals, but often has other goals. And the other goals are often driven by the goals of the feeder organization. So local government often has other motivations than just helping the startup community succeed, right? Job creation, would be an example of another goal. If you focus on job creation in the context of entrepreneurship, and startup community, if you focus on job creation, you're focusing on the wrong thing. If you focus on helping entrepreneurs succeed, you will generate jobs. But oftentimes, the feeder organizations don't know how to use that bottom up approach. And so in the context of the entrepreneur ecosystem, it's not that the government shouldn't use whatever its approach to things are. But the startup community and the entrepreneurs and the people engaged in it, recognize that they're participating in this larger ecosystem. And the larger ecosystem recognizes that at the core, if they're really focused on entrepreneurship, they've got to make sure the startup community is successful. So these two things are self reinforcing. Mm hmm. And, you know, back to the starting point of this thread that you asked, you know, does local government have a role? Yes, but the risk historically, and the problem historically, is that local government shows up and especially shows up late in the game and says, Okay, good, there's good entrepreneurial things going on here. Let us organize them, right. Let us start to tell you what to do. Let us you know, you know, let us do that versus individuals within local government who are responsible for helping the startup community becoming instigators showing up participating in the startup community and learning and understanding what needs to be done Then doing those things first similar to a startup, if you're a startup, and you haven't adopted Eric Reese's Lean Startup methodology, or Steve blanks, customer development methodology, where the very first thing you do as a startup after you have an idea is you start talking to customers, you get out of the building and Steve's words, and go talk to your potential customers and find out what they really need. If you sit there quietly, locked in your building, figuring out exactly what everybody needs, and then down the road, voila, unveil it, probably what you're going to unveil down the road is wrong, versus spend a bunch of time with lots of little experiments, getting out there testing lots of things, trying stuff, having some things fail. When things fail, try something different. Like that's how startups work. And it's not how governments work. It's not how universities work. So understanding the difference between these two approaches, and making sure you're applying an entrepreneurial mindset to the growth and development and evolution of the startup community is essential.

Laura Khalil :

I hope everyone listening to this is just downloading right now, Brad's genius. It's just like coming through to you because this man is brilliant. Brad, I want to pivot slightly from this, or maybe build off this. You know, we have all seen the challenges that black and brown business owners or entrepreneurs and women face in getting venture capital, and in getting a seat at the table. And sometimes a lot of the advice that we see is telling them what they need to do differently, which I think is very challenging for people because we're not the gatekeepers, right. These other folks are the gatekeepers. So when we're trying to build a healthy entrepreneurial ecosystem, how can these institutions help create more diverse, equitable and inclusive environments? Or what is their role in that? You know, let me ask you that I'm curious.

Brad Feld :

They have a deep and important role in that. But I want to start with something that you said, because I think what you said is really critical to highlight. And it's fundamental elements of gender equity and racial equity that I learned in 2005, from Lucy Sanders. And I need to just tell a short story, do it, it underscores the point that you made, which may be more important than like, how do you solve the problem. In 2005, I got approached by Lucy, who was introduced to me by a mutual friend, Lucy was previously the CTO of Avaya, which was a spin out from Bell Labs. So she had a long software engineering career and a long career as a manager, technical manager on top of a large number of people, as a very successful woman in you know, computer science, which is very male dominated and has been for a long time, she retired and she decided that the rest of her career would be working on getting gender equity in computer science. Awesome. She approached me with this idea for a new organization she had just started called National Center for Women and information technology, or NC with nc with.org. And she said, Look, I believe that we need to get a lot more women and girls involved in computer science, not because we need gender parity, gender, parity will be the outcome. But because if we want to be competitive and innovative as a country, we need to get a lot more girls and women involved in computer science for a number of reasons. And the reasons some of them had to do with capacity. Some of it had to do with the way that we think about products. Some of it had to do with the, you know, the premise that diverse teams have better outcomes. And I basically said to her, Hey, Lucy, you had me at the word innovation. And so I agreed to be chair of that nascent organization. And I learned enormous amount from Lucy in the first year. One of the things I learned that was profound was pretty much everything I thought is in 2005, so 15 years ago, but pretty much everything I thought about gender equity and the dynamics of how to create gender equity, were at best neutral, and were probably harmful or wrong. And I started to realize that when men It was very obvious, because I experienced it over and over again, when men showed up at the discussion, things men did immediately, we're trying to solve the problem. And in trying to solve the problem, one of the things that got communicated continually was women are broken, or women are the problem. Or, you know, somehow it shifted the burden of solving the problem, whatever the problem was being defined as away from men and toward women.

Laura Khalil :

Yep, that's the old party line, right?

Brad Feld :

Okay. So and away from, you know, the gatekeeper, and to the person who is being kept out of whatever the system was. So I learned that right away again within the first six to 12 months, and I shifted all of my energy and all of my own behavior and this is again around gender equity. To being what today would be called a male advocate or a male ally. And that was language that ncwit helped create and help to really define certainly in the context of TAC. And the behavioral characteristics of being a male ally, in the context of gender equity, were things that really were hard to necessarily integrate, at first, but over time became very clear to me. And it will be the answer to the question that you asked it started down this path. I had not thought much about racial equity, I've continued to think about gender equity and be very involved in gender equity issues, and I think be a strong and capable and effective male advocate. But I hadn't really thought hard about racial equity issues. Now, Amy and I have always been a big supporters of social justice causes. So you know, through our foundation, philanthropically, you know, socially, but, you know, I hadn't thought about it. And when George Floyd got murdered, I had a short term very disoriented couple of days, because I was very unhappy with my own behavior, historically, around racial equity, where when I felt like I was a passive participant, right, I passively participated by providing some financial support to our foundation, and maybe saying some things that were maybe neutral, probably, you know, like, I thought, we're positive, we're probably at best neutral, and not really engaging in trying to be a male ally equivalent or an ally equivalent, sort of in this context. And you know, the language, interestingly, in racial equity is ally and accomplice. And I've grown to wipe the accomplice language, not in the context of gender. But in the context of racial equity.

Laura Khalil :

I assume that's a more active role than an ally, perhaps similar. I know that I've talked to Jeffrey Tobias halter, we've had him on the show. He's also made the distinction between an advocate and an ally in terms of gender, and advocate being just more of an active role LS a little bit passive, I just want to put that out there for people who are listening, kind of wondering, what's the difference between these words,

Brad Feld :

the words are interesting and challenging, right. So I, I'll use gender as the example I've used myself in gender as a male advocate. For some reason, the word ally has been adopted by more. And I'm not sure why. And so I still identify as an advocate, but I'm happy to be classified as either. In the context of racial equity, it's very clear that ally is a good start. And accomplice is the act of participation. And so I think it is an effort to separate between non involvement involvement and active involved. The end result of that thread, though, is, as I sort of went through this weekend, I went back to my starting point with Lucy in 2005. And said, probably everything I know about racial equity is wrong. About You know, how to help build and generate racial equity is wrong, it's probably at best neutral. The problem is, that is not that black and brown people are broken or the problem, right. And that's not the issue. And not that, you know, in the same way that women don't have to be fixed, black and brown people don't have to be fixed, especially by a middle aged, successful white man. And so I went a layer deeper and said, All right, you know, I'm going to be the language that was being used at the very beginning was our again, I'll use the word accomplice now. And what I ended up doing specifically was I made a list of the friends of mine who are black, and these would be her friends and colleagues. So people who I knew more than just their name or an email address somebody I'd had some real interaction. Unfortunately, that was a short list, it was only about a dozen people, which when I actually sat down, wrote down the list, kind of, you know, again, appalled me internally in terms of thinking about my own network. There were only two women on the list. So another sort of signal to me that, you know, clearly I was the problem. I reached out to them, and I sent to each of them. But I asked them one question, I said, What are two things that you are currently involved in, that I can help support? And I got three resources, I got money, time and influence, hmm. And I'm care what the things are that you're doing. I want to support you. And I want to support the things that you're already doing. I don't want to create something new. If it's something that, you know, I don't care what your level of support is, I'm looking for what you want me to help you support. So that ended up being a number of different things, including, in one case, a new nonprofit that got started by a guy named James Oliver. He's one of my friends who's created a nonprofit called the Black parent printer foundation to help black parent entrepreneurs, as a community because that's a community that doesn't exist. He's creating it. You know, I've helped another A friend of mine, Austin Clements, who's a VC start a program called grid 110. In South LA where he grew up, he there was a grid 110 in LA, but they hadn't started the South LA program. So I helped do that. So those kinds of things. Yeah, it wasn't a one time get involved. But it was a continuous get involved with the idea that I'm extending my network, not just to my friend, Austin, but to everybody in that program. And they're including me now in their network. And so I'm beginning of, you know, in the in the gender equity discussion, I would describe, and I describe this with startup communities, everything that I think about as a 20 year journey from today, it's constantly 20 years in the future, you're always looking way forward. And you have I mean, I believe you have to play a long term game with all of these things. And so my view is, this is my starting point on something that I'll be involved in engaged as an accomplice for the next 20 years, where if you say, well, what's your goal? Brad, you know, my goal is to actively participate in eliminating racism in America. All right, well, are you know, is it my responsibility or job to do that? No, it's not like that's the wrong way to think about it. I need to be a participant as an accomplice, in ending this, and I would come back to your question originally, like, how can I different people help and engage, and I think there's lots and lots of activity around, you know, Dei, and I like the Add of the word be, which is belonging to di. And doing, you know, the work around that includes approaching it, especially as a white person, especially as a white male, with the recognition that most of my even if I have an internal self image of something that's positive, is starting with a beginner's mind, recognizing that my historical biases exist, recognizing that my historical behavior, if I thought it was good, might be might not be, but rather than judging, allow myself to start from scratch and question on that stuff. And so there's some powerful things, you know, that are easy to do. Another example of a powerful thing is a group of about 15 of us, who were, I would say, white investors and leaders in different aspects of the boulder startup or Tech Community collaborated with a group of black dei consultants. And we put together an entity, we funded it, so that they got punked helping us good. What should we do? So your consultants we want to pay you, yeah, run us through a training course around this as a small group with each other. So we can learn with you as co participants. In other words, it's not teach us what we should do. But help us start the journey, where the journey will be a long one, where we're willing, again, given what your work is to pay you to help us down that journey. crowd and doing some multiple things like that. In other words, okay, great. So I did that check. I got my little certificate that's up now. That's it is it beginning of trying to change my own thinking and learn about myself? And I'll give one good example that came from that that's particularly pointing for me. That's a bias that I've eliminated. I grew up Jewish in Dallas, Texas. I was one of you know, for Jews and a big guy school. thousand 2000 people, I don't know, people my high school, big High School. As a kid growing up in high school, I had the feeling of being the other. Yeah, I was Jewish. And we had funny holidays. I didn't celebrate Christmas. Sure, there's a little anti semitism I get made fun of for, you know, microaggressions, like, my nose was big and stuff like that. Like, some of those things happen. It was pretty tame. It was comfortable. It was middle class. Right? It wasn't abusive in a deep way. Okay. I'm not sure how we're I was of those things until I created my adult narrative about it later. Oh, okay. Was that just the adult narrative that I'm describing to you now? Gotcha. teenager, I'm not sure I was aware of that. But I see an ethical narrative and said, Look, I am what it is like to be the other. So as we're going through this training, a couple of us in this training are Jewish and it comes up, we say, look, you know, we understand, you know, the dynamic to some degree, we're Jewish, you know, Nazis tried to wipe us out in World War Two, you know, we all have remnants of the Holocaust in our past, you know, we are very, very small percentage of the US population. And most of us are centered in one city in the US anyway, although, you know, distributed around the country. And so that sort of came up as a topic of discussion. And the DI consultants did a brilliant job with this, which was rather than say, well, that's not an issue or that's not the same issue are somehow deflect or integrated. We went into the discussion, why do you feel this way? How does this relate to equity, where religion is a characteristic, but we were struggling with the link between religion, ethnicity and race as characteristics. And as we talked through it, I'll just go to the conclusion like there were several very interesting one on one conversations that I had, both with several of the other Jewish people in the group, but also with one of the, the AI consultants who spent a lot of time with me. And at some point, I realized that it was simply a protective behavior on my part. I was saying, Hey, I'm sort of like you, you know, my friend, Mr. or Mrs. person who is black? Because I'm Jewish. Right. And yeah, I understand that there is a racial equity issue, and I am becoming more accessible to you or more accessible to the issue, because I'm Jewish. And I have that issue, too. Yeah. Which is, it's like, yes, there is an issue, but it's a different issue. Absolutely. What I realized was, I was using my bias, to not go deeper into what the actual thing was. And this is just a sort of a point that land was so for me, I said, Okay, I'm letting go of that. Yeah, I'm still Jewish, I have a Jewish identity. But that has nothing to do with racial equity. And that has nothing to do with the dynamics around racial equity. That was very powerful. When I let that go in that moment,

Laura Khalil :

bread, I'm so glad you brought that up. I have been talking a lot. And I just want to mention it on the show for people who are listening, the 21 day equity challenge by the United Way of Washington County, which I'm promoting like a crazy person, essentially. And for those who are curious, we did an earlier episode with the director of the United Way, Washington County on this, but anyhow, there is in one of the days, there is a topic related to exactly what you're describing, where we sort of tried to minimize or defuse, or say, Oh, yeah, I'm kind of like you, because I've experienced some challenge in some way. But that challenge isn't felt necessarily day to day. It's not related to active racism, that black and brown people face continually in all aspects of their lives. I really thank you for bringing that up. Because that is a very powerful realization for people to have and technology. Yeah, you did go through some stuff. And no, it's not the same.

Unknown Speaker :

That's right.

Laura Khalil :

Yeah. Brad, I could talk to you for hours.

Brad Feld :

Even when I'm not wearing a collared shirt.

Laura Khalil :

I know even when you're not. I know. I'll let it I'll let it slide, Brad. I'll let it slide. Okay. But we got to wrap this up, unfortunately, I want to thank you so much for being on the show. Do you have any final last comment you want to share with the audience?

Brad Feld :

Just thank you. Thank you for letting me participate in your podcast specifically. And, you know, I said this at the beginning of the podcast discussion with you before we started, I've done a bunch of podcasts around the launch of the startup community way. And I've done a bunch of live interviews, some of the live interviews the interviewer was was a woman. But I think this is the first podcast I've done with a woman which stood out to me, when I saw it scheduled, it surprised me that I hadn't noticed it. And now that I think about it, I'm noticing the dominance, especially in tech, yeah, the podcasts being male driven. And that's something to sort of, for me to pay attention to both in terms of the, you know, the podcasts that exist, but also putting more energy into finding more podcasts, run by women, done by women and being involved in them, because I learned a lot from a different dynamic there. So thank you for doing this. And thank you for including

Laura Khalil :

Brad, thanks for being here. And yes, I can definitely if you ever want introductions, I can introduce you to a host of badass women who are hosting their own shows,

Brad Feld :

happily take ones that you think would be great. And that would be good for

Laura Khalil :

Yeah, for sure. All right. Brad Feld, thank you so much for joining us on brave fi design.

Brad Feld :

Laura. Thanks.

Laura Khalil :

I want to thank you for joining me and remember to subscribe to your favorite app so you can stay up to date, and I would love your review. If you've enjoyed this episode. Please leave a review and comment on Apple podcasts. You can also keep in touch with me online. You can find me on LinkedIn and I'm also on Instagram at force of badass Ray all that information will be available in the show notes. Until next time, stay brave