VC Brad Feld Reveals What He Hates About the Startup Community

Photos by Clayton Hauck for Tech Cocktail

Anyone well-versed in the startup space shouldn’t be a stranger to the name Brad Feld. Apart from being a successful entrepreneur, Feld has co-founded multiple VC firms and has backed companies including Zynga, FitBit and MakerBot. Currently he is a VC partner at Foundry Group and co-founder of startup accelerator TechStars. If that’s not enough to impress you, Feld is also a hugely-followed blogger and author of over half a dozen books relating to startups and entrepreneurship.

Even with his laundry list of accomplishments, Feld has faced some tough challenges in his life. For one, he has struggled with depression and has written about his experiences on several occasions. Fortunately over time, he’s found some creative ways to overcome it. According to an article he wrote on Inc.:

“I make time and space to care for my mental health. I stop setting my alarm for 5 a.m. and let myself sleep until I wake up naturally. I observe digital Sabbaths in which I stop checking email, keeping up with the news online, and checking into Foursquare. I travel less. I read and run more.”

Sounds like something all busy people need to note.

We recently had the pleasure of catching up with Brad Feld over email. Here, we discuss the value of college, balancing relationships, and the one thing he’d change in today’s current startup culture.

You founded your company Feld Technologies while you were still a student at MIT, how valuable was going to college for you?

“MIT was incredibly valuable for me. Among other things, I learned (a) how to start thinking deeply about a problem, (b) how to work tirelessly to reach a goal, and (c) how to work on a team. Beyond that, I was surrounded by other people my age who were exploring a wide variety of interesting things. I’m a huge fan of college in general.”

What’s your opinion on young entrepreneurs in relationships? Negative or a positive and why?

“My wife Amy and I wrote a book called Startup Life: Surviving and Thriving in a Relationship with an Entrepreneur that I’d encourage for any entrepreneur, and any partner of an entrepreneur. The challenge for most entrepreneurs is prioritizing their relationship in the context of their day to day pressures and activities as an entrepreneur. But in some ways this is no different than anyone else in a relationship, it’s just more intense at particular times for an entrepreneur.”

You’ve stressed in the past on how community is extremely important in creating a good startup environment. Can you offer some tips for entrepreneurs looking to choose the perfect city to build their startup in?

“There is no perfect city to build your startup. Don’t think about it that way. Turn the problem on its side. Instead of looking for the perfect city for your startup, choose the place you want to build your life. Then move there and build your startup.”

Networking is incredibly important as an entrepreneur. For someone starting off fresh, what are the best ways to start building a quality network?

“Give before you get. If you follow that principle, you will build a great network. Make sure you are providing real value to the people you are trying to meet and network with.”

What is something in the general startup community and/or culture that you’d like to change?

“The bullshit. This stuff is hard. There’s way too much happy talk, “I’m crushing it,” “Things are going great,” crap like that. It’s hard, every fucking day, to build a company. There are moments of awesomeness but a huge number of moments of abject terror. Don’t hide from it and don’t bullshit yourself.”

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