This week, I’m joined by entrepreneur turned venture capitalist Brad Feld. We chat about his path to success (and how he built a smart relationship with time/money), his method for conquering depression, how he chooses business partners, why he loves marathons, and how he and his bae spend their free time. This week’s listener letter comes from Twitter with a question about how to choose new social media platforms. #LisaLikes is a Spotify discovery that still has me irrationally excited.
Brad 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.
In addition to his investing efforts, Brad has been active with several non-profit organizations and currently is chair of the National Center for Women & Information Technology and co-chair of Startup Colorado. Brad is a speaker on the topics of venture capital investing and entrepreneurship and writes the blogs Feld Thoughts, Startup Revolution, and Ask the VC.
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 23 marathons as part of his mission to finish a marathon in each of the 50 states.
STUFF MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE
The Hard Thing About Hard Things
Zen & The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
Daniel Nelson says
Excellent interview! I was able to lean more about Brad’s early days which many interviewers tend to skip over pretty quickly.
The Feld Technologies equity split really jumped out at me. Disproportionate equity splits can cause friction between cofounders in a startup. I’m wondering what the reasoning was for Brad to get twice as much equity as his partner Dave.
Lately I’ve been trying to learn more about equity splits between cofounders – and especially reasons for disproportionate splits. I’m a solo founder of a startup with a product that’s starting to get traction. And now I’m looking to bring in a cofounder and thinking about what equity split would be best for the company but also “feels right” for me.
(I’m going to ping Brad on twitter to maybe give a little more insight on the founding of Feld Technologies)
It is never easy to split up equity at the beginning. The default mode for many founders is to split things up equally. In our case, we knew we wanted to give some equity to my dad who helped us get everything going and then was a strong advisor / supporter / mentor through the seven years we ran the business.
I remember initially planning to split the equity 45/45/10. My dad weighed in strongly and felt that I should get more. I had already been running Feld Technologies for two years – it was just me, but it was a real company – and I didn’t disagree. I definitely felt pressure from my dad to address it, which was extremely uncomfortable for me at the time, but only the first of many, many uncomfortable things that I had to learn how to confront directly and quickly in business.
Dave and I had a difficult conversation where we ended up deciding to split things 60/30/10. I remember being very anxious about even bringing it up. It was calm and we agreed quickly. It wasn’t until many years later that I realized that Dave was more upset by this than I realized at the time.
The big lesson I learned in hindsight was that while splitting up equity at the beginning is never simple, it is worth having the hard conversations directly when the issues come up. I don’t know whether the split was right or wrong, but the basis of my now > 30 year relationship with Dave is based on trust, loyalty, and love for one another.
Daniel Nelson says
Got it. Since the company was already started and getting traction it makes sense that you had more equity than Dave. But it can be really difficult to be a cofounder that has much less equity of another cofounder.
Thanks Brad for providing more detail – much appreciated!
Oh, and for anyone unfamiliar with “Startup Podcast”, both seasons have episodes where cofounders negotiate the equity split.
In Season 2, one cofounder has much less equity and we see the affects of that highlighted this episode when they meet with Jerry Colonna: https://gimletmedia.com/episode/til-debt-do-us-part/