David Smooke

@DavidSmooke

How Brad Feld Realized He Was a Venture Capitalist

Foundry’s Brad Feld #Connect17 Interview (5/8)

Venture capitalists follow many different paths. What’s it like fully transitioning from operational role to investor?

David Smooke: I’m trying to imagine in your shoes now, it’s a little difficult… Was there a moment when you were like “Okay, I’m a Venture Capitalist?” ’Cause it seems like a chicken and an egg, where like, get the money, figure out what was successful, and people come in and out of the game — it seems a little more like you’re there, and this is who you are — so was there a moment where you’re like that’s my job?

Brad Feld: Yeah, there was definitely a transition for me that was pretty substantial. I started in 1994, investing my own money as an Angel Investor. Between 94 and 96 I did 40 investments, 25 to 50 thousand dollars in the shot. This is after I sold my first company.

David Smooke: Yep.

Brad Feld: I made a lot of investments, but they were very small. Then I stumbled into working with a group from a company called Softbank, which then became the first Venture firm I was part of. We ended up creating a firm called Mobius Venture Capital. It wasn’t until 2001, somewhere between 2000 and 2001, where I started to identify as a Venture Capitalist. Up to that point I co-founded a number of companies after I sold my first company. I was chairman of a number of companies, so I straddled this investor role, and operator role.

But where I wasn’t really running the company, but I had an operating engagement with the company. Or I was identified as a co-founder at the company. And in the internet bubble, when it finally blew up, I had a lot of things going on, and it was a total shit show. And I realized I couldn’t be an investor and an operator. I just couldn’t … I had been chairman of a company, it was a public company. We fired the CEO, as chairman I was the acting CEO. Plus I was on 20 boards of startups. It just didn’t work.

David Smooke: Yeah.

You couldn’t switch between the two. That’s the point at which I decided I’m on the investor side now, I’m a VC. But in that context I really had a view of how I wanted to interact with the founders, coming from the operating perspective.

David Smooke: That’s cool.

Brad Feld: I do feel, by the way, that question makes me feel old. That was 17 years ago now.

David Smooke: Was it?

Brad Feld: It was a long time ago.

David Smooke: Yeah.

Brad Feld: I’ve been doing this, in this modality for a long time.

Read The Rest of Foundry’s Brad Feld #Connect17 Interview

  1. Writer / Publisher Relations on Medium
  2. Who’s a Venture Capitalist’s Customer?
  3. The Venture Capitalist’s Writing Process
  4. The Venture Capitalist at His Investment’s First Conference
  5. How Brad Feld Realized He Was a Venture Capitalist
  6. What Venture Capitalists Can Bring to Product Development
  7. The Nearly 30 Year Quest To Solve The Business Address Book Problem
  8. How Venture Capitalists Market Their Stories

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