Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

Managing Legal Challenges on a Startup Board

My partner Brad recently released his latest book, Startup Boards – Getting the Most out of your Board of Directors.  This is a great book for people looking for advice on how boards should operate in the very fluid world of startups.

One of the areas that Brad focuses on are some of the legal challenges that present themselves while serving on a board.  What might seem easy “hey, don’t I just do the right thing and all is well and good?” becomes a lot harder when different people are added to the mix.  For instance, did you know that under certain circumstance the board can be personally liable for actions of the company?  Do you know what types of lawsuits are most likely in a startup company?

This book tackles the most important legal challenges including things like VC self dealing, down rounds and founder departures.  While all of these situations are tough, they are even worse with an inexperienced board.

As the lawyer-boy at Foundry Group, I’m a big advocate of getting smart on these issues and this book is a great resource.

February 10th, 2014     Categories: Education, Venture Capital    

Wanted – Colorado-based Entrepreneur to Pitch My Me at Class

I co-teach a class at the University of Colorado Law School called “VC 360.”  We have MBA, Engineering and JD candidates and the course deals with all things in the entrepreneurial / venture ecosystem.

Each year, we have a pitch day where one entrepreneur comes in and pitches me.  The students get to watch.  The entrepreneur and I get an hour together and then the students get to ask questions for 20 minutes.

This is a real pitch.  It’s not any different than if someone comes to our offices, but there is a “studio audience.”

So if you are interested in pitching Foundry Group and want to do something great for the Boulder education community, let me know.  I can only take one.

The pitch date is 10/7 at 8am in Boulder.

September 11th, 2013     Categories: Education, Entrepreneurship, Financings, Venture Capital    

CU Boulder’s New Venture Challenge. Come Join Me

I’ve seen the “Transactional IQ” – i.e., the level of understanding around startup deal making – rise at CU over the past five years.  This fall I finished teaching a Venture Capital course at CU for the fifth time.  And in recent years I’ve helped coach CU’s Venture Capital Investment Competition team.  It is fun to see what involvement with students over a five year trajectory can accomplish.

I’ll be involved in another five year milestone on Wednesday.  CU-Boulder’s New Venture Challenge Fifth Annual Championships are Wednesday 5:00 – 7:30 p.m. in the Wittemyer Courtroom at Colorado Law.  I am a judge.  Free registration available at http://cunvc.org/

It is fun see the NVC go from “let’s make up a competition” to, five years later, something that feels like an annual CU-Boulder institution with over 60 teams involved.

In 2008, several groups across CU-Boulder banded together to launch a cross-campus entrepreneurship championship, which they coined the New Venture Challenge.  In year one, the CU NVC set out to answer the question, “I’m interested in entrepreneurship.  But where do I start?”  Buoyed by a grassroots group of student volunteers, the NVC aimed to inspire students and “collapse the campus” (i.e., encourage people to build startups in interdisciplinary teams).   It helped that, from the start, the NVC involved all parts of campus, with the Silicon Flatirons Center, Deming Center, ATLAS, BDW, eShip, and the Entrepreneurship Center for Music involved.  About 75 or so people trudged through a foot of snow to see the inaugural NVC Finals, which my partner Ryan McIntyre helped judge, in 2008.

Five years later, the snow is back, but the CU NVC otherwise appears to be scaling well.  A robust mentorship program now connects CU NVC teams with Front Range entrepreneurs.  The NVC increasingly emphasizes action over endless business planning.   Several experiential classes have popped up across CU-Boulder that build companies that participate in the CU NVC.  Audience interest is up, too.  The NVC Finals are now held in the 250 seat Wittemyer Courtroom at Colorado Law School.

Check out the NVC on Wed night.  I’m looking forward to it.

April 16th, 2013     Categories: Education, Entrepreneurship    

Startup Summer! Find your great summer internship here!

Of all the projects Startup Colorado initiated in its first year, one of the most successful was Startup Summer, a summer internship program that combined a ten-week internship at a Denver/Boulder startup with a series of evening events focused on teaching the student-participants the fundamentals of entrepreneurism.  Last year 18 students worked with 14 companies in a variety of roles, from web developer to marketer.

Startup Colorado is now accepting applications for the second year of the Startup Summer program, which will be open until March 1st.

The program includes:

  • A paid ten-week internship with a Front Range startup; the internship will include frequent interaction with the company founders and management team
  • The Startup Summer seminar series, featuring prominent entrepreneurs teaching classes on entrepreneurship
  • A weekly social event with business leaders in the community
  • A close-knit community with your peers in Startup Summer
  • An opportunity to interact weekly with a personal mentor experienced in startups and entrepreneurship

Like last year, Startup Summer is looking for students at colleges or universities who are aspiring entrepreneurs and want to accelerate their development by getting plugged in to one of the hottest startup scenes in the nation.  Unlike last year when the program was limited to students in Colorado, we are opening the program up to any student actively enrolled at a four-year program in the United States.

If you are a student at a four-year college with a passion for entrepreneurship, or know a student who would be interested, you can get more details and apply to Startup Summer here.

January 6th, 2013     Categories: Education, Entrepreneurship, Venture Capital    

Flinja Helps University of Colorado – Boulder Students Find Jobs, Pay off Student Debt

As a venture capitalist and a professor of law at University of Colorado – Boulder, it is tough to see how many smart students are having trouble finding jobs after graduating.

The Atlantic reports that 53% of recent college grads are either un- or under-employed, especially in a market flooded with degree-holders. In Boulder, CO alone, there are now 11,041 unemployed people, and although that number is better than the 2009 peak of 12,835 unemployed, it’s still 820 more since January 2012.

There are tons of job sites out there all promising the help, but few actually do.  However I recently saw a model that I haven’t seen before.  Last week I was a sage panelist at DEMO and Flinja was one of the over 20 startups presenting in the Social Products category. They were one of my favorite teams.

What do they do?  Simple.  They capitalize on school spirit to get students hired.  Yep, if you are a fan of CU, you will soon be able CU students.  If you are a Michigan alum, soon too, you’ll be able to focus your hiring ecosystem on folks that share your background.  While simple, this could be very powerful.

Launched last month at the University of Southern California and the University of California, Los Angeles to much fanfare, Flinja allows an exclusive network of students, staff and alumni to hire and be hired within the site. I constantly come across companies who are eager to hire local CU Boulder students but have no one at the companies who are alums. You can connect with CU alumni and find companies hiring within our community. And trust me, it is exclusively for students and college networks—you can’t even register without your “.edu” email. In an extremely competitive job market, it looks like a welcome relief for CU Boulder students, letting them get directly in touch with alumni and potential employers. And in light of the recent jobs numbers, the Flinja platform seems like a great way to take advantage of whatever momentum there might be. Just my two cents.

They are launching at CU and will take some time to get a lot of people on the system, but I’d encourage students look for jobs to give it a shot.

 

 

October 9th, 2012     Categories: Education    

Wanted: Entrepreneur to Pitch to Me During Class

I co-teach a class at the University of Colorado Law School called “VC 360.”  We have both MBA and JD candidates and the course deals with all things in the entrepreneurial / venture ecosystem.

Each year, we have a pitch day where one entrepreneur comes in and pitches me.  The students get to watch.  The entrepreneur and I get an hour together and then the students get to ask questions for 20 minutes.

This is a real pitch.  It’s not any different than if someone comes to our offices, but there is a “studio audience.”

So if you are interested in pitching Foundry Group and want to do something great for the Boulder education community, let me know.  I can only take one.  Priority will be given to ideas that fit within the Foundry Group investment themes and are understandable by students.  Also there is a bias toward local entrepreneurs to Colorado, as I hate making folks travel to see me.

The pitch date is 10/1 at 8am in Boulder.  Either email me or leave a comment and I’ll let you know.  Thanks for the consideration.

September 18th, 2012     Categories: Education, Entrepreneurship, Venture Capital    

Rideorama – Winners of the 4th Annual CU New Venture Challenge

The 4th annual CU New Venture Challenge has come and gone and the student entrepreneurs have only gotten more impressive.  Now in its fourth year, over 40 companies entered the competition with six of these teams moving to the finals. One of the finalists received a grant from the Department of Energy and many of the finalists were operating companies.  I’m proud of how the CU NVC has evolved from a business plan competition into business creation competition.

The winner this year was Rideorama.   Rideorama is a marketplace for carpooling to and from Denver International Airport.  If you need a ride, you can post a ride request to Rideorama so drivers can find you or search Rideorama to find drivers.  If you are driving, you can search Rideorama to find passengers or post a ride offer so passengers can find you.  Drivers offset their costs and passengers get cheap, direct travel.  This team of entrepreneurs includes two students from CU and their friends that moved to Boulder to start this business.  Their simple, innovative solution has the potential to solve the annoying problem of finding someone to take you to the airport.

The Rideorama team also demoed their product at Boulder Beta during Boulder Startup Week.  Their passion for this business showed in their presentation again as they won the people’s choice award at this event as well.

Try out Rideorama the next time you need to get to or from Denver International Airport and give these guys feedback to help them improve their website.  I know they would greatly appreciate it.

If you want to know more about the team and their service, check out the short profile the Colorado Daily did on Rideorama earlier this month.

May 21st, 2012     Categories: Education, Entrepreneurship, Venture Capital    

Zayo Group is Hiring

My friend, Dan Caruso, CEO of Zayo is hiring.  And unlike many companies, he is looking for recent college grads.  Dan is a great guy and the folks that I’ve meet at his company are as well.  In his words:

“Amazingly, in this economy it is hard to fill key positions.  Zayo occasionally looks to fill senior positions.  Usually though, we are looking to complement our veteran team with recent grads who have engineering, IT, construction project management, and finance backgrounds.  We are looking for ambitious, hard working and entrepreneurial people, especially women and minorities as well as Iraq/Afghanistan veterans.  We are an ideal home for those who want to accelerate their career development and hone their entrepreneurial skills.

We are looking for the following positions:

  1. Senior Product Management
  2. CFO for internal business units
  3. Recent grads in engineering (learn how the Internet really works)
  4. Recent grads in IT (learn Salesforce.com and GIS)
  5. Recent grads with an interest in operational finance
  6. Construction/project management who understand telecom projects (or recent grads)
  7. Recent grads with an interest in technical sales”

If you are interested, send your resume to Kellie Lemmel at Kellie.Lemmel at Zayo dot com.

January 29th, 2012     Categories: Company Running, Education, Technology    

A Recipe for Disaster – Killing Law Schools in Favor of an Undergraduate Education

The Wall Street Journal published an article today called “First Thing We Do, Let’s Kill All the Law Schools.”  The basic premise is that the costs are outweighing the benefits.  The authors claim that the total cost of going to law school is around $275,000 which leads to higher legal fees to citizens as it constrains supply of lawyers and those who do graduate must charge high hourly rates to repay their student loans.  The solution according to the article?  Kill all the law schools and make it an undergraduate level program. While I agree that the costs of law school have gotten out of hand in comparison to the real opportunities post graduation for many students, this article is wrong on a number of its conclusions.

First, to suggest that there is a supply constrain on lawyers is laughable.  Whether I’m wearing my client hat where I hire lawyers, or my professor hat (I am an adjunct professor at the University of Colorado), there aren’t nearly enough jobs to place all the lawyers this country is graduating.  In fact, the amount of applications to law schools has been INCREASING over the past few years and this is despite the costs going up and the number of jobs going down.  I’m shocked that the authors, one of whom is a professor and another an attorney at a large law firm don’t see these trends.  Perhaps given the rankings of their institutions these realities don’t effect them, but to the rest of us, it’s quite apparent that the system doesn’t suffer from a lack of supply.

Secondly, the idea that one can train good lawyers out of an undergraduate program is misguided.  Clients pay lawyers for judgment, first and foremost.  It isn’t about wrote laws and rules, but rather, whom do you trust to be mature and wise enough to help you with your issues.  I’ve always thought that law schools do a disservice by allowing students to go straight from undergraduate school to law, when they should be copying the business school model of pressuring prospective students to have real-life work experience before attending a graduate program.  As both a client, a professor and former attorney, I believe that on average, those who have some real life experience are better suited to attend law school and become lawyers.  In any event, I can’t imagine wanting to pay for a 21 year old recently-graduated lawyer.  What experience in life do they really have?  Even if a student goes straight though, at least they are 25 years which is a different world than post undergraduate.

The authors talk about paid apprenticeships, but this still doesn’t get around the problem that lawyers would then have no work experience outside of the law.  Simply put, I don’t believe the average graduate has enough maturity to be a lawyer.

The authors also put for thehe concept that we would still have JD programs alongside undergraduate programs.  This makes no sense to me.  At best, we create a two class legal system between the “haves and have nots” and at the end, I don’t see market economics (price) differentiating, rather some folks will get good legal services and others will not.  Passing the bar exam doesn’t mean one is ready to be a lawyer.

Finally, the $275,000 is based on the assumption that actual school costs $150,000 and that with opportunity costs for “bright students with attractive career opportunities” the number, fully loaded is $275,000.  I would have stopped at the $150,000.  yes, that number alone is too high, but the rest is a complete fudge factor guess.  As previously mentioned, many students (maybe most) don’t have a better option than going to law school and thus the opportunity costs are a made up number.

I do applaud their ideas that a legal education should be more well rounded.  At CU, we are actively engaged at trying to bring more diverse subject matter into the classroom.  This is a key for going forward legal education.

In short, I agree with the problem, but the solution doesn’t work here.

January 17th, 2012     Categories: Education, Law, Law Firm 2.0    

CU New Venture Challenge is Back!

If you’d like to see what the student start-up scene is like in Boulder, check out the Third Annual CU New Venture Challenge Championships on the evening of Thursday, March 10th in the Wolf Law Building on campus. Supported by Silicon Flatirons and several other academic partners, this campus-wide business plan competition encourages students from different disciplines to come together and form a team that includes many different areas of expertise, from law to engineering. Teams are mentored by local business leaders in a similar system to the TechStars model, encouraging a stronger connection between the campus and the community.

Final business plan presentations begin in the Courtroom at 5:30pm with a job fair beforehand at 4pm in the law school café featuring local start-ups such as Next Big Sound, Power Tagging, and more. In addition to the winning teams, the event will feature recognition of several successful CU graduates who have gone on to start their own companies like Sarah Schupp of University Parent and Nathan Seidle of SparkFun. Refreshments and light snacks will be served.

Last year’s winner was strEATchefs, the popular gourmet food trailer inspired by Top Chef winner Hosea Rosenberg, and many past participants who may not have won any official prizes or even decided not to formally compete ended up becoming very actively involved with entrepreneurship in Boulder, such as Everlater going on to participate in TechStars.

This will be a great showcase event highlighting how entrepreneurship at the university is connected with Boulder’s exciting start-up scene. Register here: http://cunvcfinals.eventbrite.com/

February 25th, 2011     Categories: Education, Entrepreneurship, Venture Capital