Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Brad Feld and Shawn Broderick @ MIT

Brad Feld and Shawn Broderick visited us on 09/16 Wednesday, at 6.078 Founder's Journey. Brad gave us a brief autobiographical sketch which had refreshing content - he talked also about the companies he founded, that did not succeed. Here are some highlights from his talk:

Brad is a MIT alum. who decided on Course 15 (management) pretty early. He founded his first company in 1983-84 when he, along with 4 classmates at MIT, decided to write software for Macs. They managed to raise $10,000, bought a Lisa and got a consulting contract for a company that did speech recognition. The contract was worth ~$10,000. The team spent a year on the project without making much progress. When they realized this, they shut the company down, sold the computer for $7000, and returned $7000 to their investors. This was company #0.

Through college, Brad continued to consult on the side and undertook projects such as writing software for a dentist who happened to be his fraternity brother's stepfather for $25/hour. When he was approached to write imaging software for Cephalographic analysis, he hired a fraternity brother to work for him for the summer, raised money from another friend's FIL and was in business! This was company #1.

In Spring of 1987, Brad took a business plan class and ended up writing the business plan for "Feld Technologies". Feld Technologies created semi-custom software for networked PCs. In 1988, Shawn joined Brad at this company, and they have known each other ever since. The company grew to over 20 people, was sold in 1993 and eventually became a public company. Brad worked for the acquiring company for 18 months, the first 9 running the consulting group that was built around the acquisition of Feld Technologies, then as CTO of the overall company. He eventually got bored as CTO, and realized that he wasn’t really doing that much that was substantive or important to the future of the company. At this point, he decided to move on.

In 1994, he became an angel investor. Raj Bhargava, then a student at MIT Sloan, approached him after his talk there, invited him out to lunch and impressed him with his idea. Raj showed Brad the world wide web in its avatar, back then. Brad ended up investing $25,000 for 10% of the company. The company was NetGenesis, and eventually went public in 1999. Brad went on to found 4 more companies with Raj. The rest is history.

TechStars was pitched to Brad by David Cohen, an entrepreneur who had sold a his company in Boulder, CO a couple of years ago. Both of them shared a common passion - they wanted to help companies at the pre-seed stage and go beyond the traditional angel investor role by mentoring these pre-seed start-ups. Together, they reached out to the community and got a great response. The first class graduated in 2007 and 3 of the companies have been acquired since. These acquisitions more than paid for the cost of the program. Of the 10 companies from the class of 2008, 7 companies became self-funded or raised money. In 2009, TechStars decided to launch the Boston program in addition to the Colorado program with Shawn as its head. Techstars Boston graduated its first class last week to rave reviews.

What would be awesome is to see a couple of teams from Founder's Journey graduate from TechStars class of 2010.

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