I’ve been going to Boulder since the Summer of 1980 when my grandparents took me to visit my Uncle Tom Ellison. I doubt they made the Grateful Dead show that summer but I’m betting my uncle did! My mother’s only sibling, Tom moved to Boulder from Austin and bought a farm out by Boulder Reservoir in 1977. He later sold the farm to the city for open space but you can still see Ellison Lane on Google Maps. In 1989 Tom moved into my favorite neighborhood in Boulder, Mapleton Hill, where he lived on Highland Avenue through the 90s. His house on Highland will always be in my memory as the place where my cousins grew up and a place I would feel at home on the holidays or escaping the Texas heat in the summer.
It wasn’t until 2007 when I led UTIMCO’s first investment in Foundry Group that I began a new relationship with Boulder. I now had an excuse to see family and spend time with one of our GPs. Double bonus. The Foundry guys don’t mind me saying that the initial diligence trip was certainly enabled by the location! Once we had invested, the trips to Boulder became more frequent. In fact I started bringing my wife and girls along as well. We would often stay in a short term rental in that very same Mapleton neighborhood. We later anchored an investment in Techstars Ventures, another great Boulder firm. Around the same time, Melissa and I started spending a good portion of our summers in Boulder, taking the girls and even our dog to stay in Mapleton. I would take over one of Foundry’s conference rooms and even steal Jason’s bike to ride to work. I imagine you can guess where this is going…
It’s rare for an LP to build strong relationships across a firm. But truth be told, Foundry is a rare exception to many VC paradigms. Through nearly a decade of fun and working together, the Foundry partners have become close friends whom I trust and respect. Melissa and I have had opportunities to spend time with their spouses and children. Traveling together, bluegrass and wine festivals, a bachelor party, a wedding, a European marathon, hiking, big birthdays and lots of Legitimate Front shows have provided the opportunity to really bond with the individuals, but also to see inside a super healthy partnership. Other GPs will tell you that I often hold up Foundry as the leading exemplar of firm dynamics. They also live the #GiveFirst ethos providing help, advice, and mentorship across the entrepreneurial ecosystem to both founders and VC firms. Foundry partners are seen as the “good guys” in the industry. They would don the white hats in a Western.
When we first started exploring my potential role at Foundry, my biggest concern was whether we (and with Foundry it’s your whole family) would upset the beautiful dynamic that exists within the partnership. We didn’t want to change the balance in the existing group. So although we had shared time in the past, we made sure that Melissa and our daughters had more time with the extended Foundry family.
Our history of fun and work combined with common ideals made this partnership feel really comfortable. I had even spent an inordinate amount of time with all of the wonderful team at the office over the past few summers. So when it came time, we, as a family, were really comfortable with the move and are really excited about joining the broader Foundry family. This is a long term commitment that we don’t take lightly. Foundry is trusting us to be a part of their family and I can tell you that I will work a little bit harder just because I don’t want to disappoint my friends and partners.
“Baby, Baby, Baby, I’m coming home…”
Setting aside all the wonderful partnership reasons for moving to Boulder, Melissa and I really feel like we’re coming HOME. Boulder has been our second home and we are excited to make it our primary home next summer. We laugh because we already have more babysitters in Boulder than in Austin, a yoga studio picked out, and know our way around the grocery store. As moves go, this one should be easy. We’ve found a wonderful home in Mapleton that perfectly fits our little family and my girls already have the neighborhood boys asking when they will be back to stay! CUTE for now, TROUBLE later. We’ve got two partners and a number of friends that live within a few blocks of us with schools and the office less than a mile away. Watch out Boulder, here we come…another branch of the family moving up from Austin!
I think Melissa says it best with – “I’m genuinely excited about Boulder, but separately I already miss Austin.” A long post coming on this sentiment but I should note that I’ve told Melissa and the guys that I’m only going to amp up the Texas, and you can bet that the girls won’t forget that they were born in Austin!
But all along the Rockies you can feel it in the air
From Telluride to Boulder down below
The closest thing to heaven on this planet anywhere
There will be a time and place to talk about all the career reasons for this move. What I want to talk about here is Trust. and Family. And to borrow a term from Jamey Sperans (another Foundry LP and close friend)…….Business Love.
Jamey coined the term “business love” at a fun NVCA speaking event we did together, when he noted that partnerships function best when there is more than common economic alignment but also true emotional engagement among members. I couldn’t agree more. I plan to spend the rest of my career surrounded by friends and partners that I respect and love. We are all in the human capital business. People matter most. I’m very blessed to share a partnership of values, ideas, and capital with some of the best investors in the world. Boulder or Bust.