This is an excerpt from Empower: How to Co-Create the Future. The full 200+ page book is available by donation!

“When you let yourself behave the way you want to behave, you actually work more effectively with people around you”

-Brad Feld

excerpt from book

David Passiak: You have been a long-time advocate of giving without expectation, or giving first. This philosophy is institutionalized in Techstars and I see a lot of Techstars companies and mentors use the hashtag #GiveFirst. I also read that your next book will be named Give First.

What does it mean to give first, and why is giving first so important to the startup community?

Brad Feld: The concept is pretty simple. The notion is that you’re willing to engage in a relationship and put energy into something without knowing what you will get out of it. It’s not altruism. You expect that you will get something out of it, but you don’t know when, from whom, over what time period, or how you will get something back. You enter into these relationships non-transactionally, meaning you don’t define the transaction or value exchange of things upfront.

The reason this is so important is that part of the challenge of startups—and startup communities in general—is that you have to get a lot of energy into the system. You have to get a lot of people working on stuff to make any progress. If everybody is trying to figure out what they are going to get out of it before they start putting in energy, then the startup community will be stillborn.

Giving first is mutually beneficial for everyone. It gets the energy and excitement flowing across a whole ecosystem so there is not this continual transactional tradeoff of expecting things in return. What happens is you end up getting things back from people or places that you don’t expect because you were willing to put in that energy in advance without consideration of how you might directly benefit.

BRAD FELD 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, co-chair of Startup Colorado, and on the board of Path Forward. 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.