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

“Be inclusive…not just in terms of diversity of gender, race, and ethnicity, but also diversity of thought, experience, training, and interests”

-Brad Feld

excerpt from book

David Passiak: Boulder is one of my favorite places in the world. It has the highest per capita number of PhDs and people working in startups, ranks highest in quality of life, it’s home of University of Colorado, and with a population of around 100,000, it still feels intimate enough that you have a sense of a real community.

Boulder is also the place that you call home, and your book, Startup Communities, is based on what you call the “Boulder Thesis” for building a startup ecosystem. Entrepreneurs must lead the startup community, leaders must have long-term commitment, the startup community must be inclusive of anyone who wants to participate in it, and then the startup community must have continual activities that engage the entire entrepreneurial stack. Can you tell us about The Boulder Thesis?

Brad Feld: The book was a chance to look at the future opportunity for us as a society, in terms of economic growth, through new company creation and entrepreneurship. From my perspective, you have to take responsibility for your future. People who take responsibility for their future are the ones who have the most impact on society.

The way to do that in a noncommercial construct is to take responsibility for yourself, which is similar to what we just talked about. In a commercial construct, that means being an entrepreneur, creating your own business, getting involved in a startup community or entrepreneurial ventures, and helping them grow. This bottom-up approach with entrepreneurs as the leaders of the startup ecosystem goes against a number of top-down historical mythologies that I talk about in the book.

Another key tenant of The Boulder Thesis is to be inclusive. This is not just in terms of diversity of gender, race and ethnicity, but also diversity of thought, experience, training and interests—to be inclusive of anyone who wants to engage. Today, there is this whole meta-layer of discussion about diversity. For example, think of what happened in North Carolina around sexual identification. Not just politically, but the economic impact in terms of companies like PayPal and Google Ventures not wanting to invest or conduct business there because they support diversity.

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.