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What it's like to live in Boulder, Colorado

March 12, 2014, 8:44 pm | This story has an Influence Score of 3021

By @mariocantin

A little use of Google Search / Maps and Wikipedia reveals that Boulder, Colorado is located approximately 30 minutes away from Denver at the base of the foothills of the Rocky Mountains at an elevation of 5,430 feet; and filled with smart, nice, funny outdoorsy, and often very unique people.

Frankly, a few perspectives are on offer regarding Boulder and its population. Ignoring the odd political slant and a couple of negative connotations regarding what seems to be a fairly vibrant hippie subculture, the general impressions are overwhelmingly positive.

Ranking high for quality of life, the city boasts more than 60 parks, an interesting yoga-studio-to-resident ratio, a flagship university, purity of air and water, and a dry climate. It is a perfect setting for outdoor activities, a foodie's dream, and a cultural hub.

Boulder's population is younger than the national average, largely due to the presence of university students. The estimated median household income is higher than the US national average.

Prior to Brad Feld's arrival to Boulder, who has gracefully accepted to be interviewed for this story, this Mid-West community was a perfect storm for entrepreneurship. Being already a successful entrepreneur, angel investor, and eventually a venture capitalist, this Boston transplant became essentially the catalyst for transforming Boulder into a full-fledged tech community -- not a small impact to have, and the undeniable mark of leadership.

To understand Brad Feld, you have to know what makes him tick. Reading his blog, one quickly realizes this is a deep thinker, always striving to learn, disarmingly willing to reveal any vulnerability; while being a loyal and compassionate human being on the one hand, and an "over-the-top-shrewd" business individual on the other.

His philosophy is "Live every minute that you have". Not surprising then that he would be a perfect fit for a city brimming with intellect and seemingly espousing his way of life.

Brad Feld was born in Blytheville, Arkansas on an air force base where he lived until he was one. His early memories are from Boston (where he resided until he was three). He then grew up in Dallas - living there from three until going to college at MIT in Cambridge, MA.

The interview began by me asking Brad how many cities he has lived in, all in all. He replied, " As a child - Blytheville, AK; Watertown, MA; and Dallas, TX. As an adult - Cambridge, MA; Boston, MA; Boulder, CO; Longmont, CO. My wife and I also have a house in Homer, AK (near where she grew up) and Keystone, CO."

Referring to Boulder, I inquired as to what had brought him to make that particular choice. He went on to say, "After I sold my first company at 28, I told my wife Amy that we’d be out of Boston by the time I was 30. Neither of us viewed Boston - or New England - as home. She was from Alaska and I was from Dallas. A few months before my 30th birthday she told me she was moving to Boulder and I was welcome to come with her." Not without a touch of humor he added, "We were married at the time so it was an easy decision." On a more serious note he continued, " It was pretty random - we’d been to Boulder once and both loved the idea of living in Colorado, but we didn’t know anyone in Boulder. We figured if it didn’t work out we’d just keep going west."

"Awesome" was the couple's first impression of the rather small, sophisticated community tucked into the foothills (below a rock formation known as The Flatirons) that is Boulder, Colorado. "We loved it from the moment we got here."

Brad then stated that their initial perception has never changed since. They think Boulder is the best small city they’ve ever been in. And they absolutely love and treasure their time there.

I was curious as to what Brad has since discovered about the city that he simply couldn’t have known at the onset. He answered, "I had no sense of how 'smart' Boulder was. I knew it was a progressive town with plenty of hippy culture, but the broad level of intelligence, culture, and inquisitiveness surprised me. I love to learn. And there are endless opportunities to learn here." He also added, "Boulder is small - 100,000 people - but has an outsized personality. I expect many people that aren’t familiar with it think it’s a bigger place. There’s something awesome about a city of 100,000 people - big enough to be interesting but small enough that you can get your mind around it."

I asked Brad whether he thought most people who are used to larger cities would be able to positively adapt to life in Boulder. He replied, " Yes - because we did, and many of our friends who have moved here from NY, Boston, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and other large cities love it here."

If the thoughtful VC could change just about one thing about Boulder, it would be to impart it with an ethnic diversity closer to that of Boston.

As a well-known technology entrepreneur and VC, I queried whether Boulder provided Brad -- or for that matter, any of his partners at the Foundry Group -- with an advantage or comfort which he felt would be hard to find somewhere else. He basically expressed his fondness for being geographically away from places like the Bay area, as it lets him think more clearly about what is going on.

In summary, Brad Feld's take on the City of Boulder, Colorado, is that it is "open, free and full of ideas".

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