We had the good fortune of connecting with Brad Bernthal and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Brad, how do you think about risk?
There are blurred lines, in my life at least, between risk taking, a calling, and quasi-calculated desperation. Risk taking is the rational calculus of projected costs and benefits. A calling is, as with a pastor who is “called” to theological service, a somewhat mystical compulsion to do something. And quasi-calculated desperation is a choice fueled by unhappy necessity: this life course is not working for me, so let’s just try something else, anything else, Many decisions get explained, after the fact, as a rational cost/benefit risk calculation. In my case, if I’m honest, many – if not most – decisions are a calling or borne of quasi-calculated desperation. Over time I’ve come to accept that reason is a useful tool, however, seldom does reason decide anything consequential in life.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
To the extent that I’ve had success, my “wins” have been in the Lorne Michaels tradition. Lorne has a sense of humor. But the Saturday Night Live franchise is not built on Lorne’s own comedic genius. Rather, SNL’s success is about identifying talent and giving that talent a platform to flourish. That is more my style: recognize passionate, unconventional, and good people, then get them involved in the Silicon Flatirons and CU entrepreneurship network. It has been a ton of fun to collaborate with others at CU in recent years with this approach. Together, we’ve built entrepreneurial infrastructure that has moved the meter for individuals on the CU campus and for startups in the community. To be clear: I’ve never done many of the bold things that great entrepreneurs do – e.g., divined a grand vision that others cannot see, cut payroll from my personal bank account, persevered through numerous failures, etc. But over the years we have pulled together teams of people that create conditions where entrepreneurs and startups can flourish. I’m proud of that.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
1. Hike in Boulder. Bring a few bottles of water and some granola bars (or similar). I would suggest one of two moderate hikes. 1) Chautauqua, a Boulder legend at 9th & Baseline. Or 2) the NCAR trail, starting at 1850 Table Mesa Dr. Chautauqua is a Boulder legend. It will be packed at the trail head and, likely, you’d need to park on the street nearby at 10th or 11th and Baseline. But once you get up the hill 15 minutes, people will thin out. The drive to the NCAR trail is kind of fun, winding you up over Boulder. It will be busy but, again, after 15-20 minutes, people will thin out.

2. Walk or bike the CU campus. Go to the Basemar shopping area (2602 Baseline Rd, Boulder, CO 80305). Buy something at a shop there so that you don’t get a ticket, then just leave your car. There are some day bikes for hourly rental by the bus stop next to the Taco Bell off Baseline. Or you could just walk it. Cross over Baseline and you’ll enter the campus’ southern end, by the law school. Just keep walking north. Try to get over to Old Main – about a 20 minute walk. This is the oldest and nicest part of campus. All in – rough a 40 minute walk round trip.

3. Check out the scene on The Hill. This is a mix of university age students and neo-hippies. You might get a contact high. There is a lot of youth and some unusual piercings on the Hill. The Sink (1165 13th St, Boulder, CO 80302) on the Hill is a CU staple. Above average college food fare in an awesome college environment.

4. Check out the scene on Pearl Street. Find some parking. You could start on the west end (near 1001 Pearl St, Boulder, CO 80302) and just walk east on Pearl. The Pearl Street walking mall is a stroke of genius. Sort of Boulder’s version of the Haymarket area. There could be some busker street acts out tomorrow. I always enjoy a stroll down Pearl.

5. End the day at Sweet Cow. Their south Boulder location (669 S Broadway, Boulder, CO 80305) is sort of on your way back to the hotel.

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Shoutout to the Boulder entrepreneurial community circa 2005 – 2015. I was a startup interloper when I came to CU Boulder as a Silicon Flatirons Fellow, working for Phil Weiser, in 2005. There was something special happening in the scene that I walked into. The best analogue for me is that Boulder’s startup community felt like a much more humble version of 1930s / 1940s 52nd Street in NYC, where the jazz scene flourished. New things were happening, ideas were freely traded, and the sense of possibility was everywhere. My sherpas into the community were Jason Mendelson, who taught venture capital with me for a decade at CU, and Phil Weiser, who is now Colorado’s Attorney General. Think about all the things that came out of that time in Boulder: Brad Feld evolved breakthrough thinking about norms of startup exchange (#givefirst), Robert Reich built the powerhouse community of the New Tech Meetup, David Cohen, David Brown, Jared Polis, and Feld launched Techstars, Dan Caruso started Zayo, Ryan Martens, Tim Miller and Zach Nies built Rally Software, the Foundry Group formed one of 2006’s most successful venture funds, and Phil Weiser and I went deep on campus entrepreneurship through CU’s Silicon Flatirons Center. It was a helluva period.

Website: https://lawweb.colorado.edu/profiles/profile.jsp?id=192

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/bradbernthal/

Twitter: @bradbernthal

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