David Cohen and I recently interviewed Maëlle Gavet, Techstars new CEO. It’s a great way to get to know a little more about her in under 30 minutes.
I met Maëlle about a week before I talked to her for the first time by reading her book Trampled by Unicorns: Big Tech’s Empathy Problem and How to Fix It. I knew I’d like her before we talked, and after almost two months of working with her, I’m psyched she’s at the helm of Techstars.
When David Cohen, David Brown, Jared Polis, and I started Techstars in 2006, we could have never envisioned what it has become. Today, Techstars is a global organization with around 300 employees, invests in over 400 new companies each year, and has invested in more than 2,300 companies worldwide. In 2006, an accelerator was a new idea; today, it is an integral part of the global entrepreneurial ecosystem. Entrepreneurship, which in 2006 was just starting to become talked about again after the collapse of the Internet bubble, is a global phenomenon.
Maëlle is joining Techstars at an exciting time. David Cohen led the growth of Techstars from inception in 2006 to about 30 people. David Brown joined full-time in 2013 and did a spectacular job of growing Techstars to around 300 people and expanding it globally. Maëlle joins us to lead us on our next 10x growth.
David Cohen is taking a new role as Chairman of the Board. David Brown and I are each board members, joined by Stephanie Copeland, John China, Shanel Fields, and Maëlle. Having talked to many great potential CEOs, we are incredibly excited about working with Maëlle.
In 2010, when the world began to emerge from the global financial crisis, Techstars started its first wave of real growth. At the time, the regular rap on entrepreneurship was, “If you are serious about starting a high growth company, you should move to the bay area.” As expressed in my book Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem, I took the opposite view, where I asserted that every city with at least 100,000 people could build a thriving startup community and needed to do this as an important component of the socio-economic health of their city. As Techstars expanded throughout the world, we helped prove this.
Today, there are fantastic startup communities everywhere, and great companies created in many different places. Given the Covid pandemic’s impact on society, we are experiencing a new geographic distribution of people and entrepreneurs. Remote and distributed work is now a given as part of our entrepreneurial ecosystems. The need for entrepreneurship, innovative thinking, and transformation of traditional systems is more apparent than ever before.
Our society doesn’t merely need “more tech,” as evidenced by the growing backlash against Big Tech. A few days before meeting Maëlle for the first time, I read her book Trampled by Unicorns: Big Tech’s Empathy Problem and How to Fix It. I did my first call with her with an enormous smile on my face, as I felt immediate alignment with her value system before we even started talking. She reinforced our values’ alignment through our conversations and her actions while recruiting her to be CEO.
Maëlle – welcome to Techstars. I’m ready to help you in any way I can on the next phase of our journey.
Manufacturing, agriculture, retail, and tech. These are just a few of the many industries in Colorado led and supported by local businesses. But what are we doing to support them through the current health and economic crisis?
West Slope Startup Week (WSSW) launched last week (this year in a virtual format) — a full month of online programming open to businesses across the state. Programming includes sessions from people such as Energize Colorado (EC) CEO Wendy Lea and myself.
Equally innovative is the new element of digital mentorship. Led by Energize Colorado’s Mentorship team, we have brought together more than 45 mentors with expertise in finance, tech, sales, and more. This mentorship program is an opportunity for organizations, including EC and Techstars, to nurture Colorado’s rapidly growing talent on the Western Slope and throughout all of Colorado.
Helping Colorado’s economy recover is about more than just a return to normal – it’s preparing for a fundamental transformation. Our future economy is one driven by a belief that equity and empathy are key strategies for inclusivity and long-term success.
Energize Colorado, a non-profit founded by many of Colorado’s business leaders, including myself, is here to lead this transformation. There are three key steps in Energize Colorado’s plan for economic recovery and growth:
- Foundational Support: Access to mentorship, mental health resources, and research about reopening a business in the time of Covid.
- Financial Access: EC’s Gap Fund (launching at the end of July) is a $25m+ fund that mixes grants and low-interest loans to assist rural, women, and BIPOC-owned businesses.
- Fortitude: Providing the thought leadership Colorado needs to increase inclusivity, help small businesses remain competitive, and lead the nation in innovation.
During times like this, I am reminded why I, and many others, became entrepreneurs – to satisfy a never-ending curiosity and drive to learn. This is, in part, why mentorship is so valuable to me and integral to EC and Techstars’ startup week programming.
Regardless of your age or expertise, there is always something to be learned and gained. Now more than ever, we have to come together across the state to support each other and lead this transformation. I am calling on all of you to recognize the value mentorship has had on your journey and participate.
A wave of entrepreneurship around the world was unleashed coming out of the Global Financial crisis in 2010. Today, entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship are more important than ever.
Techstars has been extremely active around content, community, and engagement around how entrepreneurs can help with Covid-19 as well as how they can navigate the challenges to their business. Some things that are coming up include:
- Numerous Global Startup Weekends to help come up with solutions for Covid-19 are happening all over the world this weekend.
Techstars has also created and is regularly updating a COVID-19 Resource Guide with the following categories:
- Upcoming Online Events
- General Advice
- Techstars Portfolio Companies
- Accelerator Program Updates
- Community Program Updates
- Crowdsourcing Solutions
- Real Estate
- Remote Work
- Mental Health
It’s awesome to see the engagement around the world from entrepreneurs who are working tirelessly to help us navigate the Covid crisis and the new realities we are all facing.
Techstars was born 13 years ago. There’s a delicious article in the Denver Post that was the launch article of the first accelerator in Boulder titled How TechStars was born from 5/18/07. The photo is fun.
Some of my favorite lines from the article include:
Jared Polis, Brad Feld, David Cohen and David Brown are the “professors” – the founders of an organization called TechStars, created to mentor 10 startup companies for the summer. The inaugural session kicks off Monday.
“I had never met David (Cohen),” Feld said. “We had a random meeting and in 15 minutes, I was totally in love with the idea.”
“I was thinking about the gaps in my own experience. I made a lot of mistakes,” said Cohen. “I wish I had had more mentorship, and more access, not only for capital, but the critical thinking. How to think about (starting a company) and approach it from a strategic standpoint.”
“Certainly people who are investing look into us and what we’ve done. There’s really a strong bench of support and proven success there,” Polis said. “I wish when I was first starting out I had access to this kind of brain trust.”
“I love helping start companies,” Feld said. “The four of us funded TechStars this year. If it’s successful, we’ll do it again.”
TechStars hopes the summer will shine light on Colorado as a top destination for technology startups.
Happy birthday Techstars. It’s pretty awesome to see what you’ve become after 13 years. And, thanks to everyone who has been involved throughout the entire experience, as Techstars simply wouldn’t be relevant without all of you.
Last week David and I spent some time at the Techstars Sustainability Accelerator in partnership with The Nature Conservancy. Their demo day is happening on October 30th in Denver and you can register here if you’re interested in attending.
If you want to see what actual world-changing startups look like, you’ll love this particular demo day. The ten companies that you’ll hear from are working on problems like how we remove carbon from the atmosphere, better manage our water, make valuable products from waste, and keep companies accountable for critical supply chains like coffee, seafood, timber, minerals, cotton, and palm oil. Each company is a venture-backable for-profit that has the possibility of creating both big financial and impact outcomes.
You’ll also hear from my wife, Amy Batchelor, about the important work The Nature Conservancy is doing and how we’ve been supporting them since 1990. My partner Seth Levine and his wife Greeley Sachs, who is currently a trustee on the TNC Colorado board, have also been long-time supporters of TNC as a key shared value of ours is protecting our planet following TNC’s science-based approach.
If the event is anything like last year, you’ll leave inspired about what a new generation of entrepreneurs is doing to help and protect our planet. The partnership between Techstars and The Nature Conservancy is combining disruptive technologies from startups with proven science from conservation in powerful ways.
As a bonus, there is also an investor-only event that morning for accredited investors. If you want more details, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m excited to share a unique Startup Weekend opportunity for the Colorado community. Startup Weekend has grown up quite a bit from its humble beginnings here in Boulder in 2007. The latest stats, which are likely already out of date, are; 23,000+ teams formed, 193,000+ alumni community members, happening in 150 Countries.
Google for Startups – along with some help from Techstars, Startup Colorado, and Foundry Group – is hosting a Startup Weekend at Google’s new(ish) office in Boulder Oct 25 – 27. In this 54 hour event, attendees will experience the highs, lows, fun, and pressure that make up life at a startup and be connected with mentors from Google and the greater Colorado startup community.
In this Startup Weekend, the team is trying to pull together participants from beyond the Boulder tech bubble, to promote diversity and inclusion in all of the founder teams. Within the weekend, the focus will be on accessibility in tech. So basically, inclusion in multiple parts of the ecosystem.
Feel free to reach out to me or email@example.com if you want to get involved or just RSVP to attend here (discount code: Google). Please share with folks outside of Boulder – especially in more rural parts of Colorado. If you are a regular Startup Weekend attendee, try to bring someone outside your usual sphere and make sure you are coming with ideas relating to accessibility in tech.
Colorado Public Television takes an in-depth look at Colorado’s thriving startup scene in its new 5-part season called Street Level Startups.
The first episode, which is above, includes me and Jared Polis reflecting on some fun Techstars founding history, Dan Caruso talking about Zayo and the bridge between Boulder / Denver, and a great segment at the end with Brad Bernthal talking about fundraising and #GiveFirst. And, plenty of other stuff.
It was fun to watch a bunch of the old video from the last dozen years in one place. I love living and working here.
David Cohen and I just released Episode 4 of our Give First podcast.
We interviewed Mary Grove on the origins of Google for Startups & Startup Weekend among other things. Mary has been a long time friend and supporter of Techstars and is currently a partner at Rise of the Rest Seed Fund, the co-founder of Silicon North Stars, and on the Advisory Board for the Techstars Foundation.
David and I are starting to get better at the podcast thing. It’s a new medium for both of us so we are learning and iterating quickly on what makes a good podcast interview. Any feedback – good and bad – is welcome.
I’ve been open about my journey with depression and the importance of addressing and destigmatizing issues around mental health. So I was excited that one of our Techstars programs – the MetLife Digital Accelerator powered by Techstars – is looking closely at mental health startups for their 2019 class. If you’re a founder innovating in the mental health market, I encourage you to apply for this program.
The MetLife Digital Accelerator powered by Techstars is focused on
Over half of all humans will experience a major mental health challenge in their lifetime. Yet, mental health still carries a stigma, and many people suffer silently including our coworkers, friends, and family. The startup journey is immensely difficult, so the quiet sufferers include many entrepreneurs. Mental health startups that take advantage of new technologies and data could have a huge positive impact by solving these problems.
The MetLife Digital Accelerator powered by Techstars recruits globally and is stage agnostic. Founders in this program have unique access to the resources of both Techstars and MetLife, a Fortune 50 company with over 100 million customers worldwide in nearly 50 countries and serving 90 of the Fortune 100 as their clients in the US.
If you’re a founder of a mental health startup, I encourage you to request office hours with managing director Mee-Jung Jang with this form and follow her on twitter to keep posted on her startup recruiting tour. Or, just apply now as applications are open until April 7th.
I’m excited to see which mental health companies get accepted into the MetLife Digital Accelerator powered by Techstars.