I love origin stories.
David Brown, Techstars CEO and co-founder, just updated his and published a new edition of No Vision All Drive. It’s the story of Pinpoint Technologies, his first company with David Cohen, one of the other co-founders of Techstars.
As an origin story, it’s a detailed autobiography of what David learned from the experience of his first company. In this edition, he’s added some linkages into Techstars, and how his learning around entrepreneurship and leadership has evolved since the experience of Pinpoint.
I’ve read the book three times (for each edition – the self-published 1st edition, the FG Press 2nd edition, and the Techstars Press 3rd edition) and I learned lots about David Brown – and David Cohen – each time. In addition to plenty of fun little anecdotes, my current experience with the David(s) nicely intertwined with what I was reading, as I was able to time travel back to them during their formative entrepreneurial experience.
No Vision All Drive is particularly fun for me since the time frame overlapped with my first company – Feld Technologies. There are great overlaps like incorporating with The Company Corporation (for $99), remembering the joy of Btrieve, struggling with Microsoft Access with significant simultaneous users and endlessly rebuilding the database (Rome was lost for a simple reindex), and working through the endless issues around growth for a self-funded business.
As a bonus, I finished Sweating Bullets: Notes about Inventing PowerPoint by Robert Gaskins. This was the origin story of PowerPoint and Forethought, the first acquisition Microsoft ever made. It’s long, but as Gaskins rolled through the Forethought history in the mid-1980s and then his time at Microsoft from 1987 – 1993, I was able to once again time travel back to Feld Technologies, which was an independent company from 1987 to 1993 (when we were acquired by Sage Alerting Systems, which became AmeriData Technologies.)
While I’m not inspired to write the Feld Technologies origin story at this point, it’s a lot of fun to remember it, against the backdrop of what others were doing at the time. And, I know David Brown a little bit better today than I did yesterday.
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.
Pandere Shoes is an Alaskan founded and women-owned startup that creates expandable footwear that accommodates a host of conditions such as edema, diabetes, and neuropathy.
I met the co-founder Laura Oden when I was in Anchorage last month to speak at the Accelerate Alaska event. She came up to me after I gave my talk and told me that her company wouldn’t exist without Startup Weekend and Techstars.
While that caused a big smile to cross my face, I asked her to tell me more. She described how she met her founders at Techstars Startup Weekend in 2016.
Laura struggled for 40 years to find shoes to accommodate her lymphedema which caused one foot to be chronically swollen. Off the rack shoes only fit one foot and she needed a shoe that would expand to accommodate her swollen foot. Over time, the team realized that millions of people all over the world were struggling with a similar problem.
This was the idea she brought to the Startup Weekend. At the end of the 54-hour event, Pandere won the top slot and the company was born. The event fostered confidence that buoyed the team through enough contest wins to develop a prototype.
When you think of Alaska, you probably do not think of it as a popular location for producing shoes. The founders loved where they lived and put together a support team of shoe experts and designers in Boston, France, and Portugal. They were able to obtain early capital from prize winnings, along with mentorship from fellow entrepreneurs and investors. While Alaska is not a shoe capital, it is now headquarters to a shoe company addressing a global problem.
Pandere launched publicly on Nov 2018 and has produced five unique styles that accommodate wide and extra widths for men and women who cannot fit into traditional footwear, with more styles to come. Their shoes are made in Portugal. Every shoe sale generates a donation to the Lymphatic Research and Education Network (LE&RN).
When I got back to the hotel at the end of the day I bought a pair of Pandere Saturday Shoes to give them a try. I have wide feet and they are often annoyed with me from all the running I do. The Pandere’s are wonderfully comfortable and have replaced my OluKai’s, which replaced my Allbirds, which replaced my Vans as my daily kicks.
The team at Pandere continues to #givefirst by giving back into the ecosystem that fed them. They have stayed involved in the community by volunteering as coaches, hosting dinners, and offering advice to budding entrepreneurs.
And hopefully, I’m helping them out a little by highlighting them here. I love origin stories that link to Techstars, and this one combines Techstars, Alaska, women-entrepreneurs, and shoes that I’m loving.
Give them a try at the Pandere Shoes online store.
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.
When we started Techstars in 2006 we had one core goal in mind – helping entrepreneurs succeed. While it started as an experiment with one accelerator in Boulder, we now have about 50 accelerators annually around the world funding 500 startups a year. We also run Startup Weekends and Startup Weeks in over 150 cities globally, have a venture capital fund that invests in companies after they go through the accelerator program, and have a set of corporate innovation and ecosystem development programs that help bridge the gap between large enterprises, cities, and startups.
A key part of the ethos of Techstars is to always look for more ways to help entrepreneurs succeed whether or not they are part of the Techstars network.
Recently, we decided to start publishing the best content we have in the Techstars network. David Cohen and I came out with the 2nd Edition of Do More Faster: Techstars Lessons to Accelerate Your Startup. Jason Mendelson and I are releasing the 4th Edition of Venture Deals: Be Smarter Than Your Lawyer and Venture Capitalist next week.
A new book in the Techstars Series is Sell More Faster: The Ultimate Sales Playbook for Startups written by Amos Schwartzfarb, the Managing Director of Techstars Austin.
Amos has been the Managing Director of Techstars Austin for four years and was one of the top mentors in Austin for the three years prior to him taking over MD role from Jason Seats (who is now Techstars’ Chief Investment Officer.) Prior to Techstars, Amos spent almost 20 years working at or founding startups including HotJobs.com, Work.com, Business.com, and Blacklocus where his job was always to figure out product-market fit and then build and scale the sales and client service organizations. These companies grew collectively to well over $200 million in revenue and had nearly $1 billion in exit value combined.
When Amos started his work mentoring at Techstars, he became a high demand mentor because virtually every company going through the Techstars Austin program sought him out for advice on figuring out sales. When he took over the role of MD for Techstars Austin, he quickly became one of the go-to resources for other MD at Techstars for sales related advice.
Amos decided to write Sell More Faster because he realized building early-stage sales organizations had become intuitive to him based on a simple but effective process he created back at Business.com called W3. This process stood for WHO is your customer, WHAT are they buying, and WHY do they buy it. However, he realized that of all the thousands of founders he speaks with each year, almost no one has a grasp on what it means to do “sales” in a startup. While they might understand sales in a mature company, it’s very different in a startup. In addition, as he looked around for books on sales for the founders going through Techstars Austin, while he found plenty of sales in general, he couldn’t find a great one addressing the tactical and operational side of building your sales strategy and process from day zero.
So he wrote it.
Sell More Faster: The Ultimate Sales Playbook for Startups is an awesome and straightforward playbook that takes you step by step through what you need to do from before you even start developing product all the way through to where you have found repeatability in your sales organization and are scaling the business. It’s a recipe that you’ll be able to refer back to throughout the life of your company and is the only sales book I’ve encountered for startups that address the “how-to of selling” from an operational perspective.
If you are a founder or responsible for sales in an early-stage company, do yourself a favor and grab a copy of Sell More Faster: The Ultimate Sales Playbook for Startups right now. It officially hits the stores on September 4th and you can pre-order yours now on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.
Finally, Amos will be doing a 20 city book tour this fall including a workshop on selling that accompanies the book. Watch the Sell More Faster website to see the dates when Amos comes to a city near you.
Enjoy – and don’t forgot to Sell More Faster!
Techstars and Kauffman Fellows are once again running the Venture Deals online course that Jason Mendelson and I put together several years ago.
If you’re an entrepreneur who wants to raise capital and grow your business, this online course teaches you the basics you need to know for working with VCs. And, if you are starting off as a VC or a lawyer for venture capital deals and you want a refresher on the core issues in a term sheet, this online course is for you.
Venture Deals is a seven-week, collaborative, “learn-by-doing” online course where you will watch videos from us along with doing project work as virtual teams. The workload for the course is about four to six hours per week, includes several live video AMAs with me and Jason, and covers the following topics.
- Week 1 – Introduction of key players/Form or join a team
- Week 2 – Fundraising/Finding the Right VC
- Week 3 – Capitalization Tables/Convertible Debt
- Week 4 – Term Sheets: Economics & Control
- Week 5 – Term Sheets Part Two
- Week 6 – Negotiations
- Week 7 – Letter of Intent/Getting Acquired
The course is a great accompaniment to our book, Venture Deals: Be Smarter Than Your Lawyer and Venture Capitalist, which is about to come out in a new and improved 4th Edition that will be available by the time the course starts on September 8, 2019.
It’s free, and you’ll be joining over 23,000 people have taken the course in the past. Sign up for the course here!
Today’s Give First podcast features Harry Stebbings of the 20 Minute VC and a partner at Stride.vc on committing to building a network & giving first.
Harry is probably best known for his podcast, The Twenty Minute VC, the world’s largest media asset in venture capital, with over five million downloads per month. He’s talked with amazing VCs and entrepreneurs on over 2,800 shows.
When he was 13, Harry watched “The Social Network,” the movie about Facebook, and it inspired him to become an entrepreneur and investor. At 18, he set up the Twenty Minute VC podcast.
I was interviewed on Harry’s 65th episode in 2015. It was fun to travel back in time and listen to it. And, I love Harry’s Google Glass picture.
Harry is on episode 11 of the Give First podcast. We’ve made it to double digits which I’ve heard is a milestone for a lot of podcasts that stall out before that. Next step – triple digits. If you missed the last few along the way during my blogging vacation, they include John China (SVB), Sherri Hammons (The Nature Conservancy), and Rebecca Lovell (Create33).
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.
From June 5 to June 8, Techstars Startup Week West Slope will be happening on the western slope in Colorado, with the main event in Grand Junction.
I’m doing a Keynote at on Thursday, June 6 from 11:30am – 1:00pm at Colorado Mesa University. I’ll be talking about building startup communities outside Colorado’s front range in a fireside chat / AMA format.
Startup communities in Colorado that are outside the front range (Boulder, Denver, Colorado Springs, and Fort Collins) have become something that my partner Seth Levine and I have been very involved in the past few years. Seth’s providing a lot of on the ground leadership, through his work with Startup Colorado and the Greater Colorado Venture Fund. I try to show up or help remotely whenever I can and Amy and I have been writing plenty of checks from our Anchor Point Foundation to support various initiatives.
We have family in Hotchkiss, a house in Aspen, and have spent a lot of time in Summit County over the past decade when we had a house in Keystone. There are magical things going on all over Colorado, especially on the western slope. I have a strong belief that startup communities should exist everywhere and can have a meaningful impact on cities outside the large urban concentrations that we have in many parts of the U.S.
What’s happening in Colorado’s Western Slope is powerful and an example that can be used through the U.S. and the world. If you are interested, come join us at Techstars Startup Week West Slope to learn more.