Techstars just released a 4-part original video series on entrepreneurship and mental health. I’m featured in one of the four short (< 10 minute) videos.
If there was ever a moment in time that challenged our individual and collective mental health, it’s the Covid crisis. When Techstars began working on this project last year, the focus was on increasing awareness of the issues around mental health and entrepreneurship. There was no anticipation of the additional pressure the Covid crisis would put on – well – everyone, everywhere. The timing goal was simply to release it during Mental Health Month 2020.
I’ve spoken regularly since 2013 about my struggles with anxiety and depression. As a result of a depressive episode that I had, I decided that I wanted to try to lower the stigma, especially in entrepreneurship, around mental health issues. I personally no longer separate between physical health and mental health – they are both part of our existence as humans, something everyone struggles with at some level, and something everyone can work on, if they want.
I’m officially DSM-5 300.3: Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. If you know me, you know that I’m a counter, arranger, and checker with some washing (mostly hands) tossed in for good measure. My magic number is 3.
Since I became public about this in 2013, I’ve met many entrepreneurs who have opened up to me about their own struggles. In some cases, I’m the first person they’ve ever talked to because of the stigma associated with mental health issues, especially around leadership (e.g. a leader can’t show weakness). Some of the people I’ve developed relationships with around this are much more visible and successful than I am, yet, very few people know that they struggle with mental health issues. While that’s their choice, I’m glad they feel safe talking to me and I hope it’s at least a little bit helpful to them.
My wife Amy Batchelor is front and center in this video. When I listen to her talk about her experience with me around these issues, I realize how incredibly lucky I am to have a partner who has supported me from the very beginning. I know how challenging I can be at times, and I don’t think I’d be here, at this point in my life, without Amy.
I also highlight my first business partner Dave Jilk in the video. Dave is still one of my closest friends and probably knows me better than anyone on Planet Earth other than Amy and my brother Daniel. Dave’s support of me during my first depressive episode – when we were partners at Feld Technologies – was profound to me. And his support during my depressive episode in 2013 (which is a story I tell in the video) was incredible.
Many of the organizations I’m involved in are increasing their focus on mental health support. For example, one of the primary initiatives of Energize Colorado is mental health support for business people during the Covid crisis. And, there’s a lot more coming in my world.
Techstars – thanks for making this a priority for entrepreneurs. And to my fellow participants in the video series – Andrea Perdomo and Matthew Helt – thank you for being brave enough to tell your stories. Finally, Tishin Donkersley, thank you for the foresight, motivation, and endless efforts to make this project come to life.
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.
We’ve run the course six times now and have had over 25,000 people take it.
It’s free, although it’s recommended that you have a copy of our book Venture Deals: Be Smarter Than Your Lawyer and Venture Capitalist. The 4th Edition is out with plenty of new and improved stuff.
The course runs for seven weeks with the following syllabus.
- 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
If you are interested, sign up now and tell your friends who are interested in venture deals.
Claudia Reuter, now the Techstars GM Americas East (and previously the Techstars MD for the Stanley+Techstars Additive Manufacturing Accelerator), has a new book coming out called Yes, You Can Do This! How Women Start Up, Scale Up, and Build The Life They Want.
I read the final page proofs while I was in Mexico and it is an excellent book. It’s a combination of a memoir, startup guidebook–especially aimed at women, exploration of gender dynamics in the workplace, and inspiration for women who are considering starting a company. It covers topics such as how to:
- develop and share your vision
- deal with stereotypes and unconscious bias
- leverage perceived weaknesses and turn them into strengths
- balance life at high speeds and avoid burnout
- cultivate the confidence to move from idea to creating a company with the culture and rules you want
Claudia includes a story of a half-dozen fictional people that unfolds throughout the book, bringing many of her points to life with tangible examples of how the conversations and dynamics unfold in the real world.
As I read through the book, there were multiple points where I thought, “Every man in any startup or fast-growing business should read this.” As a man in technology, I took away a number of new ideas, along with examples that were explained in a way that I wouldn’t have been able to do prior to reading Claudia’s book.
This is the fourth book in the Techstars Press series, following Do More Faster: Techstars Lessons to Accelerate Your Startup, 2e (Cohen/Feld), Sell More Faster: The Ultimate Sales Playbook for Startups (Schwartzfarb), and No Vision All Drive: What I Learned from My First Company (Brown). Look for more from (and about) Techstars Press coming soon!
Claudia – congrats on shipping the book!
When David and I started doing the #GiveFirst podcast, I was told by a long-time podcaster that it takes about 20 episodes to hit your stride. Since then, several other podcasters have told me that the number is actually closer to 100. Given that hurdle, David and I are 20% of the way there.
In Episode 22, we review the last dozen podcast guests including Josh Hix, Rajat Bhargava, Elizabeth Kraus, Jason Mendelson, Jannet Bannister, Heidi Roizen, Marc Nager & Dave Mayer, John China, Sherri Hammons, Rebecca Lovell, and Harry Stebbings.
I’m enjoying co-hosting the #GiveFirst podcast with David. I hope you are enjoying listening to it.
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 email@example.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.