Tag: techstars

May 14 2019

Keynoting Techstars Startup Week West Slope 2019

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.

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May 9 2019

The Give First Podcast

David Cohen and I are doing a podcast together called Give First. Readers of this blog likely know that this is the mantra of Techstars and the title of an upcoming book of mine that will be published in 2020.

While I’ve been interviewed for many podcasts, I’ve never hosted one before. David and I have been massive fans of Harry Stebbing’s 20 Minute VC so we’ve modeled Give First after it. Harry really hit his stride after about 100 episodes so my guess is it’ll take us a while to be in the same zone as he is. It’s good to have something to shoot for!

The first episode is an intro with an overview. We’ve got a steady stream of episodes coming that are already recorded, so subscribe to Give First and give us feedback.

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Mar 30 2019

Techstars MetLife Looking for Companies Addressing Mental Health

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 insurtech startups. MetLife and Techstars managing director Mee-Jung Jang are defining insurtech broadly, and mental health is a key area of focus. They are looking at all types of mental health startups in their search including ones helping individuals improve their everyday mental fitness, using data to better assess and predict serious mental health conditions, and providing easier access to care at the moment of need.

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.

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Mar 10 2019

Venture Deals Online Course – Spring 2019 Registration Is Open

We are running the Venture Deals Online Course again. Registration is now open and it runs from April 7, 2019 – May 31, 2019. It’s produced by Kauffman Fellows Academy and Techstars.

We’ve run the course four times now and have had over 15,000 people take it. Both Jason and I make several guest appearances (online) and I always get lots of email (and try to respond to all of them) with questions during the course.

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 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.

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Mar 1 2019

How to Build a Successful Startup Ecosystem in your City

I participated in a one hour Crowdcast yesterday with Techstars and 43 North about How to Build a Successful Startup Ecosystem in your City. Some of the thoughts from my upcoming book The Startup Community Way are in the hour, along with a bunch of things Techstars is doing around this initiative.

powered by Crowdcast

If you are in a city somewhere in the world working on developing your Startup Community and are interested in learning about the new Techstars Startup Ecosystem Development product, drop me an email.

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Feb 7 2019

Mentors 18/18: Have Empathy. Remember That Startups Are Hard

This is the final post (18) of the Techstars Mentor Manifesto. As with item 17, Jay Batson, a long-time Techstars Boston mentor, nudged me several times to finish this up and wrote a draft from his perspective. Following is item #18 of the Techstars Mentor Manifesto, in Jay’s words.

During one of the Techstars Boston cohorts where I’ve been Mentor-in-Residence, I worked with a 20-something CEO founder (code named Mary) who, shortly after raising a seed round of several million dollars, hired a high-powered exec, granting a significant equity option. This new hire was a commercial hustler (code named Scott), moving quickly and broadly to try to secure customers and partners, including some of the tech industry’s largest companies.

Mary had never managed somebody a decade senior to her and was struggling to manage Scott. Further, Scott tended to work autonomously, sometimes doing things outside his remit that was not well-communicated to Mary. As a result, Mary was worried about how this looked to her board. A massive sense of imposter syndrome started creeping in, especially since Mary felt investors had bet on her, yet Scott was having a notable impact, for better and worse, on the strategy and success of the business.

Mary was concerned that the investors thought she wasn’t being effective. A fear was brewing in the pit of her stomach and she worried that everything was going to come apart.

Pause for a moment. Recall the last time you had a consuming passion. Remember how it felt. Think about that incredibly exciting idea that grabbed you and took over your mind, time, priorities, and emotions. Remember how excited you were as you imagined all the threads of what could be, and how your heart beat faster and your adrenaline surged.

And then … you had an existential crisis. A moment when you feared that this awesome future might come crashing down because of a particular situation or the actions of one person. Your heart beat faster again, but this time out of worry, anxiety, and fear.

I want you to replay your joy and fears again for a moment. Having empathy requires you to feel what the other person is going through. To put yourselves in their shoes and feel their fear. And to not immediately try to fix it. Remembering your own hopes and fears will help you have empathy. And this is critical as a mentor because startups are extremely hard.

In the situation above, I could relate to Mary feeling imposter syndrome. My first venture-backed company was not a big exit, and neither I nor my investors fared well. So I felt some imposter syndrome when founding my second venture-backed company (which, happily, has done well.)

So what Mary needed from me as a mentor was to talk to a neutral third-party who understood how technology companies worked and who had felt the expectations placed on a founding CEO. She needed to talk openly about how she was feeling to someone not on her board or exec team, and to whom she could be fully and safely transparent.

Doing that first allowed us to get around to eventually discussing ways to handle the situation. I reminded Mary that first and foremost, Techstars mentors are here to coach her on how to manage athletes like Scott, so she should relax and look for help. She had time to handle the situation if Scott was indeed a problem, as his option grants had a one-year cliff and he was only a couple of months in. So, instead of feeling anxious and pressured into reacting, I encouraged Mary to focus on helping Scott be successful and assess things again in a quarter.

Several years later, after the company, led by Mary, was acquired and had a very successful outcome, she told me that the most memorable and important thing I did for her at that moment was to simply sit, listen, and relate to the feeling she was having. I hadn’t immediately replied with a solution to her problem. Instead, I started with empathy.

As a mentor, be aware when to suspend, or defer, your advice or judgment. The entrepreneur you are mentoring may not be in a head space to hear your solution. Mentoring is often an emotional rather than a functional or intellectual role. Take a breath and be empathetic, instead than jumping in to solve the problem. And never forget that startups are hard.

Jay Batson has been the founder of four companies, including two venture-backed startups, with some big success and disappointing failure. His biggest success is as founding CEO of Acquia, now an 800+ person company with offices around the globe. In 2012, Jay invented the “Mentor-in-Residence” role at Techstars. MIR’s spend near-full-time at Techstars during each cohort to help as extensively as possible with companies and help other Mentors be good at it. Jay has embraced this responsibility for every Boston cohort since then. He’s an LP in several Techstars funds and a direct investor in a selection of Techstars companies.

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Feb 6 2019

Mentors 17/18: Be Challenging/Robust, but Never Destructive

I wrote 16 posts detailing each item of the Techstars Mentor Manifesto. However, there were 18 items and, for some reason, I never got around to writing the final two.

Jay Batson, a long-time Techstars Boston mentor, nudged me several times to finish this up. I kept saying “I’ll get to it” but never did. So, he did it for me, with the added motivation of getting it up prior to the kickoff to this year’s Boston program. Following is item #17 of the Techstars Mentor Manifesto, in Jay’s words.

This item on the list might sound very similar to #4, “Be Direct. Tell the Truth, However Hard.” But, it’s different. This item (#17) has to do with you, not the companies.

You have been asked to be a mentor at Techstars because you’ve been successful as an entrepreneur and/or a leader. The managing director for your cohort trusts that you’ll help the founders. And those founders are betting – with stock in their company – that you’ll be good for them.

Because of your expertise, you are likely to quickly spot areas in their businesses that need work urgently.

Because you’ve read all the posts here about the Techstars Mentor Manifesto, you dutifully start by being socratic and digging into the fundamental thing that is broken. You are direct, telling the hard truth that you are deeply concerned about some area.

But at some point, you sense the entrepreneur isn’t simply following your lead. They aren’t changing some element of their business to align with your direction. So, you are more direct. You push harder and more forcefully because you think it’s important. But the entrepreneur continues to “not get it”.

And, just like that, you’re irritated. You shut down, you quickly end the meeting, or you push even harder. After the meeting, you vent to the Techstars managing director that this company is in real trouble because the founders aren’t paying attention to this element you find important.

We’ve now reached the point of this post: Never Be Destructive.

The moment you go beyond trying to get your point across to the entrepreneur and do something outside that moment that is less-than-supportive, you’ve stopped being a mentor. You are now simply a judge. Or, worse, a detriment to the company.

You have let your desire to succeed as a mentor become paramount. Your actions can easily shift from being helpful as a mentor to being hurtful to the entrepreneur.

If you let this state persist, your frustration will leak outside the safe space of Techstars. It might be something you say to an investor; which means you’ve now affected the company’s ability to raise capital. If you vent to another founder, you either hurt your own reputation or the mentee’s reputation. At worst, you may end up affecting their relationships with potential partners or future hiring candidates.

Being a Techstars mentor does not mean being 100% dedicated to being a successful mentor. It means being 100% dedicated to helping founders build great companies.

So, be robust if you have to in making sure they hear what you’re trying to make them aware of.

But when you leave the room, make sure you flip the switch and remain 100% dedicated to making them successful, whether or not you think they heard what you had to say.

Jay Batson has been the founder of four companies, including two venture-backed startups, with some big success and disappointing failure. His biggest success is as founding CEO of Acquia, now an 800+ person company with offices around the globe. In 2012, Jay invented the “Mentor-in-Residence” role at Techstars. MIR’s spend near-full-time at Techstars during each cohort to help as extensively as possible with companies and help other Mentors be good at it. Jay has embraced this responsibility for every Boston cohort since then. He’s an LP in several Techstars funds and a direct investor in a selection of Techstars companies.

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Jan 23 2019

Techstars Sustainability Accelerator AMA

On 2/12/19, Brian McPeek (President, The Nature Conservancy) and I are doing an AMA about the Techstars Sustainability accelerator.

It’ll be at 1 pm MT and last for an hour. This will be the second year that Techstars is running an accelerator in partnership with The Nature Conservancy. I had high expectations when we announced the partnership in November 2017. The year one program far exceeded my expectations!

Brian and his team at TNC are a substantial force for good in our ever more complex world. Join us to hear more about how TNC and Techstars are working together to help companies get started to address some of the most challenging issues facing our planet.

And, if you are one of those companies, applications for the accelerator are now open. Please apply!

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Jan 16 2019

Techstars Studio and the Studio Model

Today, Techstars announced a new initiative called Techstars Studio which will allow Techstars to source new company concepts from Techstars alumni founders, community leaders, venture capitalists, mentors, and corporate partners. The Techstars Studio will then build prototypes, test market adoption, and select the most promising concepts for launch. Techstars Studio will then launch new startups and source talent and capital from the Techstars worldwide network to run the new companies.

The goal of each Techstars Studio is to launch four new companies annually. The first Techstars Studio will be in Boulder, just like the first Techstars accelerator was in 2007. As with the expansion of Techstars Accelerators around the world (Techstars will run 41 accelerator programs in 31 cities and 11 countries in 2019), expect Techstars Studios to follow a similar expansion path.

At Foundry, we have a lot of experience with the Studio model. We are investors in PSL (in Seattle) and High Alpha (in Indianapolis). We are also investors in the venture funds associated with the studios (PSL Ventures and High Alpha Capital) as well as Techstars Ventures.

Over the past five years, we’ve looked at potentially investing in numerous studios. We think the studio model, while very attractive with the right team, resources, and network, is very difficult to execute well. We’ve been deliberate in our choices and the leaders of both PSL and High Alpha have been helpful with Techstars as they’ve gone through their thought process on how to build out a studio.

We are especially excited about the founding team of Techstars Studios. Along with the leadership of David Cohen (the co-CEO of Techstars) will be Isaac Saldana, founder of SendGrid and Mike Rowan, former VP of SendGrid Labs. We’ve worked closely with Isaac and Mike over the years and are psyched to have another chance to create something with them from the ground floor.

A number of the most successful Techstars accelerator alumni are participating as founders in residence and advisors to Techstars Studio. In addition, more than 25 corporate partners of Techstars are involved in the initiative at launch.

If you are interested in the Techstars Studio, drop me an email and I’ll route you to the right folks.

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Dec 7 2018

Colorado Magic on a Friday

I’ve been in San Diego with Amy for a while but we are returning to Boulder in a week. San Diego has been great, but I miss my dogs, my friends, and the Colorado vibe.

When people ask me about the Colorado vibe, I often talk about GiveFirst. Soon there will be a book (by me) on this, but for now there’s an increasing amount of content on the web building up to explain it. This article in the Colorado Sun – How Techstars’ “GiveFirst” mantra became a road map for the startup community in Colorado and beyond – was excellent and had numerous short examples of how GiveFirst works and influences a startup community.

Next up is a fun article by my co-author of Startup Communities Way (my new Startup Communities book – coming up mid-year 2019) Ian Hathaway. A few days ago he cranked out a post titled Colorado is for Founders. I love that phrase and he led off the post with this great tweet from Phil Weiser.

He goes on to explain Jared and Phil’s huge accomplishments and impacts around startups and the startup community. The punch line in the post is:

“By many measures, Colorado is the most entrepreneurial state in the country, a fact that I discovered in 2013 when studying high-technology business formation around the United States. I was struck by just how many places across the state had a high proportion of startup activity occurring—a finding that has been extended to looking across other types of high-growth entrepreneurship as well. Something special is happening there, and it has been for many years.”

I’ll end with the Holiday Gift Guide from Techstars. If you want to give someone you know the gift of something from a Techstars company this holiday season, here are the choices all in one place.

Happy Friday Colorado. See you in a week.

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