On Tuesday, David Cohen (Techstars co-founder/chair) and I did an AMA for Techstars founders about the SVB crisis. The team at Techstars turned it into a podcast for our Give First series.
The teaser from the podcast follows:
The fall of SVB will go down in history as one of those ‘where were you when …’ moments. For David Cohen, he was sitting at a sporting event when his phone began buzzing incessantly. For Brad Feld, he was couch shopping with his wife.
Feld is no stranger to crises and his instincts kicked in quickly.
“I shifted into problem-solving mode,” says Feld.
But then, almost as quickly, the government stepped in and money began flowing. Crisis averted. It was time to reflect.
Listen as Feld and Cohen share insight into what they saw in the VC and startup community, how communication made all the difference and how many came together to support each other.
They also tackle the looming question weighing heavy on founders’ minds: how will this affect the future of startups.
As for the couch? Tune in to find out.
David Cohen and I have co-hosted the Give First podcast for 71 episodes. I think our host ratio is 80/20 David/Brad, and he’s covered everything in 2021 because I was burned out on all things public-facing and needed a break.
He figured a good way to get me back in the mix would be to interview me about entrepreneurship and mental health, so that’s what Episode 71 is about.
Listen & subscribe to the Give First podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and more.
Registration for the Venture Deals Fall 2022 course is open.
The course is free and starts on September 20, 2022. This is the second time we are running the new version of the course (v2!) that was co-created with Techstars and Kauffman Fellows.
If interested, sign up now. I hope to see you there in one of the AMAs we will host for anyone who takes the course.
I recently nominated James Oliver’s ParentPreneur Foundation for the new Techstars Accelerate Equity Program. Amy and I provided the lead gift of $100,000 through our Anchor Point Foundation. For a detailed look at what the ParentPreneur Foundation does, take a look at Techstars Foundation Empowers Black ParentPreneurs, So They Can Leave A Legacy For Their Children.
Through Accelerate Equity, the Techstars Foundation identifies early-stage nonprofits and ideas to empower and support underestimated entrepreneurs. We then call on the Techstars network to pitch in. The Techstars Foundation will add a 5% match to the total raised at the end of the calendar quarter.
Among other things, James has created a vibrant community for Black ParentPreneurs.
I’ve known James for a while, as we became friends when he started his previous company WeMontage. While I didn’t invest, we talked periodically and emailed regularly. I loved his book The More You Hustle, The Luckier You Get (it’s “pure James”). We connected after George Floyd was murdered, and he mentioned his initial dream of the ParentPreneur Foundation. I immediately jumped in to help.
It has been about a year since that conversation. Since then, a number of friends, including Mark Suster, Fred and Joanne Wilson, Seth Godin, and David Cohen have also supported the ParentPreneur Foundation. It has been awesome to see the progress that James has made. I’m delighted that the Techstars Foundation is including him in the Accelerate Equity program.
If you want to support James or support something I support around racial equity and entrepreneurship, please donate to the ParentPreneur Foundation through the Techstars Foundation.
In 2017 I helped get the Techstars Sustainability Accelerator off the ground in partnership with The Nature Conservancy (TNC). Amy and I have been supporters of TNC for over 30 years and Amy serves on their global board of directors. The program has been running in Colorado supporting pre-seed to post-seed stage startups at the intersection of conservation and technology since 2018.
This is a unique accelerator, partnering with the world’s largest environmental nonprofit, on a mission to supercharge early-stage startups who are protecting the planet, conserving our natural resources, and creating a world where humans and nature can both thrive.
They have graduated 20 founders (see 2018 class here and 2019 class here) and are taking applications now through May 12th for their next class.
This program invests in the following areas:
You can see the full investment thesis at A Tech Revolution For Nature.
Participating companies receive up to $120K in funding, personalized mentorship from Techstars and The Nature Conservancy, and much more. The program starts in September 2021. Learn more on the Techstars Sustainability Accelerator site.
Following are a few highlights that made recent press from some of the last class of alumni companies:
The Nature Conservancy is deeply involved in giving the startups access to the expertise of the world’s largest environmental non-profit. And Techstars brings a massive network of mentors, investors, and entrepreneurs on a similar journey.
Applications close on May 12th, so if you’re interested, apply today!
The Techstars Foundation recently announced a new program called Accelerate Equity.
We created the Techstars Foundation in 2015 to help make innovation and entrepreneurship more accessible and inclusive. Since then, the Techstars Foundation has been investing in and accelerating nonprofits that deliver scalable impact for underestimated entrepreneurs.
Through Accelerate Equity, the Techstars Foundation identifies early-stage nonprofits and ideas to empower and support underestimated entrepreneurs. Each non-profit has a significant nominating donor. We then call on the Techstars network to pitch in, provide mentorship, and add additional financial donations. The Techstars Foundation will add a 5% match to the total raised at the end of the calendar quarter.
Amy and I helped get this program started by nominating and underwriting initial grants to Grid 110, Sistahbiz, and HBCUvc. The Techstars Foundation added Knox St. Studios to the list.
If you are interested in supporting any of these organizations, please click on the respective link above or reach out to the Techstars Foundation. Or, for the three I’m involved in, drop me an email also, and I’ll make an appropriate connection.
Jaclyn Hester, one of my Foundry Group partners, recently asked if there was an online definition of #GiveFirst. I spent some time looking around, and, while it’s embedded in numerous podcasts and video interviews, I couldn’t find a clear definition on the web. The closest I found was from January 1, 2013, in a post titled Give Before You Get.
#GiveFirst first appeared as “Give Before You Get” in my book Startup Communities published in 2012. It was turned into the #GiveFirst hashtag by someone at Techstars around 2014. I updated it in the 2nd Edition of Startup Communities (2e) which was published in 2020. I also defined it in The Startup Community Way, also published in 2020.
The definition, from The Startup Community Way, follows:
#GiveFirst means you are willing to put energy into a relationship or a system without defining the transactional parameters. However, it’s not altruism because you expect to get something. But you don’t know when, from whom, in what form, in what consideration, or over what time frame.
While I generally use #GiveFirst to refer to the idea, it often shows up at “Give First.” It’s become the official mantra of Techstars, and there’s even a podcast called Give First.
It’s a deeply held personal philosophy of mine. However, it’s not a static idea, and I’ve been thinking a lot about both the positives and negatives of it lately. But, for now, if you are looking for a definitive definition circa 2020, here it is.
Seven years ago this week, I posted about a new book in our Startup Revolution series called Startup CEO: A Field Guide to Scaling Up Your Business, by my friend Matt Blumberg, then CEO of email marketing company Return Path in the Foundry portfolio. Today, with more around 40,000 copies sold all over the world and in multiple languages and formats, Matt and our publisher Wiley & Sons in partnership with Techstars have published a Second Edition of Startup CEO, which you can pre-order here.
Matt and I originally conceived of Startup CEO when I was writing Venture Deals where Matt organically ended up writing a sidebar for many of the chapters which we called “The Entrepreneur’s Perspective.” At the time, we talked about him writing a full “instructional manual” for first-time CEOs, and that’s what Startup CEO became, with over 50 short chapters with practical “how to” advice on everything from Fundraising, to People issues, to Board management, to Self-Management.
In the Second Edition, Matt, who led the sale of Return Path last year, added six new chapters on Selling Your Company, which really rounded out the book.
I have given or recommended Startup CEO to hundreds of CEOs over the years. Matt has been very generous with his time in mentoring other entrepreneurs or bringing his book to life in online education and webinars. Today, he posted one of the new chapters from the Second Edition of Startup CEO on Techstars’ blog, TheLine, on Preparing Yourself for An Exit: How Do You Know It’s Time to Sell? which is a great example of the new material in the book.
Matt and others are working on a companion/sequel to Startup CEO which will come out in late 2020/early 2021. So, get Startup CEO now so you’ll be ready for that one when it comes out.
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.