Pledge1% goes global

pledge1percentEvery year, I’m inspired by the community that rallies around the Techstars companies. The sheer number of hours, brain power, and introductions that are pumped into each company is staggering – and the mentors do this without expectation of reward. They volunteer their time, their knowledge, and their contacts for the benefit of startups when there is no incentive to do so. At Techstars, we call this #GiveFirst; it’s a powerful mantra that has infused everything we do. #Givefirst creates stronger companies, stronger communities, and stronger people. There is no downside.

#GiveFirst is why I’m on the board of the EFCO and why we launched Pledge1% – a global effort with Salesforce at Atlassian, to infuse companies around the world with the #GiveFirst mantra. Pledge1% allows companies and startups to Pledge 1% of their equity, time, profits, or product to any non-profit they choose. This ensures stronger people and communities at scale. The more our companies are successful, the more the community benefits. And companies that donate 1% of their equity have no downside – it doesn’t cost them anything unless their company has a successful exit. Plus our member companies tell me it’s a motivating factor to know that it’s not just shareholders that benefit from a successful outcome; that you’re working hard for the benefit of whatever cause is meaningful to you.

Today, I’m excited to announce an official partnership between Pledge1% and Techstars. Techstars has taken the pledge, but we don’t think that’s enough. We’ll encourage each one of our new portfolio companies to take the pledge, making it easy in our onboarding docs for those who so choose. We’ll encourage our mentor’s companies, our investors, and our existing portfolio companies to take the pledge. With over 500 companies in our portfolio, adding another 180 every year, Techstars stands to move the global needle on corporate philanthropy. The community supports Techstars, now through Pledge1%, we can contribute back to those very communities.

I’m proud and excited to be part of the Pledge1% movement as #GiveFirst rings true in my heart. I couldn’t be more thrilled that Techstars is taking up arms as well. I hope all accelerators and venture funds follow suit, this is only a win for all of us.

If your company interested in taking the pledge, learn more at Pledge1Percent.org. If you’re an accelerator or venture fund wanting to learn more about how to get this to your portfolio, reach out to me and I’ll get the ball rolling.

mark trail

Free Event Series: Today! – Keys to VCs with Mark Solon

After twenty years of investing in startups, Mark Solon has worked with hundreds if not thousands of venture capitalists.  He knows how what they’re looking for, how to work with them, and what will set you apart in a crowded field of entrepreneurs.  Mark has the tactical advice that founders need when they start the challenging process of raising money.

RSVP for Mark’s talk and check out our free event series we call 8 Weeks of Awesome.  Each week we have a speaker or an event designed to help entrepreneurs tackle the hardest problems they face.  It’s a taste of the kind of mentorship and guidance companies get as Techstars participants.  Applications for Techstars Boulder are open for until March 15th,  that’s less than two weeks!  

We hope to see you and your Techstars application soon!  Whether you can join us or not, you can apply HERE.

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Free Event Series: Feb. 17th – Startup Culture with Dr. Natalie Baumgartner

Why do people love working for companies like Zappos and Google?  Great company culture.  But as an entrepreneur building a company from the ground up, how do you design a great place to work?  How do you hire the right people?  Dr. Natalie Baumgartner has spent her career studying company culture and she has practical advice to help you shape yours.  

RSVP for Natalie’s talk, and check out our free event series we call 8 Weeks of Awesome.  Each week we have a speaker or an event designed to help entrepreneurs tackle the hardest problems they face.  It’s a taste of the kind of mentorship and guidance companies get as Techstars participants.  Applications for Techstars Boulder are open for until March 15th, but it’s better to apply early!  

We hope to see you and your Techstars application soon!  Whether you can join us or not, you can apply HERE.

TS open house

Free Event Series: Feb. 10th – Techstars Open House!

We’re excited to enter year 9 at Techstars in Boulder where it all began back in 2007.  We’re opening our doors to our alumni, our mentors, and the rest of our Techstars family and of course all the entrepreneurs who are interested in applying to Techstars Boulder 2015!   

RSVP for the Open House, and check out our free event series we call 8 Weeks of Awesome.  Each week we have a speaker or an event designed to help entrepreneurs tackle the hardest problems they face.  It’s a taste of the kind of mentorship and guidance companies get as Techstars participants.  Applications for Techstars Boulder are open until March 15th, but it’s better to apply early!  

We hope to see you and your Techstars application soon!  Whether you can join us or not, you can apply HERE.

davidcohen

Free Event Series: Feb 2nd – Finding Funding with David Cohen

David Cohen is at the heart of funding technology startups.  Since 2007 when he founded Techstars, he’s coached hundreds of early stage companies on finding funding, and he just helped raise a $150M fund to keep investing for years to come.  There are some practical, easy-to-implement techniques to help you, the entrepreneur, close your round, and David is here to share them Tuesday, 2/2 @4:30pm.

RSVP for David’s talk, and check out our free event series we call 8 Weeks of Awesome.  Each week we have a speaker or an event designed to help entrepreneurs tackle the hardest problems they face.  It’s a taste of the kind of mentorship and guidance companies get as Techstars participants.  Applications for Techstars Boulder are open until March 15th, but it’s better to apply early!  

We hope to see you and your Techstars application soon!  Whether you can join us or not, you can apply HERE.

Techstars raises $150M Venture Fund

Earlier today Techstars announced that we closed a $150M venture fund.  It serves primarily as a co-investor for the Techstars portfolio, our alumni, and our mentors’ startups.  It’s a new resource for the Techstars ecosystem, injecting additional capital to great companies.

This announcement is exciting for me personally because I’ve been named a Partner in that fund.  I’ve been with Techstars since 2009 and have run 8 programs with over 90 companies in my portfolio.  From Boulder to NYC to Cloud in Texas, it’s been a great journey with amazing entrepreneurs who have educated and inspired me every step. Techstars has been a labor of love and I feel grateful daily for the faith and belief that Techstars continues to place in me.  People like David Cohen, Jason Mendelson, Brad Feld, Seth Levine, Ryan McIntyre, Mark Solon have taken chances on me, supported me, and believed in me every step.  For that I am eternally grateful to be given this opportunity, and all those leading up to this.

Now I can take all that I’ve learned to the next level.  I get to work more closely with entrepreneurs, deploy more capital resources to them, and do it alongside some of my favorite people: Mark Solon, David Cohen, Ari Newman, and Jason Seats.  I’m thrilled to be able to put that same love, support, and belief into great entrepreneurs.

Wish me luck as I embark on this new journey!

 

Middle school students and entrepreneurship

I just spent the morning alongside David Brown, talking to 115 middle school students about entrepreneurship.  I do this periodically and it’s one of the most fun days of my year.  The amount of unbridled energy and enthusiasm in the room is always palpable, and the kids have wonderfully insightful questions on how to startup a startup.  Questions like:

  • What should I do if someone tells me my idea is stupid?
  • How do I know if my product is a good idea?
  • What happens when you fail?
  • How do I identify my target market?
  • Once I identify my target market, what kinds of questions do I ask them?
  • What is better, a product business or a service business?
  • How do I get the money I need for my startup?

Rewording some of these questions, they sound identical to the same topics we often discuss at Techstars.   I can only imagine that if we really taught entrepreneurship to kids at this age, imagine how much more quickly adult entrepreneurs could move through the stages of a startup.  Maybe they would be less afraid of failure, know more about when they’ve hit product/market fit…

I’m all for teaching kids entrepreneurship and wish more middle schools did it. Consider pushing your local school to add it to their curriculum, or mentoring a young student if they have a program in place already.

 

Free Event Series: Jan 27th – How (NOT?) to Screw Up Your Company with Jason Mendelson

As a venture capitalist with Foundry Group and a Techstars mentor,  Jason Mendelson has seen lots of companies screw up.  He wants to help you avoid making the same mistakes that can kill your company!   He’s giving one of our favorite Techstars talks on Tuesday January 27th, highly valuable for entrepreneurs looking to sidestep those quagmires you might not see coming.

 

This is the second event in a series of talks we’re calling 8 Weeks of Awesome, full of advice and ideas for tackling the hardest problems entrepreneurs face (building a team, selling a product, finding funding, and more.)  We’ll also be on hand to answer questions about applying to Techstars.  Applications for Techstars Boulder close on March 15th (but it’s helpful to apply early!)

 RSVP here!

 

About Jason: he has over 15 years of experience in the venture capital and technology industries in a multitude of investing, operational and engineering roles. Prior to co-founding Foundry Group, Jason was a Managing Director and General Counsel for Mobius Venture Capital, where he also acted as its chief administrative partner overseeing all operations of the firm.

Free Event Series: Jan 20th – Howard Diamond and the Art of Selling

Howard Diamond is the CEO of MobileDay, and a beloved Techstars mentor.  He’s coming to Techstars on January 20th to talk with entrepreneurs about the Art of Selling!  This is a favorite talk at Techstars, and you don’t want to miss it.  This is the first event in what we call 8 Weeks of Awesome- each Tuesday at 4:30 we host an event to help entrepreneurs tackle the toughest challenges (marketing, finding a co-founder, finding funding, etc.)   We’re also around to answer questions about applying to Techstars.  Applications for Boulder close on March 15th, but earlier is better!

RSVP here!

About Howard: he has a long history of building companies. He took a startup, Course Technology, from 0 to $75 Million in five years. He built Corporate Software, the largest software reseller for Microsoft and IBM, from $500 Million in revenue to $1.2 Billion in six years. He was subsequently Chairman of the Information Services Group at Level3, where he ran a $2.7 Billion technology group and orchestrated the largest merger ever in the software reseller business. Now, Howard has come out of retirement to be the CEO of MobileDay where he intends to make MobileDay his biggest success yet.

Techstars Boulder applications are now open!

I’m well rested after a long sabbatical and ready to tackle 2015!  And no way to bring in the new year by opening applications for Techstars in Boulder.

So if you’re interested in applying to Techstars in Boulder – here are some important dates you need to know:

Jan 5th – Applications open.  Apply now!
March 15th – Application Deadline
June 15th – Program Starts
Sept 11th – Program Ends

I’m excited to see what the new year brings.