Why the diversity conversation is so hard for me

I read this awesome post by Katie Womersley and I love it.  The quick synopsis is that people who identify with a specific stereotype could cause them to do WORSE.  I believe in diversity and think it makes all of us stronger, but I don’t actually identify with ‘being a woman in tech’.  I have never liked the label, and part of me resents it a little bit. I am just ‘in tech’.  Or rather, I just ‘am’.

Recently, I’ve become fascinated with this idea of the player and the victim, and I’m seeing it everywhere.  The player is someone who looks at the situation and wonders how they impacted the outcome.  “Wow, that was a big fight.  In what way did I create or contribute to the situation to cause that fight?”.  The victim is someone who takes more of a blaming stance. “That jerk took his bad mood out on me”.  I’m seeing it literally everywhere.  “The investors don’t get my business” vs “I’m not articulating my business in a way that makes investors excited”.  “You don’t trust me” vs “What am I doing that causes you to doubt me?”.  “My startup failed b/c we ran out of money” vs “My startup failed b/c I didn’t understand the economics of my business well enough”.  “This meeting is brain damage” vs “I have an experiment I’d like to try with the format of this meeting, if you’re game”

I worry that being identified as the victim here, as a woman in tech, creates victims.  In fact I can think back on 2 specific  situations where I walked out of a meeting extremely frustrated from not being heard, thinking “I’m just in a room full of men, THIS is what they mean by being a female in tech”.   But in retrospect, I took the victim stance. I should have asked myself “What am I doing that’s contributing to my inability to get my point across?”.  If I can answer that question, I can take myself to the next level (which I have by the way!).  Blame them for not being included in the boys club, and I move backwards, never in control of my own destiny.

I’m not saying that prejudice and bias don’t happen.  They do.  And they did in both of those meetings where I was frustrated. But the only way I can change what the world thinks of me is by not playing the part of the victim.  I don’t want to play the part of a woman in tech – but rather of someone who excels in her role, who can adapt to constantly changing and fast paced environments, with people that I do and do not identify with.  It’s not about me being a woman.  It’s about me kicking ass at whatever I chose to.

Thanks Katie.  Don’t lets stop this conversation.

How to move the needle on diversity…

As a female in tech, entrepreneurship, and investing, I’m often asked how we move the needle on diversity.  We have all seen the data around why diversity is important (stronger companies, bigger bottom lines – not to mention that it’s just the right damn thing to do).

I got to where I am because I come from a long line of strong, fighting women who taught me that I’m in control of my life.  Not because I’m a woman, but because I AM.  I got to this point because my father is an entrepreneur, and he also taught me that I’m in control of my life and financial independence through entrepreneurship.  I didn’t grow up believing I was powerful because I was a woman, I grew up believing I was powerful because I make my own decisions and can change the things in my life I don’t like.  Gender wasn’t at the center of the conversation – rather independent thinking was.

But I’m often asked how to move the needle, specifically for women, and the truth is, I don’t know.  Sure I have my hypotheses, but at the end of the day, I believe what works for one won’t necessarily work for another.  And that’s why I’m so excited about the Techstars Foundation.

The Techstars Foundation seeks to support organizations, that want to move the needle on diversity (not just gender, but ethnicity, and even age).  We’re not focused on companies run by under-represented individuals, rather companies whose mission is to help those underserved populations gain advantages, pulling themselves up by their own bootstraps.  We’re not taking a one-size fits all approach, we’ll support many efforts and many approaches to solving this problem. Because what works for one might not work for another, and supporting many organizations is a great way to seed change across all populations.

If you’re passionate about the diversity topic – consider donating to the Techstars Foundation.  No dollar amount is too small.

If you’re an organization who has a mission or a program around supporting underserved populations in entrepreneurship – apply for a grant from the Techstars Foundation.

Fundraising? Here’s a great resource…

My friend John Bliss just shared with me this great study by DocSend on what they learned by studying 200 startups that successfully raised capital.  The info in it is great, everything from sample decks to # of investors you need to contact to where to focus efforts.  There are a few areas I disagree with (mainly the structure of the deck), but they are minor and overall agree with the items in here.

If you’re looking to fundraise at the seed or series a level, check it out!

Meet the Techstars Boulder Class of 2015

This is a bitter sweet post for me.  The 2014 Techstars class was my last.  After 8 programs it was time to tackle new challenges at Techstars.  But I left the program in the great and capable hands of Zach Nies & Natty Zola, two people I’ve known for a long time that were made for this role.

Well yesterday, they announced the class of 2015!  If feels weird not to be at the helm of it anymore, but at the same time, it’s freeing.  Now I get to work with the startups and not have all the associated distractions of running a program.  Anyway, please join me in welcoming the class of 2015.

Screen Shot 2015-06-15 at 11.37.04 AM adHawk: A mobile app that provides a bird’s eye view of all your digital marketing data in one place.
Screen Shot 2015-06-15 at 11.37.21 AM Blazing DB: An SQL database at supercomputer speeds that’s incredibly easy to use.
Screen Shot 2015-06-15 at 11.37.31 AM Borrowing Magnolia: Bringing the sharing economy to the wedding industry by enabling brides to rent and resell their used wedding dresses.
Screen Shot 2015-06-15 at 11.37.38 AM Edify: Empower every kid in the world to make their own music.
Screen Shot 2015-06-15 at 11.37.56 AM Flytedesk: A platform for buying and selling uncollected media, starting with college newspapers.
Screen Shot 2015-06-15 at 11.38.01 AM HobbyDB:  The definitive database for collectors and hobbyists to manage and monetize their collections.
Screen Shot 2015-06-15 at 11.38.07 AM MadKudu: Data science that helps sales and support teams fight customer churn.
Screen Shot 2015-06-15 at 11.38.14 AM Revolar: The world’s smartest personal safety wearable device keeps you safe anytime, anywhere.
Screen Shot 2015-06-15 at 11.38.21 AM Stryd: The world’s first running power meter that helps runners improve their performance.
Screen Shot 2015-06-15 at 11.38.26 AM TRELORA: A commission-free real estate company, replacing percentage-based commissions with one flat fee.

Techstars and UP Global (aka Startup Weekend) UNITE!

Today, Techstars announced that we have acquired UP Global, which includes Startup Weekend, Startup Week, Startup Digest, and Startup Next.  But acquired isn’t really the right word.  It’s more like merge.  Or join forces. Or unite.  Or, REUNITE.  Like twins, separated at birth.

Techstars and Startup Weekend share early beginnings.  The idea was borne of Andrew Hyde, right in the Techstars offices with David Cohen.  The first Techstars class participated in the event, along with 70 other amazing Boulder individuals.  Since then, Startup Weekend has blossomed into other programs (like Startup Week and Startup Next).  With thousands of events in over 600 cities in 120 countries and 6 continents, UP Global has brought entrepreneurial access to the ground level.

Since then, Techstars has also grown.  Over 600 companies have gone through 18 programs across 13 cities.  They have collectively raised over $1.5B in capital, and are valued at over $50B in market cap.  Techstars Ventures has $300M in capital under management.  Our secret weapon; our network of mentors, alumni, investors, and corporate partners, continues to grow and strengthen by the day.

By joining forces, Techstars and UP Global can accelerate the pace of innovation by strengthening the path for entrepreneurs, providing better support for entrepreneurial communities, and helping to grow the worldwide entrepreneurial ecosystem.

The UP Global programs will continue to run as community events (and will keep their name)- we aren’t touching something that isn’t broken!  And Techstars programs will continue to run as they have.  Just a lot more collaboration between programs.

Join me in welcoming the UP Global team to the Techstars family!


Fundraiser for Calone For Congress

I met David Calone back when I first started at Techstars.  He has been a longtime supporter, mentor, and investor of the Boulder Techstars program for the last 7 years.  He’s a friend to investor, entrepreneur, and tech alike, and now he’s running for Congress representing Long Island, NY.

I’m really proud of David, not just for the impact he’s had at Techstars, but he has also been a leader in advocating for federal policies that would support the formation of more early-stage companies – including helping to create the Congressional Caucus on Innovation and Entrepreneurship as well as Start-Up Day Across America. He currently serves as the Board Chair of “Patriot Bootcamp powered by Techstars” – which helps veterans and active duty service members get started as tech entrepreneurs. He also heads the Long Island Emerging Technologies Fund, which helps provide initial funding to early stage technology companies emerging from Long Island’s research labs. Dave has long been involved in public service, including currently serving at the chair of the Suffolk County Planning Commission (where he has been nationally recognized for his regulatory reform work) and previously serving as a federal prosecutor where he helped prosecute cases focusing on international economic crime and terrorism.  We need more people like David in DC!

On Friday, June 12th at 4:30, I’m co-hosting a happy hour fundraiser to help David win that Congressional seat.  If you’d like to join, tickets are $100 and you can RSVP to laura@caloneforcongress.com,  You can also donate to his campaign directly at caloneforcongress.com

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.


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.