CTEK to grant over $600K to non-profits helping entrepreneurs – deadline 11/30!

The TLDR version:
If you are a non-profit with a mission to help entrepreneurs, apply for a grant from CTEK by November 30, 2017 for grants up to $600K!

 

The longer version:
Before Techstars even existed, I got plugged into the entrepreneurial scene in Colorado through a small accelerator called CTEK.

 

I was fresh off a startup and didn’t want to replicate the errors I had previously made.  I was (and am) “unemployable” meaning there’s no real job description that fits me and I wasn’t used to working for others.  But I found a small and local org named CTEK, who claimed to help entrepreneurs through an advisory model, and thought I could learn what NOT to do my text time around the startup block.  I applied for a VP of Marketing job there that I had no business getting, so was understandably rejected for the role.  I’m not one who takes no for an answer, so I decided to stalk (not creepy stalk!) the CEO – a woman named Lu Cordova.  I saw her speak at an event in Boulder, cornered her afterwards and gently informed her that while I understood why I was rejected for the role, I wasn’t going away, so she might as well find something useful for me to do, even if unpaid.

 

So I started hanging around CTEK which eventually turned into a full-time gig and a lifelong friendship with Lu Cordova and many others who were involved in those days. Together, we grew that office from 1-4 across the state and started Colorado’s first organized angel investor network called CTEK Angels.  We scaled from helping a dozen or so companies a year to over a hundred.  We had a great portfolio of companies, held events, and utilized an advisory model to help the companies get to the next level.  It was through CTEK that I met David Cohen & Brad Feld, and I distinctly remember the day that David Cohen came into CTEK to pitch us the idea of Techstars. I loved CTEK, it was a springboard for me and put me squarely in the middle of the embryonic tech scene in Colorado.  But CTEK had issues with it’s model, and the idea that David Cohen pitched us for Techstars was a tweak on the CTEK model that eliminated all it’s issues.  I left CTEK not long after that to join another startup, and then started hanging around Techstars in 2008. The rest is my history at Techstars.  Much of what Techstars is today is from what I learned at CTEK – so while the two companies aren’t necessarily related, they hold me in common.

 

Fast forward to today – CTEK is a non-profit who’s mission was to help entrepreneurs in Colorado succeed.  It’s funding came from sponsors and government dollars (and the tireless effort of Lu Cordova) – but also through an investment model where we invested resources in exchange for a small monthly fee and a convertible debt note in each startup we supported.  Over the years we built a very healthy portfolio – and the exits from that portfolio has sustained the organization to this day.

 

But last month, the board of CTEK has decided that it’s mission has been fulfilled – that there are other organizations (like Techstars!) who now carry that torch in Colorado.  So CTEK is officially shuttering it’s doors.  Those of us in the scale years of CTEK (including people like Lu Cordova, me, Mark Feuer, Stephen Miller, Mike Murphy, and others) have come together to help ensure the assets of the organization land with a non-profit that carries the same mission – to help entrepreneurs.

 

For us, it’s a happy end of an era, where we look back at the seeds we have sown and are proud.  When we compare where Colorado was when we started, and where it was today, we know that we’ve played a big hand in diversifying Colorado from ranching and mining into the next century. And we’ve made great friends along the way.

 

I’m proud and honored to sit on the board that will help CTEK allocate it’s existing cash balance to a non-profit that can continue to carry the torch of CTEK.  For me, this is no easy feat because I’m close with many non-profits that support entrepreneurship – including the Techstars Foundation, Pledge1%, and Patriot Boot Camp.  But fear not, I will recuse myself of voting for organizations of which I have a conflict.

 

If you are a non-profit that supports entrepreneurship and has an element of scale, I invite you to apply for a grant between $10k-$600K. Deadline for applications is November 30 – apply today.

Learn the art of the venture deal

If you’re an entrepreneur looking to raise capital – understanding the terms in venture deals is critical.  Having legal counsel is important, however it’s your startup, so you’re ultimately responsible for the outcome of any deal.  Given VCs and investors have a lot of practice because they do many deals a year, you generally will be outgunned because you just don’t have the same level of experience.

Brad Feld & Jason Mendelson helped level the playing field when they published the book Venture Deals.  But if you want to practice – if you want to really turn information into knowledge, then take the Venture Deals course (it’s free!).  You’ll build a team and work on elements of a venture deal with your teammates.  The course runs about 6 weeks long and starts on May 14th.  It’s great for both the novice and experienced entrepreneur (and investor) – I took the class last time and will be auditing it again just as a refresher!

Thanks to Brad & Jason for creating the content, and thanks to Techstars, Kauffman Fellows, & NovoEd for providing the resources necessary to make this course free and available to the general public.

Just jump

My friend Ryan Frankel is publishing a book, and he asked me to write an excerpt for it.  I made some edits for this blog, but I thought I’d share it.

*****

When I was in college in Gainesville, FL, on the weekends my friends and I would visit a nearby rock quarry that was filled with water. Picture a limestone, man-made lake surrounded with high cliffs, with alligators lurking lazily in the waters below (all freshwater in FL has alligators in it!) The highest point of the quarry was about 50 feet above the water, and our weekend activity was to hang out at the top of that cliff, drink too much, and dare eachother to jump in. Occasionally someone did.

The day I jumped is seared in my mind, as an out-of-body experience.  One where I watching myself as an observer. A mist had settled over the water so you couldn’t see the surface, the air was thick with humidity so you were perpetually perspiring, the sky gray with low clouds. Frogs and alligators croaked, cicades were so loud you had to shout at someone next to you, the smell of damp earth was pungent, and the air was cool on my skin. I don’t know what compelled me to jump. I was relaxing comfortably on a blanket listening to my friends prattle on about nothing important, and suddenly there I was, standing at the edge of the cliff, trying to see the water through the mist, listening to the alligators I could not see, and hearing nothing other than my blood thrashing in my ears. And without thinking about what I would land on, I jumped.

The way down was exhilarating as a 50 foot freefall takes longer than you’d think. The water was hard and cold, and I’ve never swam faster to the shore than I did that day for fear of alligators. I wasn’t hurt in any way, other than stinging body parts from the impact of the water. By the time I got back to my blanket, I was breathing hard, trembling with adrenaline, and felt more alive than I had in a long time.  My friends thought I was crazy (I was), but every time we went back there, I jumped again and again. And I dreamed about jumping when we weren’t there. To this day I dream about going back there and jumping into the mist to the sound of the unseen alligators croaking their warnings beneath me.  I’m honestly not sure I’d have the courage to jump again, but I dream about it.

Entrepreneurs do this every time they start a company. They fundamentally understand the risks of ‘jumping’ into a startup, but they don’t dwell on it, or they would never do it. They have confidence in themselves that they’ll figure it out during their freefall, and they ignore the sounds of alligators croaking their warnings. They have that level of “crazy” one needs to jump without knowing what they’re going to land on.

For those of you thinking of becoming an entrepreneur, there are no guarantees.  You could fail.  The odds are stacked against you.  You have you enjoy operating with extreme uncertainty, high stress, very few clear answers, wearing every hat, with little to no income…  but if you think too hard about all that, then you’ll never do it.  The best guidance is to just jump and figure the rest out on the way down.

And for those of us that work with entrepreneurs, that exhilaration rubs off on us.  We bask in their adrenaline and they help us feel alive.  When they jump, we get to help them create something, to author our own future, to expand our own skill sets, to participate in the blanket party at the top of the cliff and hope no one lands on an alligator.  They take the risks, they create jobs, they change our realities, and the rest of us soak it up.  Every day I am thankful I get to work closely with entrepreneurs, I salute their bravery and hope that I can be there for them when they get hurt.  Founders, I salute you.

 

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!

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.

Want to work for a startup? Job fair on 8/27

The companies in the current Techstars class are hiring!  Practically every company is hiring at least one position (hey, do more faster, right?).

On Aug 27th, we’re doing a quick and dirty job fair.  It’s a chance for you to meet 13 great companies that are hiring right now.

Positions available include:

  • Designer (UI/UX)
  • Graphic Designer
  • Business Development
  • Growth Hacker
  • Account Manager
  • Inside Sales Person
  • Sales & Marketing Generalist
  • Sales Executive
  • Sales Manager
  • Marketing Intern
  • Marketing Director
  • Director or VP of Marketing (DOE)
  • Senior Developer
  • Junior Developer
  • Full-Stack Engineer/Generalist
  • Director or VP of Operations (DOE)
  • Operational/Organized Rockstar

If you’re interested in learning more or to RSVP – go here!

New to Boulder or the Boulder Tech Scene? Come say hi…

I’m often getting emails from people who are either new to Boulder, or just want to connect deeper with the Boulder tech scene.  In an effort to bring everyone closer together, we’re launching a Welcome To Boulder event series.  It’s only 30 minutes long, just long enough to have a quick drink, but you’ll be hosted by some of Boulder’s most connected individuals in tech, including myself, Seth Levine, David Cohen, Brad Feld, Jason Mendelson, Brad Berenthal, Robert Reich, Dan Caruso and others.  There will always be at least one of us there to answer your questions, introduce you to others, and point you towards great local resources.  And you can meet other like-minded people who are also launching their exploration into Boulder.  We want to be your welcoming committee!

If you’re interested in getting more connected to the Boulder tech scene, this is a great jumping off point.  Below is a list of upcoming events:

Monday, August 25th, 2014: 5-5:30pm – RSVP here  (yes! That’s next monday!)

Monday, Nov 17th 2014, 5-5:30pm – RSVP here

Monday, February 16th 2015, 5-5:30 pm – RSVP here

Monday, May 18 2015, 5-5:30pm – RSVP here

Huge shout out to Julie Penner who’s spearheading the organization of this.  If you don’t know Julie, you should.

Also, if you’re new to the scene, check out the Hitchhiker’s Guide to Boulder’s Startup Community. It’s a great resource.

 

 

 

Running Lean Workshop in Boulder

One of the best lean processes for startups I’ve used is Ash Maurya’s Running Lean.  It’s wonderful in how tactical and practical it is, and I’m excited to announce that he’s personally coming to Boulder on Aug 27-28 to run a 2 day workshop on the method.

I couldn’t recommend the workshop enough, in fact, I think it’s so important, that I’m thrilled to give you a 30% discount if you attend.  Enter code TECHSTARS.  Sign up today, it will sell out!  (And thanks to my friends @Galvanize for hosting!)

CatalyzeCU’s Demo Day is July 31st

I’ve been watching CU’s entrepreneurship ecosystem really evolve over the last 5 or 7 years.  It’s a grassroots efforts, led in part by the students, and in part by passionate faculty within CU.  For instance, Brad Berenthal’s efforts over at Silicon Flatirons have become a staple in the entrepreneurship community.  The Spark Boulder co-working space is thriving with young student entrepreneurs.  And the New Venture Challenge is producing some great companies, including many who made it to the final rounds of Techstars.  In fact, Varsity, one of the winners, has recently been accepted to Techstars (expect a blog post on that one!)

If you’re going to be in Boulder at the end of July, and want to catch a glimpse of the fun stuff happening at CU, you’re in luck.  Catalyze CU is throwing their first-ever Demo Day on July 31st from 6-8pm.  Make sure to check out the companies, and get your tickets before they’re gone!  And keep your eye on CU – the entrepreneurial groundswell is picking up some serious steam.

Angel investors in CO might get a tax credit

Angel investors in CO who invest in tech (and a few other growth industries) might be able to get a tax credit for their investment.

You have to apply for the tax credit within 90 days of making the investment, there are only $375K worth of tax credits for this year, and I believe they evaluate on a first-come-first served-basis. I love that CO is trying to encourage more angel investing here.

Learn more in the OEDIT’s press release.