Tuesday, May 31, 2016

4 Startup Marketing Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Moran is a marketing advisor with the Techstars accelerator in Tel Aviv and the co-founder of No CMO, online marketing strategies for founders and companies without a CMO. She is a full-stack marketer, building marketing and business strategies for successful startups. For full bio – moranbarnea.com, connect with her @moran_barnea.

There are many things on your plate while growing your company. You have a team to manage, a product to develop and deals to close. You may or may not have already hired a marketing manager, but you know marketing is crucial for your company's growth.

You also want to make sure you don't throw away valuable marketing money.

Making mistakes is normal and as Joseph Conrad said, "it's only those who do nothing that make no mistakes." Working with entrepreneurs and startups, I've learned you can't avoid all mistakes. But you can avoid some.

Here are the top 4 growth-stage startup marketing mistakes and how to avoid them.

1. You don't have a fixed marketing budget – Just like your general budget planning, you should work with a detailed marketing plan. Creating such a plan makes it easier to understand where your marketing money is going and when. For example, if you're looking to launch your blog mid-year, your marketing plan should take into consideration the time and budget needed to build the blog and create the initial content. Growing your company and showing growth in your forecasts is nice and all but it has to be backed with a growing marketing budget. SEO work is another example for a marketing initiative that spans through a period of time and needs allocation of funds throughout the budget timeframe (there's no such a thing as an "SEO campaign"). Setting a fixed marketing budget can be ok for the first couple of months, but if you want to grow, you need to take into consideration a growing budget.   

2. You don't keep track of the competition – Some startups mistakenly operate thinking that they don't have competitors. Even if you don't have direct ones, it's crucial to look at the nearest ones. Being an entrepreneur, it's impossible to operate in a bubble (on a side note – telling potential investors you don't have competitors is probably in their top 3 things they hate to hear). Knowing who your competitors are and following their work can help your business and marketing strategies as well. By signing up to your competitors' newsletters, and using alert tools such as Mention or IFTTT, you can stay on top of what's going on in your field.

3. Your tracking tools are not in place – Having tracking tools, such as Google Analytics in place is crucial, as otherwise you'll be operating like a blind person. Google Analytics is the most popular tracking tool, 100% free, well-known, and reliable. If you don't like using Google for tracking, there are other tools such as Piwik or Clicky that are just as good (and free) as well, or for both a web and mobile presence, Mixpanel. If you haven't done so already, set your tracking and make sure that you know how to create goals, funnels and read reports. Having the majority of your traffic marked as "unknown" in Analytics is terrible as you're spending money on marketing but cannot calculate the ROI. If you are unsure of how to set analytics and connect them correctly yourself, hire a freelancer to do this small project for you.

4. You're not where your audience is – If your product is an innovative baby sensor that is sold directly to customers on your site, a LinkedIn campaign may not be the best use of your marketing money. Plan your marketing according to where your audience is. If you are a B2B cyber startup and your target audience are CIOs and CISOs of large enterprises, meet them in industry events, publish in blogs and newspapers they read, and re-target them on LinkedIn. If your product on the other hand targets millennials, you have to be very active on social media and mostly these days, Snapchat.




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Thursday, May 26, 2016

First Generation College Students to Intern at Techstars Accelerators in Berlin, Chicago and Detroit

We're excited to welcome four students from Florida State University (FSU) as interns at our accelerators this summer. The students are part of FSU's Tech Fellows program, which creates tech entrepreneur internships for outstanding college students from underrepresented and economically disadvantaged populations.

As interns at the accelerators, the students will get hands-on experience and build connections in tech entrepreneurship through working with our staff, mentors and  startup companies in the accelerators.

Meet the students:

James, 19, is a business major from Apopka, Florida. James aged out of the foster-care system and is an intern at Techstars Chicago.

 

Ezreyah, 17, is a Computer and Electrical Engineering major from Be'er Sheba, Israel. Ezreyah is an intern at Techstars Mobility in Detroit.

Christian P., 21, is an Information Technology major from Naples, Florida. Christian co-organizes one of the largest hackathons in the southeast and is an intern at Techstars Berlin.

Christian G., 20, is a Computer Engineering major from Cochabamba, Bolivia. Last summer, Christian volunteered at a school in Bolivia to teach students IT skills and set up and maintain computers. Christian is an intern at Techstars Chicago.


Check back to hear directly from the students as they share their experiences here on the Techstars blog. You can also follow their journey on the Tech Fellows Twitter.




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Applications Open for Startup Next, Cyber Security Edition presented by Booz Allen Hamilton

Techstars launched a partnership with Booz Allen Hamilton in early 2016 focused on cyber security startups. After our successful Startup Weekend cyber security edition event in the new innovation center, applications for the second Techstars program are open!

Startup Next, presented by Booz Allen Hamilton, will bring together teams from within Booz Allen Hamilton and the top D.C.-based cyber security startups.

Startup Next is a pre-accelerator program that helps startups grow by providing high quality mentorship, a proven curriculum, and access to a global network of investors, mentors, and founders. The six-week program consists of weekly 2-3 hour sessions, which means founders are able to continue building their product, while receiving top quality mentorship and getting access to the global network of Startup Next.

Startups innovating in the field of cyber security to level the playing field against new and emerging cybercrime tactics are recommended to apply for this pre-accelerator program, along with companies that are creating game-changing technologies in the field of cyber security.

According to Forbes, the cyber security market is expected to grow from $75 billion in 2015 to $170 billion by 2020. From banking and connected cars to mobile health, tremendous growth in cyber security is inevitable.

"Most people are starting to realize that there are only two different types of companies in the world: those that have been breached and know it and those that have been breached and don't know it. Therefore, prevention is not sufficient and you're going to have to invest in detection because you're going to want to know what system has been breached as fast as humanly possible so that you can contain and remediate."   -Ted Schlein, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers

These startups will leave the six week program with a wealth of information and new connections to help them take the next step in their entrepreneurial journey. Booz Allen Hamilton will provide cyber security-related expertise and mentorship throughout the program. Startups will expand their network by meeting new contacts that will help their startup grow and learn how to accept feedback in important areas such as communication, technical abilities and leadership skills.

Deadline for applications is June 24, 2016.

Startups interested in applying to Startup Next Cyber Security, presented by Booz Allen Hamilton can apply here.




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What To Do When Your Fundraising Is Not Going Well

One of the worst things that can happen to a CEO of an early-stage company is to be in the state of perpetual fundraising.

Here is how you can tell that it may be happening to you:

  1. You have been fundraising for a while
  2. You are fundraising and running the business at the same time
  3. You don't have strong interest from investors
  4. Investors aren't engaged / don't ask a ton of questions
  5. Investors keep telling you it's early / to keep them posted

The list can go on, but you get the point.

You are wasting your time because you aren't prepared and the timing is likely off.

Please go and read my popular post about 9 seed funding gotchas and I will be right here when you come back.

Disorganized, prolonged fundraising is exhausting and harmful for your company and your personal brand.

So what can you do?

Here are some things for you to consider to help the situation.

Do the Gut Check

Be honest—are you really READY to fundraise?

Have you prepared enough, or are you going out too early? When you go to bed at night and think about it, like really think about it, are you really ready?

The best way to fundraise is not to go out early, but to first prepare and answer a whole bunch of key questions about the business and the opportunity.

Think about questions like: why are you the right team, why are you going after this opportunity, why now, how do you know this is needed, what are the early indications of product-market fit, what is the business model, what are the unit economics, how are you going to acquire the customers, what is the pricing, what will this business be like in three years from now, who are the right investors, why would they invest, how do you get in front of them, what will be important to them—etc, etc, etc.

The nerdier you get about fundraising, and the more prepared and disciplined you are, the higher the chance you will be able to get it done faster.

If you aren't ready, pause, go back, prepare, read my posts on fundraising and particularly on building a deck and pipeline, and then go back to the market.

Build Investor Pipeline

Assuming you passed the gut check, and you really feel like you are ready, next assess whether you are able to get in front of enough qualified investors.

Like sales, fundraising is a numbers game. If you don't have a strong enough pipeline, you can't get to the finish line.

Every single NO should cause you to add 3-5 more prospects to the top of the funnel.

If you are early on in the process, particularly a first-time founder without a strong network, you will find that fundraising is taking a long time because you aren't even getting that many meetings.

Your fundraising process is stretched over weeks and months, but you aren't seeing a lot of investors. As a result, you obsess over every single opportunity, like a few conversations you are having instead of focusing on having a lot more conversations.

What you need to do is to pause and focus on filling up your pipeline with 20-30 new investors. Just keep filling the pipeline, but do not take the meetings. After you have the pipeline filled up, THEN go and pitch everyone. This strategy will help you get a real signal and have a chance at creating momentum in your round.

Understand Investor Feedback

Assuming you have enough in your pipeline and you are meeting a bunch of investors in a short period of time, you really need to understand their feedback. What is the reason that people are saying NO? Do you not have enough traction? Is the space not interesting? Is the opportunity too small? Is it something else?

Whatever it is, your job as a founder is to avoid happy ears, parse the feedback you are given and really take it to heart.

If you are early and don't have enough traction, then you need to understand the milestones people expect and go build the business until you hit them.

Investors may tell you that they don't believe in the market size, or in unit economics or in your customer acquisition strategy—whatever feedback they give you, whatever the signal is, go back and address it. Understand the pushback, do research, get data, execute and come back with a fix.

Also, know that there are more subtle things that people won't necessarily tell you about. For example, investors may not believe in the founding team and don't see strong founder-market fit. Investors may not like the space. They may have issues with well-funded competition. If the issue is more subtle, try to really figure out what it is.

The bottom line is whatever the feedback is, no matter how tough it is, go back and address it.

Pre-seed Fundraising Strategy

Now let's look at specific strategies for types of financing.

Your pre-seed round is truly an idea stage. You don't have a product and you may not have your team fully assembled. You are super, super, super early. Read this other post I wrote first.

If you are a first-time founder, focus first on your friends and family, people who really know you and already think you are great. Get at least a little bit of their capital, and maybe even your personal capital so that you aren't at zero. Being at zero is the worst state.

Don't spend any time with VCs at this stage; you are WAY TOO EARLY.

You can raise capital from angels, but the key things are to a) get a little first from friends and family, b) target the investors correctly, and c) figure out milestones.

To build a correct list of potential investors, talk to other founders and ask them who the pre-seed stage firms and individuals were that funded them. Research, research and research some more to build the right list, otherwise you will be massively wasting your time.

Only specific funds and individual angels invest so early, so your job is to find investors whose strategy it is to fund the companies at your stage.

Next, think through all the tough questions you will be asked. Do the gut check—do you know the market, the customers, competitors, etc.? The more fluent you are in the problem and the business, the higher the chance you will get the check.

Lastly, clearly define milestones you are going to hit with the pre-seed round.

A typical milestone at this stage would be shipping the product. A better one would be shipping the product and getting a few early customers. No investor wants to give you a check to support your burn.

Investors want to fund you to the NEXT MILESTONE.

In the case of pre-seed, the key question an investor needs to answer is what milestones will enable you to raise a seed round. That's really the meat of getting the pre-seed check—articulating milestones and metrics that will get you to the next round.

Seed Fundraising Strategy

Everything that we said for the pre-seed applies to the seed round as well.

Keep in mind that the bar is now higher in the seed round. You can't be pre-product; you need to know your customers and you will likely be expected to have early traction. The game overall is upped significantly compared to pre-seed.

In addition, since the amount of capital you are raising is larger, you need to spend more time on identifying more relevant investors and getting introductions to them.

In terms of targeting investors, start with angels and micro VCs and try to get a few hundred thousand committed. Don't spend a ton of time early on talking to venture firms, as they take longer and most of them would still think you are early.

By getting several hundred thousand committed on the round, you will be able to create momentum and will have better chance of getting larger checks.

Start with small checks—get to 1/4 or 1/3 of the round then shift focus to larger checks.

Also, how much capital are you asking for? 1.5MM – 2MM may be too high. Review your financial model. Can you make things happen with 1MM? If so, revise your model to be more capital efficient.

It is always better to start lower and then, based on the demand, over-subscribe vs. starting high and never getting there.

Series A Fundraising Strategy

It's really tough to raise series A if you don't have strong metrics. Some founders raise on a story, but they are either repeat founders or working in the hyped-up spaces. Most founders will need really strong metrics.

There are exceptions, but if you are already generating revenue, you will be judged by your a) MRR/ARR and b) MoM Growth. However, strong metrics alone won't get you a check. Not in this market, anyway.

The dance to raise series A involves identifying the right firms and identifying the right partners, then getting to know them and letting them get to know you. It will also involve a lot of guts and luck.

Clearly assess how much appetite there is on the market. You should have a gut feel.

If the demand is not there, cut the burn (you should do it anyway), and go back to building the business.

Focus on getting to profitability.

Get feedback from the investors on what your metrics need to look like and keep them posted every eight weeks or so. Assuming you are growing well and hitting profitability, the investors will likely be open to another conversation.

In conclusion, fundraising is stressful, complex and needs to be done thoughtfully or else it is extra painful and takes way too long.

A lot of founders get fundraising wrong.

Do not fundraise randomly and perpetually. By doing so, you are literally harming your company and your personal brand.

As the CEO/founder, have the strength to listen to feedback, understand that you are not ready, pause, regroup, improve, and go back to the market.

And lastly, get help! Read up, connect with other founders and get 2-3 key advisors on board. You don't have to do this by yourself.

 

Originally posted on Alex's blog.




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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

You Do Not Overcome Depression, You Move Through It

May is Mental Health month. This is the next post in our series on depression and the startup community. 

I like formulas. I like checklists. I like one, two, threes. Dotted i's and crossed t's. I like it when all I have to do is put in the work and I'll get the promised outcome. I don't care if the work is hard or messy, if you tell me that if I just do A, I will get desired result B, I'll do it.

I've had the good fortune to work with Jerry and Parker Palmer over the last few months on a to be published book discussing depression and entrepreneurship. Jerry and Parker both have a gift for articulating the experience of depression. As we've worked on the manuscript I've often found comfort in their ability to express in words what I myself have experienced, but not articulated. There is a great comfort and hope that comes from the connection of shared experience, especially when in its depths depression is so deeply isolating.

The journey of entrepreneurship and the "startup life" are the human experience at extremes. When life can feel so polarized, it is not surprising that many on this path find themselves suffering from depression. The past few months have been a hopeful time to be paying attention to this topic as progressively more individuals have opened up about their experiences, media has published multiple articles on the subject and new technologies to support those who are suffering have been introduced.

Each of these can be incredibly useful. The importance of understanding that you are not alone in depression is tantamount to surviving its lowest depths. And any effort to bring comfort and hope to those suffering is something I can get behind. Yet, with this growing interest and awareness comes what I find to be a troubling idea: that there is an easy solution to overcome your depression.

Let's be clear: there is no solution to depression. There is no formula, there is no checklist, there is no one, two, three; no A, B, C. Depression is not a thing you overcome, it is something you move through.

Allow me, or better, allow Jerry Colonna and Parker Palmer to explain. The following is an excerpt from a 2013 discussion between Jerry and Parker at Naropa University about entrepreneurship and depression:

In the startup world there is such a profound reliance on the intellect. There is such a profound belief. We were talking about our friend Brad Feld's recent postings and some of the comments, looking for what feels as if a willful doing, in response to the pressure. Take more Vitamin D — which, by the way, is really great. Get more sunlight, which is really great. Get more exercise, which is really great. But there's a relationship, I think, between learning to accept being, learning to accept the authentic self, and learning not to rely so much on the doing as a pathway through this.

We have so much in this culture that's about pull yourself up by your own bootstraps, but in the depths of this thing, you don't have boots, let alone bootstraps. And that has to be recognized. You're forced back on something more primitive in the human self, more original, more spare, more wild, really. And to live from that place without the hubris that says, "I can solve everything with my intellect." And then, to fall into the despair of, "Well, why isn't it happening?".

Depression is not a life sentence. We do not have to sit idly by doing nothing. This is not an argument against action. Rather it is an imploring to abandon expectation. To understand that depression is not formulaic. It doesn't follow the rules. You can't work your way out of depression. It takes what it takes to move through depression. And "what it takes" is not a universal solution.

Originally posted on Medium




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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Startup Success: Why Everything Must Work Out In Your Favor

Last week I talked to a young, first time founder. Before we even talked about Techstars, he said, "You know what, we have raised a little bit of cash, we have a good advisor, we are probably okay, we don't need an accelerator."

You cannot imagine how much I cringe when I hear that kind of statement.

It is very difficult for me to convey to first time founders what lies ahead of them. Indeed, if they knew, they wouldn't do it. "You don't know what you don't know." I am not a Donald Rumsfeld fan, but he is right.

Building a successful startup is incredibly difficult. The reason is this: In order to build a great startup, EVERYTHING has to work out for you. EVERYTHING.

The CEO, the team, the market, the business model, the pricing, the marketing, the sales, the customer success, the design, the engineering, finance, HR, recruitment, culture, your investors, your board, your advisors, your competitors must screw up, the world changes in ways favourable to you, the tech stacks shift in your favour. And more. EVERYTHING.

If only ONE of those things goes really wrong, you will likely shut down. ONE key aspect wrong, company likely dead. You need to master ALL of them. And if you want to build a world class company, all of these better be world class.

That is very, very hard.

The question every founder needs to ask themselves is whether they think they are world class at those things. Do you know what it takes to be world class? Do you know how to recognize it? Where would you find those kind of people? How would you hire people who are? Which ones do you hire first? How much do you spend? Could you even afford any of them? What would you do with them once you hired them?

I am now 40 years old. I have been involved with startups for the last dozen years or so. I can tell you one thing with total conviction:

If I were doing another startup, I would try to get the best possible people around me. There are so many things that I don't know and so many things I am not good at, and definitely not world class in many of them. The only way to overcome this is having incredible people around me. As many and as early as possible.

In this context, think again about a world class accelerator. In that accelerator, you of course get some cash, but here is what you really get:

An advisory team of 100+ mentors, access to a global network of thousands of founders who are on your side, the accelerator staff, the LPs in their funds, the corporate partners, the sponsors, the companies who provide perks and everybody else who is involved. They all work for the startups, because they want to, not because they get paid to do it.

I wish accelerators had existed 10 years ago. It is the primary reason I do what I do right now. It is the reason why the Managing Directors at Techstars do what they do. We do this, because we wish somebody had done it for us.

I personally think that getting everything I describe above for 6% founder equity is most likely the best way to spend less than 1/3 of a 20% option pool one could ever imagine. Maybe I am wrong. But then the startups I have been involved with had up to $300m annual revenue and 500+ staff. The best CEOs of these startups had the best advisors and mentors very early on.

Something to think about.

Applications are now open for the METRO Accelerator, powered by Techstars. Apply here!




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Monday, May 23, 2016

6 Signs You Shouldn’t Have Your Own Startup

Who hasn't told themselves at least once (or twice) – "I've got a great idea and it'll be worth millions.. It's time to launch my startup."
That's good and all, but launching a startup takes far more than a solid idea and a lofty goal. The hard truth is that some people probably shouldn't become founders.

With every dream comes a reality. It's not for the faint of heart, and while a healthy dose of delusion will get you through the excruciating pain of your first years as an entrepreneur, you do owe it to yourself to really understand what you're about to get into. We hear the great success stories and watch the whirlwind humor of Silicon Valley on TV, but rarely talk about the failures.

The statistics alone are revealing. The most recent reveals that  about 9 out of 10 startups fail, and that's a generous calculation ("not fail" has a broad meaning and can be interpreted in many ways. It doesn't mean that the 1 out of 10 startups had successful exits or IPOs).Sure, there may be incredible moments of success and accomplishment, but for most, the reality of success is slim to none. Becoming an entrepreneur and launching your own startup takes nerve.

I'd go so far as to say it also requires a certain character and attitude, something that goes as deep as your DNA. If you don't have it, the dream will quickly be shattered.

Here are 6 things to be cautious of when you first go all-in:

1. You're perpetually stressed out –  Some people are calm by nature and some are stressed out all the time. Yes, being a successful entrepreneur means you have to be alert and sharp, but it doesn't mean a constant sense of tension. Planning and launching your startup entails many stressful situations but to be an accomplished entrepreneur, you need to know how to control it. Making decisions and functioning under constant pressure will cause you to make mistakes and eventually fail. The stakes only get higher when you're tasked with easing a team. Your first 10 employees will develop and carry your company culture to your next 100, and if that culture is riddled with anxiety and worry about the unknown, you simply won't make it. That kind of mentality creates a toxic work environment, and the only time your team will feel relief is when you take a sick day.

 

2. You're indecisive – Making decisions and taking risks on an hourly basis are what startups are all about. You need to be strong with your decisions or risk going into a tailspin.. Successful entrepreneurs know to make decisions quickly, and also stand behind those decisions. We're not talking about being stubborn and not or refusing to be flexible in changing conditions. Rather, when you're are unable to make a decision, whether it's about who to hire or what your product roadmap should look like, you're letting your self-doubt take over.


3. Your have awful budget and forecast planning skills 
You don't plan your budget right and it seems like you're always down to your last three months. This could be an extra stressful situation when you have to pay suppliers or employees. A good entrepreneur thinks long-term and also knows to strike the iron while it's hot. Investors are looking first and foremost at growth and growth opportunities. If you had a period of terrific growth in your startup that's recently slowed down, it may be too late to get new funding.

 

4. You spend too much money on useless advisors – You don't have time to hire staff for all the positions you wish you could fill, so you retain advisors for one-time projects. The devotion and dedication of an advisor is not like the devotion of an employee, and that sometimes makes all the difference. You may also be under the false impression that it saves you money (but it actually doesn't). A good advisor is costly, and usually not less than what a good hiree would take. A bad advisor will help you with nothing, and happily cash your check all the same.

 

5. Your interpersonal skills suck – overall, you are not the nicest person. You also like to gossip and talk behind people's back. Unfortunately, that didn't change when you launched your own company and hired employees. It's also extremely difficult for you to say something nice, let alone compliment someone on a job well done and overall, be appreciative of others.

 

6. You're not a role model – Your employees and peers don't look up to you and you expect of them to perform a certain way and do certain things that you are not doing yourself. As an entrepreneur, any person that first meets you will label you a leader and you will immediately sense their respect. But, this leader reputation can fade fast when you are not acting on it. It can start by coming to the office at noon and leaving at 4 to just not caring at staff meetings. Remember that you are at the top of the pyramid, and everyone is noticing you. If you don't deliver leadership, you will not be perceived as one.

 

Originally published on Tech In Asia




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Thursday, May 19, 2016

7 Calendar Tips for Startups

I once had the pleasure of hearing Lou Gerstner, former CEO of IBM, speak. Something he said stuck in my head: "Never let anyone own your schedule." It's simple, it's obvious, yet it's genius.

Over the years, whenever I didn't follow this advice, I was stressed and unproductive. Gradually, I learned that planning and following a routine makes a huge difference in how I feel and what I get done. Here are some of the things that help me manage my schedule that you may find helpful:

1. Create a routine

No matter what you are working on, create a routine. Block times for specific activities and stick with the plan. Turn your calendar into a bunch of blocks, and put activities into those blocks. Whatever is not planned, you don't do. If you want free time / exercise time / reading TechCrunch time, plan it all.

Your routine may change throughout the year, but at any given time it's better to have a plan. For example, if you are working on launching a company, and need to do customer discovery, coding, and hiring, then prioritize and block specific times for each activity.

Here is a sample calendar I made that illustrates some of the concepts and ideas from this post.

2. Group meetings and calls into blocks

Group meetings and calls into time blocks. For example, if you need to have outside meetings, block two 1/2 days a week for those meetings, and go to the outside meetings only during those times. Do the same thing for in-office meetings. This way you are not only creating a chunk of time for meetings, you are also creating other blocks of time that you will be able to focus on important P1 work. Do the same thing with calls – book them all back-to-back.

3. Optimize time for different meeting types

Personally, I am now a big fan of 30-minute meetings and 10-minute calls. I think 10-minute calls are a great way to initially connect with someone or give someone quick advice. You can do a Google Hangout or Skype if you prefer to see the person instead of just hearing them. The reason 10-minute calls work is because people skip the B.S. and get to the point. Try it – 10 minutes is actually a lot of time, if you focus. I prefer to do these calls on Fridays, when I am usually working from home.

I am not a big fan of introductory coffee meetings, lunches and dinners. I am a huge fan of coffee and meals with people I already know. Those meetings are typically productive and fun, but the first time you are meeting someone, it's more productive to do a call, or an actual 30-minute meeting in the office.

Here are the types of meetings you might want to book:

  • 30-min meeting in the office to get to know someone or catch up
  • 45-min meeting outside of the office, allow 15-min travel time
  • 10-min call to help someone who needs advice
  • 15-min daily standup – great for startups / engineering teams
  • 30-min weekly staff meeting

Whatever meetings you do, group them into blocks depending on your particular schedule. If you feel like a particular type of meeting needs more or less time, then adjust the block accordingly.

4. Use Appointment Slots

There is a great feature in Google Calendar called Appointment Slots. It allows you to book a chunk of time and then split it into pieces. For example, I can book 3 hours of outside meetings and then split it into 3 meetings – 1 hour each. Or I can book 1 hour of calls and split it into 6 calls, 10 minutes each. There is also a bunch of specific tools, like doodle, that do that too.

The next step is to create bit.ly links for different blocks of time. You can have a link for your outside meetings, another link for 30-minute inside meetings and yet another one for 10-minute calls. You then share these links with people and they can book the time with you. I've done this with Techstars candidate companies and it was amazingly effective. It minimized the back-and-forth on the email and saved a ton of time for me and the companies.

This won't work with everyone, because some people may find this rude. I personally don't find it rude at all when someone sends me their availability. In any case, if you are not comfortable sending the link to someone, then you can use your own Appointment Slots, suggest a few meeting times, and then book the specific slot yourself.

Btw, if you are asking someone to meet, always propose several specific alternative times such as Tuesday at 4:30 pm, or 5:00 pm, or Wednesday at 11:00 am, or Friday at 4:30 pm.
David Tisch gave a great talk that covers scheduling meetings and many more basics of communication.

5. Block time for email

This is the most important tip in the whole post. Email will own you unless you own it. To own your email you must avoid doing it all the time. To do that, you need to schedule the time to do your email. It is absolutely a must. In fact, it is so important that I wrote a whole entire blog post just about managing your email. Go read Inbox 0.

6. Plan your exercise and family time

Unless you put it on the calendar, it won't get done. Well, that applies to your exercise and time with your family as well. Whether you go in the morning, afternoon, or evening; whether you do it 3 times a week or every day, put the exercise time on the calendar. My friend and mentor Nicole Glaros, makes it very clear that her mornings, until 10 am, belong to her. She hits the pavement or the gym, depending on the weather, and rarely deviates from her routine.

I have been guilty of not having regular exercise routine because I am adjusting to my new in-program schedule, but I am jamming exercise in whenever I can, 4 times a week, and actively working on locking in my specific exercise schedule. Without regular exercise, I can't be productive at running the fast-paced 13-week marathon called the Techstars NYC program.

Same thing goes about planning time with your family and significant others. If you are a workaholic like me, you will end up stealing time from your family, unless you book it in advance and train yourself to promptly unplug. Many people in the industry have talked about planning family time. My favorite is Brad Feldwho talks about it a lot.

7. Actually manage your time

I think about my time a lot. I think about where it goes. I think about where I can get more of it and how to optimize it. When I was running GetGlue, I had an assistant who was managing my time. She was awesome, she really was. But when I joined Techstars, I decided that I will manage my calendar myself. I have to confess that I am super happy about this decision.

I find myself thinking about what I am doing, who am I meeting with and why a lot more. I meet with a HUGE amount of people every week. My schedule is particularly insane during the selection process. Yet, because I manage my calendar, follow a routine, plan meetings in blocks and use Appointment slots, I find myself less overwhelmed and less stressed.

Taking ownership of my calendar and planning my days and weeks made me a happier and more productive human. I hope this post helps you get there too.

And of course, I would love to hear your productivity tips. How do you manage your time? How do you handle your calendar? What tools do you use? Please share in the comments below.

Originally posted on Alex's blog.




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Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Techstars Ventures Announces Investment in ConnXus

We're proud to be an investor in ConnXus, a supplier diversity technology platform. Techstars Ventures led the $5M financing in ConnXus, with participation from Serious Change L.P., Impact America Fund and The Social Entrepreneurs' Fund (TSEF).

CEO Rod Robinson founded ConnXus as a result of his personal experience and frustration with the complexities associated with locating qualified diverse suppliers, tracking spending, tracking diversity certifications, and reporting reliable results in accordance with corporate and government mandates.  ConnXus now solves this problem with its simple to use, cloud-based, technology platform.  

We made a seed investment in ConnXus last year, and when Techstars launched several internal diversity initiatives – including the Techstars Foundation – we invited Rod to join the advisory board given his deep domain expertise. Rod has been a huge help to the Foundation. It's a classic #givefirst story of Rod helping out with the Foundation that enabled us to get to know him better and ultimately, led us to make a larger investment in ConnXus.

Not only does ConnXus align with our initiatives to serve high-performing, emerging technology companies, but it has created innovative software that directly improves diversity in the supply chain for startups and corporations.

Techstars Ventures is the venture capital arm of Techstars with $265 million under management. We primarily co-invest alongside venture capital and angel communities in Techstars accelerator program graduates, new companies started by Techstars alumni, and companies formed by Techstars mentors.

Welcome, ConnXus, to the Techstars family!




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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

How To Avoid Burnout

May is Mental Health month. This is the third post in a series on depression and the startup community. 

The startup life is an intense and intensely personal experience. Poet David Whyte said, "Work is where we can make ourselves; work is where we can break ourselves." We've seen so much of the making and breaking in this world of fast paced startups, big exits, and failures. Perhaps the greatest detriment has been the rise in burnout and depression in the startup community. What follows is our absolute best advice on how to navigate the startup world without losing yourself in the fire.

It starts with radical self inquiry.

What is Work?

More importantly, what is your relationship to work? As humans, we work for purpose and meaning, to create value in the world and for money. Yet very few of us take the time to explore what work truly means to us and where we first learned our beliefs about work.

What is work to you? Is it your job or your joy? What did you parents teach you about work? How did they relate to work? What is your relationship to work right now? What is success to you? What is failure?

We bring a lot to work, and we check a lot of ourselves at the door of our respective workplaces before we enter. When you understand the story under the story of your relationship to work, or discover what is truly driving you, a new understanding of why you do what you do may surface. Apperception is the gateway to stronger decision making.

When it comes to finding meaningful work, know what connects you to your purpose and commit to align with it often.

What parts of you show up at work? How can you bring your wholeness into work?

Embrace Vulnerability

How's your heart? How do you feel? What are you not saying that needs to be said?

Startups are stressful. They can be incredibly lonely, frustrating, disappointing, overwhelming — and a whole host of other emotions. If these emotions are not released or are stuffed down and tucked away for later, they can compound in their intensity just under the surface of you. Allowing yourself to get comfortable with vulnerability can diffuse stress and cortisol build-up caused by the extremes of the startup life.

Start by voicing your feelings, even if it's just to yourself or your journal. Take refuge in the private pages of your always-there-for-you journal and let your pen do the writing. The stream of consciousness style of writing helps to release thoughts, emotions and other mental tangles that may be weighing heavily on you. Working with a coach can create space for you to open up and receive support to shift from draining habits and patterns to more life-giving ways of being. Connecting to a community of peers allows you to find a sense of safety and belonging.

Be honest, bold and real with yourself.

Know Your Flow

When hard work equates to constant stress, you won't produce good results. From a neurological perspective, working with a brain constantly in survival mode — from a place of fight or flight — is the fastest way to deplete your resources as a human being, and can tank your ability to be an effective leader.

There is a powerful engagement in the oscillation between the states of optimal performance and recovery that is your prime resource of creativity. To work hard and work better, you need to be alive — you need to learn what it takes for you to be in your creative flow.

How do you work best? How do you show up on your best days? What do you do to show up on your best days (eat well, sleep well, exercise, play, etc.)? What can you do to support yourself so that you can show up like that more often?

Look Fear in the Face

What are you afraid of? What are you afraid of? What are you afraid of?

As humans we fear many things that compromise our sense of safety, love and belonging. We also fear uncertainty — and startups are a sea of uncertainty. When it comes to fear and failure in our startup saturated lives, it's good to know what fears are at play for you.

Your fear has much to teach you. Be brave enough to ask yourself in moments what you might be afraid of. Trace your responses and inquire deeper. Voicing your fears is to know what underlying stuff you're working with and what may be unconsciously driving you. Until you get to the root of that fear, it can consume you and keep you from a fulfilling life. What is the fear you're running away from? What will it take to admit and surrender to it?

How might you do something differently if you weren't afraid? What would you dare to ask for?

Know Yourself

Being a leader requires a cultivated depth of self-knowledge and awareness. Take some time to reflect on the following:

What do you really believe? What is your vision for your life? What values do you hold? What kind of company do you want to build? What kind of adult do you want to be? How do you want to be remembered? How do you want to feel in your days?

Rooting and Rituals

Once you begin the unfolding of who you are and want to be in the world, you can build that into your daily patterns and create that life for yourself day by day.

Personal rituals can help you connect to who you are and your purpose, and provide a center to orient your day around. Develop a habit of grounding to remember those important things — who you are, what you believe, what your vision is and what your intentions are for the day. These are your Polaris, your living why. Giving yourself this time for you can affect all the choices you make in your day.

What are rituals and things you can do to nourish your deepest sense of self daily? How can you slow down and find the pause in your day?

Relax

How do you play? How do you unplug and recharge? What fuels your spirit? How can you create unburdened moments into your days?

Learning to relax and lighten up is the key to your sustainability, resiliency, agility as a leader in your life, work and relationships. And, relaxation is the key to creativity.

"The opposite of play is not work. It's depression." — Stuart Brown

Create spaces in your days that are unburdened and you are connected to your most intimate being and to your community.

What is the change you want to see and bring to the world? Startups begin with an amazing idea that sparked a successful company doing great, new things. In the rapid growth of startup life, it's important to reconnect to those moments that bring you alive and to cultivate more moments like that. That's where your next great idea is going to come from.




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Monday, May 16, 2016

How To Grow Your Startup With No Budget

Moran is an advisor in the Techstars accelerator in Tel Aviv and the co-founder of No CMO, online marketing strategies for founders and companies without a CMO.

As an entrepreneur, you master a wide range of skills: you are resilient, passionate, a leader, and always focused on your company's success. The vast majority of entrepreneurs also come from a technical background, and the core team they build around them is often comprised of people with similar skills. 

This may often lead to the startup's marketing efforts being kept on the back burner in the initial stages of the company, and later being outsourced; however, marketing is a crucial aspect of a company and should be treated as such from the start. It defines the positioning of your company in the market, your brand, and the packaging of the product you're selling. 

The role of CMO has grown dramatically over the past several years as the function of marketing evolved. Marketing is not about just selling the product; it's about engaging customers and driving growth. Marketers are no longer simply the broadcasters of communications, but rather, they've become much more involved in the customer's journey with the product and the company.

A good CMO needs to be equal parts creative and analytical, thinking outside the box and having a deep understanding of the full picture in terms of what's going on in the market and within the company. As not all startups can afford to hire a seasoned CMO or even have a marketing budget to begin with, you as an entrepreneur should know that you can grow your startup under a small or even non-existent budget and be your own CMO. Combining your entrepreneurial skills and passion with the right guidance and tools is key to avoiding mistakes and burning a lot of money on ineffective marketing.

During my work with startups and entrepreneurs, I was sometimes amazed at how important decisions like company name, branding, website and the like were made with a seemingly devil-may-care attitude. Entrepreneurs would often latch onto their latest whims and get carried away with them, without considering crucial elements like target audience and fit.

One of the most important things in marketing is planning and strategizing. Instead of diving directly into media buying and testing various channels, think first of your goals. Who your potential clients are, where they are located, and even which devices they are likely to use when visiting your site or trying your product are all important pieces of information you need to have. Understanding who you are selling to and what you are selling does not necessarily require a marketing budget. 

Here are 4 things you can do right now to grow your startup without a CMO or budget:

1. Use existing free resources to spread the word about your startup: There are some high-quality blogs and forums with a large and relevant audience that can be your content distributor and promote your startup. Popular blogs like ProductHuntBetalist and startupli.st are ones that are being visited often by potential customers, tech industry members (including possible future investors or employees) and reporters. Promoting the launch of your startup in one of these blogs can generate massive traffic to your site and even spark interest in tech reporters who can later on cover your startup in large tech news outlets.

2. Reach out to bloggers and reporters yourself: Having a small or zero dollar marketing budget probably means you won't be able to afford a good PR agency. Don't be tempted to work with cheap agencies that can't deliver (for reference, good PR agencies in the U.S charge somewhere between $5K-$10K/month), but rather do the outreach yourself. Whenever you are ready to spread the word about your company, prepare a pitch or a press release and send it to reporters who you know cover your field. Like anything in marketing, the best results are the targeted ones. Most media outlets publish their reporters' emails, and there are some great templates you can use to draft a release. Before sending, do your homework on what a reporter is interested in. Influential reporters and bloggers receive hundreds of pitches a day, so the major part of your work is to plan and create a great pitch. To make sure it's appealing and interesting, run it by your friends first to solicit feedback.

3. Use your personal network: Not all marketing and growth has to do with SEO, conferences and buying media. Your personal network is valuable and can lead to even more valuable second and third degree connections. Maintaining a strong personal network is important for any entrepreneur, as it can be tapped into from the brainstorming stage – advising with friends on aspects of the product, name, etc. – all the way through to the launch stage and future partnerships.

4. Use A/B testing methods to increase conversion: A/B testing is something that can really help you grow, without investing a lot of money. By using tools such as Optimizely and Unbounce, you can maximize the potential of users who are already visiting your site. A/B testing can be tricky if not done right, as you don't want to be overwhelmed by numerous variables. Simplify the tests, and each time, check one variable or two. You will be surprised how a small change in the color of a button or the size of your header image can boost your conversion rate, sometimes by 20%-30% or even more.

Originally published on TheNextWeb.




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Friday, May 13, 2016

Join Us Next Week for Boulder Startup Week 2016

Greetings! Here is what you need to know about Boulder Startup Week 2016…

What: Boulder Startup Week is heading into its 6th year! As the original Startup Weekit sets the tone for how startup communities come together to build the next wave of great companies. There will be over 200 free events across 26 tracks open to the entire community to celebrate entrepreneurship!

When: May 16 – 20, 2016

Where: All over Boulder, CO (mostly downtown)

Who: Anyone interested in the startup ecosystem. From first-time entrepreneurs to startup veterans, there's something for everyone.

Why: Because Boulder is consistently recognized as one of the top destinations to build and grow a startup. The density of well-educated, driven, adventurous people is a recipe for success. The view isn't bad either…

How: A team of amazing volunteers. Startup Week is possible thanks to a large group of devoted volunteers that pour their heart and soul into making this week exciting, powerful and fun. Financial support from local sponsors helps a whole lot, too!

Here are a few of the events from each day that we are especially excited about:

Monday

Future of Entrepreneurship in Boulder

By 2020, 1 in 6 people will be entrepreneurs. This dramatic change is being influenced by paradigm shifts not only in the way that we work, but also in the way we live. But are we ready for that shift? We will discuss what this could mean for the Boulder startup ecosystem and/or the Global startup community.

The Creative Entrepreneur – Stories & Insights from Startup Front-lines

Come ready to dig into the ideas and techniques that foster constructive creativity and an interactive and collaborative experience. SheSays leadership and facilitators will guide the room in a participatory workshop. The goal is to provide tools and structure to unlock your own creativity and bring insight to your next innovation challenge. 

Tuesday

Accelerate Over Coffee

Head to the backporch of Trident to learn from some of the best accelerators about how their companies are so successful because of strong mentorship. You'll come away with an understanding of how do I find mentors, what's that relationship like, what do I do when I have a mentor, and how can I accelerate my startup before getting into an accelerator and keep the momentum going after an accelerator.

It Takes Two to Tango – The Working Relationship Between Venture Capitalists and Angel Investors

Angel investors and VCs often work together on deals, either co-investing or on different rounds in a startup's journey. Join our panelists to discuss the ins and outs of working together to get these deals done.

Hiring Hacks and Best Practices from Twitter and Techstars

Leaders from Techstars and Twitter explore the realities of hiring and retaining the best talent. Do you hire for attitude or aptitude? Is it easier to retain an A-Player than attract one? Come find out!

Why and How We Invest In Women

Find out why three of Boulder's most active investors are proactively investing in more women. We'll discuss their motivation and investment criteria, the advantages and challenges of investing in women, and lessons learned. Anyone interested in investing in women or startups in general, increasing workplace gender diversity, or seeking funding from startup investors should attend.  

Wednesday

The Startup Showcase

Meet and connect with founders and their teams and be inspired by what's being built in our community. Startup Showcase features companies from the current Techstars class, Techstars alumni, teams from Startup Weekend, and other community-driven companies. 

Techstars Boulder Demo Night!

In the heart of Boulder Startup Week, join the larger community in attending Techstars Demo Night on May 18th. This evening is the culmination of the Techstars Boulder 2016 program and opportunity for the 11 companies to pitch to investors and showcase their business to friends, family and the community. 

Thursday

Mental Health and Wellbeing in the Startup Realm

Three of the most respected names in startups and investing discuss their personal experience with mental health and wellbeing (or lack thereof) and best practices to live a healthier, happier, more productive startup life. Q&A to follow moderated discussion!

Seth Levine: Let's Get Real About Angel Investing in Colorado

Seth Levine of Foundry Group will give a presentation about the state of angel investing in Colorado and what we can do together to make the industry great going forward.

CODE: Debugging the Gender Gap Documentary

Through compelling interviews, artistic animation and clever flashpoints in popular culture, CODE documentary examines the reasons why more girls and people of color are not seeking opportunities in computer science and explores how cultural mindsets, stereotypes, educational hurdles and sexism all play roles in this national crisis.

Friday

Make a Lasting Impact: Volunteer Project

Help finish the beautification project on Boulder's Historic Bandstand! Work alongside Bridge House's Ready To Work employees to touch up the bench painting project and clear out the painting materials from the bandstand. 

So You Want To Do A Startup Week In Your City

Startup Week is a movement that started right here in Boulder! Join founder Andrew Hyde and some special guests on how you can take this model to your great city. 

FounderFights – The Struggle Is Real, You Might As Well Hit Something!

Join us for an evening event to watch dedicated startup Founders from Boulder and around the US reach within the depths of themselves to apply the skill and determination it takes to step in the boxing ring to fight each other all for the sake of raising money for a charity close to their hearts. 

Events are filling up fast, so create your schedule today. If an event you really want to attend is full you can still show up, help usher people in, and there just might be room for you after all. And be sure to read up on the Code of Conduct before you roll up your sleeves and dive in!




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Thursday, May 12, 2016

7 Benefits Your VC Should Provide

There's a new person in your life. It's probably a guy. He probably wears chinos with a blue shirt. He's probably standing awkwardly next to the coffee machine in the kitchen of your startup trying (and failing) to make small talk with your backend server team.

The primary reason startups take venture capital is because of just that – the capital. But entrepreneurs should expect their investor to bring a whole lot more than just money to the table.

Every entrepreneur can expect their venture investors to bring seven main benefits to the table. If you already have venture investors, you can use this article as-is. If you are currently considering fundraising, reverse it and ask prospective investors if they are able to support you in these key areas. If not, ask yourself if you're talking to the right people.

  1. The Long Haul – Mileage may very, but you can assume that your Series A venture investors will be on your board for five to nine years. That's about the same length as the average marriage in the US.  In other words, it's a long time. This means you need to build a relationship.  

Like any relationship, you need to start with a positive attitude and work to dispel any niggles in the early days. I've seen entrepreneurs immediately slap a new investor with unexpected terms after a term sheet is signed. I've seen investors turn up to the first board meeting and demand that every aspect of the business is run a different way, before they attempt to understand the company's current cadence.

My advice to both is: go slower; there's plenty of time, you should take it.

  1. The Network – Venture capitalists tend to be networking machines. Their success often depends on it, and the day to day reality of their work means that they meet up to 10 new people every day. In addition to this sheer level of 'exposure', VCs occupy a unique position as a 'gateway' to new technology and cutting edge industry trends. This means that they are usually able to lean on people they don't know and often get a meeting if needed.

Before every board meeting or conversation, think of who you need to meet. Use LinkedIn and discover who your investor knows, and ask them to put you in touch. As an entrepreneur, you should exploit this network unashamedly!

  1. The Next Round – It may seem early, but at some point, you may have to raise another investment round. This may be another private, venture round or a public offering. As most investors focus on particular 'stages' of investment (seed, Series A etc), they are likely to have worked with companies at a similar stage to yours, who went on to raise additional funding.

Use that experience. Ask your investor what your next investor is likely to look for. Ask for access to presentations that worked well in the past (assuming confidentiality can be lifted or sensitive information redacted), and – most importantly – before you start your next fund-raise process, ask to present to your existing investors. Their feedback will be invaluable. I've had a couple of portfolio companies miss this opportunity, and I won't let another make this mistake.

  1. The Critical Hire – The typical venture investor usually has a slightly higher level understanding of any given company. Therefore, venture investors are genuinely rather good at painting the big picture of the company. This can be super-useful when convincing that critical, senior hire to join your company.  This is one of my personal favourites. I've helped a number of CEOs on this, and nothing feels more awesome than knowing you're helping build the team.
  1. The Critical Sale – Similar to above, sometime you will have a large potential customer that needs some extra reassurance from someone who, ultimately, has your company's (financial) back. I have found this to be especially crucial for enterprise software companies. As you can imagine, if you're selling your solution to a large corporate customer, they often need convincing that you are not going to go bust in the next year. Your investor is often the most authoritative voice on this topic.
  1. The Counsellor – No investor or board member can tell you what to do. That is the great (and also terrifying) thing about being a CEO.  The buck, ultimately, stops with you.

However, a good investor is an experienced soul, and will have been through many similar trials and tribulations that you find yourself battling against. Some will have done it all before themselves – which is one of the reasons our firm has always had a healthy balance of entrepreneurs on the team – and others will have seen it as an investor with other CEOs.  The good investors spot the patterns, and are able to be a thoughtful and engaged listener as you talk through an issue and decide how to deal with it.

On a human level, this can be a rewarding part of the investor/founder relationship – of course there are many conversations on things like pricing strategies, marketing ideas or human resource issues, but the most memorable conversations are always personal. Dealing with an employee who is facing a difficult situation at home, working through the tough steps that need to be taken when a founder exits a company, and confronting failure – whether this is of a person, a team, a product or even the whole company. These things are tough, but they all happen, and a good investor will be by your side when you confront them.

  1. The Exit – whether you're selling to another company or taking your company public (which may or may not really be an exit in itself) good investors will have experience of this. Again, the best firms will have a mixture of people who have done it with others, and those who have done it themselves. I took my company public so I can talk people through my experience on a personal level, but one of my partners advised on over $500B of IPOs and M&As over his career as a banker which gives him an entirely different perspective on the process. Great firms will have investors with deep experience in this area and be able to bring it bear when you hit that point of your company's progression.

The best entrepreneurs are resourceful beings who pull in whatever they can from those around them. While that has to be balanced in the case of, say, employees, where there is an obvious power differential, I always encourage CEOs to exploit their venture investors. Let's be honest, we are perfectly capable of taking care of ourselves!

Of course the investor starts by providing the capital your company needs to grow, but the right kind of investor should deliver a whole lot more too.




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Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Mental Health and Wellness in the Startup Realm

May is Mental Health month. This is the second part is a series on mental health in the startup community. Today's guest post comes to us from Dave Mayer, Founder and CEO of Technical Integrity.

During my relatively short six-year journey through the startup landscape- I've been through ugly founder breakups, I've lost plenty of money, way too much time, and I ended up in the hospital from exhaustion from too many 100 hour weeks.

That's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the reality of building new companies. I know of suicides, families being torn apart and of course, severe depression.

While it can be exhilarating to be an entrepreneur or to work as a member of a startup, it's most certainly a roller-coaster of emotions- and it often goes on for YEARS.

Successes are often followed by disappointments and just being able to process the complexities of legal agreements, founder disputes, hiring and firing employees, scaling or downsizing, taking on funding, failing, iterating…you get the point.

It can and does boggle the mind.

The most helpful thing for me personally was to be able to compare notes on a regular basis with my fellow entrepreneurs who were going through similar challenges. Even with a monthly 'therapy' session with my brothers-and-sisters-in-arms, my stress levels remained incredibly high and exercise and meditation were barely addressing my issues.  Alcohol helped- only for a few hours- and of course, the next day – I was never at my best, unable to focus or be productive.

The good news is I'm not alone – nor do I feel that way. (I certainly also recognize these issues are not unique to startups and they've been around for millennia).

One of my missions in the coming weeks, months and years is to provide my fellow startup enthusiasts and entrepreneurs with tools to become more educated, less stressed, more productive and more focused when it comes to their wellness- despite the constant barrage of change and tribulation.

My first public effort of this sort is to help moderate a discussion during the 2016 Boulder Startup Week with some of the most prolific and respected names in startups including Brad FeldJerry Colonna and Tom Higley.  A key portion of this event will be a long Q&A session with the audience to ensure folks can get answers they need. Each panelist has important personal stories to share, and tools and modalities to recommend.  None of us pretend to have all the answers- but each of us has enough experience to know that it's a fools errand to not listen to those who have been through it before. If we can help even one person who needs it- it will be worthwhile.

I believe the first step in this process is to eliminate the stigma associated with mental health issues in the entrepreneurial/startup realm. This will only happen when we openly and regularly discuss the issues, demonstrate that it's 'human' to have these challenges and to share our stories of how we've overcome them.

I will personally continue to explore healthy alternatives and approaches to my own stress including different mindfulness techniques, exercise that requires being fully present, and yes, therapy.

I also look forward to finding more colleagues and partners that are passionate about this subject.

To that end- I look forward to building further interactive and truly immersive programs in Colorado focused on entrepreneur wellbeing. I know we can help our colleagues lead healthier, more productive and happier lives. The impact of that can't be understated.

I hope you'll join me.

Learn more about Boulder Startup Week, kicking off Monday, May 16th. 




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Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Techstars Foundation Announces First Round of Grant Recipients

The Techstars Foundation is pleased to announce our first round of five grantees who are committed to improving the landscape of diversity in tech.

We received over 165 grant requests. The breadth of programs, initiatives and thought leadership related to diversity in technology entrepreneurship is awe-inspiring. The work that all of these organizations are doing on this important issue is creating real change while building stronger communities around the world. We applaud them all.

The mission of the Techstars Foundation is to provide grants and resources to organizations making a scalable impact in diversity in tech entrepreneurship. Our first group of five grantees encompasses a wide spectrum of underserved entrepreneurs, including women, minorities, veterans, people with criminal histories and those in resource restricted areas.

The first five organizations receiving financial grants and further assistance from the Techstars Foundation are:

Astia: Astia is transforming the way businesses are funded in the here and now, providing capital, connections, and expertise that fuel the growth of highly innovative, women-led ventures around the globe. Astia is manages the Astia Angels angel network, delivers  Astia Access programs for entrepreneurs, and looks forward to investing from the Astia Fund later this year.

Patriot Boot Camp: Patriot Boot Camp's core program is an intensive 3-day educational event designed to engage, inspire, and mentor military members, Veterans, and their spouses to start, innovate, and scale the next generation of technology-focused businesses.

Defy Ventures: Defy "transforms the hustle" of people with criminal histories by providing entrepreneurship training, intense character and personal development, job placement, executive mentorship, startup incubation, and "Shark Tank"-style pitch competitions that award $100,000 in seed funding per class.

Change Catalyst: Change Catalyst is an organization committed to inclusive innovation through two main initiatives, Tech Inclusion and Startup Showcases. Tech Inclusion explores innovative solutions to tech diversity and inclusion through events, career fairs, consulting and training. Startup Showcasees help underrepresented entrepreneurs and investors to start, scale and fund world changing businesses.

Gaza Sky Geeks: Gaza Sky Geeks (GSG) is a co-working hub, entrepreneurship outreach organization, and startup incubator and accelerator in Gaza, run by the global organization Mercy Corps. GSG has been one of the main organizers of Startup Weekend Gaza for five consecutive years and they are working on women's inclusivity programming.

Along with the financial  support, Techstars will leverage our broad global network of mentors, alumni and investors to provide additional support to these organizations. We will be featuring each of these five organizations  over the next few months through our social media channels and at various network events such as demo days.  

If you would like to learn more about these organizations or get involved, please contact: foundation@techstars.com.

We look forward to making a difference in diversity in technology entrepreneurship together, through the above partnerships and with your support.

Thank you again to our generous donors who have made these grants possible. We continue to encourage 100 percent participation from our network to help support this cause. Every dollar counts.  

If Techstars accelerators, staff, mentors or startup programs such as Startup Weekend and Startup Digest have helped you in some small way, please consider a donation of any amount to help improve diversity in tech entrepreneurship.

Grant requests are now open for the fall. Request a grant today!




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