Ep 52: Fraudmarc’s Keith Coleman on the Value of Give First as a Founder
If you’ve ever wondered just where Give First came from, or how it became such a central philosophy at Techstars, this episode is for you. Or if you’ve ever wanted to push back and say: does Give First really work? What’s in it for me? This is also the episode for you.A few months ago, Keith Coleman, Founder of Fraudmarc (Techstars Atlanta 2017) emailed David and Brad with the subject “give first, finish last.” In it, he explained his reservations with Give First. Basically, he asked: Is Give First right for new founders who are super focused on the survival of their company? Or is Give First for people who have already met with success, and who have the time and resources to be able to give?David and Brad’s response was to invite Keith on the show to talk about what Give First is, where it came from, and why it’s absolutely not just for the already successful. Give First is for every stage in your company, and in your entrepreneurial journey.
Ep 51: Bain Capital Ventures’ Matt Harris on supporting entrepreneurs through 25+ years as an investor
There are some people whose lives are perfect expressions of the zeitgeist. Matt Harris is one of them.In 1995, Matt’s college roommate at Williams started a company out of their dorm room. It was called Tripod, and it was one of the first dot com companies. By 1997, when Matt was 24, Williams invited him back to Williamstown, a rural community with a population of 6,000, to run an investing firm.When that was a success, Matt and that same college roommate, Bo Peabody, started Village Ventures to bring VC to secondary and tertiary cities around the U.S., with a focus on college towns with intellectual capital, but no venture capital.Fun fact: Matt’s first hire at Village Ventures was Gina Raimondo, who is now the U.S. Secretary of Commerce.In 2012, Village Ventures wound down, and Matt moved to Bain Capital Ventures, where he continues to invest in startups.Basically, Matt’s journey has paralleled, and shaped, that of venture capital in the age of the internet. Listen for insights into that rocky road, and how Matt has learned, over time, how to best support the entrepreneurs he’s invested in.
Ep 50: Sustainability and economic opportunity with Cody Simms of Techstars Climate Tech Podcast
People want their capital to be used for good, and whether it’s clean energy or sustainable agriculture, there is ample economic opportunity in efforts to decarbonize the planet. In this special podcast crossover episode, Techstars’ own David Cohen and Cody Simms discuss how the entrepreneurial ecosystem is rallying around climate change. If you haven't yet checked out the Techstars Climate Tech podcast, you can find it on all major podcast platforms.
Ep 49: The Community Fund’s Lolita Taub on investing in community-driven companies
Lolita Taub has always been about community, from her upbringing in South Central LA to now at The Community Fund, which is a venture capital fund that invests in community-driven companies, “connecting people to people and resources to achieve results.”By day, Lolita is the Corporate Development VP at Catalyte, but on breaks or weekends, she is an operator-investor, looking for those unicorns of the future. She believes these companies will “have customers that identify as members where members have a space to create value for each other, and then start this marketing sales flywheel.”Listen for Lolita’s ideas of the expensive side of building a customer base and how “only good things can come out of” involving customers into building a company, such as lifetime value, retention, sales leads, and talent acquisition, among other benefits.Also, don’t miss Lolita and David discussing the startup investor matching tool that began last year right on Twitter, and how COVID has changed how we build relationships.
Ep 48: Academy Investor Network’s Sherman Williams on going from military service to VC
From his service as a Naval Intelligence Officer to an MBA from the University of Chicago to becoming an investor in early-stage startups in healthcare tech, frontier tech, logistics, and marketplaces, Sherman Williams has had an interesting career.Now he’s also helping other U.S. Service Academy (USNA, USMA, USAFA, USCGA and USMMA) grads to invest as well. Many veterans want to get into entrepreneurship, but don’t know how to access a network to help them learn and grow. The Academy Investor Network invests in veteran-led startups (as well as civilian-led startups) that focus on “dual-use technology,” or tech that has both commercial and government purposes. Or as Sherman puts it, “technologies that help make our country safer, operate more efficiently, and have a strong commercial use case.”Listen for Sherman’s take on how technologies like this can have both civilian and military use cases, and how veterans can thrive in entrepreneurship.Oh, and definitely listen for David and Sherman’s brief but delightful discussion of reggae.Follow Sherman Williams on Twitter @vc_sherman
Ep 47: FemTech Focus’ Brittany Barreto, Ph.D. on creating a new category: FemTech
Brittany Barreto, Ph.D., started as an entrepreneur, transitioned to VC, and now is building a whole new category: FemTech. Yes, she invented the term, and you are encouraged to use it and spread it.Brittany realized that women’s health and wellness companies didn’t have the community that helps an industry thrive, so she set out to build it. She cofounded FemTech Focus, and started hosting the FemTech Focus Podcast to talk about “the innovative technology, services, and products (collectively known as femtech) that are improving women’s health and wellness.” FemTech focus is working to provide essentials like market research, industry awareness, founder training, and more that FemTech founders need in order to succeed.That was 2020. Now in 2021, Brittany is expanding to providing capital to the FemTech community, with her new firm, Coyote Ventures, which will fund seed stage FemTech startups.Does FemTech really need a category of its own? Here are Brittany’s stats on the size of FemTech: “Our current company database is 636 active FemTech startups in the world. We have found over 50 exits in the last 20 years. The average exit value is $480 million, which is significant because the average tech startup exit is $200 million.” So yes, it’s significant.This is how you coin a term, create a category, and grow a community.
Ep 46: David Cohen and Brad Feld reflect on over 40 episodes of the Give First Podcast
Toward the beginning of this conversation between David Cohen and Brad Feld — cofounders of Techstars and celebrated early-stage investors — Brad says, “I believe it takes a hundred episodes before you can really call yourself a podcast.”If that’s the standard, the Give First podcast isn’t a real podcast yet, since we’re only at about 45. But we’re quite proud that Give First has stuck around so long and found such a welcoming audience. Turns out that people want to hear about the warm, relationship-based, virtuous cycle side of entrepreneurship and tech that Give First elevates and celebrates.What have David and Brad learned in the process of making all these episodes? For one thing, consistency is less important than continuation. They don’t make an episode every week, or even every two weeks, necessarily — but they keep making them, and that works.They also shout out to Techstars podcast producer Kacey Wherley, who makes it all happen behind the scenes.And though Give First was Techstars’ first podcast, and we learned a lot by making it, Techstars now has six podcasts (and probably more soon)!If you’ve missed some of the recent episodes, you should really check them out!
Ep 45: Digital Ocean’s Carly Brantz on leading marketing at three Techstars unicorns
“We get a tremendous amount of traffic to our website every month from people who are just searching for different ways to do things, learning different ways to code. It might not even be on our infrastructure, but we provide that content,” says Carly Brantz, Chief Marketing Officer at Digital Ocean.This is just one of many ways that Digital Ocean, which helps developers easily build, test, manage, and scale applications of any size on a complete cloud platform, Gives First to its customers, and even to people who aren’t its customers (but might one day be). Because when you give people what they need now, then when they do need your product, even if it’s a year or two from now, they’ll think of you.This could be just good marketing strategy, but for Carly — and for Digital Ocean’s founding team, Ben Uretsky, Moisey Uretsky, and Mitch Wainer, it’s more than that. It’s about love.David remembers when Digital Ocean was in the Techstars Boulder Accelerator, back in 2021: “Moisey and Ben and Mitch and everybody in the accelerator said love. They talked about love being the differentiator. We love our customers. We want them to love our product. They got this funny look from a lot of mentors and a lot of people like, ‘Hey, that's not really a way you can build the company.’” But for Digital Ocean, love turned out to be a winning strategy.Carly confirms that love is still a big differentiator for Digital Ocean: “Really everything that we do, we always say that it starts with community and ends with love.”Listen for more about how community, content, and love can be a hugely successful marketing strategy — and why it’s never too early or too late to join Pledge 1%.Techstars personnel and/or guests who speak in this podcast express their own opinions, and not the opinion of either Techstars or any company discussed in this podcast. This podcast is for informational purposes only, and should not be relied upon as legal, business, investment, or tax advice. You should consult your own advisers as to those matters. References to any securities are for illustrative and/or informational purposes only and do not constitute an investment recommendation or offer to provide investment advisory services. Furthermore, this content is not directed at nor intended for use by any investor or prospective investor, and may not under any circumstances be relied upon when making a decision to invest in any fund managed by Techstars.Certain of Techstars funds own (or may own in the future) securities in some of the companies discussed in this podcast.
Ep 44: Fast Forward’s Kevin Barenblat on running an accelerator for tech nonprofits
“Techstars for nonprofits” is a pretty good description for Fast Forward, an accelerator for tech nonprofits. The similarities are many — like Techstars, Fast Forward provides mentorship, network, and resources to tech founders, designed to help them succeed. The key difference is that Fast Forward focuses on the specific needs of nonprofit companies.“Our entrepreneurs have all the challenges of tech startups, and all the challenges of nonprofits,” says Kevin Barenblat, Cofounder and President of Fast Forward.Listen as David and Kevin talk about the amazing results Fast Forward has achieved — the 60 nonprofits that have completed the program have impacted almost 90 million lives and raised $275+ million in follow on funding — and how Kevin actually measures success. Because while these metrics are important, Kevin also believes in taking risks and supporting entrepreneurs that he believes in. Techstars personnel and/or guests who speak in this podcast express their own opinions, and not the opinion of either Techstars or any company discussed in this podcast. This podcast is for informational purposes only, and should not be relied upon as legal, business, investment, or tax advice. You should consult your own advisers as to those matters. References to any securities are for illustrative and/or informational purposes only and do not constitute an investment recommendation or offer to provide investment advisory services. Furthermore, this content is not directed at nor intended for use by any investor or prospective investor, and may not under any circumstances be relied upon when making a decision to invest in any fund managed by Techstars.Certain of Techstars funds own (or may own in the future) securities in some of the companies discussed in this podcast.