Techstars Director of ESG on Being a Responsible Founder and Investor
When a thoughtful founder or investor is thinking about creating or sustaining long-term value and a company that adapts for the future, they are already inherently thinking about environmental, social, and governance issues (ESG).ESG is for ALL companies - not just the ones focused on the environment.Dr. Mairi-Jane Fox, Director of ESG at Techstars, breaks down the creation of ESG, starting from when companies began to think about their corporate social responsibility (CSR), to the sustainability movement across corporates, and now tracking how companies were addressing ESG issues.“ESG evolved out of those spaces when investors, who are a powerful crew for change, started to realize companies could lose their social license to operate by making poor social choices,” Mairi-Jane says. “ESG is the data-driven thinking about financially material stuff that investors know impacts a company … so that they can manage for those risks or even manage for a positive impact.”Listen as Mairi-Jane and David discuss different examples of ESG responses and how ESG can set up companies for greater success. Also, don’t miss how Techstars is modeling ESG operational standards for its portfolio companies.If you missed the previous ESG takeover episodes, check out episode #66 on the benefits of ESG measurement for your company; episode #68 on how to engage with investors; and episode #69 on what it means to be a b corp.Follow David Cohen on Twitter @davidcohenListen & subscribe to the Give First podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and more.
QuickHire Co-Founder & CEO on Raising Capital as a Person of Color
When we talk about a startup successfully raising money after being part of a Techstars accelerator, that’s not an unusual story. But did you know that only 0.3% of all venture capital funding goes to black women?For Deborah Gladney, co-founder and CEO of QuickHire, this was a reality every day as she and her sister built their company with not many connections, low-balled valuations, and many more roadblocks.“After we were able to successfully raise, what was so apparent was how rare it was because we didn't realize that we were actually the first black women in Kansas to even raise a million dollars or more in venture capital. It was 2021 and to be the first, that tells you the disparities that are apparent in the industry,” Deborah says.Listen as Deborah shares her experience as a black entrepreneur, how she utilized her advisors to advocate for her startup, and why representation is such an important area for both investors and startups.Also, don’t miss Deborah talk about the 2021 Techstars Iowa Accelerator that she was a part of and how the Give First mantra has helped to remove opportunity barriers for others through QuickHire.Follow QuickHire on Twitter @getquickhireFollow David Cohen on Twitter @davidcohenListen & subscribe to the Give First podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and more.
Endel CEO and Co-Founder on the Future of Sound
Imagine always having a soundscape that adapts to what you're doing and what you need to get done without the need to manually select a playlist. This is the future with Endel, an app that utilizes circadian rhythms and the neuroscience study of how sound influences the cognitive state. “It's an ever-present sound that follows you everywhere during the day across all channels and platforms Endel is available on. And it just proactively shifts between different modes, depending on what you're doing right now,” says Oleg Stavisky, CEO and co-founder of Endel. “The end game for me, in terms of how the product looks, is just this one play button. You press play, you go about your day.”Listen as Oleg found the Techstars Music Accelerator and how it cultivated his Give First mindset. In particular, Oleg had a life-changing experience with one mentor who introduced him to hundreds of investors and was very involved in helping him succeed. Now, Oleg is helping to cultivate the startup community in Berlin. Also, don’t miss Oleg share Endel’s accomplishments, from being named the 2020 Apple watch app of the year and 2021 best of Google Play to the massive amount of user stories that tell of lives changed. “We get thousands of emails now. That’s what makes me come to work every day and say we are doing something very, very special,” Oleg says. Try the Endel app for 3-months at no cost using this promo link: https://code.endel.io/?code=techstarsFollow Oleg Stavitsky on Twitter @stvtskFollow David Cohen on Twitter @davidcohenListen & subscribe to the Give First podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and more.
David Cohen and Brad Feld Talk Mental Health for Entrepreneurs
It took decades for Brad Feld to understand his depression and mental health struggles. “There was a period of time, pretty deep into this depressive episode. … Work was fine. Business was fine, but I would describe it looking backward as the complete absence of joy. There was no joy in anything that I was doing in any way I was doing it.”All the while, Brad was the founder of his own company while in his mid-20s, but he felt ashamed as the CEO because “the mantra that got thrown around for a while is that you can't show any weakness.”Listen as Brad discusses his diagnosis and how it helped him respond to his anxiety and depression. Brad and David also talk about mental health in the startup community and how to stop the stigma, both broadly and in the entrepreneur space.Also, don’t miss episode 20 of the Techstars Entrepreneur’s Toolkit, which discusses mental health issues facing entrepreneurs.Follow David Cohen on Twitter @davidcohenFollow Brad Feld on Twitter @bfeldListen & subscribe to the Give First podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and more.
Recast Capital Co-Founder on Working With Emerging Managers
If an entrepreneur takes a seed stage investment from a very large brand-name venture fund, they’re unlikely to get very much of the venture fund’s time. However, when it comes to emerging managers, this group often comes up with very specific ways that they believe they can help you, says Recast Capital Co-Founder and Managing Partner Courtney McCrea.“To the extent that you're in the earliest stages of your development of your business, I would think that I would be looking for partners that could help accelerate the growth of my business, and often they are emerging managers in venture,” she says.Listen as Courtney tells David how Recast Capital is trying to help add diversity to the sea of sameness within the emerging manager community, not just on gender, ethnicity, and authenticity, but also backgrounds and experiences. Also, don’t miss Courtney sharing how Recast Capital was started as a #givefirst initiative and as a result, it has given back to them in ways they could have only dreamt about.Follow Courtney McCrea on Twitter @courtneyrmccreaFollow David Cohen on Twitter @davidcohenListen & subscribe to the Give First podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and more.
ESG Takeover: B Lab Community Engagement Manager and Project Canary COO on What It Means to be a B Corp
In this final ESG takeover episode, Dr. Mairi-Jane Fox, who helps lead ESG at Techstars, talks with B Lab Senior Manager of Community Engagement and Network Strategy Becca Quirk and Project Canary Co-founder & COO Will Foiles about what it really means when a business gets its B Corp certification and how it creates impactful changes.“Inherently, becoming a B corporation forces a founder to look not just at what we are accomplishing today, but what we are working to accomplish,” says Becca Quirk.Listen as Becca and Will describe the benefits of this certification for startup founders, such as thought leadership opportunities among the B Corp community, rigorous steps that showcase dedication to stakeholders, employees, and future investors, and a framework for solidifying the company’s mission.Will and Becca also answer commonly raised questions from startup founders about how much time it takes to certify, and if it really is beneficial for early stage and small startup businesses. Lastly, don’t miss Will, a Techstars Alabama EnergyTech Accelerator founder, telling us whether getting a B Corp certification is actually worth it. Listen & subscribe to the Give First podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and more.
ESG Takeover: Soona CEO and UN PRI Head of Private Equity on How to Engage with Investors
In this second ESG takeover episode, Dr. Mairi-Jane Fox, who helps lead ESG at Techstars, talks with Soona CEO and Co-Founder Liz Giorgi and UN-sponsored Principles for Responsible Investment Head of Private Equity Peter Dunbar about different aspects of engaging with investors, including investor diligence, transparent conversations, and discussing ESG practices.First, Liz Giorgi explains the development of the candor clause, and how it benefits startup founders regardless of their identity. The candor clause helps facilitate open, honest conversations about investors' practices, and ultimately allows founders to make informed decisions about who they are taking money from.“That kinda conversation is unparalleled in terms of building a better relationship with that investor and just really understanding who you're going into business with in the long run,” Liz Giorgi said.Then, listen as Peter describes what it means for venture capital firms and investors when they become signatories of the UN PRI. Among other requirements, signatories generally work toward implementing six principles for ESG and responsible investing which founders can consider when pitching to them“Given the requirements of being a signatory and the principles themselves, VC signatories should really be looking to engage with startups and founders on ESG topics and be actively considering them in their investment decision-making processes,” Peter said.Follow Liz Giorgi on Twitter @lizgiorgiListen & subscribe to the Give First podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and more.
Integrated Capital Strategies Founder Sharon Schneider on Value Integration and Social Entrepreneurship
We all have a set of principles for how we live our lives. How well are those principles aligned across every facet, though? You might be environmentally conscious but it’s important to ask yourself: Where do you do your banking? Who holds your mortgage? This is the driving point for author Sharon Schneider’s book, Handbook for an Integrated Life: A Practical Guide to Aligning Your Everyday Choices with Your Internal Compass.“If you're just floating along on mainstream American culture, my friend, … you're getting a very me-first, maximize-benefit-for-yourself all-the-time approach. This idea of taking your value and being conscious about how you integrate it into every area of your life for everyday people really became the genesis of the book,” said the Integrated Capital Strategies founder.Listen as Sharon highlights a few of the 7 principles for an integrated life in the book, and how #givefirst and living integrated isn’t always about spending money but intentionally looking at all the places you can live into that value.Also, don’t miss Sharon talking about her experience in Techstars’ Excelerate Labs program in 2012 and how it was a valuable contributor to her career that blends entrepreneurship, business ownership, philanthropic and social change strategy, and impact investing.Follow Sharon Schneider on Twitter @sharonschneiderFollow David Cohen on Twitter @davidcohenListen & subscribe to the Give First podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and more.
ESG Takeover: Sustaio Founder and SVT Group CEO on Benefits of ESG Measurement for Your Company
In this first ESG takeover episode, Dr. Mairi-Jane Fox, who helps lead ESG at Techstars, talks with Sustaio founder and CEO Olivia Pedersen and SVT Group CEO Sara Olsen about the benefits and the how-to of measuring ESG impact for early-stage start-ups. “It's a responsible business practice to manage your carbon effectively and make sure that you're taking responsibility for the impact and the externalized cost that your company is creating,” said Olivia Pedersen.Listen as Olivia and Sara give tangible, actionable advice to startup founders on how they can measure their company's impact. Also, don’t miss the six questions for implementing impact measurement and management.Listen & subscribe to the Give First podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and more.