Pledge1% goes global

pledge1percentEvery year, I’m inspired by the community that rallies around the Techstars companies. The sheer number of hours, brain power, and introductions that are pumped into each company is staggering – and the mentors do this without expectation of reward. They volunteer their time, their knowledge, and their contacts for the benefit of startups when there is no incentive to do so. At Techstars, we call this #GiveFirst; it’s a powerful mantra that has infused everything we do. #Givefirst creates stronger companies, stronger communities, and stronger people. There is no downside.

#GiveFirst is why I’m on the board of the EFCO and why we launched Pledge1% – a global effort with Salesforce at Atlassian, to infuse companies around the world with the #GiveFirst mantra. Pledge1% allows companies and startups to Pledge 1% of their equity, time, profits, or product to any non-profit they choose. This ensures stronger people and communities at scale. The more our companies are successful, the more the community benefits. And companies that donate 1% of their equity have no downside – it doesn’t cost them anything unless their company has a successful exit. Plus our member companies tell me it’s a motivating factor to know that it’s not just shareholders that benefit from a successful outcome; that you’re working hard for the benefit of whatever cause is meaningful to you.

Today, I’m excited to announce an official partnership between Pledge1% and Techstars. Techstars has taken the pledge, but we don’t think that’s enough. We’ll encourage each one of our new portfolio companies to take the pledge, making it easy in our onboarding docs for those who so choose. We’ll encourage our mentor’s companies, our investors, and our existing portfolio companies to take the pledge. With over 500 companies in our portfolio, adding another 180 every year, Techstars stands to move the global needle on corporate philanthropy. The community supports Techstars, now through Pledge1%, we can contribute back to those very communities.

I’m proud and excited to be part of the Pledge1% movement as #GiveFirst rings true in my heart. I couldn’t be more thrilled that Techstars is taking up arms as well. I hope all accelerators and venture funds follow suit, this is only a win for all of us.

If your company interested in taking the pledge, learn more at If you’re an accelerator or venture fund wanting to learn more about how to get this to your portfolio, reach out to me and I’ll get the ball rolling.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




Running Lean Workshop in Boulder

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

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

CatalyzeCU’s Demo Day is July 31st

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

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

Angel investors in CO might get a tax credit

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

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

Learn more in the OEDIT’s press release.

18 things that can screw up your company

Last week, Jason Mendelson came and gave a fantastic talk at Techstars in Boulder on all the things you can do to screw up your company.  According to Jason, there are 18 things and most of them are not fixable!  I’m including his list below.

If you like content like this – make sure you get your applications in for Techstars – early deadline is April 13th!

Jason’s 18 things that can royally screw your startup…

  1. Pick a bad team
  2. Pick a bad idea
  3. Pick bad advisors
  4. Be arrogant
  5. Don’t know your business model
  6. Don’t understand your competition
  7. Staff up & hire too quickly ahead of revenue (aka, spend too much!)
  8. Don’t constantly test your hypothesis
  9. Don’t stay on top of your PR & press relations
  10. Overpromise & underdeliver!
  11. Not paying attention to people’s incentives (this is a really good section, watch the video for details!)
  12. Screw up your cap table
  13. Screw up your IP
  14. Not having defined goals and not knowing how to define success
  15. Not firing people fast enough
  16. Not knowing what you can control, and what you can’t.
  17. Not holding yourself accountable
  18. Figure you can do the ‘lawyer’ stuff later (hello 83b!!!)

Getting the most out of your board of directors

I work with a lot of companies, some of them  have boards, but most haven’t formed their first board of directors yet.  As they venture into their first real financing and are required to put that board together, I watch them struggle with how to best utilize the group.  Early stage entrepreneurs usually fear the board, and through that fear tend to use it as a reporting tool instead of a strategy tool.  In that structure, the board members are grossly underutilized and are put in the position of being a reporting entity, which reinforces the original fears the entrepreneur had.  When Brad Feld announced that one of the books in his Startup Revolution series was going to be on this topic, I knew it would be an amazing resource for startups.

So I was thrilled when I got my copy of his newest book, Startup Boards: Getting the Most Out Of Your Board Of Directors.  I’ve read all the books in his series, and I’m sure this one is going to be just as fantastic as the rest.

If you’re an entrepreneur and you know you’re going to need to form a board of directors (or you already have one and want to better utilize them), this is a must read.

Lean Startup Conference Livestream on Dec 9-10

The lean startup movement has dominated conversations in the startup community since 2011 when Eric Ries presented a methodology for building efficient companies. Terms like “minimum viable product” and “validated learning” have become ubiquitous.

On December 9th and 10th at the Lean Startup Conference in San Francisco, 70 entrepreneurs from the lean startup world will share their founder stories, case studies, and advice for creating and managing successful startups.

If you can’t travel to SF, have no fear. Fuse at the Riverside, a co-working community in Boulder, CO, will be live streaming the Lean Startup Conference for the Boulder startup community.

Stop by Fuse on December 9th and 10th from 9:30 am to 2:30 pm to hear from startups, Fortune 500 companies, government agencies, and nonprofits on how they’re integrating lean startup principles into their organizations. Register here, tickets are free.

Whether you’ve drank the lean startup kool-aid or are about to take your first deep dive, the Lean Start Livestream at Fuse is a chance to connect and discover what the lean startup movement is all about.

“How to be a killer CEO” workshop tomorrow, by an amazing CEO!

As part of our efforts to Give First to the New York entrepreneurship community, Alex and I have put together a series of free events for startups.

Tomorrow night, we’re hosting “How to be a Killer CEO” by Techstars Mentor and veteran CEO Matt Blumberg of Returnpath.  He’s also authored the book “Startup CEO: A Field Guide to Scaling your Startup“.  If you’re a CEO of a startup, this is an event you should not miss.  While any CEO can attend, it’s best for startup CEOs that already have product-market fit and are thinking about issues like board management, hiring, competition, financials, and more.

We just opened up additional seats, so please join us, tomorrow, Wednesday the 20th, at 6:30pm.  Click here for more info or to register.