Living our Shared Values

Ever since industry news about sexual harassment began to surface, we believe that it’s more important than ever to reinforce a positive, safe and respectful network. Techstars is a worldwide network that helps entrepreneurs succeed. We are ten years old and have had over 3,000 founders come through our accelerator programs, more than 8,000 investors and over 15,000 mentors currently in our network. Over the last decade, more than 1 million people have attended our community events and we are now active in more than 160 countries around the world.

From our inception, Techstars has been rooted in a set of core values that we chose to expand two years ago to our Code of Conduct. We have reinforced with our staff that if they “see something,” they need to “say something.” While our Code of Conduct has been in place for two years, we have recently received feedback that we need to provide more clarity on how to report violations and what will happen when violations are reported. On July 5th, we discussed our Code of Conduct in a blog post and added additional mechanisms for reporting violations. Today, we want to provide some additional transparency on our process for reporting issues and how we handle violations.

Taking Action:

First, people may report any issue to us through saysomething.techstars.com. This link was set up so that we can receive information in a timely manner. We have left the option for the report to be fully anonymous. People may also report an issue directly to a Managing Director, Vice-President or C-Level executive within Techstars or via email at saysomething@techstars.com. We urge people to take immediate action in situations that are dangerous. If someone is in danger or is hurt, they should call 911.

As soon as an issue is reported, we speak with our legal counsel to determine the right course of action. We make a determination if our Code of Conduct was violated, which could include an investigation where we reach out to parties involved in the situation. During an investigation, we may suspend members of our network. We treat any information that is reported as highly confidential. Our investigation’s primary purpose is to determine if our Code of Conduct has been violated. It is not our role to be judge and jury, only to do our best to protect our network from bad actors and that is our focus.

At the conclusion of the investigation, we determine a resolution. Potential examples of resolutions are expulsion from our network, a warning discussion, or education about Unconscious Bias and Workplace Harassment. We let each party and any directly involved third party know what actions will be taken. In the event that a crime has been committed, or a labor or general law has been violated, we will involve the correct authorities including the police.

Second, we are actively working to provide more transparency into the reporting and closure of issues. How we codify our reporting is yet to be determined, but we are working on a way to generally report on violations and resolutions.

Reported Violations

We ask that people continue to share information with us. In cases where we have been made aware, we have already remediated known violations. In cases where we are just finding out about violations, we are investigating and taking action. We recognize that our efforts will require support and cooperation across our widely distributed network. Our Code of Conduct is a living document – we will continue to iterate and evolve it, along with our processes, as we grow globally. We will do our best to ensure that our Code of Conduct is broadly inclusive of all those in the Techstars Network so that we can make our communities a safe and supportive place for entrepreneurs to grow.

Please reach out to us if you have information that you would like to share – saysomething.techstars.com is a good way to communicate concerns that you may have.








Techstars Code of Conduct Revisited

Last week was a watershed week, of sorts, for the VC industry in general. Several prominent VCs were revealed for inappropriate behavior relative to gender discrimination and general sexual harassment. It was not a proud moment in the VC and overall tech industry. Techstars cares, deeply, about people. Not just the people at Techstars and in our worldwide network, but about all people. We feel a responsibility as leaders to make sure that we do our best – and help others do their best – to provide safe, comfortable environments for people to grow and work within.

Techstars has been and remains firmly committed to the Code of Conduct that we first introduced in March of 2015. We drive Techstars forward based on our mission to be the worldwide network that helps entrepreneurs succeed. This means helping each and every entrepreneur succeed no matter their race, gender, age, country of origin or any other attribute.

Every employee at Techstars is employed based on the promise to follow our Code of Conduct and we expect everyone in our network to follow it as well. Recent events have motivated us to renew our commitment to this code and improve our implementation and enforcement of it.

Some examples of new initiatives include:

  • If you are in our network, we are asking that you voluntarily sign our Code of Conduct, today. Going forward, we will require signing our Code of Conduct when you join our network.
  • For all VCs and Investors, we are inviting you, free of charge, to join us in committing to Emtrain’s Decency Pledge by taking a few hours of your time to get educated and informed on best practices on: Preventing Workplace Harassment, Managing Unconscious Bias, and Code of Conduct and Ethics.
  • To make sure that we are as informed as possible, we have added a submission form saysomething.techstars.com and an e-mail address saysomething@techstars.com  for people to use to report any violations they may have experienced or witnessed relating to our Code of Conduct. The form has the option for people to remain anonymous.
  • We are clarifying and improving our existing process of investigations of any issues reported to us.

Please help us continue to ensure that Techstars and the world is a safe, secure place for entrepreneurs to grow, learn and accelerate. We strive to give everyone the best advantage to succeed by #givefirst, acting with integrity and treating everyone with respect.

No one person or company can change the problems that have been revealed – but if we all work together for the good of the whole, we can make big change happen.








Let’s End the Stigma Around Mental Health

At Techstars, we talk about the mantra ‘founder first’, but being advocates of founders means we can’t only focus on the health of their companies – we must also focus on the health of the founder.

May is Mental Health Awareness month and Techstars is driving to end the stigma that surrounds mental health. Let’s open up the conversation around it and what it means to our community and industry.

When my first son was a teenager, he was challenged with depression and bipolar disorder. During his high school years, May meant the time of year when he really struggled. I found that being open and honest with my friends and family helped me, my son and others.

We encourage everyone to become educated on mental health and important issues around it. To kickoff the month, we put together a list of resources for anyone who thinks they may be suffering from mental health issues, or anyone who wants to learn more about the topic.

Throughout May, you will also be able to find insight on this topic from other founders and mentors on the Techstars blog.

You can’t #givefirst if you don’t put your own health first.

Do you have resources to add that can help others? Let us know here.

Mental Health America: Download this free Mental Health Toolkit and check out these mental health screening tools

AA: International fellowship of people who have had a drinking problem

Al-Anon: Network providing resources, strength and hope for families & friends of problem drinkers

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): Locates mental health resources by city

NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness

Ginger.io: A mobile platform with 24/7 care for stress, anxiety, and depression

Mental Health Works: Free monthly publication focused on mental health in the workspace. Includes ideas + tools to successfully implement mental health strategies

Failcon: Conference for startup founders to learn from and prepare for failure, so they can iterate and grow fast

TED Talks: Common TED Talks that focus on the topic of mental health

Fully Rich Life: A free toolkit for 21 ways to reduce stress and anxiety

Founder Stories: Suicide, Entrepreneurship and the Road Home

Female Founders: My startup failed and this is what it feels like

Fortune: Depression and Startups: The Emotional Toil of Entrepreneurship

Wired: One startup’s struggle to survive Silicon Valley’s Gold Rush

ParalignMaking mental well-being data driven, intelligent and personalized

Workit Health: An online addiction care program

TWLOHA: Find a list of local resources and a help hotline 

Koko: Koko offers services that help social networks manage crisis, abuse and bullying.

Crisis Text Line: Free, 24/7 line with trained crisis counselors

Support Groups Central: Video Conference-based Support Groups

Depression Recovery Groups: Support for depression, bipolar disorder and anxiety

SonderMind: Network of over 250 licensed therapists in the Denver-Boulder area

The Founder Institute Or How It Helped Me Stand Up To A Bully: Depression: post about what it was like to be diagnosed, but also how it wasn’t the end of the world… actually, it was the start of a new journey – the best one yet!

ZendyHealth: We can arrange a session with a credentialed, reputable therapist who provides affordable services at a practice near you. Our professionals will work with you to evaluate and develop a treatment plan to help manage your depression and/or anxiety.

Sigmend: Helping employees with brain (mental) disorders self advocate.

Impact Founder: An independent multimedia movement and community to reduce the feelings of isolation experienced in entrepreneurship.

Journey Meditation: Leads guided meditation programs in the workplace in a way that’s simple and approachable.








You Are Not Alone

There’s endless writing about how lonely it is to be an entrepreneur. How hard it is to be at the top. And how stressful it can be to become a founder, leader, entrepreneur.

Like anything in life, choosing to do something without a community of people to support you is a lonely path. And you can probably make the argument that you don’t learn the basics in life without teachers, peers, mentors, and cheerleaders. No Olympic athlete ever won a gold medal without both falling on their ass repeatedly and without good coaching.

So, why would an entrepreneur set out on their journey all alone?

There are a few books I’ve read that exemplify why other people are important in achieving your life goals – and why it’s important to take time to stop-look-listen as well as to share your experiences, hopes, and dreams. (More on those books later…)

In the throes of creating the most incredible, must-have solution to a big problem, sometimes we forget to ask others to join in the journey….we sometimes forget to surround ourselves with people smarter than us, and we forget that it is necessary to both give and take.

Personal Growth as a Bank Account

I like to look at the give and take component of personal growth as a bank account. Sometimes there’s debt and sometimes there’s a surplus. Being mindful of this concept is valuable. I like to keep my debt relatively low and I do this by making sure that I build a strong savings account so that when I really need help, that I don’t go into massive debt getting there.

How does this work? How do you build a big savings account?

Become a Mentor

Becoming a mentor builds equity versus cash in your savings account because every time you Give First as a mentor, there is a return to the person you mentor — as well as to yourself. You can be a mentor to a someone like you but less experienced (an entrepreneur who is more wet behind the ears), or to a person more senior than you (if you have a skill set that they do not have); to someone who is like you (a math major helping another math major); an alumna of a college helping a student in that college, etc. You can help a sibling, a neighbor, a classmate, a coworker. You get the idea. It’s never too early to mentor and to be mentored.

Find a Mentor for Yourself

Finding your own mentor is the corollary to becoming a mentor. There’s no order that these two need to come in – it’s a virtuous cycle. But the more that you allow yourself to openly share, the more that you receive. A mentor is someone whom you trust and respect. They can be explicit in the relationship – scheduled time, specifics asks and answers — or it can be less defined, a relationship that is based on simply wanting to grow by learning from another’s experiences.

Participate in Networking Events

Peers and people who have aligned interests are great ways to grow your network and yourself. I’m a big fan of openly sharing and engaging, of honesty and transparency, and of helping someone over rough patches that I’ve already learned how to navigate.

Networking events are also awesome ways to add another person to your personal network, find that new investor that you’ve been seeking, do some A/B testing on your messaging and, most basically, a change of scenery. It’s too easy to be too busy to make the time to change the scenery and engage with other people – making the effort and following through on the intent is important.

Join an Organization to Get Connected

If you are a part of a network like Techstars, really use the Techstars family. Take advantage of Connect (our private network for Techstars founders), meet with other founders, engage with your MD and others that are interesting to you, find new mentors and reach out to investors. What you reap will be at least proportional to what you sow.  

I remember the point in my journey as an entrepreneur when I wanted to become a better CEO – and my intentional journey to do this. I joined Entrepreneur’s Organization (better known as EO) and benefited hugely from my forum. It was there that I expanded my network for life, I joined both my local board and the International Board, learned about a different type of governance, explored the world, and was exposed to cultural differences, went through the Birthing of Giants program, and further blew my mind up. I credit EO with a rapid growth of my understanding of the journey that I was on and my ability to be much more intentional about my path.

Just remember: you are not alone. Dive into the network around you and learn from your it. Get connected. Be a mentor and find a good one. Take control of your learning. Everything is a teachable moment if you let it become one.

Oh, and back to those few books that inspired me …

  • Into Thin Air – such a lesson on the dangers of being singularly focused and not always allowing others to lead.
  • The Boys in the Boat – an accidental book about team work; as a former rower, it was a huge validation for me but the overall principles and underpinnings are amazing.
  • Lean In – I wasn’t a huge fan, at first. And then I decided it was a must read simply because it’s so available for anyone.
  • When Genius Failed – failure is something that we all need to do.
  • The Cult of Done – so many worthy principles in this basic manifesto.

At Techstars, you are not alone. Once you are part of the network, it’s Techstars for Life. Join us!








A Message to the Techstars Worldwide Network

Techstars helps entrepreneurs succeed.

We are a worldwide organization with people in our ecosystem in nearly every country around the world. We are dedicated to inclusion and diversity. There is no bias in who we work with and where we work.

We are simply about helping entrepreneurs succeed and creating the best worldwide entrepreneurial network.

Techstars fully supports diverse peoples of all backgrounds, religions, and nationalities.

Yesterday, the United States made changes in immigration policies that could make many people feel insecure, unsure and concerned about their future in and around engaging with the United States. While we have no control over these policies, we want you to know that Techstars remains an open and inclusive global family. The best that we can do is make sure that we are of service to those in our network who need guidance and support.

If you are a founder, mentor, investor, community leader or partner within the Techstars ecosystem and have concerns that we can help address, please reach out to us at foreveryone@techstars.com and we will work directly with you on your concerns.








The Why and How of Joining Techstars as COO

I talk with a lot of people, and often I’m asked how I ended up where I am today. It’s not a straight line story, it’s a long and winding road. Now that I’ve joined Techstars, I’m being asked “why” and “how did you decide?”

One of the benefits of being older and wiser is that the drivers for why you work change. Over the years, I’ve done a lot of different things and have often been asked why. I’ve had to dig deep to answer that question in the most authentic way possible.

The Why

My mother always told me that I could do whatever I wanted to do and I’ve pretty much taken her at her word. I’ve fallen on my butt a lot and found out that, no, I really couldn’t. And other times, I’ve surprised myself.

I follow a few tenets in my life and they are the framework behind why I do things:

  1. If you are not happy with what you are doing, change it. We have one life and it’s critical to me that every day I do things that make me happy and let me learn and stretch and grow.
  2. Giving back is critical. I like to say this by telling people that once they have summited a mountain, it’s their job to turn around and help the next person up.
  3. If there’s one sentence that I’d pick from Sandberg’s Lean In it’s, “When you are offered a seat on the rocket ship, don’t ask which seat.” To me this means that if you want to take a ride to the moon, you need to get on the rocket ship.
  4. Network. Always network.

The How

When I’m making an important decision, I spend time figuring out what the factors are and then I weight and score them so that I can look at my options objectively before I add my subjectivity to them. I break them into both intrinsic and extrinsic factors – I consider that you need balance in both areas to be a whole person. The factors I was considering when I was looking at all my options this past summer were:

  • Ability to support my family
  • Ability to spend time with my family
  • Time to write
  • Time to play tennis
  • Ability to interact with entrepreneurs in a meaningful way
  • Invest in startup companies and entrepreneurial companies
  • Mentor and advise entrepreneurs
  • Be able to make a difference in a community
  • Have a meaningful role where I can be a part of a scaling company that’s making an impact in the world

Techstars was a winner in all of my categories. The only area that was tough is that Techstars is based in Boulder, CO, and I’m based in Easton, CT. The good news is that I like to travel and it’s a part of my DNA as a business person. I’ve spent the last five years of my career working in New York City or Brooklyn which amounts to a five hour daily commute … so I feel like I’m buying back time in a funny way.

I’ve always loved Techstars. I get so much energy from office hours at a Techstars Accelerator and I’ve continued mentoring and advising relationships long after programs have ended.

It’s inspiring to me to see an entrepreneur grow in just a few months of focused energy and to see the success rate of Techstars founders.

And, I’m rooted in entrepreneurship. I, too, am a serial entrepreneur. I started a tech company in the early 90s that I sold in 1999 way back when there were no accelerators, and angel investors were few and far between, and a VC was considered a rare find.

I’ve run tech businesses and retail businesses. I was a female CEO before we were talking about the concept of female CEOs and have been the only woman in the room not only at work, but in the boardroom.

This is who I am and Techstars feels very much like coming home.