By Chris Heivly, Entrepreneur in Residence at Techstars
There are many aspects of life where more is better, and as such there are many times we employ strategies to maximize the more. A few examples that many of us live by are:
- Priceless Art
- Profound experiences
- Time with loved ones
- Goals in ice hockey (ok, maybe just me)
In terms of startup community building, there are a plethora of activities that local leaders utilize to create lift. (For clarity, I am using the word “activities” in a very broad sense.) These may include:
- Coffee meetups (1 Million Cups)
- Grant programs
- Pitch competitions
- Learn to code academies
- Networking socials
- Startup weekends
- Recruitment events
- Venture funds
- Community blogs
The list literally goes on and on. Developing communities are first challenged to convene the various actors across the ecosystem. This has an immediate positive impact as the tribe begins to organize. Participate in this over a few months and some momentum begins to build.
As a community matures, activities naturally increase as newly motivated leaders step up and attempt to fill various voids. In many mature communities, there may be as many as two to three events every week.
I find the number, the diversity, and the cadence of these activities to be one of the critical signals as to the maturity of a community.
But beware. There is a trap that evolves in some minds that if the first handful of activities start to build some very visible momentum, then more activities would have an even larger effect. Unfortunately there is a ceiling to the number of activities and the subsequent impact.
In terms of startup community building, the more is better strategy has a very visible limit to its effectiveness. Once a critical mass of organizing these basic activities is achieved (and there are different trigger points for different communities), then the strategy should shift to building more meaningful activities.
Looking for a great startup community building event? Find—or organize!—a Techstars Startup Weekend in your community.
As we all know, Techstars is the worldwide network that helps entrepreneurs succeed—so it’s not exactly surprising that members of the network show up on various lists, like the 2019 Forbes 30 Under 30. As Forbes puts it, this list includes “the brashest entrepreneurs across the United States and Canada…. A collection of bold risk-takers putting a new twist on the old tools of the trade.”
We’re proud to see 12 Techstars mentorship-driven accelerator alumni (from eight awesome startups) on this year’s list. Huge congrats to these amazing founders!
Did we miss anyone? Let us know!
2019 Forbes 30 Under 30 for Marketing and Advertising
2019 Forbes 30 Under 30 for Consumer Technology
2019 Forbes 30 Under 30 for Consumer Technology
2019 Forbes 30 Under 30 for Retail & Ecommerce
2019 Forbes 30 Under 30 for Law & Policy
2019 Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia for Media, Marketing & Advertising
2019 Forbes 30 Under 30 for Enterprise Technology
2019 Forbes 30 Under 30 for Manufacturing & Industry
Ready for your startup to #domorefaster? Apply to a Techstars mentorship-driven accelerator.
Before my son was born, I thought for sure that I would be the type of mom that can’t wait to get back to work. I wanted to plan 2018 so that the office wouldn’t even notice I’d be away. But I was lucky that my diverse group of colleagues ignored my enthusiasm and constantly reminded me to see how things would evolve once the baby was born. It was all the support a mom-to-be could want and I really thank them for that.
We welcomed a healthy baby into our family on one of the coldest weeks of February. And the plan I had projected in my head went completely out of the window.
Being thrust into this new role of a “mom” really changed my perspective on a lot of things — one of them was the way I pursue my career and work life. I realized that I can work my entire life, but I have only a few years to enjoy quality time with my newborn. And this time is extremely precious. So why not just take a step back and focus on what’s the most important thing in my life right now — my family. Otherwise, I might wake up with regrets one day because I missed my child growing up. I would rather miss out on some work opportunities now than shortchanging my kid.
It made me think, does this make me a worse leader now? Am I not ambitious enough? But I realized, that there’s only one answer to this — who cares, be whoever you are and do whatever you want, what matters the most is that you’re happy.
While I was expecting my son, I was really afraid of missing out on things. And this made me tell myself that I won’t take any time off, as I have to keep pushing on the work front. In the startup world, it can really get to you when you are surrounded by the 24/7 hustle culture — you constantly feel that if you don’t do it, somebody else might take your place, be it within the company or in the industry.
As a founder, I was constantly reminded that I should be doing so much more and there are an infinite number of challenges to tackle and too little time. It was easy to fall into the circle of guilt. But over time, I understood that for most of us, families are an integral part of our lives. I had to find the inner peace necessary to lay the foundation for it to be okay for me to not prioritize work for a bit. Obviously getting to this mindset and inner peace was not easy. Occasionally, I’ve still found myself thinking that I could be doing so much more and I find myself asking whether I’ve ‘earned’ the right to still be considered part of the team.
I actually struggled with the concept of ‘family first and stay-at-home’ for a very long time, but only precisely until the minute I saw my son Aaron for the first time.
And it made me think “why?” Why did I feel that I have to continue working at the same pace? Is it the pressure our society puts on us? It seems that as soon as you’ve decided to stay at home you’re tagged as a ‘lost cause’. There is this pressure that we shouldn’t take any stops on this fast-moving train of life, otherwise we will miss out on opportunities.
I recently stumbled upon an article about mandatory paternity leave that outlined a 2018 Deloitte survey:
Of more than 1,000 men found that a third worried that taking a leave would hurt their careers, and more than half feared it would signal that they weren’t serious about their jobs.
This is just ridiculous. No one should be afraid to take a paternity or maternity leave. Having a family should not affect our ability to continue our careers. But unfortunately, we also see report after report on how women after giving birth to their first, second, etc. child, lose even more on their salaries while working full-time. Having children is almost like a “handicap” basically. But for dads, as I wrote in my previous post, becoming a parent gives them plus points and increases their likelihood of getting promotions and bonuses.
Based on all the daunting statistics, I asked myself the question — How can I possibly enjoy my time as a mom and still be there for my company and my team? And to be honest, I haven’t found a magic formula. However, I’ve come to this one conclusion:
Be confident in doing what makes you most happy
Happiness opens up so many more opportunities in life. Be happy and confident about your choice of choosing parenthood. If you have decided to give parenthood a go, it will certainly give you a confidence boost as well, at least that’s what it did for me. I realized that I should lead my life to its fullest potential and it’s up to me to define how it will look like.
I realize you might think that as a founder, I’m in a different situation than my team members or other parents out there, but truly, I’m not. At least not in Testlio. We all share the same burden of responsibility and we all try to balance family lives, whichever form they may take. My priority is still making my team and company a success as well.
We feel threatened and scared because of how society has been built up. We are ruled by strong stereotypes but by now it should be clear that stereotypes are meant for breaking. I can assure you that an awesome team member is always welcomed back. No matter how many years they’ve been gone. My sister has been home for three years now with her kids and her colleagues are still eagerly waiting for her return.
I believe being a parent makes you a better person. So be awesome and talk about how awesome being a parent is. Parental leave should definitely be encouraged and supported — this time is like no other. It will teach you things that no amount of money can buy.
But we won’t see a change unless we ourselves act on it, right? So, let’s continue to speak about it and eventually, I hope, we’ll see things change!
To conclude, I sincerely believe that taking a break such as a maternity or paternity leave to enjoy new life experiences won’t make you ‘miss out’ on anything. Rather, once you’re ready to catch the next train, you will have even more skills under your belt.
Being at home with my son has been the second best time in my life besides just working side by side with my dear team at Testlio. For the first few months, I put everything aside and unplugged myself almost completely out of work. The well-being of my son and giving him comfort/safety in this new world was my number one priority. In all my life thus far, I have never felt this way and I’ve cherished every moment.
Is this a time in your life when you’re 100% dedicated to your startup? Apply to a Techstars mentorship-driven accelerator to #domorefaster.
Originally published on www.medium.com.
By Margaux Joly, Techstars Customer Experience Coordinator
You’ve just finished your Techstars Startup Weekend, now it’s Monday and you’re back at work. Your backpack is still filled with post-it notes, a lean canvas template, seemingly infinite pens, and wrappers from all the energy bars you ate last weekend to sustain yourself.
Your head is still spinning with ideas for the project you worked on from the weekend. In between your morning emails, you stand up to make a cup of coffee, and you suddenly realize that maybe you need to pivot again because the market research you did was actually pointing toward another target audience this whole time! Those people would have the purchase power to buy your product, meaning you wouldn’t need to forgo that really cool feature of the app (as you thought you might before, because it was too costly). You immediately text your Techstars Startup Weekend group the idea, they all love it, and then you realize that you’re standing up in the middle your office, completely forgetting what you were doing in the first place (you were getting coffee).
Welcome to the community! This is why we love these events so much. It takes a certain type of person to do just what you did, but the good news is at Techstars, we are those types of people and you are not alone.
Here are some tips to help you collect your thoughts and help find the next logical steps for you:
Take a step back and let your mind rest
During the weekend, there is a lot going on. Your brain has just been flooded with information, criticism, and advice from the mentors and judges. You’re feeling the momentum and excitement to get started, but this can lead you to go around in circles chasing your own tail. Give yourself a couple of nights to sleep on your idea and absorb all of this feedback.
Assess where you are at
If, after you’ve given it some thought, you’re still super excited to work on this, then it’s time to assess where you’re at.
Find a morning or afternoon where you can take some time by yourself, bring your favorite pens, post-it, whiteboard… and lay everything flat on the table. Where is your idea at right now? Categorize your thoughts in four ways:
- What is your core purpose? Why are you doing this? It could be as simple as: I want to be my own boss and be in charge of the decision-making of my company. I want to create a company where parents can have a healthy work-life balance. I want to make healthcare accessible to everyone. I want to be the first company to make virtual candies… Don’t ask yourself how you are going to do this; that will come with time. If early on you can understand why you want to do this, you will always be able to hold on to that and it will guide you.
- What makes sense? List the things you think are really strong about your idea and the things that give your stomach excited butterflies…
- What doesn’t make sense? This can either be the things that you don’t personally understand about the idea, or the things that just don’t feel right.
- What needs work? The ideas that have potential but have not yet been addressed.
Touch base with your team
Before you come into another conversation with your team, assess what role you want to take in this project. Do you want to drive the whole thing? Do you want to focus on one area and need others to take ownership of the rest? Do you want to work with a team or would you rather do this alone?
It’s very common for a team to break up after a Techstars Startup Weekend. Sometimes it’s the whole team, sometimes it’s just one person. Whatever happens with your team, it’s okay. People come into this event with their own life story and perhaps they cannot commit to adding more work to their plate afterwards. If you have a good chat with your team, and set the right expectations, you’ll be surprised by how generous people can be with their time and how willing they are to lend a hand.
What you don’t want is to keep working on an idea, thinking you have people you can count on—when in fact you don’t.
Figure out the next steps
Determine a plan of action and start building your business plan. You will constantly be revising some aspects until it is right.
Set yourself big hairy audacious goals (BHAGs), but also small achievable ones, because there is nothing more satisfying than crossing things off your list. Set different timeframes for your different goals.
Don’t be afraid to start asking yourself the hard questions: “What are your finances going to be like? What are the next legal steps you need to take to protect your idea?”
Surround yourself with people who will help you
Know that you are not in this alone. It doesn’t cost anything to sit down over a coffee with someone to ask them some questions about law or money or marketing or anything else.
This is the very beginning: the moment when your startup starts. It’s exciting, scary, and absolutely wonderful. Enjoy it. And ask for lots and lots of help: no one succeeds alone.
Find a Techstars Startup Weekend near you, and experience the highs, lows, fun, and pressure that make up life at a startup—in 54 hours.
In 2019, The Heritage Group Accelerator Powered by Techstars will bring 10 global companies to Indianapolis for a three month mentorship-driven accelerator. Many of the industries that serve our most basic needs—from industrial production to transportation infrastructure to environmental services and safety–are facing renewal and disruption through innovations in materials, processes and business models. This megatrend in the modernization of legacy enterprise creates massive potential for value creation along the intersections of materials science, specialty chemicals, remediation methodology, energy production and systems automation. The Heritage Group Accelerator Powered by Techstars supports companies seeking to disrupt existing markets by pioneering the next generation of solutions across this spectrum.
As excitement around the accelerator continues to grow, startups want to know if our accelerator is the right fit for them. The market The Heritage Group serves is broad and we’re looking for companies that serve the needs of these customers. We invite all companies to apply to the program that believe they can help with this transformation.
Why The Heritage Group Accelerator Powered by Techstars?
The Heritage Group is a leader in many of the industries that it seeks to transform, and those companies are ready to help startups be successful. The Heritage Group has companies in several industries including specialty chemicals, environmental services and recycling, heavy-duty construction and materials, and energy. Participants in the accelerator will have the opportunity to work not only with dozens of highly knowledgeable mentors in a variety of industry-specific specializations, but also with The Heritage Group’s enterprise-wide research and development team. The R&D facility develops and supports businesses with a focus that includes material science, physical infrastructure, chemistry, batteries, recycling and materials stability. The research group also plays a critical role in developing new startups with novel technologies, both internally and externally.
Before any startup launches, Heritage Research Group evaluates it from a health, safety, and environmental standpoint to ensure long-term success. Heritage Research Group takes a team approach to solving the tough problems faced by its partners, startups, and customers. The group strives to find sustainable solutions and is constantly exploring new ways to reuse or recycle industrial by-products and co-products.
In addition to the access to technical and business leaders the program provides, companies selected to the program will be working in The Center, a world class facility in Indianapolis. The Center is THG’s brand-new facility purpose-built to incubate innovative business ideas, solve important customer problems, and connect entrepreneurs with researchers and thought leaders.
Set on sixty acres and created by the world-renowned design firm IDEO, the Center has dedicated space for each startup as well as a multitude of meeting rooms, quiet spaces, in house gym, volleyball court, collaboration zones, walking trails and other spaces that create a positive working environment. HG Ventures, THG’s corporate venture arm, is co-located at The Center, as is Heritage Research Group—THG’s state-of-the-art laboratory and testing facility that houses more than fifty dedicated science and engineering professionals.
Are you interested in learning more about the accelerator or want to apply? Applications will open in 2019 but we are excited to speak with companies in advance – click here and let us know if you’re interested in connecting.
By Sabrina Kelly, Techstars Vice President of People Operations
At Techstars, we define our mission in People Ops as the following: “We are strategic partners in building Techstars business by maximizing the value of our most important asset—our people. We attract, retain, develop, and support Techstars employees globally and aim to uphold our culture and values, in a manner that is inclusive to all.”
As VP of People Ops, I hear a lot of questions from founders. This series aims to answer the most frequent questions.
Q: What is the single biggest People Ops mistake you see startups make?
Hiring the wrong leaders and not course correcting soon enough.
Hiring leadership is hard at any stage, but there is a crazy amount of pressure on startup founders to hire them quickly. It’s really easy for founders to lose sight of the values that are important to them in these hires, due to pressure from the Board or other advisors on “who” and “what” is right for their business. This whiplash is amplified by the fact that they likely have a bunch of employees that need experienced leadership, and they are band-aiding that at the moment themselves.
Mainly, don’t ever make that hire unless you are 110% pumped to sit in the trenches with them.
My advice, as impossible as it might sound, is to take the time to get it right: be extremely thoughtful about the profile you are looking for, get alignment with your leadership team on how to interview, proactively source from diverse pipelines or hire a recommended agency to support. Mainly, don’t ever make that hire unless you are 110% pumped to sit in the trenches with them.
So, what if you do all of that and in six months you start to sense that it’s not working? As painful as it might be, you need to dedicate the time to figure out what the problem is—and if you find out it’s them, you let that person go as soon as humanly possible. It might feel like the company will crumble if you have to start over, but that pain is nothing in comparison to what can happen if you put up with the wrong leader for too long.
Want to #DoMoreFaster? Apply to a Techstars mentorship-driven accelerator today.
In 2018, Techstars and Community Leaders have already run over 900 Techstars Startup Weekends in cities around the globe—and the year’s not over yet. Over 200 more events will take place during the month of November. Techstars Global Startup Weekend kicked off earlier this month and continues for one more weekend: November 16-18.
During these weekends, around 15,000 entrepreneurs worldwide challenge themselves to build a company in just 54 hours. It’s a truly awesome undertaking, and a massive thrill for everyone involved.
We asked some of our Techstars Community Team; (the people who make Techstars Startup Weekend happen) for their best advice on how to get the most out of the experience. Here’s what they said:
Be an open and active participant! Startup Weekend is an experience – so don’t sit on the sidelines during the weekend. Pitch an idea, learn a new skill, talk to as many people as possible, and step out of your comfort zone. It’ll be the best thing you do that weekend!
– Lalitha Wemel, Regional Manager Asia Pacific
Be present. Be respectful. Ask for help. Take charge of your own learning. It’s okay to make mistakes, and learn from it. Surrender yourself to immerse into one of it’s kind of entrepreneurial experience in a safe, secure, risk-free, diverse and inclusive environment.
– Anurag Maloo, Regional Manager South & Central Asia
Test the market and fail hard; over and over again if needs be. And finally, be coachable, always be coachable!
– Emily Skinstad, Operations Manager, Techstars Startup Programs
You get out what you put in. Clear your calendar, remove expectations, and immerse in the process!
– Jordan Rothenberg, Regional Manager Western U.S. & Canada
Stop pitching your idea to mentors, use their expertise and let them push where it hurts.
– Margaux Joly, Customer Experience Coordinator
Techstars Startup Weekend is a box of entrepreneurship magic. The way you use this magic box is by talking to everyone. You’ll never find the same mix of mentors, judges, organizers and attendees in any other room so unlock the magic by talking to everyone and getting to know as many people you possibly can.
– Luis Rodriguez, Product Manager, Community @ Techstars
It’s crucial that you and your team don’t waste time on minor decisions like the startup name, logo, colors etc. Time management is one of the keys to succeeding at Techstars Startup Weekend. If it’s taking too long to make a decision, do a roman vote and move forward to the next item on your list. You will have plenty of time after the weekend to polish it.
– Jose Iglesias, EMEA Director – Startup Programs
15,000 entrepreneurs at 200+ locations around the globe believe they can build a startup in a weekend. Come to Techstars Global Startup Weekend, November 16-18, 2018. Challenge yourself. Join us.
A bright future ahead for Hydrologistics Africa
Exactly one year! A colossal opportunity to launch ‘World’s First Virtual Water Network Operator’ in the heart city of Paris a thousand miles away from our country (Kenya). In an industry that has seen little disruption over the past decades we begun the journey to model technologies with a view to bring intelligence in water distribution network.
While water stress occurs throughout the world no region has been more afflicted than Sub-Saharan Africa which suffers from greater levels of water stress. Which begs the question as to why we came all the way to Europe with the idea (Bring value in every drop/every drop of water counts). Lack of water is an infrastructural concern effected by inefficiency in water distribution network which results from the conflicts of unpaid water bills, aging and leaky pipes, broken water mains and faulty meters.
Three months in Paris building Hydrologistics Africa a water technology company bringing intelligence in water distribution by automating billing through mobile money and monitoring consumption real time through an online dashboard. First and foremost Techstars helped us conceptualize and sharpen the idea to create a business case that would stand out from the traditional models one that may blend to growing African population with few if any of our prototypes still at the development stage. Armed with technical expertise and advice from Techstars partners and mentors during long office hours (hardware development) shouldn’t be the order of play but rather scout for a partner manufacturer and fix attention on financial modelling, structuring and fundraising for the business.
In that period our team knocked door-door, remotely conducting a survey that would later accumulate as much data with insights showing over 90% of Nairobi residents needed a solution that could enable them monitor and manage their water consumption. This informed us from the beginning why Techstars uniquely positioned us to be ‘go to’ water service provider partner for major utilities across the African continent. Creating a Pan-African service group is significant strategic advantage to scale as first as possible and the reason Paris was the scene to network with renowned giant water companies (Veolia and Suez) just to mention a few.
First forward to 2018, we’ve built a platform that integrates mobile money with Kenya’s giant Mobile network operator Safaricom and we are building a mobile application for households to monitor water usage. What keeps us awake every other day? Signing up homes and gated communities to test the solution which we began with an average 200 monthly installations with the aim to reach 1,500 households by the end of 2018. We are partnering with Liquid Telecom the leading independent data, voice and IP provider in eastern, central and southern Africa with the aim to use their well-established infrastructure where already Sigfox network exists to set up water monitoring sensors.
In a nutshell, Techstars put a lot in us that made us a first. #GIVEFIRST. We look forward for exciting times ahead!
This November we’re celebrating entrepreneurs and startup communities around the world with Techstars Global Startup Weekend! This global showcase of entrepreneurship will feature hundreds of Techstars Startup Weekend events around the world, from Bali to Anchorage.
A global showcase wouldn’t be complete without some prizes to help the winning teams move forward with their new startups. At Techstars we praise our worldwide network as the #1 tool to help you succeed after an event. In addition to the network support, here are the other prizes for this year’s Techstars Global Startup Weekend winners:
- Conference Tickets (by region) (5–8 tickets)
- Techstars Job Portal Profile Feature
- Regional winners will be highlighted on our Job Portal website, for a lifetime! Companies will be able to see this highlight & badge of excellence when looking at candidate profiles.
- Techstars Water Bottles & Techstars T-Shirts
- Google for Startups Cloud Credits
- $3k in Google Cloud credits!
- WeWork Hot desk for six months
- Access to any open seat in the common area! Just show up, set up shop, and get to work.
- Google For Startups Cloud Credits
- $100k in Google Cloud credits!
- ClassPass membership
- Get an all-access membership to a global network of 10,000 fitness studios, or try their at-home workout videos! Relax after TGSW and try strength training, cycling, and more. Prize covers four $100 gift cards towards memberships.
- Rocketbook Everlast
- The Everlast notebook provides a classic pen and paper experience, yet is reusable and connected to the cloud. Add a drop of water and the notebook erases like magic. Prize covers four notebooks for your team.
Want to win these prizes to help launch your startup? Are you ready to be part of the biggest entrepreneurial celebration around the world? Find a Techstars Startup Weekend near you!
by the TerraManta team (Techstars Class 111)
It’s difficult to believe that one year has passed since TerraManta joined Techstars Paris 2017 program.
We did not know what to expect prior to arriving in Paris. What we found was an incredible ecosystem of mentors, advisors, and investors powered by overwhelming desire to help Techstars companies succeed.
Before sharing highlights about TerraManta progress, I have to express countless thanks to the Techstars team – both local and extended, the city of Paris for being our home away from home, and our launch customer – an integrated oil and energy company based in France.
How long would it take for a complete outsider to become an expert in a deep domain?
That’s the question my co-founder, Andrei Klimanov and I, asked prior to starting TerraManta. For example, doctors require at least 10 years of education prior to practicing medicine with more years invested later in advancing their professional competency.
Crude oil is the biggest commodity market in the world. Companies which depend on crude oil and distillates face enormous economic risks. Airlines often hedge fuel prices by purchasing future contracts at a certain price. Crude oil prices go up? Airlines win. Crude oil prices go down? Airlines often have to close fuel hedges – at a price – to take advantage of lower oil prices. The economic risk ranges from hundreds of millions of dollars to billions of dollars annually for these companies.
So how long would it take for a complete outsider to become a crude oil expert capable of forecasting future oil prices? Probably at least 2 decades, while learning from other experts who have biases.
When crude oil prices collapsed in 2015 reaching $28 / barrel by mid January 2016, it became clear that crude oil experts were no longer equipped to analyze the impact of geo politics on crude oil market fundamentals (supply, demand, inventory, distribution, exports, imports) and resulting price actions.
Something was missing.
That “something” is a platform for domain specific analysis of unstructured and structured data with the goal to apply machine learning in deep domains where humans require many years to master and learn with inevitable biases.
The platform is based on a goal centric learning principle, just like human analysts do when they elect to learn something. They set a goal which aligns their knowledge acquisition approach. Acting just like a human crude oil analyst, TerraManta software instead will do the same.
The first goal – can future crude oil prices be forecasted more accurately – became the first product: TerraManta for Crude Oil. Our software analyzes about 4,000 energy relevant news from public data sources every day, obtains crude oil market fundamentals every month, and looks for correlation between topics influencing fundamentals and how changes in fundamentals cause price actions in the market. What human analysts do today, TerraManta does automatically on a mass scale while learning every day.
Today, crude oil prices more than doubled since January 2016. As a result, the interest in TerraManta is growing.
Several dialogs are in progress: US based airline, major bank in Canada, another major bank in France, leading company providing specialized risk analytics for global corporations, and another leading company providing energy analytics.
We are also excited to support a 17-user trial with another global oil company
Does TerraManta software work? We believe so. The software generated a price forecast on 25 September 2019 which was on target until 11 October 2018 (when this blog post was written).
The Techstars Paris program created many memories which will be forever remembered. To name a few ….
Friendships and relationships which transcend borders and continents. Exceptional coffee. Equally exceptional croissants. Grace under pressure redefined by program manager and associates.
Above all, ‘give first’ was transformed from a spoken comment into a real and sustainable personal belief.