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Over the last 15 years, I’ve had the privilege to get to know hundreds of companies as a mentor, advisor, and investor. As I reflect on those companies, one pattern stands out. The successful entrepreneurs I know have integrated the passionate pursuit of a larger purpose into their business.

I experienced the power of purpose firsthand during my ten years at Rally Software as an executive from first revenue through our successful IPO. From the outside, it looked like we were creating the agile category. Inside, our larger purpose was based on the belief that empowered people who actually want to come to work are essential for solving today’s big, complex problems like climate change.

A similar larger purpose—the belief that entrepreneurs create a better future—drew me to Techstars four years ago. As a Managing Director for Techstars Boulder in 2015 and 2016, I saw the passion larger purpose creates inside companies, and how that energy fuels success.

Two years ago Amy Batchelor and Brad Feld held an event at their home where I again experienced the power of having larger purpose when I heard Mark Tercek, the CEO of The Nature Conservancy, speak. I was impressed to hear how The Nature Conservancy was leveraging finance, policy, and technology to create a world where people and nature thrive together. It was inspiring to see what can be accomplished when strong leadership, the best scientists and dedicated supporters are driven by such a powerful purpose.

Today, I’m thrilled to announce that I’m putting my investor hat back on and joining the team at the Techstars Sustainability Accelerator, in partnership with The Nature Conservancy as Managing Director. I’m excited to continue the great work Jenna Walker started, and join Hannah Davis and August Ritter in helping entrepreneurs with businesses that can make a material contribution to building a world where people and nature can thrive together.

Applications are currently open through April 7th for the second year of the Techstars Sustainability Accelerator, in partnership with The Nature Conservancy. We are seeking for-profit entrepreneurs with commercially viable technologies who are passionately pursuing solutions to challenges like these:

  • Make the case for natural climate solutions;
  • Inspire climate action;
  • Conserve working forests;
  • Advance nature-based solutions to lessen the impacts of climate change;
  • Rethink agricultural practices;
  • Improve Fishery Health;
  • Improve the sustainability of aquaculture;
  • Protect water at its source;
  • Better facilitate water market transactions;
  • Integrate nature into urban growth planning;
  • Increase climate change resilience;
  • Decrease the footprint of human settlements;
  • Build a model of sustainable energy development;
  • Inform smart infrastructure decision-making;
  • Expand community-led conservation;
  • Better protect our land, water, and oceans;
  • Catalyze transformational change to achieve a world where people and nature thrive.

One of the driving forces in my life is best described in Steve Faber’s motto: “Do what you love in the service of people who love what you do.” If this resonates with you, I look forward to getting to know more about you and your company.


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Zach Nies Zach Nies
Zach Nies is the Managing Director of Techstars Sustainability Accelerator, in partnership with The Nature Conservancy. He was previously the VP of Education at Techstars and a member of the faculty at the University of Colorado at Boulder. His whole career has been dedicated to entrepreneurship at startups and inside large companies. He is using that experience guided by his core value of Learn, Do, Teach, Learn to help companies of all sizes successfully bring new products and services to market. Prior to being VP of Education, Zach was a Managing Director for the Techstars Boulder program. Before joining Techstars, Zach was a Chief Technologist at Rally Software where he helped the company grow to a successful IPO. At Quark Software, he was Chief Software Architect and helped develop lead product development that accounted for hundreds of millions in revenue.