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Techstars was founded in 2007 and since then we’ve funded hundreds of companies. These companies have been trusted with the obligations that come with millions in follow on funding from angel investors and venture capitalists. Some of these founders have seen great success, some have tasted failure and some have even gone on to start their next companies.

Lately, we’ve all been reading about some bad behavior by startups in the industry. We’ve heard about startups stealing contact lists and spamming people in the name of “growth hacking”. We’ve seen companies posting fake comments and using hidden identities to discredit their competition. While we can’t fix the behavior of others, we have decided to be clear about behaviors that are not acceptable to us here at Techstars. That’s why we have published the Techstars Code of Conduct.

This is a living document managed by our community. We’re including the current version below in this post so that others can see what we expect of Techstars companies. Just as importantly, it’s the behavior that their business partners, customers, and employees can expect of them. Techstars is for life, so the benefits of being part of our ecosystem will always be there throughout each founder’s entire career as long as they continue to earn the trust of their community.

We have reviewed the Code of Conduct with founders of Techstars companies as well as many of our mentors. Each new Techstars company will receive this Code of Conduct when we fund them. I’m proud of the integrity and behavior that Techstars alumni have displayed historically, and that they are committed to doing business by this Code, now and into the future.

Techstars companies must hold themselves to the highest standards as part of the Techstars community. We recognize that each of us is an ambassador for Techstars and for each other. Integrity in each of our companies is central to protecting our reputation for each other and for future companies. As part of the Techstars global community, we realize that we are living in public and need to act appropriately at all times. Therefore, those who do not abide by this Code of Conduct will be removed from the Techstars community and will no longer have access to the associated benefits.

The Techstars Code of Conduct revolves around three key principles.

  1. We give first.
  2. We act with integrity.
  3. We treat others with respect.

We give first.


1. We help others whenever possible.  We are all busy, but when the ask is sincere and realistic, we respond and help. We are respectful of each other’s time and are clear and focused in our requests.

2. We deliberately create a virtuous cycle. We proactively work to give back to the ecosystem by giving first to others in our community with no specific expectations of return.

3. We appreciate the help of others. No one goes it alone – startups are a team activity. We express our appreciation for the help of our customers, mentors, and others that make our success possible.

We act with integrity.


4. We are honest and transparent. If we say something either publicly or privately, then we believe that it is true. We do not intentionally omit important and relevant factual information in an effort to deceive others. We strive to be clear and transparent in our communications.

5. We protect sensitive information. When we are entrusted with sensitive, confidential or personal information we use appropriate measures to secure it. We respect requests for privacy and confidentiality.

6. We communicate with our investors. We will send an update on our business at least every six months and be responsive to their inquiries.

7. If we fail, we fail well. If we are going out of business, we will notify our customers and make their data available to them for at least 60 days. We will advise every one of our investors and provide the chance to discuss what went wrong in a live conversation. If we know the company is going to fail, we attempt to return as much capital to investors as possible.

8. We disclose known conflicts of interest early. We err on the side of too much disclosure.

9. We do not steal assets or content. We encourage and respect independent, innovating thinking.

We treat others with respect.


10. We commit to non-hostile, open, and welcoming workplaces. We commit that employees, partners, customers, and visitors feel accepted and free to express their opinions, concerns, and needs with an expectation that they will be heard and respected. We communicate professionally and appropriately at all times.

11. We don’t tolerate illegal discrimination or harassment in any form. We will quickly fire employees who do this, and train our employees to recognize and address bad behavior. We will ban or fire mentors, investors, employees, contractors and others who discriminate or harass others.

12. We encourage diversity. We commit to seeking diverse perspectives and building inclusive work environments, which we believe leads to better companies.

13. We stand up for others. We appropriately intervene in situations when we witness violations of this Code and report violations.

14. We are reachable and responsive. We will enable standard forms of communication so that anyone doing business with us can have a reasonable expectation of receiving a response in a timely fashion.

15. We participate in both offline and online forums with respect. We don’t cause or participate in flame wars online. We participate in respectful discourse in all forums. We do not comment anonymously or with false identities.

16. We respect our legal agreements. We do not attempt to circumvent their intentions.

17. We keep our promises. If we commit to do something, we do our best to do it. If we can’t keep our promises for some reason then we strive to make it right in any way possible.

18. We do right by our customers. We strive to deliver products that delight our customers and seek to exceed their expectations.

19. We do not attack others electronically. We don’t maliciously attack others using scripts, robots, or similar techniques.

20. We are not spammers. We do not send bulk unsolicited email nor do we scrape contact lists and abuse them. We don’t harass prospective customers who have clearly said no to us and opted out of communications.

21. We work for the benefit of our companies. We always work for the benefit of our company, not for our own personal benefit.

22. We encourage professional development. As founders, we do everything we can to ensure the happiness and professional growth of our employees.

23. We avoid gossip. We don’t share disparaging comments and rumors about others. We are constructive in our feedback and always provide it directly to the individual or company to which it pertains.

The Techstars Founders Code of Conduct is a living document managed by our community. For suggested changes, please contact us.

David Cohen
(@davidcohen) Founder & Managing Partner of Techstars, previously founder of several technology companies. David is an active startup advocate, advisor, board member, and technology advisor who comments on these topics on his blog at DavidGCohen.com

  • 636918372

    Great initiative!

  • 636918372

    Great initiative!

  • 636918372

    Great initiative!

  • 19214770

    Looks great! Are investors also accountable to this code?

  • 1483860956

    Another great development in the startup ecosystem from Techstars!

  • 1483860956

    Another great development in the startup ecosystem from Techstars!

  • 1483860956

    Another great development in the startup ecosystem from Techstars!

  • 1483860956

    Another great development in the startup ecosystem from Techstars!

  • 1483860956

    Another great development in the startup ecosystem from Techstars!

  • 1483860956

    Another great development in the startup ecosystem from Techstars!

  • 876955561

    “12. We encourage diversity. We commit to seeking diverse perspectives and building inclusive work environments, which we believe leads to better companies.”

    Actively promoting opportunity for Women and People of Color would be a step up from “commit to seeking perspectives”.

  • 638075105


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