Who are you?
I’m Greg Monterrosa, born and raised in South-Central LA. About 10 years ago I launched a startup that outgrew me. I hired my replacement and the business is still thriving. Since then, I’ve recognized my passion for helping others get their start. It all began at a Techstars Startup Weekend, when I saw the direct impact of supporting others. Four years ago some friends and I organized the first Techstars Startup Weekend event in our community, the Conejo Valley (North Los Angeles). It changed my life. Soon after the event I booked a one way flight to France, where I found myself mentoring at four different Techstars Startup Weekends. That cemented how important it was for me to maintain a global network.
While I was away, Cal Lutheran University Center for Entrepreneurship—where we hosted our Techstars Startup Weekend—contacted me to help them bring their space to life and open its doors to community members, and Hub101 was born. I picked up a copy of Brad Feld’s book “Startup Communities,” and it’s become required reading for all staff and community leaders—it’s become our bible. Over two years we’ve grown a community of about 150 people at Hub101, and we’re continuing to foster connections that tie early stage startups into economic development and beyond.
Why do you do what you do?
I am living my purpose, which is to empower people. It’s refreshing to surround myself by inspiring doers. I can also see the impact we’re making. To date we’ve created over 50 high paying jobs. Historically, people have used funding as a metric, but our community is a bit different. We’re hyper-focused on empowering our members to seek the people they serve, their customers. It’s amazing to see the people we serve at Hub101 want to give back to the space that helped them get their start.
What’s new for greater Los Angeles?
We’re excited to bring Hub101 to other underserved communities and are working on a second location in Ventura, which was recently affected by the Thomas Fires, and we’re working on launching a third location at a major mall. We are committed to bringing startup communities to places where they don’t exist, utilizing programs like Techstars Startup Weekend and playbooks like “Startup Communities.” Recently one our community members, Beth Sidenberg, formerly a general partner at Kleiner Perkins, launched Westlake Bio Partners, a $320 million fund, to support early stage biotech companies in the area.
Any final remarks?
If you’re a Techstars Startup Weekend organizer in a rural town or a place that is struggling, please reach out to me. I’m happy to meet with you and your team to map out where you’re at, and let’s talk out how we can help your community grow. To that end, I’m also looking for a mentor myself. If you’re a community leader reading this and think you can add value to what we’re up to at Hub101 or to my personal journey I’d welcome a note. Feel free to connect with my on instagram at @GregMetro!
Hello Gunars! Could you briefly introduce yourself?
I’m the CEO and co-founder of IT House. By using technologies like Ruby on Rails, Elixir, and React Native, my team and I have helped crowdfunding projects, fintech projects, news portals, marketplace platforms, community networks, and e-commerce companies create custom sites and apps. I’ve also participated in two accelerator programs, StartupBootcamp and Ignite100.
As an original co-founder and board member of TechHub Riga, the first TechHub expansion from London, I cultivate collaborative spaces for emerging entrepreneurs and tech startups to come together to learn, share, and grow. I’m one of two people responsible for bringing Garage48, a 48-hour hackathon event, to Latvia. As a central figure in Latvia’s Ruby on Rails community, I organize regular meetups for like-minded tech enthusiasts. While I’m a curator at StartupDigest for Latvia, I’m also an active supporter of the burgeoning startup scene in the Baltic Rim and Nordic countries.
I enjoy running, hiking, rock climbing, traveling, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Why did you decide to start curating Startup Digest?
Around 2010, when I traveled in the U.S. for several months, I met Christopher McCann, one of the founders of StartupDigest. At that time Chris even made pancake breakfasts for friends and the local community in Silicon Valley. I liked the idea and the Startup Digest team, and I decided that it would be great to add Latvia to the list.
What is the value that Startup Digest brings both to your local community and to you personally?
Startup Digest helps people who are interested in Latvia learn what kind of events are happening in Latvia; either they follow us on a regular basis, or they want to attend some events and plan their journey accordingly. Or they visit Latvia for a few days, and Startup Digest helps them quickly find what’s going on and what kind of events they would like to attend.
Of course, the local community also benefits from Startup Digest—by meeting potential investors or similar thinking minds, or by finding events that match their interests.
I’m happy that more and more people and startups can make new connections, exchange knowledge, and make new deals, using Startup Digest
How have you seen the Latvian ecosystem develop over the years since you’ve started curating Startup Digest?
I believe that Startup Digest is a niche news source of information for people; and it’s one channel, together with Facebook and Twitter. Compared to Facebook and Twitter, the information on Startup Digest is topical, and the events are better structured, and therefore more accessible for anyone who doesn’t want to get lost in the noise of news, tweets, or posts. I’ve seen how Startup Digest has helped startups make new business and friend connections.
Techstars Studio Will Create Disruptive New Startups and Help Large Corporations Innovate
January 16, 2019 — BOULDER, Colo. — Techstars, the worldwide network that helps entrepreneurs succeed, today announced the launch of Techstars Studio, a new offering that will empower members of the Techstars worldwide network to rapidly envision, validate, and launch disruptive startups.
“In 2007, Techstars forever changed the way entrepreneurs build companies by introducing the mentorship-driven accelerator model,” said David Cohen, founder and co-CEO of Techstars. “Today, Techstars is launching a new way to build companies by coupling a full service venture studio with the entrepreneurial talent of the Techstars worldwide network and our proven track record of helping startups succeed. Techstars Studio provides services including strategy, design, engineering, and more to help you build your next company.”
Large corporations can tap into Techstars Studio to co-create companies to solve specific challenges in their industry. Through an annual membership, large corporations will have access to early views of the technology and routine updates as the Techstars Studio team moves ideas from concepts to prototypes to companies. At launch, Techstars Studio has the support of more than 25 corporate partners and advisors.
“Our corporate partners are so excited about Techstars Studio because we have an unparalleled network of entrepreneurial talent, with a proven track record for discovering the most promising founders and helping them build successful companies,” added Sabrina Kelly, Techstars vice president of Talent.
Techstars Studio will enable Techstars to source and support new company concepts from Techstars alumni founders, community leaders, venture capitalists, and corporate partners. The team will validate ideas, design prototypes, test market adoption, and select the most promising concepts for launch. Techstars Studio will then spin out new startups and source talent and capital from its worldwide network to run the company.
Joining Techstars Studio is Isaac Saldana, founder of SendGrid (NYSE: SEND) and Mike Rowan, former VP of SendGrid Labs, who will work with a team of advisors and founders in residence — each a member of the Techstars worldwide network — who collectively have founded companies valued at more than $10B today.
“I joined the Techstars network in 2009 when SendGrid went through the Techstars Boulder Accelerator program,” said Isaac Saldana, chief technology officer of Techstars Studio. “After seeing SendGrid through to IPO, Mike Rowan and I created Joy Labs as an innovation platform to empower the network that develops the world’s best software. Because Techstars is about helping entrepreneurs succeed, I feel grateful for the opportunity to join Techstars Studio and leverage all of this to help other entrepreneurs build great companies, and continue our vision to make software better.”
Techstars has a proven track record of helping the most promising and highest-quality startups succeed and a worldwide talent network ready to go to work on the next great idea. Want to rapidly envision, validate, and prototype disruptive new startups? View this video to learn more. Visit Techstars Studio to get involved: http://www.techstars.com/studio
Techstars is the worldwide network that helps entrepreneurs succeed. Techstars founders connect with other entrepreneurs, experts, mentors, alumni, investors, community leaders, and corporations to grow their companies. Techstars operates three divisions: Techstars Startup Programs, Techstars Mentorship-Driven Accelerator Programs, and Techstars Corporate Innovation Partnerships. Techstars accelerator portfolio includes more than 1,700 companies with a market cap of $18 Billion. www.techstars.com
By Chris Lucas, Vice President of BLASTmedia and Rachael Feuerborn, Program Manager Techstars Chicago
I see my fair share of brilliant founders. Many of whom have well-thought-out business models, growth strategies, product roadmaps, etc. However, most neglect PR… because honestly who gives a hoot when you are spending your last $276.78 trying to get your big vision off the ground while investors (and your parents) keep telling you to quit? I get it. That’s why I wrote this.
What is PR?
Public Relations: if you break the words down it’s quite broad.
“Public” means just that: people. Not just your customers or the media. Think of Tesla. I certainly don’t have a Tesla. But their PR strategy doesn’t ignore me all together. Tesla’s brand permeates all of society purposefully.
“Relations” is the way in which two or more people or organizations regard and behave toward one another. Thanks dictionary.com! If your startup were a person, who would she be? What characteristics and personality quirks does she have? How would she communicate with her friends? Think of a blogger. Bloggers get it. They are people creating and publishing content to essentially make more friends.
Therefore, public relations is the way in which your brand creates and maintains relationships with a variety of stakeholders.
Public Relations is not…
- Shoving your personal founding story down the throat of anyone that will read it;
- Trying to get as many media outlets as possible to publish details on your beta launch;
- A way to test product market fit;
- Even close to the same process for every startup;
- Dependent on press releases.
How to do it
- Personify the brand
If you don’t know who you are, you can’t relate to anyone. Have a point of view. If you haven’t done this your brand won’t matter. (Shoutout to mentor, Suzanne Muchin)
- Have a specific goal in mind
Anyone who has worked with me knows the first thing I ask in any meeting or brainstorming session is: What is the GOAL? I often see startups think they must do some sort of PR and to do so, they must follow generic steps 1, 2, 3. Wrong. What is your goal? Always know the “WHY?”
So you just closed a round…
Don’t: Publicizing closing your seed round because you think it’s a thing to do. Yay!
Do: Publicizing your seed round to show what an attractive investment you are for your Series A in t-minus 12 months. Promote the traction of your overall industry with investors as a segment to take notice. Make it an announcement to your future investors.
So you just launched a new feature or product…
Don’t: Read out to journalists just because you are excited about it.
Do: I hope you developed that feature in response to direct, credible customer feedback. If so…
Trala did a great job with this: How to Learn Violin 3x faster with an Audio Practice Diary. This self-published blog post provides valuable feature descriptions. Trala provided valuable content to their target market showing how the product solves the problem they knew the user had.
So you want to get your brand out there…
Don’t: Introducing Company A. Hi, we are Company A and we do X.
Do: Be creative! Here are two great examples:
Vacation Fund: 3 Canadian Startups Setting Up Shop in Chicago. Why? To show potential Chicago clients she is investing in the local community and is setting up secondary roots close by.
Rheaply: Rheaply Circular Discovery Scholarship. Why? Rheaply uses this scholarship to show its support for education, invest in the next generation of sustainability advocates, and connect with universities (one of Rheaply’s target markets).
- Decide where
Techcrunch is not the only option. It’s not even the best option 99% of the time. There are multiple options:
- Local tech outlets
- Tech blogs
- Blogs/trade media in your industry
- Blogs/media your prospects read
Example: Neopenda: Invest in Neopenda. They launched a crowdfunding campaign. For the cash? Sure… but also for the publicity. They were rewarded for their creativity and storytelling. Check it out.
Example: Speeko: Chicago Sales Professionals Meetup. Speeko created a sales professionals meetup and features speakers who offer value to their target customers. For example, at their last meetup they featured an amazing leader from Google who is transforming how the company uses data to tell stories.
- Decide when
Timing is important with PR. Launching a ton of investor related PR campaigns when you aren’t raising is wasted momentum. Don’t only think about the circumstances you can control, but also external factors giving you momentum.
This startup streamlines the pro bono work of lawyers, including those fighting for immigrants at the border. Here, Paladin is aligning their brand with a cause. Not just any cause, but a very relevant cause that some will find compelling and some will not. Paladin has a personality and (s)he supports immigrants.
- Tell a story
Make it newsworthy. Otherwise, it’s useless. By now, you (hopefully) realize how much your PR strategy can overlap with your other marketing strategies (like social, content, etc). Your company’s personality, as we established early, has a voice. What does she say? She needs to be more than a bump on a log (yes, I’m from the country… y’all). See, my voice has a little twang and sass to it. What’s yours?
One great example is the introductory sentence to this post: “Jiobit CEO John Renaldi once lost his young son in a public park in Chicago for a nerve-wracking 30 minutes.” See? There’s a story in one sentence.
- Actually do it
You can’t just write a story and slide into a reporter’s DMs. Before you even wrote the story, you had a goal in mind… you also had a target in mind for publication. Right? So write the story with the publisher in mind. If it’s for your personal blog, it should be sharable and written for your followers. If it’s for a local media outlet, make it newsworthy and show the local impact. What does the reporter want to publish? Ask him!
Admittedly, that last little tidbit is hard. So when your PR strategy is a smidge more legit than your own social media page, bring in the big guns. This year, I brought in PR experts BLASTmedia to work with the founders from the Techstars Chicago Class of 2018. I’m not a big outsourcing fan, but outsourcing PR is smart.
Benefits of outsourcing
- The firm’s sole job is to source the optimal media opportunities for you;
- They have the relationships you just don’t have time for;
- They are not only PR subject-matter experts, but also experts in your space (if you have hired a firm with industry experience);
- You have a team of people to provide outside perspective, helping to hone your message and provide reality checks when needed.
Outsourcing NO NOs
- The PR firm will NOT define your brand’s personality, target customer, or go-to-market strategy. To set yourself up for success, know who you are, what you are selling and to whom before bringing on an outside PR partner.
- Outsourcing doesn’t allow you to wash your hands of it. Sure, it’ll ease up your workload but you are now in a partnership that requires your attention. Treat the firm like an extension of your team, not a standalone vendor, and the results will show it.
I chose BLASTmedia for multiple reasons. First, they are specialized in B2B tech and SaaS, working with start-up, scale-up, to publicly-traded tech companies for 13 years. They understand how to take a company and make them a thought leader in their industry, not blindly sending out press releases hoping it will get pick up. Second, they work with clients long-term to really understand the brand personality and story, allowing them to more effectively source opportunities and help create content… which about 4% of founders actually enjoy doing. Lastly, I spent hours on their blog learning about PR strategies and tips. After about 30 minutes of reading their plethora of media mentions, I realized I was in a PR trance and said, “dang, they are good.” If you’re a B2B SAAS company, check them out.
In 2018, Techstars Chicago scoured a list of thousands of mostly midwest startups to select ten. Techstars does indeed thrust a young company into the PR limelight quickly; however, every startup can follow a few tried and true principles to quickly put a PR plan in place. Good luck!
By Chris Heivly, Entrepreneur in Residence at Techstars
For a brief, shining moment, I was in the fire suppression business, so I know a little about fire. Fire needs three elements: spark, material, and oxygen. That is why you keep your door closed when there is a fire outside the room—don’t feed it more oxygen.
When I meet with startup community enthusiasts, we talk about the factors that seem to grow a community and the factors that seem to inhibit progress. If we could only do more of the right thing and less of the wrong things maybe we could build a little momentum.
Every community has its challenges. Some of the ones I hear are:
- We do not have enough capital;
- There are leaders who try and control everything;
- I can’t find any good mentors;
- The local corporations do not engage with startups;
- We don’t have any breakout companies.
These are real challenges and each one plays a negative role. But here’s the thing—in itself, publicly and privately bitching about these issues also has a negative role to play. I know this is human nature. I also know we need to address the issue.
Those complaints just gave the challenges more oxygen. And now we have a bigger fire.
Negative community talk creates doubt and has a direct impact on each member of the community. At the very least we need to balance the challenge discussions with the positive milestone stories.
Are you an active member of your startup community? Find yourself spending just a little too much time whining about what you don’t have? Try and minimize those conversations, and try celebrating a few more of the advances you have made.
One great advance for any growing startup community is a Techstars Startup Weekend. Organize one in your city!
By Chris Pearson, Manager, Partnerships | IBM Digital Business Group
I’ve spent my fair share of time mentoring startups, and when we meet for the first time, I always begin by asking the founders a seemingly simple question: “Why are you doing this?” Answers to this question come in different forms, typically to the tune of “We’ve noticed a gap in ‘x’ market that we can expose,” or “We have an innovative product that can revolutionize the way ‘y’ business is done,” and of course the ever so original “We’re the Uber for ‘z.’” It’s always great to get a picture of the product these founders are developing and to witness their excitement about the potential impact it can make, but none of those really answer the question I’ve asked. They’re all telling me the what and how but not necessarily the why. The reason I specifically ask “Why?” is that this question requires the founders to defines their purpose—and I believe that understanding your purpose is the foundation on which companies can truly thrive.
“He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.” These wise words, written over a century ago by Friedrich Nietzsche, are just as true today as they were then. Circumstances change, markets shift, new innovations arise, all of which are uncontrollable factors that can impact what and how, but if you have firmly established your why, there will be very little you cannot overcome.
Determine Your “Why”
Simple questions don’t always yield simple answers. The purpose behind our actions, let alone our business, isn’t necessarily easy to define and oftentimes takes a bit of digging, but once you have it, the decision making process becomes significantly easier across the board. As a founder, you have to account for hundreds of decisions on a daily basis, each of which can potentially take you any one of a hundred directions. The benefit to understanding your purpose is that it acts as a compass in your decision making. Whatever answer or course of action aligns most closely with the central purpose you’ve identified is the decision you make, period.
For me personally, I decided years ago that my purpose was to help foster growth across the startup ecosystem. I’m not a founder myself, but I have recognized a pattern across history: civilizations tend to thrive—and reach their pinnacle—when they are focused on innovation. Creating solutions that make life and business more efficient and effective is a central theme in growing societies, and I believe that is just as true today as it’s ever been.
I developed this mission shortly after joining 500 Startups in a business development role after many years in corporate finance, and it was this idea that opened my eyes to a missing component in the startup ecosystem. I realized that enterprise companies play a critical role in the development and growth of startups and that the development of startups plays into the long-term success of enterprise companies. For the sake of time, I won’t dive deeply into the subject. Here is a reason so few large corporate entities survive, or at least maintain, a high level of success beyond three generations—and it revolves around their inability to accept and buy-in to innovation.
Partners for Innovation
It was this revelation that led me to take a role at SoftLayer, which ultimately fully migrated into IBM, where I’ve worked to become a key figure in the development and execution of our startup program Startup With IBM. Our objective is to manage a program that not only provides startups access to our technology through credits and more importantly positions those companies that work with us to reach our global network of clients and partners in order to help them find customers and generate revenue. We want to leverage the strength of what IBM is today to create meaningful value for the growth and development of these startups who will ultimately determine what IBM becomes in the future. If we can serve these startups well, helping them grow and scale on our cloud, as more than just as technology providers but also as a business partner, then we have the opportunity to become a core piece in the success of the next generation of these companies. By design, our program is only successful when startups are successful first. The goal is to create a structure that serves and supports founders by leveraging IBM’s core competencies to give them the tools and resources they need to do what they do best: innovate.
It’s yet to be seen whether or not our complete vision will come to fruition in the end. What we do know is the why behind what we’re doing, and every decision we make for this program will be to serve that ultimate purpose as we go forward.
Learn more about how Techstars partners with corporations to promote innovation—within corporations and for startups.
By Shannon Liston, Techstars Corporate Council
Just to be clear: This sheet is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship. Companies should consult their own attorneys for legal advice on these issues. Because of the generality of the issues discussed in this piece, the information provided may not apply in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.
Sometimes, startups fail.
It’s painful and brutal—and nothing to be ashamed of. It’s part of many, many entrepreneurial journeys. But along with the emotional ups and downs, you’ve got to deal with the practical legal side of shutting down your startup.
The legal name for one version of this is corporate dissolution. If you don’t need the protections of bankruptcy (you’ve got low risk of litigation or disputes over claims), corporate dissolution may be right for your startup.
The Techstars legal team has created this best practices sheet to give you guidance and practical tips if your company is facing dissolution. Unsurprisingly, these will be different depending on which state you’re incorporated in—this sheet focuses on Delaware, because of the large number of US corporations incorporated there.
Long-Form v. Short-Form Dissolution
Many smaller companies liquidate without the protections of federal bankruptcy law, as corporate bankruptcy can be very expensive. Instead, you can get some of the same protections through Delaware’s long-form dissolution process—it gives boards of directors similar protections, and provides company creditors with notice, plus an opportunity to present their claims.
Work with your legal counsel to make sure you meet all the formalities of the long-form process, like 60-days notice to all known claimants, including public notice, and a court approval process ( 8 Del. C. 1953, § 280).
The formalities of the long-form process may be overkill for your company, especially if you’ve already sold your operating assets, if you stopped operations a while ago, or if you’re unlikely to have unknown creditors.
In this case, short-form dissolution may be right for you: it’s simpler and less expensive for many companies, and comes with fewer formalities than the long-form process (8 Del. C. 1953, § 275).
7 Steps to Dissolve a Business
- Obtain Board and Shareholder Approvals. Your company’s Board of Directors must approve the decision to dissolve and adopt a Plan of Liquidation. A majority of the company’s shareholders must also approve the decision and the Plan of Liquidation.
- Pay Franchise Taxes and File an Annual Report. You must pay Delaware franchise taxes in full (including the current calendar year franchise tax) and file all applicable Annual Franchise Tax Reports. The Delaware Division of Corporations will not accept the Certificate of Dissolution (see below) until this step is done.
- Notify the IRS. Within 30 days of the Board approving the dissolution (the dissolution resolution date), your company must file a notice of dissolution with the Internal Revenue Service: Form 966.
- If the dissolution involves the sale or exchange of corporate assets, Forms 8594 and 4797 might also be necessary.
- See the IRS checklist for other required filings.
- File for Dissolution with the State. Once the decision to dissolve is properly approved, the company must file a Certificate of Dissolution with the Delaware Division of Corporations.
- If your company has stopped doing business and doesn’t have any remaining assets, it might qualify to file the short form certificate of dissolution.
- If the company is registered to do business in another state, it will have to withdraw or surrender those qualifications.
- Provide Appropriate Notice to Creditors and Stakeholders. Follow state law requirements to give notice of the dissolution to anyone with a claim against the company. Delaware’s long-form dissolution notice requirements are here: 8 Del. C. 1953, § 280.
- “Winding Up”. After the dissolution is effective, the dissolved company is deemed to continue, generally for three years, for the limited purposes of winding up per the Plan of Liquidation. This means:
- Settling and closing the business;
- Liquidating remaining corporate assets;
- Settling claims;
- Resolving any lawsuits;
- Making final distributions to creditors, and if funds remain, to applicable shareholders.
- File Final Federal and State Tax Returns. Review the IRS checklist for closing a business and filing final returns. For the company’s final returns, check the box to indicate the tax return is a final return.
Do’s and Don’ts
Do: Act in accordance with your fiduciary duties.
It’s your responsibility to focus on maximizing the company’s value. For more on your obligations as a Director, see here.
Don’t: Disappear; act in a manner that presents a conflicting interest; arbitrarily pay back one creditor over another; etc.
Do: Send the filed Certificate of Dissolution to investors, describing your decision to dissolve and your efforts to maximize return to shareholders.
Don’t: Use dissolution as an escape hatch.
Dissolution alone does not abate actions, suits, or proceedings begun by or against your corporation prior to dissolution—or, generally speaking, for a period of three years after dissolution.
Do: Educate yourself on the several ways to wind down a company.
Talk with your lawyer about which way to wind down your company is the best choice for your situation—the complexity of your company (number of employees, investors, creditors, etc.) will have a big impact on this.
By Arturo Calle Flores, CEO Alterlatina & Community Leader, Techstars Startup Programs Peru
Here, Everyone Shares Everything
In a conversation during an event at Techstars Startup Week Lima, a venture capitalist told me: “It amazes me how this works, I come from the corporate world and there nobody shares anything.” I liked hearing that because it reflects the achievements of several years spent trying to create a community of startups in Lima, Peru. Here, everyone shares everything.
Organizing Techstars Startup Week Lima took four months, but helping to create a collaborative culture took about six years. Techstars Startup Week Lima is an event that celebrates the achievements of the startup community, brings together all the actors of the innovative entrepreneurship ecosystem, and shares knowledge and experiences for a week.
A few years ago it was not possible to imagine such an event in Lima. So what changed?
Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Meets Latin American Business Culture
The resurgence of the Internet boom that happened around 2007 made a big difference. Social networks began to redefine cyberspace. Google disrupted the advertising business, Apple redesigned the music business, and Amazon boosted e-commerce globally. In that year and the following, thousands of entrepreneurs from around the world began to meet in spontaneous, effervescent, and dynamic communities, in order to exchange experiences and launch their startups.
Latin America was part of that process. Initiatives were born in places like Tequila Valley, Palermo Valley, and Lima Valley, to name a few. From the beginning, the entrepreneurs in these communities not only disseminated the new technologies and businesses of the network—they also introduce a new type of culture, the collaborative culture of Silicon Valley. However, adapting an entrepreneurship ecosystem to Latin American business culture was not easy; many burgeoning startup communities disintegrated, and others were forgotten.
Strengthening the Startup Ecosystem in Lima
Towards the year 2011, my local startup community, along with some other communities in Latin America, started running Techstars Startup Weekends in Lima, with a goal of strengthening the startup ecosystem. During the following years, the governments of countries including Chile, Brazil, and Peru created funds for startups, and accelerators began to appear in the region. But the success stories were few, the startups very isolated—and the government programs threatened to close.
That was, until they started measuring the social impact of these initiatives. That’s when those programs discovered that, although the monetary results were lower than they had hoped, there was a change in the minds and attitudes of the entrepreneurs in these communities. Now, people were worried about generating global impact and creating sustainable businesses; they sought contact with the creators of different technologies; and they started thinking twice before working in a company that didn’t not worry about social welfare.
In those years of work in the community, something had changed. What had been the transformative factor? I would argue that Techstars Startup Week has had a huge impact.
Techstars Startup Week Lima by the Numbers
Let me share a few numbers to back up that bold statement. Techstars Startup Week Lima has joined more than 30 organizations of the Peruvian ecosystem; it had 89 exhibitors and 48 sponsors directly impacting more than 1300 entrepreneurs face-to-face and 1250 in the live broadcasts of social networks. Entrepreneurs attended an average of 10 events, and attendees scored the events an average of 8.9 out of 10. Startup Week Lima was an event with excellent numbers.
How did we achieve this strong outcome? We asked for help. We talked with the regional community and formed organizing teams interested in giving first. Give First is one of Techstars deeply held beliefs: we give without expectation of receiving a transactional or immediate return. It’s amazing how life changes when you start to live #GiveFirst.
We received help from the Techstars communities of Venezuela and Pachuca, Mexico. We received not only advice but also work material, speakers for virtual talks, examples of what went well and what went wrong at previous events, and even operational help for various activities of the event. These outpourings of collaboration and helping each other would have been previously inconceivable in the traditional Latin American corporate world.
Yes, Techstars Startup Week had a big impact—but it’s not the main thing that changed this community and made it so much more collaborative and functional.
So what was the decisive factor? The change of attitude: give first, be inclusive of everyone, and develop a network instead of a hierarchy. That network is not done in a day, and this kind of change can’t be imposed from outside, it has to grow from within and it is a long journey. But today, I look at the startup community here in Lima, and the amazing event we held at Techstars Startup Week Lima, and I feel profound satisfaction. I see a more united ecosystem here, plus dozens of Latin American cities closer and closer to a boiling technology business.
Techstars Startup Week is a celebration of entrepreneurs in cities around the globe. Find one—or make one happen—in your city.
Una nueva cultura de startups en el Techstars Startup Week Lima
Por Arturo Calle Flores, CEO Alterlatina & Community Leader, Techstars Startup Programs Perú
Aquí, todos comparten todo.
En una conversación, durante un evento en el Startup Week Lima, un inversionista de capital de riesgo me dijo: “Me asombra cómo funciona esto, yo vengo del mundo corporativo y ahí nadie comparte nada”. Me gustó oír esa frase porque refleja el logro de varios años tratando de crear una comunidad de startups en Lima, Perú. Aquí todos comparten todo.
Organizar Techstars Startup Week Lima nos tomó cuatro meses, pero para ayudar a crear una cultura de colaboración nos tardamos unos seis años. El evento celebra los logros de la comunidad de startups, reúne a todos los actores del ecosistema de emprendimiento de innovación, y comparte conocimiento y experiencias durante una semana.
Hace unos años no era posible imaginar un evento así en Lima, ¿Qué ha cambiado?.
El ecosistema de emprendimiento se encuentra con la cultura latinoamericana de negocios
El resurgimiento del boom del Internet que se produjo alrededor del 2007 hizo una gran diferencia. Las redes sociales comenzaron a redefinir el ciberespacio. Google disrumpe el negocio de la publicidad, Apple rediseña el negocio de la música y Amazon impulsa el comercio electrónico a nivel global. Durante ese año y los siguientes, miles de emprendedores de todo el mundo comenzaron a reunirse en comunidades espontáneas, efervescentes y dinámicas, con el fin de intercambiar experiencias y lanzar sus startups.
Latinoamérica no fue ajena a ese proceso. Nacieron iniciativas como Tequila Valley, Palermo Valley y Lima Valley, por nombrar algunas. Desde el inicio, los emprendedores en estas comunidades no solo diseminaron las nuevas tecnologías y negocios de la red — también introdujeron un nuevo tipo de cultura, la cultura colaborativa de Silicon Valley. Sin embargo, la adaptación a la cultura de negocios latinoamericana no fue fácil; muchas comunidades se desintegraron y otras pasaron al olvido.
Fortaleciendo el ecosistema de startups en Lima
Hacia el año 2011, mi comunidad local de startups, junto con algunas comunidades en Latinoamérica, comenzamos a realizar los Techstars Startup Weekend, con el objetivo de fortalecer el ecosistema de startups. Durante los siguientes años, los gobiernos de países como Chile, Brasil y Perú crearon fondos para startups, y las aceleradoras empezaron a aparecer en la región; pero los casos de éxito eran contados, las startups aisladas–y los programas de gobierno amenazaban con cerrar.
Hasta que se comenzó a medir el impacto social de estas iniciativas. Es cuando se descubre que, si bien los resultados monetarios no eran los esperados, se estaba dando un cambio en la mente y actitudes de los emprendedores de estas comunidades. Ahora las personas estaban preocupadas por generar impacto global, negocios sostenibles; buscando el contacto con los creadores de tecnología y pensándolo dos veces antes de trabajar en una empresa que no se preocupa por el bienestar social.
En esos años de trabajo en la comunidad, algo había cambiado. ¿Cuál había sido el factor decisivo?
Techstars Startup Week Lima en Números
Podría asegurar que Techstars Startup Week ha tenido un gran impacto. Permítanme compartir algunos números para respaldar la declaración anterio. Techstars Startup Week Lima ha unido a más de 30 organizaciones del ecosistema peruano; ha contado con 89 expositores y 48 patrocinadores impactando directamente más de 1300 emprendedores de manera presencial y 1250 en las transmisiones en vivo de las redes sociales. Los emprendedores asistieron en promedio a 10 eventos, de los cuales se dió una valoración de 8.9 sobre 10 en promedio en la calificación de su participación. Startup Week Lima fue un evento con excelentes números.
¿Qué hicimos para lograrlo? Pedimos ayuda. Conversamos con la comunidad regional y formamos equipos organizadores interesados en dar primero. Give First (Dar Primero) es una de las creencias más arraigadas de Techstars; damos sin expectativa de recibir algo a cambio o de manera inmediata. Es increíble cómo cambia la vida cuando empiezas a vivir con #GiveFirst como creencia.
Recibimos ayuda de las comunidades de Techstars en Venezuela y México. Y no solo consejos, sino material de trabajo, expositores para las charlas virtuales, ejemplos de las cosas que salieron bien y mal en los eventos previos, incluso recibimos ayuda operativa en varias actividades del evento. Esta prodigalidad de colaboración y ayuda mutua hubiera sido previamente inconcebible en el mundo de negocios latinoamericano tradicional.
Si, Techstars Startup Week tuvo un gran impacto—pero no es el factor principal que transformó la comunidad y la hizo más colaborativa y funcional.
Entonces, ¿Cuál fue el factor decisivo? El cambio de actitud: dar primero, ser inclusivos con todos y desarrollar una red en lugar de una jerarquía. Esa red no se hace en un día, y ese cambio no se da por imposición externa, crece desde dentro y es un largo camino. Pero hoy, miro la comunidad startup en Lima, y siento una profunda satisfacción. Veo un ecosistema más unido, además de docenas de ciudades latinoamericanas cada vez más cerca a una ebullición de negocios de tecnología.
By Henrique Dubugras, Brex CEO
True innovation is driven by aggressive targets. Not by slides and ball pits.
I am not talking about innovation of a product or idea. I am talking about a type of innovation that is often overlooked: innovation of internal processes. I never cease to be amazed by the number of problems that people are solving with and within technology. However, I am always surprised to see how many companies with very innovative product ideas still use outdated methods to conduct their daily operations.
How Not To Innovate
I’ll use recruiting and sales as two examples. Most companies still recruit through “spray and pray” LinkedIn mass messages that are often overlooked. For sales, they sell via online ads that don’t stand out. Then, they hope that ping pong tables and colorful bean bags will act as magic talismans that will enhance imagination and trigger innovation in the company. (I have nothing against ping pong or bean bags! They do help attract employees, but they don’t solve your problems). In contrast to all of these tactics, I have never seen so much creativity happen so fast than when we established our first quarterly targets. Because I like specific examples and think that you do too, I will tell you how this process worked in more detail for these two areas.
When we started Brex, we also started off with the obvious recruiting and sales tactics. LinkedIn and online ads were our tools for recruiting and inbound sales, respectively. We were still in our beta phase and there was no information about us online yet—which made these tasks that much harder. However, once we were able to get a potential customer on the phone or a prospect through the door, our conversion rates were very high. Our problem? Getting them to pay attention to us and take that call.
Our Famously Aggressive Quarterly Targets
Once the Brex team was large enough, we employed a tactic that we learned at our previous company, Pagar.me. We set our famously aggressive quarterly targets. These very high numbers set the bar high for individuals and teams, but we backed them up with industry benchmarks (to show that they were humanly possible) and with high compensation rewards (to show that they were worth it). Two weeks after the target setting meeting, the team realized that they would not hit the new targets if they stuck to old methods. Soon, creative solutions started popping out. My favorite ideas were handwritten letters for recruiting and a Brazilian chocolate campaign for sales.
Instead of sending 5,000 Linkedin messages, the recruiting team selected 500 profiles that we thought would be an excellent fit, did some more extensive research on their backgrounds and wrote 500 handwritten letters that we had delivered over the course of a few weeks. The letters were personal and kind of mysterious. We were trying to get these candidates’ attention, and we definitely did. One thing that worked for us was to specifically target the candidates and messaging to South Americans, whom we thought were most likely to resonate with our story and background. The conversion into actual interviews was six times higher than when we were using LinkedIn only. It was a manual process, but we got invaluable talent that was crucial at that phase of our company, and continues to be today.
Chocolatey, Delicious Sales
Sales followed a similarly thoughtful strategy. Rather than just blast online ads for “corporate credit card,” which has $20+ CPC and is clearly too broad so it doesn’t convert, the sales team mapped the coworking spaces in downtown San Francisco, did some research on concentration of target leads and the hours of the week these spaces were the most crowded. For two weeks, they had boxes of artisan Brazilian chocolates delivered to companies in the coworking spaces and followed up with an email. Once again, unprecedented conversion rates. The cool thing about this campaign is that it didn’t just catch the attention of the companies that received the chocolate. It also sparked the curiosity of others in their coworking spaces who did not get one—which was great for driving word of mouth.
In my experience, aggressive targets forced us to innovative aggressively. The more creative our approaches to common challenges, the better the result. Stretched targets drive this. Innovation is born from necessity.
Is your startup ready to get creative? Apply to a Techstars mentorship-driven accelerator, and #domorefaster.
Interested in learning more about the Brex Corporate Card for Startups? Learn more here.
By Lalitha Wemel, Regional Manager APAC + Matthieu Bodin, Regional Manager Greater China
Techstars Startup Week Taiwan, Powered by Taiwan Tech Arena and in partnership with the Taiwan Ministry of Science and Technology, was a five day startup community celebration, which brought together business leaders, funders, founders, and startup enthusiasts to celebrate Taiwan’s and Asia’s thriving innovation community. This week-long celebration hosted 55 events alongside 35 community partners, with 60 international and local speakers, across more than seven venues in the Taipei metropolitan area.
The tech startup ecosystem in Taiwan has grown dramatically in the past five years, with active participation and support from both the public and private sectors. Startup Week Taiwan was a great showcase of what can be jointly achieved when the Taiwan tech startup ecosystem comes together, bringing folks from every corner of the community including universities, startups, ecosystem builders, corporations, and investors.
As cliche as it sounds, our most significant takeaway from the first Techstars Startup Week Taiwan was the program’s ability to “connect the dots”—between people, programs, community and knowledge. Over and over, we heard people describing this as the highlight of the community celebration we had this past week.
Although he originally Intended to only attend one event early in the week, Jeremy Firster, like many other participants, ended up engaging in multiple full-day sessions for the remainder of the week. “I just kept finding new valuable insights on different problems that I’ve been having in my startup that Startup Week Taiwan was able to address and shed new perspectives on,” Firster said.
Echoing Jeremy’s sentiment about the quality of programs and people across the week, Taiwanese startup founder Henry Chang (Fufilo) discovered a whole new network of international and local people that brought new knowledge, perspectives, and networks to help take his his startup forward: “It’s like I’ve been living in a cave, and Startup Week Taiwan helped me see the light.”
Startup Week Taiwan, which took place December 3–7, 2018, offered free learning opportunities to business owners and startup enthusiasts of all kinds. The event is community-driven and offered attendees access to dozens of programs, influential keynote speakers, and funding opportunities. Businesses and entrepreneurs of every type and stage came together over five days to build momentum and opportunity and to activate Taiwan’s startup community further.
“Having a partner like Techstars allowed us to tap into a new resource of experience and talent to channel into Taiwan’s ecosystem. It helped us create a week of high-quality curriculum, content, and takeaways for partners and participants alike. We are looking forward to working with more partners together in the upcoming year to build a strong tech startup community here,” said Rich Fuh, Partnership Director of Taiwan Tech Arena.
From ‘learning how to leverage your LinkedIn network’ to ‘understanding how to get into a global accelerator program’ to ‘expanding your knowledge on different startup communities and topics’, Startup Week Taiwan 2018 aimed to truly showcase the diversity of people and knowledge that Taiwan’s growing startup community has to offer.
Techstars Startup Week Taiwan 2018 was made possible by the Ministry of Science and Technology (MoST) of Taiwan and Taiwan Tech Arena and supported by many generous sponsors, community partners, speakers, and participants. Check out our round-up of the week: