Jason Mendelson on demystifying venture deals

Jason Mendelson, Co-founder of Foundry Group, has spent over 15 years explaining how venture deals really work. From blog posts to a book—Venture Deals is now in its 4th edition!—to a free online course, Jason and co-author Brad Feld are determined to Give First by demystifying VC. 

podcast jason mendelson give first with david cohen

Jason Mendelson, co-founder of Foundry Group, can explain what matters in negotiations between entrepreneurs and VCs in just two words: 

Control and Economics. 

It takes enormous expertise to make something complicated really simple, and these bare two words speak to Jason’s profound understanding of venture deals and how they work, for the entrepreneur, the investor, and the lawyers. In addition to being a VC and a company founder himself, Jason has also been a lawyer, a software engineer, and a professional drummer. 

Control and economics mean that, in the hundreds of pages of legal documents around an investment, the two things that really matter are control of the company and economic return from the company. Jason and his Venture Deals co-author, Brad Feld, coined this paradigm—and Jason is very proud that it has been used, and stolen, widely. 

This is what Jason is most interested in: sharing information. He loves making complex things, like the legal negotiations around VC deals, simple. He works hard to pry open the black box of VC and show everyone how deals get made, and what aspects are most important to the parties involved, whether you’re a startup founder seeking funding, an aspiring VC, or a lawyer diving into the world of venture deals. 

Jason has been on this path for over 15 years now. He and Brad started blogging on the subject in 2005, and their book Venture Deals first came out in 2011. The fourth edition just published, and Jason explains why they’ve needed every single edition—he cites both better explanations and better writing. Jason and Brad also lead the free and popular online course, Venture Deals. 

Listen for Jason’s insights into the evolution of venture deals, how teaching helps him learn, and, best of all, for the story of a board meeting during which all questions had to be answered with Hall and Oates song titles. See? The professional drummer bit really does connect. To listen on all platforms, choose your favorite here. 

Listen for Jason’s take on…

The response to the first edition of Venture Deals:

“We immediately got hate letters from a ton of lawyers and VCs, and that’s when we knew we had done it right.”

What Venture Deals includes:

“Everything that Brad and I know about raising around of venture capital financing, and it’s slanted toward the entrepreneur.”

Why Jason and Brad wrote Venture Deals:

“So we really wanted to give this to the community and say, ‘Hey, here are all the secrets.’ Now all the bad people in ecosystem, they can just go away.”

Companies, people, and resources mentioned in this podcast:








TECHSTARS OPENS TECHSTARS TEL AVIV FOR 2020

BOULDER, Colo. – October 7, 2019 – Techstars, the worldwide network that helps entrepreneurs succeed, today announced the launch of Techstars Tel Aviv, an Israel-based accelerator program. The new 13-week accelerator will provide hands-on mentorship and guidance as well as access to the Techstars worldwide network to support founders and entrepreneurs interested in growing their businesses in the city of Tel Aviv.

Techstars Tel Aviv will be led by three-time entrepreneur and experienced Techstars Managing Director Hilla Ovil-Brenner, with support from Program Manager Franka Godina. The program will run March – June 2020, culminating in a demo day the week of June 22th, 2020. The program is open to all startups interested in accelerating their businesses in Tel Aviv.

“Through my experience as a Techstars managing director over the past two years, I’ve witnessed the amazing magic of the Techstars’ worldwide network of corporate partners, investors and mentors,” said Ovil-Brenner. “It’s inspiring to see so many people come together to support young companies at every step of their entrepreneurial journey. The launch of Techstars Tel Aviv will further support entrepreneurship in the heart of the Israeli Startup Nation, which will lead to more exceptional founder success stories out of Israel.”

Applications for the program are now open and will be accepted through December 8, 2019. Startups interested in learning more about the program are encouraged to contact Techstars or visit techstars.com/programs/tel-aviv-program to learn more.

About Techstars

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 1,900 companies with a market cap of $23 Billion. www.techstars.com








Techstars and HBCUvc Launch 10-City Startup Weekend Tour to Promote Diversity in Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital

WASHINGTON, D.C. – October 2, 2019 – Techstars, the worldwide network that helps entrepreneurs succeed, and HBCUvc, a nonprofit fellowship program providing Black and Latinx students with training and mentorship in venture capital, today announced the launch of a joint 10-city Startup Weekend tour across the country. The series of events will take place at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Hispanic-Serving Institutes (HSIs) across the U.S. 

Techstars and HBCUvc partnered on this initiative to increase the representation of young black and brown entrepreneurs in each startup ecosystem and ultimately create jobs and wealth opportunities for communities of color, which are traditionally underrepresented in the VC and startup landscape. This is the first endeavor of its kind aimed to specifically reach HBCU students, who account for 60 percent of all black engineers in the country. 

Each three-day Startup Weekend allows attendees to connect with like-minded individuals looking to build something new, pitch new startup ideas to a panel of judges and learn what it takes to start their own company. In just 54 hours, participants will experience the highs, lows, fun and pressure that make up life at a startup. 

“We’re excited to partner with Techstars, a global accelerator, to bring Startup Weekends to HBCUs,” said Hadiyah Mujhid, Founder and CEO of HBCUvc. “Our partner HBCUs and their students benefit greatly as Techstars Startup Weekend events bring tech entrepreneurs, corporate partners, and investors to the campuses of HBCUs, helping to accelerate our next generation of technology entrepreneurs on our campuses.”

Results from past Techstars Startup Weekend events include the formation of more than 23,000 teams by more than 193,000 entrepreneurs in 150 countries. Some teams even started to generate revenue during the event, while others went on to raise funds from angel investors or venture capitalists.

“This is the vision and promise of an organization like Techstars – opening access and leading the charge in entrepreneurial ecosystem development through collaborating with groups like HBCUvc,” says Monica Wheat, Techstars liaison for the tour, Techstars Startup Programs Lead in Detroit and Founder of Venture Catalysts. “HBCUvc has already been fueling pipeline development work for years. Techstars and these communities are excited to see this program go live and we look forward to all the opportunities it will create.” 

This unique initiative will cover five campuses in 2019, with more to follow in 2020. The tour officially kicks off at Howard University in October 2019. Below are the tour stops announced to date:

Techstars is committed to being an action-driven thought leader for diversity and inclusion in the tech space. This partnership will directly impact those who choose a career in venture capital and those who become entrepreneurs. HBCU and HSI schools interested in participating should connect with HBCUvc at partnerships@hbcu.vc. Interested partners and sponsors should contact Monica Wheat at monica.wheat@startupweek.co. 

About HBCUvc

HBCUvc is a nonprofit organization that trains students attending Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) in venture capital and technology entrepreneurship. The organization provides students with venture capital skills training, mentorship, and the opportunity to build professional relationships with seasoned investors and entrepreneurs, and empowers them to fuel high-growth entrepreneurship. This first of its kind program unlocks and fosters entrepreneurship at HBCUs and HSIs and provides students with a unique learning experience that jumpstarts their careers.

About Techstars

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 1,900 companies with a market cap of $23 Billion. www.techstars.com

###

Techstars
Andrea Perdomo
andrea.perdomo@techstars.com
(720) 924-1836‬

Techstars Tour
Monica Wheat
monica.wheat@startupweek.co
248-633-8514








Janet Bannister on human-centered investing

Canadian VC Janet Bannister, a partner at Real Ventures, loves investing in “conscious founders” who are trying to make the world a better place. Her style of “human-centered investing” prioritizes people and relationships, and investing in smart, self-aware, teachable entrepreneurs. 

Today, Janet Bannister is a Partner at Real Ventures, but when Founding Partners John Stokes and Jean-Sebastien Cournoyer first approached her about joining to give the firm a presence in Toronto, Janet was nonplussed. “Why would I go into Venture Capital?” she asked. “Isn’t Venture Capital all about grinding the entrepreneurs down?” 

But she listened, and she learned about what VC could be, when it was done better, seeing “entrepreneurs as the heroes, and as people who can be supported and helped” with a mission that involves “helping the next generation of entrepreneurs and building entrepreneurial ecosystems.” 

Now she’s all in, with an approach that she calls “human centered investing.” Like Techstars, Janet believes that team is paramount in whether a startup will succeed or not. “What exactly is a great founder, what exactly is a great team? In my mind, in my experience, it’s not about years of experience. It’s not about whether they’ve worked in the industry or not,” Janet said. “It’s much more about how they are as a person and how they are as a leader.”

When she’s investing, she looks for the “conscious founder.” Meaning: “Are they self-aware? Are they transparent? Are they aware of where they need to improve? Are they continually trying to improve and be open to feedback?”

Most of all, Janet is thrilled to be working with entrepreneurs who are trying to make the world a better place. “I love working with entrepreneurs. I love their passion, their determination, the fact that they are going all in on something that they believe in,” she said. “If I can be in a place and have a role where my job revolves around helping entrepreneurs and doing so in a consulting, advising, mentoring capacity, where really my mandate is to help entrepreneurs be more successful—What could be better?” 

Listen for Janet’s hints for how she manages to talk with (almost) everybody, and how she stays healthy while also working so very hard. 

Listen for Janet’s take on…

The importance of physical fitness:

“I was a competitive athlete growing up. I was a long distance runner. Then I got into triathlons, and I was on the national triathlon team for three years. I still get up between 4:30 and 5:00 every morning to exercise for an hour or so. And that gives me a lot of energy. I think that being physically fit is incredibly important for everybody, but particularly for entrepreneurs.”

“I try for eight hours of sleep every night and then getting up early and exercising. Those blocks are not moveable. They’re not flexible, they’re not negotiable. It’s just something that I do.”

How Janet schedules her time:

“I think I’m very efficient. My schedule is generally booked back to back. I have a 14 year old son, often I’ll drop him off at school and then I have a call booked in my car from the time I’m driving down to the office. And then from when I get into the office to when I leave, I’m back to back. Then on the way home I usually have a call booked. I don’t know if that is best practice, but it’s what I do to try to fit things in.”

“It’s something that I do struggle with. I try to make time for everybody, but at the same time I’m wrestling with, okay, at some point I need to say No because I need to prioritize the companies that we have invested in and make sure that I have enough time to spend with them and to think deeply about their businesses.”

How Janet Gives First:

“What helps me is, when I give, I never expect anything back. I don’t even expect a thank you.”

“My attitude is, I just give because I sincerely care about people and I want to help them. I want to see other people succeed and I don’t expect anything back. And I think, for me anyway, that helps my peace of mind, because I genuinely get a huge amount of satisfaction from helping other people. If I can help people, that is amazing.”

“I learn from every interaction. I think that so much of the venture business, of entrepreneurship, of building a business—It’s all about making connections. And I find that I learn from every interaction—and then I make connections.”

“I think that every time you meet somebody, if you’re open and curious, you’re going to learn something, and everything that you learn can somehow be applied to make you better in your next meeting.”

Companies, people, and resources mentioned in this podcast:








UC Students Gain New Resources, Opportunities Through Expanded Entrepreneurship Program

Reposted from the University of California Press Room.

The University of California and the Blackstone Charitable Foundation announced today (Sept. 24) the expansion of an exciting program that will equip students with more tools and resources to take their entrepreneurship and innovation to the next level. The $5 million expansion of the Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars program will give more UC campuses critical access to resources, opportunities and mentorships for students and recent graduates across disciplines and experience levels.

“As the home to entrepreneurs and researchers at the forefront of cutting-edge discoveries and technological advancements, UC is the powerful engine behind California’s global leadership on innovation,” said UC President Janet Napolitano.

“We take great pride, especially, in our efforts to break down barriers and increase opportunities for women and minority entrepreneurs. We are excited to bring LaunchPad — and its valuable resources, opportunities and network — to UC campuses to further embed the ‘startup culture’ into the fabric of our campus communities.”

UC students will be able to take advantage of LaunchPad events, coaching and an exceptional talent network to help them succeed in their entrepreneurial ventures, moving groundbreaking research out of the laboratory or classroom and into the marketplace. This program has been operating at UCLA since 2014, reaching more than 8,000 students, serving 800-plus startup ventures and facilitating more than 3,000 startup consulting meetings. Eight more UC campuses will now be able to leverage the opportunities from LaunchPad thanks to the Blackstone Charitable Foundation grant.

“With its unique network of colleges and universities, California has a rich history of fostering entrepreneurship and a bright future for the next generation of entrepreneurs,” said Jon Gray, president and chief operating officer of Blackstone. “The LaunchPad program has been transformational for students who draw on its resources to grow new businesses and invest in their communities. We are proud to partner with the University of California system in expanding this important programming to more students.”

The Blackstone Charitable Foundation established LaunchPad in 2010 and partnered with Techstars eight years later to provide participants with access to their network of more than 10,000 mentors, invitations to signature events like Startup Week and Startup Weekend, and access to world-renowned content and startup services. Blackstone LaunchPad and Techstars also help student entrepreneurs navigate the complex landscape of fundraising, job placement and recruitment. LaunchPad has achieved success across 18 campuses in the U.S. and Ireland, providing nearly 500,000 students with the access to resources, personal connections and professional networks they need to get their companies off the ground. To date, LaunchPad graduates have gone on to incorporate close to 9,000 businesses that have raised nearly $200 million in investments.

UC has a long history in innovation and entrepreneurship, helping launch iconic industries and businesses in California semiconductors, biotechnology, digital media and aerospace, among other fields. LaunchPad amplifies UC’s flourishing entrepreneurship efforts for students, which currently include 43 incubators or accelerators, numerous competitions, entrepreneurial training academies, and boot camps that support students through the startup stages of discovery, validation, commercialization and scaled growth.

The 2018 TechCrunch list recognized several UC campuses as the country’s top public universities with the highest number of alumni startup founders who have raised at least $1 million in venture investment funding. UC Berkeley and UCLA scored the top two positions respectively.








From Zero to Tech: Growing Startup Culture in Bhutan

How does a country go from lifting a national ban on television in 1999 to nurturing tech startups in 2019? What does a startup ecosystem look like in a United Nations’ classified Least Developed Country? What role does startup culture play in a country that measures success via Gross National Happiness rather than Gross Domestic Product? 

Techstars Startup Weekend Bhutan (Women)

This is the remarkable story of a country building a startup culture from the ground up. Since 2016, Techstars Startup Weekends have been introducing entrepreneurship to the Bhutanese people—with strong support from the government—and little by little, this agrarian economy is changing to make space for innovation. 

Watching entrepreneurship take hold in Bhutan provides a fascinating view of how an economy can grow from literally zero technology to one where people don’t just use tech to enhance their lives—they problem solve with it, and build businesses that meet their unique needs. 

And it demonstrates that startup success really can happen anywhere—with a little help. 

Building a Better Future

In Bhutan, youth employment, especially for college graduates, is a pressing concern. In 2016, the youth unemployment rate was at 13.2%, and the number of male unemployed youth doubled in 2016. Many young Bhutanese see civil service and government jobs as their only options—and there aren’t enough of these jobs to go around among college graduates. Farming still provides employment for nearly 60% of the population. 

At Techstars, we strive to help entrepreneurs around the world succeed because we believe that entrepreneurs build a better future. Youth unemployment and a desire to transform what is still primarily an agrarian society are exactly the kinds of problems that entrepreneurship can solve. 


Sonam Pelden is the Founder of Code for Bhutan. Tech Entrepreneur, Finance and Economics Writer, Marketing Strategist, FORBES 30 under 30, Techstars Startup Weekend Bhutan mentor.

Why is entrepreneurship important to Bhutan?
“If Bhutan is ever to escape the economic lethargy largely attributed to our size and our geographical disposition, it must do so on the success and vitality of creative free enterprise. An economy without sufficient innovation and creative enterprise risks stagnation and decline. Unlike many other industries, the impact of technology is exponential and embracing it 100% will mean that Bhutan’s economy can also grow exponentially.”


Enter Techstars Startup Weekend

The first Techstars Startup Weekend Bhutan took place in January 2016, in the capital city of Thimphu. Techstars Regional Manager for South & Central Asia, Anurag Maloo, remembers the event: 25 people showed up, and they ambled in nearly two and a half hours after the start time. Startup hustle was clearly not yet a priority. But after 54 hours of innovating hard, they left energized and enthusiastic. 

“We are bringing Startup Week to Thimphu because the proven opportunities and successes that stem from SW will propel our growing startup community in the right direction” said Kitso Pelmo Wangdi, Research Analyst from event sponsor QED Consulting Group and one of the local organizers. “We would like to put Bhutan on the map.” 

Progress For a Startup Nation

Anurag worked with local community organizers to bring the second Startup Weekend to Thimphu in June 2016, and this time they got 55 attendees. 


Dr. Tshering Cigay Dorji is the CEO of Thimphu Tech Park and a Techstars Startup Weekend Bhtuan mentor.

Why is Techstars Startup Weekend important for Bhutan?
“Techstars Startup Weekend program is very important for Bhutan to provide effective experiential entrepreneurship education to our youth and also raise awareness on entrepreneurship and innovation which are so essential for a developing economy like ours.”


By the end of 2018, eight Techstars Startup Weekend Bhutan events had attracted over 750 participants, with the then Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay attending three, and loudly praising the efforts. 

“We live in a startup nation,” he said, in a speech at the close of the event. “It is up to all of us to fulfil the potential that we have here to create the startup nation together. We are unique. Our startup journey started many decades ago as a small impoverished country. Our Kings decided to give us free education and healthcare and to focus on Gross National Happiness. Your ideas reach out to community and the environment. They reach out to the poor and to the community. Here in Bhutan, it is clear we go beyond the bottom line.”

A Techstars Startup Weekend Bhutan For Women

In 2018, organizers of Techstars Startup Weekend Bhutan events realized that their participants were skewing heavily male: about 70%. This is, of course, an issue that plagues entrepreneurship and tech worldwide. 

In late 2018, a team of passionate local organizers held Techstars Startup Weekend Bhutan (Women). As with the first ever Techstars Startup Weekend Bhutan, turnout was low: about 35 participants, 25 of them women. But if anything, enthusiasm was even higher than usual.

“Almost all the women participants pitched an idea. Women were very excited, keen in learning and in just 54 hours the transformation of women participants were so visible through their final presentation and showcasing of their prototype. The community building bond has been established so beautifully,” said Deepika Rai, Startup Weekend Bhutan Community Leader and ICT Professional at Department of IT & Telecom (DITT), Ministry of Information and Communications (MoIC).

Next Step: National Editions

With so much success in the first couple of years, the Techstars and local organizing teams were motivated to go even bigger. The next step: a national edition of Techstars Startup Weekend Bhutan, bringing together winning teams from Techstars Startup Weekends held at colleges around the country. 

Building momentum for entrepreneurship? Check. Getting college students involved? Check. Growing startup culture across the nation? That, too. 


Tashi Wangdi is the Founder of iHub Bhutan, and a Techstars Startup Weekend Bhutan Community Leader.

Why is Techstars Startup Weekend important for Bhutan?
“Techstars Startup Weekend, especially to aspiring entrepreneurs, has helped them adopt and understand what it takes to start their own business and even helped expose tradition business to use technology to up scale their business.”


The first national edition ran in the spring of 2018. Students from seven different colleges around the country pitched 600 business ideas the first night, and built out 157 businesses in the first round of the event. From these, the 20 best were selected to compete at the national edition. 

In 2019 thus far, there have already been 14 Techstars Startup Weekends across Bhutan in 10 cities, around themes like education, HealthTech, FinTech, AR/VR, IoT, and construction. These events attracted a total of over 1000 participants, clearly demonstrating that among Bhutanese youth, interest in entrepreneurship is strong, and on the rise. 

Bhutan’s current Prime Minister, Lotay Tshering, attended the finals, and live tweeted the pitches from the finalist teams as well as congratulations to the winners.

As Techstars Regional Manager for South & Central Asia, Anurag started out by attending every single Startup Weekend in Bhutan. But as more and more local organizers learned how the weekends worked, Anurag started hanging back. Today, he no longer needs to attend every event. He’s empowered local people and communities to facilitate their own Techstars Startup Weekends across Bhutan—and the events are thriving. 

And that startup hustle? At the most recent Techstars Startup Weekend Bhutan, 120 people arrived two hours before the event kickoff. 

A Truly Worldwide Network

When we say that Techstars is the worldwide network that helps entrepreneurs succeed, we really do mean worldwide. While some new entrepreneurs are lucky enough to live in hotbeds of innovation where resources are plentiful and startup culture is the norm, others are farmers in Bhutan with a vision for showcasing their beautiful nation to eco-tourists. We believe that successful entrepreneurship can happen anywhere, and we support entrepreneurs literally everywhere. 

If you ever think that you can’t be a successful entrepreneur because of where you live, or that your community can’t support a Techstars Startup Weekend—think of the fledgling entrepreneurs in Bhutan. You can do it. Techstars will help.








Declan Kelly Joins Techstars Investment Team

Kelly will help Techstars increase connectivity between startups and the global venture community to fuel innovation and growth

 

BOULDER, Colo. – September 17, 2019 – Techstars is excited to announce the addition of Declan Kelly to the Techstars team as Head of Investor Platforms, EMEA. In his new role, Kelly will expand Techstars’ global investor ecosystem, with a focus on Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA), connecting more investors with some of the most exciting and disruptive startups around the world.  

With 11 Techstars mentorship-driven accelerator programs in Europe and the Middle East, Techstars has a portfolio of close to 350 companies and invests in nearly 110 startups in EMEA annually. Kelly will play an instrumental role in working with Techstars’ portfolio companies, Techstars managing directors and the investment community to foster connectivity across the region.

“Declan has been a significant connective tissue between startup founders and the global venture community for years,” said Cody Simms, partner at Techstars. “Entrepreneurs are building a better future for us all, and we’re thrilled to have Declan join us at Techstars where he will help us  provide Techstars portfolio companies with even greater access to capital to fuel their growth.”

Techstars operates 47 mentorship-driven accelerator programs around the world and is investing in nearly 500 startups on an annual basis. The worldwide Techstars’ global portfolio has raised $8.1 billion to date and has a market capitalization of $23.8 billion.

“Techstars’ explosive growth around the world, and particularly in Europe, is leaving a lasting positive impact on startup ecosystems and the entrepreneurs that support them,” said Kelly. “I’ve been watching the organization for quite some time and I’m looking forward to sharing my own experience to support Techstars’ mission.”

Kelly brings deep expertise in global investor relations to the Techstars network. Prior to joining Techstars, he served as the Head of Investors at Web Summit, the largest tech conference in the world, where he worked closely with some of the world’s leading angel investors, venture capital funds, LPs and heads of global M&A and TMT banking. Kelly is also a founding member and investor at Amaranthine, a long-term focused technology investment fund backed by Web Summit and its alumni community of top technology entrepreneurs.

About Techstars

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 1,900 companies with a market cap of $23 Billion. www.techstars.com








Heidi Roizen on meaningful work & relationships

“The true path to happiness is to have meaningful work and meaningful relationships,” Heidi Rozen says. She brings these two elements together as a VC working with entrepreneurs who are changing the world for the better. Her humane take on being a “mentor capitalist” is deeply Give First. 

Give First Podcast Heidi Roizen

Heidi Roizen has called herself a recovering entrepreneur. Wendy Lea has called Heidi “the epitome of Give First.” Both of these are true, and go a long way toward describing the deeply humane perspective on the role of venture capital that Heidi brings to her current role as a partner at Threshold Ventures

Heidi was an entrepreneur herself for 14 years before exploring other career options (VP of Worldwide Developer Relations at Apple, for example) and eventually settling in as a venture capitalist—or “mentor capitalist,” as she sometimes says, in a nod to the profound importance of mentorship in the role. 

Heidi likes to joke that “entrepreneurs should be really careful about picking their venture partners, because the average VC relationship lasts longer than the average American marriage, and it’s probably easier to get rid of your spouse than it is to get rid of your venture capitalists.” There’s truth hidden in that joke: the VC-entrepreneurship relationship is a human relationship, not just a financial one. Heidi takes the human side just as seriously as the financial. She wants success in all areas, and sees how thoroughly the two are entwined. 

For Heidi, “the true path to happiness is to have meaningful work and meaningful relationships.” She’s achieving this by working with amazing startups that are making the world a better place, and helping to make them better companies. 

That sounds like Give First to us. 

Listen for Heidi’s fantastic insights about how life and work mesh—and listen all the way through for stories about Heidi’s epic underground casbah from the dot com boom and why one of Heidi’s kids calls Brad Feld “toenail boy.” 

Listen for Heidi’s take on…

The true path to happiness:

“The true path to happiness is to have meaningful work and meaningful relationships. And I think one of the beauties of the entrepreneurial environment that we live in is very often you form your meaningful relationships through doing meaningful work together.”

“I go into life thinking I’m about building relationships. I’m not about transactions, I’m not about win or lose or this is what am I going to get out of this deal. I’m about, you are a fellow traveler in life that I have met and if I can build a relationship with you, out of that will come good things. Or if not, not. But I’m always trying to optimize for the relationship over the transaction.”

“I’m such a huge believer in serendipity or what I call controlled randomness, right? The idea that you don’t necessarily know when you go into something what you’re going to get out of it. But if you position yourself in a place where you’re going to find other people that are doing interesting things, it’s likely that something good will come out of that. If you just put yourself in the mix and say, ‘I’m here to be helpful, what can I do?’”

“Just remember, we’re all people first. We’re our jobs second.”

The relationship between entrepreneurs and VCs:

“I only succeed if the company succeeds, and I really enjoy that alignment. I also really enjoy the idea that I get to be a part of a team for a long period of time.”

“I often joke that entrepreneurs should be really careful about picking their venture partners because the average VC relationship lasts longer than the average American marriage, and it’s probably easier to get rid of your spouse than it is to get rid of your venture capitalists. So both parties should go into this with their eyes wide open.”

Best practices: 

“I say this to my entrepreneurs a lot, there are things you are doing that no one’s ever done before and those should be hard. There are things you’re doing that other people have done before. And those should be easy. You know, it should not be hard to design compensation schemes. It should be not difficult to put your financial operations in order. Those are all places where we can use best practices and stand on the shoulders of others to create the best situation we can.” 

Companies, people, and resources mentioned in this podcast:








Student Startup Nominations Open for 2019 LaunchPad Propel

LaunchPad Campuses Submit Up to Four Teams for 3rd Annual Program by September 20th.

Nominations for Propel, a 2-day student entrepreneurial event convening in New York City this November, have opened for the 25+ schools around the world in the Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars network. The program focuses on building mentor connections, providing in-depth entrepreneurial skill-building workshops, and fostering peer learning. Propel helps over 200 students with early-stage ventures further develop and refine their ideas and business models.

Day One of the event begins with a “mentor madness” session where student teams rotate through advising meetings with over 50 business and industry experts from the Blackstone and Techstars networks. Speed dating for entrepreneurs! Day Two begins with Jon Gray, President and COO of Blackstone, saying a few words to students before they participate in breakout workshops led by experienced entrepreneurs and industry professionals covering topics such as marketing, sales, fundraising, and more.

According to Hailey Schofield, 2018 Propel participant, “While all of our mentor madness conversations were very helpful, two in particular seemed like really significant meetings. With these, it felt like we had met exactly the people we didn’t know we were looking for but needed to connect with as soon as possible. I am so excited to be establishing a real relationship that is only possible because of the Blackstone and Techstars network.”

Throughout Propel, the leading teams accepted from each LaunchPad school will also be pitching their business ideas to a live audience and Blackstone and Techstars judges. The competition will culminate in one team being awarded a $10,000 prize, in-kind support services, and a guaranteed spot in this spring’s LaunchPad Lift cohort.

“This event is one of the best ways for LaunchPad campuses to showcase their student ventures and for student founders to practice pitching in front of a large audience,” said Erica Lock, Vice President with the Blackstone Charitable Foundation. “Every year we look forward to seeing what market solutions these LaunchPad students have come up with – and then provide them with unparalleled access to the Blackstone and Techstars networks of experts. More than the advice itself, the relationships that they build at events like this are critical to future success in their ventures and careers.”

While students are participating in Propel mentoring and workshops, LaunchPad Program Directors from each campus will attend education, training, and general sessions to share best practices and find opportunities for future collaboration.

Criteria and Process to Nominate:

  1. Students entrepreneurs attending Propel must come from Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars campuses. (To learn more about LaunchPad and how your campus can join the network, please click here.)
  2. Up to four student teams, and ten students total, are invited to participate from each school.
  3. Student ventures should be in the early stage phase, with at least some development of their idea, including an elevator pitch and funder deck, and should also have received some coaching or services from their institution’s LaunchPad program.







Announcing the Opening of Applications for the Air Force Accelerator Powered by Techstars 2020

Techstars, the U.S. Air Force, and BAE Systems FAST Labs are proud to announce the opening of applications for the third class of the Air Force Accelerator Powered by Techstars.  This year’s interest areas expand beyond previous year’s focus’ of autonomous technologies and AR/VR for training and education to include physical and cybersecurity of bases and installations.

Kicking off in 2018, the inaugural Techstars Autonomous Technology Accelerator with the U.S. Air Force, which renamed and expanded in 2019 to the Air Force Accelerator Powered by Techstars, was an experiment by the Air Force in establishing closer ties to innovative early-stage startups with commercially viable products and making it easier to do business with the Air Force. AFWERX, the sponsoring agency, determined that the pace of innovation in the private sector is accelerating away from the military. To maintain dominance, the Air Force needs to engage startups that otherwise avoid DoD bureaucracy, by making it as easy to do business with the Air Force as it is to do business with any commercial entity, rather than trying to train small businesses to be defense contractors. The 2018 and 2019 programs yielded 20 companies that have won more than $14M in non-dilutive contracts for prototypes and products, and are on the verge of fielding state-of-the-art capabilities to warfighters.

“We were surprised and delighted by the disruptive innovations produced by the first two classes, and the commercial pace at which those innovations are being fielded,” said Captain Steve Lauver, Director of Technology Accelerators at AFWERX.  “As we aggressively seek to improve our sales cycles, processes, and the speed at which we transition promising technology to the warfighter, it is invaluable to have an experienced and respected partner, like Techstars, to help us build trust and interact seamlessly with the startup ecosystem.”

As with the 2019 program, several Air Force offices have signed up to deliver capability at the speed of relevance for our 2020 program, including the AFIMSC Tyndall Program Management Office (PMO), National Security Innovation Network (NSIN, formerly MD5), and Air Force Research Lab Small Business Office (AFRL/SB). The Boston-based program will again be run by Warren Katz, Managing Director.  

BAE Systems is once again a corporate sponsor of the program, and as such, will fully participate in the recruiting and selection process, and have close interactions with all the participating companies during program. More on BAE Systems’ FAST LabsTM research and development can be found here

“At BAE Systems we have learned first-hand how teaming up with Techstars supports our goal of leveraging and developing disruptive technologies to deliver discriminating solutions to our customers,” said Dr. Jerry M. Wohletz, Vice President and General Manager of FAST Labs at BAE Systems. “We remain committed to lending our technical expertise, market knowledge and resources to startups in support of the local innovation ecosystems.”

To support the seamless purchase of prototypes and products produced by companies going through the accelerator, AFWERX has pioneered a new variant of the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program that utilizes massively simplified proposal formats, accelerated award cycles, and a Phase II structure that resembles commercial product purchase orders as opposed to defense-contractor style labor contracts.  The program will award some $200M of contracts to commercial entities, including accelerator class companies, in FY2020.

The Air Force Accelerator Powered by Techstars will focus on commercially viable startups with dual-purpose technologies– a private sector application as well as government application.  Though startups with innovative solutions in any dual-purpose industry are encouraged to apply, specific areas of interest include: 

    • Autonomous technologies that might enable or enhance the ability to detect, track, identify, characterize, attribute or mitigate unmanned systems, including but not limited to sensor technology, high-performance computational hardware and software, computer vision and digital image processing, AI, multi-modal sensor integration, secure communications, trusted identification, power systems, high-performance materials, integration systems, and human-machine interface. 
    • Innovative immersive-training technologies including AR/VR and adult learning methods such as gamification, social delivery and self-directed learning, and technologies to support data-enabled recruiting, training and education.
    • Base of the Future technologies that improve the security, affordability, efficiency, connectivity and quality of life at Air Force installations across the world.  These will be specifically tied to a multi-billion-dollar, landmark effort by the Tyndall PMO to support the “long-term redevelopment of Tyndall Air Force Base as the model Air Force ‘Installation of the Future.'”

Interested in this program? Applications are open now.