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:
By Chris Heivly, Entrepreneur in Residence at Techstars
There are many aspects of life where more is better, and as such there are many times we employ strategies to maximize the more. A few examples that many of us live by are:
- Priceless Art
- Profound experiences
- Time with loved ones
- Goals in ice hockey (ok, maybe just me)
In terms of startup community building, there are a plethora of activities that local leaders utilize to create lift. (For clarity, I am using the word “activities” in a very broad sense.) These may include:
- Coffee meetups (1 Million Cups)
- Grant programs
- Pitch competitions
- Learn to code academies
- Networking socials
- Startup weekends
- Recruitment events
- Venture funds
- Community blogs
The list literally goes on and on. Developing communities are first challenged to convene the various actors across the ecosystem. This has an immediate positive impact as the tribe begins to organize. Participate in this over a few months and some momentum begins to build.
As a community matures, activities naturally increase as newly motivated leaders step up and attempt to fill various voids. In many mature communities, there may be as many as two to three events every week.
I find the number, the diversity, and the cadence of these activities to be one of the critical signals as to the maturity of a community.
But beware. There is a trap that evolves in some minds that if the first handful of activities start to build some very visible momentum, then more activities would have an even larger effect. Unfortunately there is a ceiling to the number of activities and the subsequent impact.
In terms of startup community building, the more is better strategy has a very visible limit to its effectiveness. Once a critical mass of organizing these basic activities is achieved (and there are different trigger points for different communities), then the strategy should shift to building more meaningful activities.
Looking for a great startup community building event? Find—or organize!—a Techstars Startup Weekend in your community.
As we all know, Techstars is the worldwide network that helps entrepreneurs succeed—so it’s not exactly surprising that members of the network show up on various lists, like the 2019 Forbes 30 Under 30. As Forbes puts it, this list includes “the brashest entrepreneurs across the United States and Canada…. A collection of bold risk-takers putting a new twist on the old tools of the trade.”
We’re proud to see 12 Techstars mentorship-driven accelerator alumni (from eight awesome startups) on this year’s list. Huge congrats to these amazing founders!
Did we miss anyone? Let us know!
2019 Forbes 30 Under 30 for Marketing and Advertising
2019 Forbes 30 Under 30 for Consumer Technology
2019 Forbes 30 Under 30 for Consumer Technology
2019 Forbes 30 Under 30 for Retail & Ecommerce
2019 Forbes 30 Under 30 for Law & Policy
2019 Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia for Media, Marketing & Advertising
2019 Forbes 30 Under 30 for Enterprise Technology
2019 Forbes 30 Under 30 for Manufacturing & Industry
Ready for your startup to #domorefaster? Apply to a Techstars mentorship-driven accelerator.
Before my son was born, I thought for sure that I would be the type of mom that can’t wait to get back to work. I wanted to plan 2018 so that the office wouldn’t even notice I’d be away. But I was lucky that my diverse group of colleagues ignored my enthusiasm and constantly reminded me to see how things would evolve once the baby was born. It was all the support a mom-to-be could want and I really thank them for that.
We welcomed a healthy baby into our family on one of the coldest weeks of February. And the plan I had projected in my head went completely out of the window.
Being thrust into this new role of a “mom” really changed my perspective on a lot of things — one of them was the way I pursue my career and work life. I realized that I can work my entire life, but I have only a few years to enjoy quality time with my newborn. And this time is extremely precious. So why not just take a step back and focus on what’s the most important thing in my life right now — my family. Otherwise, I might wake up with regrets one day because I missed my child growing up. I would rather miss out on some work opportunities now than shortchanging my kid.
It made me think, does this make me a worse leader now? Am I not ambitious enough? But I realized, that there’s only one answer to this — who cares, be whoever you are and do whatever you want, what matters the most is that you’re happy.
While I was expecting my son, I was really afraid of missing out on things. And this made me tell myself that I won’t take any time off, as I have to keep pushing on the work front. In the startup world, it can really get to you when you are surrounded by the 24/7 hustle culture — you constantly feel that if you don’t do it, somebody else might take your place, be it within the company or in the industry.
As a founder, I was constantly reminded that I should be doing so much more and there are an infinite number of challenges to tackle and too little time. It was easy to fall into the circle of guilt. But over time, I understood that for most of us, families are an integral part of our lives. I had to find the inner peace necessary to lay the foundation for it to be okay for me to not prioritize work for a bit. Obviously getting to this mindset and inner peace was not easy. Occasionally, I’ve still found myself thinking that I could be doing so much more and I find myself asking whether I’ve ‘earned’ the right to still be considered part of the team.
I actually struggled with the concept of ‘family first and stay-at-home’ for a very long time, but only precisely until the minute I saw my son Aaron for the first time.
And it made me think “why?” Why did I feel that I have to continue working at the same pace? Is it the pressure our society puts on us? It seems that as soon as you’ve decided to stay at home you’re tagged as a ‘lost cause’. There is this pressure that we shouldn’t take any stops on this fast-moving train of life, otherwise we will miss out on opportunities.
I recently stumbled upon an article about mandatory paternity leave that outlined a 2018 Deloitte survey:
Of more than 1,000 men found that a third worried that taking a leave would hurt their careers, and more than half feared it would signal that they weren’t serious about their jobs.
This is just ridiculous. No one should be afraid to take a paternity or maternity leave. Having a family should not affect our ability to continue our careers. But unfortunately, we also see report after report on how women after giving birth to their first, second, etc. child, lose even more on their salaries while working full-time. Having children is almost like a “handicap” basically. But for dads, as I wrote in my previous post, becoming a parent gives them plus points and increases their likelihood of getting promotions and bonuses.
Based on all the daunting statistics, I asked myself the question — How can I possibly enjoy my time as a mom and still be there for my company and my team? And to be honest, I haven’t found a magic formula. However, I’ve come to this one conclusion:
Be confident in doing what makes you most happy
Happiness opens up so many more opportunities in life. Be happy and confident about your choice of choosing parenthood. If you have decided to give parenthood a go, it will certainly give you a confidence boost as well, at least that’s what it did for me. I realized that I should lead my life to its fullest potential and it’s up to me to define how it will look like.
I realize you might think that as a founder, I’m in a different situation than my team members or other parents out there, but truly, I’m not. At least not in Testlio. We all share the same burden of responsibility and we all try to balance family lives, whichever form they may take. My priority is still making my team and company a success as well.
We feel threatened and scared because of how society has been built up. We are ruled by strong stereotypes but by now it should be clear that stereotypes are meant for breaking. I can assure you that an awesome team member is always welcomed back. No matter how many years they’ve been gone. My sister has been home for three years now with her kids and her colleagues are still eagerly waiting for her return.
I believe being a parent makes you a better person. So be awesome and talk about how awesome being a parent is. Parental leave should definitely be encouraged and supported — this time is like no other. It will teach you things that no amount of money can buy.
But we won’t see a change unless we ourselves act on it, right? So, let’s continue to speak about it and eventually, I hope, we’ll see things change!
To conclude, I sincerely believe that taking a break such as a maternity or paternity leave to enjoy new life experiences won’t make you ‘miss out’ on anything. Rather, once you’re ready to catch the next train, you will have even more skills under your belt.
Being at home with my son has been the second best time in my life besides just working side by side with my dear team at Testlio. For the first few months, I put everything aside and unplugged myself almost completely out of work. The well-being of my son and giving him comfort/safety in this new world was my number one priority. In all my life thus far, I have never felt this way and I’ve cherished every moment.
Is this a time in your life when you’re 100% dedicated to your startup? Apply to a Techstars mentorship-driven accelerator to #domorefaster.
Originally published on www.medium.com.
By Margaux Joly, Techstars Customer Experience Coordinator
You’ve just finished your Techstars Startup Weekend, now it’s Monday and you’re back at work. Your backpack is still filled with post-it notes, a lean canvas template, seemingly infinite pens, and wrappers from all the energy bars you ate last weekend to sustain yourself.
Your head is still spinning with ideas for the project you worked on from the weekend. In between your morning emails, you stand up to make a cup of coffee, and you suddenly realize that maybe you need to pivot again because the market research you did was actually pointing toward another target audience this whole time! Those people would have the purchase power to buy your product, meaning you wouldn’t need to forgo that really cool feature of the app (as you thought you might before, because it was too costly). You immediately text your Techstars Startup Weekend group the idea, they all love it, and then you realize that you’re standing up in the middle your office, completely forgetting what you were doing in the first place (you were getting coffee).
Welcome to the community! This is why we love these events so much. It takes a certain type of person to do just what you did, but the good news is at Techstars, we are those types of people and you are not alone.
Here are some tips to help you collect your thoughts and help find the next logical steps for you:
Take a step back and let your mind rest
During the weekend, there is a lot going on. Your brain has just been flooded with information, criticism, and advice from the mentors and judges. You’re feeling the momentum and excitement to get started, but this can lead you to go around in circles chasing your own tail. Give yourself a couple of nights to sleep on your idea and absorb all of this feedback.
Assess where you are at
If, after you’ve given it some thought, you’re still super excited to work on this, then it’s time to assess where you’re at.
Find a morning or afternoon where you can take some time by yourself, bring your favorite pens, post-it, whiteboard… and lay everything flat on the table. Where is your idea at right now? Categorize your thoughts in four ways:
- What is your core purpose? Why are you doing this? It could be as simple as: I want to be my own boss and be in charge of the decision-making of my company. I want to create a company where parents can have a healthy work-life balance. I want to make healthcare accessible to everyone. I want to be the first company to make virtual candies… Don’t ask yourself how you are going to do this; that will come with time. If early on you can understand why you want to do this, you will always be able to hold on to that and it will guide you.
- What makes sense? List the things you think are really strong about your idea and the things that give your stomach excited butterflies…
- What doesn’t make sense? This can either be the things that you don’t personally understand about the idea, or the things that just don’t feel right.
- What needs work? The ideas that have potential but have not yet been addressed.
Touch base with your team
Before you come into another conversation with your team, assess what role you want to take in this project. Do you want to drive the whole thing? Do you want to focus on one area and need others to take ownership of the rest? Do you want to work with a team or would you rather do this alone?
It’s very common for a team to break up after a Techstars Startup Weekend. Sometimes it’s the whole team, sometimes it’s just one person. Whatever happens with your team, it’s okay. People come into this event with their own life story and perhaps they cannot commit to adding more work to their plate afterwards. If you have a good chat with your team, and set the right expectations, you’ll be surprised by how generous people can be with their time and how willing they are to lend a hand.
What you don’t want is to keep working on an idea, thinking you have people you can count on—when in fact you don’t.
Figure out the next steps
Determine a plan of action and start building your business plan. You will constantly be revising some aspects until it is right.
Set yourself big hairy audacious goals (BHAGs), but also small achievable ones, because there is nothing more satisfying than crossing things off your list. Set different timeframes for your different goals.
Don’t be afraid to start asking yourself the hard questions: “What are your finances going to be like? What are the next legal steps you need to take to protect your idea?”
Surround yourself with people who will help you
Know that you are not in this alone. It doesn’t cost anything to sit down over a coffee with someone to ask them some questions about law or money or marketing or anything else.
This is the very beginning: the moment when your startup starts. It’s exciting, scary, and absolutely wonderful. Enjoy it. And ask for lots and lots of help: no one succeeds alone.
Find a Techstars Startup Weekend near you, and experience the highs, lows, fun, and pressure that make up life at a startup—in 54 hours.