Copeland brings breadth of corporate, government, higher education and startup leadership experience to growing board
BOULDER, Colo. – August 27, 2019 – Techstars, the worldwide network that helps entrepreneurs succeed, today announced the appointment of Stephanie Copeland to the Techstars Board of Directors.
Copeland has served in a number of high-ranking roles locally in Colorado, most notably as President at the Zayo Group and Executive Director of the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade under John Hickenlooper, former Governor of Colorado.
Copeland currently serves as CEO of The Governance Project, a public-private model for accelerating policy solutions at the state and local level, and as a Partner at Four Points Funding, a for-profit investment group forging new rural investment models in rural Colorado. She also serves as a member of the Steering Committee for the Blackstone Entrepreneurs Network Colorado and as Vice-chair on the executive committee at Startup Colorado.
“As Techstars continues to expand our offerings, including investing in additional global emerging startup communities through ecosystem activations, we, too, need to expand the board’s expertise to match our objectives,” says David Brown, Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Techstars. “With a perfect mix of corporate and ecosystem development experience, and her track record of helping companies scale through her work with Blackstone, Techstars believes Copeland will elevate our ability to help entrepreneurs succeed across the globe.”
Copeland will join Techstars’ Board of Directors effective immediately, alongside John China, President of SVB Capital, the most recent addition to Techstars’ Board of Directors following SVB Financial Group‘s participation in Techstars’ recent $42M investment.
“Techstars has made great strides in creating a successful category of business unlike any other platform that exists today, and there is still so much more ahead,” says Stephanie Copeland. “I’m excited to join Techstars’ Board of Directors to help Techstars prepare for its next stage of growth, while enabling and growing new entrepreneurial ecosystems globally.”
To learn more about the Techstars leadership team and Board of Directors, please visit: https://www.techstars.com/team/
Techstars is the worldwide network that helps entrepreneurs succeed. Techstars enables founders to connect with entrepreneurs, experts, mentors, alumni, investors, community leaders, and corporations to grow their companies. Techstars accelerator alumni including Classpass, DataRobot, DigitalOcean, Outreach, Pillpack, Remitly, SalesLoft, SendGrid, and Zipline have a current market cap of more than $23 billion. Founded in 2006 by co-founders and co-CEOs David Cohen and David Brown, tech entrepreneur and venture capitalist Brad Feld, and the current Governor of Colorado, Jared Polis, Techstars is known for developing the principle of #givefirst, a core value of giving to and helping others without a direct expectation of a transactional return. Headquartered in Boulder, Colorado, Techstars employs more than 280 people across 20 countries. Learn more at www.techstars.com.
By Carley Jacobson, Techstars Innovation Coach
I recently participated in a webcast hosted by SHRM on “Three Strategies for Building an Entrepreneurial Culture: Learn how to attract, manage, and build entrepreneurial talent.” You can watch a recording of the webcast here.
As an Innovation Coach at Techstars I help organizations build internal programs and processes around innovation by finding and growing their entrepreneurial talent. I was fascinated to get additional insight from my co-speakers on attracting and managing entrepreneurial talent. Tim Sackett, SHRM-SCP, president of HRU Technical Resources, has 20 years of combined executive HRT and talent acquisition experience. Steve Cadigan, founder of Cadigan Talent Ventures is a talent advisor to leaders and organizations across the globe advising on talent management.
Attract Entrepreneurial Talent
One of Tim’s insights that I found particularly fascinating was the impact of personality. When you’re trying to hire people with an entrepreneurial attitude, part of this will be about inherent personalities: who the person is. Some people love to try new things and explore alternatives to the status quo. Some don’t. How can you tell?
As a kid, did that person mow lawns or babysit constantly? Are they always growing and building things? This might be a for-profit business, but it might also be community building, changing their local community for the better.
These are activities that you can ask a candidate about as you get to know them, to see if they bring a problem-solving attitude to all aspects of their life.
Tim has five great ways to attract entrepreneurial talent, from employee referral automation (he recommends specific services that he likes) to AI sourcing to eliminate bias to throwing a competition to surface entrepreneurs in a marketplace. I highly recommend listening to his perspective generated from years of expertise!
Manage Entrepreneurial Talent
Steve had some terrific statistics about changes in the way people work. The one that really caught my attention is that people between the ages of 25 and 35 average just 2.8 years at a job. He got this number from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. He estimates that in Silicon Valley, that same age range probably stay at jobs for less than two years.
Another great stat that Steve shared: 65% of current students are going to be working in jobs that don’t even exist today.
Put these—and a bunch more great info that Steve shared—together, and the conclusion is that you need self starters, people who can learn, grow, figure stuff out, prioritize, and, as Steve put it, “operate in a high degree of ambiguity.” These are all descriptions of people with an entrepreneurial mindset.
I won’t steal Steve’s thunder by telling his stories about working as LinkedIn’s first head of HR. I do highly recommend that you listen to him tell these tales. But the part that stayed with me most is the consensus he found around what kind of culture everyone there—including him—immediately knew that they wanted to build: one where people can do great work, where they can have a life outside of work, where they feel valued and their work matters. And, just as importantly, where they are surrounded by people who feel the same.
That’s absolutely the kind of culture I want to work in—and I suspect you do, too!
Build Entrepreneurial Culture
This was my part of the webinar. I’m not going to try to summarize a 20 minute presentation in a couple of paragraphs, but I will give you the headline. Here it is: Creativity can be taught. By learning and applying creative thinking processes, we can teach creativity.
Take this one step further, and you realize that you can teach your employees to think and work like entrepreneurs.
This is crucial, because you’re not going to replace your entire workforce. You wouldn’t want to even if you could. What you can do is identify the people who are already thinking entrepreneurially, and help teach others how to be more entrepreneurial in their approach. I’ll let you listen to my whole spiel yourself, but spoiler alert: the process involves both design thinking and lean startup methodology. Good stuff!
I hope that by now you’re feeling excited to go watch the recording of our webinar on how to build an entrepreneurial culture at your organization—you absolutely should do so, right now.
Want to learn even more—and get a chance to ask your questions, live, to a panel of experts? Register for our upcoming AMA “Techstars Innovation Bootcamp: Learn how to empower and transform internal teams in just 54 hours.” September 10, 2019 at noon Eastern Time, featuring Laurent Poncet, Innovation at Equinor, John Beadle, Product at Product Habits, and Carley Jacobson, Innovation Coach at Techstars.
Techstars, and Future Females are piloting an initiative to move the needle on the participation and success of women in tech entrepreneurship around the globe.
On September 18, 2019, the Future Females Business School opens the doors to its next group of women entrepreneurs. The Future Females Business School is a three-month virtual incubator that will provide a unique opportunity for women entrepreneurs from around the world to transform their ideas into proven, scalable, and sustainable businesses.
The Future Females Business School has graduated 130 entrepreneurs in the last six months alone, with surveyed participants on average seeing a 63% increase in monthly revenue and indicating a 76% increase in confidence around their ability to make their business successful on completion of the program.
The program is application-only. Entrepreneurs are supported through a structured three-month program that combines content, community, and coaching to help them rapidly bring their dream businesses to life.
“Through this partnership, our members will be exposed to content and coaches from the global Techstars network—a game-changer for early-stage entrepreneurs building tech businesses,” says Lauren Dallas, Future Females co-founder. “In fact, we’ve already shared our first masterclass with NYC Techstars Managing Director Yossi Hasson sharing tips on positioning yourself for global accelerator programs – one of our best-received yet!”
Future Females will also be a part of the D&I Techstars Affiliate program—an opportunity for Future Females to refer graduating entrepreneurs to one of the Techstars mentorship-driven accelerator programs and have their application fast-tracked.
“This collaboration with Future Females allows us to reach and support more women entrepreneurs globally, creating a pipeline of high-quality entrepreneurs that will bring more women founders into our programs and the wider tech startup ecosystem,” says Jason Thompson, VP of Diversity & Inclusion at Techstars. “In addition, the knowledge sharing between our organizations will allow us both to continue developing our programs to better support women entrepreneurs.”
The Future Females Business School has a proven track record of supporting women entrepreneurs, with two recent graduates, Tania Naess-Smith & Lara Menke, the co-founders of CAIA in London, receiving funding within just one month of completing the program.
Developing a compensation philosophy—and doing so sooner rather than later—is one key way to get compensation right. But what exactly is a compensation philosophy, and how do you go about developing one for your startup?
When done well, your compensation philosophy can set the stage for building a more transparent culture and building trust with employees.
What is a compensation philosophy?
A compensation philosophy is a statement that standardizes your compensation practices and puts the “why” behind every compensation decision your company makes. If all compensation information was made public to every employee at your company tomorrow, your compensation philosophy should be robust enough to justify the decisions that have been made.
When done well, your compensation philosophy can set the stage for building a more transparent culture and building trust with employees.
How to develop your compensation philosophy
We talked with Sabrina Kelly, the VP of Talent at Techstars, to get her advice for early-stage founders who are developing their compensation philosophy for the first time.
Sabrina explained that compensation philosophy is not one-size-fits-all. It should be created through a process of discovery among co-founders or a core leadership team. She also emphasized the importance of doing this sooner rather than later, because while setting compensation subjectively might not cause any ripples among a team of four to six people, it will undoubtedly raise difficult questions at scale.
One of the most valuable, and often under-appreciated, tools for setting compensation is benchmarking data. Using benchmarks early on and deciding what ranges you want to target will have a great impact on your compensation strategy, but getting reliable and up-to-date market information can be challenging due to the variety across startup roles. Sabrina recommends using the Option Impact Tool by Advanced-HR: “At Techstars, we use this tool to give our portfolio companies access to updated cash and equity benchmarks by funding stage, geography, and revenue.” She advises founders to tap into free resources like these and use them to build consistency and equity in their pay practices.
Interested in learning more? Join us for an AMA with Sabrina Kelly and Options Impact on August 28, 2019 at 12:00 pm Eastern Time to learn about setting a compensation philosophy and utilizing compensation data for hiring and benchmarking.
You will learn about how you can use Options Impact survey data to optimize your compensation strategy and hear directly from Sabrina on steps you can take to build a compensation philosophy for your startup.
Techstars Includes Diverse LEADers is our series highlighting diverse members of the Techstars Network. Techstars is committed to having a meta-impact on diversity in the tech space by encouraging a new generation of entrepreneurs to build inclusive companies from the very start, because we know diverse teams perform better and we believe inclusive companies will create a better future.
Today, meet Camilla Olson.
Camilla Olson in her own words:
Born in Alaska, Camilla is an inventor and holds two U.S. patents, with two more in process. She is a serial entrepreneur and was a venture capitalist. She founded two big data predictive modeling companies in the pharma industry: one had its IPO and the other was acquired for $95M a year after founding. Camilla returned to graduate school to learn design and her first fashion collection was selected to be shown in Lincoln Center as part of Mercedes Benz Fashion Week. Her designs have been seen on the red carpet of the Academy Awards, at the Met Gala, and at the White House. In 2011, she received the Distinguished Alumna Award from the University of Maryland and Honorable Mention as “Best Second Act Reinvention” on the website SecondAct.com. She was a TEDx speaker in January 2016.
Camilla’s current company, Savitude, uses mobile commerce and hyper-personalized technology to enable shoppers to find body-positive clothing and beauty products that build retailer loyalty. Savitude has been listed in Forbes as one of 60 Women-Led Startups That Are Shaking Up Tech Across The Globe, in the top 12 of Project Entrepreneur 2017, on the stage of Techcrunch Disrupt Battlefield NY 2017, and was selected to participate in the Techstars Retail Accelerator in partnership with Target in 2017.
Specialties: Lateral thinking. Business development and strategy. Inspiration driven visual research, textile manipulation. Creative processes.
How Camilla LEADs:
- There isn’t a rule book. Do it until it feels wrong.
- Stop wondering what everyone else is thinking. They are too busy thinking about themselves.
Four teachers made all the difference in my life. My home room teacher in high school saved me when my family was figuratively “blown up.” A dance teacher at U of MD opened my eyes to the arts. We later re-met when we were chaperone parents on a field trip for our high school children.
More recently, two professors in my MFA program were instrumental. In design class, we had public critiques of each assignment. I saw how exceptionally talented my classmates were, and how young. I felt so out of place and hopeless. My professor took me in the hall and shook me, telling me that I did belong there. She explained where and how I had talent.
One last professor, Sara, twice instructed me. Now she is head of education at CFDA and continues to encourage me and Savitude.
Work harder, work longer, and don’t give up. Assess early and often. Pivot until you figure it out. It is the last one standing who wins. You cannot win if you quit.
I am driven by curiosity. I notice a problem at a high level and then find the solution through a lateral thinking process. From there on, I am driven to “peel the onion” to understand how to bring my solution to market: how to form the right company and make this actually happen. I literally can see the success; failure just isn’t an option.
What makes you YOU?
Trauma and drama in one’s life can imprint many different ways on people’s lives. For me, I spent most of my childhood fantasizing about fixing what was wrong in my world. Having “fixed” family issues, in my mind, I moved on to other problems and began inventing. I desperately wanted water fountains at each desk in school. This led me to “design” individual “toilets” in each desk as well. It is easy to see how I was the originator of six companies. Now not a day goes by that I don’t make a suggestion to someone, who may or may not want the suggestion. 😉
Sell More Faster is the book that every early-stage startup needs to help it find product-market fit. Every startup, at any stage, needs to get—and keep—more customers. Read it once, then keep coming back as your startup grows: it will be your guide over months and years of building your company.
You know your startup needs to sell, sell, sell. Sell More Faster by Amos Schwartzfarb helps you do this by offering a data-driven map for how to find product-market fit, how to know when you’ve achieved it, and how to use it to build a powerhouse company. Sell More Faster is the ultimate guide for startups about how to find, and keep the customers who need what you are selling.
We talked with Amos about how he became the expert in startup sales, and what he hoped to achieve by writing Sell More Faster.
A Really Good Recipe Book
Amos likens Sell More Faster to a “really good recipe book.” In other words, he’s laid out the ingredients and instructions, and now it’s up to you to bake the cake: “I took my process and thought: how do I create a really simple-to-follow recipe for startup sales success?” The result is this simple-to-read, simple-to-understand, simple-to-implement text that lays out a meticulous series of steps for asking yourself hard questions and gathering actual data about your customers, in order to make them need you.
No magic tricks, no cult of personality, nothing impossible to replicate: if you follow the instructions in Sell More Faster, you will end up with customers who, in Amos’ words, “have a delightful and incredible experience and stay forever.”
Either that, or you’ll figure out quickly that you don’t have truly product-market fit, so you can address that problem now, rather than later, when it’s a much bigger problem. No matter where you are now, it’s always a much bigger problem later.
No Better Expert at Startup Selling
“There is no better expert at startup selling than Amos Schwartzfarb. Follow his advice.” —Aziz Gilani, Managing Director at Mercury Fund
If you look at Amos’ career, you can see how he ended up as an expert in startup sales.
“I’ve been doing customer research for this book for the past twenty years,” Amos said. Over those years he’s been responsible for sales or customer satisfaction at six startups—with a combined exit value of over $900 million—and then taken on the role of Managing Director for Techstars Austin for the past four years. He’s one of the most active early-stage investors in all of Texas.
At Techstars, Amos found that other MDs often asked him to come and do workshops or talk to the startups in their programs about sales issues. He discovered he was getting the same set of questions over and over again, so he started creating workshops and writing blog posts, hoping to scale his ability to share knowledge.
It’s About the Process
The problem with workshops and blog posts is that they’re too short. Startups need to develop a strong foundation and then build on it: it’s a process. Amos could describe the basic principles, but “there were always a lot of questions.” This is because what you need to do depends on where you’re at in the process, so it was difficult to create a workshop or a blog post that met everyone’s needs.
Sell More Faster preemptively answers the questions that Amos got time and time again giving live workshops, and describes the process in detail: “I want startup founders to understand the path they need to go down to put the principles into practice.”
That’s when Amos realized he had a book he needed to write.
The Opposite of Read It and Forget It
For one thing, while you can, and should, read the whole thing right away, be aware that the chapters build on each other: you won’t be able to take the actions in the later chapters until you’ve built the foundation described in the early chapters. Sell More Faster isn’t just a book you read—it’s a book you do.
The entire act of entrepreneurship can be understood as one grand exercise in experiential learning. Entrepreneurs must constantly be learning in order to keep their companies growing. What works today, at this stage and in this market, won’t work tomorrow—either because your company has changed or the market’s changed. (This is one reason why startup accelerators are so useful—they’re basically guided experiential learning, tailored to your company.)
Sell More Faster is a guide to experiential learning around one specific piece of the startup journey. As Amos puts it, “Sell More Faster doesn’t teach you how to sell. It teaches you who you can sell to and how to build a sales organization over time.”
Slow Down to Speed Up
At Techstars, one of our oft-repeated mantras is that you need to slow down in order to speed up. Yes, speed is essential to any startup—it’s one of the big advantages that startups have over big companies. But if you’re not going in the right direction, all that speed will get you nowhere.
Here are a few of Amos’ key points to help you slow down in order to speed up:
- You think you know who your customer is, but you don’t really know yet.
- You think you know what they’re buying from you, but you don’t really know yet.
- You think you know why they’re buying from you, but you don’t really know yet.
This who, what, and why are the W3 framework that Amos lays out—the “secret sauce” of Sell More Faster. Amos turns these insights into actionable instructions that get you to a point where you do know who your customer is, what they’re buying from you, and why.
Amos’ process helps you form a strong opinion of who your customer is and what they’re buying from you. “Until you have an opinion about this, you have nothing to test against,” Amos explained. The testing part is crucial because your first theories are probably not fully correct: “No one nails it on the first time.” And that first salesperson you hire? They’re actually a customer development person—and understanding the difference between these two things is deeply important.
Every step in the process laid out in Sell More Faster guides you to form theories and then helps you understand exactly how to test them. There are plenty of articles out there that will tell you to gather data and test your theories—but Sell More Faster explains how. This is the difference between unhelpful advice and required reading.
This all sounds great, but how does it work in practice? Companies that Amos has worked with, including Scalefactor, Showbotics, Storyfit, and Skipper, have all benefited from this process. You can read their stories in the book. And you can read the first chapter of Sell More Faster right now, and see for yourself whether the W3 Method makes sense to you. Then you can buy the book for the rest of the process.
By Sabrina Kelly, Techstars Vice President of Talent
At Techstars, we define our mission in People Ops as the following: “We are strategic partners in building Techstars business by maximizing the value of our most important asset—our people. We attract, retain, develop, and support Techstars employees globally and aim to uphold our culture and values, in a manner that is inclusive to all.”
As VP of Talent, and former VP of People Ops, I hear a lot of questions from founders. This series aims to answer the most frequent questions.
Q: How do we define our company culture?
Don’t overthink it. Get your leadership team in a room and talk about why you started the company:
- Why did you choose this problem?
- Why did you choose the people around you and what makes your team uniquely awesome?
- What do you want this to be in five years?
- What types of behaviors do you value in the people by your side now and want to continue to see in them?
- Maybe more importantly, what types of behaviors DON’T you want to see in those people?
Lay all of those cards on the table, get excited, and put together a one-pager based on everything you’ve just gotten aligned around. Take that one-pager and pull out some core values that really seem to jump off the page. If you can do it in a way that feels genuine, create a mantra or vision statement that you’d be proud to put in front of your employees. Take those values and use them as much as possible in company communications, onboarding, interviewing, and management to create and maintain alignment.
Lastly, while having a strong value-based foundation is critical, you shouldn’t be afraid to revisit and challenge your values often. And don’t be afraid of the people who do; they may just be the people who help drive the company forward at the right moments vs. allowing it to stay stuck in the past.
Techstars Talent enables you to build highly successful teams! Check out what Techstars Talent can do for you.
This piece was originally published on Techstars Stories.
Harry Stebbings, founder of the Twenty Minute VC podcast and Stride.VC, spends time every day connecting with each of his new followers on social media. He ends every email with “How can I help you?” Listen for more on how he built his podcast to over five million downloads per month, and how he Gives First every day.
Stride.VC founder Harry Stebbings is probably best known for his podcast, The Twenty Minute VC, the world’s largest media asset in venture, with over 5 million downloads per month. He’s talked with amazing Venture Capitalists and entrepreneurs and made over 2,800 shows, and he spends 45 minutes every day DMing each one of his new followers on Twitter in order to build a network with a truly human touch.
When he was 13, Harry watched “The Social Network,” the movie about Facebook’s growth, and it inspired him to become an entrepreneur and investor. At 18, he set up the Twenty Minute VC. With $50 in the bank, he literally stood at a crossroads and spent $10 on the domain and $20 on a microphone: “So I’d spent, you know, 60% of my net worth on this podcast in the space of 10 minutes. And it made me do it. It was the forcing function and that was the start.”
Harry learned about giving first from David and Brad as well. “I don’t understand how you guys do it. You guys were always responsive, kind, giving of advice,” he said, thanking David for his support as he was just starting out. “It’s just incredible and blows my mind that with everything that you have going, you’ve have the ability to carve out the mental discipline and the rigor to really engage and Give First.
David immediately returned the compliment: “When I follow the pattern of your show and talk to people that know you, almost everyone said that that’s who you are and they don’t understand how you do that. So however you do it, maybe it’s how we do it. And maybe it’s just a mindset, right?”
Give First truly is a mindset.
Listen for Harry’s take on…
The kinds of companies Harry likes best to work with:
“I love working with two to 10 people, forming teams, early product.”
“The best companies fundamentally own their lines of distribution.”
“I’ve sometimes found that the best VC is or less motivated by [money] and more motivated by just helping.”
“Money is fantastic in many ways. But it’s the outcome of the work that I do.”
How Harry maintains the human relationships in his network as it grows:
“Get off email. … A lot of what I’ve done actually is moved a lot of the relationships that were more professional relationships and transitioned them into friendships, through moving platforms: from going to Instagram, to going to WhatsApp, Snapchat, whatever that platform may be. But you just get so much more depth in the relationship through the less formal rigid platform.”
“In terms of the expanded network and how you deal with it, you’ve got to commit to it. If you’re going to pursue this strategy—it’s not a nice word to say, ‘strategy’—but if you’re going to see this as the way that you want to work, which is how I want to work, people-centric, human-centric, and personality based, then that is part of your workflow. You spend less time on email, you spend less time doing other things and you have to commit yourself to it. Is it easy? No, it’s insanely hard. I spend 45 minutes every night DMing every new single follow on Twitter, thanking them for following me. I’ll mention something about the city that they’re in, whether it’s I’ve been to it, I’d love to go to it, I’d love to run through it. I hear they’ve got great mojitos, monuments, whatever that may be. And build a relationship with them. The community is incredible.”
Companies, people, and resources mentioned in this podcast:
- The Twenty Minute VC
- “Anna Karenina” by Leo Tostoy
- “Bad Blood” by John Carreyrou
- Carmen Alfonso Rico
- Fred Destin on Twenty Minute VC
- Kent Goldman on Twenty Minute VC
- Bill Gurley on Twenty Minute VC
- John Henderson
- Josh Kopelman on Twenty Minute VC
- Mattias Ljungman
- “Madame Bovary” by Gustave Flaubert
- PillPack on Twenty Minute VC
- Skien, Norway
- “The Social Network”
- “Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don’t Have All the Facts” by Annie Duke
- “Venture Deals: Be Smarter Than Your Lawyer and Venture Capitalist” by Brad Feld and Jason Mendelson
- Henry Ward on Twenty Minute VC
- Wired article on Harry Stebbings from Dec 2016
Subscribe to Give First with David Cohen and Brad Feld to get new episodes weekly.
“If you don’t understand people, you don’t understand business.” —Simon Sinek
João Marinelli loves this Sinek quote about people and business because, as he says: “I love people and love working with them!” To João, entrepreneurship is all about people, and “our power to transform our realities and reinvent (in a positive way) the status quo.”
To João, the truly amazing thing about entrepreneurship is the way that it gives life to people’s creativity, and helps them use their creativity to change the world. “I think that’s why I dedicated almost six years of my life to studying entrepreneurship and being an entrepreneur,” João said. He’s currently working for Darwin Startups, a Brazilian accelerator—named the best accelerator in Brazil by Associação Brasileira de Startups—where he has “freedom to use my creativity and entrepreneurship to develop new products or approaches.”
People, Communities, and Leadership
“I love people, communities, and leadership,” João said, explaining his constant involvement in Techstars Startup Weekends. He attended his first as a participant in 2014, and then got involved with making more happen. He organized three Techstars Startup Weekends, in 2015, 2016, and 2017, growing his responsibilities over time, until in 2017 he became a Facilitator—and since then he’s already facilitated 17 events! “I love it!” João said.
In 2018, João worked with Techstars Brazil to redefine the Community Leader Academy (CLA), and together created a new program for training CLs. The first CLA of 2019 took place at Caxias do Sul/RS in the south of Brazil, in February. As João described, it had a “new model, new style, new ways to work, new dynamics, more people and more hands-on.”
By the end of the event, 16 cities had events planned for their communities for a whole year. “The impact was giant!” João said, with great satisfaction at seeing his hard work pay off.
Every day, at work and as a Techstars Community Leader, João is “working hard to deliver the best experience for Brazilian ecosystems and entrepreneurs with great and good content and energy.”
By Ted Stuckey, Managing Director of QBE Ventures
My goal is to make QBE a partner of choice for startups. It’s hard work, sometimes, finding the right startups that will grow or expand QBE into new markets or drive operational and process efficiencies, and then working with so many parts of QBE internally to bring the partnership to fruition. But the results—like QBE’s new partnership with Nimbla—are worth all the effort.
Balancing Both Sides of a Tricky Equation
Our Network Engagement partnership with Techstars has been extremely helpful, as they are able to support me on both sides of this tricky equation. When I’m looking for startups across the insurance value chain, Techstars enables me to identify and quickly vet an ongoing flow of potential partners. Then, because so many Techstars employees—my Techstars Network Engagement Program manager included—are founders themselves, they help me see the places where QBE needs to change in order to be responsive to startup needs. Having a third party push us to become a better partner to startups, as well as sharing best practices, was essential for making change happen.
Most recently, Techstars helped us secure a partnership that I’m really proud of, bringing QBE and Nimbla together. We’ve just announced that QBE is partnering with Nimbla to give small businesses the peace of mind and confidence that they need to reach their full potential.
The Future is Now
I knew right from the start that Nimbla was something special. They went through the 2018 Barclays Accelerator powered by Techstars in London, and though they were very early stage, the accelerator helped them grow in a way that made them enterprise-ready.
Nimbla is an invoice insurance startup that enables businesses to check the risk of non-payment on invoices and protect the ones they’re worried about. For QBE, this is huge. This was something we were looking at, but we all thought it was a few years out.
This kind of thing is exactly the reason why corporations like QBE have to be watching and partnering with startups. If we hadn’t, we would still be watching this opportunity and waiting. There’s no way around it, corporations just move and innovate at a different speed from startups. But with Nimbla, we expect to power QBE’s go-to-market strategy for a whole new target market—today, rather than in five years. I’m expecting to see a great impact, for both QBE and Nimbla.
Big Impacts to the Big Picture
I like to think that, along with driving Nimbla’s business goals, we’ve helped them see the big picture in a new way. We’ve pushed them to do something new in the market and to run their business differently. They’ve seen a vision of who they can be as a business five, 10, 15 years down the road.
Working with startups like Nimbla has definitely had an impact on QBE, way beyond the bottom line. Nimbla came before a group of people who have made a career in the insurance industry, and inspired them to recognize alternative ways of doing things, alternative ways of using data, and alternative ways of providing benefits to our customers. That’s a shift toward entrepreneurial culture that we couldn’t have done on our own. We needed Techstars, and we needed to get in deep with startups in order to really see and feel that difference.
We are working hard for QBE to be the partner of choice for startups, so that we can make more great deals like this happen.
Read more from both QBE & Nimbla about the benefits of corporate-startup innovation.