How To Shutter Your Startup: Best Practices for Corporate Dissolution

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

Long-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).

Short-form dissolution

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.  
    1. If the dissolution involves the sale or exchange of corporate assets, Forms 8594 and 4797 might also be necessary.
    2. See the IRS checklist for other required filings.
  4. 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.  
    1. 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.
    2. If the company is registered to do business in another state, it will have to withdraw or surrender those qualifications.
  5. 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.
  6. “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:
    1. Settling and closing the business;
    2. Liquidating remaining corporate assets;
    3. Settling claims;
    4. Resolving any lawsuits;
    5. Making final distributions to creditors, and if funds remain, to applicable shareholders.
  7. 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.








A New Startup Culture at Techstars Startup Week Lima / Una nueva cultura de startups en el Techstars Startup Week Lima

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.

#GiveFirst

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.

#GiveFirst

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.








Time to Get Creative: How Aggressive Targets Drive Innovation

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.

Handwritten Recruiting

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.








Connecting The Dots At Techstars Startup Week Taiwan

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:

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If you are interested in being part of Techstars Startup Week Taiwan 2019, drop us a line at taiwan@startupweek.co.








Community Building: More is Better—Or Is It?

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:

  • Money
  • Customers
  • Employees
  • 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:

  • Hackathons
  • Coffee meetups (1 Million Cups)
  • Grant programs
  • Pitch competitions
  • Learn to code academies
  • Accelerators
  • 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.

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Looking for a great startup community building event? Find—or organize!—a Techstars Startup Weekend in your community.








Spot the Techstars Founders in 2019 Forbes 30 Under 30

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!

AdHawk

Dan Pratt and Todd Saunders, Cofounders of AdHawk, Techstars Class 56 at Techstars Boulder

2019 Forbes 30 Under 30 for Marketing and Advertising

Cargo

Jeff Cripe, Cofounder and CEO of Cargo, Techstars Class 76 at Techstars Mobility Accelerator

2019 Forbes 30 Under 30 for Consumer Technology

The Cut

Obi Omile and Kush Patel, Cofounders of The Cut, Techstars Class 139 at Techstars Los Angeles

2019 Forbes 30 Under 30 for Consumer Technology

Hawthorne

Brian Jeong and Phil Wong, Cofounders of Hawthorne, Techstars Class 101 at Techstars New York City

2019 Forbes 30 Under 30 for Retail & Ecommerce

Legalpad

Sara Itucas, Founder of Legalpad, Techstars Class 123 at Techstars Seattle Accelerator

2019 Forbes 30 Under 30 for Law & Policy

LumièreVR

Jenny Guo, Founder of LumièreVR, Techstars Class 124 at Techstars Toronto

2019 Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia for Media, Marketing & Advertising

Ordermark

Alex Canter, CEO of Ordermark, Techstars Class 122 at Techstars Boulder

2019 Forbes 30 Under 30 for Enterprise Technology

Pillar Technologies

Matt Joyal and Alex Schwarzkopf, Cofounders of Pillar Technologies, Techstars Class 84 at Techstars IoT Accelerator

2019 Forbes 30 Under 30 for Manufacturing & Industry

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Ready for your startup to #domorefaster? Apply to a Techstars mentorship-driven accelerator.








I Can Enjoy Parenthood Without Losing My Career

By Kristel Kruustük, founder of Testio, Techstars Class 30 at Techstars Austin

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.

My family. August 2018

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!

Presenting. November 2017

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.

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Is this a time in your life when you’re 100% dedicated to your startup? Apply to a Techstars mentorship-driven accelerator to #domorefaster.

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Originally published on www.medium.com.








Life After Techstars Startup Weekend

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:

  1. 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.

  1. 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.
  1. 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.

  1. 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?”

  1. 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.

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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.








The Heritage Group Accelerator Powered by Techstars, Are You Ready to Disrupt Legacy Industries?

In 2019, The Heritage Group Accelerator Powered by Techstars will bring 10 global companies to Indianapolis for a three month mentorship-driven accelerator. Many of the industries that serve our most basic needs—from industrial production to transportation infrastructure to environmental services and safety–are facing renewal and disruption through innovations in materials, processes and business models. This megatrend in the modernization of legacy enterprise creates massive potential for value creation along the intersections of materials science, specialty chemicals, remediation methodology, energy production and systems automation. The Heritage Group Accelerator Powered by Techstars supports companies seeking to disrupt existing markets by pioneering the next generation of solutions across this spectrum.

As excitement around the accelerator continues to grow, startups want to know if our accelerator is the right fit for them. The market The Heritage Group serves is broad and we’re looking for companies that serve the needs of these customers. We invite all companies to apply to the program that believe they can help with this transformation.

Why The Heritage Group Accelerator Powered by Techstars?

The Heritage Group is a leader in many of the industries that it seeks to transform, and those companies are ready to help startups be successful.  The Heritage Group has companies in several industries including specialty chemicals, environmental services and recycling, heavy-duty construction and materials, and energy. Participants in the accelerator will have the opportunity to work not only with dozens of highly knowledgeable mentors in a variety of industry-specific specializations, but also with The Heritage Group’s enterprise-wide research and development team. The R&D facility develops and supports businesses with a focus that includes material science, physical infrastructure, chemistry, batteries, recycling and materials stability. The research group also plays a critical role in developing new startups with novel technologies, both internally and externally.

Before any startup launches, Heritage Research Group evaluates it from a health, safety, and environmental standpoint to ensure long-term success. Heritage Research Group takes a team approach to solving the tough problems faced by its partners, startups, and customers. The group strives to find sustainable solutions and is constantly exploring new ways to reuse or recycle industrial by-products and co-products.

The Center

In addition to the access to technical and business leaders the program provides, companies selected to the program will be working in The Center, a world class facility in Indianapolis. The Center is THG’s brand-new facility purpose-built to incubate innovative business ideas, solve important customer problems, and connect entrepreneurs with researchers and thought leaders.  

Set on sixty acres and created by the world-renowned design firm IDEO, the Center has dedicated space for each startup as well as a multitude of meeting rooms, quiet spaces, in house gym, volleyball court, collaboration zones, walking trails and other spaces that create a positive working environment. HG Ventures, THG’s corporate venture arm, is co-located at The Center, as is Heritage Research Group—THG’s state-of-the-art laboratory and testing facility that houses more than fifty dedicated science and engineering professionals.

Are you interested in learning more about the accelerator or want to apply? Applications will open in 2019 but we are excited to speak with companies in advance – click here and let us know if you’re interested in connecting. 

 








People Ops Question: What is the single biggest People Ops mistake you see startups make?

By Sabrina Kelly, Techstars Vice President of People Operations

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 People Ops, I hear a lot of questions from founders. This series aims to answer the most frequent questions.

Q: What is the single biggest People Ops mistake you see startups make?

Hiring the wrong leaders and not course correcting soon enough.

Hiring leadership is hard at any stage, but there is a crazy amount of pressure on startup founders to hire them quickly. It’s really easy for founders to lose sight of the values that are important to them in these hires, due to pressure from the Board or other advisors on “who” and “what” is right for their business. This whiplash is amplified by the fact that they likely have a bunch of employees that need experienced leadership, and they are band-aiding that at the moment themselves.

Mainly, don’t ever make that hire unless you are 110% pumped to sit in the trenches with them.

My advice, as impossible as it might sound, is to take the time to get it right: be extremely thoughtful about the profile you are looking for, get alignment with your leadership team on how to interview, proactively source from diverse pipelines or hire a recommended agency to support. Mainly, don’t ever make that hire unless you are 110% pumped to sit in the trenches with them.

So, what if you do all of that and in six months you start to sense that it’s not working? As painful as it might be, you need to dedicate the time to figure out what the problem is—and if you find out it’s them, you let that person go as soon as humanly possible. It might feel like the company will crumble if you have to start over, but that pain is nothing in comparison to what can happen if you put up with the wrong leader for too long.

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Want to #DoMoreFaster? Apply to a Techstars mentorship-driven accelerator today.