Over the last 15 years, I’ve had the privilege to get to know hundreds of companies as a mentor, advisor, and investor. As I reflect on those companies, one pattern stands out. The successful entrepreneurs I know have integrated the passionate pursuit of a larger purpose into their business.
I experienced the power of purpose firsthand during my ten years at Rally Software as an executive from first revenue through our successful IPO. From the outside, it looked like we were creating the agile category. Inside, our larger purpose was based on the belief that empowered people who actually want to come to work are essential for solving today’s big, complex problems like climate change.
A similar larger purpose—the belief that entrepreneurs create a better future—drew me to Techstars four years ago. As a Managing Director for Techstars Boulder in 2015 and 2016, I saw the passion larger purpose creates inside companies, and how that energy fuels success.
Two years ago Amy Batchelor and Brad Feld held an event at their home where I again experienced the power of having larger purpose when I heard Mark Tercek, the CEO of The Nature Conservancy, speak. I was impressed to hear how The Nature Conservancy was leveraging finance, policy, and technology to create a world where people and nature thrive together. It was inspiring to see what can be accomplished when strong leadership, the best scientists and dedicated supporters are driven by such a powerful purpose.
Today, I’m thrilled to announce that I’m putting my investor hat back on and joining the team at the Techstars Sustainability Accelerator, in partnership with The Nature Conservancy as Managing Director. I’m excited to continue the great work Jenna Walker started, and join Hannah Davis and August Ritter in helping entrepreneurs with businesses that can make a material contribution to building a world where people and nature can thrive together.
Applications are currently open through April 7th for the second year of the Techstars Sustainability Accelerator, in partnership with The Nature Conservancy. We are seeking for-profit entrepreneurs with commercially viable technologies who are passionately pursuing solutions to challenges like these:
- Make the case for natural climate solutions;
- Inspire climate action;
- Conserve working forests;
- Advance nature-based solutions to lessen the impacts of climate change;
- Rethink agricultural practices;
- Improve Fishery Health;
- Improve the sustainability of aquaculture;
- Protect water at its source;
- Better facilitate water market transactions;
- Integrate nature into urban growth planning;
- Increase climate change resilience;
- Decrease the footprint of human settlements;
- Build a model of sustainable energy development;
- Inform smart infrastructure decision-making;
- Expand community-led conservation;
- Better protect our land, water, and oceans;
- Catalyze transformational change to achieve a world where people and nature thrive.
One of the driving forces in my life is best described in Steve Faber’s motto: “Do what you love in the service of people who love what you do.” If this resonates with you, I look forward to getting to know more about you and your company.
Are you an entrepreneur raising money—who wants to be smarter than your lawyer and your venture capitalist? Are you an investor who wants to take your venture finance skills to the next level? Along with the Kauffman Fellows Academy, we are hosting an online course with Brad Feld and Jason Mendelson based on their book Venture Deals. Sign up here to join the over 15,000 people who have taken this course.
This is a collaborative, online course where you will watch videos from Brad and Jason along with doing project work as teams. This run starts on October 7, 2018 and ends on November 28, 2018. The course also includes two live events where you can ask Jason and Brad questions. Here are two example Q&A sessions from prior sessions:
Terms like MVP and Pivot have become synonymous with startups. With many of your competitors running as Lean Startups, how do you break out from the crowd? During the 2015 Techstars Boulder program, we used several additional techniques with the companies to help them accelerate their business. I’ll be doing an experience report about the Boulder program at this year’s Lean Startup Conference. If you can’t make it, here is an overview and links to detailed how-to guides. If you prefer a podcast version, you can find my Lean Startup Podcast interview here.
These techniques will help you:
- create coherent behaviors, decisions and a sense of purpose within the founding team and employees;
- maintain a shared understand of the current state of your business model;
- surface key risks and unknowns; take focused action to reduce those risks/unknowns;
- do more of the right work faster by visualizing and optimizing the flow work in your company; and integrate learnings from the market at a daily, weekly and monthly cadence.
All of this will help you get to product/market fit faster and more effectively scale the company.
The Company OS is where you start. This simple document will help you translate your vision into a concrete sense of purpose for your business. The alignment and energy created by articulating your core purpose, behaviors, decision making framework, and your aspirational destination, allows you to move so much faster.
The Lean Canvas is an essential tool in building a shared understanding of your business. The canvas forces you to be succinct and direct when describing the most important aspects of your business. By doing so, you’ll spend less time working on distractions, and focus on what’s really important.
After you articulate your best understanding of your business via the lean canvas and company OS, it’s time to build a business that works. The impact uncertainty exercise helps you uncover all the guesses, assumptions, risks, and dependencies in your business model. We’ll then help you best take action against these obstacles, and systematically de-risk your business.
Once you’ve surfaced key risks and uncertainties, the monthly strategy session helps your team take focused action on what really matters. Additionally, this exercise encourages you to learn from past performance helping you hit your goals in the future.
Finally, learn how to get the most out of each and every day with an effective Kanban board.
MVPs and experimentation are no longer competitive advantages. To get ahead, there is so much from the Lean methodology, not originally included in The Lean Startup, that can accelerate your business. The techniques above are an excellent way to inject discipline into your both your day-to-day operations, and your company’s long-term future.