Doing More Together: Techstars Foundation and Western Union Foundation join forces to support underrepresented entrepreneurs

When Techstars launched an accelerator with Western Union to drive innovation for the next generation of financial services solutions and payment technology, we already knew that Techstars and Western Union had a lot in common. We both love innovation and finding new solutions. We believe that startups and large corporations can learn and work together to the benefit of both—and to the benefit of everyone’s customers. Most importantly we both have a commitment to #GiveFirst and know that business, done right, can make the world a better place. 

It was only natural that the Techstars Foundation and Western Union Foundation would also find overlap in their missions.

Two Missions, One Goal

The mission of the Techstars Foundation is to support and develop underrepresented entrepreneurs in order to stimulate innovation and positive social and economic global. The mission of the Western Union Foundation is to connect underserved populations to the global economy through demand-driven skills training and workforce enablement programs. The alignment between these missions showed us that both of our organizations have strong, purpose-driven cultures and that we both want to create an inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystem worldwide. 

“Give First is a core value for all of us at Techstars—a way for us to continually improve the world around us,” said David Cohen, Techstars founder and co-CEO. “We believe that the tech industry, through cultural evolution, can fundamentally shift corporate and individual philanthropy. It’s why we are so excited about this opportunity to do a co-grant with one of our accelerator partner foundations. Together we can inspire and create a larger impact.” 

Elizabeth Roscoe, Executive Director of the Western Union Foundation, agrees. “We are thrilled to partner with Techstars to grow and inspire inclusive entrepreneurship around the world. By bringing together our resources and our networks, we can create a meaningful impact on communities around the world.”

$100,000 Grant + Two Worldwide Networks

Working together, the Techstars Foundation and Western Union Foundation have increased our impact on underserved communities. 

We are excited to announce that the Techstars Foundation and Western Union Foundation will be joining forces to help grow two fantastic non-profit organizations—the Watson Institute and MITD-Lab—through two $50,000 monetary grants and support provided by the Techstars and Western Union networks. 

We’ve done deep research into these two organizations, and we believe that they will have a huge impact on the participants in their programs. We are also excited to see how much more we can do when our two foundations work together. This shouldn’t be a surprise—as the worldwide network that helps entrepreneurs succeed, Techstars is built on the power of networks. So here we are, making connections, strengthening networks, and seeing—yet again—how much more we can do, together. 

These are our joint grant recipients:

Watson Institute

Watson Institute is a revolutionary new model of higher education for next-generation innovators, leaders, and entrepreneurs. Watson Institute supports diverse, next-generation, impact-focused entrepreneurs so they can pioneer their education, trailblaze lives as innovators, and contribute to solving the toughest challenges facing the world.

In addition to running their Semester Incubator program in Boulder, Colorado and powering Lynn University’s Bachelor of Science in Social Entrepreneurship in South Florida, Watson Institute runs two-day, intensive, entrepreneurship skills training programs called ‘Basecamps’ for 18- to 25-year-old, diverse, impact-focused entrepreneurs. Through our joint partnership, Watson Institute will run Basecamps in Boulder, CO and Mexico City, key locations where both Western Union and Techstars have a strong presence to offer mentorship and support. 

These Basecamps will include training, venture development, mentorship, and a demo night competition. Participants will participate in this two-day intensive program and receive long-term support from Watson Institute’s online network and mentorship sessions. 

MIT D-Lab

MIT D-Lab works with people around the world to develop and advance collaborative approaches and practical solutions to global poverty challenges. This project will be funded by the Western Union Foundation and Techstars Foundation, along with UNHCR. The goal of this program is to help refugee women find long-term durable solutions through skill-building and support to start small businesses.

MIT D-Lab will work with Faros, a local Greek NGO, to provide hands-on, experiential learning in design, innovation, and entrepreneurship to refugee women in Greece, equipping them with technical and soft skills to establish their own businesses while building their confidence, agency, and ability to solve problems.

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Read the press release here.

About Western Union Foundation

The Western Union Foundation believes that education is one of the surest pathways to economic opportunity. Through collaborations with NGOs around the world, the Foundation has embarked on a mission to connect 50,000 migrants, refugees, women and youth to the global economy through demand-driven skills training and workforce enablement programs by 2020. The Foundation also offers a global scholarship program that helps put a post-secondary education in reach for in-need students studying in the STEM fields and business. To date, more than $120 million has been given to fund projects in 137 countries across the globe, including disaster relief for communities in crisis. The Western Union Foundation is a separate charitable corporation that is tax-exempt under 501(c)(3) of the US Internal Revenue Code, and receives support from The Western Union Company, its employees, agents and business partners. Contributions to the Foundation are tax-deductible for US income tax purposes. To learn more, visit www.foundation.westernunion.com or follow us on Twitter @TheWUFoundation.

About Techstars Foundation

The Techstars Foundation’s mission is to develop and support underrepresented entrepreneurs by providing non-profit organizations with grants and access to the Techstars Network. Created in 2015, Techstars Foundation fosters an inclusive entrepreneurship ecosystem accessible to all aspiring entrepreneurs regardless of their gender, race, ethnicity, age, gender identity, LGBTQ or ability. The Techstars Foundation vision is to stimulate innovation and positive social and economic global change through empowering underrepresented communities and entrepreneurs.The Techstars Foundation funds 501(c)(3) or in-country equivalent organizations with educational programs that are aligned with the foundation’s mission. The Techstars Foundation is a donor-advised fund managed by the Community Foundation Boulder County








Techstars Foundation Accepting 2019 Grant Applications

Techstars is always working to be a leader in inclusive entrepreneurship by improving opportunities for women and underrepresented minorities throughout our global ecosystem. One important way we do this is through the Techstars Foundation.

The Techstars Foundation’s mission is to develop and support underrepresented entrepreneurs by providing nonprofit organizations with grants and access to the Techstars Network. We are dedicated to fostering an inclusive entrepreneurship ecosystem accessible to all aspiring entrepreneurs regardless of their gender, gender identity, LGBTQ, race, ethnicity, age, or ability.

Research has shown diverse teams are more productive, more innovative, and create better returns—yet there are few entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds. If the number of underrepresented entrepreneurs declines or remains low, we risk losing productivity, innovation, and lower the potential for business returns, with adverse impacts on the global economy and the development of diverse senior leaders. Moreover, if these groups become more disenfranchised, this could lead to further disparities between gender, race, and class.

Techstars created the Techstars Foundation in 2015 to meet these challenges. The Techstars Foundation has supported 15 nonprofit organizations and hundreds of underrepresented entrepreneurs. The Techstars Foundation vision is to stimulate innovation and positive social and economic change worldwide.

Through our network of thousands of companies and startup programs worldwide, Techstars has a massive opportunity to alter the trajectory of entrepreneurship on a global basis as a catalyst in the growth and scale of nonprofits that are addressing these crucial challenges.

The Techstars Foundation helps to amplify and support the great work of the nonprofit organizations we support. We encourage you to be a part of our story by applying for a grant or making a donation. The Techstars Foundation is a donor-advised fund managed by the Community Foundation Boulder County.

Grant Guidelines:

The Techstars Foundation funds 501(c)(3) organizations with educational programs aligned with our mission of supporting and developing underrepresented entrepreneurs.

Our support ranges from $10,000 to $50,000 depending on the established organization’s budget.

Learn more about our grant criteria—and apply! The deadline for the next round of grant requests is April 8, 2019.

Questions? Email us today.

Want to help us develop and support underrepresented entrepreneurs? Donate now.








The Audio Must Match the Video: Updating the Techstars Commitment to Diversity and Inclusion

By Jason Thompson, VP of Diversity and Inclusion at Techstars

Recently, I purchased a new TV. I decided there was no reason to read the directions. I figured I love technology, and I’m reasonably handy, so: no need for directions. What could go wrong?

I soon realized that every channel was in a foreign language. My first thought was that the cable company inadvertently sold me a lineup of channels for this particular foreign language. I assumed all I needed to do would be to change the channel to a local station. I was wrong! The local channel was also in a foreign language. The characters from a very popular US sitcom were speaking in English, I could tell, but the audio was something else. The audio did not match the video. The sound and the action didn’t match.

A simple principle of watching TV is that the audio matches the video. Much the same principle—that what we say must match what we do—is the basis for Techstars decision to update our Code of Conduct and incorporate the Kapor Founder’s Commitments. We have publicly said we are committed to Diversity & Inclusion, so it makes sense incorporate this into our Code of Conduct, plus adding some clear things we can do to act on our statements. Audio matches video.

The Kapor Founder’s Commitments have 4 pillars: Goals, Invest, Volunteer, and Educate (G.I.V.E.). We commit to hold ourselves to these standards, and we ask that all members of our network do the same. By having these pillars, our audio will match our video. It is one thing to say we are committed to D&I—but it is even more important to show how we are achieving on our stated commitment. G.I.V.E. is a tangible way to measure and implement our D&I commitment. As this project progresses you will be able to see a dashboard on our website that will show how Techstars is achieving on the G.I.V.E. commitments. You will see that we are not perfect; D&I work is a journey. We have places for improvement and projects in progress. We want make sure we are being transparent.

We know D&I is important, but it has to be reflected in our Code of Conduct and it has to mean something tangible. That is why we have included the Kapor Founder’s Commitments. Kapor has been a leader in the D&I space, so there was no reason to reinvent the wheel. We have worked closely with Kapor and we are grateful for their encouragement and shared learnings.

There was another thing that happened when I finally figured out how to change the audio on my TV to English… the video was fine, but somehow the audio was about one second behind the video. I could now understand everything, but the sound didn’t quite sync up with the images. First their mouths moved, and then came the speech. This was hugely distracting, to the point I couldn’t even watch my show.

The timing of the audio must also match the video, because even the slightest delay creates problems that cannot be ignored. This is quite a metaphor for fair pay for equal work. If you review the changes to the Code of Conduct you will see we have also expanded our D&I commitment to include fair compensation for equal work. Companies commit to diversity and inclusion need to make sure what they say is reflected in their actions and includes fair pay.

If you are paid a salary that is even a little behind what your co-workers are getting for equal work, it is unjust. Justice should not be asked to wait. It also creates an environment that breeds resentment because the solution is simple: pay all people a fair wage for their work. That is why we included in the Techstars Code of Conduct that all members of the network commit to ensuring everyone receives fair compensation, including all forms of equity and benefits. Audio must match video.

In addition to asking everyone in our network to sign the Code of Conduct, we are building a drip campaign for all new founders to assist them in meeting the D&I commitment. It will remind them quarterly of their commitment to D&I, and offer suggestions for them to achieve on the principles of G.I.V.E. Many of these suggestions cost little and are designed to assist even the youngest startup achieve on their D&I goals in a manner the is consistent with their size and resources.  

Plugging in a TV seems simple enough, but the details are important. Being handy and loving technology are not enough for setting up a TV—or a productive D&I program. Liking people from diverse backgrounds and assuming that you have no bias is not enough. Building a D&I program requires commitment and focus. The commitment must be reflected in policies and programs. As Techstars continues on our D&I journey, we thank Kapor Capital for their work in the D&I space.  And we ask that you join us on our journey. It is equally importantly that we all commit to working to ensure that the audio matches the video: that what we say matches what we do.








Seven Female CEOs Join the 2017 Techstars London Accelerator

Following a tour across Europe that covered 21 countries and after meeting with hundreds of amazing entrepreneurs, we have narrowed the field to 11 companies that are joining us for the Techstars London Accelerator class of 2017.

The sixth Techstars London program kicks off this week, and we are proud to have seven of the 11 companies led by female CEOs.

We are looking forward to three months of intense and productive times (mixed in with a little fun!), capped off by Demo Day on October 11th.

The sectors our companies work in are broad – from project management, natural vitamin rich shots and fashion, to clinical trials, mobile app marketing and banking.

Techstars is the Worldwide Network that helps entrepreneurs succeed, and strong partners and mentors help make this happen. We’re grateful for their support, their time and their guidance. We couldn’t do it without them.

Here are the Techstars London Accelerator 2017 companies:

Coconut: Coconut is the bank account for freelancers and self-employed people that tells you how much tax to save, sorts out your expenses and helps you get paid on time.

FindMeCure: FindMeCure is the platform that helps people all around the world to find, understand and join treatments that are still not publicly available.

Hurree: Hurree is designed for marketers & developers trying to make their app a success.

Lifebit: Lifebit is enabling breakthroughs in Science, R&D & Medicine, by connecting & delivering the operating systems of genomics that power computers, clusters & clouds to effectively analyze big biodata.

Live2Leave: Live2Leave is a travel app where you can record your favorite spots and get recommendations from people you know.

Nell: Nell are 100 percent natural vitamin rich shots designed to fill the nutritional gap for busy people.

ObjectBox: ObjectBox is the fastest mobile database on the market.

Planable: Planable is the fastest way for marketing teams to work together on social media content.

Polydone: Polydone brings Agile project management & resources management to the Enterprise.

Stylindex: Stylindex is a visual database of talent and production resources creating commercial content for the fashion industry.

Toneboard: Toneboard is a voice audio analytics company that is helping companies understand the needs of their customers and predict their behaviour.