Being a student entrepreneur comes with a unique set of challenges. Student founders need guidance from a community that understands not just what it takes to build a company, but how to balance—and get the most out of—being both a full-time student and a full-time entrepreneur. As part of their mission to help student entrepreneurs succeed, Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars is launching the inaugural 2019 LaunchPad Lift Cohort, a personalized mentorship-driven program for LaunchPad student-led ventures from the United States and Ireland.
“The Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars entrepreneurship program offers students valuable on-campus support through content and mentors. Through this program, Techstars, the worldwide network that helps entrepreneurs succeed, is dedicated to supporting those students through the entrepreneurial journey from inspiration to IPO,” said David Cohen, Co-CEO of Techstars.
LaunchPad Lift will help bridge the gap between the Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars programming available on each college campus and the next big steps student-led ventures need for their companies. Whether the ventures are planning to apply to an accelerator program, raise capital, or make their first hire, the LaunchPad Lift Cohort takes ventures through a personalized experience with an assigned Techstars mentor to help them succeed. In addition, ventures will be exposed to experts from the Techstars network who will share their best practices on building a business.
We asked some of our LaunchPad student-led venture founders to tell us about the impact of the program. Here’s what one wrote: “Our Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars mentors have been critical to our success. Between mentorship and connections, we have grown and accelerated our progress tenfold by being a part of this community!”
We’re excited to announce that seven student-led ventures, who presented at the 2018 LaunchPad Training Camp, were selected to join the inaugural LaunchPad Lift Cohort. These seven ventures are from the LaunchPad Global Network and the founders represent seven schools in four states and two countries, with ventures in seven distinct industries. Additionally, over 50% of the startups in the 2019 LaunchPad Lift Cohort have diverse founding teams that include women and people of color.
Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars selected these ventures based on several factors: live pitches and peer voting at the LaunchPad Training Camp, mentor feedback, and a review process conducted by the Blackstone and Techstars team to assess the strength of each team’s business model and concept, coach-ability, and venture stage, as well as the team’s passion and their ability to fully utilize a mentor to grow.
“Over the course of the 2018 LaunchPad Training Camp, I had the opportunity to meet with ventures from over twenty universities, hear their pitches, and get to know the entrepreneurs. I was incredibly impressed by these student ventures—the diversity of ideas, the commitment to entrepreneurship, and the potential for scalable impact were all exceptional,” said Amy Stursberg, Executive Director of the Blackstone Charitable Foundation.
LaunchPad Lift will run for 10 weeks, from January 28 through April 1, 2019. Each participating student-led venture will receive a $10,000 grant upon program completion, and join the Blackstone Charitable Foundation and Techstars team at a closing event in New York City.
Meet the Seven Ventures:
CALM (Temple): CALM is a small device that uses pulses of vibrations to influence the brain and de-escalate rising stress and anxiety attacks.
Combplex (Cornell): Combplex is an innovative solution to beekeepers’ number one problem, eliminating the parasites killing their bees.
Lazarus (Texas A&M): Lazarus provides a unique degree of lethality by designing projectiles that penetrate a threat, then minimize blood loss post-penetration in order to preserve life.
My Wellbeing (NYU): My Wellbeing connects therapy-seekers to compatible therapist and coach matches in NYC.
Petitas (USC): Petitas LA is a clothing brand by and for petite, professional women.
Shower Stream (UT Austin): The Shower Stream is a smart shower head adapter that installs as easily as a light bulb, saves water waste, proves the savings via the web, and is completely unobtrusive to the user.
NUA Surgical (NUI Galway): NUA Surgical is developing a novel medical device to make caesarean delivery a safer and more superior surgery.
The Blackstone Charitable Foundation and Techstars partnership increases the chances for collegiate ventures to succeed by ensuring they have the resources they need to thrive. The Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars entrepreneurship program is accessible by over 500,000 college students globally and designed to support and mentor students, staff, and alumni entrepreneurs regardless of major, experience, or discipline.
By Chris Heivly, Entrepreneur in Residence at Techstars
There are many aspects of life where more is better, and as such there are many times we employ strategies to maximize the more. A few examples that many of us live by are:
- Priceless Art
- Profound experiences
- Time with loved ones
- Goals in ice hockey (ok, maybe just me)
In terms of startup community building, there are a plethora of activities that local leaders utilize to create lift. (For clarity, I am using the word “activities” in a very broad sense.) These may include:
- Coffee meetups (1 Million Cups)
- Grant programs
- Pitch competitions
- Learn to code academies
- Networking socials
- Startup weekends
- Recruitment events
- Venture funds
- Community blogs
The list literally goes on and on. Developing communities are first challenged to convene the various actors across the ecosystem. This has an immediate positive impact as the tribe begins to organize. Participate in this over a few months and some momentum begins to build.
As a community matures, activities naturally increase as newly motivated leaders step up and attempt to fill various voids. In many mature communities, there may be as many as two to three events every week.
I find the number, the diversity, and the cadence of these activities to be one of the critical signals as to the maturity of a community.
But beware. There is a trap that evolves in some minds that if the first handful of activities start to build some very visible momentum, then more activities would have an even larger effect. Unfortunately there is a ceiling to the number of activities and the subsequent impact.
In terms of startup community building, the more is better strategy has a very visible limit to its effectiveness. Once a critical mass of organizing these basic activities is achieved (and there are different trigger points for different communities), then the strategy should shift to building more meaningful activities.
Looking for a great startup community building event? Find—or organize!—a Techstars Startup Weekend in your community.
By David Brown, co-CEO of Techstars
Here’s a “hack” that I’ve observed growing startups often attempt. I call it the “contractor hack.” And it can be dangerous.
It starts off because a department head doesn’t have the budget to hire a person. To go through the approval process to get one hired is an impossible gauntlet. So instead, they use the contractor hack.
Here is the hack: first, you hire a temporary contractor. It’s not hard to do, or even to get approval for. You just say, “I know the hourly rate is a bit high, but it’s only for a short time to get over a hump, and we can cancel them at any time.” Easy-peasy. You have a “temporary” contractor.
After a year or so, your contractor becomes indispensable. Then you say you have a great idea: “Let’s save some money by converting this contractor to a full time role. We can pay her less, since we’ll be providing health or other benefits!” Genius.
Suddenly, you have lots of employees who started as contractors, and your middle managers have figured out how to hack your hiring system. If you are a startup, please don’t get into or allow this habit as you scale. Ask your CFO to keep close track of contractor expense and put a vice grip on this type of nonsense.
Ready to grow your startup the right way? Apply to a Techstars mentorship-driven accelerator.
As we all know, Techstars is the worldwide network that helps entrepreneurs succeed—so it’s not exactly surprising that members of the network show up on various lists, like the 2019 Forbes 30 Under 30. As Forbes puts it, this list includes “the brashest entrepreneurs across the United States and Canada…. A collection of bold risk-takers putting a new twist on the old tools of the trade.”
We’re proud to see 12 Techstars mentorship-driven accelerator alumni (from eight awesome startups) on this year’s list. Huge congrats to these amazing founders!
Did we miss anyone? Let us know!
2019 Forbes 30 Under 30 for Marketing and Advertising
2019 Forbes 30 Under 30 for Consumer Technology
2019 Forbes 30 Under 30 for Consumer Technology
2019 Forbes 30 Under 30 for Retail & Ecommerce
2019 Forbes 30 Under 30 for Law & Policy
2019 Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia for Media, Marketing & Advertising
2019 Forbes 30 Under 30 for Enterprise Technology
2019 Forbes 30 Under 30 for Manufacturing & Industry
Ready for your startup to #domorefaster? Apply to a Techstars mentorship-driven accelerator.
Before my son was born, I thought for sure that I would be the type of mom that can’t wait to get back to work. I wanted to plan 2018 so that the office wouldn’t even notice I’d be away. But I was lucky that my diverse group of colleagues ignored my enthusiasm and constantly reminded me to see how things would evolve once the baby was born. It was all the support a mom-to-be could want and I really thank them for that.
We welcomed a healthy baby into our family on one of the coldest weeks of February. And the plan I had projected in my head went completely out of the window.
Being thrust into this new role of a “mom” really changed my perspective on a lot of things — one of them was the way I pursue my career and work life. I realized that I can work my entire life, but I have only a few years to enjoy quality time with my newborn. And this time is extremely precious. So why not just take a step back and focus on what’s the most important thing in my life right now — my family. Otherwise, I might wake up with regrets one day because I missed my child growing up. I would rather miss out on some work opportunities now than shortchanging my kid.
It made me think, does this make me a worse leader now? Am I not ambitious enough? But I realized, that there’s only one answer to this — who cares, be whoever you are and do whatever you want, what matters the most is that you’re happy.
While I was expecting my son, I was really afraid of missing out on things. And this made me tell myself that I won’t take any time off, as I have to keep pushing on the work front. In the startup world, it can really get to you when you are surrounded by the 24/7 hustle culture — you constantly feel that if you don’t do it, somebody else might take your place, be it within the company or in the industry.
As a founder, I was constantly reminded that I should be doing so much more and there are an infinite number of challenges to tackle and too little time. It was easy to fall into the circle of guilt. But over time, I understood that for most of us, families are an integral part of our lives. I had to find the inner peace necessary to lay the foundation for it to be okay for me to not prioritize work for a bit. Obviously getting to this mindset and inner peace was not easy. Occasionally, I’ve still found myself thinking that I could be doing so much more and I find myself asking whether I’ve ‘earned’ the right to still be considered part of the team.
I actually struggled with the concept of ‘family first and stay-at-home’ for a very long time, but only precisely until the minute I saw my son Aaron for the first time.
And it made me think “why?” Why did I feel that I have to continue working at the same pace? Is it the pressure our society puts on us? It seems that as soon as you’ve decided to stay at home you’re tagged as a ‘lost cause’. There is this pressure that we shouldn’t take any stops on this fast-moving train of life, otherwise we will miss out on opportunities.
I recently stumbled upon an article about mandatory paternity leave that outlined a 2018 Deloitte survey:
Of more than 1,000 men found that a third worried that taking a leave would hurt their careers, and more than half feared it would signal that they weren’t serious about their jobs.
This is just ridiculous. No one should be afraid to take a paternity or maternity leave. Having a family should not affect our ability to continue our careers. But unfortunately, we also see report after report on how women after giving birth to their first, second, etc. child, lose even more on their salaries while working full-time. Having children is almost like a “handicap” basically. But for dads, as I wrote in my previous post, becoming a parent gives them plus points and increases their likelihood of getting promotions and bonuses.
Based on all the daunting statistics, I asked myself the question — How can I possibly enjoy my time as a mom and still be there for my company and my team? And to be honest, I haven’t found a magic formula. However, I’ve come to this one conclusion:
Be confident in doing what makes you most happy
Happiness opens up so many more opportunities in life. Be happy and confident about your choice of choosing parenthood. If you have decided to give parenthood a go, it will certainly give you a confidence boost as well, at least that’s what it did for me. I realized that I should lead my life to its fullest potential and it’s up to me to define how it will look like.
I realize you might think that as a founder, I’m in a different situation than my team members or other parents out there, but truly, I’m not. At least not in Testlio. We all share the same burden of responsibility and we all try to balance family lives, whichever form they may take. My priority is still making my team and company a success as well.
We feel threatened and scared because of how society has been built up. We are ruled by strong stereotypes but by now it should be clear that stereotypes are meant for breaking. I can assure you that an awesome team member is always welcomed back. No matter how many years they’ve been gone. My sister has been home for three years now with her kids and her colleagues are still eagerly waiting for her return.
I believe being a parent makes you a better person. So be awesome and talk about how awesome being a parent is. Parental leave should definitely be encouraged and supported — this time is like no other. It will teach you things that no amount of money can buy.
But we won’t see a change unless we ourselves act on it, right? So, let’s continue to speak about it and eventually, I hope, we’ll see things change!
To conclude, I sincerely believe that taking a break such as a maternity or paternity leave to enjoy new life experiences won’t make you ‘miss out’ on anything. Rather, once you’re ready to catch the next train, you will have even more skills under your belt.
Being at home with my son has been the second best time in my life besides just working side by side with my dear team at Testlio. For the first few months, I put everything aside and unplugged myself almost completely out of work. The well-being of my son and giving him comfort/safety in this new world was my number one priority. In all my life thus far, I have never felt this way and I’ve cherished every moment.
Is this a time in your life when you’re 100% dedicated to your startup? Apply to a Techstars mentorship-driven accelerator to #domorefaster.
Originally published on www.medium.com.
Being an entrepreneur is scary, exciting, gratifying … so many emotions mixed into one. The same is true about being an immigrant.
Here are five ways my experience as an immigrant served as a foundation for launching a startup.
Jump Off the Cliff
It was 2003, I was 19 years old, and I had just arrived in the US from my native country Bulgaria ready for my freshman year at The College of Brockport in upstate New York. I was holding two suitcases containing the contents of my entire life. I only had my clothes and my memories — everything I would need to start fresh.
Nine years later, as a founder, I was again back to nothing and constantly reminded that 90 percent of startups fail. Layered on top of this stress, my Google safety net had vanished.
With the odds stacked against me, and terrified that the life I had built in America could evaporate in an instant, I knew I had to make my startup work.
Rely on Friends, Family & Fools
My scholarship covered tuition — but the rest was up to me. To attend university, I borrowed the complete savings of my parents, including their 401ks, and took gifts from extended family. I scraped together enough to cover room and board for my first year, roughly $5,000. Raising funding is a similar experience.
You have to rely on friends, family and fools to get enough seed funding for your first product or service launch. It’s a skill set that may feel awkward, but is essential to survive.
Become an Efficiency Machine
Shortly after starting school, I landed a job as the “smoothie guy” in the school cafeteria. It was the graveyard shift, from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m., earning 50 cents per hour more than the day shift.
I worked 20 hours each week, the maximum allowed to work on campus as a full-time student, all while triple majoring in math, computer science and computational science. I had time only for working, studying, eating, and sleeping.
Between university and founding Leanplum (Seattle ’12), I worked at Google for five years. When I left, I knew I was giving up the security of a work visa and paycheck, both of which I’d come to heavily rely on.
In a way, it felt like I was 19 again, beginning from scratch with no resources. And when I started Leanplum, I was right back at it, coding, talking to customers, eating and sleeping.
Rely on Your Wit
As busy as I was at university, I was also the happiest I’d ever been. Why? I felt empowered to pursue my dreams with nothing but my vision — a belief I would need nearly a decade later as an entrepreneur.
The thing about entrepreneurs who are also immigrants is we’re relentlessly resourceful — the number one entrepreneurial characteristic.
In Bulgaria, there’s a folklore character named Hitar Petar, or Clever Peter, akin to Robin Hood. Clever Peter relies on his resourcefulness to succeed, and there are plenty of stories that showcase his wit.
His essence lives on in Bulgaria, a nation that may not be the most affluent, but one that is certainly resourceful. It’s this trait that has helped me flourish, both in school and in Silicon Valley.
Risk It All
Once you jump off that cliff, you can’t look back. As a student, I was thousands of miles from my family, and terrified of failure. At the end of my four years, I worked hard and graduated Summa Cum Laude. But standing there with my two suitcases that day, I didn’t know that’s how my time at university would play out.
A founder’s fears are the same. Five years after launching Leanplum, I’m proud to have built a company that is every bit as successful as I could have hoped.
We raised our Series C funding last October, continue to triple our revenue and employee growth each year, and work with the biggest brands in the world, like Tinder, Macy’s and Lyft.
It was my experience as an immigrant that made this all possible — an experience that I wouldn’t trade for the world.
Techstars is a Worldwide Network that helps entrepreneurs succeed. Check out the impact of the Techstars’ network over the past 10 years.
As the Asia Pacific region is growing into a global center for innovation, there’s an increasing challenge of how to offer the best resources for new startup communities. Oko Davaasuren, Techstars Regional Director in APAC, and Anurag Maloo, Techstars Regional Manager in APAC, answer questions on how Techstars is working to help inspire entrepreneurs in the region.
What is your vision for Techstars and building communities in Asia Pacific?
For some of you who don’t have a larger view of Techstars, this question comes up a lot as I’m traveling to different countries.
Techstars has three distinct parts to it. The first part is our startup programs, which includes Startup Weekend, Startup Week, and Startup Digest. These give access, education, and exposure to the communities or ecosystems.
The second part is what Techstars is mainly known for, which is our mentorship-driven accelerator programs. We’re running about 29 of these accelerators all around the world.
The third part of the business is the venture arm, which invests in startups that mainly go through our accelerator program and maybe some outside. Those are the three main pillars of Techstars as an organization.
We are running startup programs in about 28 countries out of 50 plus in Asia Pacific. We are running about 500 programs, including the bootcamps and other editions of our startup programs. We’re seeing about 10-20 percent growth year-by-year.
With that said, although we run thousands of Startup Weekends around the world, there are a lot of people we haven’t reached. You hear people who have been touched by these programs and know the impact of these programs in their communities. These people know how awesome it is.
The mission here is, “how can we share this awesome experience with as many people as possible?” We literally get to change people’s lives.
In the simplest terms, we want to enable and empower individuals in communities all around the world.
We want to continue doing that, because there’s so much still to go, especially in Asia. Economic growth is here and it’s the frontier of everything. This is where people need access, power, and exposure more than anywhere else.
Besides that, we’re not just talking about the individual impact programs, but as a collective of accelerators and the investing arm, we’re trying to help ecosystems in Asia Pacific to grow so that the true values of Techstars are materialized.
Entrepreneurs should be everywhere. You should be able to build your startup wherever you are from or where ever you are. But in order for that to happen, your ecosystem needs to grow and have all the right elements to be able to provide the environment for people to do that.
With the collective, our goal is to basically make Asia Pacific better than Silicon Valley or become an iteration of Silicon Valley by finding the strength of ecosystems to help it grow.
We have a lot of work to do.
Are you ready to help your community learn, network, and startup? Organize a Startup Weekend event in your area today!
There’s endless writing about how lonely it is to be an entrepreneur. How hard it is to be at the top. And how stressful it can be to become a founder, leader, entrepreneur.
Like anything in life, choosing to do something without a community of people to support you is a lonely path. And you can probably make the argument that you don’t learn the basics in life without teachers, peers, mentors, and cheerleaders. No Olympic athlete ever won a gold medal without both falling on their ass repeatedly and without good coaching.
So, why would an entrepreneur set out on their journey all alone?
There are a few books I’ve read that exemplify why other people are important in achieving your life goals – and why it’s important to take time to stop-look-listen as well as to share your experiences, hopes, and dreams. (More on those books later…)
In the throes of creating the most incredible, must-have solution to a big problem, sometimes we forget to ask others to join in the journey….we sometimes forget to surround ourselves with people smarter than us, and we forget that it is necessary to both give and take.
Personal Growth as a Bank Account
I like to look at the give and take component of personal growth as a bank account. Sometimes there’s debt and sometimes there’s a surplus. Being mindful of this concept is valuable. I like to keep my debt relatively low and I do this by making sure that I build a strong savings account so that when I really need help, that I don’t go into massive debt getting there.
How does this work? How do you build a big savings account?
Become a Mentor
Becoming a mentor builds equity versus cash in your savings account because every time you Give First as a mentor, there is a return to the person you mentor — as well as to yourself. You can be a mentor to a someone like you but less experienced (an entrepreneur who is more wet behind the ears), or to a person more senior than you (if you have a skill set that they do not have); to someone who is like you (a math major helping another math major); an alumna of a college helping a student in that college, etc. You can help a sibling, a neighbor, a classmate, a coworker. You get the idea. It’s never too early to mentor and to be mentored.
Find a Mentor for Yourself
Finding your own mentor is the corollary to becoming a mentor. There’s no order that these two need to come in – it’s a virtuous cycle. But the more that you allow yourself to openly share, the more that you receive. A mentor is someone whom you trust and respect. They can be explicit in the relationship – scheduled time, specifics asks and answers — or it can be less defined, a relationship that is based on simply wanting to grow by learning from another’s experiences.
Participate in Networking Events
Peers and people who have aligned interests are great ways to grow your network and yourself. I’m a big fan of openly sharing and engaging, of honesty and transparency, and of helping someone over rough patches that I’ve already learned how to navigate.
Networking events are also awesome ways to add another person to your personal network, find that new investor that you’ve been seeking, do some A/B testing on your messaging and, most basically, a change of scenery. It’s too easy to be too busy to make the time to change the scenery and engage with other people – making the effort and following through on the intent is important.
Join an Organization to Get Connected
If you are a part of a network like Techstars, really use the Techstars family. Take advantage of Connect (our private network for Techstars founders), meet with other founders, engage with your MD and others that are interesting to you, find new mentors and reach out to investors. What you reap will be at least proportional to what you sow.
I remember the point in my journey as an entrepreneur when I wanted to become a better CEO – and my intentional journey to do this. I joined Entrepreneur’s Organization (better known as EO) and benefited hugely from my forum. It was there that I expanded my network for life, I joined both my local board and the International Board, learned about a different type of governance, explored the world, and was exposed to cultural differences, went through the Birthing of Giants program, and further blew my mind up. I credit EO with a rapid growth of my understanding of the journey that I was on and my ability to be much more intentional about my path.
Just remember: you are not alone. Dive into the network around you and learn from your it. Get connected. Be a mentor and find a good one. Take control of your learning. Everything is a teachable moment if you let it become one.
Oh, and back to those few books that inspired me …
- Into Thin Air – such a lesson on the dangers of being singularly focused and not always allowing others to lead.
- The Boys in the Boat – an accidental book about team work; as a former rower, it was a huge validation for me but the overall principles and underpinnings are amazing.
- Lean In – I wasn’t a huge fan, at first. And then I decided it was a must read simply because it’s so available for anyone.
- When Genius Failed – failure is something that we all need to do.
- The Cult of Done – so many worthy principles in this basic manifesto.
At Techstars, you are not alone. Once you are part of the network, it’s Techstars for Life. Join us!
Entrepreneurship in Conflict Zones: the first report offering insight into the status-quo of entrepreneurship in Syria during conflict
To sum up the results of five years of work to build an effective entrepreneurial ecosystem in Syria, I have put together data from a study examining and researching hundreds of Syrian entrepreneurs and experts.
The report draws on data from a study examining the views and experiences over a period of twelve months of research, during which 268 interviews were conducted with Syrians entrepreneurs. The study also included an open discussion and series of interviews with entrepreneurs experts as well as insights from local startups.
Prior to the conflict, few steps had been taken to assist the Syrian entrepreneurial ecosystem, which had real potential for growth. However, after 2011, startups have faced numerous challenges that restricted that potential.
The protracted war in Syria has exacerbated the challenges facing entrepreneurs working to create their startups. These challenges include: insecurity and political instability, scarcity of financial support, access to market limitation, collapsing infrastructure, sanctions, and payment restrictions, increasing economic burdens, dwindling human skills, diminishing of the market size, unfriendly regulatory environment, and a dysfunctional entrepreneurship education.
Since 2013, a slight recovery in terms of startups supporting new ideas and seed-focused entrepreneurs has taken place, led by a new generation of the community. Currently, there are more than 30 community entrepreneurial events, and many organizations are actively working to support Syrian entrepreneurs.
The study also shows significant improvement in the contributions of female entrepreneurs, which make up 22.4 percent as a natural outcome of the new role played by many women as chief breadwinners of the family, while many of the men have been forced to either flee or engage in the armed conflict.
Additionally, the report offers alternatives and solutions that could be considered in trying to overcome the obstacles posed by this lingering conflict and recommends that multiple players inside and outside the country contribute to improving entrepreneurs’ positions, as everyone has a role to play in this process.
The key message of this study is that policymakers and startup communities should start to consider assisting entrepreneurs in their endeavors to create businesses that take into consideration the public benefit. With proper upfront support and policies that are fair and available to everyone, entrepreneurs can yield substantial social and economic dividends.
To dig deeper, read the full study here >>
Techstars helps entrepreneurs succeed.
We are a worldwide organization with people in our ecosystem in nearly every country around the world. We are dedicated to inclusion and diversity. There is no bias in who we work with and where we work.
We are simply about helping entrepreneurs succeed and creating the best worldwide entrepreneurial network.
Techstars fully supports diverse peoples of all backgrounds, religions, and nationalities.
Yesterday, the United States made changes in immigration policies that could make many people feel insecure, unsure and concerned about their future in and around engaging with the United States. While we have no control over these policies, we want you to know that Techstars remains an open and inclusive global family. The best that we can do is make sure that we are of service to those in our network who need guidance and support.
If you are a founder, mentor, investor, community leader or partner within the Techstars ecosystem and have concerns that we can help address, please reach out to us at email@example.com and we will work directly with you on your concerns.