Defy Colorado is a nonprofit organization that helps individuals with criminal histories — who they call Entrepreneurs in Training — create legal business ventures outside of prison. Within a growing network of three Colorado prisons, Defy runs a rigorous eight-month program focusing on reentry planning, employment readiness, entrepreneurship and character development, culminating in a Shark Tank-style pitch competition. Operating in concert with the Department of Corrections, Defy is demonstrating a model to reduce recidivism that emphasizes rehabilitation over punishment.
Techstars has been a longtime supporter of Defy Colorado (along with its founding organization, Defy Ventures) because we support the mission of creating second chances through entrepreneurship. And we believe that we are uniquely positioned to help, precisely because of who we are. In fact, the first principle in the Techstars Code of Conduct is: “We give first.” That means that, at Techstars, we help others whenever possible by responding quickly to requests for help to intentionally create an ongoing cycle of virtue. We appreciate the help of others, respect “no” as an answer and share talent and business opportunities.
Breaking the Cycle of Recidivism
Defined as “a tendency to relapse into a previous condition or mode of behavior, especially criminal behavior,” recidivism creates a revolving door to prison and a legacy of poverty, dependency, violence and incarceration that is passed down from generation to generation.
Here in Colorado, the prison population is expected to increase by 20% by 2025. And of the approximately 9,000 individuals expected to be released from prison this year, more than half (54%) are estimated to return to prison within the next three years. Difficulty in obtaining employment and housing are two of the largest correlating factors.
When it comes to our work with Defy Colorado, we’re focused on how we can bring Techstars’ unique insights and the power of our network to people with criminal histories, helping to break the cycle of recidivism. By collaborating with Defy to help people with criminal histories create legal business ventures, the Techstars Network is helping break the cycle of recidivism, and there are so many ways to get involved: employment readiness, character development, and entrepreneurship training inside prisons, as well as robust post-release services that include job placement and executive mentorship, startup incubation, and pitch competition judging.
Techstars Foundation advisory board member and Google employee Amanda West and Techstars’ EVP of Operations Scott Ford have each offered their expertise to help Defy’s Entrepreneurs in Training improve their ideas, hone their pitches and ultimately, to equip these incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals with the resources and connections they need to succeed in post-release life. Both Amanda and Scott were incredibly impressed — and inspired by — their experiences with Defy Colorado.
“These humanizing connections offer a very uplifting way for our network to get involved, both contributing to the rehabilitation of currently and formerly incarcerated individuals and impacting the injustices of our legal system,” West said.
That human connection is crucial.
“When discussing individuals with criminal histories, it’s easy to come in with preconceived notions or stereotypes, but actually sitting down and interacting with currently and formerly incarcerated individuals helps you realize that they’re just like you,” Ford said.
Best of all, it’s not a heavy lift to help out. Both Scott and Amanda noted how rewarding it was to make such a significant impact on someone with minimal effort. Sure, volunteering takes time, but everyone has the ability to help in some capacity.
Utilizing our network’s power in order to drive personal and economic growth for people with criminal histories allows us to drive a meaningful impact and provide a ray of hope. By harnessing the talents of the state’s currently and formerly incarcerated individuals as well as community and business leaders like Amanda and Scott, Defy Colorado helps individuals with criminal histories to defy the odds.
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 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 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.
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 and Create Labs have partnered to introduce Techstars Includes – Product Design. Techstars is committed to having a meta-impact on diversity in the tech space by encouraging a new generation of entrepreneurs to build inclusive companies from the very start, because we know diverse teams perform better and we believe inclusive companies will create a better future.
The Techstars – Create Labs Collaboration gives our startup founders access to a highly diverse pool of potential customers with whom they can do focus groups, beta testing, and customer discovery, ensuring that the tech they create is optimized for the actual users. Inclusive product design is essential for companies, but it can be difficult for startups to easily get access to a wide variety of users.
Why is inclusive product design so important? Kodak’s “Shirley” cards are a now-notorious example of what happens when companies don’t pay attention to inclusive product design. Shirley cards date from the mid-1950s, and Kodak created them for photo labs to use to calibrate color and light in the printing process so that people would come out looking good in photographs. They’re pictures of models, but in the early days, all of the models were white, and therefore they failed to work well as color and light checks for pictures of people with darker skin. Inclusive product design—working with actual users from different populations—helps companies not make errors like this, which cause their products to fail for some of their users.
The Inclusive Product Design program has the added benefit of introducing the next generation of diverse founders to the entrepreneurial process. It is designed to support underserved communities through hands-on, real-world entrepreneurial experiences. Participants will be given the opportunity to learn key business skills from startup founders through direct involvement in product design, shadowing startup teams, reviewing investor pitches, and user-testing early product demos.
The program will help to increase diversity and inclusion in the Techstars Network, as well as integrating inclusive product design into the Techstars accelerator programs.
“We believe the opportunity gap is a global problem, so no matter what city, state, or country the Techstars program is in, we will find a local underserved community to tap into that can benefit from learning these new tech and entrepreneurship skills,” says Create Labs co-founder Abran Maldonado.
Techstars is currently running 45 accelerators across 12 countries annually. The Techstars Includes – Product Design program will begin with the six accelerators located in London, Boston, Detroit, Los Angeles, and New York, with plans to run year-round through all accelerators.
About Create Labs
Create Labs is a social venture that taps into the heart of low-income, at-risk communities across the country to provide underserved populations with access to cutting-edge technology, skills training, mentorship and career opportunities in tech, media and other innovative industries. Current clients include Samsung, Esri, the NYC Mayor’s office of the CTO, Brookdale College, SBDC, and others.
Techstars is the worldwide network that helps entrepreneurs succeed. Techstars founders connect with other entrepreneurs, experts, mentors, alumni, investors, community leaders, and corporations to grow their companies. Techstars operates three divisions: Techstars Startup Programs, Techstars Mentorship-Driven Accelerator Programs, and Techstars Corporate Innovation Partnerships. Techstars accelerator portfolio includes more than 1,500 companies with a market cap of $15 Billion. www.techstars.com
Techstars is committed to being an action-driven leader in creating an inclusive entrepreneurial 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 foster an inclusive entrepreneurship ecosystem that embraces aspiring underrepresented entrepreneurs around the world of all gender identities, sexual orientations, races, ethnicities, ages, physical abilities, and neurodiversity.
Applications for our grants opened in March 2019, and we received 95 qualified applications from extraordinary organizations with powerful missions and goals. The organizations we selected to receive grants are both aligned with our mission and profoundly innovative. They are driven by the needs of the communities they serve and have a measurable positive impact on those communities. We see the potential for their education programs to create meaningful change in the lives of the individuals who participate.
Techstars Foundation 2019 Grant Recipients
The Techstars Foundation has committed $170,000 in grants to support the following organizations and the educational programs they have created:
Founded in 2017, Re:Coded seeks to unlock opportunities for youth in the Middle East and North Africa by preparing them for successful careers in the region’s rapidly growing technology sector as software developers, entrepreneurs, and tech leaders. They recruit, train, and employ conflict-affected and vulnerable youth to work as software developers through an intensive five-month coding boot camp and entrepreneurship training program. Re:Coded also runs a digital agency, Re:Coded Labs, staffed by graduates from its programs. Techstars Foundation will be supporting a Re-coded accelerator program for aspiring refugee entrepreneurs in Turkey, giving them the mindset, skills, network of investors and mentors to launch their own scalable tech startups.
“For the last couple of years, we’ve worked with dozens of refugees in Turkey who have tech business ideas but struggle to get their dream off the ground. Now, Re:Coded is delighted to work with Techstars to bring refugee-led startups to life.” – Marcello Bonatto (Co-founder of Re-Coded)
Digital Citizen Fund
The Digital Citizen Fund helps girls and women in developing countries gain access to technology and obtain the necessary skills to succeed in today’s expanding global market. They train women to become successful entrepreneurs in the digital world. With the grant from the Techstars Foundation, Digital Citizen Fund will train 300 women and girls in Afghanistan in business and high-tech (robotics, coding, etc.) to prepare them for the future.
“We cannot thank the Techstars Foundation enough for your grant. We really appreciate your support. The generous donation will empower Afghan women to be financial contributors in their families and continue to be influential forces to their communities ” – Roya Mahboob (CEO and President of Digital Citizen Fund)
HBCUvc’s mission is to foster the development of inclusive innovation economies. They accomplish this by increasing the number of Black and Latinx venture capital leaders in communities where entrepreneurs face barriers in accessing investment capital. By increasing the number of Black and Latinx decision-makers in venture capital, HBCUvc can fund more entrepreneurs of color, ultimately creating jobs and wealth opportunities for communities of color.
“We’re excited to be selected for this grant. Venture capital is very much a relationship-driven business. The intention of this course is two-fold. In addition to supporting and expanding upon entrepreneurship education at HBCUs, we get to build and expand new social networks inclusive of HBCUs by bringing investors directly to campus.” – Hadiyah Mujhid (Co-founder of HBCUvc)
Centro Community Partners
Centro Community Partners fosters socioeconomic change by providing business advisory services and leadership programs to rising yet underserved entrepreneurs who want to launch or grow their businesses and create jobs in their communities. Their mission is to build thriving communities by providing low-income, minority, and women entrepreneurs with training, one-on-one business advising, mentorship, and access to capital. Centro received funding from Techstars to support its entrepreneurship training and financial literacy programs, as well as to support the development of its mobile app platform, to empower entrepreneurs.
“Centro is honored to have been awarded and recognized by the Techstars Foundation! We are excited to partner with Techstars and be a part of an innovative group of changemakers with an extensive network, to help us scale and reach aspiring entrepreneurs globally. We are inspired and look forward to our journey with Techstars to create scalable solutions that promote inclusive microenterprise development ecosystems.” – Arturo A. Noriega (Founder and CEO)
Capital, Community, & Mentorship
Each of these organizations is providing underrepresented groups with access to capital, community, mentorship, or a combination of these essential elements for successful entrepreneurship. A great deal of research has found that these components increase the likelihood of success of entrepreneurs from underrepresented groups, according to a Kauffman Foundation Compilation: Research on Race and Entrepreneurship.
By supporting these groups, as well as our 15 past grantees, we are continuing to stimulate innovation and positive social and economic change worldwide.
The Techstars Foundation helps to amplify and support the great work of the nonprofit organizations we support. In 2019, we have made a commitment to give grants to these organizations, give our time as an organization and provide access to the Techstars Network.
Want to help us develop and support underrepresented entrepreneurs? Donate to the Techstars Foundation now!
The Techstars Foundation is a donor-advised fund managed by the Community Foundation Boulder County.
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.
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.
We know an ecosystem is a community in balance. If we fail to sustain the air or water, or relations between people, we suffer and die. Our entrepreneurial ecosystem is the same. Not everyone is an entrepreneur but everyone plays a supporting role, including those standing outside the door of this Grand Theater of Innovation. We need them for a well-balanced, healthy environment.
The Techstars Foundation was started by the Techstars founders (David Cohen, David Brown & Brad Feld) because its mission is critical to the ecosystem: “Diversity and Inclusion in entrepreneurship worldwide.” I believe in this mission, and I’m pleased to have joined the Techstars network as President of the Techstars Foundation.
D&I. Everywhere you look in the news, corporations, nonprofits and government agencies are all raising the D&I banner with vigor and passion. It’s definitely trending!
But what do we mean by “diversity”? Gender diversity is an easy example. We can tell men from women, at least most of the time. But what about our LGBTQ community? And we think about ethnic diversity, but that gets harder to spot. In a world that rounds up, I’m “Hispanish,” with Clairol blonde hair and gray eyes. And what about socio-economic diversity? Do the people next to you look like they grew up eating Saltine crackers because Ritz were too expensive?
Now step outside of the First World bubble. What does diversity mean in Kenya? Saudi Arabia? Bolivia? “Diversity” is really more about diversity of thought. What matters is diversity in how people see and solve problems and what problems they solve, and that’s what is in it for you: You need diversity of thought in your own life and organizations to be able to see things from different perspectives.
And to get diversity of thought, you need inclusion. “Inclusion” is the key word, or at least the first word. Instead of D&I let’s call it I&D, for with inclusion comes diversity of thought. How appropriate that our Freudian ID is our unconscious self.
Inclusion is about breaking down barriers that prevent entrepreneurship flourishing in areas where it might be needed most. We all love smashing down barriers, right? It’s what we entrepreneurs do best. So we need to aim that lust for barrier bashing towards the walls that separate us from our entrepreneurial family, inhibiting great innovations. But can we stop bashing white privileged men? They have been great entrepreneurs and mentors, and many are stepping up to be great allies, opening the door from the inside instead of everyone pounding on the outside. But like anyone inside a cloistered environment, they have to know that it’s safe to open the door, and frankly, since we are all human, they have to know what’s in it for them. So let’s talk about that.
Let’s take India, for example, which has a dubious honor of being one of the World’s hunger epicenters, as well as one of the highest food production centers on the planet. How can people be starving in a land of plenty? It’s because you can’t get the food to the people cost effectively. How do we solve that? Technology. New science of food dehydration, transportation, logistics, ag tech. It’s not just saving people from starvation, but a hungry world is a dangerous world. There is a rise of an entire class of product need around food security (getting food where it belongs safely). In Boulder, Colorado, the only food security is Amazon Prime’s guaranteed 2-hour Whole Foods delivery.
These are huge issues that go beyond the latest phone app to wipe your texts 30 miles outside Las Vegas. So we care about I&D because we need to. As a connected planet. A connected people. Because it takes people who live the problems to solve the problems.
The Techstars Foundation’s mission now is Inclusion for Diversity, because the only barrier to entrepreneurship should be dreaming something worthy.
The Techstars Foundation is pleased to announce our second round of grantees who are committed to improving the landscape of diversity in tech.
We received hundreds of grant requests. The creative initiatives and thought leadership related to diversity in technology entrepreneurship is truly awesome. The work that these organizations are doing on this important issue is creating real change and building stronger communities around the world. We thank you all for the work you do.
The mission of the Techstars Foundation is to provide grants and resources to organizations making a scalable impact in diversity in tech entrepreneurship. This group of grantees encompasses a wide spectrum of underserved entrepreneurs, including female and minority entrepreneurs from underserved backgrounds, students of color and immigrant founders.
The organizations receiving financial grants and further assistance from the Techstars Foundation are:
Coalition for Queens (C4Q) increases economic opportunity through technology and transforms the world’s most diverse community into a leading hub for innovation and entrepreneurship. We believe that people from every community — across gender, ethnicity, and socioeconomic backgrounds — should have the opportunity to learn to code, gain jobs in tech, and create the companies of the future.
The Global EIR Coalition expands economic opportunities through partnering international entrepreneurs, universities, and cities to promote job creation, grow local economies, and build their businesses throughout the United States.
Student Dream trains collegiate students of color to start companies. Driven by a vision to create wealth in communities of color, Student Dream runs semester long programs and a membership platform that connects aspiring Black, Hispanic, and Native American student entrepreneurs to training, mentorship, and industry opportunities needed to succeed.
Along with the financial support, Techstars will leverage our broad global network of mentors, alumni and investors to provide additional support to these organizations. If you would like to learn more about these organizations or get involved, please contact: email@example.com.
Thank you again to our generous donors who have made these grants possible. We continue to encourage 100 percent participation from our network to help support this cause. Every dollar counts.
If Techstars accelerators, staff, mentors or startup programs such as Startup Weekend and Startup Digest have helped you in some small way, please consider a donation of any amount to help improve diversity in tech entrepreneurship.
We look forward to making a difference in diversity in technology entrepreneurship together, through the above partnerships and with your support.
We recently sat down with Yuka Nagashima and Sharon Vosmek of Astia, one of the five Techstars Foundation Grantees, to learn more about the organization and how it’s helping diversity in entrepreneurship.
Astia transforms the way businesses are funded by providing capital, connections and expertise that fuel the growth of women-led ventures.
What problem are you solving?
Astia continues to deliver on its mission to propel women’s full participation as entrepreneurs and leaders in high-growth businesses, fueling innovation and driving economic growth. We are transforming the way businesses are funded, providing capital, connections and guidance that fuel the growth of highly innovative, high-growth, women-led ventures around the globe.
With the launch of Astia Angels in 2013 under our White House Commitment, we are now investors in 40 companies that include women in positions of executive influence and leadership. In total, we have invested more than $12.5M of our own capital, representing more than $124M in syndication into 56 investments.
The Astia Angels portfolio is diverse in nearly every measure: team composition, sector, stage, technology, market, size and geography. And as an investment group, our impact on the market is notable: still today less than 3% of venture capital is invested in women-led companies.
Our investment activity in just the prior twelve-month period is on pace with some of the most active investment groups and represents more than $5.5M in direct investment (almost half of our three-year total).
Our investment velocity is increasing. In the same 12 month period, Astia has made >356 Astia Advisor connections, >100 investor connections to >143 women-led companies and maintained >5000 Astia Advisor volunteers around the globe.
What sparked the vision and foundation behind Astia?
Originally named the Women’s Technology Cluster, Astia was founded as part of the Three Guineas Fund in 1999, by Cate Muther, former CMO of Cisco Systems, and was spun off in 2003 as an independent non-profit. When Muther looked around, she wondered, “Where are all my female peers?” so she started WTC.
We changed our name to Astia to communicate a broader focus in diversity beyond just women. (The word Astia is derived from the Greek word, Aster, meaning star.)
We were not seeing sufficient interest from the larger community to invest, despite research demonstrating financial value of women-led companies, so we took matters into our own hands by starting Astia Angels (only investing in companies led by gender-inclusive teams).
What is the biggest misperception around the issue you are trying to solve?
Female and male entrepreneurs are different. It’s not that women are forming different types of companies than men, but instead it’s the funding level that determines the kind of companies they end up becoming: the difference lies in the investor’s lens, and not the entrepreneurs.
How has the Techstars Foundation helped your cause/business?
What we hope to achieve from this relationship is a true partnership. Techstars investing in us was a validation of our mission and approach, alongside other mainstream investors such as Andreessen Horowitz, Prolog Ventures and Illuminate Ventures.
We recently sat down with Charlotte Creech and Josh Anderson of Patriot Boot Camp, one of the five Techstars Foundation Grantees, to learn more about the organization and how it’s helping diversity in entrepreneurship.
Patriot Boot Camp is an intensive, 3-day educational event designed to mentor military members, Veterans and their spouses to start technology-focused businesses.
What problem are you solving?
PBC helps bridge the resource gap that Veterans and military spouses face when starting technology companies. Our mission is to equip them with focused education, mentoring and community support to help them innovate and build the next generation of scalable companies.
Patriot Boot Camp leverages a nationwide network of business and startup community thought leaders to help entrepreneurs bridge the divide between military service and entrepreneurial life.
What sparked the vision and foundation behind Patriot Boot Camp?
Patriot Boot Camp has a strong foundation in the Techstars network. While going through the Techstars Boulder accelerator, Taylor McLemore questioned whether the tech community could be doing more to support Veterans in making the transition to startups.
With support from David Cohen, Taylor crafted an intensive 3-day boot camp to mimic the mentorship-driven Techstars accelerator. The first program – held in Washington, D.C. in 2012 – was met with huge demand from the military & Veteran community, and sparked what has now become a standalone 501(c)(3 non-profit organization running multiple programs each year.
Tell us about how your organization has affected/positively impacted your audience?
Patriot Boot Camp (PBC) has run nine entrepreneurship education programs across seven cities since 2012, providing hands-on training and mentorship to more than 500 early stage military/Veteran and spouse tech entrepreneurs.
Successful outcomes from these programs range from having alumni meet a co-founder, to getting accepted to a Techstars accelerator program, to having a PBC mentor invest in their company and everything in between.
Most commonly, our alumni tell us the advice they received at PBC helped them quickly hone in on, or pivot to, a more viable business model and helped connect them with a network of subject matter experts that they never would have been able to access on their own.
What is the biggest misperception around the issue you are trying to solve?
A popular misconception about military Veterans is that because of their uniformed service, they are rigid and heavily regimented.
While structure and order are hallmarks of the military, most personnel serving in the U.S. armed forces must be creative and inventive in order to accomplish their missions. Many of the ideas and companies that come through Patriot Boot Camp are highly innovative and operate with a social mission.
What is one world-changing company that you admire?
USAA! USAA has a long history of being a trusted service provider for military members and their families and has been an incredible supporter of Patriot Boot Camp. USAA’s mission is deeply rooted in its culture, and it truly leads the industry in both customer service and technology innovation.
Do you have any examples of how the Techstars’ network has impacted your business so far?
Since its inception, Patriot Boot Camp has benefitted from the strength and expertise of the Techstars network. Nearly every member of Techstars’ leadership has volunteered at PBC programs as speakers and mentors, sharing invaluable advice and lessons learned.
Furthermore, Patriot Boot Camp is pleased to have five of its alumni companies gain acceptance into a formal Techstars accelerator program, and countless other alumni have leveraged its vast network of mentors and founders to gain critical knowledge and guidance.
At an organizational level, Patriot Boot Camp is fortunate to have David Brown sit on its Board of Directors and access to a wealth of subject matter experts in all facets of business development.
How has the Techstars Foundation helped your cause/business?
Having the backing of the Techstars Foundation and brand has helped Patriot Boot Camp establish credibility among a highly competitive landscape of non-profit organizations.
More importantly, the Foundation provided a grant award which has helped us expand our programming and has also connected us with incredible mentors in the nonprofit arena to help us build a lasting, impactful organization.
How can Techstars help with getting more Veterans involved with startups?
Many active duty military members, Veterans, and their spouses have an interest in pursuing entrepreneurship as an alternative career path, but don’t always have the community support and network needed to effectively guide them to the right resources.
By making a greater effort to outreach to the military and Veteran community, Techstars and its supporting programs including Startup Week, Startup Weekend and Startup Next, can help shepherd more Veterans into tech and ensure they have access to critical startup knowledge and resources.
Brad Feld and Amy Batchelor will be matching donations to the Techstars Foundation until October 31. Brad and Amy will be matching $1 dollar for every $2 dollars contributed by members of the Techstars’ community, up to $100,000. Donate here today!
The Techstars Foundation is proud to announce a partnership with Betabrand, an online clothing community. Betabrand will donate $5 to the Techstars Foundation for each pair of Dress Pant Yoga Pants sold during the month of September. The goal of this campaign is to raise money and awareness for diversity in tech entrepreneurship, and we want you to get involved.
In addition to contributing $5 to the foundation for each pair sold, Betabrand is also offering a Sweepstakes to tech startup founders which includes interviews with Techstars’ Managing Directors, office hours with Techstars’ company founders, and a chance to win passes to Startup Weekends around the world. They’ve also highlighted some amazing open jobs in the startup community.
We often hear from founders that they want to support women and diversity in tech but don’t know how. Here’s your chance! This makes a great gift for you or someone you love. I mean, come on, Dress Yoga Pants!
I want to offer my heartfelt gratitude to the people of Betabrand for all of their generosity and creativity towards this effort. When they approached me with this idea, I was blown away. Betabrand has always spoken to founders, and to see them giving back actively to underrepresented entrepreneurs is just awesome.
Check out this page for more details on this special offer and please share with your favorite female founder! You might even spot some of your favorite Techstars’ founders modeling the pants on that page including Jackie and Andrea from Revolar, Leah from Nexosis, Diana from Indico, Caroline & Christine Stzalka from Itsbyu, Laura Spiekerman from Alloy, and our very own Sarah Bain from Techstars Retail.