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Give First

Give First

Author: Techstars

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In the startup world, Give First means simply trying to help anyone—especially entrepreneurs—with no expectation of getting anything back. It's the pay-it-forward principle that builds strong startup networks. Hosts David Cohen and Brad Feld—Techstars cofounders, lifelong entrepreneurs, and startup investors—talk with mentors and founders about what giving first looks like in action, and how it makes great entrepreneurship possible.

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33 Episodes
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Susan Standiford’s impressive career has progressed from “nerdom central” to helping startup companies “create a technology, ethos, and identity” for future growth. Her journey as a technologist has taken her from organizations like Disney Interactive, Travelocity, Oracle, Retek, Rue La La and Zeal, to her most recent position as CTO at IKEA in London. In this episode, she talks about her personal and professional growth with David Cohen, and of the value she has gotten back from being a five-year Techstars mentor.Standiford discusses the “Five Traits of Leadership”—to be smart, able to get things done, able to fight through ambiguity, empowerment of others, and humble leadership (to be curious and willing to learn from others).She talks about the three chapters of her life—coding and building systems, building teams, and then scaling those teams into successful companies with a “growth mindset.” Standiford’s special passion is helping women entrepreneurs succeed in tech startups. And she knows firsthand the importance of the #GiveFirst ethos.Techstars personnel and/or guests who speak in this podcast express their own opinions, and not the opinion of either Techstars or any company discussed in this podcast. This podcast is for informational purposes only, and should not be relied upon as legal, business, investment, or tax advice. You should consult your own advisers as to those matters. References to any securities are for illustrative and/or informational purposes only and do not constitute an investment recommendation or offer to provide investment advisory services. Furthermore, this content is not directed at nor intended for use by any investor or prospective investor, and may not under any circumstances be relied upon when making a decision to invest in any fund managed by Techstars. Certain of Techstars funds own (or may own in the future) securities in some of the companies discussed in this podcast. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
Joy Taylor is a force of nature. Coming from a 20-year career in the banking industry (business development, coaching, and training), she now focuses on ecosystem building in her hometown of Toowoomba, Australia — and around the world. In this episode, Taylor shares her journey with David Cohen and talks about how giving first to her community led her to exciting worldwide experiences.At Canvas Coworking, Taylor runs programs and events for entrepreneurs. This includes the WiRE (Women in Rural, Regional and Remote Enterprise) startup bootcamp, Flare Incubator for female-led companies trying to expand internationally, and Zero to Startup for migrants and refugees. Her role as a Techstars Startup Weekend Facilitator evolved into Global Facilitator, where she has helps entrepreneurs around the world to organize their own events.Taylor talks about how one experience led into another, and how giving first came back to her along the way.Canvas Coworking: canvascoworking.com.auElkei Education: elkei.com.auConnect with Canvas Coworking on Twitter: @CanvasCoworkIncFollow David Cohen on Twitter: @davidcohen See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
In this episode, Gus Balbontin speaks with host David Cohen about the dangers of building momentum, and how it’s important for entrepreneurs to “look sideways” to meet new challenges. He tells stories about his own journey, from a small town in Patagonia, South America, battling FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), to a dream job at Lonely Planet and a career of supporting and inspiring founders within the Melbourne startup ecosystem and around the world.Gus explains why it’s important to create your own “success metric” and not get caught in the trap of crazy momentum, so that you can quickly reinvent yourself and innovate to adapt to future realities.He’s about to launch the Unrealistic Foundation, dedicated to investing in companies looking to disrupt the education model.Follow Gus on Twitter: @gusbalbontinFollow David Cohen on Twitter: @davidcohen See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
Brad Feld talks with Semil Shah, founder of the venture capital fund Haystack, who shares his inspiring founder story. With limited experience in the entrepreneurial world, Semil relied on his mentors to see the potential in him. Seven years later, he continues to pay it forward by helping turn other’s ideas into reality. Semil talks about how he turned his passion for writing about startups into a career as a founder of an early stage investment fund and partner at LightSpeed Venture Partners. Learn how Haystack raised their first million dollar fund and how they differentiate themselves from similar companies in the Bay Area. Follow Semil on Twitter: @semil See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
In this episode, Chris Schroder opens up with Brad Feld about how a “mind blowing” discovery at a startup convention in the Middle East inspired him to promote global entrepreneurship. With a background in digital technology at The Washington Post and in entrepreneurship as the co-founder of HealthCentral, a health and wellness platform, Chris knows the power of technology and wants to share it with the world.Chris talks about breaking out of his own narrative bias, entrepreneurship being a global language, and why co-authorship is the key to success as a mentor and venture investor. Listen for Chris’s take on the power of mentorship and inspiring founder stories from around the world. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
Misti Cain speaks with David Cohen about her journey from a digital marketing strategist to Techstars Anywhere Accelerator mentor, founder of mentorship platform Whyzze, and host of “Werrrk!,” a business reality show. She explains her best tactics for building important relationships in our challenging COVID-19 virtual environment, including having a visual component for a strong human connection, a shared raison d’etre, and clear communication. Listen for Misti’s memorable Whyzze business success stories, her early motivation, her definition of the true meaning of success — and why she believes everyone can Give First. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
Co-host David Cohen and guest Heidi Cuppari discuss how she co-founded Dream Tank to truly tap into the radical imagination of children. What started as an experiment five years ago is now a place in which kids, such as guest Amelia Rose Battle, can help make the world a better place.Listen as Amelia shares her experiences working with Dream Tank. This includes how they created a VR experience to help veterans adjust to regular life after serving and learning how to support Dream Tank and promote youth entrepreneurship See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
In this episode, Brad Feld is joined by Techstars’ Chief Revenue Officer Frank Alfano and past Chief Innovation Officer Jenny Lawton to talk with their mentor – Len Fassler. They each share their unique experiences meeting Len some thirty years ago, the ups and downs of working together and the tremendous impact he’s had on their lives. Listen to hear how Len got his start in the entrepreneurial world, how he evaluates whether or not to buy a company, and the valuable lessons Brad, Frank and Jenny learned from him. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
Philip McKernan talks with David Cohen about how to find your purpose in life and his work with entrepreneurs. Through his coaching, he encourages people to take the risk they would only take if they were dying tomorrow. Listen as Philip and David discuss the importance of reinventing yourself, finding a business that fulfills you on a personal level, and how the idea of “holding space” can transform an entrepreneur’s home life. You can find the resources mentioned by Philip here. What would your one last talk be about? Tell David on Twitter @davidcohen. Techstars personnel and/or guests who speak in this podcast express their own opinions, and not the opinion of either Techstars or any company discussed in this podcast.This podcast is for informational purposes only, and should not be relied upon as legal, business, investment, or tax advice. You should consult your own advisers as to those matters. References to any securities are for illustrative and/or informational purposes only and do not constitute an investment recommendation or offer to provide investment advisory services. Furthermore, this content is not directed at nor intended for use by any investor or prospective investor, and may not under any circumstances be relied upon when making a decision to invest in any fund managed by Techstars. Certain of Techstars funds own (or may own in the future) securities in some of the companies discussed in this podcast. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
Back in June 2019, David Cohen and Brad Feld looked back at their first six episodes of the Give First podcast, and decided that while they were pretty pleased, they’d probably need to do about 20-30 to really hit their stride. Seven months later, they’ve passed number 20, so they’re taking another moment to check in. Listen for reflections from these persistent podcast hosts, plus reminiscences on highlights from recent episodes with Josh Hix, Rajat Bhargava, Elizabeth Kraus, Jason Mendelson, Jannet Bannister, Heidi Roizen, Marc Nager & Dave Mayer, John China, Sherri Hammons, and Rebecca Lovell — as well as Harry Stebbings, host of the Twenty Minute VC, who enjoyed his first experience on “the other side of the microphone” as David’s guest. Brad teases a big new move for Techstars — the announcement, just last week, of Techstars Press — and talks about all the books he’s writing. Most of all, David and Brad want to hear what you think. Should the episodes be longer? Shorter? You can email them your feedback on the Give First podcast at podcasts@techstars.com.Techstars personnel and/or guests who speak in this podcast express their own opinions, and not the opinion of either Techstars or any company discussed in this podcast.This podcast is for informational purposes only, and should not be relied upon as legal, business, investment, or tax advice. You should consult your own advisers as to those matters. References to any securities are for illustrative and/or informational purposes only and do not constitute an investment recommendation or offer to provide investment advisory services. Furthermore, this content is not directed at nor intended for use by any investor or prospective investor, and may not under any circumstances be relied upon when making a decision to invest in any fund managed by Techstars.  Certain of Techstars funds own (or may own in the future) securities in some of the companies discussed in this podcast. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
Techstars VP of Network John Hill sat down with SparkCharge Founder and CEO Joshua Aviv live from the floor of Eureka Park.Josh talks about how he started SparkCharge at Syracuse University, the life-changing impact of the Blackstone Launchpad program, and the unique challenges and opportunities of being a student entrepreneur. Josh also shares insights and advice for other student entrepreneurs in an honest and wide-ranging conversation. All captured live at CES 2020. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
Damon Motorcycles Co-founder and CTO (and Techstars Mobility alum) Dominique Kwong talks with Techstars VP of Network John Hill about the unstoppable power of business and engineering partnerships, launching at CES, and the emotions behind building a company.  In this wide-ranging and emotional conversation, Dom does a deep dive on his training as an engineer, how he met (and forms a deep connection with his co-founder), the importance of founder communication and all the “blood, sweat and tears” that goes into building a company. Finally, he describes the experience of unveiling a product at CES’s famed North Hall, alongside giants like Audi and Intel. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
Eureka Park at CES is one of the most influential startup events in the world. Techstars VP of Network John Hill sat down with Event Hub CEO and Co-founder Michael Bleau live from the floor of Eureka Park.They dug in to Michael’s founder journey, his Techstars Anywhere experience, his take on CES (and the power of live events) as well insights and advice for other founders. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
Plated Co-founder Josh Hix knows about leading a growing team. He remembers taking the company through Techstars New York City in 2013, coming into the program with about seven people, and leaving with closer to 37. The company was up to 1300 employees by the time it sold to Albertsons for a reported $200 million in 2017. Leadership was a skill Josh had to learn. “I have always been an introverted engineer,” he says. He was comfortable with the management aspects of leading the company, but he came to realize that this wasn’t enough. “The leadership part is inspiring people and helping them connect to the mission at an emotional level,” Josh says. This was the part he had to learn, and the process wasn’t always easy: “As a geeky engineer, it feels irrational. But sometimes people need that. It was something that I had to learn to value and then learn to do.”Listen for more about how Josh grew into his role as a leader, plus a fascinating conversation between Josh and David Cohen about valuations and VCs. This live episode of Give First was recorded at LaunchPad Propel, a conference for student entrepreneurs hosted by Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars. Techstars personnel and/or guests who speak in this podcast express their own opinions, and not the opinion of either Techstars or any company discussed in this podcast.This podcast is for informational purposes only, and should not be relied upon as legal, business, investment, or tax advice. You should consult your own advisers as to those matters. References to any securities are for illustrative and/or informational purposes only and do not constitute an investment recommendation or offer to provide investment advisory services. Furthermore, this content is not directed at nor intended for use by any investor or prospective investor, and may not under any circumstances be relied upon when making a decision to invest in any fund managed by Techstars. Certain of Techstars funds own (or may own in the future) securities in some of the companies discussed in this podcast. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
Rajat Bhargava, CEO of JumpCloud, has started a lot of companies—the first, NetGenesis, while he was still a student at MIT. And his friendship with Give First co-host Brad Feld goes right back to that initial foray into entrepreneurship. Rajat just keeps starting companies, and Giving First—including through his current B2B company, JumpCloud. How does a B2B company Give First? Rajat believe that every B2B can ask itself this question, and come up with practical ways to help anyone, especially entrepreneurs.How B2C companies can Give First is another question. And both Rajat and Brad agree that those that offer “free” services in exchange for user data is definitely not Giving First—especially when many users don’t fully understand the transactional nature of the exchange. Listen for more of Rajat and Brad’s thoughts on the complexities of Giving First as a company, as well as Brad’s earliest memory of the world wide web, and a thoughtful exchange where the two men ponder how their friendship has lasted so long, even through difficult times. For a list of resources and people mentioned in this episode, visit the episode blog post.Techstars personnel and/or guests who speak in this podcast express their own opinions, and not the opinion of either Techstars or any company discussed in this podcast. This podcast is for informational purposes only, and should not be relied upon as legal, business, investment, or tax advice. You should consult your own advisers as to those matters. References to any securities are for illustrative and/or informational purposes only and do not constitute an investment recommendation or offer to provide investment advisory services. Furthermore, this content is not directed at nor intended for use by any investor or prospective investor, and may not under any circumstances be relied upon when making a decision to invest in any fund managed by Techstars. Certain of Techstars funds own (or may own in the future) securities in some of the companies discussed in this podcast. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
MergeLane, a VC fund that invests in startups and venture funds with at least one female leader, has an unusual aspiration, written in bold on its website: “We want to make MergeLane obsolete.”As co-founder and Chief Investment Officer of MergeLane, Elizabeth Kraus looks forward to a future when MergeLane will no longer be needed, because we will have achieved gender parity. She’s seen progress in the right direction over her career. When Elizabeth first started out as an angel investor, David Cohen—Techstars co-founder and Give First co-host—invited her to the Seed Angel Forum, which brings together local startup investors to see deals from all over the country. Elizabeth recalls: “I was 29 at the time. I was the only woman in the room, and I remember feeling so intimidated.” Fortunately, Elizabeth didn’t stay intimidated for long. And while the percentages are still scandalously low, the number of women entrepreneurs and VCs continues to grow. Elizabeth and MergeLane are one reason for this change. Listen for more on women in entrepreneurship and VC, plus find a full list of companies, people, and resources mentioned in this conversation.Techstars personnel and/or guests who speak in this podcast express their own opinions, and not the opinion of either Techstars or any company discussed in this podcast. This podcast is for informational purposes only, and should not be relied upon as legal, business, investment, or tax advice. You should consult your own advisers as to those matters. References to any securities are for illustrative and/or informational purposes only and do not constitute an investment recommendation or offer to provide investment advisory services. Furthermore, this content is not directed at nor intended for use by any investor or prospective investor, and may not under any circumstances be relied upon when making a decision to invest in any fund managed by Techstars.  Certain of Techstars funds own (or may own in the future) securities in some of the companies discussed in this podcast. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
Jason Mendelson, co-founder of Foundry Group, can explain what matters in negotiations between entrepreneurs and VCs in just two words: Control and Economics. It takes enormous expertise to make something complicated really simple, and these bare two words speak to Jason’s profound understanding of venture deals and how they work, for the entrepreneur, the investor, and the lawyers. In addition to being a VC and a company founder himself, Jason has also been a lawyer, a software engineer, and a professional drummer. Control and economics mean that, in the hundreds of pages of legal documents around an investment, the two things that really matter are control of the company and economic return from the company. Jason and his Venture Deals co-author, Brad Feld, coined this paradigm—and Jason is very proud that it has been used, and stolen, widely. This is what Jason is most interested in: sharing information. He loves making complex things, like the legal negotiations around VC deals, simple. He works hard to pry open the black box of VC and show everyone how deals get made, and what aspects are most important to the parties involved, whether you’re a startup founder seeking funding, an aspiring VC, or a lawyer diving into the world of venture deals. Jason has been on this path for over 15 years now. He and Brad started blogging on the subject in 2005, and their book Venture Deals first came out in 2011. The fourth edition just published, and Jason explains why they’ve needed every single edition—he cites both better explanations and better writing. Jason and Brad also lead the free and popular online course, Venture Deals. Listen for Jason’s insights into the evolution of venture deals, how teaching helps him learn, and, best of all, for the story of a board meeting during which all questions had to be answered with Hall and Oates song titles. See? The professional drummer bit really does connect. Get more of Jason’s thoughts, plus a full list of companies, people, and resources mentioned in this conversation.Techstars personnel and/or guests who speak in this podcast express their own opinions, and not the opinion of either Techstars or any company discussed in this podcast.This podcast is for informational purposes only, and should not be relied upon as legal, business, investment, or tax advice. You should consult your own advisers as to those matters. References to any securities are for illustrative and/or informational purposes only and do not constitute an investment recommendation or offer to provide investment advisory services. Furthermore, this content is not directed at nor intended for use by any investor or prospective investor, and may not under any circumstances be relied upon when making a decision to invest in any fund managed by Techstars.  Certain of Techstars funds own (or may own in the future) securities in some of the companies discussed in this podcast. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
Today, Janet Bannister is a Partner at Real Ventures, but when Founding Partners John Stokes and Jean-Sebastien Cournoyer first approached her about joining to give the firm a presence in Toronto, Janet was nonplussed. “Why would I go into Venture Capital?” she asked. “Isn’t Venture Capital all about grinding the entrepreneurs down?” But she listened, and she learned about what VC could be, when it was done better, seeing “entrepreneurs as the heroes, and as people who can be supported and helped” with a mission that involves “helping the next generation of entrepreneurs and building entrepreneurial ecosystems.” Now she’s all in, with an approach that she calls “human centered investing.” Like Techstars, Janet believes that team is paramount in whether a startup will succeed or not. “What exactly is a great founder, what exactly is a great team? In my mind, in my experience, it's not about years of experience. It's not about whether they've worked in the industry or not,” Janet said. “It's much more about how they are as a person and how they are as a leader.”When she’s investing, she looks for the “conscious founder.” Meaning: “Are they self-aware? Are they transparent? Are they aware of where they need to improve? Are they continually trying to improve and be open to feedback?”Most of all, Janet is thrilled to be working with entrepreneurs who are trying to make the world a better place. “I love working with entrepreneurs. I love their passion, their determination, the fact that they are going all in on something that they believe in,” she said. “If I can be in a place and have a role where my job revolves around helping entrepreneurs and doing so in a consulting, advising, mentoring capacity, where really my mandate is to help entrepreneurs be more successful—What could be better?” Listen for Janet’s hints for how she manages to talk with (almost) everybody, and how she stays healthy while also working so very hard. Get more of Janet’s insights, plus a full list of companies, people, and resources mentioned in this conversation.Techstars personnel and/or guests who speak in this podcast express their own opinions, and not the opinion of either Techstars or any company discussed in this podcast.This podcast is for informational purposes only, and should not be relied upon as legal, business, investment, or tax advice. You should consult your own advisers as to those matters. References to any securities are for illustrative and/or informational purposes only and do not constitute an investment recommendation or offer to provide investment advisory services. Furthermore, this content is not directed at nor intended for use by any investor or prospective investor, and may not under any circumstances be relied upon when making a decision to invest in any fund managed by Techstars.  Certain of Techstars funds own (or may own in the future) securities in some of the companies discussed in this podcast. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
Heidi Roizen has called herself a recovering entrepreneur. Wendy Lea has called Heidi “the epitome of Give First.” Both of these are true, and go a long way toward describing the deeply humane perspective on the role of venture capital that Heidi brings to her current role as a partner at Threshold Ventures. Heidi was an entrepreneur herself for 14 years before exploring other career options (VP of Worldwide Developer Relations at Apple, for example) and eventually settling in as a venture capitalist—or “mentor capitalist,” as she sometimes says, in a nod to the profound importance of mentorship in the role. Heidi likes to joke that “entrepreneurs should be really careful about picking their venture partners, because the average VC relationship lasts longer than the average American marriage, and it’s probably easier to get rid of your spouse than it is to get rid of your venture capitalists.” There’s truth hidden in that joke: the VC-entrepreneurship relationship is a human relationship, not just a financial one. Heidi takes the human side just as seriously as the financial. She wants success in all areas, and sees how thoroughly the two are entwined. For Heidi, “the true path to happiness is to have meaningful work and meaningful relationships.” She’s achieving this by working with amazing startups that are making the world a better place, and helping to make them better companies. That sounds like Give First to us. Listen for Heidi’s fantastic insights about how life and work mesh—and listen all the way through for stories about Heidi’s epic underground casbah from the dot com boom and why one of Heidi’s kids calls Brad Feld “toenail boy.” Get more of Heidi’s insights, plus a full list of companies, people, and resources mentioned in this conversation.Techstars personnel and/or guests who speak in this podcast express their own opinions, and not the opinion of either Techstars or any company discussed in this podcast.This podcast is for informational purposes only, and should not be relied upon as legal, business, investment, or tax advice. You should consult your own advisers as to those matters. References to any securities are for illustrative and/or informational purposes only and do not constitute an investment recommendation or offer to provide investment advisory services. Furthermore, this content is not directed at nor intended for use by any investor or prospective investor, and may not under any circumstances be relied upon when making a decision to invest in any fund managed by Techstars.  Certain of Techstars funds own (or may own in the future) securities in some of the companies discussed in this podcast. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
Too many people believe that you have to be in Silicon Valley—or some similarly hyped tech-obsessed locale—to be an entrepreneur. Techstars knows this isn’t true: successful entrepreneurship can happen anywhere.  Marc Nager and Dave Mayer are living proof.  Marc is the Co-founder of Startup Weekend, the former CEO of UP Global before it was acquired by Techstars, and Techstars Chief Community Officer after the acquisition. He is on a mission to bring entrepreneurship to rural America. Dave is the Founder and CEO at Technical Integrity and Massive Impact and the Founder of Aspen Entrepreneurs, and an active and passionate member of the Colorado startup community. Both are hugely active in their local startup communities, Marc in Telluride, CO and Dave in Carbondale, CO outside of Aspen, and both see how entrepreneurship can thrive in these relatively small places—and what entrepreneurship can bring to them to make them economically sustainable for the long term. Listen to hear Marc and Dave talk with Brad Feld—who wrote the book on Startup Communities—for a deeply thoughtful exploration of the how and why of entrepreneurship in a ‘non-urban’ environment. Get more of Marc and Dave’s insights, plus a full list of companies, people, and resources mentioned in this conversation.Techstars personnel and/or guests who speak in this podcast express their own opinions, and not the opinion of either Techstars or any company discussed in this podcast. This podcast is for informational purposes only, and should not be relied upon as legal, business, investment, or tax advice. You should consult your own advisers as to those matters. References to any securities are for illustrative and/or informational purposes only and do not constitute an investment recommendation or offer to provide investment advisory services. Furthermore, this content is not directed at nor intended for use by any investor or prospective investor, and may not under any circumstances be relied upon when making a decision to invest in any fund managed by Techstars.  Certain of Techstars funds own (or may own in the future) securities in some of the companies discussed in this podcast. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
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