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In this final ESG takeover episode, Dr. Mairi-Jane Fox, who helps lead ESG at Techstars, talks with B Lab Senior Manager of Community Engagement and Network Strategy Becca Quirk and Project Canary Co-founder & COO Will Foiles about what it really means when a business gets its B Corp certification and how it creates impactful changes.“Inherently, becoming a B corporation forces a founder to look not just at what we are accomplishing today, but what we are working to accomplish,” says Becca Quirk.Listen as Becca and Will describe the benefits of this certification for startup founders, such as thought leadership opportunities among the B Corp community, rigorous steps that showcase dedication to stakeholders, employees, and future investors, and a framework for solidifying the company’s mission.Will and Becca also answer commonly raised questions from startup founders about how much time it takes to certify, and if it really is beneficial for early stage and small startup businesses. Lastly, don’t miss Will, a Techstars Alabama EnergyTech Accelerator founder, telling us whether getting a B Corp certification is actually worth it. Listen & subscribe to the Give First podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and more. See for privacy and opt-out information.
In this second ESG takeover episode, Dr. Mairi-Jane Fox, who helps lead ESG at Techstars, talks with Soona CEO and Co-Founder Liz Giorgi and UN-sponsored Principles for Responsible Investment Head of Private Equity Peter Dunbar about different aspects of engaging with investors, including investor diligence, transparent conversations, and discussing ESG practices.First, Liz Giorgi explains the development of the candor clause, and how it benefits startup founders regardless of their identity. The candor clause helps facilitate open, honest conversations about investors' practices, and ultimately allows founders to make informed decisions about who they are taking money from.“That kinda conversation is unparalleled in terms of building a better relationship with that investor and just really understanding who you're going into business with in the long run,” Liz Giorgi said.Then, listen as Peter describes what it means for venture capital firms and investors when they become signatories of the UN PRI. Among other requirements, signatories generally work toward implementing six principles for ESG and responsible investing which founders can consider when pitching to them“Given the requirements of being a signatory and the principles themselves, VC signatories should really be looking to engage with startups and founders on ESG topics and be actively considering them in their investment decision-making processes,” Peter said.Follow Liz Giorgi on Twitter @lizgiorgiListen & subscribe to the Give First podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and more. See for privacy and opt-out information.
We all have a set of principles for how we live our lives. How well are those principles aligned across every facet, though? You might be environmentally conscious but it’s important to ask yourself: Where do you do your banking? Who holds your mortgage? This is the driving point for author Sharon Schneider’s book, Handbook for an Integrated Life: A Practical Guide to Aligning Your Everyday Choices with Your Internal Compass.“If you're just floating along on mainstream American culture, my friend, … you're getting a very me-first, maximize-benefit-for-yourself all-the-time approach. This idea of taking your value and being conscious about how you integrate it into every area of your life for everyday people really became the genesis of the book,” said the Integrated Capital Strategies founder.Listen as Sharon highlights a few of the 7 principles for an integrated life in the book, and how #givefirst and living integrated isn’t always about spending money but intentionally looking at all the places you can live into that value.Also, don’t miss Sharon talking about her experience in Techstars’ Excelerate Labs program in 2012 and how it was a valuable contributor to her career that blends entrepreneurship, business ownership, philanthropic and social change strategy, and impact investing.Follow Sharon Schneider on Twitter @sharonschneiderFollow David Cohen on Twitter @davidcohenListen & subscribe to the Give First podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and more. See for privacy and opt-out information.
In this first ESG takeover episode, Dr. Mairi-Jane Fox, who helps lead ESG at Techstars, talks with Sustaio founder and CEO Olivia Pedersen and SVT Group CEO Sara Olsen about the benefits and the how-to of measuring ESG impact for early-stage start-ups. “It's a responsible business practice to manage your carbon effectively and make sure that you're taking responsibility for the impact and the externalized cost that your company is creating,” said Olivia Pedersen.Listen as Olivia and Sara give tangible, actionable advice to startup founders on how they can measure their company's impact. Also, don’t miss the six questions for implementing impact measurement and management.Listen & subscribe to the Give First podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and more. See for privacy and opt-out information.
Martin Schilling said he would never work in finance. However, after two years of scaling N26 Group, a large European fintech company, he left with a wealth of knowledge that he needed to share. So he wrote “The Builder’s Guide to the Tech Galaxy” with several leading tech builders.“It is, in essence, a give-first book because together with my co-founders, we are deep advocates of scaling up the European tech ecosystem. Why? Because as startup builders, we are the pioneers of our times. We are the inventors of the 21st century to a certain degree, and we will need to build millions of future jobs.”Listen as Martin describes the global tech ecosystem, its current needs, and the future development of startups and scale-ups through mentoring and knowledge. “The book, as well, is meant as an encouragement for those to really go out and dare to build startups,” Martin shares.Also, don’t miss David and Martin chatting about the tactical resources in Martin’s book, such as developing a clear startup North Star and building a great team, and how Star Trek is related to startups and Techstars!Follow Martin Schilling on Twitter @MSchilling__Follow David Cohen on Twitter @davidcohenListen & subscribe to the Give First podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and more. See for privacy and opt-out information.
At 15 years old, Marcus Bullock’s life changed forever. He was locked in an adult maximum-security prison for 8 years after carjacking a man. Marcus began to feel hopeless, so his mother began to send photos and letters each day.A few years after his release, his friends in prison asked Marcus for photos and letters of his travels and life. Marcus knew there had to be a better way to share his experiences outside the prison walls, and when he didn’t find an app to do it, he created it himself.“I was promising them: I want you to live vicariously through me now. I want you to see these moments and share with me because I want you to know when you get out of prison, bro, you will have the same success,” he said.Listen as Marcus shares his success after being released, starting with the company that gave him a chance, his entrepreneurial spirit, and the opportunity to hire those with felony convictions to give them a sustainable start.Also, don’t miss David and Marcus discussing how Flikshop went from sharing photos with prison friends to a venture-backed company that helps reduce recidivism.Follow Marcus Bullock on Twitter @_marcus_bullockFollow David Cohen on Twitter @davidcohenListen & subscribe to the Give First podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and more. See for privacy and opt-out information.
Supply chains are a big nut to crack, and Elias Stahl ran straight for them. He was empowered to start a whole new supply chain and have his company HILOS be at the forefront of creating a different way to manufacture shoes, where it is ground zero for inefficiency and waste.“We saw that opportunity to leverage new technologies like 3D printing and gender design tools to rethink how we make things so that we're no longer building based on volume and cost, but on efficiency and a far more sustainable way for creators to take their ideas and turn them into products and then deliver them into hands of customers,” the CEO and founder of HILOS said.Listen to Elias describe fundraising as a comparison to dating with “meeting your match” and not changing yourself to find “love” or, in this case, your investors.Also, don’t miss David and Elias talk about the Stanley+Techstars Accelerator and the growth of HILOS because of the Give First mentality, including winning Best in Show at the SXSW Pitch competition and releasing a case study in partnership with Yale University.Follow Elias Stahl on Twitter @stahl_eliasFollow David Cohen on Twitter @davidcohenListen & subscribe to the Give First podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and more. See for privacy and opt-out information.
Innovation is just innovation if no one uses it. This is a lesson Jae Lee, co-founder and CEO of Twelve Labs, learned while building multimodal neural networks and video search AI. Through the Techstars Seattle Accelerator, mentors, and community, the company began to grow its customer base, transforming from a video search prototype to raising $5 million in a seed funding round.Listen as Jae Lee describes how video search is a very intuitive concept but we haven’t seen much of this technology out in the wild, as well as credibility and experience in AI.“What we've realized was, hey, video is going to be everywhere. It's already everywhere. It's going to explode. Is there a new neural network architecture that we can use or create to have machines fully understand videos? And what this means to customers is better content moderation, better content recommendation, better summary generation, and better content discovery," said Jae Lee.Don’t miss Jae Lee describe his time in the South Korean cyber operations, where he met the co-founders who joined him to build Twelve Labs, as well as the startup scene in South Korea.Follow Jae Lee on Twitter @_jae_leeFollow Twelve Labs on Twitter @twelve_labsFollow David Cohen on Twitter @davidcohenListen & subscribe to the Give First podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and more. See for privacy and opt-out information.
There are many business books out there for current and future entrepreneurs: How to start, how to raise money, how to market, and more. However, after selling his business SwipeSense to SC Johnson, Mert Iseri, with his mentor Mark Achler, realized there aren’t as many books imparting wisdom about selling your business from all aspects of the process.“The exit hopefully is a joyous moment in time, but your relationships and your legacy lasts hopefully through the rest of your career,” said entrepreneur Mark Achler, who is the managing director at MATH Venture Partners.Listen as Mert and Mark describe the different approaches they took to this book by interviewing not only CEOs but also M&A attorneys and corporate development departments at acquiring companies. The two also discuss the prevailing thought of not worrying about the exit as it will take care of itself, and how the exit actually should be a planned, thoughtful activity. “There's this myth that one day you're sitting in your corner office looking outside the glass window and Jeff Bezos gives you a call and wants to buy her a company. That's not reality,” Mert Iseri said.Don’t miss the trio discussing picking the right buyer, transparency and when to tell the team, earnouts, and other tough areas during an exit process. Follow Mert Iseri on Twitter @mhiFollow MATH Venture Partners on Twitter @MATH_V_PFollow David Cohen on Twitter @davidcohenListen & subscribe to the Give First podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and more. See for privacy and opt-out information.
Stream might be a small startup company, but by listening to its customers and their needs, the company decided to launch a second product that helped it scale. “Focusing only on a single product, it was hard to go for larger channels that are not well-targeted, so we needed to have a broader product offering to really scale up,” said founder and CEO Thierry Schellenbach. “I think that’s the one thing in terms of advice for founders, I think you need to look at those metrics and we could have probably raised like an A and B rounds, like earlier on the activity feed business, but it would've been really hard to scale given the unit economics and where they were. So we ended up launching chat, doing well in that space, and then doubling down on like the A and to B. And I think that's been very successful for us.”Listen as Thierry describes the company’s coming-to-America moment through Techstars New York and moving its headquarters to Colorado, and all the support he received from business leaders throughout the process.Also, don’t miss Thierry and David discussing the difference between Europe and the U.S. when it comes to startup investing, how the pandemic changed how startups launch investment rounds, and how the role of CEO changes as a company scales.Follow Thierry Schellenbach on Twitter @tschellenbachFollow David Cohen on Twitter @davidcohenListen & subscribe to the Give First podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and more. See for privacy and opt-out information.
Monique Maley actually began her career in acting, which has shaped how she became an entrepreneur and mentor. When she transitioned out of the acting industry, she used her skills of communication and body language to help other leaders get out of their own way. “For years I've been saying the thing that attracted me so much to the startup ecosystem and why I get so energized by it is because it's exactly like theater and film. There are so many things about it. There's the energy, the creativity, the collaboration, the building something from nothing. You want to get great reviews, you want it to be better, you want it to go on longer, but it's that comradery and that building something from nothing, it's intoxicating.”Listen as Monique describes how vitally important it is for founders to deliver their pitch with conviction (“The metaphor that I always use is you can know really funny joke, but if you don't know how to tell it, nobody's going to laugh.”). David and Monique also discuss tips specifically for female founders when delivering pitches and other ideas in Monique’s book “Turbulence: Leadership’s Unsexy Solution to Streamline Rapid Growth”.Monique is also the Vice-Chair of DivInc. To learn more about DivInc, listen to GiveFirst’s episode 53 with Preston James.Follow Monique Maley on Twitter @MoniqueMaleyFollow David Cohen on Twitter @davidcohenListen & subscribe to the Give First podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and more. See for privacy and opt-out information.
Started in France, Alban Denoyel knew that the key to his product, Sketchfab, was its influence in the United States. Now a leading platform for 3D and AR models, Sketchfab got a boost while Alban was part of the Techstars Accelerator program. “I think having gone through Techstars really helped us get the credibility we needed to raise money with VCs as first-time entrepreneurs.”Years later, the key takeaways from Alban’s time in the program still bring success to Sketchfab. Investors won’t just throw money at an idea; it’s about having a rapport, as Alban met some investors two years before they even wrote their checks. “The real key lesson is to build a relationship ahead of when you need some money.”Listen as David and Alban delve deeper into having resilience and perseverance, switching focuses from building to monetizing a product, the struggles the company faced within the AR market and technology not being ready for their product, and how building relationships helped when Sketchfab was acquired by Epic Games.Follow Alban Denoyel on Twitter @albnFollow David Cohen on Twitter @davidcohenListen & subscribe to the Give First podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and more. See for privacy and opt-out information.
When Keller Rinaudo started Remotive in 2011 while in a Techstars Accelerator program, he didn’t really know what entrepreneurship was until he read Tony Hsieh's book “Delivering Happiness.” At the time, he was at Harvard University working with DNA and the inner workings of humans, not robots. That all shifted. Keller and his team knew that the world of robotics and automation would change within the next decade, and they wanted to be a part of that transformation. Now, his company Zipline is focusing on building a new type of logistics system that would not just serve those who can afford instant access to goods, but everyone equally while also helping the environment instead of destroying it. Zipline delivers vital shipments via the fastest, most reliable autonomous aircraft delivery service in the world.“When we talk about instant logistics, we really mean teleportation. In fact, the product vision for Zipline is as closely approximate to teleportation as possible. We want something to be able to be delivered to any home, any hospital, any primary care facility, anywhere in the world, in just a couple of minutes and to do it in a net-zero carbon emission way. We think that this is an obvious future.”Listen as Keller delves into his founding story, including Zipline’s mission to help serve all in the healthcare industry, his decision to start in Rwanda, how the first 8 months of the launch were “unbelievably painful,” and how Zipline has helped Rwanda achieve the unprecedented 0% of blood wasted. Also, don’t miss Keller tell David about how Zipline is expanding in Ghana, Nigeria, Japan, and the U.S.!Follow Keller Rinaudo on Twitter @KellerRinaudoFollow David Cohen on Twitter @davidcohen See for privacy and opt-out information.
Joey Womack is a builder, but he’s not in traditional construction. Through creating ecosystems and making connections, he is helping social entrepreneurs and diverse founders build relationships that close the gaps, all through his company Goodie Nation.A relationship gap is the distance between entrepreneurs and key influencers. Often with diverse founders and social entrepreneurs, particularly those not in coastal financial centers, they are less connected to these key influencers than their counterparts. This can lead to a lack of financial capital, customers, talent, professional development, and especially a lack of access to the higher-level CEOs who can help them navigate very complex problems.“We talk about relationships and the gap there, but it does all at the end of the day, kind of boil down to trust. We really create intentional connections based on origins. … Especially when you're talking around entrepreneurs and decision-makers, either on the capital side or the purchase side, you start to get into those origin stories. Then you start to show that the founders have traction, and that’s where it leads to quick decisions … So we spend a lot of time creating those kinds of deeper connections, and it may take three or four or five conversations, but it leads to some really good results.”Listen as David and Joey discuss what’s in the water in ATL (a lot of entrepreneurship!), creating a unique tech identity in the southeast U.S., the intersection of equality and culture in the startup space, and the Black Founders Fund.Also, listen to Joey describe his family’s background and how community building is in his DNA. This chat is not one to miss! See for privacy and opt-out information.
Patrick Ewers describes his work as helping people achieve true greatness, or as our host David Cohen calls it, giving people superpowers. But there is a funny thing about the term “true greatness”.“When you look at the word true greatness, I think it's the most subjective term you will ever come across, especially in the world we're working in. For some, it is that they really want to reach the top, they want to become the next Elon Musk. Most people want to just reach the fullest potential, build something bigger than themselves, or leave a legacy. … So it doesn't really matter what your true greatness is. We help you achieve it by focusing on relationships.”Why relationships? It’s because no one has achieved true greatness without the help of others. It’s wired into the way of the world. However, most people don’t take care to nurture these relationships.Listen to Patrick describe importance versus urgency, and some practical solutions to fix your work-related relationship problems.Also, don’t miss how Patrick developed the idea of Mindmaven, how building relationships can produce game-changing results for you, and why it’s important to hire an engagement manager who will help free up your time up to 8+ hours per week. The duo also dives into positive alacrity. There is so much information packed in this single episode!Follow Patrick Ewers on Twitter @PatrickEwersFollow David Cohen on Twitter @davidcohen See for privacy and opt-out information.
Shila Nieves Burney, General Partner at Zane Venture Fund, has spent 20-plus years addressing inequity with capital, first in human capital with institutions and education systems, and then sourcing investors. Along the way, Shila discovered a much-needed resource for entrepreneurs: networks and connections. They can build the capital, but then what? In comes Zane Access capital readiness program.“We teach the technical skills, accessing venture capital, some of the terminology. What did it mean to be a cap table? And how do you look at your cap table and ensure that you are balanced and that sort of stuff. So we bring in the experts who do this on a daily basis.”Listen to Shila describe the exposure beyond the education portion of the program, as well as cultivating the soft skills of fundraising as diverse entrepreneurs. “The preparation part is extremely important,” Shila says.Also, don’t miss David and Shila discussing the scalability of these cohorts, the innovation weekend collaboration with university programs and student entrepreneurs, always leveraging your network, and Shila’s personal mentors. Follow Shila Nieves Burney on Twitter @rednievesFollow David Cohen on Twitter @davidcohen See for privacy and opt-out information.
After two decades in the corporate world, Preston James was blown away by the innovation of tech startups. Once he got involved as an angel investor, he realized this industry was just like corporate America, where diversity was severely lacking.After digging into the issue by talking to others within his network, Preston saw the need to “build this pipeline of entrepreneurs for the underrepresented community and make the ecosystem more authentically diverse, equitable, and inclusive in creating those opportunities.” To date, DivInc has helped more than 75 companies go through their program.Listen to Preston describe how he is expanding DivInc’s reach across the country and diving deeper to accelerate the opportunities for underrepresented founders from the get-go.Also, don’t miss Preston talk about how there are 4+ opportunities you can help DivInc reach more early-stage founders (including donations). See for privacy and opt-out information.
If you’ve ever wondered just where Give First came from, or how it became such a central philosophy at Techstars, this episode is for you. Or if you’ve ever wanted to push back and say: does Give First really work? What’s in it for me? This is also the episode for you. A few months ago, Keith Coleman, Founder of Fraudmarc (Techstars Atlanta 2017) emailed David and Brad with the subject “give first, finish last.” In it, he explained his reservations with Give First. Basically, he asked: Is Give First right for new founders who are super focused on the survival of their company? Or is Give First for people who have already met with success, and who have the time and resources to be able to give? David and Brad’s response was to invite Keith on the show to talk about what Give First is, where it came from, and why it’s absolutely not just for the already successful. Give First is for every stage in your company, and in your entrepreneurial journey. See for privacy and opt-out information.
There are some people whose lives are perfect expressions of the zeitgeist. Matt Harris is one of them. In 1995, Matt’s college roommate at Williams started a company out of their dorm room. It was called Tripod, and it was one of the first dot com companies. By 1997, when Matt was 24, Williams invited him back to Williamstown, a rural community with a population of 6,000, to run an investing firm. When that was a success, Matt and that same college roommate, Bo Peabody, started Village Ventures to bring VC to secondary and tertiary cities around the U.S., with a focus on college towns with intellectual capital, but no venture capital. Fun fact: Matt’s first hire at Village Ventures was Gina Raimondo, who is now the U.S. Secretary of Commerce. In 2012, Village Ventures wound down, and Matt moved to Bain Capital Ventures, where he continues to invest in startups.Basically, Matt’s journey has paralleled, and shaped, that of venture capital in the age of the internet. Listen for insights into that rocky road, and how Matt has learned, over time, how to best support the entrepreneurs he’s invested in. See for privacy and opt-out information.
People want their capital to be used for good, and whether it’s clean energy or sustainable agriculture, there is ample economic opportunity in efforts to decarbonize the planet. In this special podcast crossover episode, Techstars’ own David Cohen and Cody Simms discuss how the entrepreneurial ecosystem is rallying around climate change. If you haven't yet checked out the Techstars Climate Tech podcast, you can find it on all major podcast platforms. See for privacy and opt-out information.
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