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34 minutes | Jun 21, 2022
Ep 64: Flikshop CEO Marcus Bullock on Reshaping the Criminal Justice System
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_bullock Follow David Cohen on Twitter @davidcohen Listen & subscribe to the Give First podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and more. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
26 minutes | May 10, 2022
Ep 63: HILOS Founder Elias Stahl on Creating A New Supply Chain
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_elias Follow David Cohen on Twitter @davidcohen Listen & subscribe to the Give First podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and more. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
24 minutes | Apr 26, 2022
Ep 62: Twelve Labs CEO Jae Lee on Video Search Innovation and Accelerating with Techstars
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_lee Follow Twelve Labs on Twitter @twelve_labs Follow David Cohen on Twitter @davidcohen Listen & subscribe to the Give First podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and more. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
26 minutes | Feb 16, 2022
Ep 61: Authors Mark Achler and Mert Iseri on Exit Strategy and Building Your Legacy
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 @mhi Follow MATH Venture Partners on Twitter @MATH_V_P Follow David Cohen on Twitter @davidcohen Listen & subscribe to the Give First podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and more. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
22 minutes | Feb 1, 2022
Ep 60: Stream Founder Thierry Schellenbach on Listening to Customers and Following the Metrics
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 @tschellenbach Follow David Cohen on Twitter @davidcohen Listen & subscribe to the Give First podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and more. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
28 minutes | Jan 11, 2022
Ep 59: Articulate Persuasion Founder Monique Maley on Delivering Ideas with Conviction
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 @MoniqueMaley Follow David Cohen on Twitter @davidcohen Listen & subscribe to the Give First podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and more. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
21 minutes | Dec 14, 2021
Ep 58: Sketchfab Co-Founder on Building Relationships as the Key to Business Immortality
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 @albn Follow David Cohen on Twitter @davidcohen Listen & subscribe to the Give First podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and more. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
19 minutes | Nov 30, 2021
Ep 57: Zipline co-founder on how robotics and automation have changed him and the world
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 @KellerRinaudo Follow David Cohen on Twitter @davidcohen See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
18 minutes | Nov 2, 2021
Ep 56: Goodie Nation's Joey Womack on building community for entrepreneurs from all backgrounds
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 acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
23 minutes | Oct 12, 2021
Ep 55: MindMaven Founder and CEO Patrick Ewers on achieving true greatness through relationships
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 @PatrickEwers Follow David Cohen on Twitter @davidcohen See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
22 minutes | Oct 7, 2021
Ep 54: Zane Access founder Shila Nieves Burney on accessing networks while building capital
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 @rednieves Follow David Cohen on Twitter @davidcohen See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
17 minutes | Sep 28, 2021
Ep 53: DivInc’s Preston James on diversity and inclusion in the tech industry
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 acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
38 minutes | Sep 21, 2021
Ep 52: Fraudmarc’s Keith Coleman on the Value of Give First as a Founder
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 acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
34 minutes | Sep 14, 2021
Ep 51: Bain Capital Ventures’ Matt Harris on supporting entrepreneurs through 25+ years as an investor
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 acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
28 minutes | Sep 9, 2021
Ep 50: Sustainability and economic opportunity with Cody Simms of Techstars Climate Tech Podcast
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 acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
23 minutes | Sep 7, 2021
Ep 49: The Community Fund’s Lolita Taub on investing in community-driven companies
Lolita Taub has always been about community, from her upbringing in South Central LA to now at The Community Fund, which is a venture capital fund that invests in community-driven companies, “connecting people to people and resources to achieve results.” By day, Lolita is the Corporate Development VP at Catalyte, but on breaks or weekends, she is an operator-investor, looking for those unicorns of the future. She believes these companies will “have customers that identify as members where members have a space to create value for each other, and then start this marketing sales flywheel.” Listen for Lolita’s ideas of the expensive side of building a customer base and how “only good things can come out of” involving customers into building a company, such as lifetime value, retention, sales leads, and talent acquisition, among other benefits. Also, don’t miss Lolita and David discussing the startup investor matching tool that began last year right on Twitter, and how COVID has changed how we build relationships. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
19 minutes | Aug 31, 2021
Ep 48: Academy Investor Network’s Sherman Williams on going from military service to VC
From his service as a Naval Intelligence Officer to an MBA from the University of Chicago to becoming an investor in early-stage startups in healthcare tech, frontier tech, logistics, and marketplaces, Sherman Williams has had an interesting career. Now he’s also helping other U.S. Service Academy (USNA, USMA, USAFA, USCGA and USMMA) grads to invest as well. Many veterans want to get into entrepreneurship, but don’t know how to access a network to help them learn and grow. The Academy Investor Network invests in veteran-led startups (as well as civilian-led startups) that focus on “dual-use technology,” or tech that has both commercial and government purposes. Or as Sherman puts it, “technologies that help make our country safer, operate more efficiently, and have a strong commercial use case.” Listen for Sherman’s take on how technologies like this can have both civilian and military use cases, and how veterans can thrive in entrepreneurship. Oh, and definitely listen for David and Sherman’s brief but delightful discussion of reggae. Follow Sherman Williams on Twitter @vc_sherman See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
22 minutes | Aug 24, 2021
Ep 47: FemTech Focus’ Brittany Barreto, Ph.D. on creating a new category: FemTech
Brittany Barreto, Ph.D., started as an entrepreneur, transitioned to VC, and now is building a whole new category: FemTech. Yes, she invented the term, and you are encouraged to use it and spread it. Brittany realized that women’s health and wellness companies didn’t have the community that helps an industry thrive, so she set out to build it. She cofounded FemTech Focus, and started hosting the FemTech Focus Podcast to talk about “the innovative technology, services, and products (collectively known as femtech) that are improving women’s health and wellness.” FemTech focus is working to provide essentials like market research, industry awareness, founder training, and more that FemTech founders need in order to succeed. That was 2020. Now in 2021, Brittany is expanding to providing capital to the FemTech community, with her new firm, Coyote Ventures, which will fund seed stage FemTech startups. Does FemTech really need a category of its own? Here are Brittany’s stats on the size of FemTech: “Our current company database is 636 active FemTech startups in the world. We have found over 50 exits in the last 20 years. The average exit value is $480 million, which is significant because the average tech startup exit is $200 million.” So yes, it’s significant. This is how you coin a term, create a category, and grow a community. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
17 minutes | Aug 17, 2021
Ep 46: David Cohen and Brad Feld reflect on over 40 episodes of the Give First Podcast
Toward the beginning of this conversation between David Cohen and Brad Feld — cofounders of Techstars and celebrated early-stage investors — Brad says, “I believe it takes a hundred episodes before you can really call yourself a podcast.” If that’s the standard, the Give First podcast isn’t a real podcast yet, since we’re only at about 45. But we’re quite proud that Give First has stuck around so long and found such a welcoming audience. Turns out that people want to hear about the warm, relationship-based, virtuous cycle side of entrepreneurship and tech that Give First elevates and celebrates. What have David and Brad learned in the process of making all these episodes? For one thing, consistency is less important than continuation. They don’t make an episode every week, or even every two weeks, necessarily — but they keep making them, and that works. They also shout out to Techstars podcast producer Kacey Wherley, who makes it all happen behind the scenes. And though Give First was Techstars’ first podcast, and we learned a lot by making it, Techstars now has six podcasts (and probably more soon)! If you’ve missed some of the recent episodes, you should really check them out! See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
20 minutes | Aug 10, 2021
Ep 45: Digital Ocean’s Carly Brantz on leading marketing at three Techstars unicorns
“We get a tremendous amount of traffic to our website every month from people who are just searching for different ways to do things, learning different ways to code. It might not even be on our infrastructure, but we provide that content,” says Carly Brantz, Chief Marketing Officer at Digital Ocean. This is just one of many ways that Digital Ocean, which helps developers easily build, test, manage, and scale applications of any size on a complete cloud platform, Gives First to its customers, and even to people who aren’t its customers (but might one day be). Because when you give people what they need now, then when they do need your product, even if it’s a year or two from now, they’ll think of you. This could be just good marketing strategy, but for Carly — and for Digital Ocean’s founding team, Ben Uretsky, Moisey Uretsky, and Mitch Wainer, it’s more than that. It’s about love. David remembers when Digital Ocean was in the Techstars Boulder Accelerator, back in 2021: “Moisey and Ben and Mitch and everybody in the accelerator said love. They talked about love being the differentiator. We love our customers. We want them to love our product. They got this funny look from a lot of mentors and a lot of people like, ‘Hey, that's not really a way you can build the company.’” But for Digital Ocean, love turned out to be a winning strategy. Carly confirms that love is still a big differentiator for Digital Ocean: “Really everything that we do, we always say that it starts with community and ends with love.” Listen for more about how community, content, and love can be a hugely successful marketing strategy — and why it’s never too early or too late to join Pledge 1%. 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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