Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Inside Scoop on Applying to the Techstars Healthcare Accelerator, in partnership with Cedars-Sinai

Techstars Healthcare, in partnership with Cedars-Sinai is dedicated to helping startups and great founders disrupt and innovate healthcare technology. If your company is creating hardware, software, devices, or services that empower patients and healthcare professionals to track, manage, or improve healthcare delivery, we want to meet you  – check out our upcoming info session and webinars!

Techstars Q&A

Techstars and Cedars-Sinai will be on hand to answer questions and tell you more about the program. We'll also have alumni of past Techstars programs available so you can hear directly from founders about what it's like to go through Techstars.

Webinars

Techstars will lead a live online overview of the program with time for Q&A from participants.

Final application deadline: January 8, 2016

Program begins: March 28, 2016

Demo Day: June 23, 2016

Apply now!



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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Effective Market Segmentation

The slide I see in many pitch decks is one where the CEO explains the market, how she understands its segmentation and whom the company is selling to. It is frequently some sort of grid where on one axis you find geography and on the other industries or maybe company size.

I would like you to consider two scenarios.

In the first scenario, the CEO proceeds to fill in the grid with full and partial check marks or similar to demonstrate the broad applicability of the product and how significant the opportunity is and how many customers they have in each segment (typically very few in each). She then explains how she plans to roll out the product to all these customers.

In the second scenario, the CEO explains that she has considered and tested various segments, but for now she is focusing just on a single segment. She then says that she thinks the next segment maybe a segment adjacent to the one she is tackling now, but that she isn't quite sure about it.

All things being equal, which CEO would you rather invest in?

When I hear the first scenario, I tend to lose interest. The second scenario excites me. Here is why.

When you pick just one segment, you:

  • Only need to build and maintain features for that segment;
  • Can iterate product development faster;
  • Only need to market and sell to one segment;
  • Can leverage existing customers and their references to sell to very similar customers;
  • And, maybe most importantly, you can reach the tipping point in that segment much more quickly.

That last point in particular deserves some special attention.

In a typical adoption curve, you have about 15% of customers who are early adopters. Once you cross 15%, the segment tips in your favour and you can close 50%+ relatively quickly. When you try to sell to a market with 100k customers in it (for example), then it will take 15k customers before you reach the tipping point.

Consider the alternative of picking a tiny market segment with only 50 customers in it. You only need to close 8, and the segment tips in your favour.

What this means is that the best market segmentation strategy is to initially experiment with different segments, pick the one that seems to work best and to laser focus on it. Nail it, then pick the next adjacent segment, rinse and repeat.

You will probably find that your company grows faster by focusing on a very small market segment initially, and not on a large one.



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Diversity at Techstars Companies

As a follow up to our White House diversity commitment and on the heels of the creation of the Techstars Foundation, a nonprofit with the goal of advancing opportunities for underrepresented tech entrepreneurs, we are now reporting on our progress and publishing our own diversity data related to the founders of our accelerator companies.

First, let's recap what we've done so far to advance inclusive entrepreneurship:

  • Published our diversity data (see below).
  • Made a public diversity commitment as part of White House Demo Day.
  • Launched the Techstars Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to advancing opportunities in tech entrepreneurship for underrepresented founders.
  • In 2012, we created a mentorship program called Risingstars pairing Techstars accelerator alumni with underrepresented founders. 
  • We have been presenting Patriot Boot Camp for US military veterans since 2012.
  • Trained internal staff on unconscious bias.
  • Created the GSB Startup Weekend Women track.
  • Addressed the topic of diversity at FounderCon, our annual conference for founders.

We have committed to and are currently working on the following:

  • We have made our diversity initiative a company-wide Strategic Goal for 2016.
  • We've created an internal committee focused on creating actionable diversity goals for staff across our 30+ global locations.
  • We are working on programs to double the number of women in our accelerator program applicant pool and across our mentor network over the next four years.
  • We are tracking participation in our programs by underrepresented minorities and are working on doubling that from the baseline over the same time period.
  • We continue to work with NCWIT to develop a toolkit for Techstars companies as well as opening up NCWIT associate membership to all Techstars companies.
  • We are also working with NCWIT on their Pacesetters Program.

Below is our diversity data related to founders of companies we've funded in the accelerators to date. Based on these figures, we certainly have a long way to go here at Techstars — but we also know that you cannot improve what you don't measure. We will publish this information annually, along with notes on our progress. While we don't have this data historically, we will be focusing on broader classifications in the future.

 


Special thanks to DataHero for the visualizations.



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Friday, November 20, 2015

Funding and M&A Activity Across the Techstars Ecosystem

As we head into the holiday season, we'd like to share a final funding roundup for 2015.

Congratulations to these Techstars companies that were recently acquired:

Also, a big high five to the Techstars alumni companies below that have recently received notable* investments!  

This brings us to a total of 90% of Techstars companies active or acquired and over $2B raised by our accelerator companies. Congrats to all!

ClassPass (NYC '12), the NY-based company that gives you access to fitness classes across multiple gyms and studios, has announced a raise of $30M in venture capital.
Newsela (Kaplan '13), the company that automatically gives each reader the level of a daily news article that's just right for his or her reading ability, recently raised $15M in Series B. 
LISNR (R/GA '15) raised a $10M Series B round led by Intel Capital. LISNR is the creator of SmartTones, a new technology that sends data over audio.
Outreach (Seattle '11), a service that provides enterprise sales organizations with a communication framework, announced that it has raised a $9.2M Series A round.
Amino (Boston '14), a company that seeks to connect like-minded individuals and create a close-knit community for every interest, raised $6.5M in Series A funding.
GeoSpock (London '14), has recently raised $5.3M in Series A funding. GeoSpock enables companies to organize their Big Data with a geospatial cloud platform. 
SkySpecs (R/GA '15), is a company that provides drones to inspect things like wind turbines, bridges and other infrastructure projects. The company closed a $3M funding round from investors earlier this month. 
Chargifi (R/GA '15) has raised $2.7M Series A funding at the Intel Capital Global Summit 2015. Chargifi is a wireless charging network provider giving people access to power for mobile devices where and when they need it most.
Skilljar (Seattle '13) has raised $2.6M in a funding round led by Trilogy Equity Partners. Skilljar is an online training platform that enables any business to create and deliver online courses.
Hullabalu (NYC '14), an interactive storytelling app for kids, received $2.5M to continue to develop their product and technology. 

*notable = $2M or more.



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Wednesday, November 18, 2015

How to Structure Your Commercial Team

Many first time founders struggle with organizing the areas of responsibility in their company. Here is a simple overview that many founders I have talked to found useful.

The area most founders struggle with is commercial. At its most simplistic level, there are three tasks a company must achieve in order to be in business:

  1. Marketing: Qualified leads
    A qualified lead is an individual who has expressed interest in buying the product and has the budget and authority to make a purchase decision. Marketing's primary role is to produce and deliver qualified leads.
  2. Sales: Closing deals 
    Sales is converting qualified leads into closed deals. This function can be operated by a sales person; it can be operated by the product itself. Somebody or something has to convert leads into customers.
  3. Customer success: Keeping customers happy & upselling them
    Selling to customers is great, but you need to actually deliver what you promised. Customers should purchase again and preferably purchase more in the future. This function is frequently referred to as customer success.

Marketing, sales, and customer success are the three key building blocks of a commercial business function.

Now, here is the trick. Each of these three areas should be owned by one individual. At the same time, any individual should own only one area of responsibility, not two or three. For example, ideally you have one person responsible for marketing, another for sales and another for customer success. Each of those three should report to the CEO. Each may have their own team reporting to them.

This makes hiring for these functions easier. It makes formulating targets easy. It makes incentivizing easy. It makes management easy. It leads to focus on achieving goals. It removes excuses.

As soon as you mix those responsibilities, performance drops. Individuals who are good at marketing are not good at sales. Salespeople are not good at customer success and so forth.

I always suggest to founders to focus on:

  • Number of qualified leads produced per day / week (and the cost per qualified lead)
  • Percentage of leads closed by sales (and the time to close)
  • Churn of existing customers (and overall customer satisfaction)

This is the most basic structure of a commercial team. I find it serves as a good starting point.

Sign up for Office Hours
If you would like to sign up for office hours with me to discuss your startup, you can do this here.



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Get Backed: Tips on Funding Your Startup

We are excited to announce a new book for entrepreneurs from Techstars Austin mentor, Evan Loomis, and entrepreneur Evan Baehr. Their new book, Get Backed, includes new ideas on how to raise capital and build genuine relationships with investors. Everyone from first-time entrepreneurs to seasoned veterans will find useful, practical advice from other founders in this book.

Over the next few weeks, we will release short excerpts from Get Backed on the Techstars blog including how to build the perfect pitch deck, a primer on startup financing, and insider tips on how to cultivate a relationship with investors. This book + workbook offers in-the-trenches, real-world advice with heaps of helpful data, charts, photos, slides and actual examples of the most important things that every founder needs to know – all in a clean, easy to read format.

Check out the first excerpt today and stay tuned for more!

Get Backed

Chapter Two excerpt: The Building Blocks of a Pitch Deck

The building blocks of a pitch deck are the slides. Slides are like the panels of a comic strip; they break down the story of your venture into discrete digestible chunks. Each slide highlights a different aspect of the venture and furthers the plot of the pitch. Eventually, you'll have a whole archive of slides to draw from and sequence for each meeting or presentation. These are the essential ten (not including your cover page):

Cover

What should I expect?

What is it?

The cover slide captures the audience's attention, sets the tone for the pitch, and serves as "white space" during a presentation so you can express gratitude for your audience's time, show your passion for your venture, and build trust by mentioning mutual connections.

What should I demonstrate?

  • Clean logo. Your logo is the face of your brand; it can be very important to your overall image.
  • Inviting picture. You might include an engaging picture of your product or customer.
  • Descriptive title. Put "Investor Briefing" or "Investor Presentation" somewhere on the front cover with the date. Dates help you keep track of different versions.

What questions do I need to answer?

  • Does the cover make you want to open the pitch deck?
  • Does the cover visual communicate what the product is or who it serves?

—-

Learn more about Get Backed


About the Authors
Get Backed isn't just about startup fundraising. It's a handbook for anyone who has an idea and needs to build relationships to get it off the ground.

Over the last 3 years, entrepreneurs Evan Loomis and Evan Baehr have raised $45 million for their own ventures, including the second largest round on the fundraising platform AngelList. In Get Backed, they show you exactly what they and dozens of others did to raise money—even the mistakes they made—while sharing the secrets of the world's best storytellers, fundraisers, and startup accelerators. They'll also teach you how to use "the friendship loop", a step-by-step process that can be used to initiate and build relationships with anyone, from investors to potential cofounders. And, most of all, they'll help you create a pitch deck, building on the real-life examples of 15 ventures that have raised over $150 million.



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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Lean for Startups

Terms like MVP and Pivot have become synonymous with startups. With many of your competitors running as Lean Startups, how do you break out from the crowd? During the 2015 Techstars Boulder program, we used several additional techniques with the companies to help them accelerate their business. I'll be doing an experience report about the Boulder program at this year's Lean Startup Conference. If you can't make it, here is an overview and links to detailed how-to guides. If you prefer a podcast version, you can find my Lean Startup Podcast interview here.

These techniques will help you:

  • create coherent behaviors, decisions and a sense of purpose within the founding team and employees;
  • maintain a shared understand of the current state of your business model;
  • surface key risks and unknowns; take focused action to reduce those risks/unknowns;
  • do more of the right work faster by visualizing and optimizing the flow work in your company; and integrate learnings from the market at a daily, weekly and monthly cadence.

All of this will help you get to product/market fit faster and more effectively scale the company.

The Company OS is where you start. This simple document will help you translate your vision into a concrete sense of purpose for your business. The alignment and energy created by articulating your core purpose, behaviors, decision making framework, and your aspirational destination, allows you to move so much faster.

The Lean Canvas is an essential tool in building a shared understanding of your business. The canvas forces you to be succinct and direct when describing the most important aspects of your business. By doing so, you'll spend less time working on distractions, and focus on what's really important.

After you articulate your best understanding of your business via the lean canvas and company OS, it's time to build a business that works. The impact uncertainty exercise helps you uncover all the guesses, assumptions, risks, and dependencies in your business model. We'll then help you best take action against these obstacles, and systematically de-risk your business.

Once you've surfaced key risks and uncertainties, the monthly strategy session helps your team take focused action on what really matters. Additionally, this exercise encourages you to learn from past performance helping you hit your goals in the future.

Finally, learn how to get the most out of each and every day with an effective Kanban board.

MVPs and experimentation are no longer competitive advantages. To get ahead, there is so much from the Lean methodology, not originally included in The Lean Startup, that can accelerate your business. The techniques above are an excellent way to inject discipline into your both your day-to-day operations, and your company's long-term future.

Want to learn other ways to Do More Faster? Apply to Techstars today.



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Demo Day Round Up: Fall 2015

The show never stops at Techstars! Last month was busy for Techstars Accelerator Programs with FIVE  Demo Days across the globe in October. From Disney and Seattle on the west coast, to Chicago and Barclays NYC on the east coast, and across the pond to London, Techstars celebrated the addition of 52 new companies! Here's a quick review of what went down:

Disney Class of 2015

It was the second year for the Disney Accelerator led by Managing Director, Cody Simms, and as expected, the class produced some jaw-dropping products. Open Bionics stole the show with their 3-D printed robotic arms for amputees, designed for children in hero versions including Iron Man, Star Wars and Frozen, for which Disney granted royalty-free licensing and will match 1-for-1 (buy one and a second one is given to a child in need). All founders' pitches were well received as the audience learned about solutions for bioinformatics, video content, AMAs on Twitter, A.I. and more.

Congratulations to the Disney class of 2015!

 

Chicago Class of 2015

The show must go on! Confronted with the unforeseen scheduling conflict of the Cubs in the World Series playoffs, the Chicago program powered through for a successful demo day despite the distraction. The companies, led during program by MDs Troy Henikoff and Brian Luerssen, delivered their polished pitches to a room full of investors, supporters, and mentors in the beautiful House of Blues. This year marks the sixth Chicago class, who come from diverse backgrounds and span a number of industries from advertising and fin tech to tech-enabled pet care.

Congratulations to the Chicago class of 2015!

 

Barclays NYC Class of 2015

Barclays NYC Demo Day took place at the recently unveiled Rise FinTech laboratory. Founders took the stage in front of an enthusiastic crowd of close to 500 attendees. The mood was energetic as companies pitched their ideas around blockchain, cybersecurity, microlending and more. Led by MD Jenny Fielding, the class of 2015 saw a quick rush of investments. Within just a few days, Barclays announced it signed contracts with eight of the companies who participated in the bank's first-ever New York City fintech accelerator.

Congratulations to the Barclays NYC class of 2015!

 

Seattle Class of 2015

Techstars Seattle's Demo Night, held at the Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI) showcased eleven companies built around the region's core centers of excellence, from cloud infrastructure and e-commerce to gaming and Enterprise SaaS. Techstars MD, Chris DeVore, was joined by Techstars Managing Partner, David Brown, and the former President & Co-Founder of Concur, Rajeev Singh, to open the night and introduce the companies to the world. It was an exciting night to celebrate the Seattle startup community!

Congratulations to the Seattle class of 2015!

 

London Class of 2015

Techstars London Demo Night, held at the Royal Institution of Great Britain, debuted eleven companies from all over the world. The group is a diverse mix of entrepreneurs from five countries, including Estonia, the Czech Republic, the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. Managing Director, Max Kelly, kicked off the fourth London Demo Day along with Managing Partners, David Brown and Mark Solon. The companies delivered excellent pitches for their technology solutions for customer retention, collaboration, cancer survivors, personal security, 3D printing and much more.

Congratulations to the London class of 2015!



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Conquer Paralysis Now: Seeker Spotlight – Shawn Hochman

Conquer Paralysis Now Banner with SAC member Shawn Hochman Photo

Following the launch of the second round of the CPN Challenge, we interviewed Prof. Shawn Hochman from Emory University, who is a member of the CPN Science Advisory Council. He shared his thoughts about our 10 year Challenge Program and also gave some advice for solvers.

Conquer Paralysis Now: Interview with SAC member Shawn Hochman

  1. Hello Shawn – thanks for joining us today. Can you start by telling us about your background and what attracted you to spinal cord injury (SCI) research?

My PhD research examined the effects of spinal cord injury on stretch reflexes, so I always had this area in mind. Nonetheless, my research has been more generally devoted to understanding neuromodulation-based spinal circuit modifiability, focusing on biogenic amine modulators serotonin, noradrenaline and dopamine. These transmitters have been linked to activation of the spinal cord circuitry generating locomotion, control of autonomic function, as well as the potent control of spinal cord sensory input including of pain systems. Since SCI complexly modifies sensory, motor, and autonomic function, my research interests are a natural fit for a multi-system perspective on behavioral plasticity after SCI.

  1. What research are you currently working on?

We recently branched into more unexplored territories of investigation with a much stronger focus on SCI research.

We are examining the properties of paravertebral sympathetic chain ganglianeurons.  They represent the final drive and control vascular function in the trunk and upper extremities. Given their strategic nodal site, any plasticity is likely to be of high significance, yet there are still no accurate recordings of their integrative properties or recruitment principles. That cardiovascular disease is the most common cause of death after SCI compels a better understanding of plasticity in this essential neural population.

Secondly, with the proposition that a near-continuous record of an animal's physio-behavioral self may offer insight to the origins of inter-animal variability, we have begun to develop approaches for high throughput continuous characterization of rodent physio-behavioral variables in their home-cages using electric field sensors. Capturing the temporal dynamics of SCI pathophysiology may help uncover phenotypic predictors of disease emergence for subsequent smart feedback-based prevention.

Third, we are testing whether pleasurable touch become painful after SCI. Skin C-fiber low-threshold mechanoreceptors (C-LTMRs) respond instead to innocuous tactile stimuli and are uniquely tuned to transmit information about pleasant affiliative touch. We hypothesize that SCI transforms these C-LTMRs into allodynia-encoding nociceptors in body regions associated with the segmental site of injury. We developed an ex-vivo skin-nerve preparation to characterize the properties of C-LTMRs by their selective optogenetic activation, and in response to brush stimuli.

  1. What is different about the CPN Challenge compared to more traditional sources of funding?

Scientific research is dominated by the application of established research methods to further probe our fundamental understanding of mechanisms in established research disciplines. Funding agencies cater to this dominant approach, and scientific reviewers on committees judge applications as meritorious based on this highly ingrained mindset. Although non-traditional high risk projects have the capacity to catalyze innovation and are potentially transformative, the lack of success via traditional funding opportunities reduces people's incentive to think this way. The academic culture of publish or perish is a further disincentive to undertake risky research. The CPN challenge represents an important launchpad for this endeavor. While the Out-of-the Box award category says it all, clearly both the Collaboration and Cross-over awards are designed to ignite discovery by encouraging researchers in other disciplines to interact with SCI researchers and pollinate expertise to the field of spinal cord injury.

  1. The Trial & Error Prize is encouraging researchers to share data from lessons learned in their experiments. Why is this important?

The scientific enterprise is heavily biased to report on successes, not failures, so there many studies with negative results to important questions that never see the light of day. Worse, it may very well be that many failed clinical trials were in part based on the bias of reporting only positive findings.  By encouraging researchers to share data from lessons learned, the Trial & Error Prize is targeting another important issue, to provide important insights on experimental approaches and results that help limit wasteful struggle or duplication in other labs.

  1. Any final words of advice or guidance for people looking to enter the Challenge?

This is a tough question. Obviously reading the expectations of the award categories should in itself tell you whether a category strikes a chord of excitement in you. Ideas based on cross-fertilization with immunologists, engineers, and experts very loosely associated with your field may prime an idea in you. The Challenge is looking for creativity and risk-taking, so perhaps dial down the focus knob a little, overwhelm yourself with an intense period of reading disparate information sprinkled with highlights on new technologies, and then let your unconscious do the work. Who knows – coffee is one of my dearest friends!

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Saturday, November 14, 2015

FounderCon 2015: The Power of the Network

Techstars' annual founder conference, FounderCon 2015: Back to Our Roots, took place a few weeks ago in Boulder. Close to 700 Techstars' alumni, staff, and mentors descended on Colorado from all over the world to network, do business together, learn from each other and have fun. Over three days, we had panels on how to close a deal, hiring for culture fit, diversity in tech, M&A, how to find funding, success stories, founder burnout and much more. BizDev Day offered a huge opportunity for founders to meet with executives of over 40 big brands (Google, Salesforce, Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, Target, Sprint, etc.) to talk partnerships. We also had two bands, a circus, happy hours, hikes, a schwag swap and late night games of Werewolf!

Why do we do this? Because Techstars is committed to building a powerful global network to support founders on their entrepreneurial journey. The Techstars' ecosystem includes more than 7,000 founders, mentors, investors, and corporate partners, and more than 8,000 community leaders who work together to create a worldwide network of support for founders. Our FounderCon event is one way we connect this network and strengthen our amazing community: Techstars is for life.

Big thanks to the sponsors who made it all possible: Sprint, Distil Networks, Localytics and SendGrid! And a shout out to our very own John Hill and Jacqueline Hughes for a phenomenal event — which was powered by a super cool community app that allowed everyone to know where they needed to be and to easily communicate with each other.

Watch this video to see what it was like to be at FounderCon 2015. Want to be a part of it? Apply to Techstars today. (Applications close on 11/18 for Austin, Seattle, Boulder and Boston and on 11/22 for our Sprint Accelerator.)



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Thursday, November 12, 2015

When Investors Go Dark

By far the most annoying aspect of fund raising is when investors 'go slow' or 'go dark' on a company. Meaning the investor doesn't say yes and they don't say no. Instead, they respond very slowly to the emails or calls of the founders.

Below is advice I give to founders. The key is understanding the different investor mindsets. You can then act accordingly.

No (Qualified Out)

The investor passes right away or they take a look and then pass firmly.

This is actually great behavior; it saves founders a lot of time.

The only way I have seen that can change that investor's mind is when another investor/board member gets in touch and says: "You should look again at this company; I think you have read the situation incorrectly."

Unless you can do this, it is exceptionally difficult to convince investors to take a second look. Instead, accept it gracefully and don't annoy them.

Upfront significant information request

Sometimes a junior/inexperienced investor requests a lot of specific information upfront. This happens before it is clear whether there is real partner level interest in the company.

This can take up a lot of the founders' time and should be politely refused. The investor should first establish whether there is real interest.

Going slow or going dark

When the investor is slow to respond, the term 'Going dark' is often used. They say, "We are very busy with internal processes and are doing due diligence." There are three dozen variants of this.

What they actually think is a variant of the following: "I can't make up my mind about this company. It is not so compelling I feel I need to make an offer. Yet it also isn't so disinteresting I feel I need to reject them."

It is highly unlikely that this investor will lead your round. What you can do is to try to either convert them to a 'soft-circle' or to qualify them out.

You can go back and say: "It doesn't feel as if you are interested in leading the round, tell you what, I will keep you in the loop and once I have a lead and there is space left, I will get back to you, how does that sound?" If they say yes, try to crystallize the conditions under which they would say yes to a deal. Get that in writing if you can.

Conditional Yes / The 'Soft-Circle'

The investor is interested and happy to commit, but their check or interest level won't crystallize the round. That is fine. Soft-circle them. Try to get them to a 'conditional yes'. A conditional yes is not a term sheet, but a statement where the investor says under which conditions they would be happy to invest.

There is a scenario where you will have multiple soft-circled investors. You can then issue a term sheet yourself and have one investor do the legal work.

Yes

Every time when I have been involved with a fund raising and a firm received a firm yes, this happened relatively quickly. There was speedy and continuous communication. Ideally, you have multiple investors say yes at the same time so you can compare them and then work with the firm(s) of your choice.

Those are the five most typical initial outcomes of an investor discussion. The key for all involved is to get out of time wasting and slow discussions ASAP. Push to either No, Conditional Yes or Yes. And then you can construct your round accordingly.

This post was originally published on Jens' blog, Founders View.



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Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Everything You Need to Know About Global Startup Battle

Announcing the Open and Startup Women Tracks

In more than 250 cities and nearly 70 countries including Mozambique, Lesotho, Iraq, Nepal, Guam and more, a global rally for innovation is brewing. In just a few days, teams all across the globe will dive into action as they start their entrepreneurial journey as part of Global Startup Battle!

Entering its sixth year, Global Startup Battle (GSB) is the world's biggest early stage startup competition and is timed to bookend Global Entrepreneurship Week. GSB offers entrepreneurs several ways to compete, each offering different opportunities for the fledgling teams to jumpstart their success story. Partners providing expert mentorship and unique experiential prizes include a mix of innovative young startups and established corporations. A few of our judges include Mary Grove of Google for Entrepreneurs, Danielle Morrill of Mattermark, and David Brown of Techstars.

This year we are opening the doors even wider with our new "Open Track." Historically, only startups participating in Startup Weekend events were eligible for GSB, but this year the competition is open to any startups who want to take part. Many thanks to the Open Track sponsor, incorporate.com.

We've also added a new "Startup Women Track" this year, supported by Techstars' newly formed nonprofit, the Techstars Foundation. This track, along with the Open Track, are specifically designed to encourage a more equal share of voice and participation in a community and industry that faces a profound lack of diversity. Techstars and Startup Weekend are working hard to deliver on our goals to increase diversity and open access in the 1,000+ startup communities in which we operate. Our mission is all about inclusion and providing access to entrepreneurship and we feel this is an exciting, concrete step towards that.

"The most exciting thing about GSB isn't just the sheer size, it's the incredible diversity of people and locations that are gathered around a common cause and working toward their goals in earnest," said Marc Nager, Chief of Community for Techstars. "Knowing that thousands of people anywhere from a mile away to 10,000 miles away are embarking on the same journey as you are at the same time AND will be there to support you going forward is a really empowering experience. Cultural, ethnic, and socioeconomic boundaries melt away as passion and innovation take over."

If you or a team you know would like to participate, please visit the GSB site to learn more and find a Startup Weekend near you.

If you're a startup or team interested in the Open Track, learn more here.

GSB kicks off this Friday, November 13th!



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Friday, November 6, 2015

Top Idea Generation Ideas: Three Tips

Top Idea Generation Ideas: Three Tips

Idea generation is at the core of your company's success, so you need to develop strategies for making it happen.

Your idea generation is at the core of your company's success and your individual success. Here are three ideas that you may not have thought would help generate ideas, but Fortune 500 companies regularly use these techniques.

Take Rest Consistently.

Top companies from Google to Facebook give their employees the ability to stretch at their desk at least once every 20 minutes. These companies are consistently among the most productive companies in the world year after year.

The body is not made to provide stable productivity for eight hours in a row. Do not fool yourself into thinking that you have to perform this way. Move with the natural flow of your body and rest when you need to rest!

Crowdsource Your Idea Generation.

One of the cheapest ways to get your next million dollar idea is to let others build on it through the proper crowdsourcing platform. Create a challenge for an up-and-comer to cut his teeth on. Make sure the best ideas receive recognition and status, either through a prize or through public acknowledgment. The volume of ideas that you will receive may surprise you.

Use the Minimum Value Proposition.

Many people fear moving ideas forward because of the R&D time it takes to test an idea. Lean start-up philosophy tells us to use the minimum value proposition to test ideas. In short, your beta test is the bare minimum that you can present in a functional way to an audience. Your audience then gives you the critiques so that you can move forward with more confidence.

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Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Introducing Three New Managing Directors to the Barclays Accelerator Network

FinTech is one of the hottest themes in the startup scene. Disruption is happening fast and venture capital money directed towards financial service innovation is at an all-time high.  

At the same time, the interest level from financial incumbents to partner with these startup innovators is matching pace.  For example, Techstars' partnership with Barclays has grown exponentially, creating a sub-network of four FinTech accelerators within the Techstars family.  The Barclays Accelerator, Powered by Techstars programs are now in London, New York, Tel Aviv, and Cape Town, essentially fostering the largest FinTech pipeline in the world.

Through the expansion of this relationship, Techstars has also expanded its team of Managing Directors to lead our efforts in these cities. Joining me and Jenny Fielding (who runs New York) is Chris Adelsbach in London, Liron Rose in Tel Aviv, and Yossi Hasson in Cape Town.

All three of them — Chris, Liron, and Yossi — share the characteristics we believe are the magic combination for our most successful MDs. All three are experienced and successful entrepreneurs, having built up and exited their own companies.  All are angel investors with their own portfolios and track records.  And most important, all of them are mentors to entrepreneurs in their ecosystems from whom they receive rave reviews.

Jenny and I are both proud and excited to have Chris, Liron, and Yossi joining Techstars, our team, and our journey with Barclays to help build the greatest FinTech companies in the world!

Applications for Cape Town and Tel Aviv are open now!



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Monday, November 2, 2015

Announcing the 11 Companies for Cloud 2016

We are very pleased to announce the new class of companies participating in the Techstars Cloud program here in San Antonio. We have a group of amazing founders from all over the world, including entrepreneurs from the United States, Ireland, Spain and Taiwan. The class is very well rounded and includes eleven companies working on a variety of technical and innovative businesses in the cloud space.

This is the fourth Techstars Cloud class, and my second as the Managing Director. The program started this week, and will end with the Demo Day on February 11th. The alumni companies from the first three Cloud programs have been making amazing progress and I am excited to see this new group of companies join their ranks.

We had an overwhelming amount of high quality applicants and I want to personally say thank you to everyone who applied. I also want to thank all of the Techstars Cloud alumni companies as well as our 100+ mentors for their generous support of the program and the companies participating. You are a big part of the magic that makes Techstars special.

Without further ado, here are this year's companies:

Clyp (Austin, TX) – Clyp is a platform providing users a simple way to capture and share raw audio.
HelpSocial (San Antonio, TX) – HelpSocial allows large brands efficiently perform customer service via social media.
HuBoard (Austin, TX) – HuBoard is a project management solution for users of GitHub and GitHub Enterprise.
ilos (St. Paul, MN) – ilos allows users to instantly record, share, and organize their videos online.
Imagenii (Malaga, Spain) – Imagenii helps developers make faster and smarter image centric apps.
Joicaster (Orlando, FL) – Joicaster is distribution and promotional platform for live streaming.
Jumble (Dublin, Ireland) – Jumble provides businesses customers simple end-to-end email encryption.
Popily (Austin, TX) – Popily lets non-data scientists tell stories with data quickly and easily.
Slash Sensei (San Antonio, TX) – Slash Sensei is an online training platform that provides realtime guidance for students.
Thalonet (Atlanta, GA) – Thalonet is a private network which provides users better performance from the Internet.
UXTesting (Taipei City, Taiwan) – UXTesting is a toolkit to improve mobile user experiences using data visualization.


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