Managing communication tools in distributed companies


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Last week, I did a talk as part of YPO Innovation Week on “managing distributed innovation.” Effectively, this was about strategies and tactics for innovating using globally distributed teams. We have approximately 300 employees at Techstars and those people live and work in about 60 different cities around the world. The YPO group was very interested in one particular comment I made about how we communicate.

I said something like “It’s really important that the team have a universally understood prioritization of various communication channels.”

Tools like Slack, email, text messaging, and to-do lists are great. But what is the priority of each for your peers? Which of the 5,000 weekly emails should we respond to first? In what order? Should a slack message interrupt me now, or tomorrow? Or is next week ok? Or do I even need to check it regularly? If you call my cell

😉

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Never ask anyone to be your lead investor


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Let me explain why you should never ask anyone to be your lead investor.

First, if you’re talking to a venture capital firm that writes large checks (>50% of the round size you’re seeking), just ask them to commit to investing. Let them know they’re wanted. If they want to invest, they’re going to want to lead and will throw out a term sheet. You never have to ask them to be your “lead investor.” That’s what they do. Once they decide they’re in, they will want to define the round and establish a deal favorable to them. You don’t have to ask them to do that.

Smaller investors all go in the other bucket, whether they are microfunds or angels. By definition, they’re not as credible of a lead investor generally speaking, since they’re less than half of the rounds capital. Perhaps one of them has a big

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Air Force Pitch Day was awesome


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Last week, I was in New York and decided to stop by the Air Force Pitch Day. What a great experience.  It’s so nice to see when government organizations figure out how to effective engage with startups, and then scale it!

At Air Force Pitch Day, the US Air Force awarded 51 contracts, each in 15 minutes or less, valued at a total of $8.75M.   And this event was just a portion of the over $75M that was awarded for 242 contracts in just 10 days. Wow!  Talk about doing more faster!

Caution! Alphabet soup ahead, but don’t worry, I’ll translate as we go…

Those companies got to Air Force Pitch Day by engaging with something called AFWERX, which is an “open dual-use” program (meaning something that applies to both military and commercials worlds). AFWERX has a program called SBIR, which is a way that

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True Blue – an Internet public art story


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A few years ago while sitting on a barstool in Boulder, I was chatting with my friend Eliot Peper. Eliot is a terrific author, and has written many great books circling around entrepreneurship with some of it set in Boulder.

That day, I was sharing a thought about a story I had in my head. I was secretly hoping he might think it was interesting and write a book about it. The basic premise was this: What if your future was determined by the color of your eyes? I’ve always thought that so much about prejudice was based on the most uncontrollable and tiny differences between us, and how ridiculous this will seem when someone eventually visits us from another planet.

Based on this simple idea (and it was not much more than that), Eliot created a fantastic short story called True Blue, and published it nearly two years

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How to Build a Successful Startup Ecosystem in your City


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Recently, Techstars held an AMA (ask me anything) with Brad Feld (Foundry Group), Chris Heivly (VP of Innovation at Techstars), and Eric Reich (43 North in Buffalo) called How to Build a Successful Startup Ecosystem in your City.

Over 800 people watch live and asked and voted for questions. Some of the highlights for me were when Brad shared some thoughts from his book Startup Communities and gave a preview of his upcoming sequel “The Startup Community Wayincluding thoughts on how startup communities are really complex systems, and not just “complicated” or “simple” systems, and why that matters for how you approach the problem. Chris and Eric also shared their thoughts on “success through 1,000 nudges” and how the Techstars Startup Ecosystem Development offering helps make this happen in specific instances such as Buffalo, New York or Boulder, Colorado.

Here’s that AMA – if you care about making your

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Sphero does it again with RVR


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Check it out!

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The Twenty Minute VC – Second Appearance


This post is by David Cohen from Hi, I'm David G. Cohen


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My second appearance on The 20 Minute VC is out today, with host Herry Stebbings. Harry does such an amazing job and it’s a real honor to be on his show.  I hope you enjoy listening!

CLICK TO PLAY

CLICK TO LISTEN ON ITUNES

Here are the show notes from Harry as a preview: 

1.) How David made his way from, his words “geeky hacker” to the founder of one of the world’s largest accelerators, Techstars and investor in multiple unicorns?

2.) What does David mean when he says that when assessing founders he studies “the moment of integrity”? What does he want to see from founders in those moments? What are some potential red flags? If a negative response, what are the subsequent actions an investor must take in this situation?

3.) How does David think about the right time to establish a board? What

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Perspective entering 2019


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Happy new year everyone.

Just before most of us rang in the new year, we successfully flew by a distant rock (Ultima Thule), one billion miles past Pluto and four billion miles from earth and, you know, took some photos.

News of that did not reach earth until the new year, since the signal took more than 8 hours to get here.  We have a quick grainy photo but we’ll likely see higher resolution photos in the next day or two (more transmission and processing time). This is a rock that is so cold that it’s basically been frozen in time since the beginning of the universe (or at least the most recent “beginning”).

As you enter 2019, the word of the day is perspective.

 

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A Rule of 40 walkthrough


This post is by David Cohen from Hi, I'm David G. Cohen


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For SaaS businesses, I’ve found the rule of 40 to be a useful management tool. The basic idea is that as a SaaS business, you want your growth percentage plus your EBITDA percentage to be 40 (or better).  So if you’re growing at 50% per year, you can “invest” in growth by having a 10% burn (expense as compared to revenue). If you’re breakeven at 40% growth, that’s also great. But if you’re only growing 30% you’ll need at least a positive 10% margin to stay healthy.

I’ve found myself explaining this concept to lots of founders lately, so if you need a simple walkthrough of what the rule of 40 is all about, I hope this 8 minute video with examples is helpful.

There’s also a good argument that the “rule of 40” doesn’t really matter much until the SaaS business is at $15M-$20M+ in revenue run rate.

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Deciding to say no should be easy sometimes


This post is by David Cohen from Hi, I'm David G. Cohen


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Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you’re in a group that is debating something–such as whether to take on a new investment–for a very long time?

Let’s say your group is healthy and high-functioning. Normally decision making feels natural and strong, and you have a rhythm going for how you make decisions. But suddenly you have this potential investment and the group is debating at length, but having a difficult time coming to a decision.

Keep in mind, I’m not talking about when you have many strong “yes-es” and many strong “nos.” That’s a very different situation, and you should have a process in place to deal with that.

What I’m posing here is a different kind of scenario. Maybe one person is lightly championing the idea, and other people in the group are generally supportive, but sort of wishy washy about it. You can all

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A bridge (round) to somewhere


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We’re living at a time when valuations are very high, as Fred Wilson and Ari Newman have both recently pointed out. When valuations rise, so do the caps on notes, which are upper limits on valuation at conversion.

In many cases the caps are very high because the entrepreneurs are telling the investors that they’re super confident they’re about to raise a larger round and they just need to “bridge” the company to that larger round. The reason the entrepreneur want a high cap is to signal a high price for the next equity financing of a larger amount of money. If they accept convertible notes now at a low cap, how could they possibly justify a higher equity price in a few short months when this larger financing is bound to happen?

For example, a company may be raising $1M in notes at $15M pre-money valuation cap with a

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Deep Work out of the office


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Quality time with your loved ones isn’t the only benefit of working away from the office.

In fact, I’ve found that one of the best things I can do to increase my productivity and to start knocking off those particularly pesky tasks on my to-do list is to get out of the office. A bit counterintuitive, yes, but true nonetheless. The office is a hive of productivity, and hives are noisy. Sometimes so noisy and hectic that it’s nearly impossible to sit down and see something all the way through, especially the problems and solutions that require a fair bit of focus. More often than not, there are just too many fires that need to be put out, too many meetings that need to be had, and too many phone calls that need to be answered or made in order to start tackling that list of ‘important but not necessarily

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PillPack – Journey to a billion


This post is by David Cohen from Hi, I'm David G. Cohen


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Yesterday the news broke that PillPack is being acquired by Amazon for $1 Billion.

I’m incredibly happy for TJ Parker and Elliot Cohen, co-founders of the pharmaceutical delivery startup. They started the company at Techstars in Boston in February 2013, and raised $4 Million around the time they completed the accelerator program. A couple years ago at a Techstars Q&A they discussed how their respective backgrounds led to the founding of the company, and described some of their early experiences with raising money.

Through their hard work and dedication, these founders have taken PillPack from an innovative idea to a $1 Billion company.

It’s always such an honor to be able to use Techstars’ worldwide network to help entrepreneurs succeed. Congratulations TJ and Elliot, and thank you for letting all of us here at Techstars be a part of your journey thus far!

The post PillPack – Journey to a

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Making a KPI or metric useful


This post is by David Cohen from Hi, I'm David G. Cohen


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What makes an effective Key Performance Indicator (KPI)? How do you design your metrics to help your company achieve its objectives?

First off, a good KPI will actually help you make a decision. The information should clearly tell you where you’re at and give you something actionable to do.

Secondly, a useful KPI will typically be a ratio—one thing divided by another. For example, if your goal is to decrease your employee attrition rate, simply knowing the number of people who leave per month isn’t meaningful. If ten people left last year and 15 left this year, that sounds like things are moving in the wrong direction. But what if your total number of employees has increased dramatically in that time? Let’s say you had 100 total employees last year, but 200 this year? As a ratio of the total number of employees, your attrition rate has actually improved.

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Volunteering in Costa Rica


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When each of my kids is 12, I take them volunteering on a dad/kid trip with Globe Aware. This spring break it was Delaney’s turn. We just returned from a week in the Orisi Valley of Costa Rica. Like when I did this in China in 2013 with Andrew, who is now 16, I wrote a daily email home and am just posting them all here chronologically with a few photos.

Day One
Picked up delaney at school on friday before spring break at 1pm. Flew to Houston, and had dinner there. two hours on the connection then on to San Jose, Costa Rica. We got an upgrade on that second flight due to my status, so had first class. 3 hour second flight. Arrived just before midnight (it’s the same time zone as colorado here). Luggage came quickly, super easy customs, took 5 minutes. I changed a little

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The Startup Playbook


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Techstars is the worldwide network that helps entrepreneurs succeed. So, when Techstars mentors, investors, and friends Rajat Bhargava and Will Herman told me that they were writing a book to help guide founders on their startup journey, I was immediately excited. I’ve known Raj and Will for a number of years now and they are great entrepreneurs and also great mentors at Techstars. Their experience and wisdom can help many of our companies and extend the reach of the entrepreneurial ecosystem. I particularly like their approach which is a founder-to-founder discussion. Founders need more data points from other founders!

If you are a founder, part of a startup team, or thinking about starting a company, grab a copy of The Startup Playbook. I think you’ll be happy you did.

 

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The Startup Playbook


This post is by David Cohen from Hi, I'm David G. Cohen


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




Techstars is the worldwide network that helps entrepreneurs succeed. So, when Techstars mentors, investors, and friends Rajat Bhargava and Will Herman told me that they were writing a book to help guide founders on their startup journey, I was immediately excited. I’ve known Raj and Will for a number of years now and they are great entrepreneurs and also great mentors at Techstars. Their experience and wisdom can help many of our companies and extend the reach of the entrepreneurial ecosystem. I particularly like their approach which is a founder-to-founder discussion. Founders need more data points from other founders!

If you are a founder, part of a startup team, or thinking about starting a company, grab a copy of The Startup Playbook. I think you’ll be happy you did.

 

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One Last Talk in Boulder


This post is by David Cohen from Hi, I'm David G. Cohen


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A friend of mine is putting on a really interesting event called One Last Talk in Boulder on March 3, 2018. It’s called One Last Talk. All profits go to the non-profit Believe in Youth.

From the One Last Talk web site: “Imagine standing on a stage, and delivering your One Last Talk to the world in 15 mins. In these talks speakers have previously shared the core of their greatest triumphs, their greatest failures, and what are the building blocks of what has created the essence of their leadership style. In short, their stories give us a glimpse into who they really are, why they do what they do and how they want to change the world. One Last Talk is a potent mix of raw courage and pure inspiration. It is the perfect arena to explore the nuances of the modern day human experience. It is the place

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One Last Talk in Boulder


This post is by David Cohen from Hi, I'm David G. Cohen


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




A friend of mine is putting on a really interesting event called One Last Talk in Boulder on March 3, 2018. It’s called One Last Talk. All profits go to the non-profit Believe in Youth.

From the One Last Talk web site: “Imagine standing on a stage, and delivering your One Last Talk to the world in 15 mins. In these talks speakers have previously shared the core of their greatest triumphs, their greatest failures, and what are the building blocks of what has created the essence of their leadership style. In short, their stories give us a glimpse into who they really are, why they do what they do and how they want to change the world. One Last Talk is a potent mix of raw courage and pure inspiration. It is the perfect arena to explore the nuances of the modern day human experience. It is the place

Continue reading “One Last Talk in Boulder”

One Last Talk in Boulder


This post is by David Cohen from Hi, I'm David G. Cohen


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




A friend of mine is putting on a really interesting event called One Last Talk in Boulder on March 3, 2018. It’s called One Last Talk. All profits go to the non-profit Believe in Youth.

From the One Last Talk web site: “Imagine standing on a stage, and delivering your One Last Talk to the world in 15 mins. In these talks speakers have previously shared the core of their greatest triumphs, their greatest failures, and what are the building blocks of what has created the essence of their leadership style. In short, their stories give us a glimpse into who they really are, why they do what they do and how they want to change the world. One Last Talk is a potent mix of raw courage and pure inspiration. It is the perfect arena to explore the nuances of the modern day human experience. It is the place

Continue reading “One Last Talk in Boulder”