Assume good intent

There’s a phrase that I’ve been using more and more with startups that I’m working with closely. That phrase is “assume good intent.”  I first heard this phrase in my office at Techstars and i’ve found it useful, so I wanted to share it.

In any team or customer dynamic, if you start off assuming good intent, life is easier and good stuff happens. On the other hand, if you assume bad intent, life is hard.

I’ll give you an example to illustrate. Let’s say that you receive an email from a customer that says “The new feature in your software sucks. It’s costing me a ton of wasted time and energy.” Your initial reaction to this email likely represents your default mode and the intent you assume. When we assume bad intent, it sounds like this customer is trying to tear us down, to criticize us, or

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How to fail gracefully

Of course nobody wants their startup to fail, but the fact is that it happens and it’s a completely normal part of company building. Investors understand this and realize that failure is often a part of the process. If your company has failed, make sure you go out of your way to let all of your investors know what’s going on. At Techstars, part of our Code of Conduct is to communicate with your investors at least every six months. Even if the news is bad, it’s important to keep the lines of communication open. Your investors have poured time, money and energy into your company, so they’ll appreciate your transparency—and be more likely to work with you again in the future. Ideally you’ll let them know how it’s going well before you let the know you’ve failed, as they might be able to help. Many companies that aren’t working
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How to fail gracefully

Of course nobody wants their startup to fail, but the fact is that it happens and it’s a completely normal part of company building. Investors understand this and realize that failure is often a part of the process. If your company has failed, make sure you go out of your way to let all of your investors know what’s going on. At Techstars, part of our Code of Conduct is to communicate with your investors at least every six months. Even if the news is bad, it’s important to keep the lines of communication open. Your investors have poured time, money and energy into your company, so they’ll appreciate your transparency—and be more likely to work with you again in the future. Ideally you’ll let them know how it’s going well before you let the know you’ve failed, as they might be able to help. Many companies that aren’t working
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True Blue by Eliot Peper


These are troubling times, not just for the United States, but for the world. To be sure, there has been tremendous progress over the last 50 years with regard to human rights and equility. But today the remaining factions that support racism, hate, sexism, and other-ism have grown more vocal, more frustrated, more visible, and more extreme. Those who persist with their misguided attempts to categorize and repress people based on nothing more than the circumstances that they are born into have many lessons to learn and many opportunities for personal growth. I had been thinking about this in the days after the election of Donald Trump as POTUS. In that moment, I was thinking about aliens someday descending on our little planet. They’d surely see a bunch of humans in a variety of shapes and sizes. But would they even seen things like black and white? Gay and straight?
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Sexual harassment: where there’s smoke there’s usually fire

It’s an unfortunate fact in our industry that people (mostly women) still regularly deal with harassment and assault in the workplace. Not only is this tragic for the individuals involved, but it is also driving talented women away from what is often a male-dominated tech and startup culture. Adding to the problem is that the victims often become the accused, and find themselves under scrutiny. But as this interesting study demonstrates, false allegations are rare. In an analysis of ten years of reported cases, the results indicate that the prevalence of false allegations is between 2 and 10 percent. In other words, where there’s smoke, there’s usually fire—90 percent or more of the time. So how do we address this? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 70% of employers provide sexual harassment training and 98% of companies have sexual harassment policies. However, this enlightening article, Why We Fail to Report Sexual Harassment,
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Some Recommended Reading for Investors

There’s a lot of advice out there for new (and experienced) investors, and it can be hard to sift through it all to find the best stuff. So when I find something particularly helpful, I like to pass it along. Paige Craig, a founder and managing partner of Arena Ventures, has some excellent blog posts in which he shares his own experiences in a really honest and transparent way. His stories and advice have some incredibly useful insights for both investors and entrepreneurs. Paige is also an experienced angel investor who has invested in over 110 startups, including AngelList, Twitter, Wish and Zenpayroll. These two posts from Paige are both fantastic. Thanks, Paige! Airbnb, My $1 Billion Lesson The 4 Ways Investors Find Great Startups

The negative space of your words

We see quite a few pitches at Techstars. And we also therefore are involved in many Q&A sessions afterwards.  In one recent session, I noticed lots of what I call “negative space” so I wanted to down some thoughts. When answering questions, especially in a group or public setting, you can show mastery by answering questions quickly and succinctly. Anticipate the normal questions and practice your answers. Make sure they’re short and clear answers. Also, train yourself to avoid phrases like “To be honest,” or “That is a great question.” Both of these create negative space. If you start your response with “To be honest,” it gives the impression that you’re not usually honest, but in this case, you decided to tell the truth. “That’s a great question” seems innocuous enough, but it implies that the other questions were not as good. (And if you say it after every question, it
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