Techstars Entrepreneurship & Mental Health Series


This post is by Brad Feld from Feld Thoughts

Techstars just released a 4-part original video series on entrepreneurship and mental health. I’m featured in one of the four short (< 10 minute) videos.

If there was ever a moment in time that challenged our individual and collective mental health, it’s the Covid crisis. When Techstars began working on this project last year, the focus was on increasing awareness of the issues around mental health and entrepreneurship. There was no anticipation of the additional pressure the Covid crisis would put on – well – everyone, everywhere. The timing goal was simply to release it during Mental Health Month 2020.

I’ve spoken regularly since 2013 about my struggles with anxiety and depression. As a result of a depressive episode that I had, I decided that I wanted to try to lower the stigma, especially in entrepreneurship, around mental health issues. I personally no longer separate between physical health and mental health – they are both part of our existence as humans, something everyone struggles with at some level, and something everyone can work on, if they want.

I’m officially DSM-5 300.3: Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. If you know me, you know that I’m a counter, arranger, and checker with some washing (mostly hands) tossed in for good measure. My magic number is 3.

Since I became public about this in 2013, I’ve met many entrepreneurs who have opened up to me about their own struggles. In some cases, I’m the first person they’ve ever talked to because of the stigma associated with mental health issues, especially around leadership (e.g. a leader can’t show weakness). Some of the people I’ve developed relationships with around this are much more visible and successful than I am, yet, very few people know that they struggle with mental health issues. While that’s their choice, I’m glad they feel safe talking to me and I hope it’s at least a little bit helpful to them.

My wife Amy Batchelor is front and center in this video. When I listen to her talk about her experience with me around these issues, I realize how incredibly lucky I am to have a partner who has supported me from the very beginning. I know how challenging I can be at times, and I don’t think I’d be here, at this point in my life, without Amy.

I also highlight my first business partner Dave Jilk in the video. Dave is still one of my closest friends and probably knows me better than anyone on Planet Earth other than Amy and my brother Daniel. Dave’s support of me during my first depressive episode – when we were partners at Feld Technologies – was profound to me. And his support during my depressive episode in 2013 (which is a story I tell in the video) was incredible.

Many of the organizations I’m involved in are increasing their focus on mental health support. For example, one of the primary initiatives of Energize Colorado is mental health support for business people during the Covid crisis. And, there’s a lot more coming in my world.

Techstars – thanks for making this a priority for entrepreneurs. And to my fellow participants in the video series – Andrea Perdomo and Matthew Helt – thank you for being brave enough to tell your stories. Finally, Tishin Donkersley, thank you for the foresight, motivation, and endless efforts to make this project come to life.

The post Techstars Entrepreneurship & Mental Health Series appeared first on Feld Thoughts.

Entrepreneurs Are More Important Than Ever


This post is curated by Keith Teare. It was written by Brad Feld. The original is [linked here]

A wave of entrepreneurship around the world was unleashed coming out of the Global Financial crisis in 2010. Today, entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship are more important than ever.

Techstars has been extremely active around content, community, and engagement around how entrepreneurs can help with Covid-19 as well as how they can navigate the challenges to their business. Some things that are coming up include:

Techstars has also created and is regularly updating a COVID-19 Resource Guide with the following categories:

  • Upcoming Online Events
  • General Advice
  • Techstars Portfolio Companies
  • Accelerator Program Updates
  • Community Program Updates
  • Crowdsourcing Solutions
  • Fundraising
  • Legal
  • Tech
  • Talent
  • Business
  • Real Estate
  • Remote Work
  • Parenting
  • Mental Health

It’s awesome to see the engagement around the world from entrepreneurs who are working tirelessly to help us navigate the Covid crisis and the new realities we are all facing.

The post Entrepreneurs Are More Important Than Ever appeared first on Feld Thoughts.

Entrepreneurs Are More Important Than Ever


This post is by Brad Feld from Feld Thoughts

A wave of entrepreneurship around the world was unleashed coming out of the Global Financial crisis in 2010. Today, entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship are more important than ever.

Techstars has been extremely active around content, community, and engagement around how entrepreneurs can help with Covid-19 as well as how they can navigate the challenges to their business. Some things that are coming up include:

Techstars has also created and is regularly updating a COVID-19 Resource Guide with the following categories:

  • Upcoming Online Events
  • General Advice
  • Techstars Portfolio Companies
  • Accelerator Program Updates
  • Community Program Updates
  • Crowdsourcing Solutions
  • Fundraising
  • Legal
  • Tech
  • Talent
  • Business
  • Real Estate
  • Remote Work
  • Parenting
  • Mental Health

It’s awesome to see the engagement around the world from entrepreneurs who are working tirelessly to help us navigate the Covid crisis and the new realities we are all facing.

The post Entrepreneurs Are More Important Than Ever appeared first on Feld Thoughts.

Venture capitalists chat edtech’s new normal after COVID-19 


This post is by Natasha Mascarenhas from Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

There’s no doubt that the coronavirus has had a monumental impact on the way we view technology’s relationship with education. For now, students are learning from home. But what happens when they return to school?

Picking up where we left off in last week’s survey, we asked top investors in the space for their predictions on what is ahead once life resumes to its new normal. One investor mentioned how in March, they spent a third of their time in edtech. Now, they’re spending almost all their time vetting startups there. Another said that the sector has always been underfunded. Time will tell if venture capitalists become more bullish on the sector, and more importantly, if adoption from schools with strict budgets becomes more lenient.

A harsh statistic sums the dynamic of adoption and investment pretty well: according to Tetyana Astashkina and Jean Hammond of Learn Launch, less than 5% of the $1.6 trillion spent on education in the U.S. is attributed to edtech. Let’s see if other investors think that percentage will shift forward after the pandemic ceases.

Their responses have been edited for length and clarity.

12 major league edtech VCs discuss top trends, opportunities


This post is by Natasha Mascarenhas from Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

Ready or not, edtech has been shoved into the spotlight as millions of students shifted to remote learning due to pandemic-related school shutdowns.

But backing these companies are investors who have long believed that edtech was always set up for great returns and a big impact. We reached out to several to find out about which trends they’ve been willing to put their money behind. (And frankly, what we’ve been missing.)

We got into how tech can help — or hurt — underserved students struggling to find Wi-Fi or a laptop and how braintech still is ripe for innovation. Investors also shared the parts of edtech that Zoom video conferencing doesn’t address and why gamifying learning is so important.

Here’s who we talked to:

Next week, we’ll publish the other findings we received from these investors, focusing on edtech in a post-COVID-19 world.

Responses below have been edited for length and clarity.

Jenny Lee, GGV

What trends are you most excited about in edtech from an investing perspective?

GGV Capital is focused on how technology is allowing startups to innovate and create new business models to (1) lower the reliance on physical locations and (2) to allow for teachers to teach online with multi-format (1:1, 1:n) virtual classrooms [and] (3) deliver highly interactive and personalized content via use of virtual characters, machine learning, natural language and voice recognition/processing. Edtech can be broken down into the process of (a) learning (reading, speaking, comprehension), (b) practicing, and (c) testing, and targets different age groups from 0-3 years old, 3-6 years, K-12 years and into exam prep and adult training. Over the last four to five years, we have invested in over 10 companies in the areas of language learning, test prep, holistic learnings (like logical thinking, programming etc) and K-12 homework assistant.

How much time are you spending on edtech right now? Is the market under-heated, over-heated or just right?

It’s a key investment sector for me, so I spend about 20-30% of my time with edtech startups. Over the last few years, it has been a steady sector, not over-heated, but the COVID-19 situation has thrown a bright spotlight on it as a sector benefiting from more stay-at-home children and parents anxious to keep them busy, learning and engaged. I expect the sector to heat up quite a bit as we have seen our portfolio companies attract a lot of new users, new revenue and new interested investors over the last several months as much of the world manages lock-down mode. We expect this trend to continue for our US-based and Asia-based edtech startups as well.

Online tutoring marketplace Preply banks $10M to fuel growth in North America, Europe


This post is by Natasha Lomas from Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

Online learning looks likely to be a key beneficiary of the social distancing and quarantine measures that are being applied around the world as countries grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic.

In turn, this looks set to buoy some relative veterans of the space. To wit: Preply, a 2013-founded tutoring marketplace, is today announcing a $10 million Series A. It said the funding will be used to scale the business and beef up its focus on the US market, where it plans to open an office by the end of the year.

The Series A is led by London-based Hoxton Ventures, with European VC funds Point Nine Capital, All Iron Ventures, The Family, EduCapital, and Diligent Capital also participating.

Preply’s press release also notes a number of individual angel investors jumped aboard this round: Arthur Kosten of Booking.com; Gary Swart, former CEO of Upwork; David Helgason, founder of Unity Technologies; and Daniel Hoffer, founder of Couchsurfing.

The startup said it has seen a record number of daily hours booked on its platform this week. It also reports a spike in the number of tutors registering in markets including the U.S., U.K., Germany, France, Italy and Spain — which are among the regions where schools have been closed as a coronavirus response measure.

Also this week Preply said some countries have seen the number of tutor registrations triple vs the same period in February, while it also reports a doubling of the number of hours students are booking on the platform in some markets.

The former TechStars Berlin alum closed a $1.3M seed back in 2016 to expand its marketplace in Europe, when it said it had 25,000 “registered” tutors — and was generating revenue from more than 130 countries.

The new funding will be used to help scale mainly in North America, France, Germany, Spain, Italy and the UK, it said today.

Another core intent for the funding is to grow Preply’s current network of 10,000 “verified” tutors, who it says are teaching 50 languages to students in 190 countries around the world. So tackling the level of tutor churn it has evidently experienced over the years — by getting more of those who sign up to stick around teaching for a longer haul — looks to be one of the priorities now it’s flush with Series A cash.

It also plans to spend on building additional data-driven tools — including for assessments and homework.

The aim is to increase the platform’s utility by adding more features for tutors to track students’ progress and better support them to hit learning goals. “Preply wants to engage and enable tutors to develop alongside the platform, giving them the opportunity to explore training and lessons plans so they can streamline their income and maximize their classes,” it said in a press release.

Another area of focus on the product dev front is mobile. Here, Preply said it will be spending to boost the efficiency and improve the UX of its Android and iOS apps.

​“The new funding allows us to bring a more in-depth, immersive and convenient experience to both tutors and learners all over the world. Today, we are laser focused on language learning, but ultimately, I envision a future where anyone can learn anything using Preply,” said Kirill Bigai, CEO of Preply, in a statement.

“Getting to know Kirill and the team at Preply we were most impressed with their tremendous growth already in the US market as well as the size of the global market in online language tutoring. We believe the team has vast opportunity ahead of it, especially in the English-learning segment of the market where Preply already demonstrates market leadership,” added Hoxton Ventures’ Rob Kniaz in another supporting statement.

To date, Preply says some two million classes have been taken with teachers of 160 nationalities, via its marketplace. The platform maintains a strong focused on language learning, although topic-based lessons are also offered — such as maths and physics.

The business model entails taking a lead generation fee — in the form of the entire fee for the first lesson — after which it takes a revenue share of any lessons booked thereafter. The average price of a lesson on the platform is $15 to $20 per hour, per Preply, with tutors having leeway to set prices (within some fixed bounds, such as a minimum per lesson price).

The company currently employs 125 staff, based out of Kyiv (Ukraine) and Barcelona (Spain) and says its revenues have grown tenfold in the last three years.

A core tech component of the marketplace is a machine-learning matching system which it uses to increase the efficiency of pairing tutors with learners — touting this as a way to make “smarter connections” that “crack the code of effective language learning”.

In plainer language, it’s using automated decision-making to help users find a relevant teacher without having to do lots of search legwork themselves, while the platform can use AI-matching to drive bookings by managing the experience of tutor discovery in a way that also avoids students being overwhelmed by too much choice.

Where top VCs are investing in remote events


This post is curated by Keith Teare. It was written by Arman Tabatabai. The original is [linked here]

The novel coronavirus pandemic has rapidly moved companies into a remote-first world.

Nearly all of the world’s largest events have been canceled, put on pause or pivoted to online-only. In the tech world, event cancellations thus far have included SXSW, GDC, Mobile World Congress, Google I/O, Facebook F8, E3 and others.

As more and more hosts consider staging fully remote events as possible alternatives, we decided to take a deeper look into the venture-backed startups focused on supporting large-scale virtual gatherings, like Hopin and Run The World. To further understand the impact of COVID-19, we asked five leading VCs who have invested in or have knowledge of startups focused on remote events to update us on the state of the market and to share where they see opportunity in the sector:

Sarah Cannon, Index Ventures

Which trends in remote events/conferencing excite you the most from an investing perspective?

Where top VCs are investing in remote events


This post is by Arman Tabatabai from Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

The novel coronavirus pandemic has rapidly moved companies into a remote-first world.

Nearly all of the world’s largest events have been canceled, put on pause or pivoted to online-only. In the tech world, event cancellations thus far have included SXSW, GDC, Mobile World Congress, Google I/O, Facebook F8, E3 and others.

As more and more hosts consider staging fully remote events as possible alternatives, we decided to take a deeper look into the venture-backed startups focused on supporting large-scale virtual gatherings, like Hopin and Run The World. To further understand the impact of COVID-19, we asked five leading VCs who have invested in or have knowledge of startups focused on remote events to update us on the state of the market and to share where they see opportunity in the sector:

Sarah Cannon, Index Ventures

Which trends in remote events/conferencing excite you the most from an investing perspective?

It’s Not Just You, Seed Rounds Are Actually Getting Bigger


This post is by Jason D. Rowley from Crunchbase News

Like our yellow stripey friends, the bees, seed funding rounds are small and numerous. And, like bees, an individual seed round is likely to create only just a little buzz.

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Disentangling what, exactly, a “seed” round is these days is kinda tough. Not so long ago, a company might’ve raised a little bit of money from friends and family to get off the ground, and raised their first institutional investment round at Series A. But institutional capital has moved further and further upstream. In many cases today, seed is the first institutional round a company raises.

But that doesn’t begin to address the full semantic complexity of the funding landscape for fledgling ventures. Yes, there’s seed, but now, for even earlier-stage companies, there’s an emerging class of specialized pre-seed investors. Already seed-funded companies may opt to raise a “seed-plus” or “seed extension” round if they’re not quite ready to pursue a proper Series A round.

This doesn’t even get into whether the round is priced or unpriced. If priced: What metrics were used to derive the company’s valuation? If unpriced: What sort of financial instrument is being used? A Simple Agreement for Future Equity (SAFE) or convertible debt? Capped or uncapped? Discount or no discount? What are the triggers for conversion into honest-to-goodness equity shares? What’s the likelihood that a convertible debt instrument or SAFE will actually convert?

Suffice it to say there’s a lot of complicated stuff happening in the earliest stages of a Continue reading “It’s Not Just You, Seed Rounds Are Actually Getting Bigger”

Venture Deals Online Course – Spring 2020 Registration Is Open


This post is by Brad Feld from Feld Thoughts

We are running the Venture Deals Online Course again. Registration is now open and it runs from March 8, 2020 – May 1, 2020. It’s produced by Techstars and Kauffman Fellows.

We’ve run the course six times now and have had over 25,000 people take it.

It’s free, although it’s recommended that you have a copy of our book Venture Deals: Be Smarter Than Your Lawyer and Venture Capitalist. The 4th Edition is out with plenty of new and improved stuff.

The course runs for seven weeks with the following syllabus.

  • Week 1 – Introduction of key players/Form or join a team
  • Week 2 – Fundraising/Finding the Right VC
  • Week 3 – Capitalization Tables/Convertible Debt
  • Week 4 – Term Sheets: Economics & Control
  • Week 5 – Term Sheets Part Two
  • Week 6 – Negotiations
  • Week 7 – Letter of Intent/Getting Acquired

If you are interested, sign up now and tell your friends who are interested in venture deals.

The post Venture Deals Online Course – Spring 2020 Registration Is Open appeared first on Feld Thoughts.

Book: Yes, You Can Do This! How Women Start Up, Scale Up, and Build The Life They Want


This post is by Brad Feld from Feld Thoughts

Claudia Reuter, now the Techstars GM Americas East (and previously the Techstars MD for the Stanley+Techstars Additive Manufacturing Accelerator), has a new book coming out called Yes, You Can Do This! How Women Start Up, Scale Up, and Build The Life They Want.

I read the final page proofs while I was in Mexico and it is an excellent book. It’s a combination of a memoir, startup guidebook–especially aimed at women, exploration of gender dynamics in the workplace, and inspiration for women who are considering starting a company. It covers topics such as how to:

  • develop and share your vision
  • deal with stereotypes and unconscious bias
  • leverage perceived weaknesses and turn them into strengths
  • balance life at high speeds and avoid burnout
  • cultivate the confidence to move from idea to creating a company with the culture and rules you want

Claudia includes a story of a half-dozen fictional people that unfolds throughout the book, bringing many of her points to life with tangible examples of how the conversations and dynamics unfold in the real world.

As I read through the book, there were multiple points where I thought, “Every man in any startup or fast-growing business should read this.” As a man in technology, I took away a number of new ideas, along with examples that were explained in a way that I wouldn’t have been able to do prior to reading Claudia’s book.

This is the fourth book in the Techstars Press series, following Do More Faster: Continue reading “Book: Yes, You Can Do This! How Women Start Up, Scale Up, and Build The Life They Want”

Techstars Partners with Pivotal Ventures to Bring New Thinking and Innovative Ideas to Care for the Aging Population

BOULDER, Colo. – January 6, 2020 – Techstars, the worldwide network that helps entrepreneurs succeed, today announced the launch of the Techstars Future of Longevity Accelerator. Run in partnership with Pivotal Ventures, an investment and incubation company created by Melinda Gates, the new accelerator will work with startups focused on innovative and creative caregiving solutions to address the unmet needs of individuals providing and receiving elder care.

Based in Washington, D.C., the new 13-week program will accept 10 startups on an annual basis, helping them gain traction and accelerate their businesses through investment, hands-on mentorship, and world-class programming. Startups will also benefit from access to Techstars’ worldwide network of mentors, investors, founders, corporates, and government entities, as well as subject matter experts and thought leaders from Pivotal Ventures’ network, who will provide industry and business expertise.

“With generations living longer than ever before, there is an incredible opportunity

Continue reading “Techstars Partners with Pivotal Ventures to Bring New Thinking and Innovative Ideas to Care for the Aging Population”