Techstars in Kansas City

Yesterday Techstars announced the launch of Techstars Kansas City. This is a city-based horizontal accelerator similar to the ones we have in Boulder, Boston, Seattle, Austin, New York City, London and Berlin. Applications open in January 2017 and the program will run in July 2017.

I have a long history with Kansas City. I almost grew up in Kansas City, as the two cities my parents looked at when moving from Boston were Kansas City and Dallas (they chose Dallas.) In the mid to late 1990s, I was an entrepreneur-in-residence at the Kauffman Foundation working with Jana Matthews on “learning programs for high growth entrepreneurs.” During this time, Jana and I initiated a deep partnership between the Kauffman Foundation and YEO (the Young Entrepreneurs Organization). I spent about a day a month in Kansas City, during which time I developed a deep respect for the Kauffman Foundation, Ewing Marion Kauffman (Mr. K), and his value system around entrepreneurship and philanthropy.

In 2013 when Google announced that Kansas City would be the first city in the country to have Google Fiber, I bought a house in the first neighborhood that was being wired up with Google’s gigabit Internet. This was inspired by Ben Barreth, who was the first person to buy a house in the neighborhood and turn it into a hacker house. Lesa Mitchell, at that time at the Kauffman Foundation, found the house for me and did all the on the ground work for me. Later in 2013, Techstars and Sprint launched the Sprint Accelerator, which Techstars ran for three years.

As a result of this activity, Kansas City has become an important startup city in Techstars network. Earlier this year we started talking more about our long term view for our involvement in the Kansas City Startup Community and recruited Lesa Mitchell to lead the effort for us as the Managing Director of Techstars Kansas City.

I giggle with joy when I think about working with Lesa closely again. There’s a long list of things we did together when she was at the Kauffman Foundation, we share very similar visions for startup communities, and – well – she’s just dynamite.

I’m going to be in Kansas City on Monday for the Kauffman Fellows Reunion VC Summit and the 20th anniversary of the Kauffman Fellows Program. I joined the Kauffman Fellows board last month (more on that in a post soon) and David Cohen (Techstars co-CEO) and I are doing an event Tuesday afternoon about what Techstars is doing next in Kansas City. Come join us if you are in town and interested.

Looking for New Science Fiction?

If you – like me – love science fiction, I encourage you to support the new sci-fi magazine Compelling Science Fiction. The editor, Joe Stech, lives in the Boulder area and has been actively involved in the Boulder/Denver startup community. He’s using Patreon as a funding model, which I’m a big fan of for new and indie writers.

Denver: Conversation With Chris Sacca

Chris Sacca (Founder and Chairman Lowercase Capital and star of ABC’s Shark Tank) is in Denver on Tuesday 10/25 at Galvanize from 5:00 PM – 8:30 PM to support Hillary Clinton. Chris has been a friend for many years, is a remarkable investor, and a super compelling speaker. While I’ll be in Kansas City for a different event, if you support Hillary, are in Denver, and are an entrepreneur or investor, I encourage you to sign up and attend. Thanks to Jim Deters and Galvanize for hosting.

Betabrand’s Enlightened View Around Depression

I’m proud of my friends at Betabrand about a bunch of things, including a fundraiser they recently did called YogAID that generated over $85,000 for the Techstars Foundation.

Last week an email hit the Foundry Group EXEC list from Betabrand’s CMO Aaron. I asked him if I could share it because it was full of some enlightening stuff around depression that was prompted by the suicide of a friend of Aaron’s. He said yes. Aaron – thanks for helping eliminate the stigma around depression. 

Following is the email Aaron sent to the Foundry Group EXEC list.

Hey everyone – I know that mental health issues have been discussed in this forum so I wanted to share something that surprised the hell out of me. TL;DR, a close friend of mine took his own life recently. None of his friends would have ever expected it or thought he was even remotely depressed.

Being totally taken by surprise, I shared a bit with our company via the email below just making sure no one felt alone or didn’t know where to turn to get help. As you can see, I sent this email 2 nights ago. So far, I’ve had 14 employees email me back sharing their stories of their own depression and that of their friends/family members that have also committed suicide. We have 76 employees, so that’s almost 20% of our workforce that has responded so far! I have no idea how many others have their own stories and just aren’t ready to share, but I can only assume that n>1.

Our little world can be lonely and isolating. This is just another reminder that you are not alone. If you’re like me and lucky enough to have never dealt with depression, understand that you can be the person that lends support to someone else. Make sure your staff knows what support you/the company offer and where to turn if they want/need help. You may be amazed at the response you get. Thanks for reading & have a great weekend!

PS – We may not know each other, but if you ever want to talk, you alway have someone to call 415-xxx-xxxx

Following is the email Aaron referenced that he had sent out to the whole company.

Hey all – Sorry for the heavy email, but this is an important topic to me. Some of you know that I lost a close friend recently due to suicide. We had no idea he was depressed and dealing with his own demons and dark thoughts. Had we known, of course we all would have dropped everything to help in any way we could have. In dealing with his loss and confusion that goes with it, I’ve had numerous people reach out to me talking about their own challenges and stories about what they’ve been through (directly and with family members). As someone that had never dealt with depression, I had no idea how prevalent it was and how many people deal with this struggle daily. It made me also realize that I didn’t even know where to turn people to in order to talk to a professional about this.

I asked P… what, if any, support Betabrand offers and it turns out, we have a really great benefit to help exactly with these needs. I’m sure many of you already knew this, but many of you may not. The LifeCare Work-Life EAP program for Betabrand employees provides free, confidential help with a variety of personal, work-life and concierge needs, including emotional, relationship, chemical dependency, financial and legal needs. Trained EAP staff are available 24/7: 866-574-7256. This information can be found through our ADP portal. Login into ADP Totalsource, hover over Myself and click on Benefits Resource Center, then Life Management, and the EAP information/portal is listed under Programs. Again, if you want to reach out to them, it’s 100% confidential.

I hope none of you are dealing with depression. However, if you are, please know that you’re not alone, you’re surrounded by people that really care about you and that you can call me at any time: 415-xxx-xxxx. Also, if you are like me, there is a good chance that you do know someone that is suffering and you just aren’t aware. Check in with people that are important to you. Ask how they’re doing. Then, ask how they’re really doing. Let them ask how you’re doing. Then, tell them the truth. Have the hard conversations. Life is too short.

Lastly, I’d like to thank Chris & James for being so supportive over the last couple weeks with me needing to be out of the office. I’m lucky to work at an amazing company that understands that sometimes, life happens and that can be more important than selling pants.

Podcast Saturday – Meet Lindel Eakman

My partner Lindel Eakman just did a really fun interview with Harry Stebbings on Harry’s 20 Minute VC Podcast. You can listen to it here or subscribe to the 20 Minute VC on iTunes.

As a Saturday bonus, two of the other podcasts in my regular rotation are the Reboot Podcast and How I Built This. I listened to the VICE: Suroosh Alvi interview yesterday and it was fantastic.

The show notes for Harry’s interview with Lindel follow.

1.) How Lindel made his way into the weird and wonderful world of LPs and then Foundry? What is the origin story behind is first fund investment, Union Square Ventures?

2.) Question from Michael Kim @ Cendana: How is Lindel approaching portfolio construction for Foundry Next? What combination of GP portfolio & direct exposure diversifies the portfolio while retaining upside through individual deal performance?

3.) With the direct co-investment platform how does Lindel look to mitigate the negative signalling that can occur with opportunity funds? Does Lindel agree with Chris Douvos in stating this could lead to the ‘hybridisation of GP and LP’?

4.) Where do most prospective fund managers fail when pitching to LPs? What does Lindel look for in a risk strategy for a potential fund investment?

5.) What are the biggest problems with the LP community today? What would Lindel like to see change? What do the financial compensation plans look like for LPs?