20VC: Techstars Founder David Cohen on Why Seed Investing Is A Different Asset Class To Venture, What Makes The Best And The Worst Board Members & Why Every Company Has To Have A Pessimist In The Room


David Cohen is the Founder and co-CEO of Techstars, the worldwide network that helps entrepreneurs succeed. To date, David has backed hundreds of startups including the likes of Uber, SendGrid, Twilio, ClassPass, PillPack and more. In total, these investments have gone on to create more than $80B in value. Prior to Techstars, David was a co-founder of Pinpoint Technologies which was acquired by ZOLL Medical Corporation in 1999. Later, David was the founder and CEO of earFeeder, a music service that was sold to SonicSwap. If that was not enough, David is also theco-author (with Brad Feld) of Do More Faster; Techstars Lessons to Accelerate Your Startup.



In Today’s Episode You Will Learn:

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 are the benefits of establishing your board with the seed round? What does David believe is the key to highly efficient boards? How has David changed as a board member over the years? Why does David believe, when building a company, “you always have to have a pessimist in the room”?

4.) When negotiating deals, what does David mean when he says “the terms must match the story”? How does David determine between a bridge and a bridge to nowhere? What can investors do to protect themselves if the targets of the business are not met and they have an uncapped note in place? How should they communicate this?

5.) Techstars today invests in over 500 companies per year, how does David think about reserve allocation across the portfolio? How does David feel about stack ranking portfolio co’s quarterly and concentrating capital accordingly? Why is this not effective? Why should seed and angel investing be an entirely different asset class to VC?

Items Mentioned In Today’s Show:

David’s Fave Book: The Soul of Money: Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Life

David’s Most Recent Investment: Ordermark

As always you can follow HarryThe Twenty Minute VC and David on Twitter here!

Likewise, you can follow Harry on Instagram here for mojito madness and all things 20VC.

20VC: Techstars Founder, David Cohen on Scaling Techstars Ventures and Investing In Uber, Twilio and Sendgrid

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David Cohen is the founder and managing partner at Techstars, so a few amazing stats on techstars first, they have a total of 762 companies of which 90% are active or have been acquired, having raised more than 2bn in funding. As for David he is a serial entrepreneur having founded Pinpoint Technologies which was acquired by ZOLL Medical Corporation in 1999. David was also the founder and CEO of earFeeder.com, a music service which was sold to SonicSwap.com in 2006.

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In Today’s Episode You Will Learn:

1.) How David made the transition from Founder to VC with Techstars and Fund I?

2.) Fund I is one of the most successful funds in history; what was the structure with Fund I? Why did David choose a $5m fund size? How did he decide initial to follow on ratio?

3.)  Why was David so valuation sensitive with Fund I? Why was David so rigid on a consistent cheque size on Fund I?

4.)  Why did David decide to expand from being a solo GP fund? What are the challenges and complexities of fund scaling and did David approach this?

5.) Question from Ari Newman: What does David think about uncapped notes? Why does David like big boring companies? Brett Jackson: How did you meet Ryan Graves @ Uber and how did the Uber deal come about? Jason Seats: Where does David still see inefficiencies in the current venture model?

Items Mentioned In Today’s Show:

David’s Fave Book: The Soul Of Money

David’s Fave Blog: Mattermark Daily

As always you can follow The Twenty Minute VCHarry and David on Twitter here!
If you would like to see a more colourful side to Harry with many a mojito session, you can follow him on Snapchat here!


If you are looking to make your move into the world of VC or improve your investing skills,  Venture Capital Unlocked: Secrets of Silicon Valley Investing is a must! It is a 2 week crash course at Stanford run by Stanford Professional Development Centre and 500 Startups. You will learn the mechanics of all things Silicon Valley investing, check it out here.

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20VC: The Ultimate Episode For Emerging Managers: How To Determine How Big A Fund To Raise, What Is The Right Closing Strategy With LPs & Why We Will Not See The Eradication of Pre-Seed with John Fein, Founder & Managing Partner @ Firebrand Ventures

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John Fein is the Founder and Managing Partner @ Firebrand Ventures, one of the leading early-stage funds in the midwest with a portfolio including the likes of ScaleFactor, Replica, Dwolla and more fantastic companies. As for John, prior to founding Firebrand, he was the Managing Director of Techstars based in Kansas City and before that spent close to 9 years at OptumRx where he managed multi-billion dollar large-scale programs for the $15B pharmacy benefit manager division of UnitedHealth Group.



In Today’s Episode You Will Learn:

1.) How John made his way into the world of venture from scaling a pharmaceuticals business to almost $2Bn in revenue and how that led to founding Firebrand?

2.) What was it like for John raising the first fund for Firebrand with no existing network of LPs or high-net-worth individuals? How did John approach his closing strategy? How did he decide the amount of money to raise for the fund? How did Techstars Founder, David Cohen change and impact his thinking here? Was John surprised by how long the fund took to raise?

3.) What does John know now that he wishes he had known at the beginning of the fundraise for the first fund? Does it ever get easier? What does John believe are the biggest challenges in managing your own fund? What does he do to mitigate them? How does running your own fund differ from operating in a venture partnership?

4.) “Seed” is so confused in meaning today so what does “seed stage” really mean to John? Does John agree with Harry that we are seeing the eradication of the pre-seed stage? Where does John believe is the ideal insertion point? Does John believe that ownership can be built over time? How does John think about reserve allocation?

5.) How does John think about the relationship-building process with founders? Is John worried by the compressed fundraising timelines we are seeing today? What can investors do to build trust with founders quickly? What signs impress John in the early days of getting to know the founder? What are some common red flags for John?

Items Mentioned In Today’s Show:

John’s Fave Book: Reboot: Leadership and the Art of Growing Up by Jerry Colonna

John’s Most Recent Investment: The Minte

As always you can follow HarryThe Twenty Minute VC and John on Twitter here!

20VC: Why Every CEO’s Goal Should Be To Be The Laziest CEO, The Benefits of Being Both Founder and Investor At The Same Time & Why Every CEO Should Try A CEO Coach with Bart Lorang, Founder & CEO @ Full Contact

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Bart Lorang is the Founder & CEO @ FullContact, the leading contact platform for professionals, teams and businesses. They have raised over $45m in funding from some of the best in the business and dear friends of the show in the likes of Foundry Group with Brad Feld, David Cohen and Techstars and Howard Lindzen at Social Leverage just to name a few. As well as being the rockstar founder @ FullContact, Bart has a unique position as he is also Managing Director @ V1.vc, a seed stage VC fund based in Colorado and San Francisco, providing Bart unique insight into both founding and investing in companies at the same time.



In Today’s Episode You Will Learn:

1.) How Bart made his way into the world of early stage startups and came to found FullContact?

2.) Bart is also a VC with V1, how does being both a founder and a VC affect how Bart views startups and operates @ FullContact? What have been the key learnings for Bart with regards to capital allocation and portfolio construction?

3.) Bart has a CEO coach being the famous, Jerry Colonna, so what was the catalyst for Bart’s desire to have a CEO coach? What have been the inflection points in Bart’s journey with Jerry? Should every CEO have a CEO coach?

4.) What does Bart believe are the core tenets to successful negotiation? What can be done to ensure a win-win situation for both parties? From what mindset should this be approached? Does Bart agree that you should only monetise to 30% of your value?

5.) Why does Bart pay every employee $7,500 per year to go on holiday on top of their standard salary? Whare the the key rules to ensure this is successful? What are the key benefits that can be derived from this essential vacation?

Items Mentioned In Today’s Show:

Bart’s Fave Book: Jonathan Livingston Seagull

Bart’s Fave Blog: Abundance Insider by Peter Diamandis

As always you can follow HarryThe Twenty Minute VC and Bart on Twitter here!

Likewise, you can follow Harry on Snapchat here for mojito madness and all things 20VC.

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20VC: How Entrepreneurs Should Manage Their Board & Why Time Constraints Are Always The Key To Progress with Paul Berberian @ Sphero

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Paul Berberian is the CEO of Sphero, the robotic ball controlled from your smartphone. They have investment from our friends in Boulder, Brad Feld and David Cohen. Prior to Sphero, Paul was the co-founder of Raindance Communications (NASDAQ: RNDC). Paul also founded Market Force Information, an emerging information company with a vision to provide retailers. As well as, LINK-VTC, a video teleconferencing company, which was sold in 1995 to Frontier Communications.



In Today’s Episode with Paul You Will Learn:

1.) How Paul came to be CEO @ Sphero?

2.) Paul has founded and run 7 businesses, How has Paul seen his style of leadership change over the past decade or so?

3.) Question from Brad Feld: When Paul disagrees with his board, how does he resolve it? What have been Paul’s learnings in maintaining a happy board environment?

4.) Sphero have raised, at last count, $80m? How has Paul seen investor sentiment to hardware alter over the 5-6 years? How did he meet his investors? What did Paul do well and what would Paul like to improve upon for next time?

5.) Question from Brad Feld: ‘Sphero looks like a massive success but every startup has had failures, so what have Paul’s failures been and what did he learn from them?’

Items Mentioned In Today’s Show:

Paul’s Fave Blog and Newsletter: Quora

Paul’s Fave Book: The Black Box

As always you can follow Harry, The Twenty Minute VC and Paul on Twitter here!

Likewise, you can follow Harry on Snapchat here for mojito madness and all things 20VC.

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