Techstars Director of ESG on Being a Responsible Founder and Investor
When a thoughtful founder or investor is thinking about creating or sustaining long-term value and a company that adapts for the future, they are already inherently thinking about environmental, social, and governance issues (ESG).
ESG is for ALL companies - not just the ones focused on the environment.
Dr. Mairi-Jane Fox, Director of ESG at Techstars, breaks down the creation of ESG, starting from when companies began to think about their corporate social responsibility (CSR), to the sustainability movement across corporates, and now tracking how companies were addressing ESG issues.
“ESG evolved out of those spaces when investors, who are a powerful crew for change, started to realize companies could lose their social license to operate by making poor social choices,” Mairi-Jane says. “ESG is the data-driven thinking about financially material stuff that investors know impacts a company … so that they can manage for those risks or even manage for a positive impact.”
Listen as Mairi-Jane and David discuss different examples of ESG responses and how ESG can set up companies for greater success. Also, don’t miss how Techstars is modeling ESG operational standards for its portfolio companies.
If you missed the previous ESG takeover episodes, check out episode #66 on the benefits of ESG measurement for your company; episode #68 on how to engage with investors; and episode #69 on what it means to be a b corp.
Follow David Cohen on Twitter @davidcohen
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81. Using Your Dragonfly Eyes with Charles Conn26:44Charles Conn is a builder, a creator and an environmentalist. He’s managed to wed those three passions together by investing in the biotech space as the co-founder of Monograph Capital. “The most consistent thing you can do is work in this biology space because when humans have health security, they tend to look after the planet,” said Conn who has also been a member of the Patagonia board for 15 years, and chair for the last few. Patagonia recently transferred all its shares to The Patagonia Purpose Trust to fight climate change and species eradication. “That was an amazing journey and one that was also quite challenging,” said Conn. Conn recently released his second book, The Imperfectionist: Strategic Mindsets for Uncertain Times, a sister book to Bulletproof Problem Solving: The One Skill That Changes Everything. Listen in as Conn and Cohen discuss the idea that curiosity needs to be the founding point of strategy, and dynamic problem solving needs to be the key framework or mental model for developing strategy. “To creatively solve problems is maybe at the very heart of what it is to be a human,” said Conn. Follow David Cohen on Twitter @davidcohen Listen & subscribe to the Give First podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and more.
80. Bottoms Up: A Conversation with Bevi CEO Sean Grundy34:20Sean Grundy, co-founder and CEO of Bevi, wouldn’t budge despite calls from, ironically, David Cohen, the GiveFirst podcast host. Cohen wanted Bevi smart water coolers in more places than just Boston. Grundy wanted to prioritize quality control and customer retention. “We wanted our mechanical engineers and electrical engineers close by so they could personally put their eyes on any errors, see what was going wrong and fix it,” said Grundy. That was back in 2014 just after participating in Techstars Boston. Grundy’s phased approach ethos worked then and still works today. In fact, Bevi not only survived the pandemic but recently raised $70 million in a series D funding round. “The pandemic was brutal,” said Sean Grundy. “It felt like running into a wall.”Listen in as Grundy and Cohen discuss taking a compassionate approach to crisis leadership, gradual recovery and redefining success … all with only a few liquid-related puns. Follow David Cohen on Twitter @davidcohenListen & subscribe to the Give First podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and more.
79. Startup Community Builder Chris Heivly and his Newest “Build the Fort” Book28:01Described as the foremost expert on how to build startup communities, Chris Heivly has written “Build the Fort: The Startup Community Builder's Field Guide.” Listen in as Chris and David talk about what Heivly discovered while writing and practical steps to take for anyone who wants to launch a startup community.From building a pipeline of founders to feeding that funnel continuously and storytelling, Heivly reminds listeners the first step is culture. “Connections are the lifeblood of a healthy community” said Heivly. “If the founders don’t have access to the frictionless network that exists to help them do something, they are going to go elsewhere.” The longtime colleagues also regale listeners with a few stories from their days raising money and starting businesses, including one incident that involved Heivly nursing a recent (and bloody) run in with a hockey puck. Buy the book now: AmazonFollow David Cohen on Twitter @davidcohenFollow Chris Heivly on Twitter @chrisheivlyListen & subscribe to the Give First podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and more.
78. Leading Through Crisis: 96 hours after the fall of SVB49:02The fall of SVB will go down in history as one of those ‘where were you when …’ moments. For David Cohen, he was sitting at a sporting event when his phone began buzzing incessantly. For Brad Feld, he was couch shopping with his wife.Feld is no stranger to crises and his instincts kicked in quickly.“I shifted into problem-solving mode,” says Feld.But then, almost as quickly, the government stepped in and money began flowing. Crisis averted. It was time to reflect.Listen as Feld and Cohen share insight into what they saw in the VC and startup community, how communication made all the difference and how many came together to support each other.They also tackle the looming question weighing heavy on founders’ minds: how will this affect the future of startups and fundraising rounds in process?As for the couch? Tune in to find out.
77. MeatoDoor Founders on Startups With Family— But Not A Family Business22:54Though many might shy away from working with their spouse, MeatoDoor Founders Ambreen Khan and Rashid Ahmed wouldn’t have it any other way. “We don't see that as a challenge in terms of running the company. We are both totally different individuals; we bring different skills to the table,” says Ambreen, who is also CEO of MeatoDoor. “In fact, we both complement each other so much that almost 60% of the skillset that is crucial for an early-stage company to have growth, we actually satisfy the needs.”Listen as Ambreen and Rashid describe how they blend their lives and their startup work, and why this Riyadh Techstars Accelerator startup is not a family business. Also, don’t miss David and MeatoDoor CFO Rashid talking about building a startup in the UAE, and expanding the business and the startup community to Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Be advised, our non-meat-eating listeners: We also will be discussing sourcing and selling animal meat as it relates to supply chain challenges in the Middle East and the world. Follow David Cohen on Twitter @davidcohenListen & subscribe to the Give First podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and more.
76. Creator Science Founder on The Value of Creating Content26:44As an entrepreneur, Jay Clouse loves to create. After spending time in the product world as both a founder and an employee of another company, he stumbled into the world of content creation, where he could build products on his own timeline. The Creative Science Founder has the #givefirst mentality, providing many free resources through several platforms for founders and creators, including his podcast Creative Elements.“The model in a nutshell is giving first for as long as you can, never stop giving, and then some people will choose to give back to you because of that,” Jay says.Listen as Jay shares how building your personal brand is valuable to success: “This level of influence that you can have as an individual … can be huge no matter what you're trying to do, whether you want to funnel that toward your own products, whether you want to funnel that toward your startup or your fund, it can be totally game-changing.”Also, don’t miss David and Jay talking about the importance of sharing information in different ways, becoming your product’s “public loudmouth,” and the growing popularity of the Build in Public strategy.Follow David Cohen on Twitter @davidcohenFollow Jay Clouse on Twitter @jayclouseListen & subscribe to the Give First podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and more.
75. Arweave Co-Founder on Building an Archive of History Using Blockchain27:46Do you have a digital storage problem? As almost everything begins to be stored digitally, customers are often looking for sustainable but secure and permanent storage for their assets.What was once considered science fiction has been created by Arweave. One of the company’s goals is to create a permanent archive of all of humanity’s knowledge through its cryptographically verifiable method.“The simple way of explaining what Arweave is to people that have read 1984 is, well, you know the memory hole? Well, we make the memory hole impossible,” says Sam Williams, Arweave co-founder and CEO.Listen as Sam talks to Pete Townsend, Techstars managing director and leader of the Techstars Web3 Accelerator, about the story of Arweave, and how hope and resilience led to extraordinary success. Also, don’t miss Sam sharing advice for future Web3 founders that he learned throughout this process.Follow David Cohen on Twitter @davidcohenFollow Pete Townsend on Twitter @PeteTownsendNVListen & subscribe to the Give First podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and more.
73. QuickHire Co-Founder & CEO on Raising Capital as a Person of Color20:04When we talk about a startup successfully raising money after being part of a Techstars accelerator, that’s not an unusual story. But did you know that only 0.3% of all venture capital funding goes to black women?For Deborah Gladney, co-founder and CEO of QuickHire, this was a reality every day as she and her sister built their company with not many connections, low-balled valuations, and many more roadblocks.“After we were able to successfully raise, what was so apparent was how rare it was because we didn't realize that we were actually the first black women in Kansas to even raise a million dollars or more in venture capital. It was 2021 and to be the first, that tells you the disparities that are apparent in the industry,” Deborah says.Listen as Deborah shares her experience as a black entrepreneur, how she utilized her advisors to advocate for her startup, and why representation is such an important area for both investors and startups.Also, don’t miss Deborah talk about the 2021 Techstars Iowa Accelerator that she was a part of and how the Give First mantra has helped to remove opportunity barriers for others through QuickHire.Follow QuickHire on Twitter @getquickhireFollow David Cohen on Twitter @davidcohenListen & subscribe to the Give First podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and more.