Startup Battlefield bonus: Application deadline extended one week

This one goes out to all the early-stage startup founders. Whether you’re overwhelmed by the state of the world, overworked — or procrastination is simply an intrinsic part of your DNA — it matters not. Here’s reason to smile. We’re giving you an extra week to apply to compete in Startup Battlefield during Disrupt 2020. Fill out your application before the new deadline expires on June 26 at 11:59 pm (PT).

This is your moment to grab a double fistful of opportunity and step into a global spotlight. The virtual Disrupt 2020 represents our largest viewing audience and our biggest launch platform ever — more investors, more media and more, well, everything. If you’re chosen to compete in our premier pitch-off, you’ll go up against some of the best early-stage startups around the world.

Here’s what’s at stake: Massive exposure that can — whether you win the battle or not — change the trajectory of your startup, a launch article on TC.com, a 6 week mini-training program with TC editorial, all the perks of a Digital Disrupt Digital Pro pass (and then some) and a shot at $100,000, the Disrupt cup and all the bragging rights.

You’re eligible to apply if your company is early stage, has an MVP with a tech component (software, hardware or platform) and hasn’t received much, if any, major media coverage. Note: TechCrunch does not charge any application or participation fees or take any equity. We accept founders from all backgrounds, geographies and industries.

Veteran TechCrunch Battlefield editors (such a picky bunch) review every application and select startups that meet their discerning standards for innovation and growth potential. The virtual competition takes place during Disrupt 2020, which runs from Sept. 14 – 18.

Feel that flop sweat building up? Don’t stress. All competing founders receive weeks of free expert coaching from TechCrunch. Your pitch, demo and business model will shine like never before on game day.

Startup Battlefield consists of two rounds. Each team has six minutes to pitch and demo to our panel of TC editors, expert VCs and top entrepreneurs. Each team also faces a six-minute Q&A. Out of the original cohort, a handful of teams will move to the finals — on the last day of Disrupt — and pitch again to a new set of judges. They’ll choose one team to take home the title, the cup and the $100,000 prize.

Let’s take a peek at what other opportunities Battlefield competitors enjoy.

  • Exhibit in Digital Startup Alley and demo your product to hundreds of people
  • Network with CrunchMatch, our AI-powered platform. Use it to set up virtual 1:1 meetings with investors, media, potential customers or any other startup influencers
  • Exclusive access to Leading Voices Webinars: Hear top industry minds share their strategies for adapting and thriving during and after the pandemic
  • A launch article featuring your startup on TechCrunch.com
  • A YouTube video promoted on TechCrunch.com
  • Free subscription to Extra Crunch
  • Free passes to future TechCrunch events

You’ll also join the likes of Vurb, Dropbox, GetAround, Mint, Yammer, Fitbit and other members of the Startup Battlefield Alumni community. This impressive group, comprised (so far) of 902 companies, has collectively raised $9 billion and generated 115 exits.

Rejoice, you have one extra week to apply to compete in Startup Battlefield at Disrupt 2020. The new deadline expires on June 26 at 11:59 pm (PT). Don’t wait another minute. Make the most of this extended opportunity.

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at Disrupt 2020? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

Stand out from the crowd: Apply to TC Top Picks at Disrupt 2020

This is one [expletive deleted] tough time to be an early-stage startup founder. But giving up simply isn’t part of startup DNA. Instead, it’s time to do whatever it takes to catch the eyes and imagination of investors, media and other tech and business influencers. Here’s an easy way to begin. Apply to be a TC Top Pick at virtual Disrupt 2020.

What’s a TC Top Pick? It’s an early-stage startup that passed rigorous scrutiny by TechCrunch editors with an eye for innovation and potential. The fortunate few to earn that designation win a free Digital Startup Alley Package, tons of exposure to investors and media, plus a bunch of other bennies designed to help you survive and thrive — even in tough times.

Here’s how it works. You’re eligible to apply if your pre-Series A startup falls into one of the following categories.

Social Impact + Education, Space, Artificial Intelligence + Machine Learning, Biotech + Healthtech, Enterprise + SaaS, Fintech, Mobility, Retail + E-commerce, Robotics, Hardware + IOT, and Security + Privacy.

TechCrunch editors will choose up to three startups in each category. Each Top Pick receives a Digital Startup Package, which lets three people exhibit from anywhere in the world. And since everyone wants to know who made the grade as a Top Pick, you can expect lots of requests for 1:1 virtual demos and video meetings with investors, media, potential customers, folks interested in collaborating — you name it. And you’ll have months to pitch and network.

Here’s another giant advantage: TechCrunch will conduct a virtual video interview for each Top Pick startup and promote the videos across our social media platforms — driving traffic to your website. Your video will make an excellent conversation starter and long-term marketing tool.

We’re not done with all the Startup Alley exhibitor perks and opportunities. You get exclusive access to the Leading Voices Webinar series. You’ll hear the brightest industry minds discuss ways to adapt during and after this pandemic.

All that networking will be a lot easier and more efficient with CrunchMatch, TechCrunch’s AI-powered networking platform. It helps you find and connect with like-minded investors, founders and other startup influencers. Save time by networking only with people who can move your business forward.

Pour yourself something tasty, join the Pitchers and Pitches webinars and fine-tune your pitch with the TechCrunch editorial team that coaches the Startup Battlefield competitors.

Don’t let hard times drive your dream into a ditch. Do what it takes to place your startup in front of the influencers who can help you succeed. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Keep moving forward and apply to the TC Top Picks program.

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at Disrupt 2020? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

For more equitable startup funding, the “money behind the money” needs to be accountable, too

As protests continue across the U.S. and beyond, there has been chatter this week in Silicon Valley and the venture industry more broadly about race and which venture firms have done a better job of diversifying their ranks and founder bets. There have been mea culpas, promises by firms to hold themselves more accountable, vows to “listen and learn.” SoftBank and Andreessen Horowitz have even announced new funds to invest in startups led by founders of color.

It’s heartening to see, but these efforts will only go so far in leveling the playing field for people who’ve largely been left out of the trillions of dollars of economic value produced by the global startup ecosystem. Let’s face it, the vast majority of VCs, like other business leaders, tend to forget about diversity when they aren’t being questioned about it.

In fairness, inertia is powerful. It’s also the case that venture teams are more fragile than they might appear to outsiders, and because they involve long-term partnerships of highly competitive alphas, changing their composition isn’t an overnight exercise. Still, the bigger obstacle is really perception: investors won’t say so publicly, but many don’t buy the argument that diversity generates returns. They need proof.

One surefire way to get it? Legislation.

Already, most VCs today sign away their rights to invest in firearms or alcohol or tobacco when managing capital on behalf of the pension funds, universities, and hospital systems that fund them. What if they also had to agree to invest a certain percentage of that capital to founding teams with members from underrepresented groups? We aren’t talking about targets anymore but actual mandates. Put another way, rather than wait for venture firms to organically develop into less homogenous organizations — or to invest in fewer founders who share their gender and race and educational background —  alter their limited partner agreements.

It may sound extreme, but study after study has shown that diversity pays dividends. Need one from an Ivy League economist to be persuaded? Try Paul Gompers of Harvard Business School, who has examined the decisions of thousands of venture capitalists and tens of thousands of investments in recent years and found that “diversity significantly improves financial performance on measures such as profitable investments at the individual portfolio-company level and overall fund returns,” as reported by HBR.

A separate Harvard-led study involving a broader basket of asset classes — hedge funds, mutual funds, and private equity funds among them — found that, in most asset classes, women and people of color in the finance industry performed at levels equal to their non-diverse counterparts.

Critics might note here that the world of academia is one thing while the business world is another. It’s the very reason we propose legislation that, for starters, would force state pension funds to incorporate diversity-related caveats into their dealings with asset managers, including VCs.

As for the private universities like Stanford and Princeton and Yale that also help fund the venture industry — and which say they are committed to diversity yet refuse to share the demographic data that would prove it — they receive billions of dollars in federal funding each year (and as nonprofit institutions, they don’t pay taxes on investment gains their endowments might make).

In short, if there is a will, there are legal levers that could be applied here, too.

We aren’t talking about funding exclusively or even predominately emerging managers. We’re aware that the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, for example, recently ratcheted back its emerging manager program owing to slipping returns. Think instead of a hybrid approach that sees both new and existing managers required to diversify their teams and their portfolio companies in order to win over future commitments.

It’s seemingly the direction the U.S. needs to move in if it’s ever going to truly eradicate inequality and the conscious or unconscious bias that plagues many money managers. If the approach is codified into law, there might finally be enough data to establish with certainty that investing in more diverse teams pays, especially when investors are forced to make them work.

Some limited partners may lose access to certain venture managers, it’s true. But it wouldn’t be a good look for those managers. On the contrary, you can imagine how such moves would benefit both the institutions that implement them, and every asset manager they fund.

Talking and tweeting and carving out pools of dedicated capital is certainly better than nothing. But black Americans, women, and other underrepresented groups have waited long enough for the powers that be to figure out solutions. It’s time to consider fundamental change within the power structures at the root of the startup world — the money behind the venture firms. It’s time to turn theory into practice.

Remagine Ventures’ virtual office hours

In March, we started offering virtual office hours at Remagine Ventures. Given the uncertainty about the funding environment, we wanted to offer entrepreneurs a way to engage, get feedback and ask any questions they may have about our space, both challenges and opportunities. (Also, the pace of seeing startups in lockdown was lower, and we love talking to founders, and thought this could be a neat, low-pressure way to do it).

We certainly didn’t invent the office hours format, and everyone is on Zoom anyway these days. But we are big fans. Office hours offer an opportunity to broaden the access to venture capital and, for VCs, to share best practices with entrepreneurs. After hosting 30 office hours meetings, here’s what we’ve noticed:

  1. Create serendipity – Self isolation and cancelled events mean fewer opportunities for random (or some might say serendipitous) meetings. By setting particular times for office hours, we ended up having “chance” interactions with founders that we likely weren’t otherwise likely to run into.
  2. Remove the red velvet rope – Office hours provide a good ‘excuse’ to get in touch. Some entrepreneurs find it daunting to connect without an intro (Don’t worry – a well written cold email will get a reply in most cases!).
  3. Take down the pressure – Office hours feel more relaxed than a pitch. We set the expectations at the start of every meeting, and focus on one key area the founders want to discuss. The ‘relaxed’ setting is not on the expense of content – because the meetings are purposely short, they tend to be intense!
  4. A relationship is built over interactions. Office hours offer a great way to get acquainted, and from there, grow the relationship.
  5. Great companies can come from anywhere. But being physically close to your investors, was until not long ago, a requirement, especially in Silicon Valley. With the ‘forced experiment’ of remote work and symbols like YCombinator going remote for their next batch, entrepreneurs will benefit from access to a wider pool of capital than the one in their back yard.
Step into my virtual office

For founders, here is what we would suggest as a virtual office hours strategy:

  1. Find them – for most, remote office hours are a recent adaptation, and sign up can often take place via a short form. Take a look at who’s offering remote office hours. More and more are popping up, like this example in France, or this female founders office hours in the UK. If there’s a VC you want to connect with, you can also ask if they’re offering any form of office hours during these times.
  2. Have an agenda – what do you want from the meeting? It’s not a formal pitch, so preparing what you’d like to cover is in your interest.
  3. Make it a two-way conversation, not a speech. I generally recommend sending a short deck in advance, but not presenting slides during office hours (unless you’re specifically asking for feedback on your deck).
  4. Fit and industry focus – Think about what VC you’re talking to and how they fit your startup. What’s their particular focus? What perspective or content can they provide you? Are there any companies in their portfolio that might be relevant for you to connect with?

Want to talk more? Just sign up to our next office hours ;-)

How to scale a start-up in school

If you’re serious about starting and scaling your business in school, treat your time in school like an extended incubator. While you may experience high levels of academic stress, your “real world” financial stress and transition to adulthood are buffered.

Understand why you’re in school

The key advantage of starting your business in school is that you have the time to test different ideas and evaluate which idea generates traction without high stakes. You will also gain key subject matter and operational knowledge that you can carry throughout your career.

The challenge of starting a business in school is that it is not easy to devote adequate focused energy to the growth of that business. Student founders cannot attend to the needs of their business whenever they feel like it. It’s a 24/7, 365 job that needs to be managed on top of rigorous schoolwork.

When I started Terravive, I spent at least 4-5 hours throughout each day speaking with our partners and customers and solving problems. Sometimes you must leave class and drop everything to put out fires.

The key to surmounting this challenge is to understand why you want to start this business. If you just want the recognition of starting a business, then I would recommend a different line of work to get the recognition you’re seeking.

GettyImages 515528128

Image via Getty Images / creatarka

If you want to solve a problem that you see in the world and are willing to do anything and everything to realize your vision, then starting a business may be the right path. When you run into problems in the future or question why you’re making all these sacrifices, remember why you started.

Holiday Hacks for Founders

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Newly proposed rules for foreign entrepreneurs will help some, but not all, found U.S. startups

US President Barack Obama attends the Global Entrepreneurship Summit at the United Nations Compound in Nairobi on July 25, 2015. Obama said today "Africa is on the move", as he praised the spirit of entrepreneurship at a business summit in Kenya during his first visit to the country of his father's birth since his election as president. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB        (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images) The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, an office under the Department of Homeland Security, put forward a proposal today that would allow the U.S. government to offer parole (temporary permission to be in the country) to foreign entrepreneurs starting their businesses in the United States. The proposal specifies that a founder can qualify if they started a company in the U.S. in… Read More