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Marketing Showrunners

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By: Molly Donovan on January 31st, 2020

Show Spotlight: Techstars’ Give First

Every Friday on Marketing Showrunners, the staff picks one branded podcast or video show to profile for inspiration and insights, pulled from our popular post, The World’s Biggest List of Branded Shows. Here’s this week’s Show Spotlight…

This week, I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of creating something better — not for the sake of sales, per se, but rather for the industry or (loftily) for humanity at large. (If you’re wondering why this has been on my mind, go check out MSR founder Jay Acunzo’s piece on how showrunners are becoming movement makers from earlier this week.) At MSR, we’re finding that the most successful marketers — who yield the best results — are those who are actively striving to make a difference.

That truth, of course, is not endemic to marketing. 

In today’s show spotlight, we’re zooming in on the Give First podcast from Techstars, a startup accelerator and network that provides mentorship and advice to entrepreneurs around the world. Techstars’ overarching value is Give First: which ultimately means, according to its website, that “we help others whenever possible.”

In an industry traditionally defined by transactions and cold hard cash, the principle of “give first” feels like creating something better.

To further codify this value, Techstars cofounders and lifelong investors David Cohen and Brad Feld launched The Give First Podcast.

We’re breaking it down today.

What it is

Give First is an interview-style podcast hosted by Techstars founders David Cohen and Brad Feld. In each episode, they chat with mentors and founders about the principle of “Giving First,” the drive to “pay it forward” with no expectation of compensation. They believe this principle helps build strong networks for startups.

Launched in May of 2019, the podcast has 24 episodes to date. Each episode runs about 20-30 minutes and, from May through September, aired roughly once per week. Since then, the episode cadence has been a bit more intermittent.

The show is not heavily produced, nor does it feel at all scripted (apart from the legal disclaimer at the beginning of each episode). Instead, it relies on the organic conversations that emerge among Cohen, Feld, and their guests.

Who it’s for

While appealing to anyone seeking business advice from innovative entrepreneurs and investors, the show is specifically for current or prospective startup founders. As the hosts say in the first episode, the Give First principle is something they try to live every day at Techstars — and this show is an opportunity to share valuable lessons from leading entrepreneurs as a way to “give first” to listeners who might benefit from them.

Why it works

1. The premise

In the startup and venture capital world, a lot of story angles exist — and many of them are at least somewhat transactional. By focusing squarely on “paying forward” the advice and lessons entrepreneurs have received for the benefit of new entrepreneurs, Techstars elevates the conversation. With this podcast and this overarching value system, the company is putting a stake in the ground and declaring that it is concerned with more than just dollars and cents. You could call that making a movement.

2. The guests

The advice given on the show feels authentic, because each of the guests brings it to life. Guests are successful, often well-known entrepreneurs and mentors, and their stories feel worth listening to. They discuss complicated topics, from driving social change to impact investing to funding women-led companies — and these are all topics they understand from firsthand experience.

3. The length

When devising your show, don’t ignore the features that feel small but can have an actual impact on whether or not your listeners make it all the way to the end. The show’s length — around 20-30 minutes — feels just right. It’s long enough to generate an insightful and multifaceted conversation, but not so long that it becomes tedious (or can’t be finished in the span of an average commute). 

And one thing that could work better

The show is neither overproduced nor scripted, which adds to the authentic feel of the conversations. It could benefit, however, from some structure — some anchoring questions or segments, a scripted introduction that foreshadows the episode’s theme, or a cold open that captures the listener’s attention. Without these features, the show can sometimes feel a little unfocused and teeter on the edge of unexciting. Give First is still pretty young, so it will be interesting to see what wrinkles the showrunners choose to add interest and intrigue to the series.

Hear an episode of the show below:

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A somewhat accidental marketer, I’m first and foremost a writer. I’ve spent a decade working with global brands to craft on-target content and streamline complex ideas into clear (and even…exciting?!) language. Now, I get to spend every day immersed in content and strategy here, as Managing Editor of Marketing Showrunners, at my company, Molly Donovan Content & Communications. I’m thrilled to be a part of this community of eager next-generation marketers and marketing showrunners.

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