Techstars – Get out of your comfort zone

Char Genevier – Techstars – You don’t know what you don’t know. How to get out of your comfort zone.

So I didn’t know about TechStars until very late 2010. We were trying to meet with this guy about a company that we wanted him to take a look at and he said ‘well why don’t you meet me at this do more faster book tour? We had no idea what that was and it turn out to be that the two co-Founders of Techstars created this book: “Do more faster”  and they were touring.

And so we really went to this event thinking we will meet this other guy and he ended up not even showing up, so we sat through this entire workshop learning about Techstars and I just fell in love, I was like I have to go through it, I mean it sounds like an incredible program. So in January of 2011 we applied and found out that we got in in April.

It was really a big deal because we were already profitable and Techstars asked for 6% in exchange for a three months program and so we had, between Alex and I, we had this huge debate whether we should go and you know I really was of the opinion that it would be super beneficial for us, I  was willing to give up a small percent, he was a little more hesitant, rightfully so I mean it’s a big deal but in the end we decided to move to Boulder and go through Techstars; and so what Techstars is, is a startup accelerator and it’s a three months, what you would call a boot camp for start-ups. So the first month is called mentors speed dating and you meet hundreds of potential mentors, hundreds of people who might potentially help your company and you get 15-30 minutes with all of them and hopefully during that time you’ll figure out which one or couple of mentors you want to work with throughout the rest of the program.

So at the end of the mentor dating segment you pick a lead mentor or couple lead mentors and then you go into serious build mode and you start building. You start building your existing product and then the last month is devoted to pitch practice, and that’s just everyday you get torn apart. You pitch to the class, to mentors, to visitors and there is even a pitch that’s supposed to be directed to investors and you get torn apart every day.

People are telling you how much you sucked, I mean not in those words, they are much more constructive but really, at the end of it all you feel just torn apart and then it’s all capped off by a demo day which is a big presentation to about six hundred I think investors and when that day rolls around you’re just overwhelmed, I mean like really, it’s like graduation day.

It’s an incredible program and I think for us the biggest value add was the network. I mean I ended up moving to Boulder because of it; but really the number of people that I know and opportunities I’ve had since and because of Techstars are enormous and it was 100% worth the 6% that we gave up in Social Engine. I mean there are a lot of other value-adds for teams that are looking to raise money; it’s a really good way to get in front of the investors.

We were bootstrapped and didn’t have any interest in raising money but yeah I wouldn’t trade my experiences there for the world.