8 Weeks Away From Having To Get A Job

The latest episode of TechStars shows the entrepreneurs at week six of the program. It seems that most of the teams are settling in. This episode was filled with many great sound bite gems. It was the Fred Wilson and David Tisch show in this regard. My favorite is this one...

"They're about 8 weeks away from having to get a job."

I love this quote by David Tisch because it highlights a real problem for most entrepreneurs: having a short runway money-wise. Many, many teams face this dilemma.

Here are a few others...

"Don't make it too complicated." Fred Wilson (about the product)

"He is mind numbingly frustrating." David Tisch (about OnSwipe CEO)

"Do they have the entrepreneurial DNA to create an interesting and innovative company?" Fred Wilson

"I've been disconnected with his ability to relate with me as a person." David Tisch (again, about the OnSwipe CEO)

The Themes of this Episode

1. Name issues continue
This week three of the teams officially change their names. Homefield became Shelby.tv. Urban Apt transformed to Nestio and Socrated metamorphosed into Veri. Generally better names. The name change of the latter actually made Fred Wilson proclaim that this made them go "from the outhouse to the penthouse." Wiji's name, although not loved, sticks. For now.

2. CEO leadership

This theme showed up all over the show. Particularly questions about whether the CEO's had the right skills to be a great leader. The questions range from whether a CEO can sell, if another one has the ability to connect with people and yet whether another one can really build a business. We'll see the answers to this soon and I suspect at least one or more of these CEO's will pull through.

3. Pivots

According to Bloomberg, 1/3 of TechStars companies pivot during the program. With Homefield and To Vie For looking at pivots it seems this class is on target with this. Some of the mentor's concerns with the Homefield pivot to a web-wide video recommendation site was that it's a crowded category and whether they had false passion for the category. To Vie For was also looking to pivot but to what? That still remains up in the air. As the CEO said, they're having an identity crisis. Looking forward to seeing what happens.

Pivots are common but tough to navigate. And sometimes they're something more akin to what I like to call Startup Schizophrenia under the guise of a pivot. Preparing a post about this. In the meanwhile, pivots are looking very possible for a number of our TechStars companies.

We'll see how this all plays out.

TechStars Ep. #2: Naming and Gaming and Rookies, Oh My!

Warning: Spoilers ahead! Don't read if you don't want to know who's zooming who on the TechStars series.

I watched the show live but DVR'ed it as well so I could watch it again. As you probably know already, TechStars feels like family to me so seeing their name on my DVR list rocks. These guys make the me even more proud to be a member of the tech startup community. The show is really well done and pretty realistic. Props to Bloomberg.

As for my list of shows--yes, I am a romantic at heart who loves romantic comedies and Glee. Who doesn't love a little singing and dancing? Now that that's out of the way. On to my thoughts on the second episode of TechStars on Bloomberg TV.

Let's focus on themes from tonight's show. As the program gets started, this show focused a bit more on some of the potential pitfalls the companies might fall into. So, the themes reflect that. In case you haven't seen the show here it is.

 

1. Rookie Confidence

The show highlighted this theme nearly from minute one. Many entrepreneurs have tons of confidence when they start their first entrepreneurial venture. You need to have this in order to push through the tough times and take the risks required. Confidence is good, cockiness can get you into trouble at times as the episode shows. As the mentors said a number of times, having humility is super important. Having humility keeps you grounded, realistic and helps you build strong relationships with others. All of the TechStars graduates I know are really humble and down-to-earth so I'm betting some humility will show up soon in these teams as well.

2. Names Matter

Wiji was praised having "great product, humility, boundless passion and energy and something that's really fucking cool" according to mentor Roger Ehrenberg. Which is absolutely true. They're great guys who are wicked smart and created cool technology (I've seen it in action). And, everyone universally hated their name. David Cohen put it on his Top 5 All-Time Worst Names list while Ehrenberg thought it sounded like a disease "Oh, my Wiji."

Yep. Names matter. You've seen all the brouha-ha about the name of Netflix new spin-off Qwikster right? Getting the name right can be tricky but critical. Luckily, the team recognized this and went back to their original name which is pretty solid. Based on the amount of research I had to do to locate these companies using their current names I'm pretty sure we'll see a number of  name changes along the way as well.

Bloomberg Fact: A third of the companies change their name at some point during the program.

3. Know Your Market

Team Home Field was contemplating a switch from a focus and passion for sports to building a media business--an industry they don't know--on the advice of their mentor Fred Wilson. I hear they're doing well so I'm curious to see where they go with this. By the way, eats Reece Pacheco (the CEO of this team) the screen like it's for dinner. He's very compelling to watch.

Both Urban Apt and To Vie For (who has a great name by the way) were also facing the challenge of working in an industry they didn't know well. Being an outsider to an industry can definitely allow you to find fresh new approaches to old problems because your lens isn't jaded or rigid. But if not careful, you can shoot your business right in its bottom line. Thinking you can change an industry from the outside sometimes comes from naivete. Other times it's more arrogance. And sometimes, you really can. You have to learn the balance between a fresh perspective and relevant knowledge of the market. I think some of these teams have the chance to do this.

I love what David Tisch (loosely) said about this: You have to know how to do it and why you're the one to do it."

4. Gaming is a BIG Trend

At least two of the companies talked about it tonight (To Vie For and Socrated). Although they knew adding this dimension would help their company, neither was very experienced with it. This prompted Gary Vaynerchuk to really, really, really, really, really, really highly suggest Socrated get an advisor on their board who has experience with companies like Zynga. That was 6 really's if you're counting. One of my favorite moments of the show. I asked Tisch what he thinks about this trend on the Facebook chat after the show

 

 

 

 

His answer is spot on. Looking forward to see how these companies use gamification to support their overall goals.

Front Runner So Far?

Wiji. Just to reinforce that? They got to visit their dream mentor and were featured on ABC News today for their Minority Report like view of the future. Super proud of these guys. Looking forward to seeing some of these other companies really start to rock. Although it's not the same as being at the Boulder Theater with everyone, I'll be on my couch next Tuesday cheering at the TV whenever Jason and team comes on the screen.

Props Go To...

All of the teams. I applaud these teams for allowing a camera to follow them around documenting their TechStars experience. Startups are hard at their foundation. Add a challenging program like TechStars and a camera on top of that? That's gotta be a pretty intense experience. I'm grateful they were willing to put themselves and their companies out there so we can learn from them. Well done all.

TechStars Mayhem: Celebrating a Community

Boulder is an outstanding place to live because of it's an entrepreneurial enclave. Being nestled up right against the Rocky Mountains doesn't suck either. Last night was a big one for my fair city with the premier of the TechStars show on Bloomberg TV.

TechStars feels like my family. Even though I'm not a graduate of the program, some of my clients are and I count many friends among their number. But that's not why it feels that way. There's something special about it that not every company has.

 

TechStars is more than a company.

It's a movement.

It's a community.

I commend David Cohen, Brad Feld, Jared Polis, Nicole Glaros, Andrew Hyde and the many mentors for creating such a strong community where the attitude is welcoming, generous and always fun where they never take themselves too seriously. Although they had turned down opportunities to film the program before, they finally took Bloomberg TV up on the opportunity during the inaugural NYC class this past winter. The result is a 6 week series.

Techstars hosted a fun night of mayhem at the Boulder Theatre to commemorate the premier. I was lucky enough to be able to attend. It was a lively evening of sound bites and on camera drama. Just before the premier we had a chance to see the hilarious short I'm a VC written by Jason Mendelson featuring the Foundry Group. If you haven't seen it before or are like me and never get tired of seeing Seth eat sushi out of a car window, here it is.

 

This tongue planted firmly in cheek short film is something I could watch over and over again. Um, and actually have.  If you look closely you can catch cameos by some of Boulder's local entrepreneurs. After that it was on to the first episode of TechStars.


 

Some of my favorite moments:

- "You're not here because of your ideas. We didn't fund your idea. We funded you." David Cohen and "At the core of what we're doing is picking people. We're betting on people." David Tisch. This is such a key element to the TechStars program and to entrepreneurship. It's also one of the things people are most likely to neglect to consider when forming their startup. Which is a bad idea. People first. Then the idea.

- When one of the companies likened David Cohen to The Oracle in The Matrix. My favorite movie of all time and a pretty apt way to describe him from my experience.

- Mentor whiplash. Not the first time I've heard that term but always makes me smile in recognition when I hear it. I'm hoping they talk more about it this season as learning how to be discerning with all the advice you get to discover patterns that emerge and make decisions to move your business forward is critical for entrepreneurs.

- Any moment when David Tisch is onscreen. That man is the king of the sound bite. I had heard that he is bright and very direct in his assessments. I also learned that he's funny. I can't wait to see more of him this season.

After the show premiered David Cohen and Brad Feld held a Q&A session. Their answers were incredibly insightful and of course, funny. Sadly I missed getting one of the funny moments of the night camera. It's right after the clip below. Let's just say the answer involved something about porn and knowing an entrepreneur when you see one. You had to be there.

Anyway, here's the clip which has some great advice for inspiring entrepreneurs who want to apply to the program. Apologies for the shaky camera work and any ensuing nausea. My arms were getting tired from holding up the camera at that point. Watch it for the advice.