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 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.


Why Technology Has Doomed My Dating Life

Scene: I'm all dudded up and ready for my date. As soon as I walk into the restaurant I immediately whip out my iPhone so I can begin checking in and recording the evening.

- Check--in on FourSquare to get points. Find out I won (or lost) a mayorship.

- Soundtrack my  new song so I can remember to buy it in iTunes.

- Fork my food on Forkly so the app can make recommendations for me later.

- Hash the three people I ran into on Hashable.

- Take photos of the great decor so I can Instagram it.

- Tweet an OH about the funny thing my date or the person at the next table has said.

 

Of course, then my phone starts to blow up with people on Forkly who "Want" my delicious drink or people who "Like" my photo of the beautiful bathroom or friends who make follow-on jokes about my OH. This is when I hide my iPhone in my back pocket and sneak it the bathroom so I can reply to those friends or write down a funny tidbit for my next blog post, And, of course, hope I don't drop the phone into the toilet.

In between all this digital activity I try to get to know the person next to me. Which I probably don't do very successfully. Unless they're a geek too and are as socially focused as I am. I'm not complaining about all of these digital distractions. I actually enjoy doing these things. I love the social connection, the creativity of the photos and pithy statements to go with them and of course...those points.

While the digital downpour stops about 1/4 of the way through the date,  it doesn't leave as much time for connecting with my date, who wants to get to know me. I'm guessing he probably doesn't appreciate it nearly as much. It probably feels like he's on a date with 30 people. Um. That's not fun. One date actually complained about this out loud. We weren't a match. But that was because he was Mr. Grabby Hands, not because of our difference in technology. But that's whole other story.

Back to this one. I'm sure other dates haven't loved it but were just too gracious to say something. It's no wonder I have a hard time dating anyone but the most understanding geek.

Yep.  Technology. My use of Technology has doomed my dating life.

The Truth About Honesty

Frank Denbow's perceptive post on honesty in startupland and how there needs to be more of it got me thinking about honesty in general. About how critical it is but how it can evade the most important of conversations.

How honest are you with...yourself? Your friends? Your co-workers? Your bosses? (be they investors, ourselves as bosses and the more traditional type)

How often do you say the hard thing? The thing you don't want to say that you know might upset the person? Or get you fired? Or put you on the edge of being fired?

How often do you ask the hard questions? You know--the ones with answers that you really may not like. The ones that elicit responses that might be tough for the person you're asking.

Let me step back and define hard questions and honesty. I'm not talking about the kind where the person ends up in fetal position clutching their throat screaming for mama. We've all been told the "hard truth" by someone who says they're just "trying to be honest." When...they're just unleashing their pent-up self hatred or frustration out on you. Honesty isn't going for someone's jugular just because you see it. That's not honesty. It  might look like it but it's not. That's a power trip, needing control, narcissism, insecurity or about 10 other things that might be classified as some sort of etiology.

What the hell is it then?

Honesty is...
From the heart. There's a tinge of kindness to it. It's real. It aims to serve, not punish or hurt. It's knowing when and how to approach the conversation. It brings the elephant lurking in the room into the light. It provides a path for the person to move forward. It gives information that gives the person a chance to assess their decisions and make different ones if needed.

That's honesty.

What stopping you?
Fear of getting it wrong?

Not wanting to hurt someone's feelings?

Don't want to hear the answer, preferring to live in la-la land?

Do you have to change something and you don't have a flipping idea of how to do that?


Getting around those damn beliefs
I've talked about honesty with my executive clients for many years. There are so many beliefs that get in the way. One of the biggest beliefs is that it will hurt the other person or will hurt the friendship. They're right. It just might. But here's the thing. If we don't tell the truth things get murky. People take actions without all the information available to them. This can lead to bad decisions. Once the truth comes out it often hurts far worse because of the accompanying feelings of betrayal at not being told. This breaks trust which breaks relationships. And this is sad because relationships are the real juice of life. Just because you don't tell the truth doesn't mean that it doesn't exist.

Let me give you a real-life example
Many years ago, after a particularly disastrous situation I asked a friend what she thought. It turns out she knew all along that it wasn't going to work out. She didn't tell me because she thought I wasn't ready to hear the truth. I might not have been but it would have started me along the path of discovery forcing me to ask myself some hard questions. I'm not blaming her for my situation. That was due to my own lack of honesty with myself. After talking through it we both realized that not having a truthful conversation didn't serve either of us well. So, we made a pact that day to always tell the hard truth. It's made our relationship so much stronger and it's helped us make better decisions.

Time for Action
Life without honesty is just no way to live. So what's stopping you from being honest today with yourself and others? What if you did the hard thing around honesty today? Ask one hard question or tell the difficult truth about something. It's time to put on your big boy or girl pants and be honest. Just cannonball right into it. Sometimes you might just be surprised at how much easier it is than you thought it might be. Or, that something really good comes out of it.  I dare you to cannonball right now.

Go do it. I'll wait. Then come back and tell me about it.

Startup Weekend Boulder 5 - The Remix Version

54 intense, action packed hours to create a startup...

from pretty much nothing.

Oh yeah. There are going to be plenty of goofy and even wacky moments. I captured a few of those moments during the latest rendition of Startup Weekend in Boulder and here are some of my favorites. Two of my favorite moments couldn't have been depicted by photos so I'll use their best medium: words.

1st: Eric Marcoullier (OneTrueFan) gave advice that had something to do with having more founders making a better marriage except it's legal--kinda like in Utah. I'm not sure if I got the essence of that message but any time you make a comparison between startups and bigamy I'm going to laugh.

2nd: Micah Baldwin (Graphic.ly) ended his round of advice with a bunch of random swear words to make Eric (a liberal swearer from what I understand) more comfortable. And these both were from the first few moments of the event on Friday night.

The rest of the weekend did not disappoint. Here are some of the best visual moments I was able to capture from the weekend. And if you don't find them funny well--I guess you had to be there to truly appreciate them.

The first was from a round of the classic rock, paper, scissors for a highly coveted Startup Weekend jacket. This the final round. The guy in the gray won. It's a pretty darn cool jacket. I almost sidled up to the winner with a "How you doin'?" just to get the chance to wear it. But...I think he's married so, not cool.

The few moments are from that evening. The guy in this photo pitched an idea about crowd sourcing something or other political. The bib was pretty priceless as well as patriotic.

There are all sorts of fun cut-outs around the TechStars bunker. My favorites are Chewbaca (who doesn't love some Chewie?) and the one of Co-organizer Jon Rossi with his new girlfriend. I guess he likes a woman who can kick ass while wearing leather and really, who doesn't? I wouldn't mind being that woman.

 

During the event I took a bunch of random photos including teams working. When I stopped by the ID Weeds team they immediately struck this pose. It's fitting for their startup (a medical marijuana inventory system). And? Still funny since it's not something I see much in the business world I inhabit.

Apparently, you can buy a BMW during Startup Weekend. And there's even a discount on the price as a participant. Since I wasn't one I wouldn't have gotten the discount but if I had...

I might be rolling around in style today.

And finally, there's always a clean-up crew at events right? Well at Startup Weekend Boulder the organizers mean it when they say that no job is too small at a startup. Here are co-organizers Jon Rossi and Dave Mayer as they clean up while I sit watching them and take pictures of them hard at work.

That's all for this edition of Startup Weekend Boulder. Now go forth and startup!