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.