Answers (and Apologies) in Advance


Dharmesh Shah wrote a classic post where he explained why he couldn’t spare “just 15 minutes for a coffee.” Unfortunately, I too have reached that point, and I’m apologizing in advance.

As of right now, at Techstars we have over 800 applications in process for the summer class of Techstars Boston. And we are still actively recruiting the better companies—I just spent 2 days on the road last week doing just that. Based on history, we can expect that number of applications to double before we close the process on March 15. For easy math, let’s call that 1500 applications. Here’s what we’re looking at:

  • First cut, reading 1500 applications. 5 minutes each = 125 hours. 3 solid weeks
  • Second cut, 20 minutes reviewing the top 100 applications = 33 hours, ~ 1 more week
  • Third cut, 50 Skype interviews, doing 5 a day: 2 more weeks.

That’s 6 weeks before we even get to the in-person process. And this all has to be done early enough so companies can plan to move to Boston well prior to the June 4 program start date. And that is where the REAL craziness begins, and the 60-70 hour weeks for 3 months.

So, forgive me if I am not answering your emails personally anymore—I aim to be back to Inbox Zero back in the fall, when I’ll also start doing direct angel investments again. Until that time, here’s the answers to the questions I get asked the most.

#1 How does Techstars work? Here you go: And if you have more questions, they probably can get answered here.

#2 Should I apply to Techstars? I can’t answer that without spending a lot of time with you, so with that caveat, I’d advise “Yes”. Why? A) It’s an almost-free option, in that applying just costs you the half day it will take you to complete an application, including making two 1-minute videos. (Iphone quality perfectly acceptable.) Getting a “no” on this application won’t hurt your chances in the future, and on the positive side, it puts you on our radar for future classes. There are always a few companies in every Techstars class who had been turned down before, made progress, and got accepted in a later program. And even the process of boiling down your pitch to a few pithy sentences always seems to improve a company’s focus and future success. Here’s where to apply.

#3 How can I best improve my chances of getting into Techstars? Answered here in a blogpost, and here in a podcast. Specific questions on the application? Check this out. Good luck!

#4 Is my company too advanced for Techstars? If you’ve raised a round of more than $3 million, or have more than $5 million in revenue, or have more than 20 people, maybe. Otherwise, probably not. More on the topic here.

#5 I’m not in a company that’s applying—can I still get involved in a Techstars program? Yes! Although that is almost as competitive as having a company accepted into Techstars. If you would enjoy working with the companies and hope to join one of our fantastic startups, apply to be an Associate or a Hackstar, and you’ll fully participate in our program. If you want to be a mentor, drop us a note with your LinkedIn bio, and we’ll get back to you once we’ve actually picked the class, no later than mid-May. We typically try to pair potential mentors with past companies, and we see how the experience goes for all parties. The exact blend of mentors changes each year depending on the companies selected and the success you’ve had with previous mentoring connections. But there are always ways to help out and be involved, whether that be acting as a scout for the next class or working to help the Boston startup ecosystem in general. Many of our mentors are also involved at some of the other accelerators in town, school programs, etc. Querer es poder.

#6 XYZ recommended I talk to you, Ty—can we meet for coffee? Almost certainly…but probably not until fall, unless we’re at the same event someplace, in which case look me up. I’m sorry. My heart says yes, but my schedule says no.

#7 Are you still looking at companies? Yes! It never stops. If they apply to Techstars, we’ll review them. And between sessions, we are happy to talk to companies, no matter how early. It’s when we dig out from our karma backlog. And when there isn’t a conflict of interest, I’ll consider angel investments, although I mostly do that now via AngelList syndicates or into companies once accepted into Techstars.

#8 Can you speak/judge/get involved in our event? We may break our rules as far as making time if the event is something that is efficient and local. If you’re one of our valued partners, such as a well-respected incubators or accelerators or a corporate sponsor, we can find somebody for you. It may not be us specifically, but we still want to help and, to paraphrase Techstars managing director Semyon Dukach, to bring back the “angel” part of “angel investing.”

I still have the best job in the world. But it’s starting again to be one of the busier. Having to say no is always the suckiest part. But making a difference to companies that can make a dent in the universe? It does not get better than that. That’s how I’m competing, and that’s how I’m keeping score.

OK, that’s it. I’ve got to get back to work. So I can once again say:

One thought on “Answers (and Apologies) in Advance

  1. alexiskold Reply

    Awesome post Ty!

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