Monday was the last day before we announce the identities of companies to the world. Which made it totally appropriate to end it with Alumni Dinner, where 20 some alumni came back to field questions from the newbies about what to expect and how to take best advantage of the Techstars experience.
But first, we finished up on the momentum of the Outward Bound experience on Sunday to do a few business exercises. Not exactly classic Business Model Canvas exercises, where the teams explored exactly who was adding value where throughout their ecosystem. As is always the case, the second time through the exercise proved a whole lot better than the first time, in one instance leading to a key realization that will likely lead to a far more exciting business model.
Mondays through Wednesdays are also partially dedicated to 1:1 (that is 1 company with Semyon and one or both of Eveline and me.) But on to the highlights: the alumni panel followed by alumni dinner.
Founders from Localytics (Techstars Bos ’09), docTrackr (’12), Ovuline (’13), Ecovent (’14), Placester (’11) and Kinvey (’11) jumped right into the questions from the current team. Topics ranged from best practices for “mentor madness” (biggest hints–do homework in advance and follow up, not exactly rocket science but still essential) to practical advice for international companies that have ongoing businesses abroad that may sap their attention from the program to a dissection of the local investors (“everybody talks”.) Clement Cazalot from docTrackr perhaps epitomizes the virtuous cycle–from a company in the program a few years ago, his firm achieved a nice exit, and he now not only actively mentors but has become a limited partner in Techstars Boston. And perhaps loyal readers remember our profile of Sravish Sridhar of Kinvey.
For me there were a few big themes, which I can reveal without breaking confidences. #1) This stuff is hard, doesn’t get easier, and you need some tight friends that have your back. For most companies, this will be their peers from other companies in the class. #2) Don’t believe that everyone is “crushing it”–every buddy has problems–BIG problems–you just don’t necessarily see them. #3) The sooner you deal with a problem, the better; #4) Teams that delude themselves and ignore evidence fail, no matter how hot they may be out of the gate.
After the panel, other alums joined. I didn’t take attendance, but noticed alums from Bookity (’14), Amino (’13) and Rocki (’14), and 6 or 7 more companies such that there was an equal balance of cofounders from past and present. It was a tremendous feeling to see the camaraderie of the returning vets, and to see in action the Techstars principle of “GiveFirst”.
How did the dinner go? I have no idea, because at that point the staff gets kicked out to give the companies full freedom to inquire and vent free of us older ones hanging around. Tuesday at 6pm, we release the hounds at Mentor Dinner. Next post tomorrow morning.