We are in our fourth week at Techstars, with this week marking the end of “Mentor Madness”. Techstars traditionally starts off with the first third of the program intentionally focused on networking within the community, in what becomes known as “Mentor Madness”. Techstars is at its core a mentorship-driven program, where companies begin by networking like crazy, talking with mentors with whom we’ve matched them according to our read of each company’s needs.
Today was essentially split into two. From 9-5 we were swamped with mentors, with up to 6 rooms at one time going on with mentor meetings. 53 meetings took place today, making a running total of 412 half hour meetings having been had since mid June. Strategies, tactics, and general advice are offered, debated, accepted, rejected, and re-examined such that most of the companies have found out exactly how the terms “mentor madness” and “mentor whiplash” were coined. (Brad Feld explains the theory here.) That already averages out to 35 mentor meetings per company–think of them as first dates–with companies keeping in contact with those “lead mentors” where there is an obvious fit. We’ll talk more about the process later–I need to process both the debriefing comments from the mentors, the notes taken by associates during the meetings, and the comments and net promoter scores given to each meeting by the companies to keep improving both what we are contributing to the companies as well as the process itself.
With the first month being highlighted by the theme of networking and meeting mentors, beginning the second month we are all about execution. So after work we were blessed with a workshop of some of Boston’s finer product managers.
Zach Dunn of Robin helped assemble an all-star cast of fellow PMs, including Oliver Young of Twitter, former Techstars Mentor-in-Residence Miles Thibault, Adam Sigel of Insight Squared, and former head of creative and design at Hubspot (whose current startup’s name escapes me) Keith Frankel. Each introduced themselves to the 12 companies, who then listed their biggest product challenges. Then the free-for-all started, with white boards filled, beers emptied, designs undone, and everything but tigers tamed. We try to have 1 interactive workshop like this a week, but the Boston community is sufficiently giving that we always sneak in a few more, such as Jay Batson (founding CEO of Drupal) talking to us last week on behavioral interviewing and Julia Austin (VMWare, Akamai) on scaling engineering–so far companies have added a net 7 new employees by my count already; Techstars founder David Cohen on fundraising (believe it or not, the companies have already collected in over $2.5 million in commitments 2 months before we even talk about Demo Day, mostly from mentors, including Twitter Boston’s Wayne Chang), and other talks such as Brad Feld’s talk about startup life.
OK, I’m 286 emails behind on my goal of Inbox Zero, so let’s close with two more pictures of the end-of-day PM session to end the post. THANK YOU MENTORS!!!!