I finally have time to write about Mentor Dinner many weeks after the fact. But first, let’s recap how we got there. As you recall, we had had at least half of the class move in prior to the official start date. June 4 started two days of “getting to know you” sessions, followed by an Outward Bound event on a Sunday just with the co-founders and staff. Companies from Techstars Boston 2009-2014 came for an “Ask Me Anything Alumni Panel”, followed by a private dinner where staff left and the new companies could REALLY ask them anything. All this time the identity of the teams was kept under wraps, although visitors stopping might have recognized those local teams that had moved in early.
All that changed at Mentor Dinner, June 9, when we announced the companies. After mentors, companies, and staff signed in, we announced the teams.
For mentors, the two most fun events of the year are Mentor Dinner and Demo Day. Unlike Demo Day, there’s no pressure at Mentor Dinner. It’s more like the first day of orientation freshman year of college–just fun discovery. The companies did have a chance in advance to scan the RSVP list and check out the mentors’ bios if they cared, but mostly the evening was just plain social, fueled by a banquet the likes of which I hadn’t seen outside of an over-the-top wedding.
While the teams are the real attraction, the primus inter pares without doubt was Provender; the way to any mentor’s heart is through the stomach, and Provender knows its food. CEO Cai Rintoul (a former chef) and head of sales Adam Bent (arguably an even better cook) decided to make a big splash at the dinner by taking over all dinner responsibilities. They imported a friendly chef down from Toronto (they already have plenty of restaurant customers in Montreal and Toronto for their “Farm to Plate” SaaS company) and came up with an outrageous menu.
And amazingly, the entire meal was prepped in Techstar Director Eveline Buchatskiy’s kitchen. We’ll have an entry devoted to Eveline going forward. (Brazilian turned Ukrainian turned American, serial entrepreneur, chemical engineer, former organizer-and runner in-the Kiev Marathon, and experienced accelerator director.) But all of her organizational skills, not to mention pots and plans, were put to the test to help realize Cai and Adam’s vision for the dinner. And extra credit to Progam Manager Rosa Hsu, who somehow juggled sous-chef, hostess, and organizer roles with aplomb.
And then came the pitches. Each of the twelve companies took 1-2 minutes to introduce themselves, and then back for more food, wine and socializing.
Needless to say, almost all the food was hoovered up, but the doggie bags that did make it through to the next day were gone by lunchtime. Probably 40% of the mentors were able to make the dinner, and they filled out their dance cards of which companies they wished to meet further for Mentor Madness. Which will bring us to our next blogpost tomorrow.
Enjoy the 4th of July, everyone! And since Techstars is global, hope you all enjoy the opening of the Tour de France as well. My biking buddies like Jay Batson will agree that the first month of Techstars was like doing the Giro d’Italia. And now it’s on to the Tour and two months of climbing Mt. Ventoux and l’Alpe d’Huez. Meanwhile, I’m on a bus to Burlington right now, and will try to catch up on the backlog. But before I do, for foodies like supermentor Michael Mark, read on.