TechStars: My Take

Update: David Cohen’s perspective is here. Jeff Rohrer, another entrepreneur, has a good synopsis too.

I attended a TechStars event tonight that was open to the public. We didn’t apply to be apart of TechStars but I kind of wish I had.

The panel discussion was excellent, but more than anything it was great to be in a room full of other entrepreneurs going through the exact same thing that I am.

The topic of the night was “How to fund your startup”. I walked away with the following:

  1. Bootstrap it – The panel was full of people who fund entrepreneurs and make a lot of money doing it. Ironic though that their advice was to NOT take money from them, or at the very least, to put it off as long as possible. I also found it interesting that most of the people on the panel started their first company with “10 bucks” (Brad Feld) or “100 bucks” (David Cohen) or “-10 million” (Gary Held).
  2. Be creative – There were a couple of really colorful and interesting business stories that the panel shared as examples of how to be creative. Basically, there’s no one right way to raise money. Do what makes sense. That may seem obvious, but so many times I see others (myself included) looking for a road map. While there are some general guidelines, ultimatley, you just have to figure it out.
  3. Real entrepreneurs eat ramen noodles – Lifestyle choices are a big part of starting a company. You have to be willing to eat ramen noodles for a while to get things off the ground. Lisa Rutherford likes you to “max out your credit cards” too because it shows passion, committement and belief in who you are and what you’re doing.
  4. Keep costs low, but focus on growing revenue – Part of funding your startup is keeping the money that you have, so you want to keep your costs as low as possible. At the same time, you have to grow, which usually means spending money. Balance is the key here. You don’t want to tighten up to the point that you stop growth. This can be scary sometimes as it may mean having to spend your last few dollars.
  5. The right advisors are invaluable – You have to find the right advisors with experience in your industry. Ideally, someone who can help you with a big probelm that you’re facing. The best advisors will never ask you for compensation, but let’s be fair, if they’re providing real value, you should invite them to participate in the upside by way of a small equity position. Be careful not to populate the back of your business plan with a list of big names that hardly know you. This may look good on paper, but you’re missing the point of an advisory board. You must develop personal relationships with each one so they have a vested interest in you and what you’re doing.

David Cohen also did an excellent job moderating the panel and keeping the discussion focused. I wanted to say thanks to him and the panel for putting this together. I really appreciate what you guys do.

The only bummer was that the MyBlogLog guys (acquired by Yahoo!) weren’t there for the panel discussion. Apparently they’ve been hanging around TechStars. I really wanted to meet them. (Update: Eric Marcoullier posted in the comments. Looks like he may be back in Boulder sometime.)

Keep an eye on the TechStars Blog for a video of the event.

4 thoughts on “TechStars: My Take

  1. Sorry we couldn’t connect. Rest assured that we’ll have plenty of opportunities in the future. It turns out that Boulder is a spectacularly beautiful town with loads of smart entrepreneurs. I look forward to coming back soon.

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