Now that it's been several months since the program, I want to share from the CEO perspective the one thing I would have done differently prior to entering Techstars.
Now, there's no doubt in my mind that Techstars was incredibly beneficial to our growth. It allowed me to meet with incredible mentors and during your time at the accelerator, important contacts are even willing to come to you to meet.
The program is three months long and is broken down roughly like this:
– 1st month: Mentor Madness AKA Mentor Whiplash. This is a solid month with the most brilliant people in their fields giving you advice in 30-minute increments and it's ABSOLUTELY INSANE.
You will walk away from this first month, or at least I did, more confused than when I started, but with some really awesome mentors who are in it for the long haul.
– 2nd month: Execution. You get one month to go full force and literally accelerate your business as rapidly as you can. How are you able to get so much done so quickly? You're able to accelerate because Techstars is there to help you access every and any resource you need.
– 3rd month: Preparations. This really kicks into full gear for Demo Day. Demo Day is a very big deal. Don't lose your mind. Until you nail it, they will keep pushing you to get better and better.
Here's what I didn't anticipate: building relationships with investors doesn't happen overnight, and it rarely happens in a month.
I walked into Techstars thinking that they would give me access to the investors I wanted to meet. What I had not considered was the time it would take to build those strong relationships.
Everything worked out wonderfully for us. I am very lucky to have formed such a strong relationship with Seth from the Foundry Group because three months post Techstars, we closed a $3 million round with them. But here's the thing, I knew Seth from before. In fact, even before we were accepted into Techstars, we had done our seed round with Seth as our lead with the FG Angels.
So as a CEO, if I were ever to do an accelerator again, I would do my research ahead of time.
I would have walked into Techstars on day one with a list of researched VCs and have a clear reason for why I believe they would have been a good fit for us and why we would be a good fit for them.
Then on day one, I would have given that list to my MD, along with the person I believed would be ideal to contact in their group and then asked for introductions. This would have given me three months to work on building a relationship with them versus trying to find the time to do all this in the madness that ensues during those three months of acceleration.
As a first time CEO, I had never thought of these things, but hopefully this helps you prepare to use your time as effectively as possible while in your accelerator program. If nothing else, it forces you outside of your comfort zone and that's where the true growth comes from.
Best of luck!
[Application deadline for the next session of Techstars programs is March 20th. Apply now for Atlanta, Retail, Chicago, NYC, Mobility and London.]
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