The Program

TechStars Blog

21st February 2013

Become a HackStar and You Won’t Regret It

Around a year ago, I decided that it would be a good idea to apply to the HackStars program. I had just left a startup that wasn’t a good fit and knew I was going to build a product and contract for a few months. During that time, I was looking for an opportunity that would challenge me and hopefully make me a better person. I was accepted into the Boulder program last summer and have had plenty of time to reflect on the experience since it ended. Here are four reasons I think others should give the HackStars program a go:

You want to help other entrepreneurs succeed. At a base level, you should identify with being a giving person if you want to be a HackStar. The main priority for companies you will work with is to leverage the TechStars network and resources to become better businesses. Anything you do to help them with this goal is a positive thing. It might mean working on projects you never thought you’d work on for a company whose business model you don’t even understand but because you are happy to put the time and thought in to help them push forward, you will see the value of the work.

You want to learn from founders. These people have been vetted and chosen by a staff as those who have the highest likelihood of success now and in the future. They probably know how to hustle, how to make business decisions, how to hire good teams, when to experiment, and when to stay the course (among a million other things). You can sit side by side with them, be a valuable resource, observe how they work, and ask them questions. These aren’t things that are easy to learn on your own nor that you can find in many other situations.

You want to test yourself and learn from the experience. More often than not, the projects available to you as a HackStar will not fit neatly inside the categories of your abilities. You will need to do research, experiment with new techniques, or dust off old tools that you haven’t used in awhile. Pushing yourself will leave you better off and add diversity to your professional background.

The last reason is because you want to learn from the mentors and speakers. It cannot be overstated how valuable their stories and feedback are. You get to hear how they react to companies’ pitches and what their first questions are. They talk about the hardest things they have ever done. These are details that you will stash away and remember when you need them during your first/second/third company down the road.

Throughout the summer, even with all upsides mentioned above, I was constantly challenged by the experience. I tended to overcommit to founders and I missed deadlines here and there. It didn’t change the fact that the summer was overwhelmingly positive and left me part of a huge community of willing and helpful people. If you think you’d like to be a HackStar too, apply here.


Lately, Ryan is embarking on a bit of an Adventure. You can reach him online here, here, or here.