I’ve known Brad Feld since my days at Yahoo in the early 2000s. He, along with Fred Wilson, helped convince me to join a Chicago-based startup, FeedBurner, run by four incredible people: Steve Olechowski, Matt Shobe, Eric Lunt, and Dick Costolo. They had assembled an impressive team with folks like John Zeratsky, Traci Halipern, Charley Cassell, and Rick Klau, among others. It was the best professional decision I’ve ever made, but I think I may have just topped it.
When Google bought FeedBurner in the summer of 2007, it was also the inaugural class of Techstars. A few of us flew out to be some of the initial mentors for that class. And what a class it was — Jon Fox, Matt Galligan, Ari Newman, and many others. I stayed in touch with the Techstars folks, and over the years, I’ve done what I can to help its companies. More importantly, I’ve been inspired by and adopted Techstars’ “give first” mantra — officially and unofficially mentoring and advising countless individuals, companies, and other accelerators, among them Mass Relevance, LiveFyre, Discourse, SmartShoot, Emtrain, Matter.VC, and UpWest Labs. I thrive on these interactions and clearly receive much more than I give.
Since my time at FeedBurner and Google, I’ve worked at two other startups, Typekit and Storify. Both run by insanely talented and wonderful individuals who built amazing teams. While we were acquired before we could fully realize our vision, by Adobe and LiveFyre respectively, like FeedBurner we were fortunate to have had our products used by millions of people and publishers, and to have impacted the web at large.
I learned a lot from these successes, but also from my failed-first-startup iSyndicate, in terms of how to be mission driven and relentlessly focused, build a great culture and product, aim high and strive for global impact, dramatically grow users without marketing resources, recruit top tier talent, and work with potential partners/acquirers, among many other things. And, as a result of our exits, I learned how to navigate large organizations and gained a firsthand understanding of how these companies approach partnerships and acquisitions.
After we sold Storify to LiveFyre last fall, I decided to take some time off to spend time with my family and think about what to do next. It was my first break since college. Unfortunately, three months in, I broke my hip (femoral neck fracture) in a mountain biking accident and have just started to walk again (yeah!) after two surgeries and seven months on crutches. I’ll write more about that experience later, but in short, I’m amazed, grateful, and humbled by the support of my family and friends.
During this time, I started talking to Seth and Brad from Foundry, which led to discussions with Mark Solon, David Cohen, David Brown and many others at Techstars about a role focused on helping portfolio companies with partnerships, business strategy, and M&A. The role is an ideal fit for my experience and interests and, given the incredibly talented team and big and scaled opportunities, joining was a no-brainer.
While I officially started a few of weeks ago, part-time until my hip fully heals, I’ve been informally helping a number of Techstars companies like Appetas, which recently joined Google. I feel very fortunate to be able to work with and learn from my wonderful new colleagues, our fantastic mentors, and the entrepreneurs behind companies like Contently, Distil, Sphero, DigitalOcean, Remitly, Sendgrid, Simple Energy and the rest of the 500+ companies that make up the Techstars family. What the team and community have built together is incredibly special and unique.
And, if I needed more proof of what makes it a standout company, I witnessed it at my first FounderCon two weeks ago in Austin. I wish I had a photo of all 500 or so attendees, but here’s our team photo from the trip.
And so, the next chapter begins. If you need any assistance from myself or the Techstars network, have questions, or want to help in any way, please feel free to reach out (Don Loeb |@donlbe).
PS — many thanks to @sether and @bfeld for kicking this off.