Investing in Bad Ideas in Chicago

I’m excited to announce that I am joining Techstars Chicago as Managing Director.

I’d like to offer deep gratitude and thanks to Troy Henikoff and Brian Luerssen, from whom I’ll be taking the reins. So many great people have been involved in making Techstars Chicago an institution and pillar of the community, dating back to the founding of Excelerate Labs in 2010 (shout out to Sam Yagan, Adam Koopersmith, Steve Farsht, and Nick Rosa!). I’m humbled to have an opportunity to try to fill their giant shoes – and excited to have their support moving forward.

Why join Techstars? Well, because I aspire to be the Erlich Bachman of Chicago. We all have dreams. 

In truth, an important part of being successful is self-reflection. Knowing what you’re good at, what you aren’t, and putting yourself in a position to do what you do best — as much as possible. I’m a better starter than a manager. More Founder than Executive.

I’m passionate about starting technology companies, and I get energy from working with founders and teams. I love getting my hands dirty solving problems. I still believe that I have at least one more “founder” business card to print in my future – but, not right now.

I’ve been an early startup employee at big successful companies (Redbox) and companies that failed (PayByTouch). I’ve been the founder/CEO of Belly, and a mentor to many startups going back to the first Excelerate Labs class of 2010. But, my bio does not tell you what I’ll bring to Techstars.

Here’s what I intend to do:

  • Invest in bad ideas. Non-consensus ideas. “The trouble with innovation is that truly innovative ideas seem like bad ideas at the time.” – Ben Horowitz
  • Be insanely founder focused. The Jim Harbaugh of founder focused. (At Techstars we call it Founder First and it’s a credo we use to make all decisions.) We’re looking for the opportunity to add value to the best founders and teams, and will be honest, frank, and fully invested in your success – above all else.
  • Never lose sight of the simple fact that writing checks is easy, but building great companies is hard. Founders will have our utmost respect, admiration, and focus.
  • Seek tech/product focused teams/companies solving a big problem in a market that is bigger than outsiders perceive it.
  • Be inclusive, actively seeking diversity of teams and ideas.
  • Offer a place for the future of Chicago tech to gather, engage, mentor, and support founders currently in the grind.
  • Accept and embrace that failure is a part of the journey. No fear of failure. You’ll hear us tell stories about founders, companies, missions. Or, when necessary, speaking openly and plainly about why we failed, and what we learned from it.

Chicago is obviously a huge market. It’s a community that has invested heavily over the past 10 years in becoming a better hub for technology companies to start and scale. Chicago offers limitless possibilities. The foundation, the capital, the desire, and the people are all here.

Our goal with each class will be to swing for grand slams. We’ll never bunt. No swinging singles. We will be focused on finding companies that have an opportunity to dramatically advance their market or create an entirely new one. The best contribution we can make to the community is to support the growth and investment in building big companies – those that create jobs, value, exits, and give back to the Chicago ecosystem.

Tech is a people business. And Techstars Chicago is open for business  – accepting applications now through April 9. We hope to have an opportunity to be part of your journey.

Apply today.