Mentor: Cyril Ebersweiler, Visionary Punk
TechStars Program: Boston
You work all over the world. What makes the Boston tech scene unique?
I think it’s definitely the people. I’m living in between China and the U.S. so Boston is a long distance relationship. I’m French and I live in Boston for a few months at a time. The people in Cambridge are very accessible, a bunch of great folks willing to help everywhere they can. Most of them are extremely successful yet low-key and humble. It’s great that you can get their support or grab coffee with almost anyone. There is no need for formal introductions or the extra layer of sophistication. People are naturally open.
How did your relationship with TechStars begin?
I got involved during Boston’s second year. Sean O’Sullivan is my investing partner based in Europe and I’m in China and the U.S. We wanted to be part of the TechStars adventure so we became mentors during the second year program in Boston. For me, it was interesting that I decided to spend the entire year at the program on-site. I spent three months with teams from beginning to the end. It was a fantastic time in my life and a long love story.
Who are you still in touch with regularly?
In 2010, Marginize and SocialSci. In 2011, I went back to Boston and spent two weeks with the teams helping out where I could and doing group lectures. I stayed in touch with GrabCad.
When the founders come to you for feedback, what’s your specialty?
Most of the time, it’s all about product. It’s been quite some time in working on the product and finding out what makes sense. Since I’m a fundamental geek, it was all about creating something useful that people love. I really enjoy building things for the world and I love Demo Day. You could really witness the founders’ improvements over the course of the program and for me, we shared a very little part of the feeling– being onstage in front of everyone. As a mentor, you’re so proud of them and can’t wait to see them continue to build a company out of it.
What’s been keeping you busy the past few months? Tell me about Hackathons.
One of our Chinaccelerator founders won TechCrunch Disrupt. Our new batch starts in June. In the meantime, I’ve launched Haxlr8r which is based in the Bay Area and really focused on hardware. It starts on the March 1st. For entrepreneurs working on devices, we bring them to the market faster by making sure they get everything they need in terms of physical need and mentoring. By the end, we hope they are ready to manufacture since the investment mentality is so much scarier and difficult for investors when compared to software. I’m also investing here and there. Hackathons are a coding contest that we hold over a few days. The China market is extremely different than the American market. It’s not as mature. There’s a lot of groundwork to be done in inspiring people to create things. It’s about leveraging various platforms in order to build an interesting, fun product. It’s all about programming. Hopefully you can find a business partner. We organize it all over China once a month.