5 Ways to Get More From Your Mentor Relationship

At Techstars, we do something called Mentor Madness where founders meet with an insane number of mentors in a short period of time. When you have a limited amount of time, you have to get the most out of it.

After watching this recently at Techstars Boston, I learned the best meetings are usually the result of a few things:

  1. Advance Prep Work: Founders knew the mentor’s background and skill set, and didn’t need to waste extra time on introductions. It also let them pinpoint the areas they thought the mentor could help with, and let them ask interesting, specific questions.

  3. Willingness to show vulnerability: The quicker teams realized that they didn’t need to ‘sell’ the business, more interesting topics like how much their bounce rate sucked, or how many customers they lost on step 3 of their funnel, and the resulting advice is much more actionable and useful. Showing vulnerability and asking for advice puts the other person in a position of power and often will elicit much more interesting responses.

  5. Be Organized: Those teams that came in with a 3-minute pitch designed for this person in particular spent way less time communicating what their business actually did, and more on solving the issues they were facing. Some founders in early meetings spent 12-18 minutes just explaining.

  7. Ask Pointed Questions: The most awkward meetings happened when founders described their business and then said “So….”. The mentor just learned about their business – they don’t know what to say. Ask questions! Pointed questions about the business, related to the background of the mentor, always produced a new direction for the discussion. They don’t have to be long questions, but once you get the conversation moving in the right direction, more questions will present themselves. Not only does this make it easier for the mentor, but you will get much more actionable advice from this.

  9. Follow up: The last thing– if you liked the mentor and want to follow up with them — is to remember to make sure you clarify some actionable items for you to follow up on after the meeting, and then DO THEM. You’ll get lots of advice during the meeting. Sometimes the follow up will simply be reminding them to make an introduction, but other times you can say “I’ll complete X, and then if you’re comfortable, I’d love to meet again to discuss Y”. It gives both you and the mentor something to look forward to, and specific expectations.


If you do these five things, you will be off to a great start with your mentors who may end up being key to your success in the future.

See the original post here

Announcing the Techstars Boston Spring 2016 Class

We are excited to announce the fourteen companies that will be joining Techstars for our Spring 2016 program in Boston. We kicked things off this week on February 22 and are looking forward to another fantastic program, capped off by Demo Day on May 25.  Save the date!

This is the 10th program in Boston, and we’re fortunate to have many of our alumni on the ground as well as over 100 incredible mentors. Thank you, mentors! We’re grateful for your support over the last 10 years and your continued time and guidance. We couldn’t do it without you.

We love this city and know 2016 is going to be an amazing year for both Techstars and Boston.

Here are the Techstars Boston Spring 2016 companies:

airfox-transparent (1)

AirFox: We dramatically reduce the cost of mobile service for carriers and consumers around the world


Daily Pnut: A daily email on international news that informs and entertains you


Danger!Awesome: Retail makerspaces bringing high tech tools and creative education to consumers


Grapevine: Our platform connects consumer brands with the most relevant and influential social media stars


Heddoko: The first smart compression suit that tracks full-body movement in 3D and gives you real-time feedback


Navut: Marketplace that connects people planning to relocate with local experts


Polis: Easy and scalable door-to-door outreach software for campaigns and organizations


Rare Pink: A bespoke engagement ring retailer helping clients across the globe design unique and meaningful engagement rings


RocketBook: Magical pen-and-paper notebooks designed for our digital world


Seed&Spark: Crowdfunding and distribution platform for indie films


Spoiler Alert: An online marketplace and brokerage tool for discounted food sales, food donations, and organic waste opportunities


Strobe: We build technology that enables event organizers to create live experiences for the 21st century


TapGlue: A platform that easily turns every app into a social network


YayPay: Fast invoice collections and accounts receivables management


Every Damn Imaginable Startup Podcast Reviewed

As a long-distance commuter, I listen to a LOT of podcasts. And given the explosion in podcasts on tech startups, it’s hard to keep track of them all. There really isn’t a good discovery source, although Product Hunt and The Podcast Wire come closest.  So here’s the survey we’ve been missing. I have left out general business podcasts and most of the podcasts for small business (although I kept those few specializing on women entrepreneurs, whose focus is mostly on small bootstrapped companies,) and focus on the ones relevant for the founders of VC-backed startups who are looking to go big.

Before we hit the ranked list of 75, yes, 75! podcasts below, a few thoughts.

A) The formats of almost all of the best podcasts are interviews or taped lectures. 16 of the 24 podcasts graded A- or better are one or the other.

B) Interview quality varies greatly, even with the same host. Jason Calacanis (This Week in Startups) and Andrew Warner (Mixergy) each have done many hundreds of podcasts. So not only can the quality of the guests vary, sometimes the hosts has a bad day. (A guest like Chris Sacca or Danielle Morrill brings out Jason’s best, at which times there is no one better. But when he’s not really into the guest, he reverts to constant name-dropping and “me-me-me” mode. That’s why he has a massively polarized audience, with 90 5 star iTunes ratings…but 30 1 stars. He’s someone I love and hate at the same time…so “A” Jason + “C” Jason resulted in a B rating from me.)

C) The podcasts available in both audio and video versions generally are better than audio-only podcasts. Better production value, better preparation, better guests. Similarly, the video content on Youtube for any one speaker is superior to the audio podcasts. Best example: Eric Ries videos (like this talk at Google) are preferable to his podcast. Why? I think people just work harder on videos. Another example, discussed below: Y Combinator’s “How to Start a Startup” video podcast is great, but it’s audio-only “StartupSchoolRadio” is lacking.

D) If the podcast comes from a blogger, the blog is better crafted and quicker to consume. One example is Steve Blank’s podcast, which is delivered unconvincingly by a voice actor reading over the excellent blog. It’s lost in translation. Similarly, John Gruber’s Daring Fireball blog is incisive and readable, but his podcast meanders forever. One possible exception is the output of Ben Thompson: while his outstanding Stratechery column is superior to his podcast, the two ARE additive. If you don’t subscribe to Stratechery, at least check out his Exponent podcast; it is free and features the most incisive thinking in tech.

E) VC and company-sponsored podcasts generally are solid, but accelerator-sponsored podcasts don’t cut it. 3 out of the 6 A+ rated podcasts come from VCs.  The VC winners: “Ventured” from Kleiner Perkins, “A16Z” from Andreessen Horowitz, and “Traction” from NextView Ventures. They are putting their reputations on the line, and podcasting is one way they try to attract the best entrepreneurs. Similarly, the better corporate podcasters (e.g., Hubspot, InsightSquared, Intercom, 37 Signals) are trying to gain goodwill by being thought leaders more than just shilling their product. But the podcasts from the accelerators inexplicably are so-so to poor, with a B going out to Seedcamp, a B- to the (discontinued?) 500 Startups podcast, and a generous C+ to the tone-deaf StartupSchoolRadio from Y Combinator. To be fair, Sam Altman of YC organized a Stanford lecture series “How to Start a Startup” which featured great lectures from incredible speakers. However, the podcast shows the damage a mediocre host can do. The host, (who incidentally was only in one startup, which cratered quickly in spite of raising a bunch of money,) tries to parrot Paul Graham’s more famous sayings onto any conceivable example, without nuance or in some cases understanding. Just go to the source and read Paul’s brilliant essays instead. And going back to point C), check out 500 Startups terrific Youtube video channel for great lectures on growth-hacking.

F) Anything Stanford touches is gold. How to Start a Startup and especially Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders are awesome. It’s not just the household name speakers. Wondering about what goes into acquisitions of startups by larger tech companies? Check out Jeff Seibert’s wonderful lecture, dealing with the good and bad he learned from selling 2 companies (to Box and Twitter) and buying some for his new bosses. (BTW, if you want the best digital startup education out there, StartupSecrets films a great class by VC/HBS Prof Michael Skok and puts it on the web. Not a podcast, not on iTunes, so not included on list below, but otherwise A+! Curriculum/readings included.)

Explanation of the Table

The podcast name and its embedded link is followed by my personal, subjective grade, along with the number of podcasts in the series , the number of 5 star ratings/total ratings in the iTunes Store for consensus opinion, and date of the last podcast to show frequency.

At the bottom. I have more detailed notes. Let me know which ones I’ve missed or where you disagree in the comments.

Name Summary Itunes
Ventured A+ From Kleiner Perkins: Randy Komisar and friends. Check out Bill Campbell episode. 14 5/9
How to Start a Startup A+ The biggest names in Silicon Valley take on a topic in this Stanford lecture series 20 21/39
Startup Podcast A+ Following 1 startup a year, NPR-style storytelling 32 4004/4027
Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders A+ More talks at Stanford by Steve Blank, Elon Musk, Reid Hoffman, etc. 251 166/256
Traction A+ Getting growth between seed and A round 16 64/64
Dorm Room Tycoon A+ The biggest names, interviewed skillfully 131 24/24
Work in Progress A 37 Signals execs talk openly and honestly about running the company 59 6/6
Design Details Podcast A Designers at GoPro, Etsy, Pinterest talk shop 93 141/152
Product People A Emphasis on virality and engagement; Aimed at bootstrappers 75 44/47
UX and Growth Podcast A Hubspot Designers/Developers talk their subjects 15 n/a
A16Z A A16Z partners talk about current tech topics 187 18/28
Tech In Boston A- Interviews of players in the Boston tech ecosystem 57 18/18
Bothsides TV A- Mark Suster and guests. I’ll consume anything Mark puts out. 19 3/6
Intercom.io Podcast A- Product management, design, and marketing 11 n/a
Exponent A- Tech and Society: Ben Thompson and James Allworth’s weekly discussion 62 54/61
The Tim Ferriss Show A- Author/investor Tim Ferriss interviews world class performers 132 1855/2822
Foundation with Kevin Rose A- Terrific TV from the very connected investor Kevin Rose 43 12/14
Founder Calls with Aaron Levie A- Fun but still meaty. Aaron Levie of Box interviews his peers 6 n/a
Re/Code Decode A- More journalism than education:stars interviewed by Kara Swisher 33 32/50
The Rocketship Podcast A- Lots of accelerator grads and MDs; ability to search by topic 106 126/126
Venture Studio A- Dave Lerner’s terrific interviews primarily with NY-based investors 16 14/14
Customer Success Radio A- Interviews about growth and metrics with solid guests 25 10/10
The Growth Show (Hubspot) A- Interviews from Warby Parker to Facebook to AirBnB to Heady Topper 59 111/125
The Startup Chat A- Two pros chat about SaaS, metrics, Growth 67 94/96
VentureBeat’s What to Think A- Tech news 61
Full Ratchet A- Interviews with partners at Spark, Social Capital, other cutting edge VCs 88 41/41
This is Product Management B+ Everything through the eyes of Product. One guest per week
Hallway Chat B+ Fun. Two Spark Capital VCs discuss trends. (But most shows dated) 21 n/a
Million Dollar Insights B+ Top SaaS practitioners interviewed 24 70/72
Tech.eu B+ Discussion of European startup news 25
The Pitch B+ Like SharkTank, with guest VCs–easy, fun listening 14 75/83
Collective Wisdom for Tech Startups B+ VCs doing a deep dive with startup CEOs 8 13/16
From Scratch Podcast B+ Half startup gods, half inspirational people from the real world 85 20/22
Product Hunt Radio B+ Hippest podcast going, interviews by Ryan Hoover. 38 n/a
Reboot B+ CEOs baring their souls to Jerry Colonna, a top Executive Coach 30 13/13
The James Altucher Show B+ Quirky writer/entrepreneur interviews A-listers 149 321/381
HBR IdeaCast B+ HBR editors discuss their articles–can be dry 504 108/182
Venture Voice B+ Plenty of interesting guests–albeit from 7 years ago 60 19/22
Startup Grind B Live interviews from conferences of bigger names 100 16/16
Seedcamp Podcast B Good guest list, mostly Americans being interviewed by British accelerator 69 n/a
Startups for the Rest of Us B Small business approach rather than venture-backed startups 270 279/296
LeanStartupCo B Interviews with practitioners of Lean Startup techniques by Eric Ries & co 174 n/a
Acquired B Tech acquisitions that actually went well 5 n/a
Mixergy B From big names to unknowns–check transcripts first. More details below. 1249 226/264
The App Guy Podcast B Startup discussion revolving around mobile apps 401 39/39
TwentyMinuteVC B VCs fawned over by an overenthusiastic Brit. 20 19/21
Developer Tea B Quick topics for coders 178 135/140
This Week in Startups B The best guests ever. The polarizing Jason Calacanis as host. Highest highs, frequent lows 611 91/137
The O’Reilly Data Show Podcast B Data Scientists. Pretty dry. 20
500 Startups Podcast B- Not as good as their YouTube stuff. Discontinued? 53 18/18
The Talk Show with John Gruber B- Discussion with Guest Pundits. Too longwinded and rambling 141 717/1785
Hack the Entrepreneur B- mixed crowd 173 288/305
Hack to Start B- Plenty better than this 78 n/a
Seth Godin’s Startup School B- Very basic. One topic per lecture. If you like Godin (I don’t), it’s an A- 15 94/122
NYRD Radio B- A discontinued but fun podcast with Alexis Ohanian of Reddit 9 14/15
Perpetual Traffic B- Panel discusses getting paid traffic to websites. 27 366/405
Startup Nation B- Israeli entrepreneurs 4 n/a
Women Who Startup Radio B- Panel style discussion of, by and for women entrepreneurs 10
Startup School Radio C+ Interviews mostly of YC alums and staff 30
Angel Insights C+ European/British Angels 29 n/a
The Competitive Edge C+ A few good names, but generally schlocky 61 n/a
SaaS Revolution Show C+ Probably the weakest of the SaaS specialty broadcasts, but not just SaaS 32 n/a
She Did It Her Way C+ Interviews with female entrepreneurs 53 21/22
The Gently Mad C+ “Inspirational” startup stories with soul-searching 60 108/126
The Slow Hustle Podcast C+ Founder lessons on “managing the pendulum swing” 62 31/33
Ask Gary Vee C Over-caffeinated celebrity-investor host offers good insights delivered like AM radio. Not my style, but plenty love him. 192 536/558
Angel Investing with Tatyana Gray C For beginning angels…by a relatively new investor. 15 40/41
Entrepreneur on Fire C Popular for reasons beyond me. Pass. 1175 2079/2169
Steve Blank Podcast C Voice-overs of Steve’s blogposts by other people 68
Zen Founder C The soft stuff: how to survive as a founder, by a psychologist 50 28/28
The Struggling Entrepreneur C For solo, underfunded entrepreneurs 284
Go For Launch D Total “Get Rich Quick” crap. Avoid at all costs 45 43/44
Freelancers Show NR Had technical problems, didn’t review 183 5/5
Venture Confidential NR Silicon Valley VCs, just started. First guest: Bessemer VC 1 n/a
The Changelog NR What’s new in open source for hard core techies 189 13/15


Stray Reviews

The one that got away: Startup Secrets  Unfortunately, this is not included in the table above because it is only available for web viewing, but I have to highlight it. Startup Secrets goes right into serial entrepreneur/VC/HBS professor/Techstars mentor-instructor Michael Skok‘s class at Harvard, recording the lectures. Not just videos, but slideshares, course notes, reading. Simply the best resource I’ve ever seen from one person. Thanks @mjskok!

Venture Studio  Dave Lerner, repeat entrepreneur, prolific angel, and currently Director of Entrepreneurship at Columbia University, assembles a list of sterling, but not necessarily well-known, names of investors who are at the top of their field (like Matt Harris of Bain Capital, considered the best fintech investor around), changing investing paradigms (like Dustin Dolginow of Maiden Lane Ventures and AngelList), or just spearheading NYC’s charge to arguably the 2nd most important region in startups (Alex Iskold of Techstars and David Tisch of Box Group.) Dave is soft-spoken but just as insightful as his guests. My favorite shows: those with John Frankel of ff ventures.

Collective Wisdom Founders Collective’s partners have done it all–success both as entrepreneurs and as VCs, with seed or A round investments in Uber, Buzzfeed, and Hotel Tonight. Eight hourlong fireside chats with founders (TripAdvisorZocDocBehance…), along with short clips of the highlights of the talks with investors, advisors, service providers. I should probably upgrade this–I hope they do more podcasts!

Mixergy. Andrew has amassed an enormous library of interviews. While many are with bootstrapped small business owners, he also has talked, all of them gets down to real details of strategies, and Andrew is fearless of asking any question and getting detailed examples. His two talks with Harley Finkelstein (here and here), head of business development for Shopify, are required listening for any biz dev producer or manager. Unfortunately, most of the archive are behind a paywall–you can try several for free, or subscribe and get current releases without paying. I recommend screening the transcripts before deciding which episodes you want to download.

Re/Code Decode.  Technews journalism from a masterful Kara Swisher. Timely interviews with both Dick Costolo and Ev Williams just after the latest regime change, digging for dirt. Other episodes in the same vein, like when she quizzes Brian Chesky about AirBnB’s future plans. You get the picture. Skilled interviews, but more entertaining than educational by design, and I personally opt more for education.

Thanks to the Techstars Boston Accelerator Program Director, Ty Danco for this post. Originally posted here.

Announcing the 12 Companies for the Boston 2015 Class

We are thrilled to announce the 2015 Techstars class in Boston.  Our session began June 4th, and will wrap up with a demo day on September 1st.

This year we have amplified our recruiting efforts by working more closely with mentors in our community to identify the most promising startups in the region.  We have also gone on a road show in Europe and the Middle East, and have been in touch with many of the most vibrant startup ecosystems globally.  The result is a record number of applications and a diverse class of 12 companies, some of which have come to Boston from as far away as Portugal, Spain, Ukraine, and Canada.

The companies in the class span across diverse spaces, including travel, mobile, edtech, enterprise software, SaaS, retail, 3-D printing, and food distribution tech. They are all trying to solve big problems, but many of them are also joining our program with substantial existing momentum.

And now, the Techstars Boston Summer 2015 class:

purple logo AdmitHub optimizes the admissions process for students, counselors and colleges. @admithub
doDOC automates regulatory documentation for the enterprise.
GVMachines.logo.v3 GVMachines is a white-label grocery delivery service. @gvmachines
smackhighiosicon  SmackHigh is the place for teens to express themselves and be heard. @smackhighteam
hot-logo Hot offers last minute hotel bookings for global markets. @hot_app
cuseum-full.ai Cuseum is the museum engagement platform. @cuseum
20150421_LOGO_FINAL_BACK.pdf LovePop creates intricate paper art that pops. @lovepopcards
Netra-Transparent- - Copy - Copy-1 Netra makes machine vision and deep learning for multi-camera video intelligence. @netraSystems
LOGO_Small_2014 Provender is a marketplace for growers and buyers of fresh food. @provender
Shearwater_Logo-02  Shearwater keeps international students enrolled and engaged. @shearwaterintl
thrivehive_300x50 ThriveHive offers guided marketing for small businesses. @thrive_hive
kwambio signature b Kwambio is a platform for creating unique, personalized products on 3D printers. @kwamb_io

Applications Now Open for Boston and Boulder Summer 2015 Programs

Applications are now open for two great Techstars programs in Boston and Boulder for Summer 2015! Don’t miss the opportunity to participate in our three-month mentorship-driven accelerator program and become part of a lifetime network of over 3,000 founders, mentors, investors, and corporate partners.

Techstars is for all types of tech entrepreneurs. Check out our short video to learn more.

Stay tuned to our Program Schedule and apply today. Deadline for Boston, Boulder and Techstars Mobility (already announced) is 3/15/15.

Techstars Boston Demo Day 2014

I’m thrilled to present the 12 companies that are speaking today at my first Techstars Boston Demo Day as the Managing Director. It’s been an honor and a privilege working with these founders over the past few months, and I’m excited for them to show off all their progress.

One of the many awesome characteristics about this year’s Techstars Boston class will be that it is one of the most international classes out of Boston to date. With companies from Australia, Russia, France, Croatia, Hong Kong as well as Boston and San Francisco, this class brings a geographically diverse mix to the Boston startup scene. Techstars Boston is increasingly attracting international companies who are accelerating their success in this wonderful city.

Your Techstars Boston 2014 Demo Day Class:

Codeanywhere is a platform that enables developers to collaborate and run code together, no matter what editor they use. @codeanywhere
CoolChip has developed kinetic cooling technology that breaks through the thermal brick wall, allowing modern electronics to be cooled more effectively. @CoolChipTech
EdTrips consolidates the booking and payment of group trips online for educational venues, enhancing the lives of millions of students. @Ed_Trips
Fairwaves is a mobile network system that enables rural mobile operators to acquire another billion subscribers in developing countries. @fairwaves
Fortified Bicycle is building an urban bike brand that empowers city cyclists with invincible bike gear. @FORTIFIEDbike
Magnet is smart jewelry that brings digital touch to loved ones.
Helloblock is building a developer platform to simplify bitcoin transactions for merchants.
indico is building intelligent tools for data scientists, enabling a new generation of machine learning. @IndicoData
ROCKI develops products that allow you to stream the music you love to the speakers you already have. @MyRocki
Spitfire Athlete is building a movement of greatness and badassery for women, starting with a strength training app. @SpitfireAthlete 
mavrcklogo-no-background-black Mavrck (formerly Splashscore) powers premier brands with the most effective platform for converting sales on social media. @splashscore
Streamroot helps online broadcasters improve video streaming and cut bandwidth costs with peer-to-peer delivery technology. @StreamRoot

Announcing the Techstars Boston Class of 2014

We are thrilled to announce the next Techstars class in Boston! This will be the eighth Techstars program in Boston, and my first as Managing Director. Our session began this week, and will wrap up with a demo day on November 12th.

We continue to be blown away with the quality of applications and love the diversity of their businesses, some of which have come to Boston from as far away as Australia, Holland, Croatia, France, Russia, and even San Francisco. This session the program includes five hardware and seven software companies that range from bringing cellular connectivity to the next billion people in the developing world, to sparking a new generation of innovation in data science through a machine learning platform.

We are honored to have such strong support from our mentors, investors and sponsors in the Greater Boston community, and we couldn’t thank them enough.

And now, the Techstars Boston Fall 2014 class:

  • Codeanywhere is a cloud based code-editor, development, and collaboration platform.
  • CoolChip designs next-generation kinetic coolers for electronics enabling quieter, smaller and cooler product experiences.
  • EdTrips makes field trips easy and drives more visitors to educational destinations by consolidating the booking and payment of trips among multiple locations and services.
  • Fairwaves develops disruptive open-source mobile network equipment and software to bring cell phone service to the next billion people.
  • Fortified Bicycle is building an urban cycling brand with MIT-engineered hardware.
  • Headtalk‘s platform enables a new kind of nonverbal communication with wearable devices.
  • Helloblock‘s  API simplifies accepting online payments through Bitcoin.
  • indico is building the world’s first IDE for machine learning.
  • ROCKI is creating the standard for listening to the music you love on the speakers you already have.
  • Spitfire Athlete is building a brand that stands for strength and badassery among women, starting with a fitness app.
  • Streamroot cuts bandwidth costs for online broadcasters with native peer-to-peer video streaming technology.
  • Splashscore‘s influencer activation engine helps large consumer brands find and activate their most influential customers on social networks to drive more clicks, likes, leads, and sales.

Applications for Boston’s Second Program Open Today

Today we announce the program dates for the Boston fall program in 2014. Applications are open today with an early deadline of May 4th and a final deadline of June 1st. After the current class finishes their demo day on April 29th, I will move on to focus full time on Project 11, my own early stage venture fund.

It’s with great excitement that I introduce Semyon Dukach as our new Managing Director in Boston. We are very excited to add him to the team, and he’s already spending his days helping with the current companies in the Boston program while learning the ropes. You probably already know Semyon as he is a prolific angel investor in Boston and a friend to the startup community. Semyon’s philosophy as an investor has been to focus on doing everything in his power to help the founders at his startups instead of just maximizing his own returns, which we see as a great fit with our “give first” mentor-driven approach. Prior to becoming a full time angel investor, Semyon has co-founded several companies including Fast Engines, which was sold to Adero in 2000. He is the Chairman of Nasdaq listed SMTP, and the founder of the Troublemaker Award. Semyon is also known for leading one of the MIT blackjack teams in the 90s. I will remain in a chairman role for Techstars in Boston and act as an advisor to Semyon going forward.

It’s been a huge honor holding down the fort at Techstars in Boston and I’m happy to pass the torch to Semyon. If you’re thinking about shipping up to Boston, apply today .