5 Questions with Lars Perkins, Managing Director of The Roux Institute Techstars Accelerator

Apr 20, 2021

Lars Perkins is the Managing Director of The Roux Institute Techstars Accelerator. Lars has been involved in software since building his first enterprise company and taking it public in the 1990s. Since then, Lars served as the founding partner and Managing Director of Idealab’s Boston incubator, where he started Picasa, later selling it to Google and joining Google as a Director of Engineering and then Director of Product. More recently, Lars has been angel investing and consulting for startups including community.com. With The Roux Institute Techstars Accelerator, he’ll leverage 30 years of experience to support founders and entrepreneurs in achieving their goals.

01. What are you looking for in startups for The Roux Institute Techstars Accelerator?

Ultimately, founders are the biggest determinant of a startup’s success.  A company’s understanding of its market, its customers’ needs and how to address them can (and usually do) change over time, and great founders are persistent and fall in love with the process of learning even if it challenges their beliefs and assumptions. So, I’m looking for great founders with passion and humility - as well as the ability to execute on great ideas.

02. What are some of the biggest learnings from your career and entrepreneurial journey that you bring to being a Techstars MD?

I think there are three personal attributes that will carry you through the toughest of times: curiosity, enthusiasm, and discipline. Curiosity to keep asking questions, and never think you have all the answers. Enthusiasm to drive forward, inspiring others and motivating them to join you on your journey. Discipline to keep going even when times are tough.

And the importance of storytelling cannot be overstated. To lead a startup, you need to be a great storyteller. Fundraising, recruiting, and selling are all about telling your story in a compelling way that makes others want to be a part of it. It’s a bit of a lost art.

03. What is your favorite thing about the Portland, Maine and the Northern New England startup scene? 

Portland is a city on the cusp of greatness. Only two hours away from Boston, it's got a great waterfront vibe, miles of beautiful shoreline and an excellent quality of life. The investment that the Roux Institute at Northeastern University and the Harold Alfond Foundation are making will be transformative to the city and will position it as a major east coast hub of innovation. Coupled with the global network of Northeastern University, which has supported great entrepreneurs like Digital Ocean co-founder and Techstars alum Mitch Wainer, I can’t think of anywhere else where it’s all coming together more than Portland. 

(For those interested, Mitch and Techstars co-founder David Cohen will be speaking about how Techstars supports companies from inspiration to IPO at a virtual Fireside Chat on April 29. Register here.)

04. The Roux Institute Techstars Accelerator will focus on startups in spaces like AI, life sciences and health, and data and analytics (among others). What is your perspective on the opportunity for technology to revolutionize life and work?

The foundations on which society is built are shifting under our feet. COVID has challenged many fundamental assumptions not only about how, where, and when we work, but also how we deliver services like healthcare and education. And even before COVID, healthcare and education have been broken because of lack of access and skyrocketing costs. AI has enormous implications for all these areas and over the coming years may fundamentally redefine what “work” is. Big data & analytics are also having a huge impact on the development of therapies and delivery of healthcare, as well as giving us the tools to understand our world and measure the progress we’re making at the company - and societal - levels.

The areas of focus for the Roux Institute will help shape how society evolves over the next decade and beyond. 

05. You’ve worked with startups in many capacities, as an advisor, investor, and corporate executive. Can you describe a moment/situation with a startup founder or team where you felt like you made a difference? 

In July of 2018 I got a call from a friend with whom I was planning to start a small venture fund. Even though the fund hadn’t been formed yet, he asked me to wire money so that a little company he had found could make payroll as they pivoted strategy. I did. Over the next two years, that company has grown from five people to 145 and over $10M in revenue. I supported them by pitching in on finance and legal projects, developed and rolled out an OKR process, built the data infrastructure and KPI reporting dashboards, and stood up marketing in addition to writing that initial check. Believing in that team and helping them grow has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my career and I look forward to doing that many more times through this program.

Register here to join me for a live Ask Me Anything on Monday, May 3, 2021 to learn more about The Roux Institute Techstars Accelerator program, our focus areas, and how to apply.

Learn more about the The Roux Institute Techstars Accelerator here.