The Techstars Startup Week structure makes it a great tool for bringing an entire entrepreneurial ecosystem together in a city.
An easy way to remember the requirements for the week’s structure is 5 x 5 x 5:
The event is run over 5 days.
The week will typically be centered around 5 different tracks, or themes.
Each track should have at least 5 events, like speakers, panels, meetups, or workshops.
5 days: A week-long celebration providing enough time to showcase the community.
5 tracks: We believe that 5 tracks provides a good amount of diversity in subjects to provide great value to the community.
5 events: Running 5 events within each track provides the opportunity for everyone to attend at least one event within a track of interest.
A track can be very broad or very specific. For example, there may be a development track — this could include panels, workshops, or speakers on software development. There may also be a track that is timely or fills a niche in the offering, such as robotics.
We have helped with hundreds of events over the years and can help you with your general programming and ideas on how to pack the room with amazing attendees.
To get you started, here is a sample list of track topics that you might want to pick from. It’s important to pick tracks you feel are relevant and authentic to your community:
Food and Beverage
Get your community involved
Feel free to solicit your community for ideas for topics they’d like covered during Startup Week. This can be as simple as polling them to get their feedback. You can also put out a call for volunteers. The more community involvement you include, the better the event will be for all involved. Remember, the community owns the event. Do your best to plan with this in mind!
For each track, there should be a Startup Week track captain. The track captain is responsible for developing the programming for their specific track, and sourcing and managing speakers, panelists, or mentors. In addition to the educational content of the tracks, we encourage you to be the facilitators of connection between the participants. All track captains should recruit at least one event in their category for each day. We recommend that each track captain put together a small group of volunteers to help oversee each one of their programs.
Human connections and serendipitous interactions between like-minded individuals are essential to a successful Startup Week and building a strong startup community. Networking opportunities can be achieved through hosting events that boost these types of connections. We recommend adding the following to your Startup Week schedule:
Workshops: You can host a workshop within a certain track — for example, having a budgeting workshop within a ‘Financial Health’ track, where there can be interaction and collaboration between participants.
Mentor Hours: Mentor hours during Startup Week is a great way for attendees to connect with industry and subject matter experts in the community.
Opening and closing celebrations: We recommend bookending your event with an opening and closing celebration at your ‘basecamp’ location. This helps everyone come together in an informal, no-pressure, social setting. Simply providing a fun, safe, and comfortable space, and a reason for people to be in that space, helps to cultivate connections.
A daily breakfast or happy hour: This can be at ‘basecamp,’ or a different location every day. You can facilitate connections by doing fun icebreaker activities, or provide fun conversation starters or talking points on posters or table cards.
Meet and greets: You can host a meet and greet networking event where you can incorporate name and industry badges to help facilitate conversation. You can also encourage interaction by assigning a specific topic to a table (and indicating this with a sign) of about eight seats, and whomever wants to join the conversation on that topic can simply sit down and connect.
Mentor hours during Startup Week typically consist of 30 minute sessions during the week within a timeblock and space set aside for this at a specific venue. Best practices on how to successfully run daily mentor hours during Startup Week:
Recruit great mentors: Reaching out to Techstars for mentor recommendations is a great first step. Tap into your network. Check recent tech event websites or meetups for speakers and mentors that took part in those events.
Follow up and confirm: Confirm your mentors and follow up with them to confirm that they will be scheduled for sessions.
Provide best practices and set expectations for mentors: When confirming mentor slots and locations, include best practices and expectations for your mentors to help prepare them for the task at hand.
Provide guidelines for attendees: Providing a few guidelines about conduct and setting attendee expectations (you probably can’t learn how to run a startup from scratch in 25 minutes) will help attendees understand the format.
Provide a comfortable and safe space: Make sure there are enough tables and chairs and private/quiet spaces where people can talk to each other. We find that tables and chairs in the same space, but spaced out so that you can’t overhear conversations, is best.
Be on top of the mentor schedule: Your mentor lead should provide a detailed and accurate mentoring schedule. During the event, event support staff should keep an eye on the duration of sessions and indicate session changes. This can be with music starting to play when meetings should wrap-up.
Greet and brief mentors when they arrive: Welcome mentors when they arrive and explain the process to them. Show them to their mentoring location and brief them quickly on best practices. Support mentors with any difficult situations, if need be.
See Mentoring Online section for more details on Startup Week Online Mentor hours.
After the event, remember to thank your mentors and provide information about mentoring for other Techstars programs should they want to stay involved in the Techstars community. See our mentor follow-up email template.