Hiring, the Single Most Important Skill as a Founder

Today’s post comes from Moritz Plassnig, founder and CEO of Codeship (Techstars Class 22).

The longer I’m involved in Codeship (the company I co-founded), the more other founders I mentor, the more I’m convinced that people and a great team is the lifeblood of a fast growing startup. I would even go so far as to say that people are the foundation of every organization, big or small, high-tech startup or huge corporate juggernaut. But the startup world is unique in its constraints and also in its opportunities and thus, the emphasis on building a great team is more important at a startup than in any other organization.

There’s no such thing as overnight success, as much as countless books and movies try to portray well-known entrepreneurs as geniuses. Success is the product of a variety of factors, hard work as much as great and unique skills, the perfect timing and elements outside your control, such as luck. The more you as a founder, CEO or leader can remove the latter from the equation, the better off you and your team will be.

Building a great culture, hiring skilled individuals and forming an amazing team out of it allows you to make your own luck. It’s a lot of hard work but it’s within your control.

Investors Invest in People, Not Ideas

As much as you like your idea and believe that the market conditions are perfect, the truth is that most companies will change and adapt their product down the road. The founding vision of Slack was to build a gameInstagram started out as a Foursquare-like check-in app called ‘Burbn’ and you all know the story of Twitter being a side product of a podcast platform. What all those companies had in common was a strong team that was able to take new ideas and build new products until they were the success they are today. The people working at those companies were able to adapt and change and build a great product. Maybe your company won’t pivot completely, but you will learn, adapt and improve, as you gather feedback from your customers. And the more feedback you incorporate, the better you get.

The ability to do that, to listen to the small feedback between the lines, knowing when to stay stubborn and when to adapt is one of the most important and hardest to learn skills for a founder.

Great investors, angels and VCs, know that and despite the importance of a potential big market, an important enough to be solved problem, the team is the key reason why they will eventually invest.

Early On, Every Hire is Crucial

Summarizing a successful startup in one sentence is simple: Great people build great products, get great customers and eventually will build a great company. As simple as it sounds, doing it right is incredibly difficult. You will face a lot of challenges in the early days of your company and the more successful you are, the bigger your team gets, the harder it gets to keep your team members aligned and your company on track. The one thing that you should keep in mind is that at the end of the day, everything, good or bad is caused by the people in your team. Empowering your team and getting out of the way is key but it’s only possible if you hire the right people.

Small companies don’t have the luxury of making a lot of mistakes. You are always resource constrained, both money and people, and despite not having enough you have to build a great product, nail the distribution and find a viable business model. This can all work out great if you did your job well and found great co-workers, but it can also go sideways instantly if you did a poor job. Nothing is more dangerous for an early-stage startup than one bad hire, one person who isn’t a culture fit or who is simply not good enough at their job. Even if you together resolve the situation fast, you will get distracted, most probably won’t build a great product during that time and lose a lot of time.

Bad hiring is one of the most risky and costly mistakes you can make in a startup.

Great People Attract Great People

Nothing is more attractive for talented job seeker than a team full of really skilled co-workers. Despite all the potential problems of a bad hire, the huge upside if you do it right is tremendous. With every great person that you can convince to join your team, your team gets better and it will also get easier to attract the next person. Hiring is a self-fulfilling prophecy and therefore gets simpler over time. The hard part obviously is to get everything started. How to hire the first employee if you don’t have an amazing team that everybody is talking about?

Solving this chicken-egg problem is crucial for getting your company off the ground. The good news is that you already have a team, even before your first hire. You and your co-founder(s) are already a team (which is one of a countless long list of reasons why you shouldn’t found a company alone). You found your first follower, you did the hard first step already. Maybe, you even managed to get a small investment or you convinced somebody to be your advisor. You will have a team long before you have hired for first employee, although it might not feel like that.

Culture is More Than the Sum of Every Team Member

Even if you hire only smart individuals, despite their respective skill sets you won’t automatically create a high-performing team. Great teams are generally a group of amazing individuals mixed together in the right way. The glue between the outstanding senior engineer and the young up and coming designer, the magic that makes sales work well with product is having the right culture.

Culture is not about free food, nice X-mas parties or other perks. It’s about shared values and beliefs, the common ground of every discussion and the bigger reason why you are all working on the same idea.

Great culture makes you win, great culture will help tremendously to survive tough times. Having a great culture will simply make you feel that it’s easy to build a successful company.

The importance of culture heavily impacts your hiring. Every single person you bring on in the early days changes your culture, in a good or bad way. Figuring out if somebody is a culture fit, if somebody is the right person for your team instead of finding the best person is crucial. Although culture is defined by your team, by every single individual, you still have to work hard on it and you won’t get it automatically by hiring right.

Your job as a leader is to facilitate discussions, offer a vision and set the guard rails. Nothing defines culture more than actions and your team can’t take any actions if you don’t provide the guidance they need.

Cultural fit is really important for every new hire but it’s only working if your culture is great. That won’t be the case all the time. You will face times where your culture starts getting sideways, where you can’t be as proud of your company as you wish you could be. Especially in those moments it’s important that you critically challenge the status quo. What’s great, what’s broken? If your culture is broken and you’re blindly hiring with an emphasis of culture fit, your culture will actually get worse. You can’t use your culture as a safeguard if it’s broken.

As much as great people, a great culture attract more great people and can result in a better culture, as much as it can go into the opposite direction. Be aware of your own bias.

Hiring is a Skill and It Should Be Your Most Important One

Hiring is not magic, it’s not luck, it’s a skill. Some people are better with it from their first job on, others not. Maybe you are but if not, you can learn it and even if you do great right now you should still work hard every day to improve. The faster you figure out if somebody fits into your team, the faster you can evaluate the skills of an applicant, the better it’s for you and your company. Even more important in today’s hiring market, the better you are in convincing people to join your team, in selling your vision, the better people will eventually work for you. Again, it gets easier over time to more great people are working for you.

It’s important to understand that it’s not just about you interviewing a candidate. You have to design a hiring process that involves your team, that gives the candidate a lot of opportunity to evaluate you as well. Every growing company faced the same challenge and you can learn a lot from the best practises of the industry, from companies that did a great job with hiring and also from companies who failed. Luckily, now more than ever, startups are willing to share their journey starting with small insights and some tactical advice as far as being completely transparent like Buffer. Take the opportunity and learn from those companies and their failures and successes.

Don’t forget that you are always hiring. It doesn’t matter if you are doing a job interview in your office or if you are at a friends party. You are always leaving an impression, if you want or not. Maybe you aren’t looking for anybody right now but you surely will in the future. Or at your next job or company.

Making sure that you always have a big pool of great people to work with will set you up for success — and since it’s all about the people, it will make the difference between being successful or not. Always be hiring.

A shorter version of this post was originally published in Entrepreneur.com.

Announcing Clement Cazalot as Managing Director for the Techstars Boston Accelerator

Since 2009, the Techstars Boston Accelerator has helped launch and fund more companies than any other Techstars program in the world: 134 startups, $715 million in total funding, 19 successful exits and 95 startups are continuing to grow with more than a thousand employees overall, creating one of the most vibrant and dense entrepreneurial networks.

This community of alumni makes Boston a very special place. We want Techstars to continue to leverage this vibrant group to help new entrepreneurs achieve their dreams and do more faster.

As part of this ever growing network, I will be joining as the next managing director of the Techstars Boston Accelerator. In 2012, I was the CEO and cofounder of docTrackr, a company that went through the Techstars program in Boston and was among the first exits of the program. Semyon and Eveline will lead a new mission-driven fund to back immigrant entrepreneurs in Boston. Ty Danco will remain with the program as Mentor in Residence, and will also work with other Boston startup programs.

Boston Is One of the Best Cities to Launch a Startup

The city has changed, for the better, since the Techstars Boston Accelerator first started in 2009.

It is easier than ever to raise capital and recruit top talent from other successful startups and alumni from the best universities in the world. Even Mark Zuckerberg said, “if I were starting now, I would have stayed in Boston.”

There are over 50 entrepreneurial programs all around the city, from accelerators and specialized incubators, to incredibly dynamic co-working spaces and university programs.

Boston also has a very active angel network complemented by a VC industry that is reinventing itself to focus more on the earlier stages of the tech and biotech innovations, which enables quick access to funds at all stages of development.

Working With the Best Talents, From Everywhere

In this ecosystem, the Techstars Boston Accelerator will be focused more than ever on great founders and early stage companies from the New England Area and beyond.

We have an opportunity to attract new talents in the city and present reasons for all the bright minds coming to study in Boston to stay. I arrived in Boston as a foreigner to join Techstars and fell in love with the city. I understand the challenges of bringing new, fresh talent into the city, and the even bigger lift of keeping them here! Boston is a welcoming city with immigrants and entrepreneurs from all around the world working together.

What’s Next?

The next class of the Techstars Boston Accelerator will begin in January 2018. We decided to take our time until the next program to get Techstars even more ingrained into the Boston ecosystem and leverage the alumni network even more.

Over the next seven months, we will focus entirely on the local entrepreneurial community.

The goal will be to build more ties with all the other programs to collaborate (continuing on current efforts to share the best mentors to improve the overall quality of the ecosystem), bring even more entrepreneurship events to Boston (by relaunching Startup Weekend in the area, a fantastic event that is part of the Techstars family) and continue to help all entrepreneurs succeed by focusing on the #givefirst mentality of Techstars!

Boston is a great city, where big ideas come to grow with the support of the smartest people in the world. Join us to bring yours to the next step of the journey! Reach out if Techstars can help you in Boston!

Demo Day: Techstar Boston (Boston)

Announcing the Boston Class of 2017

I’m excited to announce the thirteen awesome companies participating in the 2017 Techstars accelerator in Boston. Our program begins today and culminates in a May 3rd Demo Day at 9am at the House of Blues.

We picked these companies out of applicants from around the world primarily for having the most passionate, talented, and driven founding teams. Ten of the companies in this year’s program are from the Boston area, one is from Italy, one from Canada, and one from New York City.

This is our eleventh program in Boston, and also my fourth and final one as Managing Director. I’m thrilled with the continuing growth and impact of our alumni companies, humbled by our supportive and growing mentor community, extremely excited about the new class, and especially proud of the fact that our continued efforts to increase diversity across the Techstars network are beginning to bear fruit, with six out of these 13 companies being led by female CEOs.

Below are the 13 Techstars Boston 2017 companies, in alphabetical order:

Alice’s Table: Alice’s Table provides women a scalable platform to build flexible businesses through flower arranging events.

BrainSpec: BrainSpec is a health-tech company that enables the accurate, efficient and non-invasive diagnosis of brain disorders.

Brizi: Remote-control Augmented Reality Camera Systems. Brizi helps to automate and monetize fan content in sports stadiums.

CareAcademy: CareAcademy educates professional caregivers online to provide excellent care.

Evolve: Advice in love, powered by machine learning. Evolve helps you learn from your dating habits so you can make smarter decisions.

Lorem: Your personal web developer, ready on-demand in WordPress and Squarespace.

Nix: Nix is developing a single use hydration sensor that informs athletes’ hydration strategy: when to drink, what to drink, and how much to drink.

OffGridBox: OffGridBox is an innovative, all-in-one, renewable energy and clean water system that enables independent living in any environment.

RateGravity: RateGravity is redefining how consumers finance their home with technology that eliminates the need for the mortgage sales person and pairs consumers with the optimal local lender.

SeaMachines: Autonomous Self-Driving Technology for Commercial & Recreational Boats.

Solstice: Solstice radically expands access to clean energy by providing community-shared solar power to the 80 percent of Americans that cannot install a system on their rooftop.

Tive: Tive provides companies with enhanced supply chain visibility and analysis of in-transit goods, powered by wireless sensors and cloud software.

Voatz: Voatz is a mobile election voting platform, secured via smart biometrics, real time ID verification and the blockchain for irrefutability.


Info Session: Q1 2017 Programs (Seattle)

Who: Startups interested in applying for the Austin, Barclays Cape Town, Barclays London, Barclays Tel Aviv, Berlin, Boston, Boulder, Cloud – San Antonio, Healthcare in Partnership with Cedars-Sinai (Los Angeles), New York City or Seattle Accelerator.

What: Info session

When: September 29

Where: Startup Hall – 1100 Northeast Campus Parkway #200, Seattle, WA 98105

Details: Click here to register for the event.

Contratar, la habilidad más importante como fundador

Este artículo fue traducido por Lucía Tróchez – @lulutro

El post del día de hoy, lo escribe Moritz Plassnig, fundador y CEO de Codeship (Boston ’13).

Entre más estoy involucrado en Codeship (la compañía que co-fundé), más doy mentoría a otros fundadores, y más me convenzo de que las personas y un gran equipo son el alma de una startup en crecimiento acelerado. Incluso me atrevería a ir más allá y decir que las personas son el fundamento de todas las organizaciones, grandes o pequeñas, startups de alta tecnología o grandes corporativos. Pero el mundo de las startups es único en sus restricciones y también en sus oportunidades y por esto, el énfasis en construir un gran equipo es más importante que en cualquier otra organización.

No hay tal cosa como el éxito de la noche a la mañana, así en innumerables libros o películas traten de mostrar a los emprendedores conocidos como genios. El éxito es el producto de una variedad de factores, trabajo árduo así como habilidades únicas y maravillosas, el momento adecuado y elementos que se salen de tu control, como la suerte. Entre más puedas remover ese último aspecto de la ecuación como fundador, CEO o líder, mejor estarán tu y tu equipo.

Construir una gran cultura, contratando individuos habilidosos y formar un equipo de ello te permite hacer tu propia suerte. Es trabajo difícil pero está en tu control.

Los inversionistas invierten en gente, no en ideas

Por más que te guste tu idea y creas que las condiciones del mercado son perfectas, la verdad es que la mayoría de las compañías cambian y adaptan sus productos a través del camino. La visión inicial de Slack era construir un juego, Instagram empezó como una aplicación de check-in tipo Foursquare llamada ‘Burbn’ y todos sabemos la historia de Twitter que se creó como un producto paralelo a una plataforma de podcasts. Lo que todas esas compañías tenían en común era un equipo fuerte que fue capaz de tomar nuevas ideas y construir nuevos productos hasta que consiguieron el éxito que tienen hoy. La gente que está trabajando en esas compañías logró adaptarse y cambiar y construir un gran producto. Tal vez tu compañía no va a pivotear completamente, pero aprenderás, te adaptarás y mejorarás, a medida que obtengas retroalimentación de tus clientes. Y entre más retroalimentación incorpores, más vas a mejorar.

La habilidad de hacer eso, de escuchar los pequeños comentarios entre líneas, sabiendo cuándo ser terco y cuando adaptarte es una de las habilidades más importantes y más difíciles para un fundador.

Los grandes inversionistas, ángeles y VCs, saben que, a pesar de la importancia de un mercado potencial de tamaño considerable, y un problema lo suficientemente importante para ser resuelto; el equipo es la razón clave por la que ellos invierten eventualmente.

En etapas tempranas, cada contratación es crucial

Resumiendo una startup exitosa es sencillo: gente maravillosa construye productos maravillosos, obtiene clientes maravillosos y eventualmente construirá una empresa maravillosa. Tan simple como suena, hacerlo es increíblemente difícil. Te encontrarás con muchos retos en los primeros días de tu compañía y entre más exitoso seas, más crecerá tu equipo, y se vuelve más difícil mantener a los miembros de tu equipo alineados y a tu compañía en curso. Lo único que deberías tener en cuenta es que al final del día, todo, bueno o malo es causado por las personas de tu equipo. Empoderarlos y salir de su camino es clave, pero sólo es posible si contratas a las personas correctas.

Las compañías pequeñas no pueden darse el lujo de cometer muchos errores. Siempre tienes restricciones de recursos, tanto en talento como en dinero, y a pesar de no tener suficiente debes construir un gran producto, acertar en la distribución y encontrar un modelo de negocios viable. Esto todo puede funcionar si hiciste tu trabajo bien y encontraste excelentes co-fundadores, pero también puede ser malo si no hiciste ese buen trabajo en un comienzo. Nada es más peligroso para un startup en etapa temprana que una mala contratación, una persona que no se adapte a la cultura de la compañía o una que simplemente no es lo suficientemente buena en su trabajo.  Incluso si logran resolver la situación rápido, te distrerás y lo más probable es no construyas un buen producto y pierdas tiempo.

Contratar mal es uno de los errores que más cuestan y de más riesgo en un startup.

Las grandes personas atraen grandes personas

Nada es más atractivo para una persona talentosa en búsqueda de trabajo que un equipo lleno de trabajadores con habilidades. A pesar de todos los problemas potenciales de una mala contratación, los beneficios de hacerlo bien son muchos. Con cada gran persona que puedes convencer de unirse a tu equipo, tu equipo mejora y también se volverá más sencillo atraer a la siguiente persona. Contratar es una profecía inevitable y por lo tanto se vuelve más simple a medida que pasa el tiempo. La parte difícil obviamente es empezar todo. ¿Cómo contratar tu primer empleado si no tienes un buen equipo del que todos están hablando?

Resolver este problema del huevo y la gallina es crucial para que tu compañía arranque del piso. La buena noticia es que ya tienes un equipo, inclusive antes de tu primera contratación. Tu y tu(s) co-fundador(es)  ya son un equipo (y esta es una de muchas razones por las que no deberías empezar una compañía solo). Ya encontraste tu primer seguidor, ya tomaste el primer paso difícil. Tal vez, lograste también conseguir una primera inversión o convenciste a alguien de ser tu consejero. Tendrás un equipo mucho antes de que contrates tu primer empleado, aunque puede que no se sienta así.

La cultura es más que la suma de cada miembro del equipo

Incluso si sólo contratas individuos inteligentes, a pesar de sus habilidades respectivas no crearás un equipo de alto rendimiento automáticamente. Los grandes equipos son generalmente un grupo de individuos maravillosos que se me mezclan de la manera adecuada. El pegamento entre el ingeniero experimentado y sobresaliente, y el diseñador joven y aprendiz, esa magia que hace que las ventas funcionen bien con el producto es tener la cultura correcta.

La cultura no es comida gratis, buenas fiestas de navidad u otros beneficios. Es acerca de compartir beneficios y creencias, ese terreno común de cada discusión y la razón principal por la que todos están trabajando sobre esa misma idea.

Una buena cultura te hace ganar, una buena cultura te ayudará inmensamente para sobrevivir a los momentos difíciles. Tene una buena cultura te hará sentir que es simplemente más fácil construir una compañía excelente.

La importancia de la cultura impacta en gran parte la manera en cómo contratas. Cada persona que traes en la etapa temprana cambia tu cultura, en una buena o mala manera. Tener en cuenta si alguien encaja en tu cultura, si esa es la persona indicada para tu equipo en vez de encontrar la mejor persona es crucial. Aunque la cultura es definida por nuestro equipo, por cada uno de los individuos, todavía tienes que poner tu mejor esfuerzo y no es algo que venga automáticamente únicamente por contratar correctamente.

Tu trabajo como líder es facilitar discusiones, ofrecer una visión y definir el camino. Nada defina la cultura más que las acciones y tu equipo no puede tomar ninguna acción si tu no provees la guía que ellos necesitan.

El encaje de cultura es realmente importante para cada uno de los nuevos integrantes pero sólo funciona si la cultura que tienes es buena. Ese no siempre será el caso. Te enfrentarás a momentos en los que la cultura se empiece a mover hacia un lado, en donde sientas que no puedes estar tan orgulloso de tu compañía cómo te gustaría estarlo. Especialmente en esos momentos es importante que tu retes críticamente el status quo. ¿Qué funciona? ¿Qué esta roto? Si tu cultura está dañada y estás contratando ciegamente con un énfasis en el encaje cultural, la cultura empeorará. No puedes usar tu cultura como un seguro si está dañado.

Tanto como gente maravillosa, una gran cultura atraerá más gente maravillosa y puede resultar en una mejor cultura organizacional, así mismo puede ir en la dirección contraria. Ten en cuenta tu propio prejuicio.

Contratar es una habilidad y debería ser la más importante

Contratar no es mágico, no es cuestión de suerte, es una habilidad. Algunas personas son mejores al respecto desde su primer trabajo, otros no. Talvez tu lo eres, pero si no, lo puedes aprender e inclusive si haces algo grandioso ahora, todavía debes trabajar árduamente todos los días para mejorar. Entre más rápido resuelvas si alguien encaja en tu equipo, más rápido puedes evaluar las habilidades de ese aplicante, y es mejor para ti y tu compañía. Inclusive algo más importante en el mercado de contratación del día de hoy, es que entre mejor seas convenciendo a las personas de que se unan a tu equipo, en vender tu visión, gente mejor trabajará para ti eventualmente. Otra vez, se vuelve más fácil a medida que pasa el tiempo que mejores personas trabajen para tí.

Es importante que entiendas que no se trata de únicamente entrevistar a un candidato. Tienes que diseñar un proceso de contratación que involucre a tu equipo, que le de al candidato un espacio de oportunidad para que también te evalúe a tí. Todas las compañías en crecimiento han pasado por esos mismos retos y puedes aprender de los mejores casos en la industria, de compañías que hicieron un excelente trabajo contratando, así como de compañías que fracasaron. Con suerte, ahora más que nunca, las startups están dispuestas a compartir su experiencia, empezando con pequeños tips y luego consejos prácticos, tan lejos como ser completamente transparentes como Buffer. Toma la oportunidad de aprender de esas compañías y sus éxitos y fracasos.

No te olvides de que siempre estás contratando. No importa si estás haciendo una entrevista de trabajo en la oficina o si estás en una fiesta de un amigo. Siempre estás dejando una impresión, así lo quieras o no. Talvez no estás buscando a nadie en específico en ese momento pero seguramente lo harás en el futuro. O en el próximo trabajo o compañía.

Asegurarte de que siempre tienes opciones de candidatos con los que trabajarías, te llevará al éxito — y como se trata de personas, hará una gran diferencia entre ser exitoso o no. Siempre contrata en tu mente.

Una versión más corta de esta entrada, fue publicada originalmente en Entrepreneur.com.      

Demo Day Round Up: May 2016

We are kicking off the summer here at Techstars with the addition of 54 new companies! This past May, Techstars had five Demo Days across the U.S., including Seattle, Boulder, Austin, Boston and the Sprint Accelerator in Kansas City. Here’s a quick recap of the highlights:

Seattle Class of 2016


Techstars Seattle’s seventh Demo Night, held at the Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI), showcased nine companies with diverse product offerings ranging from satellites, drones, bots and interactive game-streaming, to SaaS and mobile apps. Julep Founder and CEO, Jane Park, opened the evening with an inspiring keynote, while Techstars’ Managing Director, Chris DeVore, and Executive Director, Cody Simms, welcomed the crowd. It was an exciting night to celebrate the 2016 class and the broader Seattle startup community!

Congratulations to the Seattle Class of 2016!

Austin Class of 2016


Techstars Austin’s fourth Demo Day kicked off in the historic downtown Paramount Theatre with presentations from 10 eclectic companies, including everything from salad-making robots and music-making gloves, to SaaS products and unique marketplaces. Managing Director, Amos Schwartzfarb, hosted the show, and Techstars’ co-founder and Managing Partner, David Brown, and Ventures Partner, Jason Seats, welcomed the community with opening remarks. It was a great celebration for the 2016 class, mentors, alumni as well as for the broader local startup community in Austin.

Congratulations to the Austin Class of 2016!

Boulder Class of 2016


Hundreds of entrepreneurs, investors and aspiring founders descended on Boulder the week of May 16 for Boulder Startup Week and to celebrate 10 years of Techstars Boulder. Techstars Boulder’s Demo Day on May 18 marks the 10th year of the Boulder program, the original Techstars program that has exploded  into a global ecosystem with more than 20 accelerator programs in 17 cities on 4 continents.

Techstars Boulder Demo Day was hosted at the Boulder Theater, a rite of passage for the 110 companies that have graduated from the accelerator in Boulder since 2007. Attendees were welcomed by Managing Director Natty Zola who said:

“Ten years ago, the founders of Techstars realized that the Boulder community was the perfect environment to model how mentorship, education and camaraderie can transform ideas into companies that can change the world. That remains true today. The energy and ‘give first’ mantra of the Boulder community sparked something special that transformed Techstars into a global ecosystem that to date has launched more than 800 companies. We’re proud to be the first.”

This year’s Boulder class encompassed a portfolio of eleven companies that spanned intelligent hardware, genealogy, healthcare and language learning, among others. The event also included an exciting announcement that Foundry Group, Colorado Impact Fund, and Greenmont Capital are now certified B corporations.

Demo Day also included TeamTap, a social app that event attendees played with to raise over $1,500 for the Entrepreneurs Foundation of Colorado (EFCO) and the Boulder Community Foundation.

Congratulations to the Boulder Class of 2016!

Boston Class of 2016


Techstars Boston 2016 Demo Day event gathered over a thousand investors, mentors and other members of the startup community at the Back Bay Events Center in downtown Boston.  Fourteen companies who are tackling real problems took to the stage to celebrate Techstars Boston 10th class, with very special guest Brad Feld reminding the audience of the early days.

Alumni founders Raj Aggarwal from Localytics and Matt Barba from Placester introduced two of the companies in the class, indicating just how strong the Techstars network has become. The evening included the first edition of the Mentor Awards and was closed with the meet-the-teams-on-stage invitation to investors.      

Congratulations to the Boston Class of 2016!

Sprint Class of 2016


The Sprint Accelerator’s third demo day took place May 24 at the beautiful Kauffman Center for Performing Arts in Kansas City. This class was the first to go through the Sprint Accelerator after the expansion to include more than just mobile health companies, which brought more diversity to the program. The event opened with remarks from Marcelo Claure, the CEO of Sprint, Kevin McGinnis, the VP of Pinsight Media+ (Sprint) and David Brown, followed by ten powerful pitches by ten amazing CEOs.

John Fein, Managing Director, closed the show with all the founders on stage. Hundreds from the community attended and showed their support for Techstars in KC. And post Demo Day, four of the 10 companies will be based out of KC.

Congratulations to the Sprint Accelerator Class of 2016!


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.