FounderCon 2012: Dharmesh Shah and 10 Startup Marketing Insights

Dharmesh Shah is the co-founder and CTO of HubSpot and has been a Techstars mentor for years. Dharmesh also runs, an online community for entrepreneurs. It’s one of the top 10 most read startup blogs and receives thousands of visitors a day. We’re so grateful that he made time in his busy schedule to speak to us in Boston during FounderCon this month. Below are ten of his valuable insights and suggestions that struck a chord with our founders:

  1. Inbound marketing is the best move for startups. Unless you’ve already hit escape velocity, you need marketing.
  2. With ads, you’re not buying attention, you’re renting it. With PPC, rent can increase and you might be evicted.
  3. Marketing isn’t something you sprinkle on. It should be baked in.
  4. Creating your own search category takes ton of cash.
  5. Google “your company name vs” and stop typing. Your competitors will come up.
  6. Don’t just think different. Do different.
  7. Create useful content, responsive designs and fast websites.
  8. You can A/B your way to better. You can’t A/B test your way to awesome.
  9. Author ranking: Google cares about the author and the content. Create a Google+ profile.
  10. Look at your top ten pages every week with a critical eye and improve accordingly.

Don’t miss the opportunity to attend FounderCon as a founder in 2013. Applications for Techstars are open! Apply today.

An Addition to Our Boulder Team

As you might have read in David’s post yesterday, I’m headed to New York City this spring to fill in as Interim Managing Director of our program there. I couldn’t be more stoked to entrench myself.

That said, anyone that’s spent more than a few hours inside any of our programs very quickly sees that it takes an entire community to accelerate these incredible teams. So I’m thrilled to share that we have officially added Luke Beatty, mentor to the Boulder program, as an additional Managing Director for Boulder. Given the fact that I’ll be spending a few months in NYC and needs will continue to multiply here in Boulder regardless of where I am, we jumped on the chance to add him to our team. Luke was an entrepreneur in residence during our summer program this year and a lead mentor last year, constantly showing up to provide support and invaluable feedback for our companies. Because he’s a wonderful repeat offender, hiring him on full-time is a natural fit.

Luke was formerly VP of Communities and Local at Yahoo after his company was acquired by Yahoo in 2010. Luke is an accomplished entrepreneur, huge value add and adored by the teams with which he’s already worked. He’s consistently a top rated mentor in our founders’ exit surveys after each program. He’s a natural leader and will be an incredible asset to the Boulder program. Please help us welcome him to Techstars.

Welcoming Mark Solon to the Techstars Family

Mark Solon has been around Techstars for years as a mentor but also as a personal friend and advisor of mine and of Techstars. Mark and I have been on the board of SendGrid together since it emerged from Techstars in 2009, and Mark also serves on the board of other Techstars companies such as Everlater, Kapost, and Orbotix.  I’ve also gotten to know Mark and his family very well over the last few years. Mark is not only one of the most talented investors I’ve ever worked with, but he’s a genuinely good person who I’ve seen repeatedly put the interests of others in front of his own.

Ever since Mark and his partners decided not to raise another fund at Highway 12 Ventures, I’ve been (perhaps not too subtly) working to bring Mark even closer to Techstars. Today, I couldn’t be happier to announce that Mark Solon has joined Techstars officially as a general partner and will focus on capital formation for Techstars broadly. As many of our companies already know, Mark has been helping them with their own capital strategy for some time already. Now Mark will also focus on strategy and deployment of the $70M that Techstars now has under management.

You can read much more about how Mark is thinking about this on his personal blog here. Mark, welcome to the Techstars family! We are thrilled to have the chance to work with you more closely, and I know our companies will feel the same way.

Techstars Demo Day: Boston Fall 2012

Fashion Project
Donate differently.

Zeppelin @zepppelin
Connecting cloud applications and team in one place.

Ovuline @Ovuline
Every pregnancy happy, healthy, and easy.

ImpulseSave @ImpulseSave
Saving made instantly gratifying.

Fetchnotes @fetchnotes
Productivity, as simple as a tweet.

Dashbell @Dash_Bell
OpenTable for independent hotels.

Wymsee @wymsee
Simplify TV/Film production, unlock latent value.

CoachUp @CoachUp
Find a great private coach.
Boston Business Journal: Techstars startup CoachUp raises $2.2M led by General Catalyst & Breakaway

Careport Health @careporthealth
Finding post-hospital care for patients. 

NBD Nanotechnologies @NBDnano
Making water from air.

Saverr @SaverrApp
Consumers saving together.

BetterFit Technologies @betterfit_tech
Personalized medicine for everyone. 
The Next Web: BetterFit Text launches a data-driven health service that lets doctors monitor patient symptoms

Urban Hero Sports @UrbanHeroSports
Turn a concrete jungle into a playground with the Hero Board.

Personal Blogs:
CoachUp: Techstars Boston Demo Day Preview
Miro Kazakoff: What to Expect When You’re Expecting Demo Day
Zeppelin: The Problem with Business Software

Accelerator Gazette: Demo Day at Techstars Boston A look at the 13 startups presenting at today’s Techstars Demo Day in Boston
Boston Business Journal: A look at the the 13 Techstars Boston startups
Boston Business Journal: Techstars Boston class raises at least $6M so far
Boston Globe: Incubator grads take work, hopes into real world
BostInno: Demo Day Preview
BostInno: Live Blog of Demo Day
GigaOM: Immigration reform is front and center for tech sector — and Obama
GigaOM: Turning air into water and making babies, new Techstars think big
Tech Cocktail: Techstars Boston Shows Off 13 Companies Today
Xconomy: Techstars Boston: 13 New Startups, from Super-Springs to Baby Makers

Applications for Boston’s 2013 program are open now.

Techstars Demo Day: Seattle 2012

Techstars Demo Day Seattle 2012
photo by Kayla Roark

Ten new companies took the stage at Showbox SoDo yesterday afternoon to pitch to a sold out audience of investors, mentors, community, and Seattle supporters.

Tred: @tredsite
Test drives delivered.
GeekWire: Tred aims to help dealers, shoppers with test drives

Sandglaz: @sandglaz
The simplest way for teams to collaborate and plan.
GeekWire: Task manager Sanglaz looks to boost team productivity

Glider (formerly named @glider_com
Bringing clarity to deals.

Leanplum: @leanplum
Optimizing the long-term value of users in mobile games.
GeekWire: Leanplum lets game developers alter titles on the fly

Bizible: @bizible
Closing the marketing loop for the Fortune Five Million. Finally.
GeekWire: Bizible lets companies track revenue back to marketing source 

Apptentive: @apptentive
The easiest way for every company with an app to talk to their customers.
GeekWire: Apptentive lets app lovers talk to app developers inside apps

Linksy: @linksyme
Identify and activate influencers.
GeekWire: Linksy turns influencers into brand champions 

Maptia: @maptia
Building a beautiful discovery engine for places.
GeekWire: Maptia charts course with interactive map

Nveloped: @nveloped
Delivering secure email directly to a recipient’s inbox without complicated plugins or portals.
GeekWire: Nveloped helps you secure your e-mail.

MobileDevHQ: @mobiledevhq
Enabling app marketers to get more downloads by understanding and improving their organic app marketing.
BetaKit: Techstars Seattle’s MobileDevHQ wants to rethink SEO for mobile apps
GeekWire: MobileDevHQ looks to help propel apps up the charts

Thank you to our national sponsors: Cooley, Rackspace, SoftLayer, Silicon Valley Bank, and Microsoft BizSpark. We’re grateful to our local sponsor, Gist, and our demo day sponsor, William Sonsini Goodrich and Rosati.

Personal Blogs:
Greg Meyer: Success is getting one person to believe in you
Maptia: An Epic Mountain Climb

Forbes: What Really Makes Venture Capitalists Invest in Your Startup
GeekWire: Live from Techstars Demo Day – Ray Ozzie keynote and 10 new startup pitches
GeekWire: My three favorite pitches from Techstars Demo Day, and a few from Robert Scoble too
GeekWire: Ray Ozzie on Startups – don’t underestimate the power of your connections
GeekWire: Techstars Road Trip – Startups headed south to San Francisco after demo day
Silicon Florist: Field trip – Portland’s Glider (formerly Superbly) and the rest of Techstars Seattle Demo Day 2012
XConomy: Techstars Demo Day – have you invested yet?

techstars demo day

You Pick the Charity, Fashion Project Does the Rest

Fashion Project is currently in session at Techstars in Boston. Their product lets you donate your high-end clothes, shoes and accessories through their website to the charity of your choice. You can also shop for coveted designer items knowing the majority of the proceeds will go to a great cause. Anna Palmer, co-founder and CEO, tells us where it all began.

Q: Fashion Project is the lovechild of an idea you had with your co-founder, Christine Rizk, when you met in school. Tell me about your lightbulb moment.
A: Christine was the first person I met at Harvard Law School. We attended a talk about taxes one day and afterward couldn’t stop talking about how $13B  worth of clothes are donated every single year in America. I had started two non-profits before, one in high school and one in college. Christine had started one in high school as well. It made total sense to begin working together.

Q: What do you say to the skeptics who are wary of fashion-oriented startups?
A: That even though fashion is a major industry, we aren’t in a noisy space. There’s no real model like this; we have built a company that’s highly profitable and benefits people in need. We have proved that it works because customers are fascinated with how simple the process is. We make finding donors and giving to charity a seamless experience.

Q: I would imagine that working so closely with charities and donors, you have seen some special moments. Can you share any of those with us?
A: Sure. Something really sweet just happened recently. After the ‘donate’ button in the website, we had a donor tell us all about how she was honoring her mom through the American Cancer Society. She gave us this personal look into her life and told us stories about how when she was a kid, her mom would sing in the car because the radio was broken. Now all of these intimate stories are attached to the items she’s giving because we have tagged them as such and others can read it. This means you know what you’re buying, who you want the payment to benefit, and the story behind it.

Q: Who is on board with Fashion Project?
A: We have a lot of really great non-profit partners behind us. We have recently signed up the Christopher Reeve Spinal Cord Injury and Paralysis Foundation. We now know our model works so we’re focused on testing it well. We’re proving to the world that we can get the volume of inventory taken care of at no cost to the donor, incentivizing people to donate again and again.

The collection launches in November. Sign up now or make a donation.

Apptentive: Traction and People, Not Users

Apptentive at their first 11:11 meeting

Apptentive is in the current class of 2012 at Techstars in Seattle. They make it easy for app developers to communicate with their app customers for increased ratings and higher retention. On the backend, the service manages customer conversations, aggregates customer contacts and works to solve the volume challenge that faces anyone who has hundreds of thousands of active customers every month. As an example, not everyone using your app wants to rate you highly, Apptentive helps you find the people who love your app and prompts them to rate your app highly. I talked to Robi Ganguly, founder and CEO, a month into their time at Techstars.

Q: You’re very forthcoming that you believe in “people, not users,” and you even published a tutorial about how to turn your haters into evangelistsYour code is open on GitHub. This transparency seems to foster a lot of trust. Has that helped create traction for Apptentive?
A: Absolutely. Some of our most prominent clients to date are Urbanspoon, Yahoo!,, and Coradine. In addition, we’re working with several hundred developers – everyone from the one-person shop to twenty person teams. We are very transparent and write a lot on our blog because we like to be leaders on the topic of communicating with your customers. This is already paying off for us. For example, I used to work at Yahoo! but I didn’t use my connections there to land them as a client. They found us through a post we put up last year that was shared internally at Yahoo and ended up in the inbox of one of the VPs there. Apparently, he said, “We need to talk to these guys.” His product manager got in contact with us and it was only at that point that I informed them I was a former employee. We’re also deeply focused on relationships and in that vein, Urbanspoon came through our network. We’re so fortunate to have connections in Seattle that knew their app would be a perfect candidate for the product we’re building.

Q: Your collective team resume includes the likes of Microsoft, Yahoo and Apple. What happens when you combine this professional history into a startup?
A: In short, magic. We’re very fortunate to have exceptional experiences in relevant domains that inform the solutions we’re building for app developers. Because we’ve seen the challenges firsthand and we’ve been steeped in the principles of some of the best companies in the industry, we have a distinct advantage in our ability to execute on our vision. More importantly, though, our team has known one another for a very long time. Mike (CTO, co-founder), Andrew (co-founder), and I all went to Pomona College together. Sky (co-founder) and Andrew lived together for a number of years and Josh (director of design) worked with Mike at a previous company. Finally, we’re a company of builders. Each person who joins our team ships something first, so we can see what it’s like to work together and understand if there’s a good fit. We think the combination of our team’s experience, our long history of knowing one another and our disposition towards shipping things is a large part of the reason why we’re already able to support three distinct platforms: iOS, Android and Mac OS X.

Q: When you won the Lean Startup competition in Seattle, you mentioned that your next big goal was revenue flow. Any update?
A: Sure. Shortly following that competition we closed our first few revenue deals, proving that there was a willingness to pay, which was important to us. However, we found that we had a scarcity of team resources; we were spending too much time on the billing portion and so we de-prioritized working on billing until we’d really gotten our product to a place where people were consistently signing up and integrating our services. Thanks to Techstars and the HackStars program, we’re re-emphasizing billing and hope to get it running next week and start to charge the customers that have been willing to pay. Brad Bouse (HackStar in Seattle) has been so helpful building this for us.

Q: You have been in the program for a month now. What’s in the works for the remainder of your time at Techstars?
A: We have a pretty ambitious roadmap of where we want to be by demo day. We will be expanding our offerings in a variety of ways. We spent the first month here focused on customer development and were able to discover some meaningful things we could build or fix. We want to share this stuff live during our pitch, feature the profile of people in your app and their behaviors. Answering questions like, “How are they using your app?” and “How do you talk to them most effectively?” are top of mind for us. When developers use our tools, we want them to have an understanding of how to interact with customers in a way that deepens the relationships and optimizes the experience of the people using their apps. From the customer traction perspective, we have several app publishers in the pipeline and we’re hoping to have some pretty extraordinary partnerships to unveil on demo day. Mentors like David Cohen, Chris Devore and Brenda Spoonemore have been so helpful introducing us to companies that are relevant and interested in what we’re creating. I’m looking forward to telling our story on Demo Day in a crisp, exciting way that really does a service to our customers, our team and our product. Techstars, powered by the mentorship of some of the best entrepreneurs in the world, is helping us craft and communicate what an Apptentive world is all about.

If you’re a a front end web engineer or have significant experience with UX , contact with your resume and introduction. The company will be hiring in the next three to six months.

Techstars picks 13 companies for Fall 2012 session in Boston

I am thrilled to announce the Fall Boston 2012 class.  Each session we push ourselves to get better and continue to try new things. This is the first time we have run more than one session in the same year in Boston and are delighted by the quality of startups and the enthusiasm the community has shown for a second program. Our session begins today and will end on November 14th with demo day.

Our Boston mentors and investors have great breadth and depth in technology and business so we’ve chosen a wonderfully diverse set of companies.  They range from consumer mobile to health IT, small business SaaS to travel and fashion marketplaces, and more. In fact, we’ve stretched beyond software to include a materials science company and a consumer product technology.

The companies bring an astounding level of drive, knowledge, enthusiasm and stick-to-itness that I know will make great businesses. Many of the companies are from the Boston area but we also have teams from Israel, Slovenia, Colombia and Ann Arbor. If experience is a guide, I know they will all be blown away by the welcome they receive from the Boston community. This is an amazing city; we are all lucky to be here.

Here are the 13 companies in the Techstars Fall 2012 program in Boston:

BetterFit Technologies provides personalized medicine for everyone.

BookingMarkets lets small and large web sites connect travelers with unique places to stay around the world.

CoachUp helps athletes achieve their full potential by connecting them with private coaches.

At Fashion Project you can shop daily designer deals and clean out your closet for your favorite cause.

Fetchnotes makes it easy to stay on top of what’s going on in your life and communicate with the people that matter to you.

ImpulseSave makes saving your money as easy and gratifying as spending it.

Med2Bed connects hospitals and post-acute care facilities to improve patient outcomes.

NBD uses unique surface chemistry to harvest water from humidity.

Ovuline helps couples conceive faster.

Saverr helps consumers save together. Connecting online and offline shopping. 

Wymsee is operating in stealth. 

Zepppelin helps small businesses see what’s happening in their company by connecting their cloud applications and team in one place.

A stealth company we funded is a consumer product company built on a breakthrough mechanical invention.

Techstars Demo Day: Boulder 2012

photo by Kyle Porter of SalesLoft

Note: Press and coverage links are added below in real-time.

Uses pricing analytics to find hotels selling below what they should be.

Lets dealers compete for the purchase of your used car, giving you the best price.

A curated marketplace where shoppers discover the best and most unique items from consignment stores around the country.
The Next Web: Techstars grad 27 Perry is taking the $13 billion retail consignment industry online

Makes home automation available to everyone by using a gateway, cloud intelligence, and smartphones to leverage thousands of existing products.

Boost revenue by providing sales with the most comprehensive news, information & alerts on the companies & people they sell to.

Verbalize It
Delivers real-time phone and browser-based access to human translators to make sure that nothing is ever lost in translation.

Smart Toys powered by mobile devices.

Delivers personalized offers and alerts to your car or phone based on your location and purchase history.
Wired: Daily Deals Are Coming to Your Car 
PR Newswire: Never Drive Past a Deal Again with ROXIMITY, the New Personalized, Location-Aware Retail App for Ford SYNC

Cloud hosting simplified.

All your photos and videos in one place, magically organized, searchable anywhere, and archived forever.
The Next Web: Simply the best way find and organize your photos and video, no matter where it’s hosted

Office-sharing marketplace that will change the way you think about your office space forever.
The Next Web: Startups, Have spare office space or need to rent some? PivotDesk is your new best friend

At intermission we aired the full trailer for the third season of The Founders. If you weren’t in attendance, you can see it now below:

Music from this trailer is by Harper Blynn. You can purchase their music here or follow them on Twitter: @harperblynn. The trailer also features Calvin Locklear. Purchase his music here or follow him on Twitter: @calvinlocklear.

A huge thank you to our sponsors for making all of this possible: Rackspace, SoftLayer, Cooley, Microsoft BizSpark, Silicon Valley Bank, PayPal, Verizon Developer Community, and TriNet. Our local sponsors are owed a debt of gratitude as well. They include Bryan Cave, KKO, Kurtz Fargo LLP, and Slice of Lime. Thank you to Monika Spence for singing during our intermission today. Thanks so much to the Boulder community and our amazing mentors for showing up to support us today. Boulder is where it really all began and we won’t ever forget it.

Personal Blogs:
Verbalize It: 2012 Techstars Boulder Demo Day
RollSale: Techstars Tribute #1, Nicole Glaros
Brad Feld: Techstars Boulder Gets Better Every Year 

The Next Web: It’s Techstars Boulder Demo Day – Here are the 11 companies dashing for cash
TechCrunch: Startup Accelerator Techstars Showcases Eleven New Startups At Boulder Demo Day
VentureBeat: Techstars Boulder Demo Day: from cloud hosting to ‘co-working on steroids’
Tech Cocktail: 11 Startups Unveil at Techstars Boulder 2012 Demo Day

Introducing Techstars TV

Today we’re excited to announce the launch of Techstars TV, a central place for all things story and video-related. Watch past Founder Series episodes (season three in Boulder is currently filming and will be posted this fall), This Week in Techstars episodes, meet our incredible mentors, and much more. When one of our demo days is happening, you will be able to watch it unfold through a livestream on this page. A “lean back” option will also be available soon, offering you the option to click once and view a variety of our content, curated by us.

Conversations with Brad Feld and David Cohen

A Day in the Life of Doing More Faster

Happy viewing!