5 Questions with Collin Wallace, Managing Director of Techstars Future of Ecommerce powered by eBay

May 15, 2023

Collin Wallace is the Managing Director of Techstars Future of Ecommerce powered by eBay Collin is also a serial entrepreneur with multiple exits. He founded FanGo (Techstars 2010), a mobile ordering platform which he sold to Grubhub in 2011. At Grubhub he was the Head of Innovation, where he helped launch numerous products including Orderhub and Grubhub for Restaurants. More recently, he co-founded ZeroStorefront (YCombinator W22), a data analytics platform for restaurants, which was acquired by Thanx in 2022. He is an active investor in companies like Payjoy, Landed, Postcript, Mosaic Voice, Gigwage and over 35 others. He co-teaches the Startup Garage class at Stanford Graduate School of Business and advises the Roelof Botha & Huifen Chan Startup Innovation Program also at Stanford. He earned his engineering degree from the Georgia Institute of Technology and his MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Today, he lives in San Mateo, California with his wife Doris, daughter Zoelle and puppies Aspen & Penny.

01. What are you looking for in startups for the Techstars eBay accelerator?

I try not to overcomplicate things, and I'm a big fan of simple frameworks. This is what I look for in startups. It's simple, but surprisingly difficult to find:

  • Fast learners

  • Good listeners

  • Hard workers

  • Risk takers

These are the things that I believe are core characteristics of successful founders. The technology you are building and the products will change with time and guidance. However, the core attributes of being able to learn quickly, understand your customer, work hard enough to outrun your competitors, and willingness to take the risk necessary to get you to the next level; those are things you either have or don’t. Everything else I can help you with.

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

  • Everybody is somebody to someone. You never know who's going to be instrumental to your journey, so treat everyone with respect and understand that everyone has a role to play in what you're trying to build. You just may not know what that role is yet. You can see this in my ethos as an MD; I’m willing to help anyone and I don’t play favorites. Everybody is a “somebody” to me.

  • Learn from everyone and compare yourself to no one. It's really easy as a Founder to get caught up in what everyone else is doing, and this can be a massive distraction. It's important to understand that our path as founders is not linear. There are going to be times where you look like you're ahead, and there are going to be times where you look like you're behind, but what really matters is where you're going. As an MD, I don’t judge based on where your company is, I judge based on where you are going and how fast you are getting there.

  • Work hard long enough for good things to happen. Every business has some element of luck that impacts their success.  You can't control when you get lucky, but you can make sure that you're ready and alive when it's your turn. Because of this, I spend a lot of time as an MD trying to put companies in a place to get lucky and capitalize on it. 

  • Be impatient with action and patient with results. It takes a long time to build something meaningful, so we have to be impatient about getting started but patient about seeing the results. Being a startup founder is about being able to apply a constant force over a sustained period of time. As an MD, I am just another set of hands to help you push on that journey.

  • You can be delayed or diverted from your dreams, but you cannot be denied your dreams. If you work hard enough, eventually the universe realizes that you're not going to quit, and just concedes to giving you what you want. I bring this perspective to every aspect of my life.

03. What is your favorite thing about the Silicon Valley startup scene?

The thing I love most about the Silicon Valley startup scene is the willingness to “give first.” I think it's because of the type of person who chooses to affiliate with Silicon Valley, and the fact that you never know who is going to be the next big thing. Things just move so fast here that you can go from delivering food from your campus dorm to running a multibillion-dollar business in just a few years. Everyone is so eager to help, and has a genuine reverence for the journey you are on as a founder. There is a ton of infrastructure, and a lot of exceptionally talented people who are willing to help, and take a risk on you with nothing in return. It is really something special.

04. What does our partner eBay bring to the accelerator?

Pierre Omidyar, the founder of eBay, was one of the original grandfathers of the modern tech startup, and today, eBay is one of the top global e-commerce giants with a vast customer base and a well-established brand. If anyone understands how to progress from a startup to a global powerhouse, it is eBay. From single-person side-hustles, to full-blown enterprises, eBay has been helping founders scale since their inception.

With Techstars and eBay, startups can leverage an extensive network of mentors, gain exposure and attract potential customers, investors, and partners in the e-commerce world.  eBay’s experienced teams, partners and mentors can help founders develop innovative and scalable solutions for the ever-evolving online marketplace. They can also provide invaluable mentorship and guidance to budding entrepreneurs, helping them navigate the challenges of building a successful business.

eBay's reputation for innovation and technological advancements inspires and motivates startups to push boundaries and think outside the box, fostering a culture of creativity and experimentation, ultimately driving the development of groundbreaking products and services.

Lastly, eBay offers startups access to resources and support that might be otherwise difficult to obtain. This includes funding, infrastructure, and connections to industry experts and thought leaders. By aligning with Techstars and eBay, startups can gain a competitive edge and accelerate their growth, making the collaboration a win-win for the next generation of founders.

05. Why is growing diversity in entrepreneurship important to you?

Entrepreneurship is an accelerant for the world that you want to see. If you have a perspective that you think is important, then entrepreneurship is the highest-leverage tool you have for making that a reality. Traditionally, under-represented founders have had a perspective, but have not had the leverage to make it a reality. 

Ironically, the same systemic barriers that tend to make people underrepresented also tend to make them exceptional founders. Namely, the ability to endure incredible amounts of adversity and keep pushing. I think entrepreneurship is a massive opportunity to create wealth, freedom, and independence for historically overlooked communities and founders everywhere.