Feb 29th, 2020
Ryan Kuder is the Managing Director of the Techstars Anywhere Accelerator, Techstars’ only remote accelerator. He has also managed Techstars accelerators in San Diego and London. Ryan launched his first tech startup in 1998 and it was a spectacular failure. Since then he’s been a product and marketing executive at Yahoo! and eBay, a four time founder, and a senior startup executive with two exits. He graduated from Georgetown University and lives with his family in Carlsbad, CA where he’s a fan of craft beer, fish tacos, and the San Diego Padres.
You’ll hear a lot about Team, Team, Team when we are meeting startups for Techstars Anywhere. But what does that mean? For us it means we’re looking for three things. We’re looking for talented founders with the demonstrated skills to do the things they need to do to get to the next level. This usually means they’ve got the technical ability to build and ship product quickly. We look for founders who can sell because you’re always selling… to customers, to investors, to prospective early employees. And we’re looking for founders who have a compelling vision of the future and a clear hypothesis for how to get there.
It’s hard. No matter how good you are, it’s going to be hard. And to be successful requires a team and a network who are there to help. One of the things that I value most about Techstars is that our network of mentors has been there and done that and they have empathy for the founders that are building new companies from scratch. Bringing founders into that network can add an untold amount of value.
Not every founder can, or should, relocate to participate in an accelerator program. Some founders have customers they need to work with, or employees to manage, or a lab or factory where they are building things. Some founders have families. Techstars Anywhere is a mostly remote experience that uses technology, and a few airplanes, to connect these founders to the global Techstars network, and support them building great companies wherever they happen to be located.
One of the things that we were concerned about early was whether founders would develop the same peer relationships that founders in traditional Techstars accelerators develop. What we learned was that the relationships that founders in Techstars Anywhere develop are just as strong or even stronger! We attribute this to the short but intense weeks that we spend together in person at the beginning, middle, and end of the program. And because founders are used to being connected online, they never really “leave” the accelerator. This really helps those relationships last. Another advantage that we’ve found is that geography is not a constraint for Techstars Anywhere. Location based accelerators do a great job building great mentor networks of locally based mentors. Techstars Anywhere has a mentor network comprised of former founders, CEOs and CTOs, investors, service providers, and industry and subject matter experts from around the country, and even a few from around the world. It’s a network that would be very difficult to assemble with a location based program.
One of the most satisfying experiences I’ve had in Techstars Anywhere was a call I had with a founder several months after her program had ended. Things weren’t working and she was having a hard time finding traction. We spent a good bit of time exploring the things that were and weren’t working and what she did and didn’t know and decided to double down on one of the things that was working and deprioritize the things that weren’t. About two months later, she called me back and said, “I think we’ve found it. We’ve found the thing our customers want to pay us for! And it’s working!” We’re about a year out from that conversation now and the company is doing great, making money, hiring people, and they just moved into a new bigger office to hold everybody. It’s great to be a part of a founder’s eureka moment.