Stories 5 Questions

5 Questions with Ted Serbinski

Mar 2nd, 2020

2-min read

Ted Serbinsk is an entrepreneur and early-stage startup investor. He has invested in 58 startups from 11 different countries. Previously, Ted successfully exited a startup he co-founded as CTO. Ted graduated from Cornell with a Computer Engineering degree. His greatest startup team of all: his 4 energetic kids best represented by these emoji: 🦖🦈🦄 🐳

01. What are the key elements you look for when sourcing startups for the MetLife Digital Accelerator powered by Techstars?

Passion, potential, and product. Does the team’s passion match the business they are trying to build? This will get them through the inevitable tough times. What is the potential of the team and the business? Early-stage investing is all about finding diamonds-in-the-rough and potential is seeing what others don’t see. A startup is a quest to find a repeatable business model and at that core is a product. I’m obsessed with well-made products with great UI. Together — passion, potential, and product — when in balance, create a harmony that I seek to find in the startups I invest in.

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

You are not your business. It’s very unhealthy when a founder becomes so entwined in their business that they cannot separate themselves from it. This has happened to me and to the founders I’ve invested in. It can be disastrous for a person’s health even if the business is successful. I try and help founders disconnect in a healthy way from their business. 

The status quo is your biggest competitor. It’s really hard to build a business. It’s way harder to convince customers to change their habits and routines to use your new product. This is often the most overlooked competitor. 

Be open and transparent. With your team, your investors, your shareholders. Everything is so much easier when trust truly exists across all stakeholders.

03. What does our partner MetLife bring to the accelerator?

As a company, MetLife is over 150 years old. It’s stood the test of time and it’s laser-focused on providing the products for its customers. As simple as that. During the accelerator, the customers are the founders. What that means is unparalleled access throughout MetLife. Their intention is to get entire business units to support the startups, leading to pilots and POCs. And in some cases, even investment. On the backend, MetLife has created a “Pilot E-ZPass” to help startups land deals with MetLife in record time.

04. What does Give First mean to you, and how do you apply it in your work and life?

I like to help people. The more I give, the more I get. It’s amazing how that works. At the end of the day, our relationships are what matter most. I find when I help people, my relationships grow. And this always leads to wonderful results. It’s actually how I got to Techstars, by leaving a comment on Brad Feld’s blog and helping him and his partner Jason Mendelson buy a house in Detroit… my life has never been the same since helping them.