An Incredible Month in London

Sunset near Holland Park, London

Sunset near Holland Park, London

 I just got back from a month in the UK, where we launched the first-ever Techstars program in London. It was an amazing time of meeting with the startup community there and getting Techstars’ international presence off the ground. The startup scene in London is incredibly vibrant and I think people would be astounded by how much is happening there.

The Techstars offices are right in the midst of the action at Warner Yard, a new co-working space where startup founders and investors work, interact and connect. Warner yard was founded by Federico Pirzio-Biroli of Playfair Capital, who is also a Techstars investor and mentor.

Techstars London orientation

Orientation in London

As always, it was a privilege to meet and work with the 11 startups participating in the program. They are all hard at work on their companies, meeting with mentors and preparing for Demo Day in September.

We greatly appreciate IDEO and their involvement and contributions to the Techstars program in London and many of our other locations, and we really enjoyed the amazing workshop presented by Iain Roberts and Tom Hulme. The presentation explored the importance of purpose, customers, research and testing hypotheses.

Tom Hulme of IDEO

Tom Hulme of IDEO explains why pivots do not equal progress

There are definitely some unique challenges involved with expanding outside of your own country, and you need to have someone who can help navigate the legal and cultural environment. We have been incredibly fortunate to have Jon Bradford as Managing Director of Techstars in London. I met Jon a few years ago when he was launching The Difference Engine in Newcastle. I observed his commitment to the startups and noticed how he prioritized giving first and the importance of startup communities. He later moved to London and built Springboard before focusing on Techstars there. Jon is doing great work and playing a critical role in developing the startup community in London. He has also been an important contributor to the Mentor Manifesto.

It’s exciting to have Techstars branching out and expanding outside the US, and it’s just been great to see how excited the community here is about it. Expect to see more and more great things from the London startup community in the months and years to come.

Show Don't Tell Night - Techstars in London 2013

Show Don’t Tell Night – the dog was not impressed, but everyone else in the room was captivated

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USA Today Highlights the Boulder/Denver Startup Scene

The Boulder and Denver tech startup communities were featured in a recent USA Today Talking Tech video. Several entrepreneurs from the area were interviewed for the segment, including yours truly:

I think the report does a great job of highlighting some of the unique aspects of our community here, in particular the collaborative and inclusive ecosystem that helps it thrive. Like Paul Berberian of Orbotix says, everyone wants to see everyone else succeed. When someone needs help, others in the community respond by offering up networks and contributing resources. I discussed this distinctive “open door” mentality a while back in an article called Boulder is for Startups on the WSJ Accelerators blog.

Another cool thing about the Colorado startup scene is the way Denver and Boulder make concerted, ongoing efforts to interact and collaborate as part of a larger community, with events like the Boulder/Denver New Tech Meetups that Jennifer Asbury talks about in the report. The New Tech Colorado site provides a place for all Colorado startups and entrepreneurs to see what’s going on in different parts of the state.

There’s always something exciting happening with Boulder and Denver startups. Colorado is an awesome place to be an entrepreneur, and an all-around great place to live. For more information about the many resources available to the tech startup community in Boulder, check out The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Boulder Startup Community.

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A Random Day in London

While I was in the UK for the launch of Techstars in London, I held a “random day” where I met with 24 companies, back-to-back, for 15 minutes each at the awesome Warner Yard. Over the course of the day I met a lot of interesting people and gained a little more insight into the specific struggles and challenges of the UK startup community.

Random days of interactions with people I wouldn’t normally meet have led to all kinds of connections, friendships and even some investments. The idea for random days comes from Brad Feld, who has held them regularly for years. In fact, I met Brad on one of his random days, when I presented the idea for Techstars to him. He ended up not only being interested, but actually becoming a cofounder.

Of course the highlight was working with the 11 companies we’ve funded in our inaugural London program. Five of those companies are from the UK, and six are from other countries. I can tell you one thing from spending a month with them that it’s going to be a great class of companies. If you’re interested in checking out Demo Day in September, just let me know.

My London random day–and the entire month I spent talking with people involved in the startup community there–really highlighted the way that entrepreneurs all around the world are working on similar things. You see the same ideas in London as you see in New York. If there are two startups in London doing something, there are probably two or three in New York and a couple in Boulder doing the same thing. This kind of competition is happening all the time on a global scale. The ideas entrepreneurs are working on and how they’re thinking about the world aren’t all that different from one community to the next. (This certainly underscores the fact that if you have a great idea for a startup, other people probably have the same idea. What really makes the difference are things like execution, passion, vision and your team.)

Many people have asked me what major differences I’ve seen in London, compared with startup communities in the US. The biggest difference I’ve noticed is in the velocity of investment. Not necessarily the quantity of investment, but the slower speed, and how much friction is often involved with getting through a seed round. Companies in the UK that are raising a seed round typically have to go through the same diligence as a company raising an Series A round in the US. So there’s more diligence, more spreadsheet work and a lot more focus on actual valuations. There’s also a lot more scrutiny of the business model, as opposed to just finding good people with a good idea. I’m not saying this is better or worse than how seed funding happens in the US, but it does seem to cause more UK entrepreneurs to self-fund, bootstrap, focus on revenue earlier than might be natural–or simply decide to pursue their business in the US. I did notice that the London community seems to be starting to make a shift toward the notion that at seed stage you sometimes need to trust your gut more than the spreadsheets.

Entrepreneurs and investors in London are hungry for their community to continue to improve and they’re enthusiastic about all the things happening there. And we’re tremendously excited for Techstars London to be a part of it all.

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A different point of view for Mentor Manifesto

At SERGE, I talked with others about the Mentor Manifesto. Ralph Dandrea has this great add to it here where he talks about purpose and beliefs around being a mentor to others.

The Mentor Manifesto includes a set of rules that help to describe what a great mentor does, but remembering a set of rules has never been a strength of mine. I’d much prefer to understand the intentions, beliefs, and most importantly the way of being that would help me be successful.


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Veterans – Check out TechStars 3-day Patriot Boot Camp – just for you

Veterans give so much in their service to our country, it’s always an honor to be able to give something back no matter how small. That’s why at TechStars we’re very excited to be offering another TechStars Patriot Boot Camp from July 17-19 at George Washington University in Washington D.C.

This will be the second year for the event, an intense three-day program designed to teach and mentor Veterans and Service Members about entrepreneurship and help them build and develop innovative technology companies.

Patriot Boot Camp will include presentations and one-on-one mentoring from the TechStars team and alumni, technology industry leaders and experienced entrepreneurs and investors. As a participant, you’ll have the chance to interact with other motivated entrepreneurs, learn more about the process of building a successful technology startup, meet with successful D.C. startups, and receive helpful feedback from mentors and peers.

Through presentations, guidance and coaching, you can solidify your business idea, focus your fundraising pitch, improve your accelerator application or refine your product concept. Wherever you’re at in the entrepreneurial process, Patriot Boot Camp can help move you forward. As Tak Lo, a participant from last year, writes in this blog post: “I owe a lot to the experience that essentially kickstarted my entrepreneurship journey.”

Participants traveled from 20 states and 3 foreign countries to take part in last year’s Patriot Boot Camp with 77 participants, 67 companies and more than 50 mentors. Since then, many of these founders have used what they gained from the experience to propel their companies toward greater success: Nexercise was accepted to TechStars Chicago. Tak Lo is now an associate at TechStars New York. Seven teams moved on to RisingStars. Fotopigeon and VocalTap are currently at the NewMe Accelerator in San Francisco. And four of the teams went to the VictorySpark accelerator.

Veterans, spouses of Veterans, Service Members, or companies comprised of at least 50 percent Veterans are encouraged to apply to Patriot Boot Camp. To facilitate a productive match between mentors and participants, candidate selection will focus on technology-oriented companies and teams. These will generally be high technology or software companies and concepts that have national or worldwide reach. Individuals with a keen interest in technology startups and entrepreneurial education will also be considered and are encouraged to apply.

There is no cost for Veterans or spouses of Veterans to participate, but all participants are responsible for their own travel and accommodations. Patriot Boot Camp 2013 is made possible by our generous sponsors: SoftLayerKauffman FastTracSlice of LimePivotDeskSilicon Valley BankSendGrid, and George Washington University. We are also grateful to all of our speakers and mentors for graciously volunteering their time and expertise.

As David Cass points out in this post about his experience at last year’s Patriot Boot Camp, Veterans make excellent entrepreneurs. They’re disciplined and motivated, committed to the mission, accustomed to working as a team, comfortable with taking risks and stepping up to lead.

So go ahead, seize the opportunity and apply today. You can submit your application any time from now until the final deadline of May 31. Applications will be reviewed and decisions made on a rolling basis, so the sooner you apply, the better.

And if you’re an experienced entrepreneur, angel or VC who would like to mentor at the event for either a half or full day, please let me know.

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Announcing TechStars Austin

I’m incredibly excited about the recent launch of TechStars Austin. Austin is a natural fit for TechStars, and we’re looking forward to having an ongoing presence in this strong, active and growing community.

We all know how great Austin is from our annual trips to SXSW, but in fact the city has a vibrant startup scene all year round. There’s just so much happening there, with many successful companies like Indeed, HomeAway, Bazaarvoice and Spiceworks, along with plenty more promising newcomers.

As always, we’re starting this new TechStars program with a solid foundation of support already in place. Local tech groups in Austin have been enthusiastically supportive, and we have a bunch of talented mentors and investors involved, including Sam Decker (Mass Relevance), Rony Kahan (Indeed), Jeff Dachis (Dachis Group), Brett Hurt (Bazaarvoice), Tom Ball and Mike Dodd (Austin Ventures), Lori Knowlton (HomeAway), Kip McClanahan and Morgan Flager (Silverton), Ned Hill and Aziz Gilani (Mercury Fund) and Rob Taylor (Black Locus)–just to name a few. Josh Baer and Bill Boebel of Capital Factory, where our offices will be located, have been instrumental in bringing TechStars to Austin, and I greatly appreciate all of their help and support.

The Managing Director of TechStars Austin is Jason Seats, a successful entrepreneur, techie and angel investor. Jason founded Slicehost, which was later acquired by Rackspace, and then joined TechStars in 2011 as Managing Director of TechStars Cloud. He brings so much to the table with his valuable technical skills, experience as a founder and investor, and a strong network. In his new home in Austin, he’ll definitely play an important role in the growth of TechStars and the entire startup community there.

To learn more about TechStars Austin, check out these articles from TechCrunch, VentureBeat, Xconomy, The Next Web and PCMag. Applications are now open for the inaugural TechStars Austin program, which kicks off in August. Discover how three intense months of mentorship, along with seed funding and a powerful network, can help you grow your business and develop as an entrepreneur. Apply now, or see the full schedule for more details.

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