Is it done already?
Last week was amazing! Techstars Demo Day ? on Monday, Techstars Investor Day ? on Tuesday, then Venture Atlanta ? on Wednesday and Thursday, culminating with the Techstars Party ? on Thursday night. A crazy week! (but Mike, what happened Friday?? ? Absolutely nothing happened on Friday! We all slept in for the first time in months! ? ?)
It was a busy 3 months that flew by. It is hard to believe how much was accomplished in such little time. Big thanks ? to Dave Payne and Hannah Turner for making their first program a success for all of us.
Didn’t get to see the pitch? Watch it here. ?
This week we are going to share some tips for the next batch of Techstars companies to get the most out of their Techstars experience. We received a lot of great advice from Techstars founders before we started, so in the spirit of #GiveFirst we wanted to share what worked best for us.
Connect to Alumni
I spoke to no less than 30 Techstars alumni founders prior to starting the program. Everyone I spoke with was generous with their time and advice. So allow me to pay it forward, if you are about to start Techstars or are considering the program, connect with me here and send me a message. I will make time.
Universialy, throughout the program, I found alumni to live by the #GiveFirst mentality. This network is strong and my advice is to take advantage of it before prior to the official start and build your network.
Come With a Plan
Don’t wait until after the program starts to develop a plan of action. Come with a plan. 3 months flies by, don’t waste the first few weeks coming up with a plan. By talking to founders and alumni prior to starting you can get a good sense of expectations and opportunities that can help you formulate a plan.
We had an all-day planning meeting a couple weeks prior to starting the program. We identified company strengths and weaknesses and then came up with a plan to use Techstars to address our weaknesses and leverage our strengths.
Here is what it looked like for us:
- Strengths: Product and Engineering and Funding. We had a product that was live and we had some money in the bank and some revenue coming in.
- Weaknesses: Customer Profile and Go-to-market Strategy. We hadn’t figured out exactly the ideal customer persona and we were weak in sales and marketing.
Our plan looked something like this:
- Month 1 – Leverage the network and get mentors that could help with our weaknesses.
- Month 2 – Settle on a customer persona and lock down pilots early.
- Month 3 – Make customers happy so we could earn case studies.
What do you want to get out of the program? Be specific with your team. You are giving up significant equity to join Techstars. What do you want to get out of it in exchange? There are cheaper ways to get funding, so like with most things in life, you’ll get out of Techstars what you put into it. Put in the time to plan and set goals. Our goals looked like this:
Goal 1: Identify ideal customer profile, specifically in regards to agencies vs. brands.
Result: We found that marketing agencies, specifically performance and growth marketing agencies, represent the type of customers with the most pain, highest willingness to pay, and best product market fit for Eletype at its current stage.
Goal 2: Hire and train sales and account management.
Result: At the beginning of Techstars we hired Worth McDonald, he has been a true asset to the company since then. Worth now has a sales strategy and is armed with happy customers and case studies. (and we need more sales resources!)
Goal 3: Make customers happy ?
Result: We are getting testimonials, case studies, endorsements and, most importantly, more paying customers.
Know What To Say No To
Techstars is going to come at you with a lot of programs, resources, and activities. Part of making a plan and setting goals is to know what to say ‘no’ to. In fact, I’ll wager this is more important than knowing what to say ‘yes’ to.
Part of our plan at the beginning was to purposefully ignore and to say ‘no’ to certain aspects of the program. Why? Every company going through Techstars is unique. Each company has their own strengths and weaknesses and the Techstars program offers opportunities for every type of company.
We asked ourselves ‘Does this help with our weak areas or does it leverage our strengths?’ If the answer was ‘no’, we skipped it.
One piece of advice I received from a founder that I will pass on here was to remember that Techstars is not school. Attendance is not required. You aren’t going to fail if you don’t do something. You are running a company, first and foremost. Time is precious, it’s your job to get the most out of Techstars in a way that benefits your business the best.
Know Your Role
Part of our planning process involved assigning roles so that we could divide and conquer. This helps with the previous dilemma (what should I say ‘no’ to?). Everyone doesn’t have to do everything. If everyone in your company attended all Techstars events, programs and meetings you would get nothing done for 3 months. Divide and conquer by assigning roles.
- Hold yourself and your team accountable each week
- Help your cohort. Make yourself and your team available to the rest of the cohort for help.
- Dog food each others product. Your cohort can be your customers and your guinea pigs!
- Try not to stress about Demo Day as much as I did. I was a wreck the week leading up to it. Have faith, these things tend to always come together in the end.