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I love origin stories. Yesterday at the kickoff of Techstars FounderCon, I stood on stage with David Cohen and David Brown as we went through the origin story of Techstars, followed by a build up of what has happened over the past seven amazing years. As the 50+ people working for Techstars stood on the stage at the end, I got chills. Afterwards I got feedback from a number of the 500 people in the audience that it was extremely useful context for them, many of whom joined the extended Techstars network in the past two years.
A few weeks ago, FG Press released the first book in its Techstars series titled No Vision All Drive: Memoirs of an Entrepreneur. It’s written by David Brown and is the origin story of David Brown and David Cohen’s first company Pinpoint Technologies.
If you recognize David Cohen’s name, but not David Brown’s, you have a new David in your world. Brown was one of the four co-founders of Techstars (with Cohen, me, and Jared Polis). A little over a year ago, he joined Techstars full time as one of the three managing partners – the other two being David Cohen and Mark Solon. Brown runs the organization day to day and Solon manages all the fund and capital formation activity.
While I’ve known Brown for seven years, Cohen and Brown have worked together for 25 years. Pinpoint was a self-funded company that was their first entrepreneurial endeavor. Like many other startups, it had many ups and downs but the David’s created a very successful, profitable business that was acquired by ZOLL (a Boston-based public company) in 1999. Brown stayed at ZOLL for a while, left, and then came back and ran ZOLL Data (the division based on Pinpoint) until last year when he finally left for good.
When I read the first draft of No Vision All Drive I immediately realized this was a powerful origin story. It shows the personal and professional development of Brown and Cohen as they grew from two guys trying to figure out how to start their business to leaders of a real company. Brown’s reflections on the experience are detailed and demonstrates his incredible talents as an operator. If you know Cohen, after reading this book, you understand why they are perfect partners and have worked so well together over the past 25 years.
It’s a delight to get to work with both of these guys. No Vision All Drive gave me deep insight into Brown and how to be effective working with him, as well as what to expect in the context of his leadership and management style. And it made me even more optimistic about the future of Techstars.
Our goal with the Techstars Series is to get out a series of books applicable to all entrepreneurs at an affordable price. So, instead of doing the default Kindle $9.99 price, or tying the Kindle price to the hardcover price, we are charging $4.95 for the Kindle version. We know there is no marginal cost to each incremental e-book so we want to provide it at a price that entrepreneurs won’t think twice about, which we pegged at the equivalent of a Starbucks Venti Peppermint Mocha Frappuccino .
If you are interested in origin stories or just want to better understand the guys behind Techstars, I encourage you to grab a copy of No Vision All Drive: Memoirs of an Entrepreneur.
When David Cohen and I came up with the idea for the Global Accelerator Network (GAN) in 2010, we counted roughly 100 accelerator programs around the US that were founded following the Techstars model. We labeled Techstars a “mentor driven accelerator” and reached out to others who were using the same approach to create what became GAN. From that initial outreach, 16 high quality accelerator programs joined us to launch the network.
Since then, accelerators have appeared all over the world. Some accelerators are incredibly high quality. Others are not. Some are major contributors to their startup communities. Others are detrimental to it. As with everything new that grows quickly, it’s a chaotic system with lots of innovation, creative destruction, and rapid change and learning that – if done well – is a great example of the power of the Lean Startup approach to entrepreneurship.
Today, the Global Accelerator Network is a worldwide organization of 52 accelerators located in over 60 cities around the world. We’ve maintained a high quality across the membership while expanding the network by being selective. Not every accelerator is/could be/would be a member in GAN, nor is it designed that way. To become a member, each accelerator must meet the following strict criteria:
- Operate a 3-6 month long program.
- Provide some sort of seed capital to their founders.
- Take a small amount of equity (usually ~6%) and overall have terms that are favorable to entrepreneurs.
- Take no less than 5 and no more than 12 companies at a time.
- Surround those companies with 40-80 mentors.
- Have funding for a two-year runway of the program.
- Have physical space available for their program.
- Have a strong management team who are typically proven entrepreneurs
In addition to these eight criteria, all members follow the established ethos (give before you get; put entrepreneurs first) of accelerators in GAN, including a thorough review of an accelerator’s term sheets and numerous conversations to vet accelerator founders’ intentions and operational practices. We also review their leadership and mentor pool to ensure value.
Becoming a member in the GAN is not easy, but neither is operating a quality accelerator program. Feel free to drop me an email if you want to learn more about joining GAN.
Sean Wise, a professor at Ryerson University in Toronto, has an awesome web interview series called The Naked Entrepreneur Show. Sean is the interviewer for a 45 minute studio show that is entirely produced by students at Ryerson.
When I was in Toronto in the fall, I did an episode with him – it’s definitely in the top 10 of the interviews I’ve done.
David Cohen, the CEO of TechStars, also did an interview on The Naked Entrepreneur.
Enjoy. And it’s going to be fun to see what happens with the SEO on this.
Thirty-five great candidates were interviewed for this position; the only offer we extended was to Eugene. His background includes NY-area investments BuzzFeed and Bedrocket while he was at New Enterprise Associates. Prior to that, he worked at Warbug Pincus and Morgan Stanley. We were looking for deep competence and culture fit with TechStars and we found it with Eugene.
It’s been amazing to me to see TechStars NY grow since David Cohen and David Tisch launched it in the Winter of 2011. Tisch provided amazing leadership over the three programs, helping launch 36 new companies, of which 1 has been acquired, 2 have failed, and 33 have gone on to raise around $50m and employ over 200 people. The NY startup community has been awesome with engagement from over 75 mentors. And as the NY entrepreneurship scene has exploded during this time, it’s been fun to be part of it with both TechStars and our investments in companies such as MakerBot, Medialets, AdMeld (now Google), CrowdTap, Organic Motion, Jirafe, Next Big Sound (which was part of TechStars Boulder Summer 2009) and SideTour (which was part of the second TechStars Summer 2011 program).
Nicole Glaros is serving as Interim MD and will be based with Eugene in NYC during this year’s program. David Cohen will be present as well, helping get Eugene up to speed. I”m also going to be spending a week at TechStars NY during the program from April 15 to April 19.
Eugene – welcome to TechStars. I’m psyched to have you as part of the team!
A few weeks ago I did a long interview with Jason Calacanis on This Week In Startups. I got a bunch of positive feedback on it and thought it was one of the better long form interviews I’ve done in a while.
The other day Jason released an interview that he recently did with David Cohen, the CEO of TechStars. I listened to it earlier today – it was also excellent. I highly recommend it if you are interested in TechStars, accelerators, early stage investing, ramping your startup, and how David thinks about angel investing from his fund Bullet Time Ventures.