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Last night we had the Techstars Boulder Mentor Kickoff dinner. It’s an annual tradition at Techstars – we have a dinner for all mentors before we start the program. It’s a meet and greet for all mentors in the upcoming program, a great way to reconnect with friends, an intro to the companies in the upcoming program, and a reminder (and celebration) of the role of a mentor in Techstars.
Nicole Glaros, the Techstars Boulder managing director, held a great kickoff event at the Bohemian Biergarten. I ate too much Spätzle (man – that stuff has a lot of calories in it) but otherwise had an awesome time. I was especially gratified to see a number of new mentors for this year’s program. One of our goals with Techstars is to continuously expand the network, and bringing in and engaging new mentors in each program is a key part of that.
Given the new mentors, Nicole spent a few minutes going through the Techstars Mentor Manifesto. It reminded me of the importance of clearly defining what a mentor is and how a mentor can optimally interact with a startup, especially a very early stage one or one consisting of first time entrepreneurs.
Over the next six weeks I’m going to write 18 posts – going much deeper on each of the 18 items on the mentor manifesto. When we started Techstars, the word “mentor” was rarely used, typically referred to a single “mentor” that person had, and often connoted a very one-up / one-down type of “guidance relationship.” For those of you in legal or investment banking professions, the equivalent word was often “rabbi” – it was someone who looked after you, covered your ass, gave you advice, and helped you on your career.
We meant “mentor” in a different way. We’ve learned an enormous amount about what does and doesn’t work. What’s helpful or harmful. And how a mentor can get the most out of their side of the relationship. Today, it’s trendy to be a “mentor” especially to a startup. Unlike before, when mentor meant something very precise and narrow, it now is referred to a wide range of relationships and interactions.
Hopefully the next 18 posts, and the Techstars Mentor Manifesto, will help make the definition of mentors and the implementation of mentorship, at least in the context of high growth startups, precise in a new and ever more powerful way.
I got asked today for a picture of the four founders of Techstars together (me, David Cohen, David Brown, and Jared Polis.) I did a search and came up with a few, but also stumbled upon this beauty. This is the original promotion video for the first Techstars program, filmed at the end of 2006 and apparently uploaded to Youtube on January 14, 2007.
Following are my comments on the video.
- Look how young David Cohen looks.
- Notice all the excellent red and white fonts.
- Danny Newman needs a haircut.
- Jared Polis wasn’t yet a congressman.
- Our Donkey Kong machine worked.
- Foundry Group wasn’t yet started.
- Our office (and the film) was done in our old office in Superior.
- I hadn’t started wearing Robert Graham shirts yet.
- My Treadputer v1.0 was up and running.
- David Brown looks exactly like he does today.
- We didn’t have the .com domain yet.
It used to be hard to find historical artifacts like this. They lived in an attic or a basement and were covered by dust. The web is just amazing.
Tomorrow, I’m trying out Pubble‘s product – a Q&A widget that leverages the standard social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) but lives where ever you want it to live.
I’ll be answering questions live tomorrow (4/24) at 1:00pm MT. Tweet with #askbfeld to ask me a question.
Check it out below.
In the #GiveFirst spirit, Techstars supports those who have served our country by hosting Patriot Boot Camp. PBC is an intense three-day program that educates and mentors active service members, Veterans and their spouses to innovate, build technology companies, and create jobs. Essentially, they get a mini Techstars experience.
The next PBC will be held at the Goldman Sachs headquarters in New York City from May 16th to 18th. You can learn more about the program at their website or check out this video from last year’s event.
Patriot Boot Camp alumni are building great business. A couple great examples are Dave Cass and Dave Parker with Uvize (accepted into the Kaplan EdTech Accelerator, powered by Techstars and recently funded by FG Angels), and Gregory Coleman with Nexercise (accepted to the Techstars Chicago).
Do you know a Veteran, active service member, or military spouse who could benefit from a miniature Techstars experience? Please encourage them to apply here. The deadline to apply is April 4th, 2014, tonight, at midnight Eastern time.
If you are interested in learning about Venture Deals, my partner Jason Mendelson and I created a course with the Kauffman Fellows Academy on NovoEd which is running for the first time from 3/31/14 – 5/19/14. The course will demystify venture capital deals and startup financings and give both first-time and experienced entrepreneurs a definitive guide to secure funding. Both Jason and I will be participating in the course. If you want to sign up for the course, use the discount code of “ventureds” to get 20% off the price.
Mid-day yesterday I did a 30 minute fly by for the new Techstars NY class. Alex Iskold, the new Techstars New York Managing Director asked me to talk about “Top Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make.” It morphed into a fun 30 minute rant about a bunch of things that I thought Techstars founders should make sure they pay attention to during the program, and in life in general.
Reflecting on the talk, the most important thing I said was “Do One Thing For Yourself Every Day.” It can be 5 minutes, 30 minutes, or an hour. If you like chocolate ice cream, find an ice cream place and go get a scoop every day. If you do yoga, do it every day. If you like to go to the gym, go to the gym. If you are a reader, spend 30 minutes a day with a book. If you are a BSG fan, start at the beginning and watch all four seasons one episode per day (they each last about 45 minutes.) But be selfish and do one thing for yourself each day during the program.
Afterwards, Alex sent me an graphic that one of the founders at Hullabalu did. I thought it was awesome and captured some of the highlights, including “don’t believe your own bullshit”, something a lot of people are forgetting right now. And I described my favorite long distance relationship trick – the magic post card a day maneuver.