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Hi, I’m Brad Feld, a managing director at the Foundry Group who lives in Boulder, Colorado. I invest in software and Internet companies around the US, run marathons and read a lot.

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TechStars Launches

Comments (14)

TechStars – a new project that I’m involved in – officially launched today.  The Daily Camera has a nice article titled TechStars set to rise over Boulder summarizing the basic idea of the project. 

About a year ago, David Cohen – a successful entrepreneur, now an active angel investor, and author of ColoradoStartups – approached me about an idea he had about creating a startup bootcamp in Boulder for the summer of 2007.  I immediately loved the idea – create an environment for up to about 10 teams / 30 first time founders to start up companies, give them a small amount of financing but support them extensively with an ecosystem of experienced entrepreneurs, have an intensive three month startup period, and see what comes of it.  I introduced David to Jared Polis – a close friend and extremely successful entrepreneur – who also loved the idea.  We committed quickly to co-found the program with David and his partner in his first business – David Brown.

There are a few other organizations – such as Paul Graham’s Y Combinator – that have done similar things in other parts of the country.  David studied each of these projects and talked to some of the folks involved as he crafted the idea for TechStars.  Having been through a number of iterations of the idea and plan, I’m very excited about how it has evolved and what we ended up with.  For the quick summary, take a look at the FAQ.

In addition to being an amazing place to live (not withstanding the horrible winter we have been having – I promise all the snow will be gone by the time TechStars starts), the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Boulder is awesome.  When I moved here (somewhat randomly – I followed Amy – always a wise move for a husband) in 1995, I didn’t expect to do any business here.  Imagine my surprise when I found a vibrant and experienced entrepreneurial environment – looking back 11 years later, I can say with confidence that Boulder is one of the top 10 cities in the US to start a tech company.

TechStars brings together many of the best of Boulder’s local entrepreneurs, schools and investors.  The mentor list is extensive – people like Kimbal Musk (Me.dium CEO), Mark Sawyer (@Last CEO – now owned by Google), Greg Reinacker (NewsGator founder/CTO), Todd Vernon (Lijit CEO, Raindance founder/CTO), and 20 of their closest entrepreneurial friends will be actively involved in the program.  Many of the sessions – which run several times a week from 5/21/07 to 8/16/07 – are organized around these mentors and their experiences.

Each team will get seed funding of up to $15,000.  While the seed funding is nice, the real value is the advice, mentoring, and connections provided by TechStars.  When I started my first company – Feld Technologies – in 1987, I had a few mentors which I’ve written about in the past.  However, the notion of having a summer full of concentrated mentors, surrounded by 20+ other entrepreneurs starting up their own companies, in one of the most beautiful and fun cities on the planet, blows my mind.

If you’re going to do a startup, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Consider applying and get off to a great start.  We’d love to spend the summer with you.

  • http://www.ijigg.com Zaid

    Sounds awesome! I’ve been launching little ventures for several years and unless you’re destined with a lot of luck, things mostly don’t turn out as sexy as young entrepreneurship is often portrayed. That is where I think you folks can *seriously* help entrepreneurs.

    Key for entrepreneurs I guess would be understanding that $$$ is the least of what is being offered. And honestly, I would skip the $$$ if I had to to get access to some of the contacts and resources.

    -Zaid

  • Angela

    What about including Producers/Project Managers? I’ve worked for several tech companies. My gift lies in getting things done and I feel that Interactive producers or Project Managers (pick your own label) can keep projects and companies on a sustainable track. The old on time on budget cliche: does it still hold true for you?

  • http://www.nimbletheory.com jeff barson

    Utah (that silly state next door) has taken a shot at this as well. Junto Partners (http://www.juntopartners.com) started in 2004.

    I’m friends with a number of entreprenerus who when through the Junto Program. They uniformly describe it as a great experience. There have been a number of companies that have come out of the program with some success, http://www.hirevue.com being the most visible.

    The differing factor is the equity stake and preferences that Junto has… I think that TechStars may be a better way to go for successful companies.

    Absolutly happy to see these types of programs though. It makes me want to leave Park City for the summer and drive East.

  • http://www.ronaldlewis.com Ronald Lewis

    Interesting and promising development. I wonder how this could help people involved in social media as content producers and/or entrepreneurs?

  • Derald

    Great idea indeed. One thing that this does is break down the business creation process into “micro segments”. Here you have a micro timeframe of 3 months or so for a company to really figure out the early, difficult things that are important in preparation for the next segment (significant seed funding, 1st round, or shelf the idea altogether).
    This also appears to be a segment where the company has the greatest chance of setting itself up for success with all the great experience/human capital involved.

  • http://juwo.com Anil

    Sounds too BAD to be true…
    $5K for 3 months, in exchange for 5% equity!
    To relocate to Boulder for 3 months, without any boarding/lodging.
    Are you serious?

  • http://techstars.org David Cohen

    Funding is up to 15k, not necessarily just 5k. It depends on the number of founders in the company (companies with just one founder are much less likely to succeed than companies with multiple founders). As you point out, it’s not much money. But too much money too early (particularly at too high a price to the entrepreneur) is potentially dangerous. TechStars injects just enough capital to get a proof of concept prototype done.

    The big value provided by TechStars is the mentoring and connections, as well as an organized method of getting access to future capital.

    One thing to keep in mind about TechStars is the terms of the equity obtained. It’s not dilution protected nor does it contain any onerous special rights. If the company goes on to raise a million dollars, the initial equity will be very minimal indeed.

    Of course, if your company is worth tens of millions of dollars today, then 5% is not an attractive deal. It’s tough to put a price on the connections and mentorship provided, but it’s clearly worth much more than the seed capital and can have a profound impact on the company.

  • http://juwo.com Anil

    Read the techstars FAQ carefully. $5K TOTAL in exchange for 5% equity.

  • http://www.feld.com Brad Feld

    Anil – I don’t think you are reading the FAQ correctly. At http://www.techstars.org/site/page/pg5884.html it clearly states that you’ll get $5k per founder up to a total of $15k if you have three founders. The equity that TechStars gets is 5% regardless of whether the team has 1, 2, or 3 founders.

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    I feel that Interactive producers or Project Managers (pick your own label) can keep projects and companies on a sustainable track. If the company goes on to raise a million dollars, the initial equity will be very minimal indeed.

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    One thing to keep in mind about TechStars is the terms of the equity obtained. It's not dilution protected nor does it contain any onerous special rights. If the company goes on to raise a million dollars, the initial equity will be very minimal indeed.

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