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David Cohen (Techstars Founder) and I are doing a Google Hangout On Air that is open to anyone on 11/13/13 (what a prime day for something like this). It’s part of a Google Enterprise series on Colorado pioneers driving the local economy and culture. We’ll be talking about Techstars, Colorado, tech, and anything else that comes up.
This came out of a series of interviews with Google recently where we explained why Foundry Group takes venture capital to the cloud with Google Apps and how Techstars assists tomorrow’s entrepreneurs with help from Google Apps.
Come join us! Register here if you want to hangout.
Last week our portfolio company, JumpCloud - who is deep in the DevOps market with their automated cloud server management product – hosted the first annual DevOps conference here in Boulder. It was a huge success – we had over 200 people show up and engage in a full day of deep discussions on DevOps.
We are huge fans of the DevOps movement. Similar to how we got involved in the Agile movement early with our investment in Rally Software, we are long on DevOps with investments in companies such as JumpCloud, VictorOps, SendGrid, Pantheon, Authentic8 and others. We see DevOps instantiating the lean startup culture throughout an organization. DevOps promotes short cycle times, automation, and deep integration across a company with the goal of innovating quicker and more effectively against customers’ needs. In short, we view it as a cultural methodology that increases the odds of success for a company.
The day was fantastic, starting with Raj Bhargava (CEO of JumpCloud) and Paul Ford (SoftLayer) kicking things off with a short discussion about what DevOps is. I was next with a quick discussion framing why DevOps is critical to our companies and their customers. From there, we had presentations by Ryan Martens (CTO of Rally) on learnings from Agile, Nathan Day (Chief Scientist of SoftLayer) on the incredible automation at SoftLayer, and a number of great panels from CEOs, CTOs, and VPs of Engineering of DevOps related companies. Three of our portfolio companies – SendGrid, Mocavo, and Gnip – closed the formal part of the day with case studies on different areas of DevOps.
Later, the full group headed to Bacaro for more casual conversations around DevOps. I ended the night at Walnut Brewery with Raj and a few close friends watching the Red Sox lose game two of the World Series to the Cardinals.
The engagement on the topic of DevOps was really powerful. The questions flowed quickly – it’s clear everyone is struggling with how to define DevOps – what it means, who should be involved in an organization, and how to recruit for it. While the word is quickly becoming entrenched, it’s a new category with a wide range of opportunities.
When Raj came to me several months ago suggesting that we should put on a conference around DevOps for all of the Foundry Group, Techstars, and Bullet Time Ventures companies it was easy to be excited about it. I expected about 50 people to participate – it was amazing to look around the room and see 200 really engaged people. I’m proud of Raj and Paul for putting this on and thankful for all of the effort that our companies made to get there and participate!
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.
I got to work closely with Luke Beatty this summer while he was running the Techstars Boulder program. In one word, he’s “awesome.” Deeply, truly awesome.
I knew Luke from a distance – we’d crossed paths a few times but never worked together. I watched him build a real company with Associated Content and sell it to Yahoo for $100 million. When David Cohen asked me what I thought of him for Managing Director of Techstars Boulder, I responded “Awesome if you can get him.”
Luke ran an amazing program this summer. I spent at least an hour a week with him and all the CEOs in the program in our top secret weekly CEO session. We worked together on the Intuit acquisition of GoodApril. And a bunch of other things.
I wasn’t surprised when Tim Armstrong at AOL made him an offer he couldn’t refuse and Luke joined AOL as Head of Strategic Partnerships. I knew Luke and Tim had gone to school together, were close friends, and that Tim was the first investor in Associated Content. While I’m bummed that Luke isn’t running Techstars Boulder anymore, I’m psyched I got a chance to really know him over the summer. Plus, it amuses me that he now has to use AOL Mail as his email system.
Come join us at Entrepreneurs Unplugged on Monday 10/7 at 6:15 at ATLAS. Register here.
Techstars has launched another “powered by” accelerator, this time with Sprint around mobile health. It’s based in Kansas City (Sprint’s headquarters) and is our fourth powered by Techstars accelerator, joining Nike, Kaplan, and R/GA.
I’m an enormous fan of four things about the Sprint Accelerator – what we call “PBTS” (powered by Techstars), mobile health, Kansas City, and Sprint.
The PBTS strategy is one we started working on in 2012. We knew that we would continue to expand Techstars geographically (in 2013 we’ve added London, Austin, and Chicago). At the same time we were talking to a lot of large companies with outstanding brands about building accelerators specifically around their ecosystems. It dawned on us that the dynamics of an accelerator could work as well for building innovation and new company’s around a particular company/product ecosystem as it could for a city. So far the results have been awesome with outstanding companies coming out of the Nike+ Accelerator and the Kaplan EdTech Accelerator.
As an investor in Fitbit, I’m an enormous believer in quantified self. As the son of a doctor who is obsessed with repairing the healthcare system I’m regularly subjected to hearing about the massive flaws in today’s healthcare system. My dad has beaten into my head that my healthcare is my responsibility, and I’ve become an enormous believer in consumer-driven healthcare. I’ve never been interested in investing in medical devices, but I’m very interested in the consumerization of the medical device industry. And the intersection point of many of these ideas for me is mobile health.
Kansas City has a special place in my heart. I’ve spent a lot of time there over the years, going back to the mid-1990s when I was an entrepreneur-in-residence at the Kauffman Foundation. I bought a house there last year to experiment with Google Fiber in the middle of the Kansas City Startup Village. While I don’t like BBQ or the Kansas City Chiefs, I like the people a lot and think it has one of the most exciting growing startup communities in the United States.
Sprint makes me smile. Many of you know that I have a long history and relationship with Softbank, which just acquired Sprint. I’m very loyal to my friends at Softbank and love any opportunity to work with them – directly or indirectly. Sprint was my first long distance carrier – if I think hard enough I can probably remember my Sprint calling card number – and I used it many times to call my parents and my ex-wife when I was at school at MIT. And Sprint is a great US entrepreneurial story that traces its roots to the Brown Telephone Company in Abilene, KS in 1899.
This is going to be a fun one! Applications are open.