Over and over again, since I became an investor, I’ve heard from many wise people that you should not invest in anyone that needs your help. This puzzles me. In my experience, great companies are made through years of hard work from smart people who accept and reject advice all the time from other experienced people. It is the skill of navigation — learning when to take advice and when to go boldly in another direction – that makes great leaders and companies.
Every successful founder or CEO I’ve met has an interesting story to tell about their mentors and the advice they have gotten along the way. Universally the founders are grateful for the early advice they received or connections that were made for them by someone who believed in them. This is an important, powerful force and an unspoken bond and obligation that fellow entrepreneurs have with each other.
TechStars embodies this culture and formalizes these connections. There are really three layers of connections that make it work. First there is an incredible network of experienced entrepreneurs and investors that create active mentors who give real feedback to entrepreneurs. Then there are the forward-thinking LPs that invest to make the program happen – these are the best thinkers and investors in each community. And finally, and most importantly, are the entrepreneurs who are bonded together in their TechStars experience. This group of entrepreneurs can be real with each other as they struggle through the myriad of issues founders face — funding, hiring, sales, and board management…. And the hard things like admitting it is not working or firing an employee.
When I was asked to consider running the TechStars Boston program I was thrilled. Everything I do right now is focused on honing my skills as an early stage investor and mentor, and helping to create great companies in Boston. That is why I teach, organize events and have many meetups with early stage companies. I believe strongly in matching people with others who can broaden their perspective. TechStars makes this happen every day, all over the country.
If you haven’t met David Cohen, Brad Feld and Bill Warner you should. They are three wonderful people who — in their own ways — embrace chasing your dreams as an entrepreneur. They are fantastic supporters to both the companies they invest in and to many more that they do not. I have never met an entrepreneur that made a snide comment about them. That’s rare and I am proud to be associated with them. Okay, enough mushy gooshy.
I am also excited that Reed Stutevant, my business partner in Project 11, has agreed to both be a mentor for TechStars in Boston and shoulder more of the burden for Project 11 for the Spring months. He is wickedly smart and helps me stay grounded. He has a way of making complicated decisions easy and you should seek him out as a mentor — you won’t regret it.
I am looking forward to meeting the next class of TechStars. Thank you Shawn for building a great foundation and for the crop companies that are actively building in Boston. Now, I need everyone to tell great teams to apply! I guarantee they will love the experience. Who couldn’t love springtime in Boston?
See David’s post: http://www.techstars.org/blog/