I’m a mentor for TechStars and am very excited about the next cohort of companies. The competition was fierce this year (way up from last year). As a result the companies and teams look amazing.
Obviously this means a lot of great people didn’t make it in. I was pinged by two such teams this week. Sure, they were disappointed, but they shouldn’t let it stop them. Based on the competition and limited number of spots, it’s harder to get in to TechStars than to get in to a top business school during a recession (more valuable too, in my view, but that’s a different blog post).
Both of these folks asked “what should I do now?”
A: nothing different than what you were doing before.
My answer was something like – “programs like TechStars are great, but they shouldn’t be the single enabler. Keep on moving forward on your company.”
His/her response was a practical one, that they are running out of money and needed the TechStars’ stipend to allow them to make rent; without some cash, they’d have to get jobs. In fact, one of these folks already has offers in the works from some prominent companies (maybe starts with a G, A and or F).
Simultaneously, some of my startup friends were complaining that they recently lost out on candidates to Google; seems they are throwing around some insanely incredibly unbelievably rich offers lately. Seriously, I’ve hired maybe 40 software engineers people in the last 4 years and I could not believe the numbers.
Anyway, a lightbulb went off:
RECIPE FOR THOSE WHO DIDN’T GET INTO TECHSTARS
1. Get a job at Google.
2. Work 9-to-5. Skip the seminars and keep your lunches to 30mins. Focus, focus, focus. Deliver and have real impact.
3. Work nights, weekends and vacations on your startup
4. Use the cash from you day job to pay for contract dev and design to make your prototype happen.
Goal: get your startup concept to enough validation, proof or traction that you can get seed money and jump to it full time.
Obviously there are some potential work conflict and legal tangles that you want to be careful with here, such as any non-competes, keeping your IP 100% separate (computers, accounts, work times, etc) and so forth. In fact, you’d probably want to run it by a lawyer, keep a paper trail and maybe even figure out a way to get your employer’s blessing (I know it has been done before).
Point is, if you’re going to be successful with your startup, then you can’t let not getting into TechStars or not having enough cash stop you.