Didn’t Get Into TechStars? Don’t Sweat It

Didn’t Get Into TechStars?  Don’t Sweat It

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:


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.

12 Comments on "Didn’t Get Into TechStars? Don’t Sweat It"

  • Or come work at Estately, help us grow another 400% over the coming year and we’ll introduce you to our investors when you want to go start your own thing.

  • Joe, great feedback. Not getting into TS might be worse more learning than actually getting in. Time will tell (a post on the subject to come). Cheers!

  • Funny you say this. Lately I realized, Google might be actually better for somebody with entrepreneurial chops than working for a startup. The thing is, if I were to work 80 hours a week, it would make more sense to work for: (1) ridiculously good salary at Google and (2) satisfaction of my own startup.

    Working hard for a fraction of the salary and no personal satisfaction (working at someone else’s startup), would actually yield less overtime, unless of course you’re Facebook in the first 2-5 years.
    Didn’t expect myself say this, but go Google! :)

  • I think there are merits to both, but if you are pivotal in a startup’s success, you’ll learn more that’s applicable to building your own startup, you’ll get better experience, and you’ll be able to raise money more easily. 

    If you require no additional experience, then money should be your only factor.

  • In my opinion “it depends” (see my post on 500startups for more on “it depends”)

    What you’re working on and who you’re working with can be the difference between success and going insane.  If you can own something major at Estately and take their growth from 400% to 1000%, you’ll have Galen personally touting you to investors as the responsible one.  That could be worth a lot.  If you’re at a big co working on something you hate, for people you don’t get along with, it could affect your well-being.  These examples could be reversed too, in theory (in the case of Estately though you’d be fine ;)

  • You’re right, I just wanted to hear you say it ;) Joe also makes a really good point … Galen, do you have time for a coffee next week? A healthier alternative would be to go for a 10-mile run.

  • You’re right, I just wanted to hear you say it ;) Joe also makes a really good point … Galen, do you have time for a coffee next week? A healthier alternative would be to go for a 10-mile run.

  • Herble says

    Great feedback.  We’re working on a startup doing the same thing.  Keeping the day jobs and working the nights weekends and lunch breaks.

  • I agree with your thought.Thank you for your sharing.

  • Or just find a bleeding edge adopter in your industry that will pay you to build the first prototype… May as well get used to learning how to sell early. It’s just as hard as building stuff… 

  • As part of a group that got extremely close in the interview & wildcard rounds to both TS NYC/YC, I totally agree with this advice. It’s great you’re writing about it Joe — when YC has something like a 2% acceptance rate, there are likely to be just as many (or more) successful startups that get rejected.

    But since we’re younger, I can’t quite heed your advice and join Google :) Instead, we’ll keep school as a launching pad for our ideas and mentor connections. Hopefully schools get better about funding innovative ideas too, and this kind of “Google escape” wouldn’t be necessary at all.

  • I have to disagree – certainly any technical co-founders should be able to replicate the 2k / mo. techstars would provide with freelance work.