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David Cohen – TechStars

David Cohen is the co-founder of TechStars. While you struggle to build ONE company, David is launching THIRTY companies each year, in THREE different cities!

If he can do, you can do it!

Learn how, now!


Companies Founded

Pinpoint Technologies

  • built software for private ambulance companies
  • software included logistics, dispatch electronics, where to keep the vehicles, billing information
  • acquired by ZOLL Medical Corporation (NASDAQ: ZOLL) in 1999
  • currently used in 500 cities

earFeeder

  • a music service that would look at the artist you had on your computer and would give you RSS news feeds on those artists
  • basically delivered news and information on artists you already listened to
  • sold it a couple months after launch to SonicSwap.com, in 2006 for up to $500,000 (mostly in stock)

TechStars

  • a mentorship-driven seed stage investment 3-month summer program
  • located in Boulder, CO; Boston, MA; Seattle, WA
  • only 10 companies per city
  • offers $6,000 per founder (up to 3 founders) for 6% of the company

David On TechStars

  • TechStars is a form of bootstrapping, offering the right amount of money and information at the right time.”
  • TechStars is like a co-founder
  • he co-founded TechStars because he was dissatisfied with the previous way angel invest worked
  • TechStars role is to be a connector for entrepreneurs to mentors, not pretending to be a super-guru telling companies what to do
  • in TechStars the whole city gets behind a company to make sure they succeed
  • TechStars goal is to help entrepreneurs and the entrepreneurial eco-system
  • wants to try it in other communities with similar aspirations

David On Location

  • you don’t have to be in Silicon Valley, CA to build a successful online company
  • it is important to be in an eco-system (area) that has support for what you are doing though
  • different eco-systems have different advantages

Why Boulder, CO

  • Boulder has more software engineers per capita than any other city in the country
  • their is a very co-operative nature in the community; competing companies will still often help each other
  • successful people in the community are open to help other people become successful

TechStars Selection Process

  • 600 companies apply
  • 1st Step (300): idea has to be in their space (technology), looking for teams, demonstrated talent, entrepreneurs in interesting markets
  • 2nd Step (150): series of emails with remaining entrepreneurs, to discuss their passion, team, idea, etc.
  • 3rd Step (50): call the final 50, then fly and meet with them for up to 2 hours
  • 4th Step (10): the last ten are chosen by mentor fit, market, passion, and gut feel

TechStars Company Building Process

  • they immediately tell the entrepreneurs that they aren’t their because of their idea, but because of themselves
  • they are welcome to change their idea at any time
  • 1st Month: TechStars encourages the entrepreneurs to get off of their computers and meet with every mentor and get immediate feedback and build their network
  • 2nd Month: is about building the first product and getting the first customers
  • 3rd Month: is about developing the investor pitch and deciding on the story of the business, where it’s going to go

First Product & First Customers

  • you have to get the theory out of your head and in front of people so that they can test it
  • if you create something that customers are excited about they’ll use it, even if it’s crappy
  • this allows you to get feedback in the beginning so you can keep improving
  • the companies get their first customers because of the network of mentors, that are very connected

Training Companies To Pitch

  • companies have to develop their story
  • seed-funding is more about emotional stories that angel investors can connect with, and less about financial projection
  • have a demo version
  • personalize the story with direct experience, what customers are saying, and social proof

Mentors

  • 50 mentors in each city they’re in
  • mentors need to be able to meet with all companies in the first month
  • offer companies meaningful feedback
  • each mentor chooses 1 company they are excited about and that they can truly “put their arm around”
  • if a mentor isn’t enthusiastic about a single company that’s fine
  • the don’t want any “fly by night” mentors

Side Notes

  • Out of 39 TechStars Companies: 29 are active, 4 acquired for over $2 million, 1 acquired for less than $2 million, 4 failed
  • David sold the domain icontact.com to Ryan Allis

Advice

  • Entrepreneurs do stuff.”
  • Investors are oftentimes drawn to progress.”
  • The most loyal customers you’ll have are the ones who you totally screwed over, but quickly fixed their problems.”
  • Surround yourself with as many people who have been there as possible and get them engaged with your company.”
  • It’s all about mentorship and community.”

Connect With David

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  1. Nick Riganti
    March 25, 2010 at 1:44 pm

    I will be applying to TechStars after reading this, and I want to be in Boulder!

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