Nicole Glaros, Cody Simms & Alex Iskold

Techstars

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON October 27, 2015

Discussion

Nicole Glaros@nglaros · Chief Innovation Officer, Techstars
Hi All, Nicole, Alex and Cody here from Techstars. Techstars is a global ecosystem that helps entrepreneurs build great businesses. We're excited to be here today to answer your questions about how the vast Techstars network works, as well as anything to do with startups, product, venture, and more. Fire away!
Corley@corleyh · COO @ Product Hunt
Hey all - thanks for joining today! What is something counterintuitive you've observed / learned as part of working with so many startups?
cody@codysimms · Executive Director, Techstars
@corleyh for me the counter-intuitive thing about working with so many startups is that you often hear there are only so many ideas out there...but i'm always amazed by how many new ideas I hear about every day. The thing that separates the magic from everyone else is the team. A mediocre team can take a great idea and make it a problematic company. A great team can take a mediocre idea and make it great.
Ryan Hoover@rrhoover · Founder, Product Hunt
So, you're stranded on a desert island and you can only choose one Techstars-incubated product to take with you. Which one is it?
Eric Leebow@ericleebow · Founder and CEO
@rrhoover Sphero
Alex Iskold@alexiskold · Managing Director, Techstars NYC
@rrhoover Homemade, from the latest Techstars NYC class. www.gethomemade.co Not sure how they will be able to deliver delicious home made food to a desert island, but since this is a hypothetical question ;)
Nicole Glaros@nglaros · Chief Innovation Officer, Techstars
Holy cow, lots of questions already!
Jarod Stewart@stewartjarod · Sr. Software Engineer, Yonomi
@nglaros and lots of great answers already! :D
Alex Iskold@alexiskold · Managing Director, Techstars NYC
@nglaros Luckily we do more faster.
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Operations @ Product Hunt
Hey everyone! Thanks for joining today :) What is the best thing about working at Techstars?
Alex Iskold@alexiskold · Managing Director, Techstars NYC
@ems_hodge The best thing for me is to be able to help amazing founders build solid, lasting companies.
cody@codysimms · Executive Director, Techstars
@ems_hodge the biggest part of my job everyday and the job of just about everyone at Techstars is to just be helpful to entrepreneurs. it's awesome.
Ryan Hoover@rrhoover · Founder, Product Hunt
Hey, Nicole, Cody, and Alex! What's the biggest misconception about Techstars?
Nicole Glaros@nglaros · Chief Innovation Officer, Techstars
@rrhoover Hi Ryan. ;-) Probably that "you're too far along" for Techstars. Because we are not a curriculum driven program, rather a mentorship driven program, the things we focus on during the program adapt and change to the needs and stage of each company. Our goal is to drive huge value to each company, regardless of the stage. And we have a healthy distrubution of companies at various stages within each program. From the expected idea phase, all the way up to raised over $10M in funding, selling hundreds of thousands of units. Our model adapts to each company. ;-)
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
How do ya'll position yourself relative to YC? Why should a founder choose ya'll instead?
Nicole Glaros@nglaros · Chief Innovation Officer, Techstars
@eriktorenberg I think YC is an amazing program and is excellent for startups in the valley that a) don't want to move and b) don't need anything else other than a microphone. Techstars is pretty great at developing not only the startup, but the founders as well. We have a saying here - #TechstarsForLife - meaning we want to support you not only in this business, but the next one, and the one after that. So if you're looking to build a billion dollar company, and want people that have your back for the rest of you're life - we're a pretty good option.
Alex Carter@alexcartaz · Operations @ 60dB. Ex-PH Podcasts 😻
YC has announced plans recently to evolve their model and footprint. What big opportunities do you see for the evolution of accelerators generally? Do you anticipate groups moving upstream of accelerators? Incubating and developing talent as maybe an alternative to college? Do you anticipate alternative programs where people are directly funded, rather than startups?
Nicole Glaros@nglaros · Chief Innovation Officer, Techstars
@alexcartaz I think most accelerators only address one general time period in the life of a company, and there are still many time periods to address. We think about the whole entrepreneurial journey, and how to address needs from idea (hence the UpGlobal acquisition) to IPO. And I LOVE the notion of supporting people, rather than just startups. Most companies die b/c of founder and people issues, so working that out would be a huge advantage. There is still a ton of room for innovation here... we're just scratching the surface on how to help people and companies be more successful.
Ben Tossell@bentossell · newCo
What are 3 top qualities you look for when assessing TechStars submissions?
cody@codysimms · Executive Director, Techstars
@bentossell TEAM! At Techstars the three most important qualities are all team. It's about half of what matters to us. Does the team have good chemistry together? Do they have the right skillsets for the problem they care about? And most importantly, do they seem to have the amazing attitude they'll need to knock down all of the walls and hurdles that get in their way as they face so many unforeseen challenges along the journey. Startups are hard. The team needs to be amazing. Beyond team, we look at market, progress, and the idea/product itself.
Adam Corey@frumpy
@codysimms what does it take for you to get confidence that the team is right? Founder interactions during meetings? References from prior employers or investors? Customer feedback? Hearing the passion in how they discuss their biz? It's a qualitative measure and thus hard to know for sure. Any tips?
cody@codysimms · Executive Director, Techstars
@frumpy @bentossell yeah it is in fact mostly qualitative. we do our best to have numerous interactions with our top candidates during the application review process. Each Techstars program handles it a little differently but typically there isn't one single do or die interview for Techstars...rather it's a handful of small interactions over a multiple week period where the MD and team are getting to know the founders and learn about who they are, what drives them, how they relate to one another, and how well the respond to feedback.
Phillip Yang@geekyyang
Hi guys. Thanks so much for doing this. What are your thoughts on a non-technical founder? If they have the ability to lead, drive their vision, and have formulated a strong team - would that account for their lack of technical aspects? Thanks!
Alex Iskold@alexiskold · Managing Director, Techstars NYC
@geeky_yang Hey, so there is a misconception about this. The conversation is not about non-technical founders but rather about ability to execute on the business and make progress. As an example, a restauranteur isn't technical but can create a business. Or another example, more relevant, neither founder at Plated, a Techstars company, is technical, but they have the skills to execute the business. So really the question is -- are you the right person to start and execute on the specific business. It is not just about the business idea, but rather about business execution.
Phillip Yang@geekyyang
@alexiskold @geeky_yang Thanks! Great insight!
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
What are some of the biggest things you're grappling with right now?
Nicole Glaros@nglaros · Chief Innovation Officer, Techstars
@eriktorenberg How to manage the 200+ unread emails in my inbox. No really, i struggle with this. 90% of emails are total crap, but filtering, prioritizing tools don't reduce the number of emails, they just sort them for you. How do we train people when to send emails, how to send them, etc. If we reduce the # of bad emails people send, that would be pretty cool. That, and taxes. I f'ing hate filing taxes.
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
If you were going to start a company right now what would you start?
Alex Iskold@alexiskold · Managing Director, Techstars NYC
@eriktorenberg I wouldn't, because my wife said that would be the end of our marriage.
Kate@katesegrin · Head of Social @ GitHub
@nglaros you mentioned giving the education system a kick in the ass- where would you start?
Nicole Glaros@nglaros · Chief Innovation Officer, Techstars
@katesegrin I'd probably start from the ground up. Let's think about how people learn, understand best practices in other parts of the world, design programs around that, then spend half the money on lobbists to get the government's head out of their collective asses.
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
HUGE thank you to our friends Alex, Nicole, Cody for taking the time to chat with us today, for all the support they've given us, and for all they do for the entrepreneurial community.
Wen Wilson@acreerph · CEO & FOUNDER , HEALTHCITE
@nglaros . As a new healthcare startup and contemplating applying to the Sprint Techstars Accelerator program in Kansas for 2016, what would be your advice for marketing to users or customers? (The chicken and egg problem).My customers will be the healthcare provider and their patients will be the users.
Nicole Glaros@nglaros · Chief Innovation Officer, Techstars
@acreerph That's such a generic question that I'm not sure how to answer it. Customer development is a MASSIVE part of making sure your startup is succesful. Get in front of your customers now, do whatever you have to do. This will lay the groundwork for how you market in the future. Maybe ask other companies that have similar markets to you, what they do to get in front of customers?
Russ Frushtick@russfrushtick
@nglaros What's the biggest mistake that people make when starting off a new business?
Nicole Glaros@nglaros · Chief Innovation Officer, Techstars
@russfrushtick they don't do enough customer development. Or said another way, they come up with an idea, then try to find a market for it. That's all wrong. Build your team, then come up with a market that you're excited about, then go out into the market and find a problem that people are willing to solve, THEN start to build a solution.
Edwin Espinosa@edwinespinosa09 · Angularjobs
@nglaros when you receive requests for advice, from founders, is there a quality score you personally use to decide whether to offer advice? The best advice I've been given is to research what issues/topics people are interested in and if your request for advice falls into that category then it makes sense to reach out. Thoughts?
Nicole Glaros@nglaros · Chief Innovation Officer, Techstars
@edwinespinosa09 Hi Edwin. I actually try to offer guidance whenever asked, but the more the questions tap into my areas of expertise, the more value-add my guidance can be. So figure out what you need help with SPECIFICALLY, then find people who are experts in that, before reaching out. That will ensure the time spent is most valuable
Ben Tossell@bentossell · newCo
What are your favourite things about working at Techstars? Highs and Lows :)
Alex Iskold@alexiskold · Managing Director, Techstars NYC
@bentossell Love working with founders. The whole program is an incredible experience. A low is when companies graduate. We stay in touch a lot but still miss having founders around in the space.
Ben Tossell@bentossell · newCo
How do you tackle time-constraints... understandably each founder thinks they have a great business and are passionate (hopefully) so want lots of advice but you have to spread your time across so many people in the same situation...how do you aim to keep your time commitments relatively equal so no one is favoured/ignored?
Alex Iskold@alexiskold · Managing Director, Techstars NYC
@bentossell We have a system for this. First we do 30 mins 1-1 with every company every week. We then do open office hours in 20, 40 or 60 mins increments and as founders need more of our time, they can book us. We are pretty organized and follow this kind of calendaring: http://alexiskold.net/2014/03/31...
Andrew Ettinger@andrewett · 👟 @wearAtoms // ex @Twitter @ProductHunt
@nglaros - What was the "aha moment!" that took your from getting your Masters in Sport Psychology to fully immersing yourself in the tech world? P.S. Go Gators!
Nicole Glaros@nglaros · Chief Innovation Officer, Techstars
@andrewmettinger I love this question. Market, pricing, product, that stuff isn't the hard stuff. The hard stuff is the people part. In fact, 65% of startups fail due to people issues (says Noam Wasserman from Harvard). Learning how to deal with the people issues, helping them communicate, get out of their own way, be intellectually honest and not ontologically arrogant... that's the hard part. Fostering unwavering trust and honesty in an organization is, in my opinion, paramount, and that ain't easy.