Lessons from TechStars’ David Cohen on Building a Startup Culture: 7 Takeaways from the Xconomy San Diego Dinner
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Seattle, Boston, New York City, and San Antonio, TX. It now gets 3,000 applications a year for 60 openings—which makes TechStars more selective than any Ivy League school. Last year, a group of venture capital firms and other investors raised $24 million that will be used to provide an additional $100,000 (in the form of debt that can be converted into stock) to each startup that TechStars enrolls.
Cohen’s San Diego visit was prompted by an invitation from Xconomy. We asked him to kick off a dinner discussion with local Web entrepreneurs and investors about the way TechStars boosted software startups in Boulder, and what it might take to re-energize the entrepreneurial community here.
Our conversation began with a wry and often-repeated observation that San Diego has a kind of chicken-and-egg problem. The entrepreneurs say what we need is more venture capital. And the VCs say San Diego needs better companies.
For Cohen, creating and sustaining entrepreneurial communities is more about the people than the money. One of the most important things to think about in San Diego, he said, is to come together as an entrepreneurial community to support talented entrepreneurs with high-quality Web startups, and “to insist that none of them fail.”
The money is secondary, Cohen said, because, “venture capitalists will find the good deals. They’ll go wherever they need to go to get them. I’m not saying you don’t have good deals [in San Diego], I’m just saying you need more of them. So if you think of it in terms of supporting the companies, the money will follow.”
To get there, however, Cohen repeatedly emphasized the importance of quality.
In Boulder, he addressed this challenge at the outset, saying he first pitched his idea for TechStars to Brad Feld, the prominent Internet VC investor and co-founder of Boulder’s Foundry Group. Together, they joined with TechStars co-founders Jared Polis and David Brown to recruit 70 prominent Web entrepreneurs, VC partners, and others they knew would provide high-quality mentoring. The mentors they recruited also agreed to coach without pay, as a way of giving back to … Next Page »
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