TechStars Seattle Demo Day: Have You Invested Yet?
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In addition to being more selective than the Ivy Leagues, as the accelerator boasts, once companies are in, they get all kinds of help. Over the program’s three-month run the companies get access to the networks of executive director Andy Sack and other luminaries. One CEO I talked to was introduced to more than 20 people, each of whom might have taken months of pestering to meet. And thanks to the TechStars imprimatur, he was instantly differentiated from the dozens of other entrepreneurs clamoring for investor attention.
The companies also get good deals on professional services, cloud computing from the local big boys, and other infrastructure.
Roark and the other TechStars leaders are most proud of the mentorship opportunities they can provide. She relates this story of a random Tuesday night a few weeks back: T.A. McCann “decided to drop by, buy all the teams pizza, and donate like three of his hours to being in the basement” — that’s The Easy, a room downstairs that constantly smells of pizza and sometimes stale beer — “listening to people’s pitches and giving them feedback.”
“Having this group where really high-profile, amazing mentors feel like they can plug in and really give back and connect has been a phenomenal change for the startup ecosystem here in Seattle,” Roark continues. “It’s definitely been a huge impact on TechStars, this class.”
Adam Loving, CEO of Linksy, which helps brands identify influencers to drive word-of-mouth marketing over social media, says that mentorship helped his team think bigger.
“Through talking to customers and talking to two mentors, we’ve expanded the scope to something that’s genuinely more exciting when you talk about it, and more fundable,” he tells me.
In addition, the companies help each other. Set up at clusters of desks spread out among the concrete pillars and exposed brick on the second floor of the South Lake Union building (that was there before the towers of Amazon) that Loving says is now “the epicenter of Seattle startups”, the teams trade ideas and expertise and share the long hours that real entrepreneurship demands.
Loving, a software developer, acknowledges that there are tradeoffs to this work environment. He loves his noise-cancelling headphones when it’s time to turn off the distractions of his colleagues and bang-out some code.
The 39-year-old has seen tech startups from a lot of different angles, starting in 1999 with a company that “didn’t quite boom in the first Web boom” and then working on a mix of startups, big company consulting projects, and his own side ventures in the decade since.
“This didn’t exist 10 years ago,” he says, noting that earlier waves of entrepreneurs had a tougher road without the support of accelerators such as TechStars. “In some sense, we’re kind of, to be crass, pussies, [compared to] entrepreneurs 10 years ago who didn’t have that infrastructure. But it’s great to have that.”