Techstars: Final Week


This thing is almost over and I’ve been mourning the end for about two weeks now. I really wish I had been able to write each week since my last post, but all that really needs to be said is that we were on that grind. That hustle. That game.

My involvement with Techstars has been probably the best work experience I’ve ever had, and I’ve had a lot of work experiences. I’ve met and worked closely with some of the smartest people I’ve ever been around, many of whom I expect I’ll be friends with for quite some time. In the span of three months, I’ve learned tons about the business of startups, funding, and even more about the interpersonal dynamics of good teams. All of these teams have been forged in fire over the last three months. I’ve been witness to mad awkward and emotional meetings, heated arguments, moments of elation, ill-kept facial hair, and paintball bruises. It’s been a roller coaster, bruh.

Real talk? I have made very little money for my time. At the worst moments for me during this program, I thought about telling people to fuck off,  especially considering the amount of time and effort I was putting into helping some of the teams. Here’s the thing though, there were like three of those moments over three months and they were literally just moments—fleeting instances of thoughts like, “This is bullshit. I’ve spent more time on this single project for this one team than the whole three month commitment is worth.” That’s real, financially speaking. The big deal though, and why I didn’t tell anyone to fuck off, was that I loved almost every minute of it. Even while it was happening. I loved it.

Over the last few years, I’ve redefined for myself what success looks and feels like. Probably due to my longstanding outlook on life, my previous shitty work environments, and my penchant for dressing like I’m retired, I don’t go in for the bullshit anymore. I want to do good work for people who don’t suck. Techstars has enabled me to do that over the last three months. It was stressful a lot of the time. I lost sleep. I likely lost a little more hair. I smoked too many cigarettes and probably drank too much. I could’ve been doing all that working somewhere stupid though. Truth be told, I would do what I do for free. Getting money for my work is icing.

Being part of Techstars has been awesome. That’s my main point here. Given the amount of work and stress, would I do it again? I say hell yeah, fucking right. I consider some of these people core bros now. Many of the people I’ve been spending days with are painfully awkward, likely mildly autistic, potty-mouthed, argumentative, strangely-dressed, outright nerds, but core bros nonetheless. Birds of a feather and such.

We’ve got a few days left before demo-day, and then most of the teams go back to wherever. These folks from California, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Israel, England, Washington D.C., and here in Texas, all have a place to stay with me if ever they need one. If I’m ever out their way, they should expect to put me up and take me out for dinner. As far as I can tell from seeing and talking to alumi of previous Techstars programs, this shit is for life. You meet super smart people with similar talents and goals, get to know them in a stressful environment, share trials, triumphs, donuts, air mattresses, and kegs, and then the program is over. Obviously, you’re going to stay in touch; shit got real for a while and friendships were forged. Techstars knows what it’s doing. Seats, the managing director here, knows how to pick smart people. I’m one of those people. No big swig.


Office Hours. Pits, Peaks, Rocks. 10:10 Liquids.

Techstars: Weeks Five & Six, or WTF, time and space are collapsing around me.

I once was told of a mutant who could twist space around him and now it seems that I've met him.

I was working. A lot; like, not just a lot for me, but a lot for even a normal person. The teams here at Techstars Cloud have been on their respective hustles as well. Some of the teams had some hard deadlines these last two weeks, all while dealing with the normal day-to-day business of business. As far as I know, everyone met their deadlines. Managing directors got memed, Werewolf was played, and good times were had. I mean, people were even having gangster-ass pool parties to celebrate milestones out here, bruh.

People are generally back in their grooves, especially as compared to the recent unpleasantness of the work/life strife. The teams seemed in pretty good spirits, but the tension is still pretty palpable. There’s still tons to do. I’m just doing me. I’m taking it easy, managing my time, and trying to afford as much as I can of it to each team based on need. It’s hard to keep it together though. Some days, I’m one snooze button press away from not having enough time to do what I’ve promised I’ll do for a team.

I get it, though. You’re like, “Okay! What’s the secret to effective time management?” I’ll tell you.

Slip-on shoes. That’s it. Shoes without laces, in general. You’re welcome.

Techstars: Week Four, or What Doesn’t Kill You

The potential for any given day at Techstars Cloud.

I hate to start this post with a claim so cliché, but: SHIT GOT REAL.

I know enough about the brains behind this bootcamp to expect that a certain amount of stress is deliberately designed-in. You can’t schedule back-to-back days of back-to-back meetings on accident. I’ve heard from teams that shit is pretty hectic for them on a personal level. Some people are traveling in and out of town to visit family, significant others, conduct business meetings, and shore up existing relationships, all while clocking at least 12-hour days at Techstars Cloud HQ. I’m sympathetic to their struggles, but I’m all for them getting chewed up. I remember having a conversation with Jason Seats (my boss for the next two months, and the Managing Director of this program) about how a certain amount of stress is probably pretty useful for these teams. Sure, I get to witness the ruckus from slightly outside of the fray, but I know from my own experiences that it’s best to forge with actual fire. It’s really useful to know how you and your core group of comrades respond to intense stress before getting into an intensely stressful situation. It’s also the best way to set a baseline for what you know you can handle, especially if the level in your training is high—but you’re given the tools to manage it. You can always look back on your training and know that shit will never be as bad. That’s a pretty special experience.

People who’ve been through some shit emerge with a kind of “survivor’s wisdom” that you can’t get without really going through some shit. You’re not going to acquire that wisdom from a book, by watching some documentary, or by asking questions of survivors. Yeah, we’re talking about business stuff. It’s not hand-to-hand combat, or living in a jungle hunting game with your bare hands. Still though, on a rough day, life in the “pit” at Techstars is a only couple of ill-advised comments away from turning into some full-blown Lord of the Flies scene. The kitchen on our floor looks like a frat house kitchen most of the time, and I’m guessing most of these founders are going to go through pretty serious ramen and fruit snack withdrawal when this thing is over.

For me? I’ve never been so busy and so happy in a work environment. The stress game is old hat to some degree, which isn’t to say I’m immune to it or anything; I just have multiple high-stress baselines I can look back on, and scars to remind me to look. I’ve been trying to figure out how to continue doing what I’m doing day-to-day after this program is over because I already know I’d do this Hackstars gig again if I could. The working environment is so different from what I’ve recently been exposed to. The best bits of my experiences with clients, and at places I’ve worked in the past, are all kind of rolled up into this one with Techstars. I’ve got brilliant colleagues, general autonomy and trust, the length of my lunch and cigarette breaks is determined by actual pending work and deadlines, and I know that there are resources for help if I don’t know something. These demands are going to be top of mind the next time someone offers me a gig. For me, the stress is good. It’s not the kind of stress that comes from having a problem you can’t solve, and I’ve had plenty of those. This is the stress that comes from having a problem you want to solve and knowing that you can. For me, I guess this stress is just excitement. I don’t jump out of planes, or drive fast, or whatever. I do design. That’s my work and my respite.

For those sweating the stress, especially when it comes to doing what you love most: Look sharp, and smarten up. Dealing with all of this stress is the work. You don’t like the work? Quit your job. Micah Baldwin (@micah) of Graphicly was here through the weekend and gave an awesome talk covering some ways to keep the work/life balance in check, so it’s obviously on people’s minds. I have no doubt that this group of founders will be well-equipped to handle whatever torment the jungle of the new economy will inevitably send. There have been some hurt feelings, some shouting matches, and some reconciliation. It’s interesting to see people who thought they had everything all figured out a few weeks ago, get punked out by the realization they were missing a big chunk of reality in their business models. It’s inspiring though, to see those same people work through the problems they’ve found. It’s awesome, really, because I think some of these people weren’t 100% sure they could solve the problem until it was done. It’s still daunting though, especially considering today (Monday, February 11) begins the fifth week of a three-month-long engagement. My mantra for this week, just as it is every week: Keep it glued; shit is real.