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.

Techstars: Week Three

You're the best around.

Today begins week four of Techstars Cloud here in San Antonio. It feels weird to keep counting weeks because I honestly haven’t had any “weekends.” I’ve been getting most of my design work done at home when the family is asleep, because my weekdays are typically filled with a series of short meetings. It’s good though.

Most of the startups came to the program with a pretty good idea of what they were doing and how they planned to build their business. Last week changed all of that for a lot of people. Week one and two basically threw everyone into turmoil, and week three was the week for many of the teams’ individual members to reconnect. Team members got to take a brief rest, get a drink, tell a joke, etc. Week four looks like it will be productive. After three weeks of mentor meetings, these companies have a solid, but in some cases wildly different view of what they’re going to be doing. If the requests for me to do design/copy work in my inbox are any indication, this should be a busy week. I’m ’bout that design life, though. I’m not sweating it.

My guess is, teams that are the most flexible when the business’ focus changes, will be the people that succeed. True colors always come out when the heat is on. If you have the right people on your team, those true colors are manageable, and even beneficial. A single, less than optimally fit person can quickly turn into a long term problem, especially if a team is trying to work around one of their own freaking out. It’s an old story, and it still happens all the time. You’d think people could manage to keep shit glued by now. With this program, Techstars seems to be the glue. I’m not privy to all the mechanics of how and why Techstars does what it does, but there’s an obvious ethos of making sure people are in the right lanes when it comes to their individual tasks, and they are apparently pretty good at figuring out how to optimize/leverage the inevitable gumbo of personality types for success. This is interesting to me, because I’ve worked a lot of places where management has said they do that, but I’ve never worked a place that actually did.

It’s going to be a good week. Week three was like the first half a phoenix story. This week is the rebirth from ashes part. I’m sure there will be several swings like this throughout the duration of the program. A fair approximation for you to visualize is any martial arts/sports/personal struggle movie where there is an extended montage of training, set to an inspirational song. This week is that part. Fuckin’ “Eye of the Tiger” and shit. Or whatever your jam is. Mine is “You’re the Best Around.”