5 core values from Techstars to be successful no matter what
Boulder Colorado is a micro-culture, a unique place where you can still find hippie communities going strong along pale dirt roads, abutted against hiking trails that disappear into the trees. I was in Boulder to meet with two of the partners at Techstars, David Brown (also a co-founder) and Ari Newman. Both share an electric vibrancy that buzzes in the intensity of their eyes and the stillness of their postures. They are deep listeners, with algorithmic-process brains. They are living in the future...the film canisters of their brains capture more frames-per-second than the average brain. They shared five core values for success, which is basically "Karma wins."
1. Give first. This might seem obvious in the realm of Karma, but remember Techstars is a tech accelerator program for start-ups meant to create millions if not billions of dollars in return on investments. This would seem antithetical to building wealth, but it works for Techstars. Ari explained, "We just try to help and there's a sort of karma that comes along with it, and things come back."
2. Ask, "How can I help? Don't think 'what's in it for me?'" A slightly more focused version of the first value, but proactive. Focusing on helping something already in progress, help someone else's dreams versus your own. "Because we help them thrive," Ari notes, "I think about it like 'rising tides.'"
3. "Team-team-team," David explains, "the people matter more than the idea." Techstars looks for team dynamic as the leading indicator of success. This also seems antithetical in a capital-driven environment where investors are seeking the idea with the biggest potential, but Ari adds, "If you think about some of the most successful companies in the world, the original idea they started with; isn't the thing that made them the most successful..."
4. Read the feedback. Related to core value above, Ari continues his train of though, "...It was the founder's and the team's ability to read customer feedback, look into the future, and adapt." The ability to pivot, to trust in the team to evolve versus being stuck on the one concept, even if its failing, is highly important.
5. Get the right things done. David expresses, "You can take a PhDer who's incredibly bright, has a Harvard MBA and a technical degree from MIT. And if they are very analytical and prophesize too much then they can't get anything done. They're just going to spend a lot of money." David adds an example scenario, "Something that you love, but that no customer cares about, is not a good idea." You have to chose the right things to focus on, at the right time. Don't try to boil the ocean
Ari accentuated all of the above points, "If you ever participate in our network, you do it because you want to be helpful, because you want to see other people find success."
Maybe this type of operation could only have started in an enclave like Boulder, similar to how Silicon Valley sprouted in the nurturing light of Stanford. That said, the intense yet "give first" attitude of Techstars is unique, and welcome, given the pressure these entrepreneurs have chosen for themselves.
You can read the full interview with David and Ari here: http://www.verizon.com/about/news/karma-leads-start-success