Posts filed under ‘Techstars’

Filtrbox Pizzabox Bug-Bash

Last night, Filtrbox commandeered “The Bunker” at Techstars (thanks to David Cohen) for the first Filtrbox Pizzabox Bug-Bash.  We invited Boulder locals to come in and help us test Filtrbox as well as provide us feedback on the product thus far. The event was a success and I would like to thank all those who were in attendance.  The feedback that we received from testers was great.   Look out for more information about this event on the Filtrbox blog. We had an awesome evening of fun, pizza and beer; here are some pictures from last night:

 Filtrbox Pizzabox Bug-Bash (click to enlarge)  Filtrbox Pizzabox Bug-Bash (click to enlarge) Filtrbox Pizzabox Bug-Bash (click to enlarge) Filtrbox Pizzabox Bug-Bash (click to enlarge)

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March 27, 2008 at 6:53 am 1 comment

TechStars notes in the raw #2

(I took copious notes during TechStars 2007. I am opening up my notebook and sharing them with aspiring entrepreneurs.   I am going to serialize my notes on this blog.  These are my RAW notes, so sometimes people spoke too fast or were inaudible but I tried to get the gist of what they were saying. There is very little editing to these notes.)

The following questions were addressed during one of the early TechStars panels:

1) What kills most startups?

  • Surprise!! Surprise!! Not making money is not usually the big issue that causes failures unless you don’t have a vision
  • Team dynamic issues – startup failures are mostly caused by founding team friction
  • Companies fail due to execution failures. Execution failures are still team issues that can be categorized as follows: 
  1.  Team dysfunction issues
  2.  Team poor performance issues

1 and 2. are a “chicken and egg” situation

  • Do not be afraid to address team issues head on, solve them and remove the problem
  • Once you have a team issue problem that threatens your startup, re-adjust what you are doing or join another team (None of the original TechStars team members changed teams)
  • Beware of meandering, where after several weeks you are not getting anywhere. Address and re-adjust immediately because you risk team members losing passion because you are not getting anywhere

 2)  “Getting acquired” as a business model

  • Getting acquired is not a business model.  It’s a WISH!!!
  • Concentrate on building a business that has compelling value

 3) The “style” of a startup

  • You have the permission to create your own identity
  • Have an attitude
  • Have a style
  • Develop a style for your startup and yourself and work it (America’s Next Top Startup, anyone???) all the way through

 MORE TO COME …..

March 5, 2008 at 8:52 am Leave a comment

TechStars notes in the raw #1

(I took copious notes during TechStars 2007. I am opening up my notebook and sharing them with aspiring entrepreneurs.   I am going to serialize my notes on this blog.  These are my RAW notes, so sometimes people spoke too fast or were inaudible but I tried to get the gist of what they were saying. There is very little editing to these notes.)

The following questions were addressed during one of the early TechStars panels:

 1)     Do you need a brilliant idea before starting?

  • NO!!! 
  • You just need to get going.  If you ask too many people before you start and you get feedback, you are probably selling yourself short. Just start.
  • Look for analogies in paradigms.  The first internet revolution was trying to implement an analogy of the non-digital world.  Seek the next analogy.   Also consider addressing areas that failed in the first internet revolution. 

2)     How do you know if you have an idea and you should step it up?

  • When you start having people expressing need and people catching on.
  • Listen – Listen to your peer group. Listen to the right people and the people that form your market. VCs are not necessarily the market.  
  • Sometimes you have to provide what people are going to need tomorrow (the example that was given here was what Greg Reinacker did with the concept behind Newsgator).  When you ask people, they probably will tell you what they needed yesterday and not know what they need tomorrow.  So you have to be ahead of the ball game.
  • There are two ways to describe how startup ideas evolve                                                                
  1. Scratch someone else’s itch                                                         
  2. Scratch your own itch

Ultimately you have to move from 2. to 1.  

(My interpretation of what Brad Feld was saying here is that you either have to solve problems that you are having or problems that other people are having.  But to be a successful you have to end up solving problems that other people are having if you want your idea to get off the ground)

3)     Should you start a startup in the consumer space or the B2B space?

  • Relatively indifferent to consumer or B2B. The question is how you are extracting money , long term, from the people using your product
  • At this stage, getting a great service up and running is important but most importantly you need to think of how you will make money in the long term
  • Extracting money from the customer is an engineering problem. You are thinking about the “architecture of your business”.  Address how you interact with the customer for money. The internet is free but you have to work on something monetizable
  • Some people who think that they are addressing the consumer internet now, may end up with a business solution.  Keep your mind open.

MORE TO COME …..

March 4, 2008 at 8:24 am 4 comments

Filtrbox is hiring

At Filtrbox, we are on a quest to create software that helps people “know what they don’t know”.  How do we go about doing that, you may ask.  Well, if you want to know how we do that, come and join us because WE ARE HIRING. If you meet the following requirements, you have an opportunity to be part of the best software development team in Boulder, Colorado:

*Solid Java skills
*Solid web application development skills
*Experience with Natural Language Processing concepts (a plus)
*Actionscript 2 or 3 (a plus)
*System administration skills, Linux, Apache, Tomcat, MySQL (a plus)

*Must be energetic, motivated and creative

Send your resume to jobs at filtrbox dotcom

January 25, 2008 at 5:52 pm Leave a comment

Advice for TechStars applicants

TechStars has announced that it is now accepting applications for 2008. I was part of the inaugural TechStars 2007 last year and here is my advice for TechStars applicants:

Apply
My first advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is simply, apply to TechStars.  It’s a great opportunity if you are looking for help with your start-up idea. Applying to TechStars was one of the best things that we ever did at Filtrbox.

Team
Your idea is important but the team is even more important.  Putting together a team that can effectively execute on the idea is of paramount importance.  The reason for the team being more important than the idea is that during the course of the summer, your idea may change a number of times, so it is important that you have a solid team that can deal with the changes and effectively execute on the changes. While it is important to put together a team with complementary skills, in my opinion, I think that it is far much more important to  have a team that is execution oriented and that has great chemistry. Keep in mind that TechStars is making a investment in you in the form of $15,000.00, they are not going to make that investment in a bunch of buddies with a great idea but who cannot deliver.

Prototype
Have a body of work to show to TechStars to complement your application. I am making the assumption that your odds of being accepted to TechStars are far much better if you have a working prototype or a full blown working application altogether because I believe all the teams that were chosen to be part of TechStars last year had some body of work to show. For some of the teams, the body of work was a prototype manifestation of their idea and for some, it was work that they had done in the past.  If you do not have a prototype, I would suggest, you get busy and start working on one right now.

No part timers
TechStars is a full time gig. If you currently have a job,  be ready to quit your job. I did.  TechStars is a grueling summer, it will be dificult to do it part time.  The only thing that you can afford to do part time during TechStars is sleep; be prepared for only a couple of hours of sleep a night and all nighters especially as you get closer to Investor Day.

On a serious note, I think that it is important for you to realize this now so that you can prepare your loved ones for the fact that you may have to leave your current job or school if you get accepted into Techstars.  It’s not easy leaving your high paying job or your degree program, both for you and for those around you, so you might as well let those around you know today that in the event that you get accepted into TechStars, you may have to quit. Most importantly, I would suggest that you plan your finances now.

Some of you might be saying to yourselves “Why do all that? What if I don’t get accepted”? If you are asking yourself this question, in my opinion, you are not a TechStar. Pessimism is definitely NOT a characteristic that they look for at TechStars.

Relocation
Be prepared to relocate to beautiful Boulder , Colorado or surrounding areas.  Like I said in 3., TechStars is a full time job, it is important that you are willing to relocate to Boulder.  My primary reason for this suggestion is that it makes for a much more cohesive team.  Once you get accepted, the team is no longer limited to the list of people that you submitted in your application.  The “team” increases when you get into TechStars because it includes all your advisors and all the people who are not necessarily your advisors but are simply rooting for you to succeed; your cheerleaders.  You need to be able to schedule coffee, lunch, dinner or whatever with your “team” and interact with them.  The great thing about Boulder is that the tech community is pretty much concentrated around Pearl Street so you have easy access to everyone.

Last year, we had teams that had team members relocating from as far as Sweden.  For those of you who are used to working in geographically dispersed areas, this is an opportunity to meet for the first time (the team with a team member  from Sweden literally had their first face to face in-person meeting at TechStars). I cannot understate the valuable team building benefits of a team working in one place.  A better team is more likely to build a better product.

On a more important note, you need to realize this so that you can let your loved ones know that relocation to Boulder may be the one of the consequences of being accepted to TechStars.  You also need to start preparing yourself financially for the relocation.

Advisors
If you are not a person who takes advice well, I would suggest that you do not apply.  While TechStars does not force you to take the advice of the array of advisors that they have lined up, attending TechStars and being unwilling to take advice defeats the whole purpose.  At TechStars, they like to say that it’s a “hatchery” where individuals with great ideas can get advice to help them turn the ideas into meaningful products and the individuals into viable companies.  So TechStars is all about being able to listen to other people’s opinions and taking some advice from seasoned entrepreneurs.

I have written a blog post in the past on Seth Levine, our awesome advisor at TechStars. Advisors do not come in any better quality than people like Seth, so be prepared to take advantage of them.

Presentation skills
Practice your presentation skills. This might not seem to be all that important but if you think about it, as an entrepreneur you are going to HAVE to make pitches, a lot of pitches, so you might as well hone your skills now.  With respect to TechStars, at one point you are going to have to pitch to TechStars before you get accepted, so improving you presentation skills can only help your case.  If you have a great idea, spend the time to make sure that you can communicate the idea effectively in order to make sure that everyone else realizes how great your idea is.

Note that not everyone on your team has to be a great presenter, however, you need at least one person who can effectively communicate your idea.

Idea mutation
Don’t be married to your idea.  Be prepared for the fact that your idea MAY change significantly during the course of the summer.  Not all ideas will change, ours did not change significantly. However, some did change significantly and for the better.  For those who are married to their idea, keep in mind that the opportunities in the tech industry are very fluid and as an entrepreneur sometimes you have to take advantage of opportunities as they present themselves. Take for example, during TechStars 2007, the Facebook Platform was released which opened up a lot of unanticipated opportunities. The Techstars team that abandoned their original idea in order to take advantage of the new Facebook Platform was ringing in some revenue by the end of TechStars and are now the proud owners of one of the premier Facebook applications. 

Burritos 🙂
Be prepared to eat lot of burritos. Lots and lots of burritos.

I hope that these tips help aspiring applicants.  I am in no way part of the TechStars organization so please take the above as my opinion, and, my opinion only. Good luck and I hope to see you in Boulder this summer.

January 22, 2008 at 6:42 pm 9 comments


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