Throwback Thursday — Featuring Dan Spinosa!
Oh, hey there’s Shelby CTO and Co-Founder Dan Spinosa. Looking pretty fly circa Feb 2011.
I first met David Tisch two years ago under the premise that he is an up and coming angel investor who liked sports. At the time, I was pitching our first company HomeField - a video platform for coaches, athletes, and fans.
Going in, I thought this is a no-brainer. Coming out, however, I had a very different thought… “TechStars is coming to NYC? …and we should apply?”
Despite feeling that we were too late-stage (we weren’t), we applied and I started emailing Tisch… And I quickly realized that he never sleeps, that answering emails from young companies at odd hours of the night was a crucially important first step in proving that he could make a dent in the universe with TechStars NYC, that he knows the history of every startup ever, and that Tisch has a passion for entrepreneurship that was rare.
Months later, we were one of Tisch’s chosen 11 for the first class. I later learned that we were numerically ranked lower than that and Tisch made a judgment call that was hugely important to us.
From the start, Tisch was extremely hard on us. He told us when we sucked… and to be fair, we did. He was critical to a point of no return, but it was because he cared deeply about us - as founders, as a company, and as TechStars - and this helped us successfully raise capital, grow our team, and start down our path to building a great company.
Since then, we have seen three stellar classes of TechStars in NYC and I am proud to be a part of a vibrant, growing, ecosystem of excellent people and companies.
So given today’s news that Tisch is transitioning away from his role as MD at TechStars, I’ve got a few thoughts.
Another Techstars Boulder Demo Day has arrived. Good luck to everyone presenting today — we’ll be rooting for you!
Check out the companies:
VerbalizeIT - http://www.verbalizeit.com
RollSale - http://www.rollsale.com
DigitalOcean - http://www.digitalocean.com
27Perry - http://www.27perry.com
DealAngel - http://www.dealangel.com
Roximity - http://www.roximity.com
BirdBox - http://birdbox.com
SalesLoft - http://www.salesloft.com
MobiPlug - http://www.mobiplug.co
PivotDesk - http://www.pivotdesk.com
Ubooly - http://www.ubooly.com
Tomorrow, 13 companies will take the stage at Webster Hall to show the world what they’ve been working on the last few months during TechStars. I’ve been back to TechStars a bunch recently, and I can say that this class has been pushing their limits to work hard on showing their vision the best they can.
I know what they’re going through, because I’ve been through it (back when Tisch was admittedly a little more caustic) and it’s not easy. Whether you’re conscious of it or not, there’s pressure from TechStars, from investors, from corp dev, from family, from friends, from cofounders… not to mention the pressure you put on yourself.
So you bust your ass. You work all night. You focus on one thing and one thing only: nailing your demo.
By the time I got to demo week, all I wanted to do was get it over with. I knew my stuff. I just wanted to play.
But something funny happened on my way to the stage that day.
I realized how awesome it was that I was about to get on stage before a crowd of people for which I have tremendous respect and admiration, and I remember being so grateful for that moment.
Tisch makes fun of me for it, but when I stepped on stage I took a moment to say thanks, and note how awesome it was to see the incredible turnout, the excitement not just for TechStars, but for entrepreneurship, and it completely grounded me in the moment. The audience was rooting for me. They wanted me, and all of the founders on stage, to succeed. They wanted to see great companies and great demos.
It was in that breath of gratitude, that realization of support, that I was then able to deliver my pitch… and in the blink of an eye it was over.
And I immediately wanted to do it again.
So if I can give one piece of advice to the founders getting on stage tomorrow (and really, any person going into a big presentation)… appreciate that you’re about to be heard. Have fun, be thankful for the opportunity, and know that you have the audience’s support.
At the very least, tomorrow I’ll be hollering from the rafters for ya.
Good luck everyone!
I recently challenged one of my teammates to get something done on a short deadline. They responded by sending me this image.
I love Bruce Lee and the stories surrounding him are legendary, but this story in particular, hits home as I think back to a year ago this week, when we started TechStars and started doing more faster.
Sure - we’d been hustling for years at that point. Selling customers, building product, pitching investors, but we didn’t truly start doing more faster until we were dropped into TechStars with 10 other killer teams who were all sprinting like hell, 90 mentors who had an exponential number of data points around tech startups from which to draw and the pressure of the 579 other applicants who didn’t get in, watching our potential success or failure with a critical eye.
Looking back on that experience, I am extremely proud of the way in which we, as a team, came into TechStars ready for whatever was thrown at us, and came out with a beautiful product and the vision to match, in just a few short months.
We’ve been building and growing ever since, and while not all of our team members (9 now!) went through TechStars, “do more faster” is a mantra that we want to practice for the lifetime of the company.
So to TechStars - fellow founders from our class, from programs past and present, the mentors, the Davids… thank you for teaching us what it really means to do more faster.
"Reality TV." Some of us love it. Some of us hate it. 10 months ago, if you’d asked me if I’d ever participate in a reality TV show, I’d say "no f***ing way."
And yet, tonight is the premier of TechStars - a 6 part series on Bloomberg showcasing our team and our fellow TechStars from the winter class.
So what changed my mind?
Most importantly, the TechStars program DID NOT change for the TV show. The Davids guaranteed us that their primary goal was to help us build our companies - that meant excellent access, advice and mentorship from great people like all the entrepreneurs and investors featured in the new trailer above.
Also, I knew TV production well enough to know that anything seen on camera can and will be used to craft a compelling story. So how did that change our behavior?
Not at all.
I’m really proud of the team we’ve assembled and the company we’re building. I believe in what we’re doing and I don’t fear any sort of press that may show us in one light or another. Will the footage be edited to make us look like former jocks? Probably. Will there be goofy scenes of us drinking beers? Definitely. Will we let any weird opinions form about us bother us? Nope.
On the flip side, will the show be a great way for other entrepreneurs to learn what mistakes NOT to make? I think so. Will it inspire others to say “hey, I have an idea… I can do that.” I really hope so.
We can make all sorts of guesses as to the potential impact of the show, but at the end of the day, TechStars is about helping great companies build amazing products. I’m really proud and I consider myself very lucky, to be a part of that.
If you have thoughts or questions about the show, hit me up @reecepacheco
Series starts tonight at 9PM on Bloomberg.
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