On the Road with TechStars Boulder
Having a good experience when you were expecting one is nice, but having a great experience when you were expecting merely good is even better. Yesterday, I had my expectations exceeded in a big way as I spent the day in Boulder at the TechStars Demo Day. For the past four years, our friends David Cohen, Brad Feld and a host of others have devoted significant time and energy to recruiting and supporting talented groups of Founders for 13 weeks of entrepreneurial boot camp. What began in Boulder has now spread to include annual programs in Boston and Seattle, and TechStars has spawned over 50 companies so far.
Watching the 11 companies from this TechStars class present was exciting on multiple levels. First, it was impossible not to be inspired by the enthusiasm the teams brought to their pitches. From the leadoff hitter, ScriptPad, to the final presenter, Kapost, it was clear that the Founders were jazzed not just to present, but even more so to build successful businesses in their target markets. The Boulder Theater was oozing energy from the presenters, the mentors, and the numerous friends of TechStars who came to support and cheer on these Founders.
Second, these weren’t just ideas. Many of the groups had been hard at work building their businesses long before joining TechStars, and the traction they have already achieved is a testament to their efforts. Adstruc has $5 million in monthly inventory in its online marketplace for outdoor advertising. RoundPegg has signed seven paying customers since the beginning of June. Omniar is working with organizations like Coldwell Banker and the SF MOMA to use its visual recognition platform to make the real world clickable. Real companies, real businesses, real potential.
Third, no matter how seriously the Founders were devoting themselves to creating compelling products, they weren’t taking themselves too seriously. Adam Wilson from Gearbox got a laugh as he closed his pitch by inviting the audience to come find him afterwards to play with his balls. An important note: Adam and his co-founder Ian Bernstein are building robotic smart toys that can be controlled by mobile phones, and their first product is a three inch ball that they were eagerly demoing during lunch.
Finally, there was a real roar of approval from the crowd when the “yellow shirts” were introduced. Special yellow t-shirts were given to TechStars alums who had achieved exits, and those in the audience included Matt Galligan from SocialThing and Ari Newman from FiltrBox. We were especially proud of Ari, who sold the company he and Tom Chikoore founded to Jive Software earlier this year after partnering with us at True in 2008. TechStars has done wonderful work seeding a number of promising companies, and it’s exciting to see the Founders of some of these companies achieve nice exits—and, in Matt and Ari’s case, get right back to work. Best of luck to yesterday’s presenters in their quest to someday sport their own yellow shirts as well.