Every time I sit down to write about TechStars, I end up getting up and walking away without putting a single word down. Not because I have nothing to say, quite the contrary, it’s because I have so much to say and I don’t know where to begin. TechStars is all about making connections with people, so I think I’ll tell my story by talking about them:
Do you have a mentor? I bet you do. Before TechStars I had this vision in my head of mentors being these god-like creatures that had knowledge I could never possibly obtain who would swoop in, explain something to me, and leave as quickly and mysteriously as they had arrived. The reality is that I end the Summer in Boulder not with a bunch of mentors that can help me, but with a bunch of amazingly smart friends. Jeffrey Kalmikoff is one of the coolest and cleverest people I have ever met, and I consider myself extremely lucky to call him my friend. Chris Moody is one of the kindest, most giving, and business-savvy guys I’ve ever met, and I consider myself extremely lucky to call him my friend. Micah Baldwin is a God-Damn biz-dev guru. He made me think of human interaction in ways I had never known possible. Again, I consider myself extremely lucky to call him my friend.
The list of people who have helped us throughout the summer is massive, but going in I thought they would be resources that I could leverage when I needed them. Selfish, I know, but that’s what I thought. Coming out of the program I think of them as friends that I can share my experiences with who will, in turn, share back so we can help each other. Mentorship in TechStars isn’t about them giving to us, it’s just as much about us giving back to them. Rob and Emily from Foodzie told me early on into the program to find out from my mentors what they were trying to get out of mentoring, and make sure they get it. When I tried to find out what they all wanted, the answer always came back the same: they wanted to help because it was fun and exciting. So the best thing I could do for them was to keep them as involved as possible so they know exactly what’s going on, and they can see their advice put into action. And this doesn’t end because the program is over. I’m staying in touch with all of my mentors and I hope to get them even more involved as things move forward.
One by one the other founders are packing up and leaving Boulder to go back to their respective homes. Today I was at the office and it was silent for the first time that I can remember. The lack of energy there was palpable, and it reminded me of something Kevin Mann said on twitter a few weeks ago when he had to spend a day working at home instead of at the bunker:
Wishing I was working in the Bunker instead of the apartment, missing the energy the other @techstars bring.
At the time I thought he was being melodramatic, but now I see exactly what he was talking about. Never in my life have I been surrounded by so many smart, talented, and determined people who are pouring their souls into their ideas. I can’t imagine I will ever have the honour or privilege of living through this kind of experience with these kinds of people ever again in my life.
Imagine having the answer to everything. Better yet, imagine being able to get an answer for everything. And not just an answer, but the correct answer. That is what David and Nicole can do. I can’t think of a single time that I had a question that they didn’t know the answer to, and most of the time, they’d tell me that answer before I finished asking the question.
David Cohen, like Brad Feld, doesn’t like to have his time wasted. I’ve never had a meeting with David that lasted longer than 30 minutes, and believe me, 30 minutes was more than enough time to get all of your questions answered and more. I tend to be a very pensive person. I like to take ideas and sit on them for hours, days, or weeks. Then when I execute, I do it extremely fast. David is the opposite of me in that way: David can see all the angles and make a decision immediately. This was overwhelming and a little scary when I first got to TechStars, and thankfully I didn’t have a serious meeting with Brad until later into the program, because Brad is like that times 10. You know when you’re talking to David or Brad that you better have seriously thought about your questions, or you’re wasting their time. Don’t waste their time.
But aside from the exacting and overwhelming intelligence of these guys, they’re also really funny, and genuinely awesome people. Oh, and David loves getting hugs. Hug him whenever you see him.
Nicole Glaros has been our rock. Always available, kind, and giving. Andrew Hyde is an unending fountain of connections, information, and kindness. Tim and Josh are two of the brightest, most upstanding young guys I’ve ever met.
So what did I really do over the last three months? 18 hour days, 7 days a week, no sleep, constantly nervous, lost 15 lbs, turned Vanilla into a business. Yes. All of that. But what do I come out of TechStars with besides a business? Friends. Friends for life.
So that’s me now: a TechStar for life.