I Want To Be A TechStar: Demo Day 2013 In Boulder
August 21, 2013
Demo Day is Boulder at its finest. The Boulder Theater is dressed for the occasion and so are the TechStars teams. In true Boulder style, the dress code is company T-Shirts and jeans.
We are ready.
We are ready to listen and to be inspired by ten companies who have spent the last three months preparing for this moment. Today is their day.
For those of you who are not familiar, TechStars is a mentorship-driven startup accelerator founded by David Cohen, Brad Feld, David Brown, and Jared Polis that holds thirteen-week programs for startups in Boulder Colorado, New York City, Boston, Seattle, San Antonio, Austin and London. If you are accepted into the thirteen-week program, TechStars provides each company with free office space and $18,000 in exchange for a 6% stake in the company. In addition, a syndicate of more than 75 top venture capitalists backs each company with a $100,000 convertible note which converts into equity when the company raises a Series A. The competition is tough. In fact, less than 1% of the companies that apply to TechStars are accepted. At the end of the thirteen-week program, TechStars hosts Demo Day, which can draw over 500 investors, entrepreneurs, and journalists. Demo Day is their unveiling, the day they present their company.
This year did not disappoint. The Boulder Theater was packed. In the audience were fellow Techstars, veteran Techstars, investors, journalists, and true fans of everything that this day is about. TechStars believes in people, in ideas and in the power of those people taking their ideas and building something that matters. It sounds corny, but we all want to believe that this still exists. We want to know that two guys in a garage can have an idea and it can become the next big thing. We want to believe that people will still cheer for each other, that when you work hard you can succeed, and, more importantly, that people want you to succeed. That is what Demo Day is about.
Ten CEOs presented their company as the closing act of their three-month journey. One announced a new CEO, another made history by becoming the first company in TechStars history to ever be acquired before completing the program. This was the highlight of the afternoon. The company, GoodApril, announced that on Tuesday they had been acquired by Inuit, making both personal and TechStars history. They were presented with the Techstars “yellow jersey” and rewarded, not just with the success of the acquisition, but also with endless applause by a crowd on their feet.
For me, the best part of this particular story was not that they had been acquired, but that they were almost not a part of the program. It turns out that they were originally rejected. The founders received the dreaded, “thank you but no thank you email.” The Managing Director then explained to the audience that he could not sleep after her sent them the email. He called the founders the next day and “took it back” as he welcomed them into the program. How is that for trusting your instincts? The next time you have a gut feeling about something or someone, this should remind us all, to listen.
I was fortunate this year to get to know the companies personally, meeting with each of them one-on-one as a PR mentor. I got to know some teams quite well, working on a press release, talking through upcoming events and discussing pitches to the media. With every step I was continually amazed by the commitment, excitement and passion they each have for what they are doing. At Demo Day I got to see how equally passionate they are for each other. The teams sit together toward the back of the Theater and the cheering is contagious. With every presentation came cheers, screams and yells of support.
You couldn’t help but be inspired.
Congratulations to all ten companies and thank you to TechStars for letting BPR be a part of the 2013 journey. We will be watching to see what is next for each of the 2013 Boulder teams.