TechStars: An inside look at 87 days of madness

It’s day 87 of TechStars Seattle. It’s also the last day of the program. The incubation program culminates with an event this afternoon called Demo Day where more than 400 angel investors, VCs and press will watch ten companies pitch their vision in just six minutes.

Six minutes. That’s all you get to impress the audience, hoping that it will be enough to lure interested parties after you get off stage.

My startup, EveryMove, is one of the ten startups.

The past three months at TechStars had significant impact on my startup, and I’m sure it did for the nine others as well.

We didn’t sleep much, and when we did it was often to catch quick nap on a couch in the office. It was common to come to the office on weekends and see other teams building their product, practicing their pitch or exchanging ideas. Spouses, kids and life in general took a backseat on this journey. (See also: TechStars ruins your sex life)

There were 21 entrepreneurs and investors who gave talks at our offices. We had nine pitch-practice sessions with all of the teams, where each of us, including investors and guests, would ask questions, critique and make suggestions.

Marcelo Calbucci

Another 35 or so entrepreneurs, investors and guests had office hours, meeting one-on-one with each team for 30-minutes. In total, my co-founder, Russell Benaroya and I probably pitched EveryMove 100 times during this period. The result — after testing slides, lines and audience reaction — is a very compelling pitch for your company.

However, the pitch is just the beginning.

Although TechStars is an intense training camp towards Demo Day, the feedback and questions you get make you question and adjust your strategy for the business itself. We weren’t one of the teams who pivoted our business (about half of the teams did) but this period helped us create a more robust product and business roadmap.

The product itself took a beating, primarily because it’s very hard to code while meeting with so many mentors and participating in so many strategy discussions. Our product would be at a much more advanced stage of development if we had not participated in TechStars. On the other hand, we feel a lot more confident in the direction and the quality of the product we are building.

As we close this chapter of EveryMove’s story, we open a new and much more important one. We  now must create a sustainable business that improves the lives of millions of individuals. TechStars set us up for a very good start on this long journey.

It raises the bar on the why, what and how you should build a team, a product and ultimately a successful business. I’m very thankful for this opportunity and I’d certainly take my next company through this process again.

But, please, don’t tell my family that.

Marcelo Calbucci is the co-founder & CTO of EveryMove and the founder of Seattle 2.0. You can follow him on Twitter @calbucci.

Previously on GeekWire: Where are they now? An update on the TechStars Class of 2010TechStars ruins your sex life

  • http://twitter.com/williambharding Bill Harding

    Excited to see your new biz take flight, Marcelo!  However, I can’t help but think that two of your statements are at odds with one another:  “Our product would be at a much more advanced stage of development if we had not participated in TechStars” and “we feel a lot more confident in the direction and the quality of the product we are building [as a result of Techstars].” 

    “Pitching your company 100 times” in a couple months sounds to me like the opposite of the “Agile Startup” principles.  While it’s surely a good move to leverage the minds of smart people before you set off to build something pointless, I’ve found that there is usually diminishing returns after talking to enough smart people (like, say, 5).  Sooner or later, the best data is the data you get after launching your MVP and finding out what real world people will & won’t pay for.  What’s your take?

    • http://blog.calbucci.com/ Marcelo Calbucci

      Hey Bill, TechStars is not about accelerating the product, it’s about accelerating the business. Might sound like a nuance, but there is a lot of business hurdles one needs to overcome that are not related to the product, including funding, marketing, copy, biz-dev, sales, etc. I actually don’t like the term MVP, because you don’t have an MVP until you have an MVP, so, saying that you are building an MVP really means “we are launching the smallest functional product we can”. That’s not the approach I take for software development, usually. I’d love to discuss more about it, but this is probably not the right medium for this long conversation. :)

      • http://twitter.com/williambharding Bill Harding

        Well in frankness, my course to launch was the antithesis of MVP (I spent almost 2 years underground before launching), so I’ll buy what you’re selling there.  But I guess my assumption is that startups should either be building their MVP or building a fully fledged product that they have evidence to believe will be worth it.  It doesn’t sound like you were building either of those, but rather, building business infrastructure before you had a product to use said infrastructure?  In which case, I would modify my question to:  what gave you the confidence that it would be worth the time to build infrastructure without having real world data about your product’s usage (or lack thereof)?

    • http://blog.calbucci.com/ Marcelo Calbucci

      Here is a great article from Seth Godin relating to this discussion: http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2011/11/when-minimal-viable-product-doesnt-work.html

    • http://blog.calbucci.com/ Marcelo Calbucci

      Here is a great article from Seth Godin relating to this discussion: http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2011/11/when-minimal-viable-product-doesnt-work.html

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Bryan-Starbuck/500012914 Bryan Starbuck

    I think this is great.  There is a saying, “More important than doing things right, is instead doing the right thing”.  (The best strategic direction is more important to get right than perfecting pieces on the wrong strategy)

    It is great that startups in general, and the TechStars process in particular, focus on listening to customers and experts to get the strategy right and not waiting until after building the product.