TechStars Takeaways: Top Twelve Startup Tips

I’ve recently been sitting on a beach doing essentially three things. Drinking beachy drinks, reading, and reflecting on how I spent my summer. One of my takeaways from Techstars is that going through it allows a company to evolve in three months as much as a typical startup evolves in two years.

It was an amazing experience to watch ten startups “grow up” at an accelerated pace. One can learn a great deal from just experiencing this firsthand and I felt lucky to be able to get so much data about startups so quickly. Although I have a bunch of experience with startups (my own, those I’ve invested in, and those I’ve advised) I literally feel like I doubled or tripled my understanding of what makes startups “work” early on in a single summer. This comes not just from watching, coaching, and reflecting on the startups themselves, but also from the experiences of the fifty or so unbelievably sharp mentors we were fortunate enough to have involved. I’m pumped that we’re doing it again next summer (applications will open in mid January – stay tuned).

As a consequence of this summer, my top tips for startups have become crystal clear to me. I’ve heard literally hundreds of tips that I think are great generalizations, but these twelve seem to stick in my mind. They are at the core of the matter, and so I wanted to share them in a series here. They are in no particular order – I think they’re all centrally important. Note that some of this is going to be specific to web/software startups, but I think most of it generally applies.

The twelve major tips are:

  1. Be the best in the world at something.
  2. Find and engage great mentors.
  3. Listen more than you talk.
  4. Accept that your ideas are likely to be wrong.
  5. Be picky, but only about the right stuff.
  6. Scratch your own itch (but it’s just one possible way to become passionate)
  7. Obsess over core metrics.
  8. Be tiny.
  9. Get it out there.
  10. Prove the market.
  11. Sprint early and often.
  12. Get up from your computer.

I hope to take what I learned at Techstars this summer and apply it even more directly next summer. But there’s no reason for any of us to wait, so I’ll start blogging these twelve tips in this series in more detail next week.

But first I plan to finish another book or two, and another drink or four…

file under: Blog, Startups