The story of Matt

As you might imagine, I get hundreds of random inbound emails each week. Many of them are seeking funding for their startup. Recently I got one such email from Matt, and as I often do I responded by directing him to learn more about the Techstars accelerators.

Matt responded as follows.

Your accelerator programs aren’t an option for [me]. Thank you for responding and your time.

My response:

No problem. if your’e game to provide feedback on why they’re not an option in your case, we’d love to learn from it.

I suppose I was expecting an immigration problem, or that he wasn’t able to temporarily relocate, or that perhaps he thought his company was too far along for an accelerator (a common misconception).

Here’s part of what Matt said next:

To be honest, I am disabled. Mobility is an issue. …Making it to your location on a regular basis would be difficult. If participating in your.accelerator programs without being on-site very much or at all is permissible/possible I will reconsider applying.

I wondered if this might be possible. Perhaps Matt could be some kind of virtual attendee of an accelerator program? I asked my team to dig into it and see what might be possible.

A week or so later, I got this note from one of my teammates at Techstars, Karina Costa.

David thank you for introducing us to Matt. [We] talked to him last week. This was an unexpectedly hard experience for me. Matt is disabled and he also doesn’t speak, [we] asked him questions and he answered slowly over the chat.

As I was listening to the silence of this call I started feeling small. there are so many resources and opportunities available to build or work for a tech company today but I couldn’t think of one single way in or outside Techstars that could truly make a difference for a person like Matt. it’s ironic because working in tech is probably one of the best options for Matt.

I don’t have anything actionable in mind but maybe there are actually organizations that can help disabled people in tech and we can get involved through the Techstars Foundation? Or a start could be a Startup Weekend.

This made me become aware so I wanted to share.

This prompted us to do some more research on groups or services that might help Matt be successful as an entrepreneur. We were surprised to find only a few things such as Kaleidoscope Investments and The Abilities Fund. We shared these with Matt and asked him if he was aware of more. He wasn’t.

One reason for writing this blog post is to ask you for your ideas on how we might assist Matt. Are there other resources or ideas you have?

Another reason I wanted to share it was to get you thinking about how your company, product, or service can help others that might be in the same boat as Matt.

I’d welcome your thoughts in the comments.

file under: Startups