TechStars held a very enlightening information session at Andala Cafe this morning. Shawn Broderick did an excellent job conveying what TechStars is all about and what a TechStars startup looks like. Some other people involved with TechStars provided insight as well.
While I didn't take notes directly (standing room only), here are a few, quick takeaways I gathered. I think these thoughts go beyond TechStars and really speak towards general entrepreneurship.
It's about the team first, and the product second
Great ideas without a team to execute on it is about as useful as a car without an engine. Find enthusiastic, passionate people you like working with - you're going to be spending a lot of time together. Refine the idea together. I've heard this quite a bit - investors weigh the team's capability and dynamic heavily, perhaps even more than the product idea.
It's common for the product's vision to change
It's common for the idea of your product to morph into something different. Perhaps the distribution channel won't work, or the revenue model needs to be tweaked. Embrace these changes as your product matures and you learn more about your audience and yourselves.
Moonlighters need not apply
The expectation is that you'll be dedicated to the business and present in the program. If you're thinking you can work on this in your "free time", you should have a lot of it! Just like split focus hinders daily productivity, split career focus can definitely hinder the progress of your business. In fact, most TechStars companies had prototypes or initial funding prior to entering the program.
Being a solo founder is difficult
It's hard to do it alone, and TechStars recognizes that. If you're a solo founder and you want to apply, recognize the problem and identify the resources you need to make your business a success. Seek those resources out actively. Personally, it was a clear message that I need to make connections with more entrepreneurs.
Apply or Start It Up anyway
Shawn said something really great towards the end of it. I'm paraphrasing, but he basically said the only thing definite is that if you don't apply, you won't get in. Don't talk yourself out of applying - take the time to do it and see what happens. Even if you don't get in, at least it was a good exercise in thinking about your business.
Even if your business fails, you'll become a stronger and more experienced entrepreneur in result. Personally, I believe the largest asset of being a TechStars company is the access to those that have tried, failed, and succeeded in traveling on the roads you're approaching.