Tips for Applying to TechStars

Given that Techstars in Seattle application deadline is looming (June 1 – get ’em in!), I’m reminded of the challenge of reviewing so many great applications in such a short period of time.  I thought I might throw out some tips to applicants from my perspective (in having to review nearly 700 applications for 10 spots in Boulder).  Hopefully this will make Andy Sack’s life easier!

  • Apply early!  This year, we got almost 25% of all applications in the last 6 hours.  We had mere days to review those final applications before narrowing it down to the finalists.  I spent a sum total of maybe 2 minutes per application at that point, and thus probably missed some gems.  The earlier you apply, the more time we have to review your app.  You can always edit your application once it’s submitted (plus, applying early lets you update us on your progress, showing execution and communication).
  • Team.  Execution.  Idea.  In that order (usually).  Make it ridiculously easy for us to see how killer your team is, that you’ve done cool stuff or know how to do cool stuff, and that your idea is unique.  Don’t bury it in tons of words; communicate it quickly, not in a diatribe.
  • I feel the need to repeat the above point.  Team.  Execution.  Idea.  In that order.
  • Execution is everything – once your application is submitted, don’t be afraid to send ULTRA short 1 line emails to me updating your progress.
  • Registering a URL doesn’t count as progress.  Mockups don’t count as progress.  A functioning prototype counts, as do added features.  So do page views & customers.
  • Show me, don’t tell me.  I loved 1-3 minute videos because I got to see the team and a quick demo of the product.  Anything longer than that I barely watched simply b/c I didn’t have the time (or I stopped watching at minute 3).
  • If you password protect your video, please make sure the password is included with the application.
  • If your site requires a beta invite, send me one!
  • Make sure the email address you submitted works.  Surprisingly obvious, but I’m listing it because a handful didn’t.
  • Single founders have a hard time at Techstars because of the speed at which the program moves and what is demanded of you during that time.  Work really hard at getting a co-founder if you’re by  yourself.
  • I responded to every single email I received.  But sometimes it took me a few days.  Be patient, and don’t take ultra short emails personally – it’s purely a volume challenge.
  • Have a technical founder.  We move at the speed of light here.  Outsourced firms can rarely keep up with the pace that’s demanded.
  • Small picky tip – when emailing, put your company name in the subject line.  Helped me to keep organize and remember who went with which company.

Good luck to all teams that are applying, and if you are non-selected, don’t take it personally.  Use it as a challenge to keep working hard to get to a point where it does make sense.  I felt truly honored by ALL teams with the privilege of being able to glimpse into what they were doing.