David Cohen and I were interviewed on KRON Channel 4 in San Francisco for Do More Faster. It was our first TV interview around the book and was fun.
It’s a good example of giving more than you get and letting the universe do its thing. Gary DiGrazia, the CEO of Mindjamz, emailed me with some questions about his startup. I didn’t know Gary but as is my habit I gave him some quick feedback. We went back and forth a few times and then he told me that he helps produce the KRON 4 Weekend Morning News show and asked if I wanted to do an interview about Do More Faster on it. Um – duh – yeah! Two weeks later we tape an interview which just aired.
Karma Matters. Oh – that’s one of the chapters in Do More Faster (written by a long time friend of mine, Warren Katz, founder/CEO of MaK Technologies.)
I periodically write the first column for PE Hub. Dan Primack, who is now writing a great column at Fortune called Term Sheet used to do this; there are now guest writers (including me) who do this column. Yesterday, I wrote a column about the book that David Cohen and I just wrote called Do More Faster. Enjoy!
Writing a book is hard. Really hard. Much harder than I thought. So I’m extra satisfied that “Do More Faster: TechStars Lessons to Accelerate Your Startup” is finished.
Ive been helping create software and Internet companies for over 25 years, starting with my first company, Feld Technologies, in 1985 when I was in college. By 1987 I had a partner, a mentor (my father) and a company that was capitalized with $10. (Yes, 10 dollars.) We bootstrapped the business because we had to and by 1993, when we sold the company to a large public company, we’d built a nice, consistently profitable business.
Since then, Ive been involved with creating and funding hundreds of companies both as an angel investor and a VC (now at Foundry Group). Four years ago I co-founded TechStars with David Cohen (CEO of TechStars) to help first-time entrepreneurs create new software and Internet companies while simultaneously working to energize the Boulder, Colo., entrepreneurial community, which was vibrant but small. Boulder’s population is just 100,000.
Over the past four years, my partners at Foundry Group and I have spent a lot of time talking about, thinking about, and studying how software and Internet companies get started. We’ve done this through our seed investments as well as through our activity at TechStars, starting in Boulder, then expanding to Boston, Seattle and New York.
A year ago, David and I decided to try to put our thoughts down in a book. Ive been blogging–along with my partners–for a number of years. So it seemed logical to organize some of our thoughts into a book. One weekend about a year ago, David and I holed up at my house in Keystone and sketched out the first draft of what became “Do More Faster.”
We decided to write a book by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs. Rather than preach, we gathered first-person accounts from the entrepreneurs who have gone through the TechStars program and their mentors. It is primarily made up of 80 short chapters (two to three pages each) and organized by seven themes: idea and vision; people; execution; product; fund-raising; legal and structure; and work/life balance. David and I then wrote a bunch of connective tissue between each chapter to create a cohesive narrative.
The title of the book comes from a common phrase heard around TechStars. Startups have an important advantage over larger companies when they use the philosophy of doing more faster. By trying more things in a short period of time, they can adopt their product better to the market and their customers. It’s also related to the idea that TechStars is a three-month program and doing more faster is a survival skill for both the program and for early stage entrepreneurs.
“Do More Faster” is also the title of one of the chapters, while the other 79 take as their titles other one-liners from TechStars, such as “Trust Me, Your Idea Is Worthless,” “Usage Is Like Oxygen For Ideas,” “Hire People Better Than You,” “Be Tiny Until You Shouldn’t Be,” and “Seed Investors Care About Three Things.” Each of the chapters stands alone and includes a first-person account from me, David, a TechStars entrepreneur or mentor. While we originally envisioned that “Do More Faster” would target first-time entrepreneurs, now that it’s finished we are hopeful that it is valuable for any entrepreneur, investor, and early employee of a startup.
When I reflect on the process of writing this book, I realized that I accomplished several goals at the same time that are all related to my lifetime commitment to continually learn, with a specific focus on entrepreneurship. At the most obvious level, I learned what it took to write a book and become a published author. But the process of writing the book gave me a lot of time to reflect on what it takes to create a new company, the attributes of a successful entrepreneur and how entrepreneurial communities work.
Most importantly, it exposed me to the deep thoughts of over 70 other entrepreneurs and mentors who contributed to both TechStars and the book. Hundreds of companies later, I’m still learning all the time from other entrepreneurs, especially those doing it for the first time. I hope you will also.
One of the events on our Do More Faster book tour will be something we are calling Angels in the Architecture. Mike Platt from Cooley (one of our book tour sponsors) came up with the idea of doing an hour long session with a panel of entrepreneurs, angel investors, and VCs discussing the dynamics between angels and VCs. Having been all three, I find this a particularly important topic and it’s something we spend a lot of time discussing at TechStars in the third month as the teams gear up for their financings.
We originally had these as closed events, but we ended up with some additional space and decided to open them up. While the west coast ones are short notice (e.g. Tuesday in Palo Alto, Wednesday in LA, and Friday in Seattle) if you are interested I hope you can make it. The Eventbrite signups are below:
I hope to see you there!
I think the best way for entrepreneurs – especially first time or aspiring ones – to learn is to hear stories from other entrepreneurs. That was one of the motivations for David Cohen and I to write Do More Faster.
There are two such stories in Westword Denver this week. Both are companies I’ve been involved in that have gone through the TechStars program in Boulder. And both are rich in content.
The first one is about Next Big Sound and is titled Fueled by venture-capital funding and a love for unknown bands, can Boulder’s Next Big Sound predict the next rock star? My partner Jason Mendelson was Next Big Sound’s mentor during the TechStars Boulder 2009 program and led the investment in Next Big Sound shortly after the program ended. In addition to the story of the origins of Next Big Sound, there is a great discussion of TechStars and how it contributes to the Boulder entrepreneurial community. While the article is unrelated to Do More Faster, the CEO of Next Big Sound (Alex White) has several chapters in the book that address similar topics to those in the article.
The second one is about EventVue and is titled TechStars post-mortem: Could Boulder startup Next Big Sound suffer same fate as EventVue? EventVue went through the TechStars Boulder 2007 program (the inaugural year), raised an angel round (which I participated in) but never really got lift off. The founders Rob Johnson and Josh Fraser shut the company down in February and wrote a brilliant post-mortem which was republished in this post. Rob also contributed a chapter to Do More Faster which included this post-mortem by him and Josh along with a lot of additional commentary on what they learned.
When I ponder where / when I learn the most about entrepreneurship, it is when real entrepreneurs tell their very specific stories. Success stories are nice, but failure stories, and all of the ups and downs that occur along the way, are the real winners. Yesterday at Liberty NetLeaders the attendees had a treat as Mark Pincus spent an hour talking about his entrepreneurial experiences and the last night at the Boulder Esprit Awards (where David Cohen and I got an award for co-founding TechStars) there was more storytelling. And on Monday I’m going to interview Greg Maffei and Michael Zeisser of Liberty Media for Entrepreneurs Unplugged.
I never get tired of talking to entrepreneurs. I learn something new every time, and every story makes me a better investor.
With the release of our book “Do More Faster: TechStars Lessons to Accelerate Your Startup“, my co-author David Cohen and I are taking the show on the road. Next week is Palo Alto on Tuesday, Los Angeles on Thursday, and Seattle on Friday.
In most cities, we are doing four separate events:
Pitch More Faster: Several emerging local companies will present their companies to me and several other local VCs. They will provide direct and specific advice to each company on how to improve their pitch and/or their business. This is an invite only event.
TechStars For An Hour: If you’re interested in learning more about TechStars or possibly applying, this is a great chance to come and learn about the program from me and David Cohen (TechStars CEO). We’ll talk about the results so far, what it’s all about, how it works, and much more. The event is also great for angel investors and venture capitalists who would like to learn more about how the TechStars program works, and how to get involved. These are open but limited attendance events – you need to pre-register on Eventbrite (links below).
Angels In The Architecture: A group of local angel investors, me, and a few angel backed entrepreneurs will discuss the role of angels investors in the VC / angel ecosystem. This is an invite only event.
Evening Entrepreneurial Meetup: We will have a party at night – venues will vary by city. These will be open events – sign up on Plancast (links below).
The tour is being sponsored by Cooley, Silicon Valley Bank, Microsoft, and Rackspace. We’ll be holding most of the day time events at one of their offices and we deeply appreciate all of their support. We’ll have plenty of good stuff to give away along with interesting people to meet and spend time with, including many of the people that contributed to Do More Faster.
In the mean time, the sign up links for next week’s events follow. Since space is limited, please don’t sign up unless you are planning to attend.
Palo Alto: Tuesday October 12
3:30pm – 4:30pm: TechStars For An Hour
7:00pm – 9:00pm: Do More Faster Book Tour Kick Off: Gordon Biersch Brewery
Los Angeles: Thursday October 14
3:30pm – 4:30pm: TechStars For An Hour
7:30pm – 9:00pm: Do More Faster Evening Meetup (also knows as Two Guys and a Book and Beers): The Den of Hollywood
Seattle: Friday October 15
3:30pm – 4:30pm: TechStars For An Hour
7:00pm – 9:00pm: Do More Faster Evening Meetup (aka The Easy): TechStars Seattle
Of course, if you bring a copy of the book, David and I will happily sign it.
About a year ago David Cohen and I were having a beer together talking about ways to capture all the different things we’d learned about early stage entrepreneurship from running the TechStars program. In a moment of insanity, we decided to write a book. The result is Do More Faster: TechStars Lessons to Accelerate Your Startup.
Over the next six months, we worked with many of the mentors and entrepreneurs that have participated in TechStars. Our goal was to write a unique book full of useful information for any early stage entrepreneur. Rather than give advice or simply tell an entrepreneurial success story, we decided to blend the experience of the TechStars entrepreneurs and the TechStars mentors in an organized fashion. As a result, we ended up with seven themes (Idea and Vision, People, Working Effectively, Product, Fundraising, Legal and Structure, and Work / Life Balance) and about eighty separate lessons and stories.
We were on the verge of self-publishing it when we were introduced to a senior editor at Wiley who embraced the project and one other one that we proposed. As a result, we ended up with a two book deal with Wiley. When I reflect on things, getting Wiley in the mix has been awesome as they have helped us materially improve the quality of the book.
My professional career – since I was 19 – has been focused on entrepreneurship either as an entrepreneur, angel investor, or venture capitalist. I’ve spent a lot of time since 2005 thinking about the “science of entrepreneurship” as well as the “dynamics of entrepreneurial communities”, especially as I’ve helped bring Boulder to the forefront of entrepreneurial communities in the US. I’m extremely excited about Do More Faster and hope it lives up to my expectations. But most of all, I’m really grateful to everyone who has participated in TechStars and has contributed to the book.
The publication date is 10/4/10 and it should be in bookstores around the US by 10/20/10. David and I are doing a 12 city book tour starting in Palo Alto on 10/12/10 – all the info is up on the Do More Faster Plancast. And of course, you can follow Do More Faster on Twitter or join the Do More Faster Facebook Page.
Finally, Do More Faster: TechStars Lessons to Accelerate Your Startup is available for pre-order on Amazon as of right now. If you are interested, go grab a copy.