David Brown of Techstars
Accelerating startups to fulfill its true potential
by Michaela Villaroman
Entrepreneurship opens a realm of exciting possibilities. It is an understatement to define it as simply “running a business” because it involves and results to so much more.
With the time, effort, and ingenuity that goes into it, the profession proves to be demanding but nonetheless greatly rewarding.
According to David Brown, founder and co-CEO of Techstars, being an entrepreneur is something “that has been with you since the day you were born.” He shared, “I believe you’re born with it, and if you’re born with it, you are meant to do a startup. Maybe you discover that when you are young and you have a lemonade stand. Maybe you discover it later in life and you leave your 9 to 5 job to go do a startup.”
For people who are inherent entrepreneurs, ideas and passion may come at a drop of a hat; however, it takes more than enthusiasm to get started. Finding the right opportunities, gaining meaningful experiences, and collaborating with likeminded people are prerequisites for a successful startup. This is where Techstars comes into the picture.
DAVID BROWN’S ENTREPRENEURIAL JOURNEY
Techstars is responsible for launching and promoting numerous startups. It was born out of a passion to help fellow entrepreneurs.
Budding entrepreneurs look to Techstars for support. It is an accelerator catered to giving mentorship and valuable programs for startups.
But before Techstars, David went through his own entrepreneurial journey.
After graduating from McGill University with a degree in Mathematics and Computer Science, David began working for the government. He won a lottery for the position and decided to take it.
“The way I discovered that I wanted to be an entrepreneur in many ways is that government job, which taught me it wasn’t what I want to be,” David shared, “That job led to another, and another, and another. In all my years, I’ve never had a job interview!”
Discovering that he wasn’t cut out for working behind a desk, he shifted gears and got into entrepreneurship instead. “I just knew I wanted something different, and I met somebody who was doing a startup. I knew right away, that’s who I want to be,” David recalled.
He founded a number of successful startups such as Pinpoint Technologies and iCentric Corporation. He was also the president of ZOLL Medical Corporation.
Techstars came about when David and his cofounders, David Cohen, Brad Feld, and Jared Polis, got together. “At that time, ten years ago, we had done a number of startups. Some had been successful, some had failed,” David said, “We then tried angel investing, but we didn’t like it much.” So they tried to create a new model. They came up with an accelerator.
Back then, the notion of accelerators didn’t exist, but David and his partners wanted to create an environment of fast learning for entrepreneurs. They wanted to make “experiential learning” available to those who are just starting out. Their focus was shifted to giving entrepreneurs opportunities to work and have valuable experience, rather than simply giving them textbooks to read and learn from.
“It was an experiment that we ran in the summer of 2007 in a small town of Boulder, Colorado where I live. And it worked out really well. It was very successful for the ten companies that came through, and so, we’ve replicated that model around the world.”
Aside from this, Techstars also operated a series of venture funds and startup programs. David and his colleagues wanted to give potential entrepreneurs a taste of what entrepreneurship is like, so they created Startup Weekend, Startup Week, Startup Next, and Startup Digest. All these were catered for people to get a sense of what being an entrepreneur is all about.
So far, their Startup Weekend program has shown great results. Some companies that were formed in this program continue to thrive this very day. To think that a mere weekend of pitching ideas and plans, forming teams, and getting mentorship could result to successful ventures is simply awe-inspiring.
WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS
In our interview, we asked if there were any plans of expanding to Southeast Asia. David shared that there are. He mentioned how he hopes that a year from now, they could have more than one accelerator in the region.
For David, it all starts with passion. Ideas born from a person’s true interest and calling are destined for great things. “Great ideas come out of a personal experience, of a problem that needs to be fixed, and a passion to work hard and get up early to do whatever it takes to solve that problem every day.” A lot of entrepreneurs and businesses from all over the world have these amazing visions. Techstars helps make it happen.
Recognizing potential in many entrepreneurs, David wants to continue helping make an impact through Techstars. His admirable passion to support our future innovators is truly an inspiration.
If you are interested, you can see the homepage of TechStars here.