I recently interviewed entrepreneur David Cohen, founder of the startup accelerator TechStars, which provides funding as well as a top mentorship program to all new startups. TechStars has helped shape some of the best tech companies today, including SendGrid, Onswipe and Ignighter. With an even more impressive list of mentors such as Hayley Barna, the Co-Founder of Birchbox, and Brad Feld, the Managing Director of Foundry Group, TechStars is aiming to help entrepreneurs everywhere to change the world.
Q: Briefly tell us the start-up story behind TechStars? Where did the Idea come from and what exactly does it do?
David: TechStars is a mentorship driven startup accelerator, recently ranked #1 in the US. It was born to improve the entrepreneurial community in Boulder, and as a better way to angel invest. It was started in 2007 and now operates in 5 cities nationally.
Q: What are some of the projects you are working on right now?
David: The Boston and Seattle programs are active currently. NYC finished recently, as did Boulder.
Q: Do you or have you owned any other businesses in the past, if so what happen to them?
David: I started 3 software businesses prior to TechStars. 2 of them had successful exits, and one failed.
Q: How do you separate yourself from your competitors? What makes you different?
David: Our mentorship driven approach is very unique. Our mentors spend real hands on time with the companies we fund, and they’re the best mentors in the world.
Q: Share a few tips and advice on finding investors & funding for new start-ups?
David: First determine if you need to raise money. Don’t unless you need to. Do your research and approach investors that make sense. Think of it not as pitching but as building a relationship.
Q: What is your definition of success?
David: Helping entrepreneurs change the world.
Q: Starting out what the worst mistake you made as an entrepreneur, and what did you learn from it?
David: My second company failed because of gatekeepers. I learned that distribution and how you get it is incredibly important on the Internet.
Q: What is the number one reason for your company’s success?
David: People. Our team, our mentors, our companies.
Q: What is one thing that you do on a daily basis to grow as an entrepreneur?
Q: What was the best entrepreneurial advice you have ever been given and by whom?
David: Do or do not, there is no try. Yoda. Oh, and Brad Feld.
Q: What would you say are the top 3 skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
David: Team building, communication, vision.
Q: What is your favorite entrepreneurship quote?
David: Do or do not, there is no try.