Last week, Scott Kirsner wrote about the 12 startups that were selected to be part of TechStars Boston 2011. We are proud and happy to be able to say that Kinvey is part of the TechStars Boston 2011 class!
Going through the TechStars selection process was a truly difficult, rigorous and insightful process – but all in a good way. The act of applying for TechStars turned out to be a fortunate forcing function for our fledgling startup – it forced us to learn how to present our vision, our first product offering, our market and customers, and most importantly, our team. The work finally paid off when we got the email from Katie Rae saying that we got in (she’s absolutely awesome, BTW). Having now met the Techstars Boston 2011 class, we’re amazed by the talent and energy in all 12 teams, exemplified by their sheer will to “do more faster”.
Last week, we read a post that outlined 7 Common Mistakes Startups Make on Accelerator Program Applications. And we felt that it would be useful to add our perspective on the TechStars process for startups that are interested in applying for TechStars. So, here are the 8 reasons we think we got into TechStars (there is a high likelihood that TechStars had a completely different set of reasons for picking us) –
1. Team: Each person on the Kinvey team has individually built technology that has been used by millions of people or devices. This is highly relevant to our vision of building something that would bring value to a billion people. In addition, we’ve all either been friends from college or worked together in previous jobs. We work well together, trust each other to deliver, and have a lot of fun doing it. Team is, by far, the #1 reason.
2. Progress: In the 2-odd months of going through the TechStars application process, we:
– Built a new website
– Launched an alpha version of Kinvey
– On-boarded PAYING customers
– Researched 100+ mobile app developers and understood their NEEDS
– Grew our team and started working on our Beta product
3. Communication: This is an extension of (2). With every milestone we hit, however small it was (for example, setting up Kinvey.com email accounts), we sent a note to TechStars, telling them what we did and what our plans were for the next week. We even made it a point to show up for multiple TechStars events to meet with them in person, at the very least, to just say hi.
4. Engaged with TechStars Mentors: Folks like Jennifer Lum, Matthew Witheiler, Matt Cutler and Reed Sturtevant are truly fantastic mentors. They went out of their way to take time from their busy schedules to talk to us and give us feedback on our roadmap and strategy – even before we got into TechStars. It gave us a tremendous amount of assurance on how valuable TechStars mentorship would be if we got into the program.
5. Made a (what we think is an awesome) Video: TechStars stresses that they would like applicants to make a video to supplement their application. Initially we thought this was a silly requirement. But one Sunday afternoon, we made a video to describe Kinvey (On a side note – it’s amazing what you can do with a digital camera, blank sheets of paper, magic markers, a printer and video editing software on your desktop). After we completed the video, we realized how valuable an experience it was. We didn’t take the common route of standing in front of the camera and just reciting a script. Instead, we really thought of how we can take the idea of Kinvey and convey (yep, we just said that) it with just pictures and simple words. It is an extremely useful exercise in marketing message creation and delivery, and we finally understood why TechStars stresses on the video.
6. Market Research and (some) Validation: We wanted to ensure that we weren’t building something that only we found useful. Like we stated in (2), we found paying customers for our idea, built and launched something that they could use, gathered data regarding the needs for over 100 apps, scoped out our competition, and understood what we had to focus and improve on.
7. Being straightforward: We made sure that our application was short. We were to the point, direct and honest with our assessment of where we were and what we needed to accomplish (and we need to do PLENTY). At the same time, without being too immodest, we clearly highlighted our strengths to prove why we were the right team to build Kinvey.
8. We Showed Up: We applied. Enough said! (you should too)
If you’re a company applying for TechStars and looking for some help with your application and feedback on the process, don’t hesitate to get in touch. We’d love to help you. The folks at TechStars and their mentors are truly awesome and we would highly recommend you try to get into the program. It’s one of the best things you can do for your startup!