Today it’s been one year since I started working at TechStars. David hired me a little over a year ago to hold the title “social media manager” for all of TechStars. We’re in Boulder, Boston, THE CLOUD! (San Antonio), New York City, and Seattle. While I do handle our social media accounts and online content for the website and blog, I think a more accurate title is CAS (Chief Auditing Spy).
Before TechStars, I worked full-time at the University of Colorado, creatively paralyzed by a bureaucratic sleeper hold. Every small action of my workday had to be pre-approved and then post-analyzed by at least four people. I had three supervisors in our five-person department. Because I’m not an academic type, I found the environment really demoralizing. So you can imagine my delight (see also: pure, unadulterated fear) when on day one at TechStars, I was told, “Just go.” Crippled by indecision, I meagerly asked David Cohen for a job description later in the week. His reply? “Go kick ass.”
Some memorable moments:
- Being the first to ride the mechanical bull at our founders’ conference in Las Vegas last year and everyone feeling okay about trying it after I’d properly embarrassed myself first.
- Speaking at Internet Week in New York City on behalf of TechStars re: storytelling with limited resources with some really wonderful people: Bing, Kelly, Dan, Lauren.
- Planned and hosted our SxSW event at my first ever SxSW, and nothing burned down.
- Pretending to be robots with Laura when we found some empty television boxes in the lobby. (When you work a lot, your brain sometimes turns to mush).
- All of the ridiculous end-of-episode B-roll on This Week in TechStars. Filming these was how I got to know DC on a friend level. We laughed a lot.
- Talking to Rand Fishkin, Wendy Lea, Ben Huh, and Gary Vaynerchuk IN REAL LIFE.
- The heedful David Tisch introducing me as, “ridiculously hard working,” to his 2012 group of companies.
Some personal lessons / observations from the past year…
- The hardest working and most humble people are usually the strongest entrepreneurs and this is not a coincidence.
- Productivity matters. Segment your day into actionable items. Don’t be governed by your inbox and incoming messages. Being busy and being productive are two very different beasts. Know the difference and plan accordingly.
- Don’t shoulder surf. I don’t mean this in the traditional computer security sense. I mean, don’t be that person at the conference / event / meetup / happy hour who immediately asks the other person where they work and their title and dismiss them / look over their shoulder for a new person if you don’t know their immediate value to you. After about three months, I decided to just go by, “Clare,” at public events and excluded “TechStars” on many nametags. Conversations became more authentic.
- Press people, in any environment, need a story. When you’re speaking with them, be candid and kind. Pretend they are a microphone to the rest of the world. Know they are regular folks that want to build a relationship with you. They don’t want a one-time e-mail conversation the moment you realize you want your launch covered on their site the very next morning.
- Unplug whenever possible. Hide the phone, sleep an extra hour, power off your computer for an entire Sunday. It’s good for your work ethic and therefore your bottom line.
- Smart people ask questions. The smartest people ask the most questions.
Getting to work with entrepreneurs every day is a blessing and a curse. Blessing: incredibly hard working people of all ages and backgrounds building their dream. Curse: Incredibly hard working people of all ages and backgrounds building their dream. It’s a lot of personal wheel spinning. I’ve had the great fortune to sit in on dozens of mentor talks at our various programs. I’ve sat directly next to our founders as they iterated on their product and had their lightbulb-holy-shit moments. Being surrounded with this kind of intellectual bandwidth and entrepreneurial spirit is like filling your tank with gasoline and then idling at the starting line as everyone else pushes their pedals to the floor and zips into the horizon. Mentors obtained. Funding negotiated. Pitch given. Company successfully built. Dream realized. I’m auditing TechStars in the most observational sense. It’s a huge perk.
The twelve months between now and then have been a contant process of fine tuning what our community enjoys hearing / seeing / reading and deciding what’s worth measuring from month to month, year to year. We’re not a private company but everyone is wearing four hats at any given moment. This means that it wasn’t until I started that someone was pulling back the curtains on the TechStars process and culture on a daily basis. I pride myself on a lightning speed response time. I want to do for our brand voice what Megan has so effortlessly done with The Founders. I want to do with our strategy what DC has done with our multiple programs and organic growth. I want to do for our web content what our mentors have done for our founders through the telling of their own experiences.
I’m still learning every day. It has been such an honor. I no longer dread Sunday evenings. To everyone in my TechStars family– staff, founders, HackStars, Associates, mentors, sponsors, and community members– I couldn’t be happier to know you. Thank you so much.
p.s. I’ve only cried once, that my co-workers know about.