10 Years of Techstars

By Chris Marks

I still remember the first time I talked to David Cohen about getting involved in the Techstars program. It was back in 2007. I made the 4 block trek to see him in his small basement office, sat down across from him, and gallantly offered my services. He looked back, and said something along the lines of, “Cool.” This was followed by a relatively long silence (many would consider this awkward, but it is totally acceptable between two introverts). Finally, I said, “So…., how do I get involved?” His reply was casual and concise: “Just show up.”

And such is the magic of Techstars — people just keep showing up.

This week, the Boulder community celebrated 10 years of Techstars programs, as well as thirteen new companies in the graduating class. As always, it was a fun night of catching up with old friends, making new connections, and toasting the progress of a great cohort of founders.

The theme of the night was “community,” and throughout the program, there were small video clips of leaders in the Boulder start-up community speaking about different elements of the eco-system. At one point, there was a clip of Brad Feld who said (and I paraphrase), “Jobs in a start-up community are not handed out. If you want to get involved, figure out what you are passionate about, figure out what you want to obsess over, and just do it. The diversity of passions is what makes the community great.”

In other words, great start-up communities do not delegate passion, they enable it — something Techstars has done incredibly well for the last 10 years.

As I wandered around the Boulder Theater, I was struck by how true Brad’s statement really was. The room was so full of passion. Some people were there to promote a cause or company close to their heart. Some people were there to support the accelerator program that had changed the course of their lives. Some were there to support a spouse or friend who was waiting nervously to take the stage. And some were there simply hoping to find a job that could fill them with as much passion as they were hearing and feeling from everyone else in the room.

As the lights went down for the program to begin, I scrambled to find an open seat. I landed next to someone I didn’t know, and struck up a brief conversation while we waited for the show to start. He told me that he had recently moved to Boulder because his co-founder lived here. He loved the community, but money was tight. They were considering applying to a Techstars program and wanted to get a feel for the Boulder program. “I’m in my mid 30’s and sleeping on my co-founder’s couch. Pretty pathetic, huh?” he said somewhat sheepishly. “No,” I assured him, “You’re in the right place.”

As the lights came up, I was once again reminded of the power of passion.

And the importance of just showing up.