TechStars Cloud Alumni Demonstrate The Power of Connection

By Michael Girdley
Special Contributor to Silicon Hills News

TechStars Cloud alumni panel at TechStars for a Day, photo courtesy of Geekdom

Perhaps the biggest concern about the Techstars Cloud program is the apparent lack of benefit to San Antonio: Of the 11 startups in the inaugural class, none stayed. However, during the Alumni Panel portion of Saturday’s Techstars Cloud For a Day Event held at Geekdom downtown, the assembled graduates of the program shared a number of serendipitous and direct connections resulting from their three months here. It’s easy to see how these connections are a contributing factor to the future growth of San Antonio’s startup ecosystem.
For example, panel member J.R. Storment of Cloudability shared that he was attending a Rackspace employee’s wedding later that evening — a friendship forged during his time in the Cloud program here.
Engin Akyol, CTO of Distil.it in Arlington, VA at first wondered why the program wasn’t in Austin? But, he said, “Settling in let me see the city more that you don’t see in the onset.” He also landed a girlfriend during his time here which brings him back to town regularly.
It’s these little things that are growing the culture and relations to creative people across the USA to San Antonio.
These connections work both ways. Another episode involved one of the program startups being sued by a former employer. Rackspace employees were able to put the startup in touch with an employment attorney to defend them. This same attorney worked to defend members of program sponsor Softlayer and managed to end the suit very quickly.
In addition, the panelists shared how CTOs of the program companies continue to have regular conferences to discuss technical issues and share advice.
The panel also shared a number of other insights with prospective TechStars Cloud 2013 teams:

– There was a suprising little amount of coding during the three-month program stated Justin Delay, Founder of Tempo-db. The teams spend the vast majority of time in meetings with mentors, potential customers and program staff rather than writing code. That was a big surprise.

– While mentoring is a huge part of the program, the quantity of mentors means that multiple conflicting or contradictory opinions is a real thing. Teams must learn how to distill down the opinions and make their own choices in the face of “Mentor Whiplash.”

– Finally, a huge portion of the success of the program is due to expectations. As a cohort going through the same process at the same time with mentors and leaders who expect a lot, results happen faster than they would naturally.

Disclosure: I am a volunteer mentor for the program.

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