Startups

2015 Annual Report (Mid-Year Report)

Dear Grad Techers, Alumni, Friends, and Supporters:

A few months ago, in our 2014 Annual Report, I wrote about the Grad Tech Club’s activities throughout the fall.  While that writing feels just moments ago, much has occurred in the interim, including my walking the field at Alumni Stadium alongside the Class of 2015 just three days ago.  We began the year with an ambitious agenda to equip members with the knowledge and skills necessary for success in the tech industry, to raise the overall profile of the BC MBA program within Tech, and to get our members hired.  With the year behind us, it’s time to reflect on how we did. (more…)

TechStars Boston: the Right Place, the Right Time

Last Friday, members of the Grad Tech Club joined forces with our undergrad counterparts to visit TechStars Boston in their headquarters downtown.  The visit was a great experience where we learned a lot about one of the most prestigious accelerators out there.  Like most accelerators, TechStars provides space, resources, and mentorship for the 1% of applicants it accepts as well as some upfront capital and the promise of more in a convertible note should the company get funded later on.  More than just great companies, however, Techstars is committed to producing great ecosystems.  One way they do this, which I found to be particularly interesting, is by bringing on not only startups but also coders and young business professionals as Hackstars and Associates.  These people serve as floaters so to speak, and resources available to the different Techstars companies.  This gives an on demand labor force for the companies and the opportunity to plug in to the Techstars ecosystem for the Hackstars and Associates.

We also got a good glimpse into what sort of startups Techstars is looking for:

  • Team first–Since most companies have some kind of pivot it is important to invest in good teams.  If you invest in an idea and then the idea changes…what did you really choose?
  • Very rarely take single founders, instead look for 2-4 person groups with at least one business and one technical co-founder–A Hustler and a Hacker
  • Look for founders who are passionate about what they do, where at least one has significant domain expertise
  • Ideally, the founders will have acute experience suffering from the pain point their product is trying to solve
  • Companies that already have traction in the form of a working prototype, some revenue, an established user base, and a functional business model
  • Companies that get shit done
  • Since Techstars is an accelerator they are looking for companies that are primed for that growth curve.  They often take companies from incubators or more early stage accelerators like Mass Challenge, and sometimes even take companies on their third or fourth time applying

TechStars

The real highlight of the visit, however, came by happy accident.  One of our group asked a question about hardware startups.  As we were sitting in the open, various people had been shuffling by all afternoon and at that moment, our host stopped the gentleman walking by and asked if he had a moment to answer a question about hardware startup.  The guy turned out to be Harish Kamath, cofounder of Headtalk the makers of Magnet.  In the next 5-10 minutes Harish managed to give us a succinct and anecdotal summation of the real value of doing Techstars.  His product, Magnet, is a bracelet with a pair, designed for long distance significant others.  When you tap your bracelet, it lights up and vibrates its counterpart to let your significant other know you are thinking of them, regardless of the distance that separates you, helping people stay connected.  Although they had a crude prototype, Harish and his co-founder are engineers not designers but one of the mentors Techstars paired them with was the design firm IDEO.  With the help of this mentor, they learned to understand their users better and develop form factors that really met their users needs and preferences.  The next task however, was to produce multiple prototypes for testing and time was in high demand.  Founders juggle a million and one tasks at a time, as Harish put it, “they don’t call it an accelerator for nothing!” and therefore assembling the prototypes was a task that was hard to find time for.  Once again, Techstars could help!  Techstars has a 3d printer and one of the Hackstars had an interest in hardware and was happy to help, assembling dozens of prototypes so that Harish could focus on other aspects of the business.  Finally, there is the value innate in being part of a cohort.  The Magnet team decided to do a Kickstarter campaign and needed to create internet buzz about their product.  Once again, however, these guys are engineers and not web marketing experts.  It turns out, however, that fellow Techstars cohort members Fortified Bicycle had already successfully executed two Kickstarter campaigns and social marketing was literally Mavrck‘s product!  This gave Harish and his team the resources and advise they needed to tackle the digital world, even with a hardware product.

We could not have had a better case study in the value Techstars brings and the reason for doing an accelerator.  BC already has some strong ties to Techstars through previous hackstars and associates and we look forward to an MBA startup slingshotting out of the program sometime soon!

Chartbeat: Real Time Analytics for the Publishing World

photo 1While Boston was getting pounded by snow, I had the opportunity to head a little ways south where I got to visit NYC analytics startup Chartbeat.  My hosts were Account Executive and BC Alum Andrew Oddo and Head of Talent Cat Hernandez.  The company itself creates sleek dashboards and monitoring tools that help publishing companies visualize in real time what stories, topics, and key words are performing best at any given moment.  The immediacy of the information and insights allows its customers to act upon it in real time to tweak headlines or social stories and see real time results.  The companies tools also help to build a social strategy and the company is constantly evolving to find new ways to help its customers.  I had the opportunity to tour the offices and to see some of the dashboards in action.  Not only were they useful and intuitive, but the design was super sleek and eye friendly…just seeing them made me want to buy the product!  It is no wonder that even though the company is still a relatively young startup, it boasts a customer base that includes many of the biggest names in publishing including Time, NBC Universal, and Forbes.

photo 4

Even cooler than the products themselves, however, is the company’s culture.  Like most startups, the company is young and positive on the whole, it has the obligatory games and kitchen, and of course its people are entrepreneurial.  What really struck me, however, was the description of the company as having a Learning culture.  Just about every company wants employees to learn of course, but these guys really live and breathe that mantra.  They try to move people into new positions outside their comfort zones, and encourage the pursuit of interests even if they are outside of the person’s normal functional role.  When it comes to learning, Chartbeat puts its money where its mouth is, or at least where its office is.  Located directly above the Strand Bookstore, employees are just an elevator ride away from 18 miles of books where they can spend the $30/month the company gives them specifically for reading material.

It’s always great to meet fellow Eagles doing cool things in the Tech space and I am grateful to Andrew and Cat for hosting me at Chartbeat.  Check them out http://www.chartbeat.com.  Not only do they do really cool stuff but they are growing like crazy!

David LoVerme is a 2nd Year MBA at Boston College and the President of the Grad Tech Club

Some Initial Thoughts on Landing a Job at a Startup

Our own Bobby Gooch shares his thoughts on landing a job at a startup!

Unstructured Data

Trying to get work at a startup has become a popular goal for a lot of people in today’s job market. And for good reason: small technology companies tend to attract smart, motivated people and allow you to do work that can actually have a pretty significant impact on the business. But how do you go about getting a job at a company like this, especially with little to no background in coding? While there is no definitive, step-by-step process, I hope my experiences can give you a bit of an idea of how you may want to go about trying to get a job at a startup. I’m planning to do a couple of posts on this; here’s number one:

First, a little background on me: I spent 3 years working at a fin-tech company where I learned the basics of SQL. I’m now finishing up business school while…

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