TechSquare Labs : What have I learned? So, it’s been about 2 1/2 months since the announcement (here are some clicks for Urvaksh) that I would be organizing all my early stage investing and company building activities into a new partnership with The Doctor. Yesterday David Cummings asked me to share what I have learned so far from TechSquare Labs. It has certainly been an interesting process, I had to stop and really organize my 1000 thoughts on the topic and attempt to communicate them in an efficient manner, so here we go.
TechSquare Labs : What Have I Learned?
Having a Partner is Simple
Get real. No it isn’t. It is hard as hell. Has everything been silky smooth with The Doctor and I (of course not), and I am comfortable enough in our partnership to say that. It is hard. We both have individual work styles, we both have strong opinions, we both have 1000 ideas, and most importantly we both have specific experiences the other doesn’t – which informs our points of view. Is it going to work, yes. 100%. Relationships are hard, you have to be committed to working at it (I know it sounds like we are dating, we kinda are). What I have learned is that our skills do compliment one another: I am technical, he is (way) more technical. I am a salesman, so is he, but his marketing/branding skills are impressive. I have no filter on my mouth, he is precise with every word. I will command a meeting, but, he will say the 4 most important things. Our networks actually don’t overlap much, which is awesome, it is like our networks doubled. I went to Georgia Tech, he is Georgia Tech royalty.
No One is Working on Marketing Automation
Again, get real. Between CRM, Email Marketing, Social Media, and a few things disguised behind a new acronym that is actually integrated email marketing from a CRM that leverages social media – there is a large group of entrepreneurs that are chasing the marketing automation space. I am not saying that anything is wrong with that, I knew we had a Marketing Technology Cluster; however I just didn’t realize how similar all the ideas were. We have seen at least 10 ideas that should merge together and really chase a bigger idea.
People will Self Select based on Criteria
I can’t stop laughing at this one. No one seems to read bios, backgrounds, LinkedIN, websites, etc. I actually put in a previous post “I am thrilled that people are interested, I would simply ask that you not try to make TechSquare Labs what you want it to be to fit your idea that you are working on, well, I guess you can, but it won’t work.” We have met with a bunch of amazing hackers, coders, and developers, really impressive, we have also realized that we need to be more specific around this requirement because people will not self select out – they will still want to meet if they are not developers – which I do truly understand – but we are focused on finding technical builders. Could we change this in the future, of course, we are entrepreneurs, but not right now.
Technical Founders are Focused
I have been amazed at the talent in Atlanta, and specifically the technical builders in and around Georgia Tech (Technology Square) – both students and the broader eco-system. What I wasn’t prepared for was the fluidity of ideas and products because the talent is so technical. What do I mean? Many of these technical founders have 5+ ideas, maybe even 10+. It is fun to see, and a huge learning opportunity, but I’ve realized that helping these founders focus might be the most valuable insight (help) that TechSquare Labs can provide.
No One Cares about Real Estate
Holy CRE Broker. Yes, we need space for our companies to live, work, and play, but I promise it is not the single most important element of building an awesome new business, it just isn’t. I actually started laughing out loud (yes, out loud) when the twitter war broke out over start up spaces in Atlanta. What a waste of time. Whoever wants to open some space, open some space, leave them alone, use it or don’t use it, start in your apartment, start on a street corner, just focus on building a business, deliver value to paying customers, and creating jobs, the rest will be awesome – promise.
Final Important Lessons (so far)
Atlanta absolutely has technical talent, mind blowing technical talent. Atlanta will continue to build billion dollar + companies (current rate is one per decade), and there are specific things we can do to increase the speed at which we build them (I will blog about this soon and share some thoughts). Picking the right ideas to work on is not simple, it is really hard, however focusing on big problems and emerging spaces makes it manageable.
TechSquare Labs will continue to help technical founders create something from nothing, and I’ve learned that helping them focus their ideas (and by focus I don’t mean make smaller) is the biggest opportunity to help. These are just a few early thoughts, I will continue to share and organize specific actionable lessons over the next year.