Ben McDougal: Watching my first Techstars Demo Day in Boulder
(Guest post by Ben McDougal) Fresh off the Rise of the Rest event in Des Moines, my alarm clock buzzed at 4:05 a.m. and it was time to go. With a single backpack and the clothes on my back, I arrived in Colorado as the sunrise splashed against the mountains. After a short ride, plenty
A few weeks ago Des Moines community member Ben McDougal traveled to Boulder, Colo., to see Des Moines startup Bawte pitch at Techstars Boulder Demo Day. McDougal spent slightly more than 24 hours in Colorado and wrote about the experience of his first Techstars Demo Day for SPN.
About the author: Ben McDougal is the Marketing Director at Drake Homes, the CEO of Jet Set Studio, and an energized builder within the Des Moines startup community. As an experienced entrepreneur with a background in technology, McDougal works to bring great people together through community-driven events such as 1 Million Cups Des Moines, dmStartupDrinks, Des Moines Tech Week and I/OWA Conference. Follow him on Twitter at @BENovator.
Fresh off the Rise of the Rest event in Des Moines, my alarm clock buzzed at 4:05 a.m. and it was time to go. With a single backpack and the clothes on my back, I arrived in Colorado as the sunrise splashed against the mountains. After a short ride, plenty of #TSDemoDay activity on Twitter, and a stop by a hot coffee shop for local entrepreneurs called Ozo Coffee, I found my way to where the Bawte team had been living during the three-month Techstars program.
I’ll be honest. I was hoping to feel the vibe of an exhausted hack house full of entrepreneurs that were about to go big. Although it didn’t have a pool with party people jumping from the rooftop like The Social Network movie, it did have a raw feel that I could tell housed two primary things: work and sleep.
After a short time at the Bawte house, we headed to the University of Colorado’s football stadium where each of the 13 graduating Techstars companies presented to small groups of investors in picturesque skyboxes overlooking the Rocky Mountains. It was neat to see how this really kicked off an important day, while also giving each company numerous opportunities to connect with investors and perfecting their pitch for the main stage they would all soon encounter. After teams pitched 11 times in a row—which Bawte founder John Jackovin says “felt like prize fight”—we made our way to the historic Boulder Theater for the main event.
The Colorado air was fresh as people lined up outside for the sold-out show. Once seats were filled, the theater erupted as Nicole Glaros formally opened #TSDemoDay by bringing the entire class of companies on stage. From there, each team’s presentation consisted of a short introduction and then a five-minute pitch. The 13 companies were Bawte, Notion, Final, Sportsy, All4Staff, ExpenseBot, Kapta, QuotaDeck, Shareable Social, Native, Wellhire, Wunder Capital and Lassy Project. Every team’s pitch was perfectly baked and consisted of a thoughtful balance between sharing information, selling ideas and telling a story.
After the show, the teams went back for private investor meetings. I took the afternoon to tour downtown Boulder before receiving an invite to come to the Techstars office for short visit. As insignificant as it may seem, feeling the overall vibe inside Techstars and having a beer while meeting some great people inside this ultimate co-working space was definitely a personal highlight.
After a few beers inside TechStars, we walked to The Absinth House for the official #TSDemoDay after party. For me, the after party is when this adventure truly came to life. Meeting almost every one of the newest TechStars graduates and learning more about their experience was outstanding. It was obvious they were exhausted, but also appreciated the invitation to let loose and have some fun celebrating their accomplishments. Along with hearing some great stories from TechStars graduates, I was most energized by networking with the TechStars team, investors from around the country and fellow community members. It didn’t matter who you were talking with, the conversations and introductions were always interesting. It was awesome to consider how this single day would open so many different types of opportunities for so many great people. The environment was something uniquely special and after a post-event gathering for late night pizza, we finally made it back to the house around 3 a.m.
It had been 23 hours since my #TSDemoDay had started, but the innovative energy felt too inspiring to care. I had met what felt like everyone and experienced what it might feel like to live the Techstars life. Special thanks to the Bawte team for letting me jump into the mix on their big day and congratulations again to all the Techstars graduates! May the best of your todays, be the worst of your tomorrows.
Want more of the story and a bunch of photos? Read this article.
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