Shawn Broderick

Tech entrepreneurs bring bright ideas and the will to succeed. TechStars supplies a little cash and a lot of high-quality mentoring.

Creating a successful technology start-up takes more than just a clever idea. It takes dedicated mentorship , financial backing and a sophisticated level of planning. Just ask angel investor Shawn Broderick. He has been involved with several technology start-ups over the past couple of decades, is an adviser and/or director to various Internet-based companies and is founder of TrustPlus, an online reputation viewing site. As executive director of the TechStars Boston seed funding program, he knows a thing or two about the importance of personal drive and why getting expert advice is paramount to success.

What is TechStars, and how did the idea for the company come about? TechStars is a mentorship-driven start-up seed fund. Our goal is to identify promising young companies and provide them with the knowledge and resources they need to be crazy-successful as first-time tech entrepreneurs.

TechStars was started in 2007, by entrepreneur and angel investor David Cohen and venture capitalist Brad Feld. Over the last few decades, lots of folks have attempted to create a means of aggregating young companies, and the whole model blew up spectacularly with the "Internet incubators" in the '90s. What nobody had tried was bringing together a large number of wildly experienced folks to mentor the bejesus out of these entrepreneurs. TechStars was an experiment to do just that.

What qualities do you look for when choosing start-ups for the program? And who can apply? Anybody can apply! Our application form is painfully simple. The types of companies we are looking for are capital-efficient (we don't bring that much cash to the table) and are capable of achieving stupendous progress in a short period of time (each program is three months long).

We tell the companies on the first day of orientation: "You're here because of who you are. You're almost certainly not here because of your idea. In fact, some of you are here in spite of your idea." As investors, we are betting on people.

What are the benefits of being chosen for the program? TechStars invests a small amount of money -- $15,000 on average -- in each company. I can assure you that nobody joins up for the cash.

The reason most folks get involved is for the mentorship and learning. This summer in Boston, we have nine companies comprised of 21 founders, and we've married them with 65 mentors. The entrepreneurs spend three months all together in Cambridge [Mass.], drinking through a fire hose of knowledge, experience, wisdom and education. The mentorship is invaluable and unparalleled, in my humble opinion. I sure wish I had such a program when I was starting out!

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