Rob Johnson: Overcome your own confirmation bias

Rob Johnson: Techstars accelerator is a three-month mentorship-driven program for tech startups

Please introduce yourself to our readers!
Rob Johnson:My name is Rob Johnson and I’m the Managing Director for Techstars Berlin. Prior to working with Techstars, I cofounded Makers Academy in London – growing it into Europe’s largest coding bootcamp.

What is the Techstars Accelerator?
Rob Johnson: Techstars accelerator is a three-month mentorship-driven program for tech startups. There are more than 20 different Techstars accelerators around the world. Ten companies are selected into each accelerator program and become part of the Techstars ecosystem with access to more than 7,000 founders, mentors, investors, and corporate partners, who work together to create a worldwide network of entrepreneurial support.

What is the difference, from the English to the German startup-scene?
The two scenes are very different, but I’ll pick three of the larger differences:
1. Cost of living. London is very expensive, thus drastically reducing the runway of any startup.
2. VC community. London’s early-stage investor community is more mature than Berlin’s, but we’re seeing this rapidly change.
3. Verticals. You’re likely to see a lot more fintech companies in London because that’s a major industry there, while we tend to see more hardware in Berlin because of the engineering mindset.

Which startups can apply for the Techstars accelerator?
Rob Johnson: Technology oriented companies, typically web-based or other software companies with great founders who are proposing products that solve real problems or create meaningful innovations should consider applying to the Techstars accelerator programs. We’re also looking for companies that can have national or worldwide reach.

Which support get the startups @ the program?
Rob Johnson: During the program, Techstars provides working and meeting spaces as well as a nice lounge with super fast and reliable wireless Internet access. Founders in the accelerator program automatically receive access to a long list of perks worth $1 million. Basically, we help our founders get everything covered with a minimal expense. This helps the founders focus on creating great products while they are in the program.

What happens with the startups after the program?
Rob Johnson: Near the end of the three month accelerator program, Techstars organizes an investor Demo Day where angel investors and venture capitalists check out the 10 companies and learn about their technology. A typical Demo Day will have about 100-200 investors present. The founders in the program pitch their business to the investors – they work on the pitch throughout the accelerator program. So far, about 75% of Techstars accelerator companies have received follow on funding and/or immediately became profitable after Techstars ended. On average, Techstars companies raise $1-2 million after Demo Day.

What makes the Techstars Berlin accelerator for startups so interesting?
Rob Johnson: The Techstars city programs are similar globally in terms of how the program is structured and financial terms. Where things differ are in the mentor pools, investor communities and Managing Directors. Techstars Berlin is unique in that it is a burgeoning tech ecosystem in Europe. The cost of living is quite low with a high quality of life, the investor community is constantly maturing and there is a lot of great talent – not to mention that Berlin is a lot of fun in the summer.

What are your plans for the future? Where do you see yourself in 5 years from now?
Rob Johnson: In 2016 I think it’s dangerous to try to look more than a maximum of 24-36 months into the future for one’s career development because things are changing rapidly. That said, I plan to run a minimum of three more programs with Techstars.

What 3 tips would you give founders on the way?
1. Focus on what matters and ignore what doesn’t. If you don’t know what matters, get an advisory or mentor board of people who have successfully built companies to help you prioritize.
2. Validate your idea and the market as early as possible. Talk to customers. Sell pre-orders if possible. You should be very uncomfortable until you’ve had a sufficient number of your customers open their wallet and pay you for what you’re building.
3. Most important: Overcome your own confirmation bias. Be ruthless about what’s objective fact and what’s your perception.

Thank you Rob Johnson for the Interview

Statements of the author and the interviewee do not necessarily represent the editors and the publisher opinion again.

Sabine Elsässer

Sabine Elsässer is founder and chief editor of the StartupValleyNews Magazine. She started her career at several international direct sale companys. Since 2007 she works main time as a journalist. While that time she learned more about the Startup Scene, what made her start her own Startup Magazine the StartupValleyNews.

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