Monthly Archives: February 2015

Techstars: Day 89 (Fin!)

So I was never really going to have a huge amount of luck with the music at the Techstars after party because my musical tastes diverge rather significantly from… well, pretty much everyone really. That said, anything with a good thumping beat can be danced to. The easiest way to ensure a good thumping beat is to distribute 40 glowsticks across the dance floor and make the DJ face the fact that people are now going to want to wave these about. That seemed to work. All that was left was to go nuts on the dance floor. I certainly had fun. It looked like everyone else was too.

The London Techstars 2014 Winter cohort have now graduated, and done so in style. As I suspected, we’ve bonded into a family through a truly unique experience. Later this morning (given it’s 03:40) I need to get up, pack, get to the office, pack that up, get in a taxi back to Norfolk and resume my normal life – if that’s even possible.

The past 103 days have been truly life changing. I hope I have captured some of that experience in this blog. I know people have been reading it. I still have Jon Bradford’s voice in my head going “Where’s my blog post?”, something that has a truly special ring to it if you say it in Jon’s accent. Plus it turns out that I am now The Dom Davis, as in “Are you The Dom Davis who writes the blog?” – yes, yes I am 😉

So what now? I think I’m right in saying that I am the only person to have blogged every single day of a Techstars cohort (with the exception of Saturdays). Much of it is drivel because it was written at gone midnight when I was exhausted, but there is an awful lot of material there. I plan to write a longer post on the experience as a whole, and then maybe write a book about the whole thing.

And I will still blog, just possibly not quite as often. My life at home is pretty sedate and doesn’t make for such an interesting read.

All that remains is for me to thank Jon for picking Rainbird and giving us the opportunity to take part in this experience; Tak for just being awesome – it really is Takstars; Mark for herding the errant cats that a Techstars cohort is made of; and everyone else that made Techstars London what it was. I really can’t thank you guys enough.

And now, if you don’t mind, I’m going to sleep, pack, and then go home to my family.

Techstars: Day 89 – (Demo Day! Crash…)

So lets deal in absolutes. Fact’s we know.

I need a shower. I’ve walked several miles and been quite stressed today. Some sweating has occurred. This is OK because…

I’m sat on my bed at the flat, so I’m close to a shower and a change of clothes. I should be back at the office where I understand there is a party for us, but I needed somewhere to recharge, because…

Techstars is over.

This sucks.

Intensely.

I woke up this morning, a little pensive, but not too bad. Got ready for the day, and left with what I thought was plenty of time to spare. It appears I missed the memo that said we were meeting at the cinema at 07:30, not 08:00. Not a huge deal, but I would have built in more contingency time rather than walking the speed we did.

Got there, said “hi”, went through the warmup. Car crash. Ben was bloody fantastic. The cinema screen wasn’t on and I was driving from the now and next views on Keynote. They don’t show animations and transitions. That makes life hard.

Got ready for the big show. Watching the clock count down to less than an hour. Took my place, pacing notes in hand. These were now the most important thing in my life. Tweet nervously. Speak when spoken too, but trying to just sit and keep myself calm.

They play Elbow. My wife walked down the aisle to that when we got married. All getting a bit much. Try not to become overwhelmed.

Music stops, Jon takes the stage. Welcome’s are done. I go up, ready drive the slide deck. It’s dark. I can’t see my notes. Ben is being introduced. Music starts… I pull my phone out and use the home screen to see.

Pitch starts. click. Read. click. Read. I’m hitting my marks. It’s going to be OK… phone buzzes. Some %^$^ is calling me! The phone is on silent, but not on airplane mode because it was supposed to be in my pocket. The call screen is dimmer than the home screen. I can’t see properly. Cancel the call, miss a transition by half a second. No one noticed. Get back into the flow. Run out of pages… presentation has ended. Applause. Congratulations. Sit down. Other teams. Tweet about each as they pitch. Clap at the right places. Fist bumps as they come off. Interval. People. Networking. Congratulations. Fist bumps. Back into the cinema. More teams. Tweet. Clap. Tweet. Clap. Knyttan close the show. Curtains. Get my stuff. Can’t find my laptop… People. Fist bumps. Congratulations. Still no laptop. People. Find laptop. It was being used for the presentation[1]. Head to the networking event. People. Rainbird. People. Rainbird. Cards. People. Congratulations. People, fist bumps, people, Rainbird, cards, people, Rainbird, people, Rainbird, people, fist bumps, people, empty hall…

…and thats it. I find myself stood with the other teams and Techstars guys, packing away our stand, with them discussing if we should go to the pub for a quick drink before taking our kit back to the office.

To which I opted out.

I needed to crash. Quite literally. To just sit, clear my head, regroup, and gather the energy needed for the party.

So, yeah… I need a shower, so I should probably go do that… There’s a party in an hour, but before that I may just sit here and fall to pieces for a while, because Techstars is over. And that sucks. Intensely.


[1] So in some respects, Techstars Demo Day was powered by Rainbird 😉

Techstars: Day 88 (Calm before the storm)

Early post today, mainly because for the first time in over 100 days I’ve got time to sit in the office and just… do nothing. Ben has the pitch sorted. The deck looks awesome. I’ve got my timings worked out for all the transitions. We’re as ready as we’ll ever be.

I’ve spent some of today wondering the office grabbing photos of people because this is really the last chance I’m going to get. tomorrow is going to be a blur and then we’ll be done. Which is going to be… odd.

I’ve become institutionalised to 14+ hour days, 6 hours of sleep a night, and snippets of a personal life snatched in between catching up on sleep at the weekend. I’m actually going to miss it. I’m not even sure I can imagine getting anything meaningful done in anything as short as a ‘normal’ 8 or 9 hour day.

There’s an energy in the office, but a slightly nervous one. People are making the final preparations for tomorrow. We all know it’s going to be a big day.

And by big, I mean huge. This is the biggest demo day, quite possibly in the entire world. Over 1000 people have signed up to come. The venue is a cinema, and you can’t fit everyone into a single screen. So Techstars have hired a second screen and we’re going to pitch twice. Yup, you heard that right. We’re going to pitch to one room of people, and then do it all over again to a second room. And by “we”, I mean Ben. I just need to press a button at the indicated points in the printed script I have. He’s the one who needs to do the entire pitch from memory. Twice. Before then having to learn a 3 minute version and do it at Number 10… you know, the place where the PM lives. No pressure then.

While he’s doing that, we’re going to be speaking to the demo day guests, making introductions and generally schmoozing. Then it’s a party at the office, topped off with the massive Techstars demo day party at a secret location.

And then… home. Where I need to reintegrate myself with my family, get used to living in the real world again, and deal with the fact that I have a newborn coming in less than a month.

It’s odd. The ever present Techstars Clock of Doom which has, until now, been instilling a sense of urgency before demo day is now tinged with sadness. Every second it ticks is another second closer to the end. And that sucks. Royally.

Zero days and hours left. Photo credit @mrkrsl

Zero days and hours left. Photo credit @mrkrsl

Techstars: Day 87 (Speakers Corner)

Tonight the CEOs were all taken to speakers corner, along with anyone who wanted to come and watch the show. We actually ended up near speakers corner, by a bus stop ready to inflict 10 pitches on the unsuspecting queue.

I’m really impressed with how everyone did, especially [Sohrab][sohrab], who went first and lead the charge with a commanding pitch for Bidvine. For me, getting up there first would have been terrifying.

Well done guys. You kicked ass!

(Apologies for the image quality – phones aren’t great in low light)

Joel from Swarm

Joel from Swarm

Peter from Lystable

Peter from Lystable

The crowd (mostly Techstars, but we did have one or two real hangers on)

The crowd (mostly Techstars, but we did have one or two real hangers on)

Sean from Kimono

Sean from Kimono

Iskander from Indybo

Iskander from Indybo

Hal from Knyttan

Hal from Knyttan

Peter from Big Data 4 Humans

Peter from Big Data 4 Humans

Marcus from UB

Marcus from UB

Sohrab from Bidvine

Sohrab from Bidvine

Ben from Rainbird

Ben from Rainbird

Techstars: Day 86 (The Urban Geek Pack)

I’m known as a bit of a fixer at Techstars. Need a cable? Speak to Dom. Camera? Dom has one. Tripod for pitch videos? Torch? Portable charging? All covered. It seems I come covered for every eventuality – although I do come up short on some occasions.

So how do I achieve this? Well the secret is the Urban Geek Pack™. This is my backpack, which contains:

  • A 13” Retina Display MacBook Pro
  • An iPad (3rd Gen)
  • Adapters from mini DisplayPort to VGA, DVI and HDMI
  • An iPad to HDMI adapter
  • A pair of Apple earbuds (these are actually backups, I normally have my Shure’s for music)
  • A Power adapter for the MacBook Pro
  • 30 Pin and lightning connector cables
  • A charging plug for the above cables
  • USB to micro USB cable
  • A portable battery pack with USB output
  • Various USB sticks ranging from 8-64Gb in capacity
  • An artists pad (A4)
  • Assorted coloured Sharpies in varying thicknesses
  • A Gorillapod tripod
  • A remote presentation remote
  • A microfibre cleaning cloth
  • Assorted torches
  • Assorted pain killers and cold remedies
  • Sunglasses
  • An umbrella

There is space for more things, which is good, because today I was asked for a CF card reader (which I can relocate from my camera bag) and a Female to Female HDMI extender. I think the last request was possibly beginning to border on the ridiculous.

I can whole heartedly recommend that at least one person in any given Techstars cohort is armed with an equivalent bag. It can save the day on many, many occasions.

Sadly, with Demo Day fast approaching I’ve had to give notice to everyone in our cohort that tech support and access to the Urban Geek Pack will be suspended at 18:00 on Thursday. From then on I need to concentrate on Rainbird and our pitch. Of course, if anyone desperately needs help I’m sure we can accommodate them for a token percentage of their company. Say… 25%? 😀


Addendum

I should also include (because I’ve actually been asked for them):

  • Elastic bands
  • Tissues

Techstars: Day 85 (ZOMG! Number 10!)

So stuff what I was going to say. We’re included in the Pitch10 along with two other companies in our cohort which is just bloody amazing! This is the same day as Demo Day so Ben now has a second pitch to learn for that day – no pressure[1] then.


[1] That clock seems to be the most successful thing I’ve ever done – I’m not sure what that says about me

Techstars: Day 84 (Bonding)

Techstars talks about family. You have the Techstars family, which is all the alumni, mentors, hacksociates, basically everyone who is involved with Techstars in some way. But then you also hear about the feeling of family you get with your fellow founders in your cohort. You bond through a shared experience.

If I’m honest, I wasn’t really feeling that bonding. We get along. We talk. We help each other out. But no really special connection. I was beginning to think that perhaps that was a more US centric thing and that we, being based in London would have the very British attitude of ”Over the past 102 days, I’ve come to think of you all as ‘people I’ve shared an office with’”.

As demo day draws ever closer, and the stress levels start to rise I’m beginning to see those tight bonds forming. Just being here over the weekend and going into the office to work, pitch and help out has seen me learn a lot more about my fellow founders. I suspect this last week will be truly transformative.


One thing I did this weekend (because all work and no play makes Dom a highly strung diva who’s a sod to be around) was knock up a simulated demo day clock. It’s set to the same time as the Techstars Clock of Doom in the office, and gives you the same view we have when we walk past it. Leave it running somewhere where you can see it constantly and enjoy the sense of urgency it provides.

I will caveat the clock with the fact that I’m unlikely to have any time to do anything with it until after demo day so when it hits 0 it’s probably going to break. Over the next couple of weeks I’ll alter it so you can set it to countdown to whatever event you want.

Techstars: Day 82 (I think we’re ready)

I’m in bed already[1]. This is the third time today I’ve been to bed. I got to sleep[2] at gone two this morning and managed to get about 5 hours sleep. By 1pm I’d hit a wall and needed to head home for a nap. I’ll be surprised if I make it past 8pm tonight. Oh, and I had fried chicken for lunch. It was the Best. Thing. Ever.

All of which gives an idea of the state I was in today. Regardless, I had a go at pitching at pitch practice today. We had some tweaks to the wording that we’d worked on last night and Ben was out at a meeting, and unable to try them out. I figured I may as well give it a go.

So, a tired, hungover, unprepared me presented an unfinished keynote deck, reading the script to the assembled audience. And it didn’t suck. Which is cool, because it sure as hell wasn’t my presentation skills that held it together. An eager, well prepared, well rehearsed Ben is going to knock this pitch out of the park.


[1] if that weirds you out then I’m sorry to say that the vast majority of posts have been written from bed, just before going to sleep. Sorry. Deal with it.

[2] For a given definition of ‘sleep’. Redbull is an evil, evil drink.