Category Archives: Techstars

The communal food and drink area

Deja Vu

Almost exactly a year ago I was stood on the platform at Roughton Road station, my life packed into bags, ready to embark on one of the biggest adventures of my life. It’s hard to believe a year has passed, the time has just flown by. That year has seen Rainbird more than double in size, gain traction, and move to swanky new offices. It’s also seen us accepted onto the MasterCard Start Path program, which is why I’m once again sat on a bed that isn’t mine, away from my family.

The Start Path programme is 6 months long, but it’s a very different beast to Techstars. For starters, only a couple of weeks is spent away from home, kicking off with an Immersion Week in Berlin. Secondly, I don’t think the mental working hours will apply. And thirdly, daily blogging isn’t going to happen (although maybe for the days when I’m away from home).

Despite being run by a big corporate like MasterCard the programme has a startup feel to it, right down to the space we’re using. Today has mostly been introductions, both to MasterCard and the Start Path programme, and to each other as we’re one of 7 startups in this cohort. Tomorrow I get to learn all about payments. In the mean time I actually need to get some work done, something that could be fun given the poor mobile signal and flaky hotel WiFi.

Our offices for the next week

Since arriving in Germany I’ve learned that you need to validate your train tickets (Ben and I got told off for not doing that by the conductor on the train from the airport), that hotels here don’t believe in proper pillows (may require some improvisation), and that pedestrian crossings don’t quite work like they do in the UK (turning traffic seems to still drive at you, and you just have to take it on faith they’re going to yield for you). Oh, and German gummy bears (and gummy sweets in general) are just awesome.

Despite the not-so-mental working hours I seriously doubt we’ll get to see much of the city. It’s autumn, so it’s going to be dark when we leave each evening, and it’s only a short walk from the hotel to the venue with not a huge amount to see en-route, or to explore in the surrounding area. That said, we did get to see a few sights on the train this morning when we weren’t being told off for accidentally fare dodging.

Techstars – CTO Club Reprise

There is nothing like the buzz of a new Techstars cohort. That raw energy, waiting to be tempered in the forge of 13 gruelling weeks into laser focused businesses that will either win, or die trying.

The Techstars Clock Of Doom

It’s day 3 of the London 2015 Summer cohort, and the first CTO meeting, which I was kindly invited to host. I wrote the following about the CTO meeting in our cohort:

The first rule of CTO club is that you don’t talk about CTO club. The second rule of CTO club is that if you don’t get stuck into the chocolate croissants near the beginning of the meeting I’m going to have eaten them all.

Both rules still stand, and although I didn’t see any chocolate croissants I did polish off the pain-au-chocolates in short order.

I also said:

The CTO meetings are likely to be invaluable to me as, while I bring a fair amount of experience to the table, most of that experience is as a developer. OK, so I’ve been a team lead, development head and even a Head of IT before, but all that’s crammed into the very last portion of my career. Part of me still views myself as a naive 22 year old who’s just starting out in a support team.

As the ”experienced” CTO here to help guide the others I think that whole ”I’m making this up as I go along” holds more now than it ever did. I have a t-shirt that reads ”Don’t copy me, I don’t have a clue what I’m doing”. I may need to wear this more often.

It was great to see the enthusiasm of the CTOs in this new cohort, and wonderful to see the beginnings of the cross-pollination that happens when you put a bunch of tech companies in close proximity. I look forward to seeing their progress.


If you’re interested in following this cohort there is a new (hopefully daily) blog by Rosario Garcia de Zuniga, CTO and co-founder of Headliner which you can find at http://my-leitmotiv.com/.

Techstars: Sleep analysis

So I’ve published a book book[1]. It’s really Jon Bradford’s. After all, it was him who suggested that I blog every day. Then Techstars asked him if they could use excerpts from my blog in their [blog series][techstars blog] about what it’s like to go through the programme[1].

Jon’s response was:

[…] Actually we would love to turn this in a full ebook […] and then it would make sense to publish extracts.

Dom – What were you thinking?

Now, to be fair, I am in the process of writing a proper book that I’d love to get properly published, but I read Jon’s email as:

Dom, turn your blog posts into an ebook.

So I did. It’s free and, when I last looked, listed on the best sellers page for the “startups” section. People have also elected to pay for it. By my reckoning this makes me a best selling professional author. I’m pretty sure Chris would say it makes me a douche.

Ultimately it’s a tidied up, corrected and properly formatted rehash of the blog posts I did while I was at Techstars. But it got us thinking. There’s some interesting data buried in it.

Each day has a time it was posted, which I can roughly correlate to my bed time. Most posts were written in bed as the last thing I did. I would literally post, shut the laptop lid, put it on the floor next to the bed, roll over and die. Where I didn’t have proper times (Friday nights and weekends mainly) I could take a good guess at them from my regular routine.

I also knew what time I woke up each morning (basically 6am for most of them). From that we can estimate how much sleep I was getting. And then we can chart it.

What’s interesting is that I wasn’t actually getting by on as little sleep as I thought I was. The actual amount of sleep in a day varies wildly, with some nights seeing me have as little as 3.5 hours, and as much as over 15 hours (although that was in a few chunks). Bung a linear trend line on the data though and that starts at just over 7 hours sleep a night and ticks up towards 8 hours sleep a night as the programme ends. Which sounds like I slept quite well.

A chart showing how much sleep I got on any given night at Techstars

Indicative sleep durations for each day I was at techstars

Slice the data another way, however, and you get to see how much of a sleep deficit I really built up. For the first 2 and a half weeks I built up a deficit of one full nights sleep a week! This then levels of until after Christmas where the deficit start increasing again, peaking at just over three and a half nights sleep lost.

A stacked area chart showing the increasing sleep decifit

The running sleep deficit (assuming I need 8 hours per night)

Its hard to know how my sleep was affected by Christmas. I was at home, so not doing insanely late night, but I had a young daughter who has me up early and a heavily pregnant wife who would get up multiple times in the night. In the end I’ve treated that period as neutral and ignored it in the data.

It’s also hard to know how much of the time marked as sleep I was actually sleeping for. I seemed to sleep remarkably well in the flat in London, but without a sleep tracker I can’t know how quickly I fell asleep and how much of that was good sleep.

Still, as a set of indicative data it provides an interesting conclusion: if you want to have, on average, a fairly good nights sleep, go to Techstars.

In future posts I hope to do things like sentiment analysis on each of the entries in the book and correlate that to the amount of sleep had, and the current deficit I was running. It will be interesting to see fi there’s any correlation there.


1 So technically this is me blogging about Techstars blogging about me blogging about Techstars… It’s turtles all the way down.

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