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November 21, 2010 / Danny Robinson

Bootup Labs – What worked, What didn’t

NOTE: I hit post on this one a little too early. I had more to add/edit, but oh well. Let’s just say… to be continued.

What worked at Bootup

The absolute number one thing that made Bootup Labs work was picking great founders. We never picked teams based on their idea, because in virtually every case, ideas change and become something else by the time they leave anyway.

Earn respect from founders. These people earned the “entrepreneur” title for a reason: They chose not to listen to people telling them why something can’t be done, or needs to be done a certain way, and are just doing it.  In fact, I would guess that if you’re a mentor or investor and and entreprenuer *is* listening to you, they’re probabaly just humoring you to get something else they want.  Usually more money from an investor, or an strategic introduction by a mentor.  As a mentor or investor, the best thing you can do for a founder is get out of their way.  They’ll call you when they need you.

That said, our mentor program had the most effect on the success of the companies.  Looking back, I feel that we could have probably done even more in this area.

Accepting teams as cohorts and having them work out of a common space created an automatic support group that reminds founders that they’re not alone.  Most of the Bootup Labs founders are friends now and will probably be friends for life.

Funding the teams and taking equity in return really made it feel like we were all on the same team.  It’s the difference between playing poker for money and playing poker for fun.

Highly technical teams worked the best, especially ones that had a co-founders.

What didn’t work

Popular seed accelerators in other cities have a big angel or two bankrolling the entire program. At Bootup Labs, our program depended on raising money from angels. The BC VCC program helped, but it wasn’t enough for me to convince enough angels to invest in such a radical structure for two main reasons.  1) There are very few local angels who generated their wealth by starting an Internet company. It was hard for many of them to believe that starting an Internet company required so little capital.  The model just didn’t seem feasible to non-Internet veterans. 2) We took the fun out of it for them.  Many angels *are* angels because it’s fun to pick a few founders they like, invest in them, and help them where they can.  Asking an angel to invest in a fund kind of defeats the purpose of being an angel. The consensus was that they’re more comfortable investing in companies as they emerge from the Accelerator.

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