My next big set of issues were around what it would take to put a program together. Issues to consider included: a place to run the program, finding and signing mentors, getting the word out about it, figuring out how to fund this (and how much would be needed), finding sponsors, and a myriad of other details.
I watched Brad Feld at the Startup America unveiling, and listened to his announcement of TechStars Network. So, a natural place for me to start was to find out about TechStars Network and see if there was a format to follow. I exchanged a couple of emails with Brad and his partner in this organization, David Cohen, and discovered that they were in the process of putting a program together and gave me the contact information for the new Director of the Network, Jenny Boyd.
One of the things I really like about the people involved in this startup space is how open and sharing they are. I was able to read a lot about the program before I had a call with Jenny, but she spent 30 minutes filling in what details were in place and it sounded like just the program that fit what I wan planning. When I mentioned that I was talking to a number of organizations that were looking a creating programs, she offered to talk with anyone that wanted to know more about the Network. I now had a list of things I needed to put in place in order to apply to TechStars Network.
The first was to find a space. Late last year, my partner and I attended a meeting of the Escondido City Council, in support of Gary Knight, the CEO of the San Diego North Economic Development Council (SDNEDC). This was Gary’s final step in the process where he was looking for approval of the SDNEDC’s plan to rehab a vacant public building in Downtown Escondido and create a Business Innovation Accelerator (a new name for a Business Incubator). Gary walked out with a 3 year lease with a 2 year extension. I had previously agreed to support his efforts and be a business mentor for his program.
This is a big space and having a seed acceleration program seemed like a natural fit; Gary agreed and I was able to check off two big program milestones. I had the space but I also had a supporting organization for the program, which TechStars wants to see as part of a proposal. Additionally, there was a natural evolution for the companies in the program. If they decided to stay in the area, they could move to another part of the building and take up residence in the Innovation Accelerator. As they grow and need more space or different support services, they can move a couple of blocks to the new Technology Business Center that the city is building. This creates a natural pool of mentors for subsequent programs and, hopefully, a technology hotspot for wireless health product development. I realize that this may take a number of years to evolve, but as Brad Feld has stated many times, you must have a long view for these types of programs and not expect or promise big short-term gains.
In my next post, I will continue describing my experience focusing on defining and engaging possible mentors.
In the meantime, any thoughts, comments or suggestions are, as always, welcomed.