The second counterintuitive point, this might come as a little bit of a disappointment, but what you need to succeed in a startup is not expertise in startups. That makes this class different from most other classes you take. You take a French class, at the end of it you’ve learned how to speech French. You do the work, you may not sound exactly like a French person, but pretty close, right? This class can teach you about startups, but that is not what you need to know. What you need to know to succeed in a startup is not expertise in startups, what you need is expertise in your own users.
In August I moved to Austin and joined a company called Techstars, that takes new technology companies and accelerates their growth in a 3 month period.
After that 3 month period, I joined one of those technology companies named Fosbury as the first hire in a team of 4. Fosbury helps businesses promote themselves to customers phones, using great technologies like location aware services and push notifications. This is done using Apple Passbook and Google Wallet which are nascent but quickly growing mobile tools.
My role at Fosbury has evolved into marketing (writing blog content, conducting webinars, paid search etc) and operations (everything from managing current accounts, sourcing hardware we can use, planning product growth through customer feedback, supporting sales).
Below is Fosbury’s blog and press recap from the past month. It focuses around a new location technology called iBeacons. iBeacons send targeted messages to people based on their indoor location, for example a store entrance. They are often used by businesses to drive store traffic and engage customers. Interested? Come check out our webinar this Wednesday to learn more
Press: Fosbury provides expertise to “Mobile Commerce Daily”. Read more…
In our introductory post about iBeacons, we discuss what iBeacons are, how your business can use them, and what hardware you need to get started. This post is iBeacon 101.
See how Coca-Cola and Apple are looking to use iBeacons in-store and at major events to increase customer engagement, and stand out in a innovative way.
Curious how Tim the dry cleaner is using iBeacon technology to quickly and cost effectively grow his business? Click to learn more.
This holiday season, WestJet brought Santa from the North Pole, to ask all the passengers of a flight what they want for Christmas. During the flight they went out and purchased gifts from Barbie’s to big screen TV’s, and sent the gifts down the baggage claim wrapped for each passenger.
This incredible show of love for their customers will last long after the promotion as they understand that it’s customer retention, not just customer acquisition that builds great companies.
There are a million and one other ways they could have garnered attention, but they choose to value their customers and capture the moment. Let’s take a lesson and try to do the same.
As part of my expanding role at Fosbury, I’ve taken to Quora to grow our social/content marketing presence. Over the past two weeks i’ve answered two questions that I will post below:
Check them out & upvote -
The following is the transcript of me telling my dad the poker story lunch. It should be 95% word for word and will be most enjoyed when paired with the audio.
Alright, so, we got invited to this charity event and ..(we’ll see how this works, if the recording works well or not.)
We’re invited to this charity event - and it’s by a company who’s a supporter of Techstars, it’s like $500 a ticket, to get in. So they’re like valeting parking right, all these crazy cars, who knows, Maserati’s and stuff, I show up with my bike helmet. Easily the only one to bike.
Dad - “Did you bike” -yeah. I put my bag down.
Dad -“Did you valet it?” Across the street, locked up, on the side of the road.
Dad - “You should have valet parked your bike.”
We get up there, and there are probably 20-25 girls dressed up in these like red corsets, with like too toos, it was bizarre, they looked like Santa’s little helpers, is what I called them. It was crazy, they’re carrying around drinks. And so we have a couple drinks.
Dad - “Where was it, a restaurant?”
It was at the Driskill, which is the nicest hotel, a four diamond hotel in Austin, historic blah blah blah and everybody’s having drinks, we’ve got two drinks in, we had a little bit of food, we had nachos or whatever - Poker starts, Six Thirty.
We’re at the table and it’s Me Lucas, CEO, this other guy Brandon from Techstars, and a bunch of bankers and a couple guys- Dad - ”did they have a few tables?” They had over 200 people at this event, there was probably 10 tables.
left to right (me, lucas tieleman, & brandon marker - a couple drinks in)
Dad - “Texas Hold’em?”
Yeah Texas Holdem Dad - ”Which you’re very good at…?”
I didn’t think so, so we’re sitting there. This one dude goes up big over a couple hands early and he starts bullying people around. And we’re like you… you douche. Making big blind bets so nobody got to see the cards. Dad - “Right”
So people started to get out a bit, and I lost an early hand but just stayed in it. and won a big one, like a medium size one later.
Dad - “Was the bully still hanging around?”
So he ended up losing pretty early after that so we were all thrilled at that. I spilled like an entire beer on me. Cause we were sitting there, it was kinda stacked with a pop up table cause they had so many people- and the drink holder was right in the middle! it wasn’t here where I could grab it. It was I was a little drunk, and it was right in the way. Dad - “You were going to get all your chips” Yea!
So they start, it starts thinning out, and it gets down to 5 people from 9. and they brought more people to the table. We knock them off. It’s up just me and another guy, from the original table; it was actually the guy from the who bought us the seats from Softlayer.
Dad - “Was the CEO around, the Fosbury guy, or did he go somewhere else?”.
He ended up losing after an hour and a half, but he hung out, so man, , I probably had 3 whiskeys and a beer or two at this point, Dad - ”two mini egg rolls” that’s like, yeah, all the food I had.
Eventually after like two hours I’m still pretty small, but they’re raising the blinds so fast, it’s crazy, you have to pick times to just go all in, right to get enough chips to play consistently, so I did that a few times, and won. The best one was a straight, king queen straight. At a time when everyone kinda of went in on the table - because people, everyone was about to lose, so I got a lot of chips that way.
Knocked three people about, they brought me over to a new table, and probably downsized from 10 tables to five and got to play with Jason Seats, who’s the director of the program. Dad - ”Did you get another good hand?”
We’re going around in circles again, Can’t afford any of it. Same thing, I win another hand. The guys still with me who bought the tickets. His name is George, getting all sorts of cool people coming around now, “paying attention” From behind and us and around us. The people who are still playing are pretty interesting - These are all like the CEO’s of Austin, Venture capitalist, the Richest, Smartest people in Austin, I’ve got beer on my jeans, haha, and the bankers originally were rolling their eyes when I spilled beer on myself. I’m the only one having a great time! They’re getting all serious about poker. I’m the only one laughing.
Dad - “You’re like I’m terrible at this, you guy any good?”
So another thing, it’s charity, you re-buy in, $500 to get… Dad - ”Real cash” yeah. So people are throwing in 500, a thousand dollars to get new chips. I rode my bike, I’m just playing with the chips they gave me. Dad - “somebody paid your way” Somebody paid my way in. Another 4 whiskeys in, 3 beers in. “and you got home at two?
Well it started at 6:30. “And you made it home at two thought” Well it ended at 11, we went out afterword. Final table , I knock somebody out, they’re like it’s time for the final table.Spotlight on this wooden table
Dad - “How many people at the table? 6?”
8 or 9. I’ve got a water, but this whole time the girls have been coming around giving me drinks, I’m like “where are the girls at, where the girls at? But there’s somebody who’s working there, I’m like hey, I need a Champaign!!
And they bring me Champaign. I’ve got water on the table, they say, Dad - “don’t put the water bottle on the table” I’m like Champaign, how about this!? I’m wasted at this point Dad - “but it was fun” oh it was great, it was fantastic, and I had a crowd behind me, all the people from Techstars, all the people I beat, they’re all around me, cheering for me because I’m having the most fun, for sure. Dad - “Right”
It was like I was the dude who was rolling craps and winning and everyone was cheering me on. So I got the Champaign, and I’m like middle stack, there’s one big stack on the table. I kinda just played it slow, and people knocked themselves out. Before I knew it, I was on my second Champaign and it was just me and this other guy head to head and I had double his chips. haha
So the first seven hands… he folds, and the blind is 200k 100k.. I don’t know how they started out; I think it was probably close to dollar chips for 500 dollars. (we actually started with 2,500 dollars in chips)
I probably had 2 million chips, with the blinds 100k, 200k. He’s folding every time. I would say I had at least, decent hands. Dad - “Twice as many chips as him?” at least 7 hands he folds in a row, I kept going all in. If I had anything, it was all in for him, but for me it was a third of my chips. But if I had
Anything, head to head you have much better odds. So I saw him keep folding. 3 times I had pretty good cards, 3 of the times I had a face card and a two or a three, twice when he folded I had like a
3 and an 8, off suit. But I’m hammered so I’m like let’s do it, let’s do it! Everybody’s cheering. So he’s down to 500,000 and I’m up at 3 million. I’m like “hey” I told him, “this is the last hand - no look!”
We both get Jack, he gets Jack 7, I had a Jack 3. Flops a jack, they all cards higher than a three. now do it again! So we did it again, I say, deal them face up. Throws me the first card, Ace!! Dad - “to him?” No no, to him, he had a ten, seven to me, whatever to him.
On the flop, Ace! Everybody’s going crazy, I’m hammered, going yeahhhHHH!!!! Dad - “You’re telling the dealer face up” The CEO’s sitting around the table, venture like. I’m like come on, let’s do it!!
I win it, I stand, everybody’s cheering.
They bring out this big check, this big cardboard check, 10 grand. Dad - “for charity” They go, you get to pick who it goes to. “awesome” they say, who do you want it to go to I go - “boys and girls club” You gotta, there are four you can pick from, they’re all here tonight. they’re like That’s not one of them.
Dad - “Did you split it up between them?” no, I picked one. I didn’t even think of that. Was I supposed to do that? Haha Dad - “Just a thought, you know there are four represented”
I should have done that.
Dad - “you know for next time. Which one did you pick?”
There was one that supported impoverished kids around the world, one that was young entrepreneurs, and one that supported young kids in music and arts in Austin. And I dont remember the last one, but the one from music and arts was also, the guy representing was also a mentor, a supporter of Techstars. So I picked that one.
They gave me a sharpie, and that way they let you know, you right the name on the big blank check, Dad - ”get out of here!”
"was it televised?" 10k, Its going to be in the press for sure. They had press people there. "How good is that?" oh it was great
They gave me a bracelet like the world series of poker, this super nice, a watch would have been nice, ha but we’ll get it framed and everything.It was sweet, Dad - “there might be something in the paper today” there might be. Yeah so I won, yeah I recorded it and I’m gonna type it up and get it transcribed so i can put it on my blog. Then I went out for drinks with with Lucas and Jason
Biked home, yup biked home Dad - “you biked home” Yup, across the bridge. after my 10k win. It was really good.
On my birthday, August 1st, I left the hotel in Dallas for Austin around 10:00 am and my stomach was not holding too steady. I had applied to a job posting Tuesday to be a Techstars Associate that started exactly 6 days later in another city.
I wanted the job so bad. Techstars is world renowned startup accelerator, known for selecting an elite group of companies, introducing them to business leaders like C suite executives, investors, and creative minds, and preparing them for angel and venture capital in 3 short months. I would come in to help coordinate the program, and assist these startups with market research and strategy development. Most of all I would be in a position to absorb knowledge from the smartest people in the industry.
I interviewed with two members of the Techstars staff including Matt Ford and Brandon Marker. Matt is an ultimate connector who had just moved from Madison, Wisconsin and Brandon is a great mind who had help lead one of the MicroVentures to be a market leader in the crowdfunding space.
They offered me the job on the spot. I was blown away. Now all I had to do was quit my job and move to Austin in 3 days…. My next step was a Megabus trip back to Houston which involved a few hours of alternating birthday calls, and calls asking why i’m quitting. There were people at Capgemini who who helped me who were supportive, and others who, hopefully jokingly, told me they’d “burn my house down,” hang me by my toes, and that I was throwing my career away. (quotes indicate a saved voicemail.) As a quick side note, in no situation could it be a good idea to take a colleagues career moves personally, or say emotionally driven things in response to a decision. It’s just not classy.
On the second, Alex and I packed as much as we could fit in the car, and drove to Austin Sunday, August 3rd. We visited 7 apartments during the short afternoon Sunday showings, and reserved an apartment starting the following week. August 5th, I started work at Techstars.
* It was a crazy four days, but as I am finishing this blog post close to the end of the Techstars program, I can tell you it was the best decision of my life. I am happier than I’ve ever been and will be running the US Sales and Operations for a team in the program named Fosbury. Be back soon,