An Interview with Founder & Co-CEO of Techstars, David Cohen

David Cohen is the Founder and co-CEO of Techstars. David has been an entrepreneur and investor for his entire life. He has only had one job interview in his career, successfully got that job but then quit shortly thereafter to start his first company. Since then, he has founded several companies and has invested in hundreds of startups such as Uber, Twilio, SendGrid, FullContact, and Sphero. In total, these investments have gone on to create more than $80B in value.

Prior to Techstars, David was a co-founder of Pinpoint Technologies which was acquired by ZOLL Medical Corporation (NASDAQ: ZOLL) in 1999. Later, David was the founder and CEO of earFeeder, a music service that was sold to SonicSwap. He also had what he likes to think of as a “graceful failure” in between.

David is the co-author (with Brad Feld) of Do More Faster; Techstars Lessons to Accelerate Your Startup. David also enjoys reading non-fiction books and playing tennis. He is married to the coolest girl he’s ever met and has three amazing kids who always seem to be teaching him something new.

Are you an entrepreneur looking for your MVP built? Get in touch with us at hello@devathon.com

Devathon has built software for companies backed by the world's leading investors like Betaworks, Greylock, Andreessen Horowitz, Accel, KPCB, Lightspeed and many more.

In the following interview, David talks about his entrepreneurial journey & what it takes to run a successful startup accelerator

When did you first discover your entrepreneurial spirit and How is your entrepreneurial career developing so far?

I think it was probably in high school when I worked at my father's accounting firm doing payroll processing. Since I've only had one job interview in my life (I left that job to start a company), I think it's progressing ok. I feel fairly confident I'll never have another job interview.

What is your background and why have you set up the Accelerator?

I founded 3 companies and sold two successfully, while the other one failed. I was the early developer (aka CTO) in all three companies. After the first one sold to a public company, I started angel investing and now have close to 2,000 investments via Techstars and my personal investing.

Tell us something about Techstars. How many startups are connected to your Accelerator?

We've funded about 1,500 companies so far across ten years. Techstars is the worldwide network that helps entrepreneurs succeed. We run around 40 accelerator programs annually, each with 10 companies in them. We do this in 13 countries today. We also run community events such as Startup Weekend (about 1,000 of these annually in 120+ countries where we work with 100,000 entrepreneurs annually). We also have venture capital funds, with around $1B under management, where we invest in the best companies in the ecosystem. Historical examples are unicorns such as SendGrid, Digital Ocean, Pillpack, Uber, Twilio, etc.

What qualities do you try to find in the mentors you select to come work with the startups?

See the "mentor manifesto" on my blog. We have around 3,000 mentors today for the accelerators and about 10,000 globally for all the events.

As for startups, in your opinion, what makes a startup become the next big thing?

Team, team, team to start. And a great vision of the future that they want to see happen.

What do you look for in a startup as you evaluate it for a potential investment?

Team, team, team, market, progress, and idea.

How does someone get you excited and willing to commit?

A shared vision of the future, and true intrinsic obsession to make it happen.

In your opinion, what are the hurdles that keep people away from starting an entrepreneurial career? What advice would you give to the new entrepreneurs?

The only want to find out if you're really an entrepreneur is to try it. It's much much harder than you think, and you'll probably quit pretty quickly if it's not for you, so you don't have much to lose.

Could you recommend our readers one or two books that helped you during your entrepreneurial endeavors?

I'm a huge fan of Eric Ries Lean Startup and The startup way. Brad Feld has some incredible books with various co-authors. and outside the startup world, try The Soul of Money.

Are you an entrepreneur looking for your MVP built? Get in touch with us at hello@devathon.com

Devathon has built software for companies backed by the world's leading investors like Betaworks, Greylock, Andreessen Horowitz, Accel, KPCB, Lightspeed and many more.