Due to our consistent growth globally, we are always on the search for new possible Managing Directors for potential programs. The Managing Director is the leader of the Techstars' Accelerator program for which they are hired. That’s it, right there, full stop: leadership. MD's set the strategic direction of the program and execute against it; he/she will be involved in every aspect of what makes Techstars great. MD's have the support coming from all functions of the organization, but without their leadership, the program cannot make good companies into great ones. Tactically speaking, that tends to mean a few specific things.
1. Recruiting: MDs help find startups with the best possible foundations, because good foundations make great companies. To do that, you’ll help potential applicants understand what Techstars is all about, the value it will bring to their businesses and encourage the best of them to apply. You’ll also knock down obstacles that might keep some of them from applying (like sexism, introversion, or coming from a smaller market). Things that make strong MDs at this step: charisma, community building experience, compassion and a strong network in their location and beyond.
2. Selection: Once you’ve got a strong applicant pool, you have to sort out the best potential businesses among them. This is not only about the idea, but also the team, the market, and ability to generate traction. Nobody can perfectly predict what startups will succeed but an MD should have a practical working theory of what makes a good foundation for success and know how to apply it. Things that make strong MDs at this step: good instincts, strong EQ, analytical skill, and the ability to sniff great entrepreneurial DNA out of the haystack.
3. Program Execution: Every Accelerator has an operational staff, but see that first sentence: you are the leader. Execution is your responsibility and your right. It shouldn’t suck up all your time (past experience tells us that when managed well, most top MDs spend about 10% here) but is it still an incredibly important skill. Things that make strong MDs at this step: experience leading a team, organization, and the ability to inspire the best in your staff.
4. Entrepreneurial Coaching: Every step is important but let’s face it: this is the big one. A good MD demonstrates mentorship in every interaction that have with a company. They have strong expertise in one or more subject areas like product-market fit, sales, marketing, fundraising, and the self/relational awareness to connect the dots between founder challenges and the best mentors to support them through those. Most importantly they have the emotional intelligence and intellectual curiosity to be a pillar of support for founders through whatever the business might throw at them, whether it be a co-founder breakup or the decision change models two months in. Things that make strong MDs at this step: experience both coaching and being coached, patience, emotional intelligence, a solid list of “lessons learned” and understanding of the breadth of challenges that can arise when starting a business.
5. Fundraising: After graduating, companies may raise additional funding and MDs are a key part of guiding them in that process, as well as generating leads for them. Nobody can fundraise for them, but we can set them up for success. Note that while your personal network here is helpful, this is also a place where a good MD will leverage the connections Techstars already has. Things that make strong MDs at this step: knowing how to read a term sheet and most common funding vehicles, good relationships with VCs in their area, and an understanding of the funding environment in general.
6. Community / Development: Good leaders learn by talking to other good leaders and engaging in their communities. So during the Accelerator, you should be comparing notes and working with other MDs and staff to improve your craft and share best practices. And when you’re not actively guiding a cohort through your Accelerator, you need to be spending real time thinking about and documenting how to help Techstars Accelerators continue to innovate and improve. You’ll also be nurturing the community (mentors, investors, entrepreneurs) you’ve built around your accelerator through events, speaking engagements and generally “giving first” in the community. So be ready to be part of a community (remember what we said about coaching and being coached?). Things that make strong MDs at this step: respectful approach to peers, an interest in improvement (yours and others), and a commitment to the Techstars community all up.
Beyond those generalities, there is no single path to being a great MD, but there a few things they tend to have in common:
Techstars is a global ecosystem that empowers entrepreneurs to bring new technologies to market wherever they choose to live. With dozens of mentorship-driven accelerator programs and thousands of community programs worldwide, Techstars exists to support the world’s most promising entrepreneurs throughout their lifelong journey, from inspiration to IPO.
Techstars provides access to tens of thousands of community leaders, founders, mentors, investors, and corporate partners, allowing entrepreneurs to accelerate the pace of innovation and do more faster. Techstars supports every stage of the entrepreneurial journey – from early stage grassroots community development to more formal opportunities that provide education, experience, acceleration, funding, and beyond.
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