The time I planned to spend at TechStars comes to a much, much too premature of an end. I sat on a plan and at airports for a combined total of 16 hours yesterday and wondered why exactly I am returning back to Slovenia. Having experienced the true meaning of entrepreneurship, what it means for teams, mentors, even investors, to actually want you to succeed, it is hard to justify coming back to an environment where "experts" just try and sell you their expertise. Where you are expected to work 8 hours in an office to make things that have not been thought out and get blamed for them later on.
It turns out, if TechStars taught me one thing, it's that you are the owner of your own company. You know best what you want to do, and you alone are accountable for it. Having said that, however, there is a number of people there who want to help you succeed. Their motivation is not inherently financial (TechStars, as most incubators take some percentage of companies - but they also invest!, but mentors do not!) but is something deeper, emotional. It is almost impossible to describe what that means. It's that feeling you get when you talk to people at TechStars, like Katie, Reed or Bob, and you feel their passion for what they are doing. And this feeling extends to mentors. Keep in mind these are people who have started their own companies or have been/are investors in the largest VC funds, names who have been on most entrepreneurial "to-read"/follow lists. It's people who worked with some of the largest names in the industry, or who are the largest names in the industry. You have little to offer them in terms of monetary gain and yet they wish and choose to work with you, helping you reach your full potential.
As I sat in one of those meetings, specifically with Tom Hughes, I had one of those moment where I asked myself: "Why the fu** are you even talking, Anze? Just listen...". I asked a TechStars Alumni, Chris Howard from Libboo how to handle this, he said something that made me rethink everything I thought I knew about why people mentor:
"They used to be in your shoes once. They will gladly help you, because some of them could have used the same help to get to where they are and because all of them know what it means to get to that level from where you are right now."
Don't get me wrong, I knew TechStars was big from the minute we had our first interview with them. I understood that people there are interested in you succeeding and aren't bullshitters like so many wanna-be consultants you will inevitably deal with on your path to success. But I never thought about their motivation. Keep in mind that one day before this talk we had a session with some of the TechStars alumni, where they said: "You're part of a club now. Everyone in this club wants to help you succeed". It's hard to fully grasp what this means until you actually feel it.
While my first visit ended, I know I will be back, soon. Because I realise what big of an opportunity we have in changing the world. And because there are fewer places who are better for doing that than the TechStars environment. And because I realised that deep down inside, I want to be in a position where a couple of years down the line, I want to help some young entrepreneurs figure out how to tackle a problem, and I want to tell him that I was once in his shoes.
And finally, to those of you at TechStars reading this, see you soon.