Entrepreneur-turned-investor Mark Suster has already dispensed email advice for “us sarcastic bastards who have slitting tongues,” but on this week’s episode of TechStars he gives David Tisch a run for his money on the real talk/insult-o-meter, to some amusing ends. (Check out our top five list after the end.)
In Episode Four, Mr. Tisch is trying to prepare the teams for Demo Day and “access to a room full of money,” in some cases by throwing ping pong balls or fake cash to see if he can distract them. He also encourages them to “try your best to get a third of what you’re looking for soft circled,” so they can present with some momentum. The VC weather report might be frothy, but not all the teams are finding it easy.
OnSwipe, Meet Humility
If you’ve ever watched an episode of “America’s Next Top Model,” you know how much Tyra appreciates it when a bratty girl finally breaks down in tears in front of the judging panel. OnSwipe’s Jason Baptiste doesn’t go that far, of course. But he does ask for help with hiring and is SPOILER ALERT!!! awarded with a meeting with AOL’s Tim Armstrong. OnSwipe found a great potential team member, but they’re worried that startup hours will scare off the family man. Mr. Tisch advises them to be clear about expectations, but frame it as hard work breeding success, “Don’t phrase it like, ‘Hey dude, how often do you have to see your fucking kid?’” After Mr. Baptiste asks AOL whether OnSwipe can launch on one of their properties, Mr. Armstrong says he’ll consider it, as long as they stay awake, “Sleep is bad, you can sleep in a couple years, you gotta go after this market now.”
Family ish is something of a theme this episode. Immersive, the Minority Report-esque video advertising startup, almost falls apart when CEO Jason Sosa admits in front of his co-founders and the Davids that he took $2,000 out of company funds for his wife and kids because the financial burden of two foreclosures left them without gas or groceries. It’s a heart-wrenching moment for all parties involved as David Cohen warns him about embezzlement and his co-founders wonder if they can trust Mr. Sosa again, but the frank discussion seems to have cleared the air.
The 11th Hour
We learn that Veri, who thankfully ditched the name SocratED so Betabeat can stop tripping over the caps lock, almost didn’t get in to TechStars, but got picked at number 11 thanks to an un-ignorable 30 recommendations. There’s some nice symmetry when Tisch reveals that users are spending 30 minutes per visit on the site. Oh yeah, did we mention they picked up $100k?
Who Needs a Business Plan Anyways?
Hurricane Melanie may have significant funds soft-circled, but that was for ToVieFor. Now that she’s pivoted into a LinkedIn for fashion, investors like Golden Seed have given her the dreaded, uh, let’s hold off until there’s more traction shpeal. “Traction is a universal ‘We don’t want to do it’ answer,” notes Mr. Cohen. Ms. Moore seems incredulous that her investors would hold her back, telling the camera, “My investors won’t let me do it because they haven’t seen business plan? It’s so fucking stupid, like building a luxury retail company is hard.” Luckily, Mr. Suster likes her practice demo, well except for the “Music drama cliche” at the top where she pulls out the old standby: quoting the size of the overall market. For an update on how this plays out, check out: Before ToVieFor’s Corpse Is Cold, TechStars Alum Melanie Moore Launches New Fashion Startup.
Our Top Five Mark Suster Insults
And without further ado, here’s what you came for. Unfortunately there was no way to write out the part where Mr. Suster schooled Nestio on their voice immodulation disorder, but you can watch that for yourselves:
1. “He was being kind saying it was good, it’s not.”
2. “It’s a 1 out of 10, it really is.”
3. “You tell a mild confusing story.”
4. “You’ve been working in video for how long? [Over three years] Then fucking say it!”
5. “What I think they’ve done is take group think, which is I’ve gotta do a platform, it’s gotta be social, it’s gotta be curated, it’s gotta be the good stuff rising to the top. I suspect investors will generally speaking like this and that’s a problem. It may get funded, because there’s a lot of dumb money. It’s not for me. I’ll tell you why, I live in LA, I see these every fucking month.” Mr. Suster, was discussing Homefield’s pivot to Shelby.tv, but he did have some words of encouragement, “I loved their first business.”