First week of Techstars OR How I learned to stop worrying and love bottled water

June 4, 2013

The first week of Techstars Chicago is over for Team Project Fixup (and then some, I am a bit behind…). Curious about what we did and learned? If so, read on. If not, well, enjoy some adorable pictures of a kitten.

Sam Yagan and Zach Kaplan of Inventables fame decided that, in lieu of a typical orientation, on the first day the teams would compete Battle Royale style in in a water selling competition. Whoever made the most profit from selling delightful bottles of Ice Mountain was promised money, VC contacts, and glory. #gameon 

Alan and I developed a three-tiered pricing strategy of premium water for $15 that included a fixup (such a deal!), retail water at $1 a pop, and the ability sell 200-500 bottles at a time to corporations in bulk. We got a Zipcar, sent emails, got orders, couldn’t deliver, ran around a lot, got stressed, felt like crying (and probably would have if WeDeliver hadn't amazingly delivered our 500 bottle order to AmericaScores and pretty much saved our lives...) etc etc. And we ultimately lost to SocialCrunch  and others who just, you know, sold bottles of water.

Lesson learned: The importance of focus. Which each one of those strartegies could have worked, trying to implement all three in one afternoon across the city was an unmitigated disaster.

At first, I was pretty sure that the whole competition was just a way for the Techstars powers that be to torture us, but perhaps the idea of focus apples to Project Fixup (and all companies) as well. Startups are hard. If you can do one thing and do it right, you’re already miles ahead. Overcomplicate, especially in the beginning, and you're setting yourself up for failure. 

We learned some other things too that I will tell you about later. But for now – onward to week two!