A Letter To TechStars from Aswin Natarajan

Not long after we returned from TechStars, my colleague Jon was approached by a bright young student at Georgia Tech. This kid was running an accelerator on campus and had assembled a team of the brightest young student entrepreneurs and had matched them up with some of the most seasoned tech entrepreneurs in the city.

Months later and I’m honored he chose to work with us an intern and has been helping make our business better everyday. This guy is going places. He was born to help entrepreneurs. And for tonight’s post, I’m going to share a letter from Aswin Natarajan to the team at TechStars Boulder. It’s a letter he sent in as part of the application process and I love what it represents.

It’s his response to this question:

Why do you want to be a Techstars Associate?

Written by Aswin Natarajan, Co-founder Startup Exchange

“Last semester, I cofounded an accelerator program at Georgia Tech called Startup Semester.

We had just assembled our ten teams and we wanted an event to introduce the teams to our mentors. Because the program was only 10 weeks long, each week was crucial. We had to get started right away. So on Sunday evening, immediately after our first meeting, we emailed our freshly formed roster, “Get ready for Launch Night next Monday. All of you are pitching to your mentors.”

And that’s when the fun started.

We had neither space nor food for the event. By Tuesday evening, only four mentors had RSVP’ed for Launch Night and we were finding that our teams were far from pitch ready. We had attempted to rally administrators for money but had no luck. This event was going to determine the viability of this program in the eyes of students as well as the mentors from the Atlanta startup community. It was the first make or break moment in our journey.

We started that week by cold-calling, tweeting and emailing every entrepreneur we knew. Our outreach efforts inspired 25 entrepreneurs and mentors to RSVP. We used these numbers to persuade the College of Business to waive the restrictive after-hours event policies and give us an auditorium space. Because the school wouldn’t let us raise money, I started searching for in-kind sponsorships. Five days and seventeen caterers later, I found an in-kind sponsor for food. We set to work on preparing teams. We assembled the teams on Friday evening and drilled in the concept of value propositions for the next 5 hours. It was exhausting but worth it.

On Launch Night, the mentors outnumbered the teams 2:1 and we hosted a mentor-team speed-dating session. It was highly acclaimed and it set the tone for the rest of the program.

By the end of the ten weeks, one team interviewed with Y-Combinator, another secured a chance to present at Startup Riot Atlanta, and one went on to beat nearly 500 other participants to make it to the final rounds of the Inventure Prize competition.

I loved my experience with Startup Semester. I worked with some of the most intelligent and creative individuals at Georgia Tech. These were people who pushed me just as hard as I pushed them. I learned more in that semester than I had in years of lecture-hall style courses. There was something intensely gratifying about giving back and being part of a cohort of individuals who lived with such consuming purpose.

More than anything, I want to continue this experience. I want to work hard, live with intent, learn something new every day and develop sincere relationships with the smartest designers, technologists and business people in the startup world.

I’m currently working with Kyle Porter, a Techstars Boulder alum, and I’ve heard such incredible things about his experience at TechStars. I want to experience it for myself. I want to be there to develop an idea into a product that grows to form a company.

This is a 180 from the formal education I’ve received. But the truth is, I don’t see myself as a biomedical engineer doing quality tests on pacemakers. In five years, I see myself working at the intersection between people, technology, and business development. The Techstars program gives me an opportunity to make this happen right away and I know this program would have a significant impact on my life.”

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