Techstars Associate Program: The better Startup MBA?

Or four things to consider when making your choice.

Dirk Lehmann
Oct 1, 2015 · 6 min read
Dirk Lehmann looking at sunset
Dirk Lehmann looking at sunset

Three months at the Barclays Accelerator

In March, I met all the Startups, Associates and team members who would become my family for the time ahead. It didn’t take long and the program took off and with it, our jobs as Associates to add as much value as possible to the teams with our skills and experience.

Three months turned into the perfect startup MBA

Looking back, I realized that, skipping the typical MBA for this program was the perfect choice to prepare myself for my new playground — The Startup Ecosystem. But let me also tell you why:

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1. Build the Future — Don’t Manage the Past

When you work with ten smart and driven startups for three months, you definitely learn one thing: how to solve our biggest problems and build a successful business around it.

Learn to build the future instead of managing the past.

While growing a company is hard, there are tried and tested methods that work and you’ll learn them at Techstars. This can not give you a guaranteed success, but it can increase your chances and make sure you avoid mistakes others have done before.

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2. Deal With Real Business — Not Case Studies

During my time in the business, I learned that books, lectures and case studies can only take you so far. At Techstars, the startups constantly deal with real customers, real products and a real ping pong table to recover from all of that, and so do you as an Associate.

Only when you get confronted with reality, you actually learn and get better.

While case studies are usually based on real problems, they cannot take into account the dynamic and complexity of running a business. It is one thing to come up with the perfect solution on paper, but once you are facing real business, things change.

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3. Enter a Network of Makers — Not Managers

One of the most valuable assets of an MBA is the alumni network. It gives you easy access to new contacts that can speed up your career. But those contacts can turn out to be just like you — the BizDevs of the world.

Your future aspirations should define your networks.

A network of consultants, bankers and corporate managers can be a great asset, but if you are reading this right now, it might not be the right one for you. For a startup career, you want to look in a different direction.

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4. Get a Positive Lifetime ROI — Not Personal Debt

I believe that the best investments you can make are the ones into your own skills, experience, and knowledge. They stay with you forever and make your life worth living. But they also need to pay off at some point down the line.

Personal debt can be the biggest killer of your personal freedom.

When you join Techstars as an Associate you get a guaranteed positive lifetime return. All you have to invest is your time, energy and knowledge. With the provided stipend, you can easily bootstrap your life for the duration of the program and get the experience you desire.

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The Right Family to Start your Journey

When I read Philip Broughton’s experience of an MBA at Harvard, one short line stuck to my head forever. He told the story of an MBA student who complained to HBS staff about all the pressure that came with the program.

At Techstars, you don’t become a product, but the lifetime member of a family.

In this family, paying it forward is taken seriously. I had the pleasure of experiencing that myself several times. And like in every family, there will be good and though times. But in the end, all its members will support you and embrace you for who you are.

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