What Week Is It?

Hackstaring in Techstars London (Fintech Cohort)


Last time the post was all about me. Someone who just got out of the box and arrived to the big city, where everything is different. Someone who had his life turned upside down and is excited to see what is beyond horizon.

To change things up, this time I wrote a piece for those who are thinking of applying for the position of a Hackstar or an Associate. Just to be clear I’m stationed in Techstars program in London (the fintech cohort) — it should be the same in terms of what is going on, but it is the people who run and come in that are different and hence why I am being specific.


What do you do?

Designing. I took over the bigger picture projects regarding branding. Consulting for nearly everyone on all design parts eats up a lot of my time, whether it is visual design, UI/UX, webdesign even game design or whatnot.

As few teams are still getting ready what they actually want to message out and are in great talks with the bizdev people or getting their own personal hiries, there is still not that much work coming in I’d say.

Don’t get me wrong I have my hands full, but I can foresee how much busier we will be with requests pouring in. Especially for us designers closer to the Demo Day, when everyone wants to look just fucking awesome.


So they make you work like grunt right?

No, it’s all your pick. When Jess told me on phone before I flew over that I can pick what I want to work on, honestly I did not expect it to be true. Since we are 3+1 designers here we are managing well and all the restecpa to the sole designer of the last cohort that had to do all the work on his own.

During the first two weeks I was checking out all the startups, where I can help and if I’m even interested. The program is set up in a way that teams come to us (we are all sitting within one large co-working space). Just as well they can put a task on whiteboard, send an email or have meeting with all or each and single one of us. There are many options how to interface both ways and with all the love that is in the air it is very easy to do so.

After the two weeks I focused more on 2 teams, consulting with others and slowly gravitating towards retaining the same numbers as that seems manageable in regards to my personal agenda.


All the hacksociates are buffed up dudes right?

Hackstars and associates is indeed a sausage fest of 8 guys and one lady. Towards the end of program in June one more girl is coming over to join us. We have the ever present French, German, Czech and obviously Britons. Average Age is 27 (23 lowest, 33 highest) and it is hackstars who are the younger half without experience in corporate world.

Most of the teams in our cohort are without designers, since they are early stage and dealing with fintech problems. And who here ever heard of a designer who would understand or delve into shifting money from one side of the pile to another. Math is just very distant to at least 83% of us and the rest (19%) simply turned into evil marketers.

That obviously makes us the hot stuff that everyone comes to when they need something. Some teams understand the role of design in product development more, some less. Therefore some appreciate your work more, some less. The clear winner in terms of asks is the UI/UX work. Although just for the trendy name that for the unknowlegable encompasess many design disciplicines.

The obvious issue there is how much time you have to spend on project to bring into the stage where your work would be seen. Design work such as branding, UI or UX takes significant amounts of time. This does not correlate perfectly with the program, because while for example YC is all about building shit, Techstars is mainly about networking. Fintech cohort especially is all B2B and design there is not the strong point you want to be spending your hard earned investor’s money on.


How much free time do you get?

Personally I don’t need that much sleep and am a double worka-holic after both my parents (thanks mom & dad!). With that said I did set this year to be much more about networking. For one — get myself to learn the oh-so-useless small talk that leads to “closing the deal.” And I say that because I don’t take talking to people as work and it takes away from the time you have for those deliverables everyone needs.

OK… BUT HOW MUCH FREE TIME DO I GET WORKING THERE?

Oh right… Theoretically as much as you want. Practically you have to give in the usual 9–5 hours workweek. The thing is you can come at any time and stay as long as you want (really, the space is open 24/7).

Jourik Migom

There are many exceptions though — first month is Mentor Madness, when Hacksociates are expected (btw: everything is “expected” from you, which is just the fancy British polite way of saying “required”) to accompany selected Mentor for half a day. This might not seem hot, but it is. Realize that we get to connect with very interesting people without being the 1% of teams that are selected for every cohort.

So you do get time for yourself. But the true reason and offering, I for one scrambled all the money I had is the network you can grow immensely and very easily in very short period of time. Then it makes no sense to clock in at 5 o’clock just because you feel tired from work — that’s just dumb.

Teams were told at the very beginning, that they are never ever getting this much attention from super busy people again. So could it be very easily said for all the Hacksociates.

To put it more bluntly — if you want to get into startup world, this is pretty great spot to be at. For all the unhappy twenty-something that are at home or a pub complaining it is hard to connect or meet the right people, save up some money and start thinking about this position. Then of course be cool and…

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