Techstars Mentor Madness Lives Up To Its Name

Cristina Vila
Founder and CEO at Cledara
Published on
August 10, 2019

One down, two to go. The road to get into Techstars is a long one. First the application and the videos, then a series of interviews and then, once you’re in, it seems that time just flies by. We’re one month into Techstars London and Demo Day, once seeming distant, is now edging closer.

The first month at Techstars feels a little bit like a bootcamp; designed to take you in, beat you up and make you come out the other side as a better Founder. The highlight of the first month is the famous Mentor Madness - 100 twenty minute conversations with a collection of the most amazing people. The reality is that while this is going on, it’s hard to focus on much else. My day has turned into a routine of arriving at 8:30, reviewing my notes on today’s mentors ahead of a 9am start, a whirlwind of meetings until the early afternoon, followed by even more follow up meetings and then writing follow ups until after midnight.

The randomness of mentor madness is definitely a feature, not a bug!

It sounds like a crazy routine, but it’s insanely valuable. It’s given me the opportunity to meet with a whole variety of people that are experts in their fields - successful founders, product and UX experts, sales people, CEO coaches and even a dairy farmer! Each have generously shared their time and expertise to help move Cledara forward. The incredible thing is that some of the mentors that we thought we would have nothing in common with have actually been the most helpful. Jon, the aforementioned dairy farmer, is an incredibly successful dairy entrepreneur and has opened my eyes to whole new industries that Cledara could help! The randomness of mentor madness is definitely a feature, not a bug!

The biggest win from mentor madness is that I’ve had 100 opportunities to explain what Cledara does. As a team, we’ve been struggling with the clarity of our communications, which has led people to ask how we’re different from Tide or Pleo, whereas we see it as different as night and day! Coming out of mentor madness, we finally have a clear way of defining what we are.

We’ve figured out that Cledara is best described as a SaaS spend management platform. Since we’ve changed our language, organic traffic has increased by 5 fold and we’ve been able to have discussions with procurement people in medium sized tech companies and we’ve found that they absolutely love what we do. Language is everything and Mentor Madness has been key to us figuring out what Cledara’s language needs to be. The irony was, just a few days after figuring that out, Orbis listed us as one of their Top 12 players in the Global SaaS Spend Management Software Market. It’s funny how the universe works sometimes!

A couple of quick tips for the first month of Techstars:

  • You get out what you put in. Do the follow ups. Be energetic. Be open minded. It takes a long time and there are going to be a lot of fires burning in the company, but Techstars is a once in a lifetime chance to transform your company and yourself as a founder.
  • Putting everything into Techstars means that you won’t have enough time to spend on the company. As a solo founder, it’s been a big challenge and the truth is there have been a few fires burning the last couple of weeks that I need to deal with, but I’m going to sort those out this week.
  • Don’t fundraise during Mentor Madness. Fundraising is a huge distraction and you won’t be able to maintain the momentum and speed you need to in order to close a round AND get the most out of Mentor Madness. I’ve been lucky that we’re mostly done with Cledara’s round and though it’s taken a little longer than we’ve hoped, it’s just been back and forth between lawyers. I absolutely wouldn’t had time to follow up with VCs AND mentors these past 3 weeks!

Techstars London is amazing and you absolutely should apply. The applications for Barclays Techstars London are now open and if you’re in fintech you should check it out. A final word, massive thanks to all the associates at Techstars London, especially Freddie, you guys are the unsung heroes of the program!

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