Releasing Some Pent up Thankfulness: Techstars/Cedars-Sinai Healthcare Accelerator

I have to preface this by saying that I can’t claim the title here. It’s a brilliant line from one of our cohort-mates, Kyle Hill of HomeHero about the power of intentionally taking time to encourage outward displays of thankfulness in company meetings:

People have a lot of pent up thankfulness just waiting for the right forum to express it.

What struck me about Kyle’s comment was his insight that his team’s thankfulness was pent up, as in under pressure, waiting for an excuse to be released. We often think of anger, aggression, or other negative emotions in this way and recognize the need to provide a constructive outlet for the negativity to ensure an overload doesn’t occur. For me, the release used to be boxing or working out, but I can’t seem to find time here in LA…

Anyway, as far as I know, there’s no common outlet for expressing thankfulness on a regular basis. For whatever reason, it is nearly as uncomfortable to directly thank a colleague for doing their job as it would be to chastise a colleague for not doing their job. This shouldn’t be true, but we even see it between the closest co-founders here at Techstars. But by simply giving his team an open, welcoming forum where they could truly and publically recognize their co-workers’ efforts, Kyle was able to ensure that no good deed went unrecognized.

The result? According to Kyle, an increased sense of company cohesion and renewed vigor to achieve the goals ahead. I’m sure it was pretty powerful to be in the room during this exercise.

Before Kyle’s comment, I thought I was pretty committed to recognizing what I have to be thankful and showing my colleagues that I appreciate their efforts. But I realized that I too allow my thankfulness to get pent up or go unsaid. So, in the spirit of Kyle’s comment, I want to spend most of this blog releasing some personal pent up thankfulness. I haven’t re-read any of my previous blogs, so some parts of this may be a bit repetitive. If that happens, take it as a sign that I’m especially thankful.

Either someone’s not paying out when we pass Go, or we haven’t passed Go yet… Both are scary. (credit: BGR.com)

Either someone’s not paying out when we pass Go, or we haven’t passed Go yet… Both are scary. (credit: BGR.com)

Startupland is a roller coaster. We all know that, and on some level accept when we pick our character and put it on the first square. But the last couple weeks for Inscope have been a daily, and often hourly, roller coaster. To put it simply, every day has felt like Tuesday. And Tuesday is the worst day of the week, guaranteed.

The Inscope roller coaster has very nearly left the rails on a couple occasions recently, and it’s only thanks to the heroic efforts of a few people that we’re still on track.

First, and probably most important, is our development team at Occam Design back home in Louisville. To say that I’m thankful for our relationship with Occam is an understatement. If you have any need for an team to help you design/develop/manufacture a medical device, there is no company I’d recommend more.

Minor deviation, but I’ve realized recently that startup founders/employees aren’t the only ones affected by the ridiculous pace of Startupland, not to mention accelerator programs. Everyone associated with each startup, but particularly development teams and corporate partners, gets at least a taste of Startupland, whether they like it or not (I keep capitalizing Startupland because I kind of want to make a board game by this name about entrepreneurship). My experience has been that most partners can’t handle the kind of rapid changes we’ve thrown at Occam.

On a similar note, I have to thank my friend Daniel Johnsen, who has completed several last-minute 3D prints for us when no other options would work and we needed results in less than 18 hours. He and the LVL1 makerspace have been clutch, to say the least.

We haven’t just been saved from product development mishaps recently. Maggie can tell you more, but a recent seminar from Techstars co-founder and startup guru, David Cohen, has radically changed our perception of how to successfully fundraise. Are we thankful for his insights and time? You bet. Despite a couple unexpected setbacks recently, we’ve used David’s advice to build even more momentum than we had before the setbacks. As a result, we should have a big announcement soon.

Really? You filed TPS reports all weekend? Sounds thrilling. (credit: Office Space)

Really? You filed TPS reports all weekend? Sounds thrilling. (credit: Office Space)

You may have experienced this in the break room at your office; there’s always that one (dozen) coworkers who will ask about the project you’ve been struggling with just to make small talk. They don’t actually care, they just don’t want to re-caffeinate in silence. Buncha jerks.

I don’t have enough digits to count the number of co-founders, employees, and TS/CS staff who have asked about our struggles, not to make small talk, but to find a way to help or lend a truly empathetic ear. I can honestly say I haven’t experienced anything like this before and I’m incredibly grateful. I’d be remiss if I didn’t call out a few individuals from this group (in no particular order):

Monica Jain — a wealth of knowledge about navigating product testing in a regulatory-compliant manner that also happens to have seemingly endless energy and willingness to help each company here.

Omkar Kulkarni — I’m pretty sure his middle name is Magic. Need a contact? Done. Need killer advice? Just ask. How about a reminder that it’ll all end up working? Just in time, every time.

Sri Batchu — social media, entertainment, boundless energy and optimism all in one Indian Teddy bear (his words, not mine). He also knows all of DJ Khaled’s major keys now, so watch out world!

Adam teaches us about tea and how to de-stress for a few minutes.

Adam teaches us about tea and how to de-stress for a few minutes.

- The Techstars Associates — AdamElanaMattieuMichael, and Timur make our accelerator life work. They make snacks appear, keep us on time to meetings, rebuild websites, make pitch decks, collect product feedback data, teach us traditional tea ceremonies, and any other crazy task we ask, all with a smile. They live #givefirst.

- Maureen and Matt — our accelerator mom and dad that always have time to talk through our daily/hourly challenges, set up great speakers and connections, and much more we probably don’t see. And, it’s their first time doing this Techstars thing…

- Dr. Hopp, Dr. Gold, Dr. Liu, Dr. Torbati — four of our mentors that always have time to give us advice. I’m pretty sure they also take really good care of patients in what little free time we leave them.

- The Cedars-Sinai legal department and executives — basically the (benevolent) puppet masters that pull any string we ask for and have shown a willingness to move both rocks and hard places for every company here. They are proof that big organizations don’t have to be slow and can foster innovation.

David Brown and Kevin Tapply — Techstars executives and two of our mentors. Proof that the commitment to building companies and founders runs deep top to bottom in Techstars, these guys lead by example by making connections for us that otherwise would take months or longer. The crazy part is that, in making these connections, they have never made us feel as if we’re asking too much; quite the opposite.

Lastly, I have to release some personal pent up thankfulness to my brother, my sister-in-law, my mom, my girlfriend, and my fraternity brother. The random reminders of home, pictures of family, and terrible jokes are always perfectly timed. A successful founder recently gave us some advice to help overcome the rough patches: keep an image of the handful of people you’re building your product for in mind. You guys are that core group.

I was originally going to call this blog post Whack-a-mole, or Zen and the Art of Problem Solving in an Accelerator, but I decided to change it at the last minute. Why? Mostly because it didn’t seem right to keep bitching about how often problems occur in startup life when we have so much to be thankful for. New and inventive problems are guaranteed, new and incredible support is not.

To everyone that has helped so far, and especially to those that we have somehow neglected to thank, please know that we recognize and appreciate everything you do.