A New Chapter

When I announced that we were not going to raise a third fund at Highway 12 Ventures eighteen months ago, I was fairly certain that the next chapter in my career would be something quite different from what I’ve been doing since 1995. Committed to managing our portfolio, I didn’t give much thought to that future, but when I did I imagined a real change in direction. Different opportunities began to present themselves and at the behest of my close friend Scott Caruso (who had recently reached a similar crossroads in his career), I began a journal to record my thoughts about the future. He suggested I commit to write down and define the things that would be most important to me and then apply that filter as different opportunities appeared.

Concurrently, shortly after our announcement my good friend David Cohen (founder and CEO of TechStars) reached out and asked me to consider joining him at TechStars. Incredibly flattered (I have enormous respect for David and his passion for helping entrepreneurs) but focused on Highway 12, I told him that I was ready for a fresh new chapter when my responsibilities ended here. Nevertheless, he’d occasionally prod me as I see and talk to him often.

Believing that being a part of the TechStars community has been one of the primary reasons for our success as a firm, I’ve increased my long-time role as a mentor over the last year, coaching founders who have graduated from various TechStars programs around the country regarding their financing strategies for raising venture capital. I’ve greatly enjoyed getting to know many of the alumni founders and it’s been very gratifying for me to see them successfully raise follow-on rounds.

Working more closely in an advisory role with these bright young entrepreneurs has reminded me how much I enjoy this work, and their positive feedback has reinforced to me that the sum of my experiences is worth sharing. If you’ve read my blog (here or at Highway 12 Ventures) over the last few years, you know what a tremendous fan I’ve been of TechStars since it’s inception. As a long-time mentor to the Boulder program and investor in a handful of TechStars companies, I’ve had a front row seat to what I believe is the greatest phenomenon that’s occurred for startups in this country since Al Gore invented the Internet.

Let’s go back to my journal. I decided that in a perfect world, the next chapter in my career would afford me (among other things) the opportunity to:

• Work with people I really like and respect
• Work on something that helps make the world a better place
• Allow my work to expose my teenage children to something that could positively impact how they shape their lives
• Allow me to contribute to my community

The longer I spent time working closely with the team at TechStars and the incredible entrepreneurs who go through the programs, the more apparent it became to me that all of my boxes were being checked. My wife Pam has instilled in our family a notion that you have to “trust that the wind knows where it’s going” and it was becoming quite clear to me that this breeze had turned into a jetstream.

Therefore after a great deal of introspection (along with the support of my family and my partner Phil Reed), I’ve decided to join David and the entirely awesome TechStars team in helping them to pursue a vision of providing the promising startup entrepreneurs with world-class, community-driven mentorship programs. My role as a general partner at TechStars will focus largely on capital formation for the network; specifically for alumni companies, the individual programs, and raising and managing investment capital for TechStars itself.

Emphatically, I will continue my role as Managing Partner of Highway 12 Ventures as we wind down our firm. With the recent acquisitions of Vico Software, Max-Viz and Everlater, we are executing on our goal of producing handsome returns for our investors. I also believe my role at TechStars will allow me to bring more resources than ever to our startup community in Boise, a role that I’m deeply passionate about. I will not be moving and our office in Boise will stay open until the end of our fund. Phil, Derek, Denise and I will function exactly as we have for the last decade, there will not be any changes.

I am grateful to David for the opportunity to be part of such an exciting and important endeavor, and am truly inspired to work alongside the entire TechStars team, a group of very special people who have dedicated themselves to helping entrepreneurs everywhere. I also can’t thank my partner Phil enough. Working side by side with him over the last decade has forged the most meaningful relationship of my entire career. He’s been a brother, father and mentor to me and I love him dearly for the patience, support and encouragement he’s so freely given me. Thank you Phil.

I’m excited about both my new role at TechStars and continuing to help manage the growth of our portfolio at Highway 12 Ventures along with Phil and Derek. I’m looking forward to the busy days ahead.

Showing 23 comments
  • David Mandell (@dgmandell)
    Reply

    wOOt!

  • Toby Murdock
    Reply

    congrats Mark. that’s great for everyone: you, techstars, startup communities!

  • Paul Berberian (@pberberian)
    Reply

    Congrats Mark! TechStars just got a supercharger – perfect role for you and one needed for TS.

    I’m really happy for you.

  • Pete Gombert
    Reply

    Congratulations to you for trusting your gut, believing in yourself and your process, and for landing in an amazing place – it’s a tremendous story that continues to unfold. Can’t wait to see what the next chapter brings.

  • Ginger Cohen
    Reply

    TechStars is lucky (and I’m sure thrilled) to have you on the team.

  • Steven Sakadales
    Reply

    Congratulations Mark! What a great place to be in life…to have the flexibility to be able to move in the direction of your choice. Much luck and prosperity in this new adventure.

  • William Sulinski
    Reply

    Congratulations Mark, was at your preso at TS FounderCon on post-seed funding and dug your approach to adding value to those raising rounds. Good luck!

  • Mike Lewis (@pescatello)
    Reply

    Nice! Excited to keep running into you around Boulder, and looking forward to more rides up Sunshine canyon together.

  • kevinprentiss
    Reply

    What an awesome transition to further your values- well played.

    Just let us know when your teens are ready for their NYC internships : )

  • Jeff Reynolds
    Reply

    TechStars and Boise are lucky to have you. Big things ahead!

  • Tac Anderson (@tacanderson)
    Reply

    This is so great Mark. I’m super excited for you. It’s such a great fit, I’m looking forward to following your continued success.

  • David Cohen
    Reply

    Wait. I think I would have heard about this if it was true. Right?

    I kid! Let’s do this.

  • Clare
    Reply

    So excited to have you on board. Welcome welcome welcome.

  • Kyle Porter (@b2bKyle)
    Reply

    Can’t say enough great things about Mark. Positive, supportive, wicked smart…awesome combination all around. Way to go TS!

  • Nikki
    Reply

    Mark, this is so so great. I am so happy you’ve landed at an inspiring place where you can contribute long-term. Congratulations!

  • Dan Givens
    Reply

    Good for you, Mark. Well deserved!

  • Perry
    Reply

    Just “catching up”, Mark – I’m not surprised, your passion for entrepreneurs has spilled out in every encounter. I look forward t re-kindling the connect over an AVS game soon. We’re about to enter a sober chapter for start-ups, and I couldn’t think of a better guy to help them not lose the disruptive spirit, while morphing into businesses. Awesome move!

    • Mark Solon
      Reply

      You’re such a gentleman for taking the time to share your generous thoughts Perry. I would absolutely LOVE to spend a night at a game together. What lockout? It’s ON!

pingbacks / trackbacks
  • […] I joined TechStars a few months ago, the question I’ve been asked the most by my colleagues in the venture […]

  • […] Mark went all in with David and Techstars and the result is not only Techstars Ventures and the $150 million fund, but incredible growth and progress with Techstars, in which Mark has been instrumental. […]

  • […] Mark went all in with David and Techstars and the result is not only Techstars Ventures and the $150 million fund, but incredible growth and progress with Techstars, in which Mark has been instrumental. […]

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