From Microsoft Lay-Off to TechStars Acceptance…in One Day

It was July 7th, 2010.  The day started off same as every other day.  I slogged through my 45 minute morning commute out to the Microsoft campus, the same one I’d been doing every day for the past five years.  When I got in, I caught up on some Email, grabbed some coffee, and then walked down to my manager’s office for what I thought was going to be a quick update on our plans for the upcoming fiscal year.  I stepped into his office and was surprised to see he was not alone.  Our team’s HR rep was sitting in there with him.  It took me about 5 seconds to realize what was going on.  “Microsoft has decided to restructure the operations of our team, resulting in the elimination of several positions…”  My stomach sank.  I was getting laid off.

The rest of the meeting was a blur of paperwork, though there was only one thing that was on my mind – what the hell was I going to tell my wife?  She’s an amazing person and incredibly supportive, but making that phone call to her was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.  I headed home and dove headfirst into the pile of paperwork I was handed on my way out.  While I was still completely in shock, amid the feelings of anger and helplessness I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of relief. 

Working at Microsoft was an amazing opportunity for me and while I had a ton of respect for the people I was working with on a daily basis, I had known for a while now that it wasn’t the right place for me long term.  As anyone who has read my blog for the past three years could tell, my true passion wasn’t with Microsoft or any other large company – it was with startups.  And though I was still reeling from the big news, in the back of my mind I knew that I had one shot-in-the-dark opportunity to turn this whole thing around. 

Over the past few weeks, I had been going through the application process for TechStars Seattle.  For those who don’t know, TechStars is a technology incubation program that was started out of Boulder, CO and was expanding to Seattle for the first time in the fall of 2010.  I had been following TechStars for a while and was stoked to hear that it was coming here to Seattle.  Some friends and I had applied with an idea we built out at a Startup Weekend event in March, and to our surprise and amazement, managed to make it to the top 30 finalists out of a total of over 400 applicants.  The decision to choose the final 10 teams was supposed to come out any day, but I just couldn’t stand to wait any longer.  I dashed off a quick Email to the lead of TechStars Seattle, crossed my fingers, and hit send. 

“You’re in. You guys will get an Email later today.”  The Email came a few hours later, and I literally can’t even describe the excitement and joy and relief I felt from reading those words.  I couldn’t believe we were actually going to be participating in a program that I had such a deep respect and admiration for.  I went from sitting in traffic on the way to my ordinary corporate job in the morning to being an official full-time founder of a startup by the end of the day.  Pretty incredible.

I’m not going to rehash my entire TechStars experience to date, but I will say, the past two months have gone above and beyond my lofty expectations.  It’s been intense, but the people I’ve met and the experiences I’ve had so far have already put us and our startup in a fantastic position to succeed.  I’ll have more to say after the end of the program in mid-November, so stay tuned.  And in the meantime, if you have any questions about the program or want to be a part of our initial beta program, drop me a line at kevin@giantthinkwell.com.    

Interested in applying to be part of the next TechStars class in NYC?  Applications are open now: http://www.techstars.org/nyc   Also, the new book “Do More Faster” by TechStars founders David Cohen and Brad Feld is now available for pre-order at Amazon here.

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10 responses to “From Microsoft Lay-Off to TechStars Acceptance…in One Day

  1. congrats my friend. I did not know you left MS.
    all the best for your company.
    Julien.

  2. This is a great story! Good luck with the startup, would be great if you could share some details about it (or I should go through your posts to check whether you wrote about it). Kudos.

  3. Thanks guys! Bart, we’re keeping the company a bit quiet for another month, but will definitely be sharing more about it soon.

  4. Congratulations on the transition, Kevin — had I known you were working at Microsoft at the time of your TeachStreet Profile/writeup on Seattle 2.0, I’d have refused the writeup ;-) Can’t wait to see what you launch — definitely add me to the beta/early-heads-up list!

    Dave

  5. Ha, thanks Dave! We’ll definitely add you to the list.

  6. They make you belive it’s a huge privilege to have been accepted. Excuse me but… for the pleasure of going through their “program”, you’ll have to give away a LOT of equity for ridiculous amounts of $.

  7. Hi Jaja – Thanks for the comment. As with many early decisions we’re making with our startup, we definitely weighed the pros and cons of joining an incubator program prior to making the jump. For us, the money was a very small part of it. The biggest advantage so far was the 3-6 month acceleration of our business. We probably could have made the critical connections to investors, advisors, and partners that we’ve made to date without TechStars, but it would have taken a *lot* of extra time and effort. The opportunity cost we saved outweighed the small equity stake we gave up, so for us it’s been the right decision. Of course, different businesses and situations are all unique, so I can only speak for ourselves on this one. :)

  8. There is saying in many cultures (including in my south indian culture) that says – “Whatever happens, happens for good” and “When one door shuts, the other door opens up for you”.

    Though this is not believed by science, I believe in it. I always wanted to work on something on my own, but my time has not yet come. I will probably keep trying until I succeed.

    All the best for your app and do add me in for your beta program.

  9. Hi Kevin,

    great to hear you turned a blow of fate into a great opportunity! Good luck with your startup and sign me up for the beta!

  10. It will be nice if you could share a little bit more about the company.

    VeztekUSA

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