How to Build a Successful Startup – an Interview with David Tisch of TechStars

It’s 11.38pm as I’m starting to write this, so I’ll keep it brief.

The latest startup interview from Grovo came out today. It’s with David Tisch who runs the TechStars incubator in New York.

David sees lots of startups from an early stage, so has an interesting vantage point on things.

Here’s a quick rundown of the more actionable highlights from what he had to say…

Founder/product or founder/market fit

This is one of the things David looks for when selecting startups for TechStars. You need at least one of the following:

  1. Direct experience of a pain point in the space
  2. A thesis on the space (how the status quo is broken and how things will look in the future)
  3. A network within the space that gives you an unfair advantage over other people

The actionable takeaway is this: when choosing a business to start, find one where you have at least one (preferably two or three) of the advantages above.

Personally, I agree with 1 & 3, but I’m not sure about the existence of a thesis on the space as a useful indicator of ‘fit’. For example, I have a thesis about the future shape of the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK but as I’ve never worked in that sector, it’s very likely my thesis is wrong in important ways.


David argues that storytelling is the number one skill you need to learn as an entrepreneur. You need to be able to express your story in an exciting and engaging way. e.g. why are you doing this, what hiccups and successes have you encountered along the way. This isn’t just important when speaking to investors (like David) but to everyone: journalists, customers, potential hires, etc.


As a startup, David recommends experimenting wildly and widely with your marketing (at least, I think he’s talking about marketing when he mentions this). Test as many things as you can and see what sticks.

I’d agree broadly with that. Though in reality, limited time and money generally mean you have to be selective and prioritise testing the handful of marketing techniques you think are likely to work best. This is one area where I think experience can be very valuable.

The rest of the interview is more focused on TechStars and New York. You can see it all here.

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