After 36 hours, my sense is that it is going to be both of those things (more all all that in some other posts), but it is also going to be a major journey of transformation. After 3 months of this program, I am going to be significantly altered in what I know and what I have experienced--and that seems amazingly exciting.
Two of the themes that have started to emerge at TechStars are: "Find amazing mentors" and "Early stage VCs fund people, not ideas."
TechStars director David Cohen (who is wonderful) is the proponent of the first statement and what it means to him (and therefore to all us eager students), is Find people you click with, who have knowledge you need, and listen deeply, learn from them, and build those relationships." We have about 50 mentors who are part of the program, mostly local (or seriously passing through) and a big part of the focus is meeting with them. But we're also encouraged to reach beyond these folks, into the local community and into the world, letting the TechStars team help make connections, if needed.)
Brad Feld, another founder (and a bold and interesting VC), is the person who talked about how early stage VCs fund people, not ideas. According to Brad, much of the judgments about early investments are based on feelings about the founders, the team and whether the person can deliver. Because ideas morph, both to meet budgets and timelines, but also because of user feedback on your early releases, So while having a business plan, a sense of where revenue is going to come from, and some solid data are all important, the relationships are core(at least for Bard and his circle.)
For me, this implies that part of the TechStars experience is learning how to develop ideas and run companies; while getting the right focus for our big idea and truly defining what problem we are solving--and then iterating a product solution to address these solutiuons --is key, so is absorbing this wisdom so we can do it again and again--and that feels amazingly transformative.