Shawn Broderick Departing TechStars Boston for Social Games Startup

[Updated, see below] Shawn Broderick, managing director of the TechStars Boston startup incubator program since it came to the Hub in early 2009, is stepping down. Broderick announced the move publicly in a blog post Friday evening.

The news comes in the middle of the TechStars Annual Summit in New York—where founders of 50 of the 70 companies that have gone through the program are gathering for a reunion this weekend—and just as applications have begun to roll in for the program’s spring 2011 session in Boston. A search is underway for a replacement director, Broderick says in the post.

Broderick, a serial entrepreneur and Xconomist who founded reputation management startup TrustPlus prior to joining TechStars, guided the Boston incarnation of the Boulder, CO-born program through two full sessions and helped midwife 19 companies, many of which are thriving today. He explains in the post that he’s leaving the startup school because “something had to give” after he decided to start a new company, play140, last spring, and accepted an adjunct professorship at Boston University.

“When applications opened last week for TechStars Boston 2011, the reality of the 24-hours-in-a-day constraint started settling in,” Broderick writes. “David Cohen, CEO of TechStars, and I had a number of back-and-forths and we’ve come to the conclusion that I should bow out of TechStars.”

He says that TechStars is now “firmly established” in Boston and that the last two years “have been an incredible incredible experience.” He plans to stay on as a mentor to future TechStars startups; the program revolves heavily around guidance from experienced entrepreneurs who volunteer their time and, in many cases, become investors in the young companies.

The post thanks numerous TechStars players, including Cohen, interns Diane Hadaya and Elizabeth Swartz, and Brad Feld, a Boulder-based venture partner who has been closely associated with TechStars since its founding. Feld “thought I might really dig this,” Broderick says. “You were right, dude—thanks!”

TechStars, founded in 2007, operates four 90-day incubator sessions per year, in Boston (spring), Boulder (summer), Seattle (fall), and New York (winter). Boston was the first city added to the TechStars network after Boulder.

Broderick says play140, which runs Twitter-based word games including Smash and TAG: The Acronym Game, will launch formally in a few weeks and has already raised seed funding and grown to five employees.

Update 11:20 a.m., 11/20/10: TechStars founder David Cohen thanks Broderick for his service in a blog post this morning and says of the search for a replacement, “If we can find someone with one tenth of Shawn’s passion for startups, we will be in good shape.” Cohen says that TechStars is already speaking with “several strong candidates” and that a replacement will be announced in the near future.

Also, Xconomy reached Broderick by e-mail this morning and conducted the following short Q&A.

Xconomy: What was the biggest highlight of your time as TechStars director?

Shawn Broderick: I can’t say there was one unique time or highlight or event. The most memorable moments for me are from the end of each program, seeing teams and founders who three months earlier couldn’t string a useful marketing message together, or couldn’t pitch to save their lives, or whose business was wildly unfocused – kicking ass and succeeding beyond what they even thought possible. Those moments made me insanely proud of what the program and mentors and founders were and are able to accomplish.

X: What unique role do you feel TechStars plays in Boston?

SB: Net-net, TechStars tries to be a catalyst in the communities we love, to help make them the best communities they can be for entrepreneurs. It takes a village to build a successful entrepreneurial ecosystem. Every ecosystem we’re in is unique and not static. Hopefully we’re smart enough and nimble enough to augment each community where and when it needs the most help.

X: What excites you about your next gig?

SB: What excites me most about play140 at this stage is the green-field scope of our market. We’re building text-based, social games payable by 2 to 3 billion people on the planet. It’s daunting and exhilarating!

Wade Roush is a freelance science and technology journalist and the producer and host of the podcast Soonish. Follow @soonishpodcast

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