Welcome to Level 4 of Jumanji

Congratulations, You Made It To April

Left: Photo of The Hilton, Denver | Right: My desk setup at night

Is it just me, or does it feel like 99th of March? The last 4-6 weeks, honestly, have been the busiest I’ve ever been. However, I am healthy and happy, so I can not complain.


Sadly, my trips to Australia and Canada have been cancelled. So now, we’ll have to change up the Saba Says Go Explore section indefinitely. Good news is that I’d love for you all to take part. Please REPLY to this email with the first place you’re going to fly when the ‘world opens up’, and I’ll include the most popular answers in the next update. Give me the city, country, and why you choose that place.


Ever got lost in a shopping center? Even after looking at the “interactive digital tour guide”. Yeah, me too. This is one of the problems Arway is solving. Founded by 17 year old Baran based out of the U.K, Arway is destined for great things.

Also, I’m thrilled that my Startups Rule The World shirts came in.

Thank you Steve Jenkins for modeling. He just started writing, so check him out on Medium here.


I am currently reading two books:

  1. Skin In The Game, by Nassim Taleb

  2. The Dictionary

The second one may seem like a joke, but it’s not. The first one, by Nassim, who also is the author of The Black Swan, writes in such a way, I am reading slower than I am, and need to look up the meaning of a word every few minutes. Here’s to getting smarter.

Here are some of my favorite quotes so far:

“Avoid taking advice from someone who gives advice for a living, unless there is a penalty for their advice.”

“No amount of advertising will match the credibility of a genuine user.”

If you read my blog last month, or you’re familiar with Naval, I have to point out that I see so many symmetries between Naval and Nassim. Sure, the form is different (books vs. micro-blogs and tweets), but the underlying sentiments for both seems so aligned. What do you think?


We just launched a new website. Check it out at techstars.com. There’s even a section on Covid if you want some resources. Additionally, we have close to 3000 jobs advertised in our network. Head to the Careers page to read more about it. Scroll half way down and you may see a face you recognize.

This is a challenging time to start a company, but it is also a wonderful time for innovation and entrepreneurship. So, now, more than ever, we need innovative startups. I hope you apply.


  1. Twitter: Pitch guidance for founders:

  1. Twitter: Advice to freelancers:

  2. Eight (less obvious) Traits of A Great Founder
    See original post on LinkedIn


Thorn: People, and friends, who are not following the quarantine/lockdown rules.

Rose: The #workfromhome channel on our Techstars slack, where my colleagues talk about things their pets or children did, but start the sentence with “My coworker…”. It bloody hilarious - makes my day.

I also started a trend/activity called for Zoom meetings, where you ask everyone attending to “grab the weirdest thing you can without getting up from your seat”. Try it, you’ll be shocked at some of the weirdest things people have laying around them. (I want to share the latest one I did with my team, but let me their for permission first.)

Bud: I know there’s a lot of anxiety, negativity and unknown at the moment, but there’s also something magical happening. And it’s quite pleasing to see everyone coming together. Hence, shoutouts to:

  • Jonathan F, for being a great cheerleader, and listener - although you talk 90% of the time.

  • Kelly K, for being brave and putting yourself out there. Sign up to her newsletter here.

  • Anthony K, someone I’ve never met in person, for the Office Hours.

  • Nana, who I met on Twitter and straight up offered content production help. Check out her sizzle here and reach out via nana@8heroes.com

  • Lyndon J, who continues to offer help online to strangers, and is even sharing his mobile number. What a legend!

Stay safe, and remember, always Do What You Love.

One Small Tweet for Saba

One giant leap for March

Left: Aga Khan Museum, Toronto | Right: My home office

And just like that January and February is history, and it’s finally March. 


Later this year I am heading to Canada, twice. First to Montreal for the annual staff conference for Techstars, then to Toronto for Collision Conference - the fastest growing tech conference in North America. Other than having the best oysters I’ve ever had, Toronto and Montreal continue being on the ‘up and coming cities’ list - and for good reason. It’s the home of Shopify, ElementAI, Ritual, WealthSimple, and Mejuri. It’s actually also the home of three Techstars accelerators.

Photo: © Saba Karim


The origin of my saying, hashtag and soon to be t-shirt, “Startups Rule The World”, was coined when I woke up one day and realized my life, and a lot of other people's lives, are surrounded by, if not controlled by startups. Think about how you get to the office, how to you work out, and stay connected with friends and family. They are all, or were effectively, startups at one point.

Just seeing how prominent Airbnb is, compared to hotel chains - makes me further confirm this notion. Think about this: the biggest accommodation company in the world doesn’t own any buildings. The most valuable transportation company in the world doesn't own any cars.

Isn’t that fascinating?


I have recently become (re)obsessed with Naval Ravikant, a.k.a. The Angel Philosopher - co-founder of AngelList and avid investor. He writes micro-blogs on nav.al, simultaneously tweets and puts out podcasts - so go consume how you want. He’s not your typical tech guy - very introspective and wise - and considered one of the greatest thinkers and entrepreneurs of our generation.

Just to give you a taste, here is one of my favorite quotes of his:

"The three big ones in life are wealth, health, and happiness. We pursue them in that order but their importance is in the reverse."

He has also written a series on ‘How To Get Rich (without getting lucky)” which is highly regarded too. Here’s quote from that:

"You don’t get rich by spending your time to save money. You get rich by saving your time to make money."


Techstars isn’t just an accelerator. It is a mentorship-driven accelerator, emphasizing that one of the core benefits is mentorship and coaching. This is unlike most other accelerators, that focus on funding, branding and such.

And as someone that’s had a mentor since his first job, I have tips on the four types of mentor relationships I think every founder should have:

  1. Someone who is a couple years ahead of you. You want to let them guide you to what’s happening in today’s fast changing world and follow in their footsteps. They’re ahead of you, and always will be, but this will give you an edge over the people at your stage.

  2. Someone who is a two to three decades older than you, so they can help you with the big picture stuff. They get technology + trends (having seen decades more), but they get people and business like no-one else. Nothing beats a classic uncle or neighbor, who crushed it in the 90’s.

  3. Someone who you mentor. There is immense benefit in mentoring others. It helps keeps you grounded, and forces you to listen to your own advice.

  4. Lastly, someone who gives you bad advice. We all have that one friend who tells you they’re launching this, and you should do that, yet, they haven’t seen any success. Hence, listening to them, if nothing else, will calm your mind and give you confidence. More on rejecting most advice by Naval here.


  1. Twitter: A couple weeks ago, a tweet of mine went semi-viral and reached close to 30,000 people… which was the inspiration for this updates title. Here it is:

Not sure what made it get so much steam, but look how my impressions it got, and how it’s just lifted it up since then too.

Also, 125K impressions in 28 days? That’s bloody humbling!

  1. On mentoring:

Me when mentoring startups:

The good thing is I’m going to be honest.

The bad thing is I’m going to be honest.

See original post on LinkedIn


  • Thorn: Founders who say things like “It would be all better if I could just code”. My issue with this is:

    1. It’s never been easier to learn coding, and,

    2. Coding won’t solve your problems. You still need to validate your idea and build something people want. And you can do that through No-Code, MVP or mockups. 

  • Rose: Less meetings = increased productivity. Taught by Naval:

    1. If someone says let’s meet in person > see if you can do a video call instead

    2. If someone wants a video call > see if a phone call suffices

    3. If someone wants a call > see if it can be turned into an email

    4. If it’s an email > see if you can answer it by chat/text 

  • Bud: If you enjoy the content I write, and want to see more of it, you may be interested in Saba Says X. It is an SMS service I am launching, where you’ll receive small bites of exclusive content, knowledge and articles weekly by text. Just reply if that sounds interesting to you.

Au revoir!

Coast to Coast

My journey from Melbourne to California

G’day, and a happy belated Australia Day to all my fellow Aussies. I hope it was a good one. I know it’s been a tough few weeks in certain parts with all the bushfires, so here’s additional thoughts and prayers for things to get better.

For those who don’t know, I am Australian. If you’re from around there, I hear you need to start planting some trees to help repair what’s been damaged. If anyone else wants to help, consider making a donation via GoFundMe.


I moved to the U.S in 2014 after getting accepted into my dream university, Stanford, to complete a post-graduate course in Global Management. Whilst it was an easy decision, it wasn’t an easy transition. I had pack up my room, shut down my business, give some tight hugs, get on a 24 hour flight, figure out how to drive on the other side of the road, and learn to speak slower.

Another thing I learnt was that a ‘furnished dorm’ included a mattress - but no pillow, sheets or blankets. Oops. Luckily, I had done some networking via Facebook Groups prior to coming and contacted Al Karim - who did the most gracious (yet evil) thing, and took me to Bed Bath & Beyond. Problem solved: yet wallet empty.

Point I’m trying to highlight here is, I think that Bay Area people can get a lot of slack for being arrogant, self-serving and elitist. Yet, within my first few hours and the rest of the trip there I felt anything but.

Yes, your Uber driver is likely going to pitch their startup to you, but the aspect of community there is pretty strong. It doesn’t beat Boston (#1 for sure!), but it’s up there.

Bay Area is great. Expensive, but worth it. Lots of homeless, but hopefully that’s changing. Needs more public transport, but at least it’s better than LA. And the food clearly compares to the quality+taste+authenticity you can find in Melbourne.

My favorite thing to do there, as cliche as it sounds is to cross the Golden Gate bridge...

…Day and Night.


During one of my lectures at Stanford, my kickass professor (Rebeca Hwang - one of the most amazing women I know) invited a guest speaker (wait till I tell you who it is), who brought his own special guest (CEO of Australia’s largest unicorn).

Needless to say, this was an incredible experience. I was star struct, learnt a ton, got madly inspired, and was so on my A game that I received a job offer by the end of the week.

“But, Saba, who are these people?”

  • Guest Speaker: Guy Kawasaki. A best-selling author, and Chief Evangelist of Canva, and previously Apple.

  • Guest Speakers Guest: Melanie Perkins: CEO and Co-Founder Canva.

Canva for me has been one of the best and most useful innovations in the last decade. As a designer (who grew up using Adobe Illustrator), turned marketer, the quality of the designs able to be made at lightning fast speeds is sensational. I can’t recommend it enough.

(FYI, I didn’t end up accepting the job as it meant leaving the U.S, and I had just got a taste of what the land of opportunity has to offer.)

(Photo: © Saba Karim)


Unlike any other book I have read, When Breath Becomes Air is a masterpiece, about Paul Kalanithi, a Stanford Neurosurgeon who shares his journey on battling stage IV lung cancer. It’s 'devastating and spectacular’, an emotional rollercoaster, moving and inspiring, and ever so powerful. Read it!


Ironically, today I want to share with you details about our newly announced accelerator. The Techstars Future of Longevity Accelerator, which is run in partnership with Pivotal Ventures - a Melinda Gates founded organization.

We’ll be sourcing startups focused on innovative and creative caregiving solutions to address the unmet needs of individuals providing and receiving elder care. Please reach out if you’re interested in applying, or know someone who is.


On dealflow…

On customer feedback…


  • Thorn: As hard as I try not to, my email inbox keeps turning into my to do list. I’m receiving 50-60 emails per day and it’s killing my productivity. How do you avoid interruptions during the work day? Suggestions appreciated.

  • Rose: Another brown immigrant just became CEO of a large American corporation. Arvin Krishna becomes CEO of IBM, joining Shantanu Narayen of Adobe, Sundar Pichai of Google and Alphabet, Indra Nooyi of Pepsico, and Satya Nadella of Microsoft.

  • Bud: Related to the above, although my goal isn’t to become the CEO of a large corporation - because I love startups and disruption too much 😉, seeing people that look like me gives me hope that I too can make a bigger impact one day.

“These young guys are playing checkers. I'm out there playing chess.”
– Kobe Bryant, (1978 - 2020)

#RIPKobe and all the victims in the devastating crash on Jan 26th.

20/20 Vision

Happy New Year

(Photo: © Imran Idrus)

Last year I set the goal of reading 48 books. And… unfortunately, I did not reach my target. I did come close though, closing out the year reading Atomic Habits (more on that below), which was book number 41. This was a record for me, having read just 12 the year before.


On a positive note, I also traveled to more cities last year than I have ever before, so that too was quite gratifying. I traveled to 21 cities across three continents, mostly in the U.S, Italy and Australia. Now that I think about it, this is likely why I didn’t read as many books as I intended – since I was busy gallivanting everywhere, so I can’t be too hard on myself. Highlights:

  • Best coffee - Milan (Duh!)

  • Favorite beach - Honolulu

  • Coolest place to explore by scooter - Paris

  • Friendliest people - Lisbon

  • Preferred weather - Los Angeles

  • Top place to get sh#t done - New York

  • Best hugs - courtesy of my nieces and nephews in Melbourne


Although, not quite a “startup” anymore, Tesla is exceptional. Driving the Model 3 around for the last few weeks, I can whole heartedly say Tesla will (has already) truly disrupted the automotive industry. It’s like driving the future, and I can’t wait to see what’s next.


  • It’s ghostly quiet, yet whiplashingly fast.

  • Autopilot works like magic. I was in absolute awe seeing it with my own eyes.

  • The tech, screen and apps are seamless. Driving anything else feels primitive now.


  • Charging it can be a hassle. There’s a ton of nuances with certain charging stations, and believe it or not, lines to charge sometimes. Who knew?

  • I lost Internet connection for a few minutes at one point and had no idea what to do, where to go, or why it happened. Luckily, I wasn’t in traffic or on a highway - but that could have been bad.


Atomic Habits is the fundamental how-to guide on living an optimized life. And if you know anything about me, I like to optimize everything. It honestly was the ideal last book to read for 2019 because it’s helped me strategize a plan of attack for 2020. I don’t know what my big goal is yet, but when I figure it out, I’ll let you know - and I’ll be able to plan it accordingly.

All I know is that my big picture ambition is unquestionably to slow down. The last year was ludicrous to say the least, so I am looking forward to walking slower, having more down-time, building stronger relationships, making more meaningful connections, improving focus, less negativity, and more doing things for the first time.


Techstars is proud to once again be presenting the Startup Stage at CES, hosting two days of exclusive innovation and entrepreneurship programming next week, on such topics as the future of healthcare, fundraising, university entrepreneurship, smart mobility, smart cities and sports tech.

1PM on Tuesday is the must-see Leadership Panel - Fundraising: How to Close The Deal & Activate Your Network. Check out the full agenda here.


  1. On marketing…

  2. On gratitude…

It is mind-blowing how powerful the follow words can be:
“Seriously... don’t worry about it”
“Trust me, you are going to be amazing”
“Wow - good job”

Try it with your cofounders, colleagues or employees this week - and practice it everyday.

See original post on LinkedIn.


  • Rose: 2019 was awesome. Some honorable mentions: Seeing Kygo perform live, attending TechCrunch Disrupt, Denver Startup Week, Web Summit, religiously attending Book Club with some of the best people I know, launching a #GiveFirst community focused event series, putting up our first ever Christmas tree, and last but not least, seeing the the most beautiful sunrise ever on with loved ones on NYE in Malibu.

  • Bud: Slowing down, planning more, thinking bigger, getting healthier, wealthier and wiser.

  • Thorn: I rewatched Jobs yesterday, directed by Joshua Michael Stern, which 1. reminded me how remarkable Steve Jobs was, and 2. See below…

Happy New Year all. Hope 2020 is your best year yet.

The Quick Brown...Ask

And some statistics for those who are curious.

What’s up everyone! Just a quick email with an Ask, and some Stats on how Saba Says is going… because you know, authenticity is key in building relationships ☺️


I would sincerely love if you could forward this email to just ONE person that you think would get value out of them. Here’s what they will want to know:

Who Am I?

Saba Karim. Aussie raised Founder / Marketer, now sourcing startups globally for Techstars. Click here for full summary.

What is Saba Says?

A monthly update that gets delivered to your inbox about entrepreneurship, travel, book recommendations, all things Techstars, and educational content - for founders and aspiring entrepreneurs.

Share Saba Says

Or feel free to post, DM, or Message this to your colleagues or buddies:

Hey <firstname>, you should check out my friends monthly newsletter style blog. He writes about startups, tech and Techstars - and I think you may enjoy them too. You can sign up for free at saba.substack.com


  • Saba Says currently has 208 subscribers. Can we get it to 300 before the next update on January 1st?

  • Having started this on my 33rd birthday this year on May 25th, I have written 6 updates to date.

  • The average open rate is 61%, and click-through rate is 32%

  • The most viewed update is the Back to School Special.

What does this all mean? Not sure. All I know is that I am having fun. So I hope you are enjoying these too. I’m open to suggestions on content you’d love to see!

If it’s not interesting to you at all – you can totally unsubscribe. No hard feelings, I promise.


P.S. Remember how I said I had a goal of reading 48 books this year? How many do you think I’ll end up reading by December 31st. Hit reply and give me your best guess!

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