Introducing The Techstars Foundation, a Non-Profit to Improve Diversity in Technology Entrepreneurship

Today we are excited to launch the Techstars Foundation.

Over the past year, many of our alumni, investors, and mentors have encouraged us to think hard about inclusive entrepreneurship. We decided that we wanted to do something very meaningful that would have a lasting impact on this issue — and so we created the Techstars Foundation. The goal of the foundation is to improve diversity in tech entrepreneurship by providing opportunities for underrepresented entrepreneurs through grants, scholarships, and sponsorships.

Creating the Techstars Foundation is also a way for us to take further action on top of the White House Diversity Commitment we made in August. That commitment involves increasing the numbers of female applicants and mentors in our accelerator programs, tracking and increasing minority participation, adding women to our selection committee, and publishing our diversity data annually. We want to do all of this as well as having a direct impact financially.

Founders and employees of Techstars, along with a number of alumni and mentors, have made an initial cash contribution to the Techstars Foundation, which launches today with more than $500,000. We are thrilled to offer a way for Techstars accelerator alumni, partners, mentors, Startup Weekend and Next alumni, and other supporters to Give First by providing access and opportunity to underrepresented minorities and – together – create stronger entrepreneur communities worldwide.

The Techstars Foundation is fortunate to have the guidance of an incredible board of advisors, including Brad Feld (Managing Director, Foundry Group), Mary Grove (Director, Google for Entrepreneurs), Jenny Lawton (Chief Strategy Officer, littleBits), Rod Robinson (Founder and CEO, Connxus), and Lucy Sanders (Founder and CEO, National Center for Women and Information Technology).

If you would like to get involved, please consider donating cash or stock to the Techstars Foundation. You can also name the foundation as a beneficiary. Your contribution is tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law.

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The Techstars Code of Conduct

Techstars was founded in 2007 and since then we’ve funded more than 500 companies. These companies have been trusted with the obligations that come with more than $1.2B in follow on funding from angel investors and venture capitalists. Techstars is now funding close to 200 new companies each year. There are also now over 1,500 founders who have participated in a Techstars accelerator. Some of these founders have seen great success, some have tasted failure and some have even gone on to found their next companies.

Lately, we’ve all been reading about some bad behavior by startups in the industry. We’ve heard about startups stealing contact lists and spamming people in the name of “growth hacking.”  We’ve seen companies posting fake comments and using hidden identities to discredit their competition. While we can’t fix the behavior of others, we have decided to be clear about behaviors that are not acceptable to us here at Techstars. That’s why we have published the Techstars Code of Conduct.

This is a living document managed by our community. We’re including the current version below in this post so that others can see what we expect of Techstars companies. Just as importantly, it’s the behavior that their business partners, customers, and employees can expect of them.  Techstars is for life, so the benefits of being part of our ecosystem will always be there throughout each founder’s entire career as long as they continue to earn the trust of their community.

We have reviewed the Code of Conduct with founders of Techstars companies as well as many of our mentors. Each new Techstars company will receive this Code of Conduct when we fund them.  I’m proud of the integrity and behavior that Techstars alumni have displayed historically, and that they are committed to doing business by this Code, now and into the future.

Techstars companies must hold themselves to the highest standards as part of the Techstars community. We recognize that each of us is an ambassador for Techstars and for each other. Integrity in each of our companies is central to protecting our reputation for each other and for future companies. As part of the Techstars global community, we realize that we are living in public and need to act appropriately at all times. Therefore, those who do not abide by this Code of Conduct will be removed from the Techstars community and will no longer have access to the associated benefits.

The Techstars Code of Conduct revolves around three key principles.

  1. We give first.
  2. We act with integrity.
  3. We treat others with respect.

We give first.


1. We help others whenever possible.  We are all busy, but when the ask is sincere and realistic, we respond and help.  We are respectful of each other’s time and are clear and focused in our requests.

2. We deliberately create a virtuous cycle. We proactively work to give back to the ecosystem by giving first to others in our community with no specific expectations of return.

3. We appreciate the help of others. No one goes it alone – startups are a team activity. We express our appreciation for the help of our customers, mentors, and others that make our success possible.

We act with integrity.


4. We are honest and transparent. If we say something either publicly or privately, then we believe that it is true. We do not intentionally omit important and relevant factual information in an effort to deceive others. We strive to be clear and transparent in our communications.

5. We protect sensitive information. When we are entrusted with sensitive, confidential or personal information we use appropriate measures to secure it.  We respect requests for privacy and confidentiality.

6. We communicate with our investors. We will send an update on our business at least every six months and be responsive to their inquiries.

7. If we fail, we fail well. If we are going out of business, we will notify our customers and make their data available to them for at least 60 days. We will advise every one of our investors and provide the chance to discuss what went wrong in a live conversation. If we know the company is going to fail, we attempt to return as much capital to investors as possible.

8. We disclose known conflicts of interest early. We err on the side of too much disclosure.

9. We do not steal assets or content. We encourage and respect independent, innovating thinking.

We treat others with respect.


10. We commit to non-hostile, open, and welcoming workplaces. We commit that employees, partners, customers, and visitors feel accepted and free to express their opinions, concerns, and needs with an expectation that they will be heard and respected.  We communicate professionally and appropriately at all times.

11. We don’t tolerate illegal discrimination or harassment in any form. We will quickly fire employees who do this, and train our employees to recognize and address bad behavior. We will ban or fire mentors, investors, employees, contractors and others who discriminate or harass others.

12. We encourage diversity. We commit to seeking diverse perspectives and building inclusive work environments, which we believe leads to better companies.

13. We stand up for others. We appropriately intervene in situations when we witness violations of this Code and report violations.

14. We are reachable and responsive. We will enable standard forms of communication so that anyone doing business with us can have a reasonable expectation of receiving a response in a timely fashion.

15. We participate in both offline and online forums with respect. We don’t cause or participate in flame wars online. We participate in respectful discourse in all forums. We do not comment anonymously or with false identities.

16. We respect our legal agreements. We do not attempt to circumvent their intentions.

17. We keep our promises. If we commit to do something, we do our best to do it. If we can’t keep our promises for some reason then we strive to make it right in any way possible.

18. We do right by our customers. We strive to deliver products that delight our customers and seek to exceed their expectations.

19. We do not attack others electronically. We don’t maliciously attack others using scripts, robots, or similar techniques.

20. We are not spammers. We do not send bulk unsolicited email nor do we scrape contact lists and abuse them. We don’t harass prospective customers who have clearly said no to us and opted out of communications.

21. We work for the benefit of our companies. We always work for the benefit of our company, not for our own personal benefit.

22. We encourage professional development. As founders, we do everything we can to ensure the happiness and professional growth of our employees.

23. We avoid gossip. We don’t share disparaging comments and rumors about others. We are constructive in our feedback and always provide it directly to the individual or company to which it pertains.

The Techstars Founders Code of Conduct is a living document managed by our community. For suggested changes, please contact us.

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How Techstars Came to Austin

In April of 2012, Mike Dodd and Tom Ball of Austin Ventures reached out to me with a simple email. It said, in effect, “We need Techstars in Austin, and we’d like to help make it happen.” A few weeks later, Mike came to Boulder to meet with us. They helped us understand what was happening in Austin, and why it would be a great market for Techstars. In classic #givefirst style, they offered to do whatever they could to help us make progress and remove roadblocks.

Many things happened behind the scenes over the next year and Mike, Tom, and the whole gang at Austin Ventures helped with connections and really got behind the effort. One year later, we publicly launched Techstars into the Austin market with the support and backing of the broader community, including more than 100 fantastic local mentors. Watching how those mentors have dug in and helped startups succeed there has been inspiring.

Now Austin is part of the global ecosystem that is Techstars today. We operate accelerator programs in Austin, Berlin, Boston, Boulder, Chicago, Detroit, Kansas City, London, New York City, San Antonio, San Diego, and Seattle. Those 100 mentors in Austin are now part of a global network of more than 1,500 mentors across our system. Techstars has funded about 500 companies now, and those companies have gone on to raise an average of $2.2M each, and more than $1.1B in total.

Austin is now a big part of the Techstars global network. With the addition of our new $150M fund, we plan on continuing to invest in Austin. Jason Seats is a partner in this fund and is based in Austin. Derek Keller, a Principal with the fund is also based in Austin full time.

With the news last week that Austin Ventures would not be raising a new early stage fund, the headlines proclaimed that the experts were worried about the lack of availability of startup capital in Austin going forward. I have no idea who those “experts” are, but that’s not something I’m concerned about when I think about the Austin startup community. There are truly great startups being born there regularly. Money will always follow high quality entrepreneurs. Techstars will continue to make seed investments through the accelerator in Austin, but also watch for us to make Series A investments locally as well through our new fund and our active presence there.

Austin Ventures has obviously been a huge part of the growth and maturity of the Austin startup community.  Thanks in part to their foresight and efforts, there are now many other sources of early stage capital in town.  Techstars, and many other organizations in the city today have Austin Ventures to thank for encouraging and supporting us. They could have looked at us as competitive, but instead they put entrepreneurs first and thought deeply about the needs of the overall community, now and into the future.

Hats off to Austin Ventures.

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Techstars Ventures Raises New $150M Fund

Today, we are unveiling our third and newest Techstars Ventures fund.

Techstars Ventures 2014 is a $150M seed and series A fund. The fund’s strategy is to invest in companies emerging from the Techstars ecosystem, which includes Techstars accelerator program graduates, new companies started by Techstars alumni, and companies formed by Techstars mentors.

Since 2007, companies in our ecosystem of founders, alumni and mentors have raised more than $5 billion in venture capital from a diverse set of leading venture capital firms. We are incredibly proud of these existing portfolio companies, which employ thousands of people and have a total enterprise value of more than $42 billion. And, of course, we’re also very proud of the more than 1,500 Techstars mentors worldwide who through their efforts have changed the way that startups are created.

Through our venture funds, we’ve been co-investing alongside the angel and venture capital communities in Techstars companies since 2009. With this new fund, we will continue to  thoughtfully co-invest alongside the broader venture community in companies that are part of the Techstars ecosystem of founders, alumni and mentors.

When Mark Solon and I decided to raise this new fund, we knew the job was going to get much bigger and we’d need more focused help. Techstars has been growing as an organization and some true superstars have emerged.

We are thrilled to announce the addition of three new partners to the fund:

  • Jason Seats was the founder of Slicehost (acquired by Rackspace), and has managed both Techstars Cloud and Techstars Austin since joining us in 2011.
  • Nicole Glaros is a fantastic investor who has managed and provided oversight for Techstars programs in Colorado, New York and Texas since joining us in 2009.
  • Ari Newman founded Filtrbox (acquired by Jive) in 2007 and participated in the first-ever Techstars program that same year, then joined Techstars in 2011.

The Techstars team is now more than sixty professionals whose daily focus is adding value to our portfolio companies. We have offices with Managing Directors in Austin, Boulder, Berlin, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Kansas City, London, Los Angeles, New York City, San Antonio, San Diego, and Seattle.

We would like to thank our Limited Partners who have placed their trust (and money) with us. It’s a small group of some of the most notable institutional investors in the world and we’re honored to have them be an important part of this new fund. We love nothing more than investing in and helping startups do incredible things, so thank you to all of the founders and companies who have allowed us to be a small part of their inspiring stories. Techstars is mentorship-driven, and we too have had incredible mentors help us along the way. You know who you are, and we want you to know we appreciate everything you have done for us. You have been nothing short of incredible as people, friends, and mentors to us. Thank you!

The latest Techstars Ventures fund is active and making investments today. We’re proud to already be invested in three promising companies: Distil Networks, Conspire, and Ello.

You can read more about our accelerators or Techstars Ventures, and of course feel free to contact us at any time.  

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Techstars++ Launches with Mayo Clinic

Today we’re excited to be rolling out Techstars++, a new program that leverages our network of corporate partners to provide new business opportunities to post accelerator program entrepreneurs. Techstars++ initially launches with the Mayo Clinic and we expect to announce additional partners soon.

Techstars++ offers companies from across the Techstars network the opportunity to extend their Techstars experience by spending time on site and engaging deeply with a relevant corporate partner. For example, after completing Techstars, healthcare-oriented companies can spend two weeks at the Mayo Clinic exploring business development opportunities and other synergies. A full time Techstars Program Director will reside on-site and work closely with the startups and the corporation to help maximize the opportunity. There is no charge to Techstars companies to participate in Techstars++.

After completing a Techstars program, relevant companies who participate in Techstars++ spend two weeks on site with the appropriate corporate partner and receive hands-on mentorship and business development opportunities from the corporation’s network of executives, partners, and community members. These corporations are exposed to some of the most innovative early stage companies and technologies in their area of expertise. Furthermore, Techstars++ continues to foster entrepreneurial growth by building the connective tissue that ties together the local startup community with the larger global Techstars network.

Techstars++ is one more way for us to extend our network to help our portfolio companies. If you’re a healthcare company who has gone through our program and is interested in Techstars++ Mayo Clinic, please email us at  Apply to Techstars today.

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Techstars announces Equity Back Guarantee

Today Techstars is announcing an equity back guarantee that goes into into effect for all companies participating in a Techstars program starting in 2015 and beyond. The reason for this is quite simple. We firmly believe in the value of the Techstars accelerator program and in the long term value of our network. This makes it easy to take this step to “put our equity where our mouth is.”

Over the years, but especially now that we’ve scaled up to 13 different locations, we’ve seen more companies coming to Techstars not only for our accelerator program but also to leverage the ongoing value of the Techstars network. Techstars is now a massive interconnected network of over 3,000 successful entrepreneurs, mentors, investors, and corporate partners. That network value lasts a lifetime, whether you’re starting your first company or your fifth.

Some of the founders we’ve funded over the years have been skeptical of the value of Techstars on the front end. Most of those ended up talking with the alumni of Techstars and ultimately got comfortable and made the leap of faith. But we’ve noticed a very clear and consistent pattern: they’re never skeptical of the value after the Techstars program ends. In fact, they tell us consistently that it was completely worth it. The equity back guarantee completely removes this up front concern that some may have.

Now, if you’re a founder who wants to get efficient and focused feedback, challenge yourself to be better, build your network, and leverage the massive Techstars network, you can do it in a completely risk free way. You can participate in Techstars under our standard terms, which now includes this equity back guarantee for every single company. At the end of the Techstars program, your company will have 3 business days to lower or eliminate our equity position if they’re not satisfied with the value of Techstars.

In the Techstars tradition of #givefirst, we’re proud to offer our equity back guarantee to ensure that every company we work with is completely satisfied with the value that we provide. We hope to see your company applying to Techstars soon. You quite literally have everything to gain, and nothing to lose.

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No Vision All Drive

It was pretty fun to sit on stage recently with Techstars co-founder David Brown to tell our story in front of the newest class of Techstars founders in Boulder. Since it was our first time on stage together talking about how we built and sold our first company, Pinpoint Technologies, we put together a few short videos from the talk that highlight our entrepreneurial adventures.

Together we’ve had successes and failures over the last 25 years, and we’ve laughed a ton along the way. Here’s the quick story: in 1993, we founded our first company, Pinpoint Technologies, which grew from a basement startup to a successful multinational company with $50 million in annual sales and over 250 employees.

David recounts our experiences together, from founding Pinpoint to coming back as Managing Partner at Techstars just one year ago, in the updated and re-released version of his book, No Vision All Drive.

These short videos give you a glimpse into David’s book, which exemplifies what it was like for two young entrepreneurs who knew nothing about building a business to grow their startup into a real company with a successful exit.

Check out the videos and if you like what you see, grab a copy of No Vision All Drive, just released this week.

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Apply now!

Hey everyone, apply to Techstars in Boston, the deadline is this Sunday June 1st!  It’s not too late.  Seriously, do it now!

Listen below to hear what David Mandell from PivotDesk, a Techstars mentor and founder, has to say about Techstars and its network.

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10 New Companies for Techstars Summer 2014 Chicago Session

By Troy Henikoff, Managing Director, Chicago

It’s been another year, and we’re back at it again with the Techstars Summer 2014 class in Chicago. This is fifth year running the accelerator and second season as Techstars.  Each year it gets better and better and I could not be more proud to present the ten companies that will be joining us this summer.

The incoming class features a unique makeup. More than half of the companies are Chicago-based, which doubles the amount of local representation we had last year and is a testament to the power Techstars has to further establish a city like Chicago as a destination for tech startups. Of the 10 companies, six hail from Chicago, with international startups representing Israel and India. Two other U.S. startups, based in Miami and Nashville, round out the list.

The summer 2014 Techstars Chicago class:

Clutch Prep – Clutch’s expert tutors simplify your studying with in-depth, textbook-specific videos and practice materials that improve grades for college students.

Data Everywhere is a solution that connects your company’s data, making it safe to run your business on the spreadsheets you build.

GameWisp is a platform for gamers to discover and monetize gaming video content.

inRentive Listings provides real estate professionals a streamlined way to manage their content, analyze listing performance and market apartment units, condos and single-family rentals across multiple listing services and social media platforms.

MartMobi is a platform for brands to seamlessly create beautiful mobile sites and apps for e-commerce stores.

 NexLP’s next-generation analytics and visualization technology dramatically reduce enterprise costs related to eDiscovery, fraud investigations and compliance.

Package Zen makes managing deliveries and packages simple for front desk staff, doormen and mailrooms.

Telnyx is a platform-as-a-service company that delivers data-driven, highly scalable telephony services at a fraction of the cost of incumbents.

WeDeliver helps local businesses increase sales by offering a fast, reliable, same-day delivery experience.

yRuler enables e-commerce brands and retailers to personalize product images, allowing users to visually try on merchandise before purchase.

I know that I speak for the entire Techstars staff when I express how excited we are to see what these 10 companies will bring to the table.   We hit the ground running on May 27th and it will be a three month sprint to Demo Day from there!


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Corporate-run Startup Accelerators

Accelerators have revolutionized the way early stage investors support startups. They combine investment capital with intensive mentorship within a 13 week program. Can accelerators be equally as valuable for corporates?

In late 2011, Techstars launched the world’s first corporate accelerator with Microsoft, highlighting the benefits of such programs to both startups and corporations. Today, we run corporate accelerators on behalf of Disney, Barclays, Kaplan, Sprint, and R/GA.

In the intervening period, a wide variety of corporations have launched accelerators in multiple formats. We are huge supporters of major companies engaging with startups but there is a fine line that needs to be walked to ensure that both corporates and startups benefit, to neither’s detriment. Jon Bradford, our Managing Director in London, has summarized some of the key dynamics that a startup should consider when selecting a corporate accelerator.

One of the foremost experts on accelerators on this planet, Jon Bradford has worked with both tiny private and huge corporation-backed startup accelerators. This op-ed is about the latter ones.

Click on over.

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