The Program

Techstars Blog

21st April 2014

An Interview with Patriot Boot Camp Speaker Craig Newmark

Techstars Patriot Boot Camp is right around the corner. From May 16 through 18th, 75 veteran and military spouse entrepreneurs will gather at the Goldman Sachs headquarters in NYC to kick-start companies, find cofounders, and advance as entrepreneurs.

We look forward to Craig Newmark joining us as a speaker for the event. Here are a few thoughts from Craig to get everyone ready for Techstars Patriot Boot Camp.

An Interview with Patriot Boot Camp Speaker Craig Newmark - unali artists

Photo credit: unali artists

What is craigconnects.org and what do you hope to accomplish?

craigconnects.org is my way to help people who get stuff done in causes I believe in, in the here and now. Beyond that, my team and I want to learn how to use social media to effect large scale social change. Over a twenty year period I’d like to find a way to help everyone on the planet stand up and work together for what they believe in.

Why do you think veterans make great entrepreneurs?

Any service member learns to work as part of a team, to accomplish something bigger than herself or himself. Any service member learns to get stuff done, to be focused on getting the job done. Getting the job done transcends internal politics and ambition.

Why did you decide that military families and veterans would be a focus for your work?

If someone volunteers to fight for me, to risk taking a bullet on my behalf, I need to stand up and help. And the families of service members serve just as much as they do.

If someone doesn’t yet have the nerd-cred to be a “nerd-in-residence,” like you are at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, what’s one way you think people can support veteran entrepreneurs?

Respect goes a long way, which includes ignoring media hysteria about PTSD. I suggest that every venture capital firm, hiring manager, and every recruiter respond to any idea or job application from a vet, even if there’s no fit. Also, participate in organizations like VetsInTech.org to introduce vets to growth industries.

Thanks, Craig, for chatting with us.

Learn more about craigconnects as well as Techstars Patriot Boot Camp.

11th April 2014

Awesomeness – Finding a business model

Last week was week 2 of Techstars Boulder’s 7 Weeks of Awesome, featuring Nate and Natty of Everlater (Techstars ’09, acquired by AOL) talking about how they found a business model.  There are same fantastic insights in here for how to develop and improve your own business model over time. For those of you who weren’t able to make it to last week’s awesome presentation, good news! We taped it! Thanks to Paul at 23rdstudios for capturing the awesomeness.

If you like what you see, applications for Boulder 2014 are open.  You can apply here to Techstars.  The deadline for applications is May 4th. Don’t wait until the last day!

Awesomeness continues.  Next Monday at 4:30 is a Techstars Open House.  We also have a treasure trove of presenters this month from Mitch Wainer of Digital Ocean to Howard Diamond of Mobile Day and our own David Cohen!  Don’t miss these upcoming events. Thoughts and advice from rock stars like Jason Mendelson on 10 (or 18) Things That Will Screw Your Company, is just one of the many benefits to being in the Techstars program.

Click here for the video on how Nate and Natty of Everlater found a business model and sold their company to AOL/MapQuest.

4th April 2014

Seattle 2012 Alumni Leanplum: How Techstars Helped

Momchil Kyurkchiev and Andrew First crossed paths while working on the monetization side of Youtube. They decided to leave Google to start Leanplum, a service that helps product managers and marketers optimize mobile content and messaging by providing a platform for mobile A/B testing, personalization and analytics. I recently called the two founders to learn about their progress and how they have benefitted from being part of Techstars.

How did you come up with the idea?
Andrew: We used to run hundreds of A/B tests at Google. The Google culture is very data-driven, they constantly iterate and always test hypotheses. We realized that the speed and ability to iterate had really diminished with the move from web to mobile apps. We decided to bring the best practices from Google to mobile app development.

Tell us about your experience with the Techstars program.
Andrew: To be honest, the Techstars program was probably the most productive time of our lives. Not just because it was a lot of work, but also because we got the right things done. As engineers coming out of Google, we knew how to build systems but we didn’t know a lot about the business side of things. We learned this at Techstars and it was invaluable to us.

How did you benefit from participating in Techstars?
Momchil: The mentors provide amazing and very direct feedback that puts you on the right track. We ended up establishing great relationships with our mentors who gave us lots of advice and helped us connect with the right people, including our first paying customer. On top of that, being in an office where you have nine other companies who are in the same boat as you is very powerful.

What was the hardest part of Techstars?
Andrew: The hardest part of Techstars is what they call “the rollercoaster.” A day that stands clear in my memory was early on in the program, when we discovered we had a competitor. Up until that point, we thought we were the only company in the world who had thought of this idea. We set up a meeting with you to share the bad news. The first thing you did was laugh out loud and then say, “What are you talking about, guys? This is probably the best thing that could happen to you!” We were a bit confused. You said, “Look, if you have a competitor, that is proof you have a market.” We realized there was a market worth fighting over. At that point, we went from the worst of days to one of the better of days.

What was the best part of the program for you?
Momchil: It was getting the chance to control your own destiny. The fulfillment you get from having your own business is just incredible. In terms of professional happiness, nothing really compares.

What do you wish you had known before starting Techstars?
Momchil: One of the things that caught us by surprise was that nobody invests between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. We raised about half of our
goal between demo day and Thanksgiving. Then, nothing. Until January 5, when the people who had radio-silenced us for a month showed up with a check, ready to invest. That was a nerve-wrecking month.

Can you tell us more about your progress?
Andrew: We raised $250,000 before demo day. After demo day we got highlighted on AngelList as one of the top-trending startups. A big reason
for this was our demo day video. The Techstars videos are so professionally made, and the pitches have been practiced dozens of times, literally. That made a big impact on AngelList. We reached $500,000 in funding before the holidays and the rest came in January. As of now, we have raised about $1.1 million in total.

What is your advice for people who are considering applying to Techstars?
Momchil: I am gonna quote master Yoda on this one: “Do or do not, there is no try. ”

Leanplum is out of the Seattle 2012 program, which runs for three months from August through October. The application round for Techstars in Seattle opened on March 17 and if you think you’re ready, I encourage you to apply. The deadline for applying is May 4.

1st April 2014

Jason Mendelson and 10 Things That Will Screw Up Your Company

For those of you who weren’t able to make it to last week’s awesome presentation by Jason Mendelson on 10 (or 18) Things That Will Screw Your Company, good news! We taped it! Thanks to Paul at 23rdstudios for capturing the awesomeness.

We have a treasure trove of presenters this month from Mitch Wainer of Digital Ocean to Howard Diamond of Mobile Day and our own David Cohen! Don’t miss these upcoming events.Thoughts and advice from rock stars like Jason Mendelson are just one of the many benefits to being in the Techstars program. Applications for Boulder 2014 are open. You can apply here and the deadline for applications is May 4th. Don’t wait until the last day!

28th March 2014

[VIDEO] Startup Stories: DigitalOcean

Startup Stories is a series of short videos about Techstars companies focusing on a specific topics. In this video we learn about how DigitalOcean, from our 2012 program in Boulder, went from struggling in a saturated market to massive success.

“As we were raising capital for the company, one of the hardest challenges was to pitch the story to investors and have them believe in our vision.” – Ben Uretsky.


Deploy an SSD cloud server in 55 seconds over at DigitalOcean today. Watch more Techstars videos here. You can also subscribe to our YouTube or Vimeo Channel.

25th March 2014

Sponsorship in Action: American Airlines and Given Goods

We recently talked with Riley End, co-founder and CEO of Given Goods Company, a company from our 2013 program in Boulder. Given Goods curates beautiful, high-quality home goods and everyday accessories that drive authentic social impact. Riley talks about a recent experience with Techstars’ sponsor partner American Airlines, as well as what Given Goods is working on right now.

We recently saw your tweet (pictured here). Where were you flying?

I was flying to New York for a meeting with a potential investor that I felt necessary to do in person, face to face.

What happened during that meeting?
It was a quick trip and the meeting went very well on all fronts.

As a Techstars 2013 company, you received the American Airlines perk for Business Extra points that could be redeemed for flights. Did you use those points for this trip?
Yes! On a Thursday evening, I found out that I needed to meet with a potential investor in just a few days. On Friday morning, I called American’s Business ExtrAA service line, the service rep found non-stop flights both ways at the exact times I needed and I could use the points we were awarded. The flights were totally free, which was a big value add for us money-wise.

One of my meetings in New York was canceled and I realized I could fly home earlier than planned. I called American and asked to change the flight and it was no problem. Even though there was a huge snowstorm on the east coast and many flights were canceled, the whole process was amazingly easy. American Air was incredibly helpful once again.

What is Given Goods working on right now now?
We recently moved from Boulder to San Francisco. The move is a big deal because San Francisco has a great talent pool, lots of connections in the e-commerce space, and is a consumer-focused, trend setting city which is important to our concept. It was difficult to leave Boulder but it made sense for the business.

Quirky on GivenGoods.co

Quirky “On The Go Bundle” on givengoods.co

Besides the move to San Francisco, we launched a product offering with Quirky over the holidays to benefit the American Cancer Society. It’s the first company on Given Goods that we worked with to create a one of a kind give back model. With every purchase of Quirky products on Given Goods, 20% of the profit goes directly to the American Cancer Society.

Shop the collection here. Given Goods Company is hiring.

24th March 2014

Calling All EdTech Startups! Kaplan and Techstars are coming to a city near you…

We are kicking off the road show for the 2014 Kaplan EdTech Accelerator, powered by Techstars. The accelerator is a highly selective, immersive mentorship and seed-stage investment program for EdTech startups in the broadly defined learning and education space– including birth through life long learning, K-12, higher ed, work readiness, corporate training, summer camps, and after school programs in all forms of consumer education. Ten startup companies will be selected to gather in the New York City office for three months to build their products and businesses. Selected companies will receive up to $170,000 in funding for participating.

Separately, Don Burton (the Managing Director for the program) hosts open office hours which you can schedule online if you’d like to learn more about our program. You can also contact Don directly at don.burton@techstars.com.

Got an EdTech startup? Find out more about how Kaplan and Techstars can help you accelerate the development of your business, get traction and land deals and financing to take your startup to the next level. During the month of April, we’re hitting the road and we want to meet you! A team from the Kaplan EdTech Accelerator, powered by Techstars will be visiting London, New York, Washington, San Francisco, Seattle, Toronto, and Phoenix (at the GSV/ASU conference) to share more details about the program as well as meet some awesome founders and entrepreneurs in the education technology space. Is that you?

Representatives from both Kaplan and Techstars will be hosting events in several cities for interested entrepreneurs. Come join us to meet the accelerator team and ask any questions you have about the program and its benefits to you.

Just click on one of the below links to sign up to events in the city closest to you. We’ll send an email to confirm your RSVP.

April 1st - London, UK
April 7th  - New York City, NY
April 8th   – Washington, DC
April 14th  – Seattle, WA
April 15th – San Francisco, CA
April 21st – Phoenix, AR (Open Office Hours)
April 25th – Boston, MA (Open Office Hours)
April  28th – Toronto, Canada (Open Office Hours)

While in Phoenix during the GSV Education Innovation Summit, we’re hosting open office hours, giving founders a chance to meet with us one-on-one. We will also be up on Harvard Business School Campus for an event on the 25th, and in Toronto on April 28th where we will hold similar office hours. If you’ll be in Phoenix during the conference, click on the link below to schedule some time with us!

Sign up for Phoenix, Boston, or Toronto open office hours here.

Learn more and apply to Kaplan Accelerator by May 5th.

We look forward to reading your application!

24th March 2014

Techstars in London 2014: The Sequel

Just over 12 months ago Techstars launched in London and now we are launching its sequel today – bigger and better – that will end with a Demo Day on June 20.

With over 1,000 applications to pick from Techstars London Spring 2014 finally settled on 11 companies from 8 different countries including USA, Estonia, Germany, Spain, Israel, Ireland, South Korea as well as the UK.  To bring this truly international line up to London, 13 entrepreneur visas have had to be quickly issued before the start of the programme.

To really challenge people’s perception of a company participating in an accelerator consider this, the companies already have over 50 staff, that includes two previously successful entrepreneurs and five of the 11 companies have already raised $4m in total.

  • Avuba is fixing banking by building a mobile first bank service.
  • Eat In My Seat allows you to skip the queue at venues by ordering directly to your seat.
  • eRated lets you use one reputation score in a world of marketplaces.
  • Good Audience increases your reach and gets your brand, product or service in front of over 400 million active social media users.
  • Lingvist is an adaptive language learning tool that significantly reduces the time needed to learn a new language.
  • Magnific connects readers, writers and curators for a more personalised reading experience.
  • Proximus is an analytics engine that examines the behaviour of consumers using innovative indoor geolocation technology.
  • Pubble uses everywhere your customers live online to build an active community on your website
  • Smile Family is a mobile community for moms.
  • Spatch is a new decentralized communication protocol built on top of email.
  • Zzish helps developers make education apps more engaging and effective.

21st March 2014

Applications for Boston’s Second Program Open Today

Today we announce the program dates for the Boston fall program in 2014. Applications are open today with an early deadline of May 4th and a final deadline of June 1st. After the current class finishes their demo day on April 29th, I will move on to focus full time on Project 11, my own early stage venture fund.

It’s with great excitement that I introduce Semyon Dukach as our new Managing Director in Boston. We are very excited to add him to the team, and he’s already spending his days helping with the current companies in the Boston program while learning the ropes. You probably already know Semyon as he is a prolific angel investor in Boston and a friend to the startup community. Semyon’s philosophy as an investor has been to focus on doing everything in his power to help the founders at his startups instead of just maximizing his own returns, which we see as a great fit with our “give first” mentor-driven approach. Prior to becoming a full time angel investor, Semyon has co-founded several companies including Fast Engines, which was sold to Adero in 2000. He is the Chairman of Nasdaq listed SMTP, and the founder of the Troublemaker Award. Semyon is also known for leading one of the MIT blackjack teams in the 90s. I will remain in a chairman role for Techstars in Boston and act as an advisor to Semyon going forward.

It’s been a huge honor holding down the fort at Techstars in Boston and I’m happy to pass the torch to Semyon. If you’re thinking about shipping up to Boston, apply today .