The Program

Techstars Blog

17th April 2015

Good luck, Techstars NYC Winter 2015!

Today we are graduating the 6th Techstars NYC batch. The companies worked super hard during the program, and we are delighted to see just how much growth and progress they’ve achieved.

This batch was remarkable in a number of ways.

First, it was the most tech-focused group we’ve ever had in NYC. A new kind of data store, innovative translation service, software to optimize ISP delivery, complex 3D and virtual reality algorithms, in-browser interpreter for running R, microservices, NodeJS management and even the world’s first printer for electronics — this batch tackled it all. For more about the innovation that these Techstars companies have launched please read this post on my blog.

Secondly, we had the most international group. Five teams moved across the ocean to participate in the program. They came from Australia, France, Belgium, and the Netherlands.

Here is a little bit more about each company, and the progress they made.

BentoBox offers restaurants a platform to manage mobile-first websites, marketing and operations. Over 100 restaurants in NYC, including Union Square Hospitality Group, Spotted Pig, Breslin and Meatball Shop are using Bento Box today. The company is seeing 30% MoM growth, and is now expanding to other cities.
Cartesian Co enables rapid electronics prototyping with their desktop 3D printer for circuit boards. Think MakerBot for electronic circuits. To make this technology possible, Cartesian team had to invent a new kind of ink. To date they’ve sold $300K worth of printers to both hobbyists and big names like Google and NASA.
DataCamp is an online data science school that offers hands-on courses using video lessons and interactive coding challenges. Over 100K data scientists have signed up. DataCamp is ramping up its monthly revenue via subscriptions, and have partnered with GA, Coursera, top universities, Microsoft, IBM and Accenture.
Stefan’s Head – is the first text-message driven retail brand. Looking for something off the beaten path? Look no further. Whimsical Stefan is your weekly shopping concierge and companion. He dreams up cool, limited edition products and texts you when the next one is ready. Hurry, if you snooze, Stefan will offload his stuff to other peeps. To get on the list: TXT STEFAN: 646-759-0904.
irisVR builds software to share, edit, and visualize 3D models in virtual reality. With their platform people can experience spaces in VR before they are built. IrisVR helps save money on costly updates and post-construction changes. IrisVR has 1,200 beta signups including top AEC (architecture, engineering, construction) firms in NYC.
Keymetrics offers a real-time platform for managing and monitoring NodeJS applications. Their open-source product, PM2, has been downloaded more than 600K times and grew 14x in the last 12 months, and is now seeing 40% MoM growth. Keymetrics powers tens of thousands of websites around the world and has Intuit, PayPal, and Southwest Airlines among their beta customers.
Localize offers localization as a service, and helps translate your website with one line of code. They make a typically painful process completely painless with no dev effort. The company now has 150 paying customers and served translated pages to over 10MM unique visitors in March. Localize has been experiencing rapid growth, averaging 15% revenue and customer growth WoW.
LSQ is a platform for developing and deploying microservices. Similar to how Docker popularized containers to make application deployment simpler, LSQ is making it easier to build large-scale applications using microservices. LSQ released its first version during Techstars and has 50 beta customers.
Pilot is a new kind of internet provider for businesses. It is fiber-based, 10x faster than Google Fiber, features transparent pricing, 100% uptime guarantee and white glove service. Pilot built smart software that helps guarantee speed and makes it easy to manage internet in the office. They have 150 customers in NYC, 30% MoM growth and will be soon expanding to Chicago.
Spoon University is a food network for the next generation. They have experienced more than 10x growth in the last 4 months, and now have 2.5MM uniques. Spoon University is building a new type of media company: a true network. 3K students contribute content from 100 campuses around US. Warning: this site is very addicting.
Stream is new kind of data store designed for building, scaling and personalizing feeds. 500K apps have feeds in them and they keep re-inventing the wheel. Much like Elasticsearch changed the game for search, Stream is making building feeds easy. The company has 100 customers, and has seen 50% growth WoW in Techstars. They served 10MM feed requests in March, and have Rhapsody, eToro, and StockTwits in beta.
Unique Sound is a platform for composers and sound creatives to showcase their work and get hired. As the mobile video is growing the demand for high quality original music grows with it. UniqueSound now has a database of 1,000 composers who have done projects for L’Oreal, Mandarin Oriental, and Samsung.

 

The companies are grateful to all 136 mentors who have helped them accelerate their businesses and made this special video to highlight their top mentors.

16th April 2015

Join us at the Metro Accelerator Launch Event in Berlin

Introducing the Techstars METRO Accelerator in Berlin, Germany!

Building on successful accelerators across the globe, Techstars has partnered with METRO and R/GA to bring the world’s first hospitality & food tech accelerator. The program kicks off in October and offers intensive mentoring and unprecedented access to the resources of one of the world’s largest hospitality and retail companies.

We’re looking for a diverse group of companies across payments / ordering / delivery / inventory management / food tech / supply chain optimization / logistics / big data / mobile / B2B SaaS for restaurants, hotels, cafes and catering companies.

Come learn more about the 13 week program at our April 27th launch event in Berlin!

15th April 2015

Important Program Deadlines

Just a quick announcement about several upcoming important deadlines for Techstars’ global accelerator programs!

4/19 – Disney Accelerator applications CLOSE

4/27 – Metro (Berlin) applications OPEN

4/30 – Chicago, London, Seattle applications CLOSE

5/10 – Barclays (NY) applications CLOSE

Good luck to all of our applicants!

To learn more about how to get into Techstars, check out this Q&A with Ari Newman, Partner of Techstars Ventures.

 

14th April 2015

How the Disney Accelerator Powered by Techstars Program Changed My Life

Founder Guest Post: By Ken Fukazawa, CEO of Tyffon, makers of ZombieBooth and Show Your Disney Side

“Why don’t you apply to the Disney Techstars accelerator program? I think it’d be perfect for your company.”

A friend of mine said this to me about two weeks before the deadline for applications for the program. The main product of our company, Tyffon, is an app called ZombieBooth 2 that turns selfies into zombies. At that time, the app already had over 20 million downloads across the series, but the majority of users were men in their 20s and 30s. The nature of the app and its target demographics might not be considered suitable for Disney.

zombie

I’m not sure what made my friend think that the Disney accelerator would be a fit for my app, but once I had the idea in my head – I couldn’t let it go…

How it All Began: Inspired by Disney’s Haunted Mansion
I’ve always been inspired by Disney. When I was four years old and first visited Disneyland, their “Haunted Mansion” made a strong impression on me. The high artistic quality and variety of tricks made me feel as if I had entered a fantasy world, which inspired me to want to create similar things in the future. Based on this experience, I started to draw scary pictures of skulls, ghosts and zombies, growing up to become a child that loved frightening people. Without these experiences, ZombieBooth may have never been born.

When it came to apply for the program, I was apprehensive since there was very little time to prepare everything and because English is my second language, it made it even more challenging. In spite of all this, I completed our application before the deadline and we were selected to join the program!

Up until then, we had done business completely on our own, without any mentors or networking, simply developing code in earnest from a small apartment. At the time, the company was comprised of just three of us living in Tokyo, but we soon headed to L.A. to participate in the program. The four months we spent in the program were the busiest and the most fulfilling of our lives…

Working with our Sphero Heroes
The Disney Techstars  program was  an amazing experience for our company. One reason was that the other participants were from truly awesome companies. When the Sphero robotic ball first launched in Japan, I bought one straight away and fell in love with  it. When I got to the U.S., I was shocked to learn that one of our fellow cohort companies at Disney Accelerator was Sphero! The other companies also had tons of experience and cool products, so being able to sit with them side by side, sharing the experience of building our business and giving each other advice, was an extremely stimulating and meaningful experience.

The Power of the Network
Another benefit of this program is the 100+ mentors to guide you. Getting advice directly from respected experts, such as Disney executives, was extremely valuable. New ideas and different ways of thinking became ingrained in our thought process which helped to clarify our direction.

On top of this, we were introduced  to so many new companies and people — and this was the thing that was the most directly beneficial for us — the network. Until then, our company had only done business  in Japan and, therefore, we had very little connections in the U.S. However, by the time we finished the program, we had so many connections with many mentors, the people they introduced to us, Techstars’ staff, alumni, and more. From this network, we were able to meet with people from Disney Parks & Resorts, which then led us to developing an app in partnership with Disney…

Show Your Disney Side
Our new app, called Show Your Disney Side, allows you to transform your selfie into a variety of Disney characters such as Anna, Elsa, and Star Wars characters. The photo after the transformation moves around as if it were alive, allowing you to swipe the screen to make the eyes and face move, and also by tapping the screen you can make characters do special effects such as making it snow (if you are Anna). As with the Haunted Mansion characters (the ones that originally inspired me on this journey), the app was designed so you can unlock special content by physically going to the Disney theme park.

disney

When Demo Day was finished, we were allowed to use the Disney Accelerator office, which was very close to the Disney campus, allowing us to walk to meetings and make progress while maintaining frequent communications with others. Everyone at Disney is extremely creative, and we were able to learn a lot from them as we developed our projects together right next to them.

Media Coverage Boost
From this direct networking, another great benefit was that we were able to grow our company’s presence externally. Right after Demo Day, the LA Times posted a large article featuring Tyffon, and after Show Your Disney Side was released, they also featured an article about the app and our company. We were also featured in a variety of media which allowed us to promote our company and our products much more widely. Without our participation in this program, it would have been very difficult for a no-name company like ours, without any marketing or promotional activities to speak of, to be featured in such influential media!

Give First Really Means Something
We received many more benefits from this program, but the last one I’d like to mention is the amazing people from Techstars. The team there gave their full support to all the participants, working hard to make the program as effective as possible. They truly live their value of “Give First.” Without the kind and professional support we received from all the staff, as well as our Managing Director, Cody Simms, we would have never been able to achieve these results. Not only that, even after the program was finished, they have continued to help us out in many ways and we have experienced first hand the “power of the network.” 

The Techstars global ecosystem has proven to be extremely valuable for the future life of our company and we are proud to be a part of it — Techstars for life!

To apply for the Disney Accelerator Powered by Techstars, apply HERE. Deadline April 19th.

(Are you a Techstars founder with a story to tell? Contact us at info@techstars.com and let us know how you have experienced the “power of the network!”)

 

9th April 2015

Techstars Cloud 2015 Demo Day

After three months of hard work, the Techstars Cloud 2015 companies are ready to take the stage and pitch their businesses to a theater full of investors, mentors and supporters. This year’s companies represent four different countries and numerous cities throughout the US. Each of the teams participating has spent the last three months in San Antonio, Texas intensely focused on building their companies with support from mentors, investors, and the greater Techstars network.

This is my first Demo Day as Managing Director and I couldn’t be more excited about the program and the teams that participated. It is great to see these companies join the ranks of Techstars Cloud alumni who have already raised a combined $95MM. I am personally looking forward to seeing what the future holds for these newly minted Techstars alumni.

Here are the Techstars Cloud 2015 companies:

 

Appbase is a database service for streaming search and analytics queries.
Bitfusion brings supercomputing performance to applications without source code changes.
Callinize connects your phone system and CRM so you can build better relationships with customers and make sales easier.
Card Isle makes it convenient to send meaningful greeting cards.
Elasticode allows you to deploy personalized mobile user experiences in real time.
Fantasmo Studios is building technology to bring dreams into the real world using only a smartphone.
Knowtify is an Engagement Marketing platform that helps software businesses easily and effectively  market to their existing customer base.
Nebulab simplifies how scientists organize, validate and share their data, increasing efficiency and accelerating scientific discovery.
Stabilitas secures travelers with location specific safety information and a lifeline to help, all through their smartphones.
VirtKick gives independent hosting companies the tools they need to compete with big cloud providers.

7th April 2015

FinTech Startups: Apply to Barclays Accelerator NYC, Powered by Techstars

The question I often get is: “Who will claim the crown of being the FinTech capital of the world? New York or London?”

One year ago we launched our first FinTech-focused program in London in partnership with Barclays. Earlier this year, we proudly announced the expansion of the Barclays Accelerator, powered by Techstars, to New York City. Maybe the question just got a whole lot harder to answer. The reality is that both cities are going to be centers of one of the largest industry disruptions that we have seen. And Techstars and Barclays plan on being in the middle of it.

Video frame-NYC01To give you a sense of the opportunity that FinTech presents, let’s put things in perspective. Financial services in the United States is seven times larger than all of advertising spend (including TV, online, search, etc). And yet, when we compare the number of exits and IPOs between FinTech and AdTech (Google and Facebook included), one might logically conclude that things are in reverse – that it must be advertising that is seven times larger. The cynics would say that this disparity represents the barriers of a regulated industry. While regulation cannot be denied, I prefer to think that the blue ocean that is FinTech has simply been waiting for the timing to be right.

And that time is now. First, the talent shift is tipping. Do you remember when you were in college, and many of the most brilliant minds were recruited into the banks? Well, with the significant industry shake-up that we’ve seen over the last few years, there’s a steady stream of talent leaving to establish FinTech companies to solve the problems that they experienced working in the industry.

Second, regulators are taking a much more proactive stance on regulation for the financial services industry, which is creating opportunities for FinTech startups. This is an outgrowth of government initiatives meant to decrease the influence of “too big to fail” mentality.

Third, the venture capitalists are playing their part, funneling hundred of millions of dollars into FinTech innovation and in so doing, are making FinTech the fastest growing segment in the VC market. Finally, the incumbents are waking up and taking an active stance in fostering innovation. This is a critical final piece of the puzzle because the incumbent banks play a critical role for the ecosystem as they can be partner, distributor, investor, and acquirer, all rolled up into one.

Through our accelerator partnership, Barclays is taking a leadership position in the development of both the London and now New York City FinTech ecosystems. It has a strong presence in both cities and plans to bring its international banking network to bear in helping start-ups who are admitted to the accelerator. The question I often get is: “Why is Barclays doing this?” I can only answer this from what I have seen managing the London program with them. Barclays sees a future where a large portion of financial services innovation is going to happen outside its walls. In response, Barclays believes that a big part of its future success will be based on its ability to support and partner with the drivers of outside innovation, namely FinTech startups.

Both the New York and London accelerators are Barclays’ tent pole initiatives to work with early stage companies. It is being driven from the top down with tremendous support and participation by the entire senior management team. Quite frankly, if you are a startup that would like to work with an international financial services provider that operates in over 50 countries and serves customers across the globe, you will want to apply for this program now.

Applications to the inaugural Barclays NYC Accelerator powered by Techstars are open. Applications close May 10.

Apply here: https://www.f6s.com/barclaysacceleratorapplication/apply

7th April 2015

Getting Customers to Care: Story #4 in the Techstars “Bend the Curve” Blog Series

Welcome back to the Bend the Curve blog series on Techstars.com! We are excited to share with you the newest book for entrepreneurs, Bend the Curve, authored by Andrew Razeghi. (More about Andrew below.) In this handbook for entrepreneurs, Andrew has captured the brilliance and insights of over a dozen of our most sought-after mentors. Everyone from first-time entrepreneurs to seasoned veterans will find useful, practical advice from other founders that you can use on your journey.

Over the past few weeks, we have been releasing short excerpts from the book including stories of entrepreneur success and failure. Today, read about John Kenny of FCB, a Chicago ad agency. Check it out and come back next week for the final installment!

Bend the Curve
Chapter 6: Getting Customers to Care

“Many people say advertising is dead,” observes John Kenny. “But, storytelling is still alive and kicking. We’re living in a world where big data means we’re constantly bombarded with information; we’re over-targeted but underengaged. It’s all about getting people’s attention, and then harnessing that attention toward behavior change.”

Kenny heads up strategy at FCB, a leading ad agency in Chicago. FCB provides brand expertise and marketing campaigns for everyone from blue chip companies to the Fortune 500 to startups. Key to their success is the relentless focus on creating behavior change in customers.

In this chapter, we’ll talk about:

    • The difference between getting customers’ attention vs. getting them to act
    • How to get people to change behavior (and buy your products)
    • Five proven techniques to encourage behavioral change

It’s All About Behavior Change
It’s one thing to get a customer’s attention. It’s another thing to get them to buy and yet another thing to keep coming back. Many customers are perfectly happy with the status quo (even though they may complain about it now and then) and habits are hard to break.

As Kenny advises, “Research tells us that 40% of our behavior every day is done by habit. Therefore, if you’re doing anything worthwhile with marketing, you’ve got to be working on trying to change people’s habits. If you can get them to change their habits in favor of your product or service, you’ve struck gold. The question is how do you get people to change behavior? How do you get customers to care?

Among the possible tactics, Kenny suggests, “Short form video is and has always been one of the best way to motivate behavior change. We’ve seen it with the 30-second ad, and now we are seeing it with online videos that have sparked viral marketing campaigns. We see short form video as a persuasive technology, but that is not the only way to create behavior change. These principles can be incorporated into any of your marketing tactics. The more effective you are at acquiring attention and turning it into habit change, the more profitable you will be as a company.”

According to Kenny, sparking behavior change is the only way that you can sustain a return on your marketing activities.

But, you can’t just decide one day to create behavior change. It requires intentional effort, creativity, and a discipline to achieve the desired result. Beyond the creative use of media, Kenny outlines five core components that they focus on at FCB to drive behavior change in customers…

I liked that. Give me more. To order the book: http://bendthecurve.co/

About the Author

Andrew Razeghi is  an educator, author, speaker, consultant and angel investor. He is a limited partner in Techstars and integrally involved in the Chicago program. Andrew is a lecturer at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and is also founder & managing director of StrategyLab, Inc., a growth strategy & innovation consulting group.

Andrew is a contributor on the topic of innovation for a series of shows on The Travel Channel and is the author of several books including The Future of Innovation, The Upside of Down: Innovation through Recessions, and The Riddle: Where Ideas Come From and How to Have Better Ones. The Riddle was chosen by Fast Company as one of its “Smart Books.” You can reach Andrew by email at andrew@strategylab.com or follow him on twitter @andrewrazeghi.

3rd April 2015

Where Are They Now? – Ovuline

As we head into Easter weekend,  check out our new video about Ovuline as a part of our Where Are They Now? series.

Ovuline (Techstars Boston 2009) uses big data and mobile apps to help women conceive faster and have healthier pregnancies.

Ovuline’s mobile apps, Ovia Fertility and Ovia Pregnancy, are the leading women’s health apps in the Apple Store and Google Play, having helped over 2M women track their cycles and start healthy families.

In this season of new life and fertility, watch the story of how Ovuline is tracking “a new pregnancy reported every 70 seconds!”

Where Are They Now? – Ovuline “Focus on the product”

31st March 2015

Growth Hacking to 1,000 Users & Beyond

If you want to tackle your startup marketing in an actionable, results-oriented way, look no further than this growth hacking talk from Mitch Wainer, cofounder and CMO of DigitalOcean, a Techstars Boulder 2012 company.

In the talk, given to the Techstars in NYC class earlier this year, Mitch outlines that fundamental user acquisition building blocks for startups to create a growth engine and surpass 1,000+ users/customers. He shares tried and true tactics based on DigitalOcean’s growth.

Watch Mitch’s talk here. It will be 35 minutes well-spent:

Don’t see the video? Click here.

“Growth hacking is a mindset.” – tweet this

In the video, Mitch shows you how to create a viral growth engine. He packs a ton of actionable ideas for each of these topics:

  • Simple monthly reports
  • Standard health metrics include LTV, CAC and churn
  • Free trial / promo codes
  • Content marketing
  • Analytics
  • Display advertising
  • PR
  • Retargeting
  • Referrals
  • Social media marketing
  • Email marketing
  • Retention growth hacks

Other growth hacking resources mentioned:

Thanks to Mitch and DigitalOcean for talking with the Techstars in NYC class.

Learn more about DigitalOcean here: https://www.digitalocean.com/

30th March 2015

Creating and Hiring for Culture: The third installment of our “Bend the Curve” Blog Series

Welcome to the Bend the Curve blog series on Techstars.com! We are excited to share with you the newest book for entrepreneurs, Bend the Curve, authored by Andrew Razeghi. (More about Andrew below.) In this handbook for entrepreneurs, Andrew has tirelessly captured the brilliance and insights of over a dozen of our most sought-after mentors. Everyone from first-time entrepreneurs to seasoned veterans will find useful, practical advice from other founders that you can use on your journey.

Over the next couple of weeks, we will continue to release short excerpts from the book including stories of entrepreneur success and failure. Today, read about Creating and Hiring for Culture and the story of Giveforward. Check it out and come back next week for the next post!

Bend the Curve
Chapter Three excerpt: Creating and Hiring for Culture

In this chapter, we’ll talk about:

  • Where company cultures comes from.
  • How to create a culture of innovation.
  • How to hire for the culture you want to create.
  • How to sustain that culture as you grow.

In the early days, when you are cash-strapped and unable to pay competitive salaries, you really have only two tools to attract the best talent: equity and culture. People join start- ups for different reasons, but among them is a very personal feeling that they “fit in.” They believe in the mission that the company is on, the product the company sells, and perhaps most importantly the culture that the company has created. As a founder, you are not only competing with the competitors in your category, you are competing for talent. Don’t wait to work on culture. It’s never too early to start thinking about it and, more importantly, to start living it.

Several years ago, when I first met Desiree Vargas-Wrigley and Ethan Austin, co-founders of the crowdfunding platform Giveforward (a Techstars company), I was taken aback by their commitment to culture. They had come to my office to pitch me as investor in their seed round. I loved the problem they were out to solve and I loved their business model, but what struck me most was a comment Ethan made after their pitch.

He said they were really serious about their culture and went on to explain their values. As much as he was engaged during the pitch, he physically lit up when he spoke about culture and leadership. This typically would come as no surprise. Culture is a big deal. Many companies talk about culture. Founders believe in it. People know it is important. But what struck me about Ethan’s enthusiasm for culture was the simple fact that, at that time and in that moment, Giveforward had one employee. One. And she had just recently become a salaried employee after working for 18 months as an unpaid intern. Ethan spoke about culture not as if they had one employee but as if they had one thousand employees. I invested.

Today, Giveforward is the leading crowdfunding site for medical expenses. They employ 29 people and have a Net Promoter Score (NPS) that rivals Amazon, Apple, Harley- Davidson, and Zappos. NPS, a measure of customer loyalty, is a direct reflection of a company’s culture. Essentially, a company’s NPS is the difference between those customers who enthusiastically recommend the company (promoters) and those unhappy customers who enthusiastically detest the company (detractors). The average company has a Net Promoter Score in the 5 to 10 percent range (meaning they’re barely breaking even, on a net basis, between the customers that love them and those that hate them). Many firms (and entire industries for that matter) have negative Net Promoter Scores (you know who they are).

In contrast, Giveforward’s Net Promoter Score is 80! Eighty! Based on analysis by Bain, companies that achieve long-term profitable growth have Net Promoter Scores two times higher than the average company and grow at twice the rate of their competitors. All those who poke fun at culture as a flavor-of-the-month initiative, do so at your own peril. Culture matters, a lot.

I liked that. Give me more. To order the book: http://bendthecurve.co/ 

About the Author

Andrew Razeghi is  an educator, author, speaker, consultant and angel investor. He is a limited partner in Techstars and integrally involved in the Chicago program. Andrew is a lecturer at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and is also founder & managing director of StrategyLab, Inc., a growth strategy & innovation consulting group.

Andrew is a contributor on the topic of innovation for a series of shows on The Travel Channel and is the author of several books including The Future of Innovation, The Upside of Down: Innovation through Recessions, and The Riddle: Where Ideas Come From and How to Have Better Ones. The Riddle was chosen by Fast Company as one of its “Smart Books.” You can reach Andrew by email at andrew@strategylab.com or follow him on twitter @andrewrazeghi.