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30th September 2014

FinTech Demo Day: 11 Reasons to Celebrate

Today our 11 FinTech startups will take the stage in a London theater near Buckingham Palace, and we could not be more proud or excited by what they have achieved. The first cohort of Barclays Accelerator powered by Techstars has come at an incredible time, with the financial services industry experiencing the beginning of a tremendous transformation and here in London we get to be at the heart of it.

To all of our mentors – old and new – we are especially grateful for the tireless contribution and energy you bring, and the support from the wider FinTech ecosystem. To our comrades at Barclays, we could not ask for a better partner to join forces in disrupting this industry and helping bring new innovations to market. The insights, introductions, executive engagement and hours spent together have been exceptionally valuable.

One sound we will always remember fondly is the small but mighty deal bell on the wall, and the frequent celebrations we’ve had as founders rang it to announce new customers, partnerships, awards, or key hires. There have been so many causes for cheering over the last three months, and we will continue to hear chants of “ring the bell, ring the bell” when we see founders in the headlines or receive GroupMe selfies with good news. Long may it continue.

On the surface Demo Day may seem like the end of 15 monumental weeks together, but we promise you this is only the beginning (weekly videos here if you’ve missed them). Please join us in celebrating 11 Techstars companies that are changing the FinTech industry, as it is an honor to welcome our inaugural cohort to the stage:

Aire – Aire enables fair access to financial products.We provide an alternate credit score for people who are incorrectly classified because they have no credit history.
ClauseMatch – Providing a platform for negotiation and management of smarter contracts.
Crowdestates – A peer-to-peer platform that cuts the cost of borrowing and gives savers a better return than the alternatives.
DoPay – Banking for the unbanked. With 2 Billion people in the world that have jobs but no bank account, we have to rethink banking for much of the world’s middle class.
Glimr – Glimr collects offline retail data to retarget shoppers after they have left the store.
Gust – A mobile and wearable payments specialist, we create compelling customer experiences using RFID wristbands.
Market IQ – Turning prediction science into business results. Current clients include Barclays, Nasdaq, Dow Jones, Instinet, and 23 hedge funds.
NoviCap – Allowing businesses to turn outstanding invoices into cash.
Squirrel – A technology platform that enables people to regain control of their finances. A financial concierge for the people.
Tryum – Tryum help retailers build personal relationships with their customers by delivering brand experiences based on who their customers are and what they love.
Vieweet – An entirely new and exciting way of viewing properties from the comfort of your home.

29th September 2014

Sponsorship in Action: PivotDesk and Silicon Valley Bank

We recently spoke with David Mandell, cofounder and CEO of PivotDesk, a Techstars in Boulder 2012 company. PivotDesk helps startups that need space find host companies that have space.

David talks about the company’s relationship with Silicon Valley Bank. SVB  is banking the world’s most innovative companies, and has been a sponsor partner of Techstars for nearly four years.

David Mandell of PivotDesk talks about partnership with SVB

David Mandell, CEO of PivotDesk, and Jared Polis, a cofounder of Techstars, chat at the PivotDesk office. Photo courtesy PivotDesk.

How did PivotDesk meet SVB?

I’ve been working with Silicon Valley Bank for more than ten years. First with other startups, and now with PivotDesk.

How have PivotDesk and SVB worked together?

They’ve been a great networking and business development partner. There are really three key ways that SVB has helped PivotDesk:

First, they understand the needs and dynamics of a startup. There are no weird reactions to what we’ve got going on at the company because they understand startups from a market perspective and a growth perspective.

The second way they’ve been helpful to us is through access to their network. SVB’s clients are potential clients for us as well. So our partners at SVB have done their best to cross geographies to introduce us to others where it makes sense. The are a great business development partner to us.

Third, they put a spotlight on us. They invite us to contribute to conversations that are a huge benefit to a company at our stage. As an example, SVB kindly hosted our team for SXSW – saving us on expensive hotel rooms and connecting us with contacts who could really help us move the needle forward. One of the best parts? SVB’s CEO joined us for dinner and gave us time to pick his brain. It’s not too often that a company like SVB gives you such direct access to their resources and we’re thankful for it.

Sponsorship in Action- PivotDesk and SVB

The SVB Midday Hangout at SXSW 2014. Photo courtesy Adam Sams/SVB

What do you think sets Silicon Valley Bank apart?

I’m not pushing a huge rock up a steep hill every time I talk with my banker. SVB understands startups. There are no weird reactions when I tell them what’s going on in my company: from cash flow, to banking account structure, to the speed of change in a startup—they get it.

They also have relationships across the VC community and understand how venture capitalists operate, which makes our banking easier. I don’t have to explain the process to them.

Do you have any advice for other founders who want to build good relationships with their banking partners?

Look at your banker as a partner. The more your banker understands you, your business, and how your business functions, the better they can serve you. If you—whether you’re the CEO or CFO—don’t make the effort to help that relationship, a productive relationship is not going to happen.

What’s the latest and greatest in the PivotDesk world?

This summer, we released a product called Cultivate that leverages the PivotDesk marketplace to enable commercial real estate brokers to help growing businesses avoid the static nature of traditional office space and find solutions that make sense for their needs today.

Cultivate means brokers no longer have to say no to servicing smaller clients. Instead, the platform allows them to find flexible space for growing businesses, help offset costs for larger businesses with extra space and manage their relationships with these businesses as they grow and change over time.

 

You can follow @PivotDesk and @SVB_Financial on Twitter.

 

26th September 2014

Rendezvous Point Madison – Wisconsin Patriot Boot Camp Kickoff

Wisconsin Patriot Boot Camp presented by Techstars kickoffs today, and there is a lot to be excited about.

The most important ingredient is the Veterans, Service Members, and Military Spouses participating. A topflight group has convened in Madison from Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia & Wisconsin.

If this post serves no other purpose, I hope it is a reminder to all startups, accelerators, and investors that Veterans are high potential entrepreneurs and valuable entrepreneurial employees.

After the great people participating, the most exciting and refreshing aspect of Wisconsin Patriot Boot Camp is the convening of support from people and organizations dedicated to seeing Veterans become successful entrepreneurs.

One great example is Startup Institute. Co-Founder Shaun Johnson will be joining us in Madison to mentor, he’s bringing with him scholarships good for 50% towards the tuition Startup Institute’s Fall Program.

We have a roster of great speakers, and you can follow the conversation via #TechstarsPBC. You can expect to see some great quotes from Troy Henikoff, Managing Director of Techstars Chicago, and Governor Scott Walker.

Volunteers, mentors and sponsors make this event possible and free for Veterans and Military Spouses. Startup InstituteIBM SoftlayerSendGrid,  Michael Best & Friedrich LLPOpen Prairie VenturesAmerican Family VenturesBenjamin’s DeskWisconsin Economic Development CorporationSupranetAlphaTech, and  Kollath & Associates have all stepped up in a major way to make Wisconsin Patriot Boot Camp a reality.

25th September 2014

# A New Chapter…

I’ve known Brad Feld since my days at Yahoo in the early 2000s. He, along with Fred Wilson, helped convince me to join a Chicago-based startup, FeedBurner, run by four incredible people: Steve Olechowski, Matt Shobe, Eric Lunt, and Dick Costolo. They had assembled an impressive team with folks like John Zeratsky, Traci Halipern, Charley Cassell, and Rick Klau, among others. It was the best professional decision I’ve ever made, but I think I may have just topped it.

When Google bought FeedBurner in the summer of 2007, it was also the inaugural class of Techstars. A few of us flew out to be some of the initial mentors for that class. And what a class it was — Jon Fox, Matt Galligan, Ari Newman, and many others. I stayed in touch with the Techstars folks, and over the years, I’ve done what I can to help its companies. More importantly, I’ve been inspired by and adopted Techstars’ “give first” mantra — officially and unofficially mentoring and advising countless individuals, companies, and other accelerators, among them Mass Relevance, LiveFyre, Discourse, SmartShoot, Emtrain, Matter.VC, and UpWest Labs. I thrive on these interactions and clearly receive much more than I give.

Since my time at FeedBurner and Google, I’ve worked at two other startups, Typekit and Storify. Both run by insanely talented and wonderful individuals who built amazing teams. While we were acquired before we could fully realize our vision, by Adobe and LiveFyre respectively, like FeedBurner we were fortunate to have had our products used by millions of people and publishers, and to have impacted the web at large.

I learned a lot from these successes, but also from my failed-first-startup iSyndicate, in terms of how to be mission driven and relentlessly focused, build a great culture and product, aim high and strive for global impact, dramatically grow users without marketing resources, recruit top tier talent, and work with potential partners/acquirers, among many other things. And, as a result of our exits, I learned how to navigate large organizations and gained a firsthand understanding of how these companies approach partnerships and acquisitions.

After we sold Storify to LiveFyre last fall, I decided to take some time off to spend time with my family and think about what to do next. It was my first break since college. Unfortunately, three months in, I broke my hip (femoral neck fracture) in a mountain biking accident and have just started to walk again (yeah!) after two surgeries and seven months on crutches. I’ll write more about that experience later, but in short, I’m amazed, grateful, and humbled by the support of my family and friends.

During this time, I started talking to Seth and Brad from Foundry, which led to discussions with Mark Solon, David Cohen, David Brown and many others at Techstars about a role focused on helping portfolio companies with partnerships, business strategy, and M&A. The role is an ideal fit for my experience and interests and, given the incredibly talented team and big and scaled opportunities, joining was a no-brainer.

While I officially started a few of weeks ago, part-time until my hip fully heals, I’ve been informally helping a number of Techstars companies like Appetas, which recently joined Google. I feel very fortunate to be able to work with and learn from my wonderful new colleagues, our fantastic mentors, and the entrepreneurs behind companies like Contently, Distil, Sphero, DigitalOcean, Remitly, Sendgrid, Simple Energy and the rest of the 500+ companies that make up the Techstars family. What the team and community have built together is incredibly special and unique.

And, if I needed more proof of what makes it a standout company, I witnessed it at my first FounderCon two weeks ago in Austin. I wish I had a photo of all 500 or so attendees, but here’s our team photo from the trip.

And so, the next chapter begins. If you need any assistance from myself or the Techstars network, have questions, or want to help in any way, please feel free to reach out (Don Loeb |@donlbe).

PS — many thanks to @sether and @bfeld for kicking this off.

24th September 2014

Sponsorship in Action: Simple Energy and Cooley

Sponsorship in Action: Simple Energy and Cooley

The Simple Energy team. Photo credit: Simple Energy

We recently spoke with Yoav Lurie, founder and CEO of Simple Energy, a Techstars in Boulder 2011 company. Through relevant messaging and engaging software services, Simple Energy partners with utility companies to help consumers make sense of their energy usage, save more and enjoy doing so.

Yoav talks about the company’s relationship with a Techstars sponsor as a strategic partner, Cooley. Cooley is a global firm with an entrepreneurial spirit and deep, substantive experience helping founders build businesses and transform breakthrough ideas into successful companies.

How did Simple Energy meet Cooley?

We connected through Techstars. Two partners from the Colorado Cooley practice, Noah Pittard and Mike Platt, came to Techstars while we were in the program.

How have Simple Energy and Cooley worked together?

Cooley is our strategic legal partner.

About nine months after we finished the Techstars programs, we were finding that the process of negotiating and documenting commercial relationships with public utilities was really driving up our legal spending in a way that felt unsustainable. So we and Cooley sat down together and—at no cost to us—developed a planning structure for negotiating and documenting future public utility contracts. The result was a tool sheet that we could use with customers that helped us work through the terms of our agreements in a clear and efficient way. The net impact of this tool sheet was reducing the legal costs of partnering with public utilities by about 70 percent.

We’ve saved money by working with Cooley. They have always been really transparent at every turn, particularly with pricing. When it came to a specific litigation matter, for example, they recommended another local legal partner who could handle the matter at a reduced cost while Cooley maintained an overall strategic advisory role. We’ve found that sometimes the best way for us to engage Cooley effectively is by having them supervise local counsel on lower-stakes day-to-day work.

Cooley is also not afraid to leverage technology to make their services more cost-effective. For example, when we were raising our Series B round, we wanted to use a company called eShares for cap table management and 409a valuation, and, once Cooley got comfortable that using eShares wouldn’t lead to unintended adverse consequences to our business, they were totally supportive. Since then, Cooley has helped many of their other clients move to using eShares. Leveraging technology allows Cooley to be more strategic, and focus less on transactional matters.

Regardless who our counsel is for a particular issue, whether it’s Cooley or a firm that Cooley recommends, the final decision is almost always made with Cooley as the overarching counsel on the negotiation.

What unique value does Cooley bring to the table?

Cooley’s ability to think about their strategic value add sets them apart. Also, the Cooley brand itself lends a lot of credibility, including the local partners in Colorado that we work with.

Do you have any advice for other founders who want to build good relationships with their legal partners?

Yes. Find a legal partner who you know can be a strategic value add—a firm that will be your partner. It may be one of your biggest decisions. Find a partner early and keep them engaged over a long time period. Having a legal partner will save you from a lot of mistakes. And it will save you money over the long run. Also, have a candid relationship with your counsel about other legal partners you may be using. You have to have a partner you trust, who is aligned with you, and who understands the capital constraints of startups.

Cooley has been that partner for us.

What’s the latest and greatest in the Simple Energy world?

We’re gaining a lot of traction overseas and are looking at opening an office in Europe. And as we expand into areas where the Techstars network exists, we’ll use the Techstars network to make that expansion.

We’re hiring, too:  http://simpleenergy.com/company/

 

22nd September 2014

#givefirst

FounderCon is our annual event for all Techstars companies with two full days of keynotes, breakout sessions, and tons of opportunity to network with almost 400 Techstars founders and alumni from across our 36 programs to date. We held FounderCon 2014 in the great city of Austin. It’s always fun to hear some of the amazing stories that have come out of FounderCon from founders, speakers, corporate partners and sponsors. If you have any stories about how FounderCon helped you realize the power of the Techstars network, please let us know. Make a game-changing connection? Find a new business opportunity? Hire a new employee?

Below is a short recap video showing off this wonderful event. Want to see the keynote speakers, watch here.

Thank you to all who attended and participated in FounderCon! If you
have thoughts on FounderCon 2015, please share. You can check out the buzz at #FounderCon.

16th September 2014

R/GA Accelerator Hiring Design & Engineering Hackstars

The R/GA Accelerator focuses on startups developing connected hardware products and software in the Internet of Things space. The second class of the three-month, immersive, mentorship-driven accelerator begins October 20 at R/GA’s headquarters in New York.

We are currently hiring Hackstars who have the technical skills to help the companies in the program do more faster. Are you an industrial designer, a mechanical engineer or an electrical engineer? Do you want to work alongside ten of the leading IoT companies, with support from R/GA’s technical, product and marketing teams and at one of the nation’s top startup accelerators? Do you have what it takes? Well here’s what it takes:

Industrial Design Hackstar:

  • Excellent sketching, drawing and ideation skills
  • Ability to communicate with technical and non-technical teams to articulate both ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ design requirements
  • Quickly generate visual materials in response to requirements including mood boards, drawings, renderings, prototypes, etc. and iterate until a design direction is chosen
  • Experience with 3D CAD design and visualization software for presentation-ready renderings and graphics (SolidWorks, Rhino, etc.)
  • Strong prototyping and finishing skills & expertise operating 3D printers, specifically FDM and polyjet
  • Basic understanding of the design constraints imposed by fabrication techniques, such as injection molding, die casting, CNC milling etc.
  • Grasp of the materials and their properties generally used in consumer products

Mechanical Engineer Hackstar:

  • 3D CAD design on software such as Solidworks, ProEngineer or similar
  • Hands on, willing to put things together quickly to test them out
  • Experience building cool hardware projects
  • Experience with digital fabrication prototyping technologies: 3D printing, laser cutter, CNC machine etc.
  • Understanding of the design constraints imposed by fabrication techniques such as injection molding, die casting, CNC milling etc.
  • Good grasp of the materials and their properties generally used in consumer products
  • Experience having taken a project from prototype to product or dealing with contract manufacturers

Electrical Engineer Hackstar:

  • Electrical circuit design
  • PCB schematic and layout design
  • Strong debugging capabilities
  • Experience with wireless connectivity chips and circuits, especially bluetooth classic, bluetooth low energy and wifi
  • Experience using mainstream prototyping boards: Arduino, Raspberry Pi and others
  • Microcontroller programming is a plus (ARM, ATMEGA etc.)

If you think you’ve got what it takes, APPLY HERE for one of these paid Hackstar positions. We’re also hiring less technical, but equally important, Associates HERE. And good luck!

 

15th September 2014

Applications now open for the 2015 Sprint Accelerator powered by Techstars!

We are very excited to announce that applications are now open for the 2015 Sprint Accelerator powered by Techstars. Following the lead of the awesome 2014 class, we are once again focused on mobile health. If you have an innovative startup that’s health-related, and your product has a mobile component, apply for the 2015 program today!

How do we define “mobile health” as we look for our next ten companies? It includes, but isn’t limited to, the following:

  • Wearables – medical devices, movement tracking, vital monitoring etc.
  • Sensor-driven devices and networks
  • Products to help you care for parents, kids, or pets
  • Socially enabled products and services focused on achieving personal health goals
  • Health tools that interact with mobile cameras or sensors
  • Mobile apps that can diagnose chronic disease or other illnesses
  • Medication adherence platforms and apps
  • Big Data – platforms for better quality of care and reduced expenditures

Our 2014 program was a huge success. The ten companies of the 2014 class presented to 1,700 attendees at our demo day, and are continuing to grow their businesses. It was a diverse group by design, including everything from Sickweather, a platform that mines social media data to provide real-time illness forecasting, to FitBark, a small and stylish activity monitoring device for dogs.

We are so excited to find the next ten great mobile health companies, we’re leaving no stone unturned. The following is a list of some of the events we’ll be attending or hosting:

Sept. 9-11: Las Vegas, Super Mobility Week

Sept. 17-18: Denver, Denver Startup Week

Sept. 22-25: Santa Clara, Health 2.0 Annual Conference

Oct. 1: New York City, Health 2.o “Pitch Yourself into the Shark Tank”

Oct. 2-3: Pittsburgh, Meetup /Launch CMU at the Carnegie Mellon Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship

Oct. 8: Kansas City, Open House and Reverse Pitch at the Sprint Accelerator

Oct. 21: Sunnyvale, SVHealth Pitch Competition and Meetup

Oct. 28 (approx): Boston, Health 2.0 Boston Meetup

Nov. 18 (approx): Minneapolis, Mayo Clinic Business Accelerator

Dec. 7-11: Washington, DC, mHealth Summit

If you’d like to connect at any of the above events, or if you just have questions, feel free to contact me via twitter @johnfein, or via email.

The Sprint Accelerator powered by Techstars will transform your company and provide unprecedented access to Sprint’s resources, and you’ll become part of the Techstars network for life. Your new network will include thousands of mentors, investors, and fellow entrepreneurs. This is the biggest factor in the incredible success of our companies. Want to join us? There’s one thing you’ll need to do:

Apply today to the Sprint Accelerator powered by Techstars!

 

15th September 2014

FounderCon Keynote Videos

Just recently we had our annual FounderCon event in Austin, TX. FounderCon is our annual event for all Techstars companies past and present – with two full days of keynotes and breakout sessions. There were tons of opportunities to network with over 3,000 founders, alumni, mentors, investors, and corporate partners from across our 36 programs to date.

We filmed the amazing group of keynote speakers for your enjoyment.  Here are just a few, stay tuned for more later this week. Learn more faster!

Ellen Levy, Managing Director of Silicon Valley Connect

Steve Catigan, former VP of Linkedin

Fireside chat with Bob Metcalfe, co-inventor of Ethernet

Thank you to all who attended and contributed to making this event a special one!

Also special thanks to our FounderCon Sponsors: American AirlinesAustin City ChamberGoodDataLocalyticsMasterCardMercury FundPivotDeskSendGridSilicon Valley BankSoftLayer, and Uber.

 

 

11th September 2014

Apply to Techstars Cloud Class of 2015!

I am very excited to announce that this week we opened up applications for our third Techstars Cloud program which will be kicking off in San Antonio, TX this coming January. Our mission for this thematic accelerator is to help build companies that focus on cloud. What does that mean? If you are developing a cloud based technology or platform, a product that is complementary to the cloud, or really any technical product you are probably a fit. If you have an early-stage startup that meets this description, we would love for you to apply to the Techstars Cloud 2015 program. Our first two cloud programs have been a huge success, with graduates including DataRobot, Keen IO, Distil Networks, Cloudability, Conspire and many more. Alumni companies from the first two programs have gone on to raise more than $80M in combined funding from investors such as Foundry Group, NEA and Sequoia.

Why would you want to join the Techstars network and participate in our cloud accelerator? Techstars is building the world’s most powerful network of entrepreneurs, mentors, and investors, who are all there to help you achieve your goals. We want to help your company refine its strategy and accelerate your progress towards becoming the kind of company that can change the world. We are here to help you and your startup grow to realize the vision that inspired you to create a company in the first place.

Mentorship is at the core of all Techstars programs, and we have a huge mentor base ready to spend tons of time with you during three months of intense focus on moving your business forward. The program culminates with Demo Day in April, where the founders will pitch their companies to a room full of investors, mentors, and members of the San Antonio and Techstars community. And your Techstars experience does not end on Demo Day – you get to be part of this amazing network for life.

We accept applications from companies at all stages – some are further along and already have funding, while others are just forming their ideas and do not yet have customers or even a final product. Wherever you are in your startup journey, if you focus on cloud tech and are ready to explore the idea of accelerating your company, please apply for our next program. If you have questions about the program you can always email me at blake dot yeager at techstars dot com or find me on Twitter (@blake_yeager).

Apply for the Techstars Cloud 2015 program and let’s do more, faster.