The Program

Techstars Blog

28th May 2015

Introducing the First Class of the Qualcomm Robotics Accelerator

Today, we’re pleased to welcome the first class of the Qualcomm Robotics Accelerator, powered by Techstars. These startups are representative of the tremendously talented entrepreneurs creating the future of robotics. In this class, the companies are creating commercial and consumer robots, new robot-enabling technologies, and the infrastructure for a robot powered economy.

Our 2015 class represents seven countries: Greece, Italy, Germany, Canada, Singapore, the UK, and the US–the most international class ever assembled for a US based Techstars accelerator. Two of the startups are homegrown here in San Diego, a testament to the strength of the local robotics ecosystem.

We’re excited to introduce the 2015 class of the Qualcomm Robotics Accelerator, powered by Techstars:

Carbon Robotics out of San Francisco, CA, is a robotic arm company geared towards consumers and mid-sized businesses that combines affordable hardware with an open platform. They are building TOBI, a table top arm targeted at developers.
CleverPet from San Diego, CA, is a technology company dedicated to teaching your pet new behaviors. Founded by a team of cognitive scientists and neuroscientists, CleverPet’s first product is a smart, in-home robot that provides your dog with the daily mental and physical stimulation he or she craves.
CtrlWorks, based in Singapore, is dedicated to transforming any mobile platform into an intelligent robot at an affordable price. Their first robot, Axon, attaches to just about anything and turns it into a fully autonomous robot through cloud navigation and specialized hardware.
Inova Drone, from San Diego, designs and develops advanced, professional unmanned aerial systems for the global commercial market. Their first product is a drone targeted at first responders and search and rescue applications.
Rational Robotics, from Edmonton, Alberta, CA, produces robots that automate the restorative automotive painting process. Utilizing 3D vision and advanced path planning, Rational Robots provide a safe and efficient way to paint cars on the shop floor.
Reach Robotics, from Bristol, UK, is developing Mecha Monsters – the world’s first gaming monster robots. They are controlled via smartphone or tablets and serve to bridge the physical and digital components of the gaming world. Mecha Monsters come with accessories that provide special abilities that make them more powerful.
Skyfront, based in Hoboken, NJ, builds hybrid-electric technology for long endurance drones. Skyfront’s technology extends typical drone flight times up to 10x and enables UAVs to be used for extended commercial applications.
Sky Robotics, from Athens, Greece, is enabling the streamlined, affordable creation of robots. Their OPRA (open platform for robotics applications) is a development platform that combines high-performance modular hardware and intuitive open source software to catalyze the realization of an infinite variety of robots.
Skysense, based in Berlin, Germany, builds and sells charging infrastructure for drones, enabling remote-controlled flights and autonomous missions. Their technology involves a gold plated charging station pad that can be easily scaled depending on the drone and application.
Solenica, out of Rome, IT, makes Lucy – a sleek, sophisticated robot that brings sunlight directly into your home. Powered by solar cells, Lucy follows the sun throughout the day to reflect light into your home or office, creating natural illumination while simultaneously reducing electricity use.

27th May 2015

The Techstars Experience: Rex Animal Health

What’s it like to go through a Techstars program? Why choose our accelerator program over others?

This is the next post in our blog series, “The Techstars Experience,” with some thoughts from Amado Guloy, Co-Founder and CEO of Rex Animal Health. Rex enables access to animal health data and analytics for pharmaceutical companies and veterinary service providers. Amado and his co-founder, Haven Moore, are part of the Techstars Sprint Accelerator Program 2015 and are getting ready for Demo Day next week!

Here are some highlights from a few of Amado’s posts:

[re: why the network matters]

We have to leverage our networks. We have to help each other. That’s one thing I absolutely love about the Techstars mantra of GIVE FIRST. You have access to an amazing network of over 1500 founders, mentors, and investors. People are willing to give before they get, because that’s what we’re all about. It’s certainly how Rex has gained a ridiculous amount of traction in a such a small amount of time; people have helped us along the way, have given us amazing introductions, and have given us actionable advice on how to grow our business and kick as*.

[re: winning and growth]

The atmosphere at the office isn’t one of competition, but everyone has set goals for themselves and what they want to accomplish so ‘winning’ means accomplishing said goals. It’s a fantastic feeling to know that you’re rooting for the other teams and that they’re rooting for you.

…the past three weeks have felt like three years. I do not think there is any other way that we could have figured out what strategy and market we would be going after in a matter of three weeks without the guidance we have received thus far. As we enter our final week of mentor madness, I am proud to say that the company has grown leaps and bounds over where we were before.

[re: founder fear]

A lot of entrepreneurs end up not doing anything because of fear. They’re scared that they might do the wrong thing when facing a fork in the road. They’re afraid of the potential outcome that could totally rock their assumptions about the market. In the end, entrepreneurs who are scared just end up kicking the can down the road, staying in their happy little comfort zones, and get absolutely nothing done….So how do you get out of the space of intention and into the space of realization? Or in other words, how do you get out of planning phase and actually go out there to get shi* done.

To get the full story of this founder’s Techstars Experience, read more of Amado’s posts here.

Want to apply to Techstars? Check out our Program Schedule.

21st May 2015

[VIDEO] Where Are They Now? SendGrid & Happiness

Check out the latest “Where Are They Now?” video featuring SendGrid, a Techstars Boulder 2009 alum. SendGrid has developed a cloud based service that eliminates the complexity of sending email, saving time and money, while providing reliable delivery to the inbox.

SendGrid is now sending out as many emails per day as Twitter sends out tweets! Wow.

Learn more about their success post-Techstars, their enormous growth, their extraordinary market opportunity and why happiness is key factor to their success.

20th May 2015

The Techstars Experience: Rainbird & 100 Days of Techstars

What’s it like to go through a Techstars program? The program can change your life – but it’s not always pretty.

This is the next post in our blog series, The Techstars Experience, with some thoughts from Dom Davis, Co-Founder and CTO of Rainbird, an artificial intelligence platform that automates knowledge-work by unlocking internal expertise and amplifying that value across an organization. Dom and his co-founders completed the Techstars London 2014 Winter program.

This installment of The Techstars Experience is a bit different. Dom blogged (nearly) every day of his 100 days in program. He talks very candidly  not only about the program itself — but the lack of sleep, the food, the exhaustion, the grueling commute, and the demands on his family (his very pregnant wife and a three year old child).

Dom compiled these posts into an ebook called, “100 Days of Techstars.” He gives the blow by blow in personal diary style with a blunt voice and a British twist. It’s a good read…

Check out a few excerpts below and as Dom puts it, “Follow my descent into insanity and find out what it is to be at Techstars for 100 days.

[re: It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint]

(day 9)
Mentor meetings in the morning, [extremely] long lunch with a very good friend of mine and colleague who was able to offer some very interesting advice and some possible introductions, back to the office to do a couple of hours work, out by 19:00 with the intention of going home and going pretty much straight to bed.

Didn’t quite manage that as Chris and I started talking about some issues that had been uncovered during the day and then started throwing around some ideas to fix these issues. Next thing you know the notepads are out and diagrams are being drawn. OK, so it’s not exactly high intensity work – and we did range over a number of topics while also cooking and eating dinner – but we still utterly failed in the task of go home, switch off, go to sleep.

It’s very easy to get caught up in the mentality of working every available hour and pushing yourself as hard as you can. That’s great, but you also have to remember that it’s a marathon, not a sprint. There are no prizes for being the first to collapse in a crumpled heap before the finish line is even in sight.

[re: The Techstars Clock of Doom]

(day 23)

The Techstars Clock of Doom rolled over to the 70’s today, which is just terrifying. We’re in week 4. We’ve been here 23 days and it just seems that we’re going to get catapulted out the other side of this process way too fast because in some respects it still only feels like we’ve been there a few days.

(day 89)

It’s odd. The ever present Techstars Clock of Doom which has, until now, been instilling a sense of urgency before demo day is now tinged with sadness. Every second it ticks is another second closer to the end. And that sucks. Royally.

[re: Mentorship & Office Hours]

(day 31)

Techstars set up a number of what they call “Office Hours”. Basically a period of time where useful people will be in the office and you can book a quick meeting with them. One of these was with Tony Blank from context.io. I mentioned to Tony that I could do with speaking to someone who knew more about graph databases than I did. Tony pointed me at the CEO of orchestrate.io because they know about databases. The CEO introduced me to their CTO and lead technical guy, and before I know it I’ve got them coming to visit to talk to me.

In the space of a week I’ve gone from clueless to having access to a huge wealth of information on how our approach is going to work, even at scale. This kind of useful introduction, and willingness to help and provide information goes on all the time which is one of the key things that makes this programme so useful for me.

[re: Burden on the family]

(day 49)

Before going to Techstars I researched the hell out of it. One thing that is made abundantly clear is that if you have a family or partner, they are going to suffer. With that in mind I set expectations with my wife to be low. Very low. Like 5 minute video call once a day and back home every other weekend at best low. Unsurprisingly this caused an argument, but not a major one. I was the first to admit I was being horribly selfish, and the hoped for outcome benefits the entire family hugely. We both understand that.

So my heavily pregnant wife is effectively a single mum for 3 months with flying visits from me for 48 hours at a time every two weeks or so. Not insurmountable, many wives have endured that, but not exactly easy either. It seems this departure was the breaking point….

I now get to throw myself into work with no time to think about anything else. My wife has to keep the house and family together for my return. All I can say is that if your partner bears up as well as mine you’re onto a keeper there.

To get the full story of this founder’s Techstars Experience, download Dom’s full ebook here.

Want to apply to Techstars? Check out our Program Schedule.

15th May 2015

8 Nuggets of Wisdom from Techstars NYC Alumni

About a month ago, the 12 companies of Techstars NYC 2015 winter class presented at Demo Day. The founders of the graduating companies recently shared their wisdom and insights with Entrepreneur.com. Check out the highlights below and read the full article here.

IMG_5768

NYC Techstars Winter 2015 Class

1. Make more connections
2. Create time for mentors
3. Concentrate on growth
4. Treat mistakes as learning opportunities
5. Take care of all logistical headaches before the program starts
6. Get moving
7. Nail down your source of caffeine
8. Plan ahead

Read more.

14th May 2015

The Techstars Experience: Remitly’s Story

What’s it like to go through a Techstars program? Why choose our accelerator program over others?

This is the fourth post in our blog series,“The Techstars Experience,” with some thoughts from Matt Oppenheimer, Co-Founder and CEO of Remitly, an easy, fast, affordable way to send money online. Matt and his co-founders, Josh Hug and Shivaas Gulati, completed the Techstars Seattle 2011 Fall program.

Here are some highlights from Matt’s post, entitled, “Techstars is a Bargain.”

[re: the network and finding co-founders]

I love the quote, ‘if you’re the smartest guy in the room, you’re in the wrong room.’ You won’t be the smartest guy in the room during Techstars. Also, if you need an intro, it feels like you’re always one degree away from anyone in the world when you’re part of the Techstars network.

“Everyone gets something slightly different out of Techstars. For me, it was the product network. Having come from the banking industry, I had no product experience or network. Even before being accepted to Techstars, the Techstars network connected me to my co-founding engineer (Shivaas Gulati) so we could apply to Techstars and we then met our co-founder and Chief Product Officer (Josh Hug) in the Techstars program. Josh was our lead mentor and, after being co-founder and CEO of Shelfari (acquired by Amazon in 2008), he was looking to start his next company. Any smart founder knows that your team, especially your co-founders, make or break a business. The fact that I met both of my co-founders via Techstars was invaluable.”

[re: on focus & credibility]

  • Focus/momentum: If you really want to grow a business, you need to focus on it 100%. Techstars is a good launch pad to make this leap, if you haven’t already.
  • Credibility: Hundreds and hundreds of applicants, 10 companies. That’s a valuable stamp of approval and startups need that stamp to break through the clutter when raising capital, recruiting, etc.

[re: integrity]

“Knowing the integrity and character of the Techstars leadership team, it was no surprise that they recently announced their “Equity Back Guarantee. Like many great brands (Costco, Nordstrom, etc), Techstars can offer this because they know how much value they’re providing founders who participate in their programs.”

To get the full story of this founder’s Techstars Experience, read Matt’s full post
here.

Want to apply to Techstars? Check out our Program Schedule.

13th May 2015

[VIDEO] On Unicorns, Prunes and the Rise & Fall of the Corporate Accelerator

Many corporations, when facing the risk of disruption, seek to accelerate innovation by taking cues from the startup world. In this TEDx talk, Lou Kerner, founder of the The Social Internet Fund, focuses on how and why only a small subset of corporations will succeed in this paradigm.

Video highlights:

  • Money spent does not equate to innovation.
  • Average lifespan of a company has dropped by 70% over the last 50 years.
  • M&A is not driving innovation (Clayton Christensen, “The Innovator’s Dilemma”).
  • Corporations are hiring accelerator programs (like Techstars) so they can learn to innovate like startups.

 

Learn more about our programs, including our corporate accelerators, here.

12th May 2015

[VIDEO] Where Are They Now? Featuring Kapost

Check out our newest “Where Are They Now?” video featuring Techstars Boulder 2010 alumni, Kapost. Kapost’s Marketing Content Engine provides a proven framework for planning, executing, distributing and optimizing the critical content that drives all of marketing.

Congratulations to Kapost on its announcement today of a $10.25 million funding round! Learn more about their success post-Techstars and how “intellectual honesty” helped them pivot their business model in this new video.

12th May 2015

McDonald’s, Honda R&D Americas, Inc. and Dana Holding Corporation Join as Partners in Techstars Mobility, driven by Detroit

Today we’re excited to announce three new partners in Techstars Mobility, driven by Detroit. McDonald’s, Honda R&D Americas, Inc., and Dana Holding Corporation will join existing partners Ford Motor Company, Magna International and Verizon Telematics to help 10 startup companies drive towards the future of mobility and transportation.

Techstars Mobility, driven by Detroit, is a mentorship-driven technology accelerator that will create a Metro Detroit hub for transportation and mobility innovations in downtown Detroit. Its goal is to bring new technologies to market that address the future of movement of people, goods, and services. Techstars Mobility, driven by Detroit will run for three years with a new class of 10 companies each year.

In addition to its proven accelerator model, Techstars is bringing its extensive network of mentors, founders and corporations to Detroit to help support the program. Each partner in Techstars Mobility, driven by Detroit will also provide executive-level mentorship and support throughout the program and beyond.

To help make a positive impact on the community, Techstars is coordinating efforts across the Detroit entrepreneurial ecosystem. To date, over 200 mentors have signed up to support the incoming class of 10 companies. The response across southeast Michigan has been incredible, as Techstars joins in on the goal of turning Detroit into the future mobility hub of the world.

The ten companies selected for Techstars Mobility, driven by Detroit, will be announced on June 4, 2015. The program kicks off June 9, 2015, and concludes with a Demo Day on September 10, 2015 at the Fillmore Theatre where each team will present to investors, industry leaders, and the community at large.

Click here to learn more about Techstars Mobility, driven by Detroit.

7th May 2015

The Techstars Experience: GameWisp’s Story

What is it like to go through a Techstars program? Why choose our accelerator program over others?

This is the third post in our new blog series, “The Techstars Experience,” with some thoughts from Michael Anderson, Co-Founder and CEO of GameWisp, a platform for gaming video creators and fans to interact around great content. Michael and his co-founders, Aaron Middleton, Andrew Wynans, and Eli Hooten, completed the Techstars Chicago program in 2014.

Here are some highlights from Michael’s post, entitled, “Achievement Unlocked: How Techstars Helped GameWisp Level Up.”

[re: program impact]

Techstars was one of the most difficult things I have ever done. It was also one of the most life-changing and rewarding. Why? I’ll put it simply: the entire destiny of our company (and, frankly, my life) changed over the course of a summer. We took a chance on an unexpected opportunity, were able to grind out a ton of new experience, and invested that experience into new and enhanced abilities that made us much more formidable as a business and as business people. We were able to level up our business.”

The speed of the evolution of our business changed dramatically when we were given the time to all think deeply about our market and how we could solve important problems within it. Having the space of mind to focus on the people we were trying to help with our product allowed us to iterate exponentially faster.”

[re: the people]

The most important thing about Techstars from a participant company’s perspective is the people that are a part of the program. When I look back on our time in Techstars Chicago, it was the relationships that made the crucible of Techstars not only survivable and productive, but invaluable and life-changing.”

[re: Working with Techstars]

The rest of the team they built around them was full of incredibly smart, passionate, and helpful individuals. Everyone provides tremendous value to your business. From board members like Sam Yagan, who bring invaluable advice borne out of their experience, to associates and hackstars (like Kunal, Julia, Jon, Ana, Brendon, and more) who help and guide you through the day to day craziness.

To get the full story of this founder’s Techstars Experience, read Michael’s entire post here.

Want to apply to Techstars? Check out our Program Schedule.