The Program

Techstars Blog

19th December 2014

The Holiday Video!

We wanted to wish you all a wonderful holiday with this video on The Top 10 New Year’s Resolutions for Entrepreneurs.  Thank you to all of the Techstars companies who helped make this video!

1. Shed some pounds, release stress Sportsy
2. Take risk, grow some balls Sphero
3. Motivate people to save energy Simple Energy
4. Move out of your parent’s basement Everlater, acquired by MapQuest
5. Let your dreams soar, without them crash SkySpecs
6. Learn something new everyday Occipital
7. Know how to pitch your company to anyone Rapt Media
8. Build something from scratch and watch it grow Maker’s Kit
9. Don’t take yourself too seriously
10. Give First!

Happy Holidays from all of us at Techstars!

18th December 2014

The Qualcomm Robotics Accelerator, powered by Techstars, is hitting the road!

We want to meet you and your intelligent machines, so we’re hitting the road in 2015! We are looking for robotics start-ups looking to take their company to the next level. If you’re going to be at CES or you’re in Boston or New York, let us introduce ourselves at one of our Qualcomm Robotics Accelerator Meetups.

January 7, CES in Las Vegas

Source the Right Financing Panel
Techstars will be participating in a panel discussion in the Investing In Emerging Technologies program sponsored by our partners at Qualcomm Ventures.

Office Hours with the Qualcomm Robotics Accelerator Team
Set up a meeting with our Managing Director at Eureka Park to pitch your robotics startup and learn more about the accelerator. Spots are limited. Click here and navigate to Jan 7 to see available times.

Qualcomm Robotics Accelerator Info Session
5-7 PM at Work In Progress in Downtown Vegas
Meet the Qualcomm Robotics Accelerator teams from Techstars and Qualcomm Ventures for food and drinks plus hear from Mark Bowles, Qualcomm Robotics Accelerator Mentor and founder of ecoATM, and Danny Ellis, founder and CEO of Skyspecs, currently at the R/GA Accelerator, powered by Techstars. Register at Eventbrite
Note: This is a joint meetup with Techstars Mobility, Driven by Detroit. We’ll be talking robotics and intelligent machines from 5-7pm and mobility and transportation from 7-9pm.

January 12, Boston, MA

Office Hours with the Qualcomm Robotics Accelerator Team
Set up a meeting with our Managing Director at the Techstars Boston office to pitch your robotics startup and learn more about the accelerator. Spots are limited. Click here and navigate to Jan 12 to see available times.

Qualcomm Robotics Accelerator Info Session
6:30 – 8:30pm at Techstars Boston
Meet the Qualcomm Robotics Accelerator teams from Techstars and Qualcomm Ventures for food and drinks plus hear from Rise Robotics co-founder and CEO and Techstars alum Arron Acosta. Register at Eventbrite

January 15, New York, NY

Office Hours with the Qualcomm Robotics Accelerator Team
Set up a meeting with our Managing Director at the Techstars New York office to pitch your robotics startup and learn more about the accelerator. Spots are limited. Click here and navigate to Jan 15 to see available times.

Qualcomm Robotics Accelerator Info Session
6:30 – 8:30pm at Techstars NY
Meet the Qualcomm Robotics Accelerator teams from Techstars and Qualcomm Ventures for food and drinks. Get all of your questions answered about the Qualcomm Robotics Accelerator and let us in on what you’re working on. Register at Eventbrite

Stay tuned for additional events coming up in San Francisco and San Diego. Follow @ts_robotics for updates. Learn more about the accelerator and how to apply at http://qualcommaccelerator.com

Hope to see you soon!

18th December 2014

Sponsorship in Action: Fashion Metric and Rackspace

We recently spoke with Morgan Linton, cofounder of Fashion Metric, a Techstars in Austin company. Fashion Metric takes the guesswork out of sizing. The company provides a big data SaaS solution for apparel retailers and brands to gather intelligence about their customers and personalize the online apparel shopping experience, helping customers get measured for custom clothing or select the best ready-to-wear size.

Morgan shares about the “Fanatical Support®” that Rackspace, a sponsor of Techstars, provided to Fashion Metric at a crucial moment. Rackspace recently interviewed Morgan (see more here), and you can watch the video below:


 

How did Fashion Metric discover – and choose to work with – Rackspace?

We have known about Rackspace for quite some time and decided to work with them when we first started our company back in 2012. It was the concept of “Fanatical Support®” that initially inspired us to give Rackspace a shot.

 

In your opinion, what makes Rackspace unique?

Without a doubt what makes Rackspace unique is their support. We initially thought that Fanatical Support® sounded great, but was probably just a marketing ploy. After our first month with Rackspace, we realized that the support is like no other. It really is fanatical.

What impressed me the most was when I called Rackspace with a question about a Git issue we were having. I had just made a fatal coding error and was unable to rollback my changes. Even though I knew this wasn’t something Rackspace support was expected to cover, I thought I’d ask them about it.

Before I knew it I was on the phone with a Git pro who told me while that while they officially didn’t provide this kind of support, they still wanted to help. In the end he helped me solve the problem quickly. He literally saved the day. After that I was convinced that Fanatical Support® is a real thing.

 

Do you have any advice for other founders who want to build good relationships with their platform/hosting providers?

Techstars does a great job of connecting founders with people other companies who are there to help founders, including Techstars’ sponsors. These companies will go above and beyond to make sure founders have a truly exceptional experience.

I consider Adam Hansen from Rackspace to be a friend. Along with helping me get everything right at Rackspace, he has also sent new clients our way. I’d encourage other founders not to think of the sponsors as service providers, but rather to think of them as people. That changes everything.

Morgan Linton and Daina Linton - FashionMetric

Morgan Linton and Daina Linton, cofounders of FashionMetric

 

Fashion Metric sits squarely in the eCommerce world. What’s most frustrating about eCommerce right now? Most exciting?

The most frustrating thing for apparel eCommerce retailers is low conversion rates and high return rates. We built Fashion Metric to make a major impact in both of these areas. We know that people want to buy clothes online, but at the same time they want to try them on first to make sure they fit. We empower them to do that without going into a physical store.

The most exciting thing about the eCommerce world is the shift to mobile. More people are shopping from mobile phones and tablets. While this creates more challenges for apparel retailers, it also creates new opportunities to engage customers online like never before.

 

What’s the latest at Fashion Metric?

At Fashion Metric it’s about more than building a great product—it’s about working with incredibly passionate people who want to change the world. While it might sound cliche, that’s our goal: we want to fundamentally change the way people buy clothes both online and in-store.

We’re also attracting clients who want to engage their customers in an entirely new way. In 2015 we’ll be working with some of the most forward-thinking and innovative apparel retailers in the world. For us, the combination of the best retailers and the best team is nothing short of pure magic.

We recently moved the company from Los Angeles to Austin, and we’ve hired some amazing new team members in the last two months. It’s an incredibly exciting time for us and we couldn’t be more excited for the journey ahead! Visit fashionmetric.com to request a demo—we’ll show you FashionMetric in action.


You can follow @FashionMetric and @rackspace on Twitter.

You can read other stories in our Sponsorship in Action series here.

 

16th December 2014

Ryan Kuder Joins Techstars as Qualcomm Managing Director

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” – Arthur C. Clarke

Back in 2009, I was part of a team that won a coding competition called the Rails Rumble. Our prize was a No Expenses Paid trip to Boulder, Colorado to meet David Cohen and the Techstars mentors and spend a week working on our project at the Techstars Bunker, which at that time was in a basement under a shoe store. The mentors and companies working in that space were among the most creative and driven I’d ever met. They did more faster than any startups I’d ever seen.

Throughout my career, I’ve been a founder of a handful of tech startups, been through a couple of exits and more than a couple of failures. I’ve seen just about every phase of the startup stack from two guys working in my living room to multi hundred million dollar exits. Along the way, I’ve learned a lot about starting up, and I’ve spent a lot of time working with founders helping them see the things I’ve already seen.

So a few months ago, when Techstars approached me with the opportunity to build an accelerator to help founders (whoo!) in my home town of San Diego (rad!) partnered with San Diego’s biggest company and industry innovator Qualcomm (wow!) to help robotics startups (ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!) it didn’t take much to convince me.

I’m humbled to join the Techstars team and work with Qualcomm to build the Qualcomm Robotics Accelerator powered by Techstars. The revolution in robotics is just getting started and by bringing together Techstars’ great history of helping founders build great companies and Qualcomm’s tradition of innovation and invention, we’re excited to be building the future of robotics right here in San Diego.

If you’re a founder working on a robotics startup, we’d love to talk to you. Hit us up on Twitter at @TS_Robotics or visit us at http://qualcommaccelerator.com.

Let’s build some robots!

15th December 2014

Techstars 2014 Holiday Gift Guide

Are you looking for some fun gift ideas for the holidays?  Well, we have some for you!  Below are a list of creative gift ideas for people (and dogs!) of all ages and interests, plus they’re all from Techstars companies!!!  Don’t miss the promo codes offered.

Maker’s Kit -DIY Project Kits & Video Guides.  Use promo code: techstars25 for 25% off.

Litographs – Art from the books you’ve read and loved, more product videos here.  Use this discount code: SAVE10 to save 10%.

CodeStarter – For every $250 donated, they’ll ship a laptop to a kid who is waiting to enroll in a programming class. 100% of your gift covers the laptop and shipping. Donate here!

Sphero and Ollie – the app controlled robot driven by adrenaline.  Check out their website to see deals.

Romo – Your robot friend.

Occipital’s Structure Sensor - Turn your iPad into a color 3D scanner! Use this promo code for $10 off before Christmas.

Hammerhead – Hammerhead is a tool that helps cyclists find their way and discover new ones. Pre-order now!

Plated – Fresh, premium ingredients and chef-designed recipes, delivered to your door weekly.  Click here to get 4 free plates with a 6 plate min. purchase.  By redeeming this offer, you will be enrolled into a weekly subscription; you can skip weeks as needed or cancel at any time.

WeeSpring – Find the best toys and gifts for parents, babies, and kids on weeSpring.  Check out their baby gift guide.

Notion – small, extremely smart, multi-function sensor that can be placed anywhere and can help you know more about what’s happening in your home.

Brewbot - a robot that brews beer controlled and monitored using a smartphone app.  The app allows users to create, tweak or download recipes while the appliance offers the perfect brewing environment for anyone to brew their own beer.

Atlas Wristband - a fitness monitor that identifies your exercises, counts your reps and sets, calculates the calories you have burned and evaluates your form. Atlas measures your success; all you have to do is work out. Atlas is smart enough to tell the difference between push-ups and triangle pushups. Our machine learning algorithms can intelligently detect exercises in 3D effortlessly.  Discount Code: TS2015

Atlas-Wearables-Wristband-Bench-Press-Angled-Shadow

Freedom Audio – Freedom Audio designs portable speakers for the outdoor enthusiast! Discount code for 30% off – Techstars33726

audio

Pictarine – Order photo prints from your phone and pick them up from Walgreens in 1 hour. Use discount code: PHOTOPRINT50 to get 50% off!
picturine

FitBark – Redefine  the way you understand your pup, her health and behavior.  30% off all pre-orders.

FitBark_Dog_03

Ecovent – Ecovent lets you get the right temperature in each room in your home through a system of easy to install smart vents and sensors. Use discount code: techstars for 10% off.

Invited Home Vacations – beautiful vacation rental homes with the consistency and service as fine hotels.
invitedhome

15th December 2014

Sponsorship in Action: DataRobot and AWS

Sponsorship in Action: DataRobot and AWS

Huy Le, Operations Director at DataRobot, shares tips on choosing a hosting platform & talks about why the company chose to work with AWS.

Huy Le, Operations Director of DataRobot, talked to us about how the company has worked with Amazon Web Services. He also offers great advice for startups that are faced with choosing a hosting platform. DataRobot, a Techstars Cloud company, helps data scientists of all experience levels build and deploy better predictive models. AWS Startups is a sponsor of Techstars and helps startups scale quickly, go to market faster, control costs, and stay lean.

How did DataRobot discover and then choose to work with AWS?

We connected with AWS at Techstars Cloud Class of 2013 in San Antonio. We received hosting credits through the AWS Activate program, a free program with resources for startups to get the most out of AWS.

AWS was a natural choice for us. One of the products AWS offers caught our interest: their Spot Instance offering. Using Spot Instances is like bidding for a product on eBay. You choose the server type you want to use and set the highest price you’re willing to pay. If there are servers with prices at or below your set price, you use the server and pay the current market price. Most of the time, the market price is just a fraction of the regular on-demand price.

Our application does a lot of number crunching. With Spot Instances our application can do massive number crunching at a fraction of the usual cost.

AWS’s wide range of server types and sizes was attractive, too. We use servers as small as t1.micro, which cost about $15 per month to run; and servers as large as r3.8x, which cost over $2,000 per month to run. AWS has a server size for every kind of need.

 

How have DataRobot and AWS worked together?

AWS’ SPOT team and our account manager have been instrumental in us making the best use of AWS Spot Instances. The SPOT team visited our office to learn about our application and advised us how to get the most out of Spot Instances and keep costs low. Our account manager also analyzed our overall usage and suggested cost-saving strategies. Overall, we have really benefited from the advice and support AWS has provided.

 

What do you think sets AWS apart?

A customer-centric philosophy sets AWS apart. When the customers speak, they listen—and they act on customer feedback. They are about helping customers succeed.

For example, I once experienced database performance issues. I called my contact at AWS and asked if there were other options to get faster storage systems. He told me that he had many other customers requesting better storage systems too, and AWS was working to fulfill those customer demands. About six months later, my contact reached out with news that AWS had just announced a better storage system. I was thrilled.

Another thing that sets AWS apart is its ability to provide additional capacity as soon as it’s requested. At times, we’ve needed our capacity limit increased by thousands of servers. AWS has been able to do that on the same or next business day each time. I’ve made similar requests with other service providers. It would take those providers more than a week to fulfill the request, and then the request would be only partially fulfilled.

 

Do you have any advice for other founders who want to build good relationships with their platform/hosting providers?

In short, you want a service platform that is scalable and secure, and you want to have a provider who is ready to assist you whenever you need help. Here’s my advice:

Select the right service provider from the beginning. Don’t put this off until you’re ready for customers. Every service platform is different. You’ll want to work with the same platform from the beginning so you don’t waste your time learning new platforms as your needs change.

Security needs to be the top criterion. Choose a service provider that has granular access control to your cloud account, so that you can grant different levels of access to employees on an as-needed basis.

Choose a provider that offers three key features:

  • A wide range of server selections. Start with a small server and scale up as needed. Test your product on different, larger servers as you gain more users and prepare for product launch.
  • Autoscale support. Ideally, you want your platform to automatically scale as load demand fluctuates. For consumer or social applications, expect to have bursts of traffic.
  • PCI compliance and hardware encryption support if your product will be handling payments. And make sure you meet the additional compliance requirements for your specific product. If you’ll be using health care data, for example, you want a server provider that is HIPAA compliant.

What’s currently going on in DataRobot’s world?

We have great success with our private beta customers. We’re working relentlessly to polish the product and are excited to release it at the beginning of 2015. Anyone working on predictive analytics who wants to build better models faster is invited to sign up for beta access at datarobot.com. (We’ll provide VIP access to early sign ups.)

We’re ramping up head count as we get ready for public launch. Python and JavaScript developers, testing automation engineers, DevOps engineers, software engineers with expertise in machine learning, data scientists, and many other roles are open. We have over 30 open positions, ranging from junior to senior levels. Check our Careers page to learn more.


You can follow @DataRobot and @AWSstartups on Twitter.

You can read other stories in our Sponsorship in Action series here.

12th December 2014

An Open Letter to Entrepreneurs

I often think about the dozens of early stage companies that I have worked with over the last several years. I think about their teams, I think about their business models, and I think about the success I hope to see them achieve. But more often than I’d like, I also think about what went wrong. In my opinion, one of the greatest factors contributing to a company’s demise has been the lack of a communications strategy by the CEO, specifically as it relates to nurturing long-term relationships with their investors and potential investors. While communication during the fundraising process is critical, it’s even more important in the post-fundraising stage of a company’s early life. Identifying goals and metrics and communicating updates against them on a regular basis creates a cadence that will undoubtedly help when you start to run out of money.

As a start, I would strongly encourage you to become disciplined in communicating with your investors (and board, if applicable) on a monthly basis. For companies that have an established business model and are beginning to scale, this could include financial statements against budget (income statement and balance sheet), updates on HR, updates on product development, number of months of cash in the bank at the current burn, and where your investors (and board, if applicable) can help if needed. For companies that are still working on product/market fit, all of these items listed above can be included in addition to the tests that are being conducted and the results of such tests.

This approach will give your investors (and board, if applicable) confidence that you have your shit together as well as a better idea of your areas of focus and how you’re allocating the capital that you’ve raised. And this transparency should pay huge dividends when you look to raise more capital down the road.

Additionally, this approach will also hold you accountable to yourself. In your company’s early stages, most of you don’t have boards to hold you accountable. You’re all working your tails off; hours becoming days, days become weeks, then weeks become months, and suddenly you’ve lost complete track of time and can’t believe how much has happened. By taking a few hours a month to pull together these communications, you’re able to take a step back from the business and assess it from a different perspective. In the end, you may find yourself looking at the business in a completely different way.

This process will also help you communicate more effectively with your co-founders and employees. You will be able to reuse much of what you pull together to provide better insight to your employees on the company’s progress. They will see more of the bigger picture, which should give them more confidence in you and more attachment to the company.

Finally, if executed well, you will have documented the progress you’ve made over a 12-18 month period of time, and this information will be very helpful when raising your Series A (or Seed Extension).

If you aren’t doing this now, it’s not too late…but it will be too late if you start when you’re running out of cash. I’ve seen the latter too many times.

– Steve Farsht, Director of Techstars Chicago

11th December 2014

Techstars Announces Techstars Mobility, Driven by Detroit

Today, Techstars is announcing Techstars Mobility, driven by Detroit with our partners Ford Motor Company, Magna International and Verizon Telematics. Mobility and transportation are changing and we want to help the next generation of companies make it happen. Techstars is also committed to operating this program in Detroit, the center of the global mobility and transportation ecosystem.

Techstars Mobility, driven by Detroit will give 10 selected companies deep connections with our partners, $120,000 in funding and three months engaged with our extensive mentor network. Each of our program partners brings an important piece of the mobility industry into this Techstars accelerator:

  • Ford, one of the leading innovators in the industry since it’s inception who continues to lead with a focus on mobility and transportation under the direction of Bill Ford;
  • Magna International, one of the largest automotive suppliers in the world with connections and distribution channels to virtually all auto producers and into other transportation industries;
  • Verizon Telematics, who puts the connected in connected car with their terrestrial and satellite based communication solutions.

The Techstars program will be located in the growing entrepreneurial district of Detroit. There has been a recent renaissance in Detroit with many startups moving to the downtown area and venture capital becoming very active in the region. Throughout the development of the Techstars Mobility program, Techstars worked with Detroit based venture capital firms Fontinalis Partners, Detroit Venture Partners and Renaissance Venture Capital to recruit mentors and ensure capital was ready to deploy in the region. Many other venture firms have also contacted Techstars communicating their interest in bringing capital to Detroit.

Techstars will be bringing their proven accelerator model and extensive network of mentors, founders and corporations to Detroit to support this program. Techstars will also coordinate efforts across the Detroit entrepreneurial ecosystem as a member of the Detroit Technology Exchange (DTX), ensuring that Techstars can have a positive impact across the entire community. Techstars Mobility, driven by Detroit will run for three years with a new class of 10 startups each year.

The program kicks off June 9, 2015, and concludes with a Demo Day on September 10, 2015 where each team will present to investors, industry leaders, and the community at large. Ted Serbinski, formerly with Detroit Venture Partners, has been named as the Managing Director of Techstars Mobility, driven by Detroit. Ted and his team are full-time Techstars staff and will live and work in the Detroit area. Applications are being accepted through March 15, 2015.

9th December 2014

Techstars++ Launches with Mayo Clinic

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

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

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

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

2nd December 2014

Where Techstars Companies Settle Post-Program

Techstars is unique amongst seed accelerators in that we operate fourteen different programs across eleven cities in the US and Europe. The depth and breadth of the Techstars network means that Techstars companies are supported by local Techstars MDs and staff in most major US cities. But I was curious: where do founders choose to base their company after they complete a Techstars program? And what insights can be drawn from this data?

When founders base their company in the same city/region where they went through Techstars, they can make maximum use of the local networks they build during the program. But for personal reasons, founders may choose to relocate their company closer to home or in a city they feel is more advantageous for their long-term success.

Recently, I went through data for our portfolio companies. Of the 500+ companies Techstars has funded, I selected 275 that were both operating (had neither failed nor been acquired) and had completed Techstars more than four months ago. In my personal experience, four months after going through a program our companies have largely decided where they’re going to be based. Data for company locations comes from the internal networking application for Techstars founders.

Of the 275 companies, 171 of them (62%) chose to base their company in the same city where they went through the Techstars program. For companies that went through our “city” programs (like Techstars Boulder, Techstars NYC, etc.), 71% of the companies stayed in the city. Our vertical-focused programs like the Kaplan EdTech Accelerator and R/GA Connected Devices Accelerator tend to attract applicants from a wider geographic area, which leads to a lower rate of 39% of those companies staying in the same city.

But where do these companies go when they move? Of the top five destinations, four of them are cities with Techstars programs: New York City, Boston, Chicago and Boulder. The top location where startups go is the San Francisco / Bay Area, where Techstars has a thriving network of alumni, mentors, and investors. In fact, just 38 of those 275 companies moved to a city where Techstars doesn’t have local staff on the ground who have built a local network of mentors and investors.

While the majority of our companies stay in the same city where they went through Techstars, those that move go to cities where they can continue to leverage the Techstars network. They can continue to get advice and connections from the local Techstars Managing Directors and mentors, be introduced to local investors, share office space, or just connect with fellow entrepreneurs. The breadth of the Techstars network across the US and Europe, with local Techstars Managing Directors and staff, means startups can be supported while basing themselves in the city that’s right for them.