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23rd April 2015

The Techstars Experience: One Founder’s Story

At Techstars, we’re often asked what it’s like to go through our program. Founders want to know how our accelerator program is different than others – what makes it better?

Today we are kicking off a new blog series called The Techstars Experience with some thoughts (originally posted on Medium) from Dane Lyons, Co-Founder and CTO of Knowtify.io, an Engagement Marketing platform that helps software businesses easily and effectively market to their existing customer base. Dane and his team recently completed Techstars Cloud program in San Antonio.

Here are some highlights from Dane’s post:

[re: Techstars the company]

You could define Techstars as an accelerator for early stage startups. In reality, it’s a lot more than that. Techstars is a family of incredible people who understand more than the Xs and Os of starting a company…

[re: The Application Process]

Techstars was far and away a better experience. I’m obviously biased in my assessment but the biggest difference for me was transparency. To kick things off, I had a face to face meeting with Blake Yeager, the 2015 Cloud Managing Director, before ever submitting our application. From there, he made himself available by email and Google Hangout for the next few weeks in case we had any questions. That alone made it a better experience… The vibe just felt right…

[re: Mentorship]

“The first month of Techstars is like speed dating for companies and mentors. You talk to as many entrepreneurs as possible from the Techstars network. The goal is to find 3–5 people you like working with to help grow the company over the next 2 months leading up to demo day….I’m sure we easily talked to more than 50 people… In the end we paired up with 4 pretty amazing mentors…The second month of the program was about spending a few hours per week with each mentor and really cranking away on messaging and the product. This is where our vision really started to come together.”

[re: Give First Philosophy]

Brad Feld, one of the founders of Techstars, lives by this wonderful ‘give before you get’ philosophy. The idea is not born out of pure altruism where you give but don’t get. It’s hard to pay bills without the getting side of the equation. What this means is don’t worry as much about being transactional and clearly defining what you get for what you give. Instead, just focus on giving first. If the relationship evolves then getting will follow.”

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

Want to apply to Techstars? Learn more here.

 

22nd April 2015

Announcing New MDs for London, METRO Accelerator and Boulder

As Techstars continues to expand, we are bringing on new talent to help manage our global programs – now totaling 18 programs in 13 locations. Read on to learn more…

Meet Max Kelly, our new Managing Director of Techstars London. Max has a long background running innovation and entrepreneurship at Virgin. While there, he was responsible for the strategy of the group and for starting several companies which eventually exited for over $500M. Alongside his Virgin commitments, Max also co-founded lastsecondtickets.com which had a successful exit in 2014.

(Not to worry, Jon Bradford isn’t going anywhere. He is helping Max get up to speed through the next program before taking on a broader role in the Techstars organization.)

In Berlin, we recently brought on Rob Johnson as the Managing Director for the Techstars METRO Accelerator. Rob was co-founder of Makers Academy which quickly exploded into Europe’s largest coding boot camp and was recently ranked by the Guardian as the #1 place to learn to code in London.

In Boulder, Nicole Glaros will continue as a Partner in Techstars Ventures as well as moving into a Chief Product Officer role where she will be responsible for assuring that we continue to maintain a high level of quality across all of our programs. Nicole is passing the baton for Techstars Boulder onto a team of two new Managing Directors, Zach Nies and Natty Zola (clearly, it takes two men to fill Nicole’s shoes).

Zach Nies is the former Chief Technologist for Rally Software. His entire career has been dedicated to entrepreneurship at startups and inside large companies. He uses that experience, guided by his core value of Learn, Do, Teach, Learn, to help companies of all sizes successfully bring new products and services to market. Zach has served as a Mentor with Techstars since 2008.

Natty Zola is the co-founder of Everlater (an anagram of e-traveler), a consumer travel blogging platform and a CRM tool for tour operators, which was acquired by AOL in 2012 and merged into MapQuest. Natty brought his company through Techstars Boulder in 2009 and understands the entrepreneurial journey first-hand.

We couldn’t be more excited to bring them on as co-MDs who have been an integral part of the Techstars program for many years.

Check out this new video which gives more details on the transition of our Boulder program.


Welcome Max, Rob, Zach and Natty. Good luck to all of you and to Nicole in your new roles!

 

 

21st April 2015

The Techstars METRO Accelerator

Are you working on a startup in the hospitality or food tech space? Can your product help a restaurant, hotel, catering company or cafe do business better or more efficiently? Want access to a global retailer’s 5,500-person salesforce and resources?

Then come learn more about the Techstars METRO accelerator at one of our events. Rob Johnson, Managing Director of the program, will be available and ready to answer any questions that you may have about the program.

Sign up for one of our live events:

April 27th in Berlin – Register Here
May 11th in London – Register Here
May 13th in Paris – Register Here
May 27th in Shanghai – Register Here
June 1st in Tel Aviv – Register Here

Can’t make it to one our live events? Sign up to attend one of our online webinars:
May 1st at 3PM CET (Central European Time) – Register Here
May 7th at 10AM CET – Register Here
May 15th at 12PM CET – Register Here
May 24th at 9PM CET – Register Here

We’ll be accepting applications to the Techstars METRO accelerator from April 27th until August 3rd. The accelerator kicks off on October 12th in Berlin and culminates with Demo Day in January 2016.

Have questions and can’t make it to any of the above sessions? Please contact rob.johnson@techstars.com

20th April 2015

The Science of Going Viral: Story #5 in the Techstars “Bend the Curve” blog series

Welcome back to our final installment of 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 several weeks, we have been releasing short excerpts from the book including stories of entrepreneur success and failure. Today, read about Emerson Spartz, who began his entrepreneurial journey at age 12. We hope you’ve enjoyed this peek into the lives of startup founders. To order the book, visit: http://bendthecurve.co/

Bend the Curve
Chapter 12: The Science of Going Viral

The words projected on the screen behind him set the tone for what’s to come. Hi! I’m Emerson Spartz. I want to change the world. Emerson Spartz speaks with the cadence of a man on a mission. He talks fast—really fast—as if his tongue is in a race to catch up with his brain. His tongue has no chance. Spartz wastes no time, knows what works, and is generous in sharing it. He—along with his team at Spartz, Inc.—has turned the art of virality into a science, a science he began studying at a very early age.

At 12 years old, Emerson Spartz convinced his parents to let him drop out of school to homeschool himself. A month later, he created a website called MuggleNet, a Harry Potter fan site that quickly drew over 50 million page views per month. “I had to grow up really fast,” Spartz recalls. “Through MuggleNet, I was managing a part-paid, part-volunteer staff of 120 people. I learned how to code, how to write, how to lead, how to edit, and how to design. We published three books, one of which became a New York Times bestseller. The success of MuggleNet allowed me to represent the fans at a press conference with J.K. Rowling. It went extremely viral because she rarely does interviews.

Spartz combined his early success with an insatiable appetite for the study of influence, which became the foundation of his company. Spartz, now 27, is co-founder of Spartz, Inc. along with his wife Gaby, she too a once-precocious 12-year- old founder. Her site, Daily Cute, is a website of images of baby animals. As Emerson recalls from when he met her as classmates at Notre Dame, “I hit the jackpot!

Both MuggleNet and Daily Cute are now two of what is a growing portfolio of Spartz Media websites and apps that collectively draw over 17 million readers and over 25 million followers on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

Spartz now launches a new property once every six weeks. Among the properties he’s launched over the years are GivesMeHope, Memestache, OMG Facts, Unfriendable, As Failed on TV, SmartphOWNED, Dose, in addition to new mobile apps in gaming (Blanks) and dating (Twirl). Spartz now has nearly forty people working for him full-time including data scientists, web developers, and editors. Together, Spartz, Inc. media properties educate, inspire, and entertain over 100 million people every month.

Spartz is in the business of virality. Using predictive science to measure viral potential, Spartz can predict the likelihood of a piece of content going viral or not. Thus far, Spartz Media has a 90 percent success rate. Spartz refers to his proprietary algorithm as an “awesomeness meter.”

In this chapter, we’ll talk about:

  • The science of virality
  • Making stuff go viral
  • Really useful techniques you should use

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 Riddlewas 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.

20th April 2015

Where Are They Now? Sphero in the New Star Wars Film

The latest company in our Where are They Now? series features Boulder-based Sphero, who first graduated from Techstars in 2010. Their extremely passionate mentor, Paul Berberian, joined as their CEO later on that year. Sphero has grown quickly and even with their popularity and success, decided to go through the Disney Accelerator Powered by Techstars program in 2014. This experience led to an exciting opportunity to create a new robot named BB-8—a new character in the upcoming installment of the Star Wars series!

Sphero is also making a positive impact on the world with their SPRK (Schools, Parents, Robots, Kids) program. By combining technology and robots, they’re teaching and inspiring children of all ages.  Whether you’re an educator or a parent, SPRK lessons give kids a fun crash course in programming while sharpening their skills in math and science.

Check out the video below and congratulations to everyone at Sphero!

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

5/12 – 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.