The Program

Techstars Blog

21st October 2014

Disney Accelerator, powered by Techstars Demo Day 2014

On Tuesday of last week, ten amazing startup CEOs presented their companies to a theater filled with Disney executives, tech investors, and the entrepreneurial community of Los Angeles at Demo Day for Disney Accelerator, powered by Techstars. The event was a major milestone in the journeys of these remarkable startups, and it was a wonderful celebration of fifteen weeks of hard work and incredible progress.

All ten companies shared the details of pending business relationships with Disney, ranging from advertising campaigns to deep product development initiatives.

And most importantly, all ten companies completed Disney Accelerator having made substantial progress on their businesses. This progress was due in no small part to the efforts of the amazing mentors who participated in the program. More than 60 Disney executives and 70 entrepreneurs and investors from the business community gave their time to help coach and nurture the startups in Disney Accelerator, making a profound impact on each of the companies.

Here is Disney’s CEO, Bob Iger, speaking about his experience mentoring one of our companies:

You can watch each of the companies introduce themselves and their businesses here. I encourage you to dive deeply on each them below and get to know them. You’ll find that they are not only compelling companies, but they are also all wonderful people. My life is better for knowing them and I can’t wait to see what they accomplish next. Please join me in celebrating the 2014 companies of Disney Accelerator, powered by Techstars:

 

ChoreMonster unites parents and kids with the most ridiculously fun and motivating family framework, so every home is a joyful place.  choremonster.com    @choremonster
Codarica creates seriously fun games that teach kids to code. codarica.com    @codaricaHQ
Jogg is a mobile video platform that changes the direction of how we engage our audience.  joggapp.co   @joggapp
Naritiv is a marketing and analytics platform for micro-content, starting with Snapchat. naritiv.com   @naritiv
Sidelines is a people-powered content marketing platform that drives brand influence through discussions by expert fans. sidelinesapp.com    @sidelinesapp
Smart Toy is a learning toy that talks and listens to kids. Smart Toy can be customized to know your child’s name, teach lessons, and much more. smarttoylabs.com    @smarttoylabs
SnowShoe creates magic with a touch of plastic. SnowShoe-powered objects unlock digital content through your smartphone. snowshoestamp.com    @snowshoestamp
Sphero is the connected play company, fusing digital and physical play by creating toys and robots that you control with a smart device. gosphero.com    @gosphero
Twigtale builds happier families through personalization and expert-fueled storytelling. twigtale.com    @twigtale
TYFFON makes entertaining apps that put you in the center of the fun — founded by the creators of the ZombieBooth series, with over 30 million downloads. tyffon.com    @tyffoninc

 

20th October 2014

Announcing the 10 Companies for the R/GA Accelerator, powered by Techstars

Today we welcome an exceptional group of hardware and Internet of Things focused startups into the 2015 R/GA Accelerator. This talented group of entrepreneurs has come from around the world to join us in NYC for an action packed 15 weeks. By combining R/GA’s expertise around innovation, technology and design with the mentorship-driven model and entrepreneurial network of Techstars, we offer a game-changing advantage to hardware and IoT focused startups.

The 2013 program was a huge success and we have set the bar high for this new class of startups. I’m looking forward to seeing how the 2015 class develop their businesses and I’m honored to be part of this journey with them.

ASTRO

Astro – New York, NY

Astro is creating an automated home system of devices that requires no installation, no new infrastructure, and no new wireless networks – making it the simplest platform on the market.


BITFINDER

Bitfinder – Seoul, SK / San Francisco, CA

Bitfinder is a portable device and software platform that helps detect airborne and environmental irritants to individuals suffering from chronic conditions such as asthma and eczema.


CHARGIFI

Chargifi – London, UK

Chargifi provides wireless, location based charging stations that include a platform for promotional or interactive content.


DIA

Diagenetix, Inc – Honolulu, HI

Diagenetix brings us Smart Dart, a low-cost, portable diagnostics tool providing food producers, processors, and buyers a start-to-finish view of their pathogen risk.


FREEDOM

Freedom Audio – Orlando, FL

Freedom Audio makes fun, durable and waterproof wireless audio products to enhance life’s best experiences. The next rugged speaker product will be fully connected to your favorite music providers via built-in cellular + wifi connectivity and a touchscreen interface.


LATCH

Latch – Washington, DC

Latch is a keyless entry security platform that uses beacon technology to update current telephone-operated access systems, providing building owners and residents with a low-cost and reliable way to manage building access.


LISNER

LISNR – Cincinnati, OH

The LISNR supersonic beacon platform uses completely inaudible and encrypted tones with the ability to trigger content, second screen experiences or data to mobile devices from any source with a speaker.


1MM

One Million Metrics – New York, NY

1MM creates connected systems for workplaces. The first product is a device that tracks the physical movements of industrial workers who engage in strenuous tasks, helping to ensure safety in the workplace.


PINO

Pinoccio – Reno, NV

Pinoccio is an IoT maker kit that allows users to build wireless, web-enabled projects that are mesh-networked, open source and Arduino compatible.


SKYSPECS

SkySpecs – Ann Arbor, MI

SkySpecs’ Air Bumper technology is a hardware-enabled software system that helps drones avoid collisions automatically, making drone usage more accessible for industrial and consumer applications.

17th October 2014

High School Students and Future Entrepreneurs

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Last week we had the pleasure of spending a day with 22 students from the Lakeside school, who joined the 10 Techstars teams for a micro internship day. Each company had 2-3 students help them solve real business tasks. This is our 3rd year running the Micro internship and it continues to be a great success. The students get an insight to being an entrepreneur and get hands on experience with coding, market research and marketing, in return the companies receive unique insights and help from the students. One of the students, Mary Thomas, wrote a great blog post about her day working with Crowsnest.

Mary Thomas: I nodded my head wisely, hoping that my façade of understanding was convincing, as the founders of Crowsnest, the startup that I was to work with for the day, explained their product. Between the use of acronyms like API (which I wouldn’t have recognized even if they had spelled it out) and talking about plugins, which I at least gathered they didn’t mean the electrical socket kind, I was utterly lost. And then— they asked me what my skills and interests are. I balked, only needing a quick assessment of the situation to realize my normal answer to that question (that I play viola) was probably not what they were looking for. Instead I responded with a confident and articulate “Uhhh…” But my initial trepidation soon subsided when the founders were eager to answer my questions, and throughout the day continued to happily pitch in to explain what they were doing. To my relief, the day was not filled with computer coding. In fact one of the founders shared with me that, to his dismay, he had barely done any coding since they began the project. Indeed, I saw first-hand that there is much more to a software startup than just creating the product. Marketing research took up most of our day, researching hardware companies and startups that could possibly use the software that they were making and then conducting interviews to see what issues those companies were facing and whether or not Crowsnest’s product is something there is a widespread need for. After lunch, I joined the founders of all of the startups in watching a fascinating and entertaining presentation by Rand Fishkin, The Hard Truths of Entrepreneurship, in which he shared valuable insight that he had learned from going through what all of the startups at Techstars are going through. His advice addressed some of the things that people often forget about human nature and working with people. Ideas which are important in all areas of life, but he was able to testify to their specific importance when starting a company. All day I saw how much more there is to a startup than just creating a product. Huge amounts of time and effort have to be put in to researching the needs, expectations, and abilities, of both the people consuming, and producing the product. Instead of just a factory of code monkeys, the software startups of TechStars are businesses by people, for people, just like any other.

I am always impressed by these kids, and it’s great they get exposed to entrepreneurship at an early age. Too many students graduate from college not realizing entrepreneurship is a career path. My hope is partnerships like this can help inspire more young people to start their own companies and help make the world a better place.

– Andy

Techstars Seattle Demo Day, Nov 6th, from 2pm-6.30pm at Showbox SoDo. Reserve your ticket today, read more here 

Launch Party Nov 6th, from 6:30-11:00pm at Showbox SoDo – Buy your ticket now

15th October 2014

Announcing the Qualcomm Robotics Accelerator, powered by Techstars

Today we announce the latest Techstars vertical program with the Qualcomm Robotics Accelerator, powered by Techstars. Qualcomm will host approximately ten companies on their campus for a four month Techstars program building the next generation of robots and intelligent machines. Techstars will be running the program with a full Techstars staff as with all of our other vertical programs. Techstars has seen plenty of success in the past with robotics companies like Sphero and Romotive. We are excited to work with Qualcomm to provide the kinds of resources required to truly innovate into the next generation of intelligent machines. We expect to see smart machines that combine mechanisms, computer vision, sensors, autonomous navigation, and wireless communication. We expect a diverse selection of product opportunities from toys to appliances and new drone solutions.

As with all Techstars programs, we will engage the Techstars mentor network including Matt Grob, CTO of Qualcomm; Ian Bernstein and Paul Berberian from Sphero (formerly Orbotix); Brad Feld, Managing Director, Foundry Group; Nagraj Kashyap and Patrick Eggen from Qualcomm Ventures; Bre Pettis, CEO of MakerBot; Mark Solon, Managing Partner at Techstars; Peter Seid, founder of Romotive; Tim McConnell, the Head of Hardware Engineering at 3D Robotics; Kwindla Kramer, Co-Founder of Oblong; and Vitas SunSprial from the NASA Dynamic Tensegrity Robotics Lab. We will continue to add mentors as the program develops. Many Qualcomm executives and technicians will also be engaged in the program.

The Qualcomm Robotics Accelerator, powered by Techstars is the first Techstars program that Techstars has operated in San Diego and we look forward to engaging with the San Diego startup ecosystem. Each company will receive $120,000 in funding and connections into investors, corporations, experienced entrepreneurs and hundreds of other Techstars founders. In addition, the program will provide access to 3D printers, CAD systems, a FabLab, and electronics hardware.

Details on the program are at QualcommAccelerator.com. The final application deadline is February 22nd, 2015. Selected companies will be contacted by the end of April and the program will begin the end of May. Apply Now!

9th October 2014

Techstars Boulder Demo Day 2014

Today 13 incredible companies will take the stage at the Boulder Theater to celebrate the culmination of their Techstars experience. Demo Day in many ways is the distillation of all the lessons, laughs, struggles and accomplishments that have been jam-packed into these past thirteen weeks, and we couldn’t be more excited for this cohort of entrepreneurs and what they’ve accomplished in such little time.

Under rapid-fire, marketing plans have been created and executed, videos have been produced, logos and branding have been refined, pitches have been reiterated at least a thousand fold, and that just scratches the surface. These growing pains, though familiar, are usually par for the course. The real magic has been in just how cohesive and generous this class has been in helping each other not just succeed, but thrive.

This year’s Boulder Techstars cohort, however, is remarkable in many ways. 10 of the 13 companies are comprised of serial entrepreneurs, meaning this isn’t their first rodeo, and perhaps that’s most telling by the fact that 9 of 13 are already generating revenue.

Beyond these benchmarks, these companies are tackling big issues, ones that touch almost every aspect of our daily lives: they’re helping communities save missing children; they’re creating new markets for renewable energy; they’re reimagining how we manage our credit; and they’re rethinking how technology can be a pathway for more authentic connection.

Please join us in celebrating the Techstars Boulder class of 2014.

 

All4Staff moves traditional employee onboarding to a mobile first solution that workers complete before they arrive.@All4Staff
Bawte connects manufacturers who sell through retail to their end customers.@Bawte
ExpenseBot is artificial intelligence for enterprise finance, starting with expense reports that do themselves.@ExpenseBot
Final is a new type of credit card that creates dynamic card numbers, radically reducing fraud.@Final
Kapta helps CEOs track and manage the most critical priorities of their business.@Kapta
Lassy Project notifies an entire local community about a missing child within seconds.@LassyProject
Native is a fun and beautiful mobile app for college students to find, create, and share activities in their local community.@Native_App
Notion is a multi-function sensor engineered for complete home intelligence.@Notion
QuotaDeck is a marketplace for the 8 million salespeople to receive warm introductions to their target buyers.@QuotaDeck
ShareableSocial is content on cruise control! We create and post industry specific social media content for small business owners.@ShareableSocial
Sportsy is a mobile training and education platform for sports.@Sportsy
Wellhire is a mobile first app that matches enterprise company opportunities with highly compatible job candidates.@WellHireNews
Wunder is a marketplace that reimagines solar project finance by connecting investors with thoroughly vetted opportunities.@WunderCapital

2nd October 2014

Techstars is for everyone

Thinking of applying to Techstars? Do it! You have nothing to lose. Being part of Techstars is not just a three month mentorship-driven accelerator program but a massive interconnected network — with over 3,000 founders, mentors, investors, and corporate partners – that you’re part of for life.

No matter what stage your company is in, we have a program to suit your needs. We now have 13 horizontal and vertical programs worldwide, including 5 vertical programs that we run in conjunction with corporate partners (R/GA for connected devices, Kaplan for EdTech, Disney for media and entertainment, Barclays for FinTech and Sprint for mobile health.)

Applications are currently open for Techstars in New York, our Cloud program in San Antonio, and for the Sprint Accelerator in Kansas City.  Apply today!

Here’s a video with highlights from some Techstars founders explaining why Techstars is so important to them.

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.