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3rd April 2015

Where Are They Now? – Ovuline

As we head into Easter weekend,  check out our new video about Ovuline as a part of our Where Are They Now? series.

Ovuline (Techstars Boston 2009) uses big data and mobile apps to help women conceive faster and have healthier pregnancies.

Ovuline’s mobile apps, Ovia Fertility and Ovia Pregnancy, are the leading women’s health apps in the Apple Store and Google Play, having helped over 2M women track their cycles and start healthy families.

In this season of new life and fertility, watch the story of how Ovuline is tracking “a new pregnancy reported every 70 seconds!”

Where Are They Now? – Ovuline “Focus on the product”

31st March 2015

Growth Hacking to 1,000 Users & Beyond

If you want to tackle your startup marketing in an actionable, results-oriented way, look no further than this growth hacking talk from Mitch Wainer, cofounder and CMO of DigitalOcean, a Techstars Boulder 2012 company.

In the talk, given to the Techstars in NYC class earlier this year, Mitch outlines that fundamental user acquisition building blocks for startups to create a growth engine and surpass 1,000+ users/customers. He shares tried and true tactics based on DigitalOcean’s growth.

Watch Mitch’s talk here. It will be 35 minutes well-spent:

Don’t see the video? Click here.

“Growth hacking is a mindset.” – tweet this

In the video, Mitch shows you how to create a viral growth engine. He packs a ton of actionable ideas for each of these topics:

  • Simple monthly reports
  • Standard health metrics include LTV, CAC and churn
  • Free trial / promo codes
  • Content marketing
  • Analytics
  • Display advertising
  • PR
  • Retargeting
  • Referrals
  • Social media marketing
  • Email marketing
  • Retention growth hacks

Other growth hacking resources mentioned:

Thanks to Mitch and DigitalOcean for talking with the Techstars in NYC class.

Learn more about DigitalOcean here: https://www.digitalocean.com/

30th March 2015

Creating and Hiring for Culture: The third installment of our “Bend the Curve” Blog Series

Welcome to 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 tirelessly 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 next couple of weeks, we will continue to release short excerpts from the book including stories of entrepreneur success and failure. Today, read about Creating and Hiring for Culture and the story of Giveforward. Check it out and come back next week for the next post!

Bend the Curve
Chapter Three excerpt: Creating and Hiring for Culture

In this chapter, we’ll talk about:

  • Where company cultures comes from.
  • How to create a culture of innovation.
  • How to hire for the culture you want to create.
  • How to sustain that culture as you grow.

In the early days, when you are cash-strapped and unable to pay competitive salaries, you really have only two tools to attract the best talent: equity and culture. People join start- ups for different reasons, but among them is a very personal feeling that they “fit in.” They believe in the mission that the company is on, the product the company sells, and perhaps most importantly the culture that the company has created. As a founder, you are not only competing with the competitors in your category, you are competing for talent. Don’t wait to work on culture. It’s never too early to start thinking about it and, more importantly, to start living it.

Several years ago, when I first met Desiree Vargas-Wrigley and Ethan Austin, co-founders of the crowdfunding platform Giveforward (a Techstars company), I was taken aback by their commitment to culture. They had come to my office to pitch me as investor in their seed round. I loved the problem they were out to solve and I loved their business model, but what struck me most was a comment Ethan made after their pitch.

He said they were really serious about their culture and went on to explain their values. As much as he was engaged during the pitch, he physically lit up when he spoke about culture and leadership. This typically would come as no surprise. Culture is a big deal. Many companies talk about culture. Founders believe in it. People know it is important. But what struck me about Ethan’s enthusiasm for culture was the simple fact that, at that time and in that moment, Giveforward had one employee. One. And she had just recently become a salaried employee after working for 18 months as an unpaid intern. Ethan spoke about culture not as if they had one employee but as if they had one thousand employees. I invested.

Today, Giveforward is the leading crowdfunding site for medical expenses. They employ 29 people and have a Net Promoter Score (NPS) that rivals Amazon, Apple, Harley- Davidson, and Zappos. NPS, a measure of customer loyalty, is a direct reflection of a company’s culture. Essentially, a company’s NPS is the difference between those customers who enthusiastically recommend the company (promoters) and those unhappy customers who enthusiastically detest the company (detractors). The average company has a Net Promoter Score in the 5 to 10 percent range (meaning they’re barely breaking even, on a net basis, between the customers that love them and those that hate them). Many firms (and entire industries for that matter) have negative Net Promoter Scores (you know who they are).

In contrast, Giveforward’s Net Promoter Score is 80! Eighty! Based on analysis by Bain, companies that achieve long-term profitable growth have Net Promoter Scores two times higher than the average company and grow at twice the rate of their competitors. All those who poke fun at culture as a flavor-of-the-month initiative, do so at your own peril. Culture matters, a lot.

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 Riddle was 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.

27th March 2015

Techstars partners with Pledge 1% to support entrepreneurial communities worldwide

Techstars is excited to announce a partnership with Pledge 1%: we have taken the pledge by donating 1% of our equity to Pledge 1%, and we’re encouraging our 500+ portfolio companies to get behind the movement as well.

As part of Techstars’ overall commitment to building a strong entrepreneurial ecosystem, Techstars has built a relationship with Pledge 1% to help build stronger companies and communities. Pledge 1% is a corporate philanthropy movement dedicated to making the community a key stakeholder in every business. Pledge 1% encourages and challenges individuals and companies to pledge 1% of equity, product, or employee time for their communities.

Pledge 1% founding partners include the Salesforce Foundation and Atlassian, two companies that know first-hand how pledging a small portion of future success today can have an enormous impact tomorrow. In 2014, they came together with the Entrepreneurs Foundation of Colorado to accelerate a shared vision of every business around the globe integrating philanthropy into its corporate DNA. Nicole Glaros, Partner in Techstars Ventures, is on the board of Entrepreneurs Foundation of Colorado and has been closely involved in rolling out Pledge 1% nation-wide. Take a look at what she has to say about getting involved.

Why pledge?

Companies and their employees today want to be civically minded and aligned with a social mission that prioritizes having a positive impact on the world.

How does Pledge 1% Work?

Individuals and companies can go to www.pledge1percent.org to learn more about how to create a culture of giving through resources, case studies, and best practices. Visitors can also pledge equity, employee time and/or product directly on the website. Pledge 1% facilitates making an equity pledge easy to implement, connects companies with local resources to empower employee engagement programs, and helps companies to further define and respond to community needs.

Who benefits from the pledges?

Pledgees choose the cause, focus area and nonprofits to receive the realized value of their resources based on their community goals and company and employee interests. The Pledge 1% movement is fully funded by its founding partners, so all realized benefit from pledges goes to the causes that pledgees support.

Be part of the movement. Build giving into your culture today. Contact dipti@pledge1percent.org to learn more.

25th March 2015

Localytics raises an additional $35m in funding

We’re excited to release this new short video, Where Are They Now? on Localytics, who just yesterday announced $35 million in venture capital, bringing total funding to around $60 million.  Localytics, a predictive app marketing and analytics company, went through Techstars in 2009. They stayed in Boston after the program ended and now have additional offices in London and San Francisco.  Watch this short video to learn more about Localytics and some of the key factors that they attribute to their success.

Learn more about Localytics here.

Want to apply to Techstars? Check out the schedule here.

24th March 2015

Extreme Bootstrapping: Story #2 in the Techstars “Bend the Curve” Blog Series

Welcome to the Bend the Curve blog series on Techstars.com! We are excited to announce the hottest new book for entrepreneurs, Bend the Curve, authored by Andrew Razeghi. (More about Andrew below.) In this handbook for entrepreneurs, Andrew has tirelessly 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 next few weeks, we will release short excerpts from the book including stories of entrepreneur success and failure. Today, read about Jeremy Smith and Extreme Bootstrapping. Check it out and come back next week for the next installment!

Bend the Curve
Chapter Two excerpt: Extreme Bootstrapping

Everyone is familiar with the image of the bootstrapper. Duct tape in one hand. Ramen noodles in the other. Jeremy Smith, co-founder & COO of the popular on-demand parking app, SpotHero, defines bootstrapping as: “Financially hacking your life to allow yourself a desired lifestyle while you grind day in and day out in search of Ramen Profitability.

Few have mastered the art of the lifehack more than Smith.

In this chapter, we’ll talk about:

  • Bootstrapping as a lifestyle
  • Checking your ego at the door
  • Inspiration happens when you least expect it
  • Crowdsourcing (the new way and the old way)
  • Never taking your eye off your bank account
  • Abundant and cheap forms of startup capital
  • The importance of a technical co-founder

“After leaving corporate,” recalls Smith, “I took five months off to enjoy life and find direction. At some point in that time I got into online sales and tried some pretty crazy things. One time I went to the bank and pulled out 75 $2 bills that I ended up selling on an eBay auction for $185! I even received positive feedback from the buyer, WTF? I pushed the envelope even further by going into baby bottles, steel canisters, textbooks, electronics, designer dresses and belts, and dog clothes. I didn’t care because it was a ton of fun and I started to learn the opportunities in running my own small business.”

His personal life started changing as well. “Mark got me into hosting couchsurfing guests. In any given week I would wake up to a crew of travelers sleeping in my main room.

These guests became my built-in group of friends to explore the city with while I lived on funemployment. Most of them were bootstrapping poor so I got used to doing all the fun free things to do around the city. I got into salsa dancing, biking the Lakefront Trail, hitting the beach, going to museums, cheap stand up shows, and a whole bunch more. I got pretty into all the free hacks this city had to offer. I moved into free drinks and food all over the city by checking out websites like brokehipster.com. You would think this would get old, but those were some of the best days of my life. I could get everywhere, explore, and eat at most places for free.

“The free movement occurring in my life was an important factor in shaping my social consciousness and my beginning in giving back to everyone else. I hosted, cooked, and acted as a tour guide for all of my couch surfers. When I moved out of that apartment, I posted all my old stuff, food, and clothes for free pickup on Craigslist. In general I would offer a helping hand in any situation I could. I love working out and so I would help all my buddies move out of their apartments too. They loved the help and always had things leftover that I would then take to my place. That helped me outfit an entire apartment with furniture and electronics for two years. Now that I was a world-class vagabond, I was ready to enter the world as a bootstrapping entrepreneur.”

Want more? To order the book visit: 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.


He is also 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 Riddle was 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.

23rd March 2015

Challenging the Status Quo in FinTech: Announcing Cohort 2 of Barclays Accelerator powered by Techstars

The financial services industry continues to transform, with our second cohort addressing major markets around bonds, investment banking, insurance, Bitcoin, blockchain, and beyond. While some founders are tackling inefficiencies they’ve personally experienced in finance careers, others have spotted opportunities to bring their expertise in security, fraud, or IT change to the fintech world.

Following a very strong first cohort in 2014, we were intrigued and excited to read through hundreds of applications submitted from over 60 countries. Throughout the selection process it has been a sincere honour to get to know many amazing and passionate founders across the industry, and it is never easy selecting ten startups with so many impressive companies being built.

As Day 1 is now upon us, those joining us for this 13 week adventure have moved from parts of the world near and far ranging from Australia to Nepal to Sweden, San Francisco to New York City, and of course the UK with a strong gravitational force for FinTech in London already.

All are challenging the status quo. All are here to advance the finance world, whether building a startup for the first time or as a founder who has taken three of her companies public already. Without further ado, we are delighted to bring together and welcome our second cohort of Barclays Accelerator powered by Techstars, London 2015. Let’s begin!

The Ten Companies

Screen Shot 2015-03-22 at 3.09.18 PM Basestone provides cloud-based collaboration on major construction projects, creating data streams from the field that impact loan and insurance pricing.
Screen Shot 2015-03-22 at 3.43.17 PM Blocktrace provides immutable ledger for diamond ownership & related transaction history verification for insurance companies, claimants & law enforcement.
Screen Shot 2015-03-22 at 3.10.41 PM Godesic – a project management platform for IT infrastructure change-over in the financial services industry.
Screen Shot 2015-03-22 at 3.46.19 PM LiquidLandscapedata visualization for creating linked, immersive data exploration environments used by traders
Origin A new marketplace for large corporations and institutional investors, using technology to facilitate direct debt and bond issuance
Screen Shot 2015-03-22 at 3.34.30 PM PQ Solutions Provides cyber security that uses cutting edge encryption techniques designed to beat attacks by quantum computers.
Screen Shot 2015-03-22 at 3.36.24 PM 1 Ravelin Provides data science and machine learning with a merchant’s fraud profile to deliver pin-point accurate online fraud detection.
Screen Shot 2015-03-22 at 4.17.02 PM Safello – a Europe-focused Bitcoin exchange with plans to expand into payments.
Screen Shot 2015-03-22 at 4.18.36 PM Stockfuse – a gaming platform that quantifies talent through simulation, currently used by banks to identify and find future trading employees.
Startup #10 Has elected to remain in stealth mode until a later date, stay tuned.

 

23rd March 2015

Meet the 2015 Cohort of Techstars in Austin!

We are excited to announce the ten companies that will be joining Techstars for our 2015 program in Austin. We kicked things off this week on March 23rd and are looking forward to three months of awesomeness, capped off by  Demo Day on June 17th. Save the date and grab a ticket to attend here!

This is the third program in Austin, and we’re fortunate to have many of our 2013 and 2014 Austin alumni on the ground as well as ~100 incredible mentors. Thank you, mentors! We’re grateful for your support over the last couple of years and your continued time and guidance. We couldn’t do it without you.

We love this city and know 2015 is going to be an amazing year for both Techstars and Austin.

Without further ado, here’s the Techstars 2015 Austin cohort:

 

Play fantasy sports with athletes and brands for their charity of choice.
The marketplace for hunters and outdoorsmen to rent leases from land owners.
A powerful analytics dashboard that’s actually easy to use.
HR Analytics platform that helps businesses make sense of all their disparate human capital data.
A simple way to implement and manage all iBeacon interactions.
A marketing platform for mobile games.
SelfLender helps consumers establish and build credit.
A toolkit for developers to debug, test, and monitor APIs in development or live production environments.
Delivering intelligence to fashion brands and retailers for critical merchandising, planning, and promotion decisions.
A beautiful visual discovery platform for apparel from brand-generated content.

21st March 2015

How to Get Accepted into Techstars

This post was originally published by Katie Roof on foxbusiness.com.

Startup founders know Techstars as a prestigious accelerator program, an early stage mentorship opportunity which helps startups kick ideas into action. With locations throughout the world and partnerships with large corporations, Techstars identifies founders with talent and vision.

Techstars CEO David Cohen spoke in a video interview with FOXBusiness.com and described what it takes to be amongst the 1% of applicants that get accepted. The program has launched some rising stars in the startup world, including Classpass and Sendgrid.

Techstars is “looking for amazing people with big ideas and some momentum on that idea,” Cohen said. He said they evaluate founders on what’s “motivating them to change the world” and that ideally, their passion comes “from the heart.”

With locations in Colorado, Chicago, London, Berlin and more, Techstars mentorship programs span the globe. The team has also launched accelerators in conjunction with Disney, Nike, Barclays and Sprint.

The programs last three months and in addition to mentorship, the startups get receive an initial seed investment in the company. Techstars also participates in subsequent financing rounds and recently raised a $150 million fund for early stage venture capital.

Techstars is headquartered in Boulder, Colo.

“We are creating quite an ecosystem across the world of both funders for venture capital as well as mentors who help the companies,” Cohen said.

20th March 2015

Where Are They Now? – Simple Energy “Hiring the right people”

Check out our new video highlighting Simple Energy, a company making a positive impact on the world. Simple Energy is changing how millions of people think about energy and how utilities engage with their customers.  It has saved enough energy to take a city the size of Boulder or even Salt Lake City completely off the grid!

If you’re in Boulder next week, come see Simple Energy Founders, Yoav Lurie and Justin Segall, speak at Entrepreneurs Unplugged Tuesday, March 31st at 5:30 p.m.

Simple Energy is a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) company that uses behavioral science, big data analytics, and digital marketing techniques to change how people think about energy. Essentially, they incentivize consumers to save energy with targeted messages, personalized insight into energy consumption, and rewards.

The Simple Energy story is part of our video series on the growth and learning lessons from Techstars companies, Where Are They Now?

Congratulations to the Simple Energy team!

Where Are They Now? - Simple Energy “Hiring the right people”