The Program

Techstars Blog

26th August 2014

Mentor Spotlights

It’s time to show off some more amazing mentors in the Techstars network.  Below are some super short videos with tips and recommendations from some of the most seasoned entrepreneurs from across the Techstars network.

Jason Mendelson, Managing Partner at Foundry Group

David Mandell, CEO & Founder at PivotDesk

Howard Diamond, CEO at MobileDay

Chris Moody, Data Strategy at Twitter

Kevin Menzie, CEO & Founder and Jeff Rodanski, Partner & Creative Director of Slice of Lime

21st August 2014

Wisconsin Patriot Boot Camp presented by Techstars

We are excited to announce the next Patriot Boot Camp (PBC):

Wisconsin Patriot Boot Camp presented by Techstars. (Apply here!)

The event will be held in Madison, WI from September 26th – 28th, 2014.

For those of you not familiar with PBC, it is a 3-day program focused on our nations’ veterans and their families, intended to be the catalyst to spark a company, find a co-founder, or connect with a business mentor. PBC leverages the Techstars network to provide entrepreneurial education and mentoring that helps participants solidify a business idea, improve their fundraising pitch, and demonstrate progress along their entrepreneurial and employment path. The program was launched in 2012, and it has supported more than 225 Veterans entrepreneurs to date.

The Wisconsin Event is part of the evolution of PBC.  We are expanding from our previous, annual events in Washington, DC (2012 & 2013) and New York City (2014) to regional events led by our alumni, military veteran entrepreneurs, and local business leaders. This move is our first step toward making Patriot Boot Camp available and accessible to more Veteran entrepreneurs.

The Wisconsin Patriot Boot Camp will be the first program organized and led by PBC alumni, partnering with local military veteran entrepreneurs, and other Wisconsin business leaders and sponsors.

Applications for PBC are now open to veterans, active service members and/or their spouses or direct family members. If you qualify, please consider applying. If you know any candidates for the program, please encourage them to apply. Applications are accepted and approved on a rolling admissions basis. The application deadline for an early-decision is Friday, August 29th and the primary deadline for applications is Friday, September 5th, 2014.

I am confident great work will be accomplished at Wisconsin Patriot Boot Camp! Please help us spread the word. Click here to tweet: http://ctt.ec/7a4tS

20th August 2014

Techstars Boulder Informal Job Fair on 8/27

Companies in the current Techstars Boulder 2014 class are trying to do more faster, and they need to hire immediately!

On Wed, Aug 27th, from 6-7:30 pm EST, Techstars Boulder will open its doors to highly passionate and motivated people wanting to work for a startup.  You’ll meet the companies in the current class that are hiring over an informal beer. There won’t be an agenda for the evening, just networking with great startups!

Available Positions include:

  • Designer (UI/UX)
  • Graphic Designer
  • Business Development
  • Growth Hacker
  • Account Manager
  • Inside Sales Person
  • Sales & Marketing Generalist
  • Sales Executive
  • Sales Manager
  • Marketing Intern
  • Marketing Director
  • Director or VP of Marketing (DOE)
  • Senior Developer
  • Junior Developer
  • Full-Stack Engineer/Generalist
  • Director or VP of Operations (DOE)
  • Operational/Organized Rockstar

Companies looking to hire:

All4Staff
Bawte
ExpenseBot
Final
Kapta
Lassy Project
Shareable Social
Sportsy
Varsity
Wunder

Requirements: Want to work for a very early stage startup. That’s it.

Please bring a bunch of hard copies of your resume, and don’t wear a suit!

RSVP here

19th August 2014

Startup Stories – Sketchfab “Having International Offices

In 2013 Sketchfab, a platform to publish, share and embed interactive 3D models, joined Techstars. The founders moved from Paris to New York City within a month and since the beginning Sketchfab has grown massively fast.  They started with about 50 visits to their site a day and are now 50,000+ visits a day.

Below is a short video on how Sketchfab operates having international offices and an example of an interactive 3D image.

Volkswagen Beetle
by slavinek
on Sketchfab

14th August 2014

Announcing the Techstars Boston Class of 2014

We are thrilled to announce the next Techstars class in Boston! This will be the eighth Techstars program in Boston, and my first as Managing Director. Our session began this week, and will wrap up with a demo day on November 12th.

We continue to be blown away with the quality of applications and love the diversity of their businesses, some of which have come to Boston from as far away as Australia, Holland, Croatia, France, Russia, and even San Francisco. This session the program includes five hardware and seven software companies that range from bringing cellular connectivity to the next billion people in the developing world, to sparking a new generation of innovation in data science through a machine learning platform.

We are honored to have such strong support from our mentors, investors and sponsors in the Greater Boston community, and we couldn’t thank them enough.

And now, the Techstars Boston Fall 2014 class:

  • Codeanywhere is a cloud based code-editor, development, and collaboration platform.
  • CoolChip designs next-generation kinetic coolers for electronics enabling quieter, smaller and cooler product experiences.
  • EdTrips makes field trips easy and drives more visitors to educational destinations by consolidating the booking and payment of trips among multiple locations and services.
  • Fairwaves develops disruptive open-source mobile network equipment and software to bring cell phone service to the next billion people.
  • Fortified Bicycle is building an urban cycling brand with MIT-engineered hardware.
  • Headtalk‘s platform enables a new kind of nonverbal communication with wearable devices.
  • Helloblock‘s  API simplifies accepting online payments through Bitcoin.
  • indico is building the world’s first IDE for machine learning.
  • ROCKI is creating the standard for listening to the music you love on the speakers you already have.
  • Spitfire Athlete is building a brand that stands for strength and badassery among women, starting with a fitness app.
  • Streamroot cuts bandwidth costs for online broadcasters with native peer-to-peer video streaming technology.
  • Splashscore‘s influencer activation engine helps large consumer brands find and activate their most influential customers on social networks to drive more clicks, likes, leads, and sales.

13th August 2014

No Vision All Drive

It was pretty fun to sit on stage recently with Techstars co-founder David Brown to tell our story in front of the newest class of Techstars founders in Boulder. Since it was our first time on stage together talking about how we built and sold our first company, Pinpoint Technologies, we put together a few short videos from the talk that highlight our entrepreneurial adventures.

Together we’ve had successes and failures over the last 25 years, and we’ve laughed a ton along the way. Here’s the quick story: in 1993, we founded our first company, Pinpoint Technologies, which grew from a basement startup to a successful multinational company with $50 million in annual sales and over 250 employees.

David recounts our experiences together, from founding Pinpoint to coming back as Managing Partner at Techstars just one year ago, in the updated and re-released version of his book, No Vision All Drive.

These short videos give you a glimpse into David’s book, which exemplifies what it was like for two young entrepreneurs who knew nothing about building a business to grow their startup into a real company with a successful exit.

Check out the videos and if you like what you see, grab a copy of No Vision All Drive, just released this week.

13th August 2014

Reflections on my First Year Back at Techstars

At the one year mark of my full-time return to Techstars, I am releasing a second edition of the story of my first startup, called “No Vision All Drive” to include the founding of Techstars. In writing the update, I find myself reflecting on how much has changed since my return.

When I co-founded Techstars in 2007 along with David Cohen, Brad Feld and Jared Polis, we set out to create a new model of how startups were created and funded. The idea was born from experiences of starting our own businesses and the frustrations we had with angel investing. While I was involved in the early years of Techstars, it was more as a mentor to some of the teams and an advisor to Techstars overall, but it was not my full time gig. That changed in 2013 when I returned as Managing Partner to join David Cohen and Mark Solon to help lead Techstars. While David and Mark are just as deeply engaged in Techstars as ever, the growing investment activities relating to our venture funds and the expansion of Techstars created a need for additional leadership that I was more than happy to fill.

My focus since I joined Techstars about a year ago has been on the operations of the growing the number of Techstars locations. We currently operate Techstars-branded programs in Austin, Boston, Boulder, Chicago, London, New York and Seattle. In addition, we run similar programs with corporate partners in Kansas City (Sprint, mobile healthcare), London (Barclays, FinTech), Los Angeles (Disney, entertainment), New York (R/GA, connected devices), New York (Kaplan, EdTech) and San Antonio (Cloud). We support all of these locations with a global team of over 50 very talented people in Boulder and at each of the locations.

The power of participating in a Techstars program has shifted over the years. While initially a great way to accelerate and fund a business, the growth of the network has opened new possibilities. The network of hundreds of companies and thousands of mentors and investors in the Techstars system allows our graduates to have unprecedented access to resources around the world with many different sets of experiences and skills.

In addition to this, we have expanded our programs to partner with premier brands, such as Disney, Nike, Barclays, R/GA, Kaplan, and Sprint. These partnerships, along with the vertical focus of their respective programs, have allowed Techstars companies even more access to industry players and expertise.

Our expansion has been deliberate and has been done with a relentless focus on quality over quantity. It is important to us that Techstars remains the gold standard for startups that want to connect their businesses to our network for acceleration, mentoring, business development, funding, and M&A possibilities. We are proud of our companies that have built thriving and valuable enterprises in their own communities. We want to support the idea of many great startup communities around the world, not just a few.

It’s been a great year, but the work is just beginning. Our network is large and powerful, but we need to continue to find new ways to make it even more so and we have plans to do just that. Our mission is to change the way startups are built by arming them with a massive interconnected network of founders, mentors, and investors. We are well on our way, but you should expect even more leverage from our network in 2014 and beyond.

12th August 2014

A 14-Step Guide to Being Consistently Pitch Perfect by David Brown

At Techstars, I see lots of pitches. I get them during the application process, when I first meet the companies, when I listen to presentations meant for customers, when I listen to founders pitch to investors, when I read job descriptions and at demo day.

Your pitch is your message. You deliver it to all of your constituencies — mentors, employees, investors, family and friends. It’s a misconception to think pitching is what you do just for demo day.

Maybe the best advice for putting together your pitch is one of my favorite quotes, from Albert Einstein. “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”

Little is more important than getting the pitch right, so here are my tips for persuading your audience that you understand it well enough. This works preparing for demo day but the content is useful every time you need to explain your company and its purpose.

1. Earn your audience’s attention. A startling fact. An interesting story. Contradict conventional wisdom. Make them laugh. Play on a known fear. Be appropriately different. Make them think. Be interesting!

2. You know the most. The audience doesn’t know your business, your market or your product like you do. Make it easy to understand. You want them excited about your business, not trying to figure it out.  Use simple words.

3. The first minute. Your first minute is critical, either they pay attention or check their phone. Show you are credible, what problem you are solving, and how, as well as why they should care.

4. The solution and the problem. After the first minute, illuminate the problem. Do a product demo and tell a user story. A good transitional phrase after one minute is “Let me show you how this works” or similar.

5. No crescendos. Get to the good stuff right away.

6. Show, don’t tell. A slide that takes more than 30 seconds to read is too long.

7. Confluence. You slides must amplify, enhance and prove what you say, never compete with it. People will read before they listen. No bullet points!

8. About the money. Explain how your business model will make money.

9. How it’s going, so far. Demonstrate your traction. The earlier you do that, the better.

10. Keep to your idea. Don’t talk about your competition, do talk about how you are differentiated.

11. Talk about your team. Show their pictures, explain their roles and list their experience, include logos.

12. Closing. Stick the landing. Be strong. Make an ask.

13. They will compare. Make your presentation stand out. One way to do that is subtle humor. Another is crushing proof that what you are doing is awesome. Another is just to be more interesting than everyone else.

14. Know what you’re after. Your goal is to get a meeting. Nothing more.

Founders who hit each of these points really stand out. They have a clear message that shows off their business to mentors, employees, investors and friends. Keep these tips in mind and you’ll explain your business simply, but completely, so everyone can understand it well enough.

12th August 2014

Startup Stories – Plated “Getting a Physical Goods Business off the Ground”

The latest in our series on Startup Stories is about Plated! In this short video we hear from Nick Taranto and Josh Hix, the founders of Plated, on how they have successfully gotten a physical goods company off the ground.  Plated delivers fresh ingredients so that you can cook gourmet meals at home.  They joined Techstars in New York City in 2013 and have been growing super fast with about 45 employees at their HQ and another 100 across their fulfillment centers creating many jobs for people from low income communities.  I love hearing about Techstars companies making such a positive impact.

This is one of those classic, inspiring stories of two entrepreneurs who wanted to solve their own problem and built their company from the ground up.  What makes their story unique in the world of tech is Plated delivers fresh ingredients.  Naturally this creates a ton of obstacles that need to be figured out, and fast!

Try out Plated and see their menu!

Watch the video below to hear what Josh & Nick say about solving these obstacles.

11th August 2014

The Top 2% – Techstars Seattle Class of 2014

This is one of my favorite times of the year. Not only is it summer in Seattle, but I also get to announce the 10 companies who made the cut for the Techstars Seattle program. This year we received over 600 applications for just 10 spots, making it harder than ever to get accepted. We generally saw more companies that were further along, who already had customers and revenue, but there were also a lot of companies who were just two founders and a great idea – no product, no revenue, no customers. Both are great. We accept all stages and we have.

I want to make it clear to all of those who applied and didn’t get accepted, that this it isn’t a vote against your team or your idea. In fact, we don’t refer to those companies as rejections, but as non-selections. There are many teams that will apply several times before getting in. For this reason we always encourage companies to apply again.

But let’s cut to the chase. This is what we are all here for, the Techstars Seattle class of 2014 and what they do.

Stand In redefines how mobile apps are designed. Stand In takes design beyond static screens with tools for designing mobile experiences.

Crowsnest is a software platform for the real world – simple code for controlling air conditioners, light bulbs, cameras and everything in between.

Garmentory offers curated collections and rich shopping experiences from independent fashion boutiques across the world.

Contextual Localization as a Service for mobile apps.

LiveStories builds data tools for non-technical people.

Streamlining customer service: No more speaking to machines, no more wait time.

TouchBase is a mobile platform that helps sales representatives manage and present the most effective marketing material.

Exploration Labs is making a tool for B2B sales teams that provides a cheat sheet on leads.

Magikflix is a safe, curated edutainment video service for kids, 12 years and younger available across all smart devices including iOS, Android, Microsoft app stores and leading kids tablets.

TrueFacet.com is the authenticated luxury marketplace where you can shop and sell jewelry and watches with confidence. TrueFacet differentiates itself by offering buyers and sellers a trusted authentication process and best value guarantee.

Our three month program culminates with our Demo Day where the founders will pitch their companies to a room full of investors, mentors, and members of the Seattle tech community. This will take place on November 6th at Showbox SoDo. The tech community is invited to celebrate the class at the Techstars Demo Day Launch Event on November 6th at Showbox SoDo from 6pm. Early bird tickets can be bought now for $5, the prices will increase weekly until they reach their nominal value of $50.

I hope to see you there.

-Andy