The Program

Techstars Blog

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.

24th September 2014

Sponsorship in Action: Simple Energy and Cooley

Sponsorship in Action: Simple Energy and Cooley

The Simple Energy team. Photo credit: Simple Energy

We recently spoke with Yoav Lurie, founder and CEO of Simple Energy, a Techstars in Boulder 2011 company. Through relevant messaging and engaging software services, Simple Energy partners with utility companies to help consumers make sense of their energy usage, save more and enjoy doing so.

Yoav talks about the company’s relationship with a Techstars sponsor as a strategic partner, Cooley. Cooley is a global firm with an entrepreneurial spirit and deep, substantive experience helping founders build businesses and transform breakthrough ideas into successful companies.

How did Simple Energy meet Cooley?

We connected through Techstars. Two partners from the Colorado Cooley practice, Noah Pittard and Mike Platt, came to Techstars while we were in the program.

How have Simple Energy and Cooley worked together?

Cooley is our strategic legal partner.

About nine months after we finished the Techstars programs, we were finding that the process of negotiating and documenting commercial relationships with public utilities was really driving up our legal spending in a way that felt unsustainable. So we and Cooley sat down together and—at no cost to us—developed a planning structure for negotiating and documenting future public utility contracts. The result was a tool sheet that we could use with customers that helped us work through the terms of our agreements in a clear and efficient way. The net impact of this tool sheet was reducing the legal costs of partnering with public utilities by about 70 percent.

We’ve saved money by working with Cooley. They have always been really transparent at every turn, particularly with pricing. When it came to a specific litigation matter, for example, they recommended another local legal partner who could handle the matter at a reduced cost while Cooley maintained an overall strategic advisory role. We’ve found that sometimes the best way for us to engage Cooley effectively is by having them supervise local counsel on lower-stakes day-to-day work.

Cooley is also not afraid to leverage technology to make their services more cost-effective. For example, when we were raising our Series B round, we wanted to use a company called eShares for cap table management and 409a valuation, and, once Cooley got comfortable that using eShares wouldn’t lead to unintended adverse consequences to our business, they were totally supportive. Since then, Cooley has helped many of their other clients move to using eShares. Leveraging technology allows Cooley to be more strategic, and focus less on transactional matters.

Regardless who our counsel is for a particular issue, whether it’s Cooley or a firm that Cooley recommends, the final decision is almost always made with Cooley as the overarching counsel on the negotiation.

What unique value does Cooley bring to the table?

Cooley’s ability to think about their strategic value add sets them apart. Also, the Cooley brand itself lends a lot of credibility, including the local partners in Colorado that we work with.

Do you have any advice for other founders who want to build good relationships with their legal partners?

Yes. Find a legal partner who you know can be a strategic value add—a firm that will be your partner. It may be one of your biggest decisions. Find a partner early and keep them engaged over a long time period. Having a legal partner will save you from a lot of mistakes. And it will save you money over the long run. Also, have a candid relationship with your counsel about other legal partners you may be using. You have to have a partner you trust, who is aligned with you, and who understands the capital constraints of startups.

Cooley has been that partner for us.

What’s the latest and greatest in the Simple Energy world?

We’re gaining a lot of traction overseas and are looking at opening an office in Europe. And as we expand into areas where the Techstars network exists, we’ll use the Techstars network to make that expansion.

We’re hiring, too:  http://simpleenergy.com/company/

 

22nd September 2014

#givefirst

FounderCon is our annual event for all Techstars companies with two full days of keynotes, breakout sessions, and tons of opportunity to network with almost 400 Techstars founders and alumni from across our 36 programs to date. We held FounderCon 2014 in the great city of Austin. It’s always fun to hear some of the amazing stories that have come out of FounderCon from founders, speakers, corporate partners and sponsors. If you have any stories about how FounderCon helped you realize the power of the Techstars network, please let us know. Make a game-changing connection? Find a new business opportunity? Hire a new employee?

Below is a short recap video showing off this wonderful event. Want to see the keynote speakers, watch here.

Thank you to all who attended and participated in FounderCon! If you
have thoughts on FounderCon 2015, please share. You can check out the buzz at #FounderCon.

16th September 2014

R/GA Accelerator Hiring Design & Engineering Hackstars

The R/GA Accelerator focuses on startups developing connected hardware products and software in the Internet of Things space. The second class of the three-month, immersive, mentorship-driven accelerator begins October 20 at R/GA’s headquarters in New York.

We are currently hiring Hackstars who have the technical skills to help the companies in the program do more faster. Are you an industrial designer, a mechanical engineer or an electrical engineer? Do you want to work alongside ten of the leading IoT companies, with support from R/GA’s technical, product and marketing teams and at one of the nation’s top startup accelerators? Do you have what it takes? Well here’s what it takes:

Industrial Design Hackstar:

  • Excellent sketching, drawing and ideation skills
  • Ability to communicate with technical and non-technical teams to articulate both ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ design requirements
  • Quickly generate visual materials in response to requirements including mood boards, drawings, renderings, prototypes, etc. and iterate until a design direction is chosen
  • Experience with 3D CAD design and visualization software for presentation-ready renderings and graphics (SolidWorks, Rhino, etc.)
  • Strong prototyping and finishing skills & expertise operating 3D printers, specifically FDM and polyjet
  • Basic understanding of the design constraints imposed by fabrication techniques, such as injection molding, die casting, CNC milling etc.
  • Grasp of the materials and their properties generally used in consumer products

Mechanical Engineer Hackstar:

  • 3D CAD design on software such as Solidworks, ProEngineer or similar
  • Hands on, willing to put things together quickly to test them out
  • Experience building cool hardware projects
  • Experience with digital fabrication prototyping technologies: 3D printing, laser cutter, CNC machine etc.
  • Understanding of the design constraints imposed by fabrication techniques such as injection molding, die casting, CNC milling etc.
  • Good grasp of the materials and their properties generally used in consumer products
  • Experience having taken a project from prototype to product or dealing with contract manufacturers

Electrical Engineer Hackstar:

  • Electrical circuit design
  • PCB schematic and layout design
  • Strong debugging capabilities
  • Experience with wireless connectivity chips and circuits, especially bluetooth classic, bluetooth low energy and wifi
  • Experience using mainstream prototyping boards: Arduino, Raspberry Pi and others
  • Microcontroller programming is a plus (ARM, ATMEGA etc.)

If you think you’ve got what it takes, APPLY HERE for one of these paid Hackstar positions. We’re also hiring less technical, but equally important, Associates HERE. And good luck!

 

15th September 2014

Applications now open for the 2015 Sprint Accelerator powered by Techstars!

We are very excited to announce that applications are now open for the 2015 Sprint Accelerator powered by Techstars. Following the lead of the awesome 2014 class, we are once again focused on mobile health. If you have an innovative startup that’s health-related, and your product has a mobile component, apply for the 2015 program today!

How do we define “mobile health” as we look for our next ten companies? It includes, but isn’t limited to, the following:

  • Wearables – medical devices, movement tracking, vital monitoring etc.
  • Sensor-driven devices and networks
  • Products to help you care for parents, kids, or pets
  • Socially enabled products and services focused on achieving personal health goals
  • Health tools that interact with mobile cameras or sensors
  • Mobile apps that can diagnose chronic disease or other illnesses
  • Medication adherence platforms and apps
  • Big Data – platforms for better quality of care and reduced expenditures

Our 2014 program was a huge success. The ten companies of the 2014 class presented to 1,700 attendees at our demo day, and are continuing to grow their businesses. It was a diverse group by design, including everything from Sickweather, a platform that mines social media data to provide real-time illness forecasting, to FitBark, a small and stylish activity monitoring device for dogs.

We are so excited to find the next ten great mobile health companies, we’re leaving no stone unturned. The following is a list of some of the events we’ll be attending or hosting:

Sept. 9-11: Las Vegas, Super Mobility Week

Sept. 17-18: Denver, Denver Startup Week

Sept. 22-25: Santa Clara, Health 2.0 Annual Conference

Oct. 1: New York City, Health 2.o “Pitch Yourself into the Shark Tank”

Oct. 2-3: Pittsburgh, Meetup /Launch CMU at the Carnegie Mellon Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship

Oct. 8: Kansas City, Open House and Reverse Pitch at the Sprint Accelerator

Oct. 21: Sunnyvale, SVHealth Pitch Competition and Meetup

Oct. 28 (approx): Boston, Health 2.0 Boston Meetup

Nov. 18 (approx): Minneapolis, Mayo Clinic Business Accelerator

Dec. 7-11: Washington, DC, mHealth Summit

If you’d like to connect at any of the above events, or if you just have questions, feel free to contact me via twitter @johnfein, or via email.

The Sprint Accelerator powered by Techstars will transform your company and provide unprecedented access to Sprint’s resources, and you’ll become part of the Techstars network for life. Your new network will include thousands of mentors, investors, and fellow entrepreneurs. This is the biggest factor in the incredible success of our companies. Want to join us? There’s one thing you’ll need to do:

Apply today to the Sprint Accelerator powered by Techstars!

 

15th September 2014

FounderCon Keynote Videos

Just recently we had our annual FounderCon event in Austin, TX. FounderCon is our annual event for all Techstars companies past and present – with two full days of keynotes and breakout sessions. There were tons of opportunities to network with over 3,000 founders, alumni, mentors, investors, and corporate partners from across our 36 programs to date.

We filmed the amazing group of keynote speakers for your enjoyment.  Here are just a few, stay tuned for more later this week. Learn more faster!

Ellen Levy, Managing Director of Silicon Valley Connect

Steve Catigan, former VP of Linkedin

Fireside chat with Bob Metcalfe, co-inventor of Ethernet

Thank you to all who attended and contributed to making this event a special one!

Also special thanks to our FounderCon Sponsors: American AirlinesAustin City ChamberGoodDataLocalyticsMasterCardMercury FundPivotDeskSendGridSilicon Valley BankSoftLayer, and Uber.

 

 

11th September 2014

Apply to Techstars Cloud Class of 2015!

I am very excited to announce that this week we opened up applications for our third Techstars Cloud program which will be kicking off in San Antonio, TX this coming January. Our mission for this thematic accelerator is to help build companies that focus on cloud. What does that mean? If you are developing a cloud based technology or platform, a product that is complementary to the cloud, or really any technical product you are probably a fit. If you have an early-stage startup that meets this description, we would love for you to apply to the Techstars Cloud 2015 program. Our first two cloud programs have been a huge success, with graduates including DataRobot, Keen IO, Distil Networks, Cloudability, Conspire and many more. Alumni companies from the first two programs have gone on to raise more than $80M in combined funding from investors such as Foundry Group, NEA and Sequoia.

Why would you want to join the Techstars network and participate in our cloud accelerator? Techstars is building the world’s most powerful network of entrepreneurs, mentors, and investors, who are all there to help you achieve your goals. We want to help your company refine its strategy and accelerate your progress towards becoming the kind of company that can change the world. We are here to help you and your startup grow to realize the vision that inspired you to create a company in the first place.

Mentorship is at the core of all Techstars programs, and we have a huge mentor base ready to spend tons of time with you during three months of intense focus on moving your business forward. The program culminates with Demo Day in April, where the founders will pitch their companies to a room full of investors, mentors, and members of the San Antonio and Techstars community. And your Techstars experience does not end on Demo Day – you get to be part of this amazing network for life.

We accept applications from companies at all stages – some are further along and already have funding, while others are just forming their ideas and do not yet have customers or even a final product. Wherever you are in your startup journey, if you focus on cloud tech and are ready to explore the idea of accelerating your company, please apply for our next program. If you have questions about the program you can always email me at blake dot yeager at techstars dot com or find me on Twitter (@blake_yeager).

Apply for the Techstars Cloud 2015 program and let’s do more, faster.

8th September 2014

Apply to the Techstars New York City 2015 Class!

We are delighted to open the applications for our next Techstars class in New York City.

The application deadline is October 19th, and the class will kick-off mid January, finishing off with Demo Day in April. To date, we’ve done five programs in NYC, and graduated over 60 companies including Contently, Timehop, Crowdtwist, Moveline, Lua, ClassPass, Plated, Placemeter, TriggerMail, Tutum, and MakersKit.

Below is the calendar of our recruiting events. We’d love to meet with you, tell you more about the program and discuss how Techstars NYC can help you accelerate your business.

In addition to these events we will be holding office hours on Skype. Please tweet at @alexiskold to get link to the Skype calendar.

We have written about Top 10 Reasons to Join (or not Join) an Accelerator. In addition, here are the things that are particularly great about the Techstars NYC program:

1. You get AMAZING mentors

You will have access to NYC founders and CEOs, top angel investors, venture capitalists, as well as amazing mentors with background in product, engineering, marketing and finance.

2. You really grow & accelerate your business

The program is rigorous and metrics driven. We help the companies make tangible progress and help grow & accelerate their business. Our approach is based on numbers, because numbers and facts are a lot more fundable than just stories (we love stories too, but we love stories with numbers more).

3. You get a network for life

Techstars is not just a 13 week intense program. It is one of the largest and fastest growing networks of entrepreneurs around the world.  Once you are a Techstar, you are a Techstar for life, and you get to be part of the network that helps you go faster and accelerate your current and future businesses.

4.  You are at the center of NYC tech scene

New York has become a great place to build a startup. We have a ton of smart business people, engineers, entrepreneurs, executives, and investors who are working together to create valuable and lasting companies in NYC. By joining our next program you put yourself at the center of it all – literally, our brand new 13,000 SQ FT space is overlooking Times Square and the Empire State Building.

We are calling on all passionate entrepreneurs with big vision and focus on execution. Everyone is welcome and encouraged to apply. We particularly look forward to seeing companies building unique, interesting technologies and companies with revenue and real traction.

4th September 2014

Techstars announces Equity Back Guarantee

Today Techstars is announcing an equity back guarantee that goes into into effect for all companies participating in a Techstars program starting in 2015 and beyond. The reason for this is quite simple. We firmly believe in the value of the Techstars accelerator program and in the long term value of our network. This makes it easy to take this step to “put our equity where our mouth is.”

Over the years, but especially now that we’ve scaled up to 13 different locations, we’ve seen more companies coming to Techstars not only for our accelerator program but also to leverage the ongoing value of the Techstars network. Techstars is now a massive interconnected network of over 3,000 successful entrepreneurs, mentors, investors, and corporate partners. That network value lasts a lifetime, whether you’re starting your first company or your fifth.

Some of the founders we’ve funded over the years have been skeptical of the value of Techstars on the front end. Most of those ended up talking with the alumni of Techstars and ultimately got comfortable and made the leap of faith. But we’ve noticed a very clear and consistent pattern: they’re never skeptical of the value after the Techstars program ends. In fact, they tell us consistently that it was completely worth it. The equity back guarantee completely removes this up front concern that some may have.

Now, if you’re a founder who wants to get efficient and focused feedback, challenge yourself to be better, build your network, and leverage the massive Techstars network, you can do it in a completely risk free way. You can participate in Techstars under our standard terms, which now includes this equity back guarantee for every single company. At the end of the Techstars program, your company will have 3 business days to lower or eliminate our equity position if they’re not satisfied with the value of Techstars.

In the Techstars tradition of #givefirst, we’re proud to offer our equity back guarantee to ensure that every company we work with is completely satisfied with the value that we provide. We hope to see your company applying to Techstars soon. You quite literally have everything to gain, and nothing to lose.

29th August 2014

Techstars Descends Upon Austin, TX!

Techstars is descending upon Austin, TX next week for two back-to-back events – our Austin Demo Day on Wednesday, September 3rd, followed by FounderCon on the 4th and the 5th. Check out the list of companies who will be participating in Demo Day, and to the Techstars Austin 2014 class, best of luck!

FounderCon is our annual event for all Techstars companies past and present – with two full days of keynotes and breakout sessions, and tons of opportunity to network with almost 400 Techstars founders and alumni from across our 36 programs to date.

This year’s FounderCon theme is “Connect” and it’s all about helping companies in the Techstars network create new and deeper connections. What do we mean by Connect?

  • Showcasing the strength of the Techstars network – including over 3,000 founders, alumni, mentors, investors, and corporate partners.
  • Celebrating Techstars companies past and present by bringing together almost 400 people to share stories, high-five big wins, and learn from an impressive peer group of entrepreneurs.
  • Embedding ourselves in the Austin tech community, kicking off with Demo Day and then following on with a community networking event, community coffee meet-ups, and other opportunities to support the local market.

Check out the impressive list of speakers and sponsors helping to make FounderCon happen:

 

We can’t wait to meet those who will be in Austin next week! It’s not too late to join us for FounderCon, so if you’ve been through a Techstars program past or present, just pull the trigger – it promises to be a don’t miss! Reach out to john.hill@techstars.com for details.