Introducing the 10 Companies for the Chicago Fall 2015 Class

The entire Techstars Chicago team (Troy, Brian, Dan, George, Matt) is excited to introduce you to our 2015 class.

We had nearly a thousand applicants and interviewed hundreds of companies before selecting our final 10. Each year, our selection process gets harder and harder, and we’re so grateful to all of the companies that pour their heart into applying to Techstars. Thanks to each of you.

While many of our class were born and bred in the midwest of the U.S., some of the companies hail from India, Spain and Canada, and all bring their collective talent, passion and character to this year’s program. Our B2B companies are diving deep into fintech, advertising & marketing, productivity & collaboration, and operational effectiveness. Our B2C companies are helping people save time, stay up to date and have more fun.

We are proud to present our 2015 Techstars Chicago Class:

Akouba_logo AkoubaCredit provides lenders an algorithmic underwriting platform that reduces the cost and time required for banks to issue a small business loan. The platform, customized to each lender’s underwriting principles, allows small businesses to apply and track their application electronically, with results delivered within 48 hours. Banks that use Akouba love it because they get more happy borrowers faster.
Betaout_logo BetaOut is a customer intelligence and marketing automation platform built specifically for ecommerce businesses.  We make it easy to track and segment users based on their interaction data, and arm our customers with smart marketing tools across email, sms, and on-site engagement, so that every user gets the right message at the right time every time.
Glidera_logo Glidera brings US dollar to digital currency conversion capability to hundreds of digital currency wallets and applications, making it easy for any wallet developer to offer bitcoin buying and selling services directly in their applications. Using our straightforward and secure API, developers can integrate this functionality in just days, and we handle all of the compliance, banking, liquidity, and fraud challenges. Different than all other conversion services, Glidera never holds customer funds and is specifically built to work with any secure bitcoin wallet.
GrowthGeeks_logo Growth Geeks is a marketplace for growth hackers and marketers. We make it easy to discover and hire freelance marketing professionals to grow your business, on a hourly or project basis. With thousands of vetted geeks already on board, and our 100% money back guarantee on every project, Growth Geeks makes shopping for marketing talent fast and foolproof.
Hooks_logo Hooks lets you discover and create push notifications for just about anything, and configure the notifications based on your needs. Choose from thousands of subjects and types, from television, music, sports, social media, weather, and more. Hooks has already sent more than 30 MM notifications worldwide to more than 100K people just like you.
Infiniscene_logo Infiniscene enables gamers to easily create beautiful live broadcasts in their web browser. Design, produce, and direct from anywhere with no experience or expensive hardware. Seamlessly connect game data and third party services – displaying stats and community updates live to your audience. Infiniscene puts every gamer just clicks away from becoming a streamer.
Routific_logo Routific offers route optimization as a service for any business with deliveries, pick-ups or multiple stops a day. Our dashboard and mobile app enable business owners and fleet managers to plan their daily routes across an entire fleet and dispatch to their drivers in just minutes. Businesses using our platform save not only hours of time, but up to 40% in fuel costs. Routific’s mission is to cut waste in the trillion dollar transportation industry.
Specless_logo Specless unlocks the potential of your advertising creative with richer, more effective advertising experiences that run anywhere imaginable. For publishers, Specless provides the freedom to easily test and deploy higher value custom ad formats. For advertisers and agencies, Specless means managing fewer creative assets, yet more flexibility to run campaigns in any type of media.
Tribe_logo Tribe makes it easy to get anything done with anyone, from anywhere, at any time. Tribe works naturally in emails, text, and chat so that coworkers, clients, and contractors can stay coordinated working in their tool of choice. Tribe is like a personal assistant who never forgets to keep you on task!
UrbanLeash_logo Urban Leash offers on-demand dog walking services for busy professionals. Use our mobile app to get instant notifications, GPS track your dog on the walk, read notes of what happened and see pictures of your pet. With fully vetted, trained, and insured professionals, you can rest assured your pet is in good hands.

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The Techstars Experience: GameWisp’s Story

What is it like to go through a Techstars program? Why choose our accelerator program over others?

This is the third post in our new blog series, “The Techstars Experience,” with some thoughts from Michael Anderson, Co-Founder and CEO of GameWisp, a platform for gaming video creators and fans to interact around great content. Michael and his co-founders, Aaron Middleton, Andrew Wynans, and Eli Hooten, completed the Techstars Chicago program in 2014.

Here are some highlights from Michael’s post, entitled, “Achievement Unlocked: How Techstars Helped GameWisp Level Up.”

[re: program impact]

Techstars was one of the most difficult things I have ever done. It was also one of the most life-changing and rewarding. Why? I’ll put it simply: the entire destiny of our company (and, frankly, my life) changed over the course of a summer. We took a chance on an unexpected opportunity, were able to grind out a ton of new experience, and invested that experience into new and enhanced abilities that made us much more formidable as a business and as business people. We were able to level up our business.”

The speed of the evolution of our business changed dramatically when we were given the time to all think deeply about our market and how we could solve important problems within it. Having the space of mind to focus on the people we were trying to help with our product allowed us to iterate exponentially faster.”

[re: the people]

The most important thing about Techstars from a participant company’s perspective is the people that are a part of the program. When I look back on our time in Techstars Chicago, it was the relationships that made the crucible of Techstars not only survivable and productive, but invaluable and life-changing.”

[re: Working with Techstars]

The rest of the team they built around them was full of incredibly smart, passionate, and helpful individuals. Everyone provides tremendous value to your business. From board members like Sam Yagan, who bring invaluable advice borne out of their experience, to associates and hackstars (like Kunal, Julia, Jon, Ana, Brendon, and more) who help and guide you through the day to day craziness.

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

Want to apply to Techstars? Check out our Program Schedule.

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The Techstars Experience: SpotHero’s Story

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

This is the second post in our new blog series called “The Techstars Experience” with some thoughts (originally posted on Medium) from Mark Lawrence, Co-Founder and CEO of SpotHero, a mobile on-demand parking app and website that helps drivers find parking and reserve a spot.  Mark and his co-founders, Jeremy Smith and Lawrence Kiss, completed the Techstars Chicago program in 2012.

Here are some highlights from Mark’s post, which as he describes as, “a retrospective on the 7 reasons why joining Techstars was one of the most important decisions of my life.”

[re: time to market]

“Techstars showed us that speed is the greatest asset a startup has. We learned how other successful companies bring products to market in a short amount of time. This reinforced that the sense of urgency and the ability to move fast and change quickly is what can allow a small company to seize an opportunity like no other.”

[re: Mentorship]

“Mentorship might seem like an obvious part of an accelerator, but we were surprised by how many incredibly talented mentors we had access to during the program. From the founders of OpenTable, GrubHub and CDW to the CEOs of publicly traded companies, we spent time learning from some of the most successful people in the world. We met with about 100 mentors 1:1 so we could really get to know them better, pick their brains and learn from their experiences. Whether it was entrepreneurs, marketers, salespeople or lawyers, each one forced us to start thinking about how these different specialities come together to form a profitable business. We developed strong relationships and suddenly we had people, besides our families, who were invested in our success.”

[re: Raising Capital]

“Techstars helped us understand the ins and outs of bootstrapping, raising seed capital from angels, going the institutional route and courting VCs from around the world. We became smarter at raising capital by learning which types of investors seek certain types of deals, how they approached the process and what they need to hear from you. In addition to helping us better understand the investment process, Techstars provided us with the opportunity to pitch to our company to a wide range of investors, including some of the biggest VCs in the country and we gained great exposure.”

[re: Working with Techstars]

“Through participation in Techstars, I’ve grown as an entrepreneur and learned invaluable lessons about growing a business, fundraising and thinking bigger.”

“Three years, three offices, 12 cities, 30+ employees and $7 million in funding later, I am incredibly grateful for all that Techstars has done for SpotHero.”

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

Want to apply to Techstars? You still have time! Applications for Chicago, London, and Seattle close at midnight this Thursday, April 30. Barclays NYC applications close on Tuesday, May 12.

(Are you a founder with a story to tell? Contact us at and tell us about your Techstars Experience!)


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Techstars Brings the Developer Community Together with Meet-up in Chicago

Despite numerous events offering opportunities for companies to pitch and network with other startups, we are creating a night specifically targeting developers and coders to get together to show off their awesome technology chops.  Earlier this month, we kicked this year’s first night of Techstars Show-and-Tech with a group of leading Chicago technologists.

In front of a group of 100 or so Chicago technologists, the night’s attendees were introduced to Stylie, an open-source animation tool; new tech hardware that may be a potential solution to the USB hack; The Ropes, an application that helps companies on-board new employees; Rithmio, which uses gesture recognition technology for smart devices; and Elastic Method, an application focused on helping business and technology teams work together in harmony, defining successes, and celebrating them.

But the night’s crowd favorite came from Eli Albert, Sr. Software Engineer of Techstars alumn SimpleRelevance, who demoed “Fridge Magnets With Friends.” As a small side project in his free time, Eli worked on Fridge Magnets to test out the angular -> firebase technology stack on a real-world problem: massively multiplayer collaborative poetry. It took about eight hours of work for the first 90% of the project, and another eight hours for the remaining 10% (all the polish and bug fixes that made it usable). The entire platform is served by static files and firebase, which makes scaling it very easy.  With no immediate plans for Fridge Magnets, Eli is open for suggestions on where to go with it next. You can find the code here, and Eli’s homepage here.

This just the start for what Techstars has in store for developers and engineers moving forward.  Techstars will be the place engineers come to share with other engineers the hard problems they’ve encountered. Want to learn how a new, hot technology is being used in an application? Or hear about how developers are incorporating React Java Script into high-performance user interface? Or brainstorm new ways to write native mobile apps? Come out to our next open house and discuss all!

To keep the momentum going after this month’s successful TECH Show-and-Tell, join Techstars as we begin hosting recurring Techstars DEMO nights every four to five weeks. If you are a developer or engineer interested in joining us at the next event and showing off some awesome tech, get your ideas ready, your GitHub links set, and tweet your projects over to @troyhenikoff #chicagoDEMOopenhouse.


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The 10 Newest Techstars Alumni

Each year I look forward to Demo Day more than any other day of the year.

Each year I am more and more amazed by the entrepreneurs and what they accomplish.

Each year the bar is raised higher and higher. It cannot continue forever, but it certainly did yesterday, WOW!

With the pressure on and the House of Blues packed, our ten companies gave the best presentations of their lives. They rose to the occasion, putting an exclamation point on months of intense hours and late nights.

It has been my pleasure to watch our entrepreneurs grow and their products develop over the summer. It’s a testament to the Techstars approach that we were able to pack years worth of acceleration into just a couple of months. We definitely did more, faster.

Join me in wishing them great luck in the future, not that they need it. These ten teams have the never-stop work ethic that creates luck in the first place.

They are going to succeed, and with your help, they can succeed even faster. Whether it’s as an investor, as a customer or just as a cheerleader, find a way to support our ten newest Techstars alumni. They’ve earned it.


Clutch Prep helps college students get better grades with textbook-specific videos.My favorite moment of their pitch: “Voodoo Math”
Data Everywhere is the cloud database that unlocks your spreadsheet data and makes it available in Excel, Google Sheets, iOS, APIs and more.My favorite moment of their pitch: “(before DataEverywhere) You are in ‘Excel Hell!’”
Gamewisp gives gaming celebrities the tools to interact with their devoted fans and monetize their content.My favorite moment of their pitch: “Be the mushroom to our Mario.”
InRentive automates marketing and analysis of residential rental listings across multiple listing services and social media platforms.My favorite moment of their pitch: “Four times as many at 7% higher rates…”
MartMobi helps online retailers dramatically increase mobile conversions by offering beautiful sites and apps using our turnkey mobile e-commerce platform.My favorite moment of their pitch: “BOOM!”
NexLP’s next-generation analytics and visualization technology dramatically reduces enterprise costs related to eDiscovery, fraud investigations and compliance.My favorite moment of their pitch: The announcement of $2M in
Package Zen makes managing deliveries and packages simple, beginning with solutions for front desk staff, doormen and mailrooms.My favorite moment of their pitch: “We just processed 500 more packages, here at the House of Blues…”
Tangiblee enables online retailers to provide a realistic shopping experience for any product, leading to higher conversion, fewer returns and happier customers.My favorite moment of their pitch: “We help you with your marriage”
Telnyx is enabling universal voice communication via the web, regardless of application or device type.My favorite moment of their pitch: “True VoiP is a fraud”
WeDeliver provides a digital platform for flexible, on-demand delivery of unique and curated products in order to increase local merchant sales.My favorite moment of their pitch: The launch of their new product, Locally.

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10 New Companies for Techstars Summer 2014 Chicago Session

By Troy Henikoff, Managing Director, Chicago

It’s been another year, and we’re back at it again with the Techstars Summer 2014 class in Chicago. This is fifth year running the accelerator and second season as Techstars.  Each year it gets better and better and I could not be more proud to present the ten companies that will be joining us this summer.

The incoming class features a unique makeup. More than half of the companies are Chicago-based, which doubles the amount of local representation we had last year and is a testament to the power Techstars has to further establish a city like Chicago as a destination for tech startups. Of the 10 companies, six hail from Chicago, with international startups representing Israel and India. Two other U.S. startups, based in Miami and Nashville, round out the list.

The summer 2014 Techstars Chicago class:

Clutch Prep – Clutch’s expert tutors simplify your studying with in-depth, textbook-specific videos and practice materials that improve grades for college students.

Data Everywhere is a solution that connects your company’s data, making it safe to run your business on the spreadsheets you build.

GameWisp is a platform for gamers to discover and monetize gaming video content.

inRentive Listings provides real estate professionals a streamlined way to manage their content, analyze listing performance and market apartment units, condos and single-family rentals across multiple listing services and social media platforms.

MartMobi is a platform for brands to seamlessly create beautiful mobile sites and apps for e-commerce stores.

 NexLP’s next-generation analytics and visualization technology dramatically reduce enterprise costs related to eDiscovery, fraud investigations and compliance.

Package Zen makes managing deliveries and packages simple for front desk staff, doormen and mailrooms.

Telnyx is a platform-as-a-service company that delivers data-driven, highly scalable telephony services at a fraction of the cost of incumbents.

WeDeliver helps local businesses increase sales by offering a fast, reliable, same-day delivery experience.

yRuler enables e-commerce brands and retailers to personalize product images, allowing users to visually try on merchandise before purchase.

I know that I speak for the entire Techstars staff when I express how excited we are to see what these 10 companies will bring to the table.   We hit the ground running on May 27th and it will be a three month sprint to Demo Day from there!


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Community Demo Day: Chicago

Today is #tsdemoday at Techstars in Chicago and our teams are pitching to a venue full of investors at the House of Blues. We were blown away by  how quickly tickets for this event became unavailable so we decided to do another one on September 9th from 6:00pm to 9:30pm at Northwestern. We open our doors to the community and we would love for you to be there and watch our companies demo what they have been diligently building these past three months. Seats are limited and RSVPs are a must. You can grab a ticket and all the details at the Eventbrite. A huge thanks to Northwestern School of Law for hosting us.

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Introducing the Inaugural TechStars Chicago Class

CaptureProof – The platform through which patients can securely and easily share photos and videos with their doctors.

HIPOM – A cloud-based solution that gives parents total control of the Internet access on all devices in the home.

Nexercise – A mobile app that makes fitness fun through the use of friendly competition, smart alerts and real rewards.

Pathful – A Web analytics platform that captures every visitor interaction with every element on a website automatically, making it easier for marketers and designers to understand visitor behavior.

Peoplematics – A cloud-based search platform that unlocks the data users store in the cloud with intuitive search and sharing across applications.

Project Fixup – A digital matchmaker that fixes people up on fun one-on-one dates.

SimpleRelevance – An analytics-driven email marketing platform that provides customized digital communication for every customer and every message.

SocialCrunch – The marketing data provider presents a new way to unlock the most provocative human insights for brands and their agencies.

Sqord, Inc. – The fitness platform that makes healthy, active play more fun for kids by allowing them to compete and earn points for everyday activities.

TradingView – A browser-based community for investors and traders to share and discuss their ideas.

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[VIDEO] Excelerate Labs Becoming TechStars Chicago

 Troy Henikoff began his entrepreneurship class at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Managementwith an announcement. He told his students that Excelerate Labs — the Chicago-based accelerator that he and co-founder Sam Yagan had established, nurtured, and brought to national prominence, now had a new name.

…read the full article on Blackline Review here.

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Announcing TechStars in Chicago

Excelerate Labs is a world-class accelerator in Chicago, led by accomplished entrepreneurs Troy Henikoff (SurePayroll) and Sam Yagan (OkCupid, SparkNotes, as well as two of the leading VCs in the Midwest, Sandbox Industries’ Nick Rosa, and New World Ventures’ Adam Koopersmith. In its first three years, it has already earned a place among the very best accelerators in the country.

Brad Feld and I have been close to Excelerate Labs since the very beginning, advising Sam and Troy and mentoring the companies in their three classes. The Excelerate Labs Demo Days have always been tremendously energetic and have inspired us to make the trip to Chicago and get more involved in the local startup ecosystem.

I have personally invested in three Excelerate alums: SpotHero, GiveForward, and (acquired by Media Math). Excelerate’s results speak for the themselves: its first three classes have yielded thirty portfolio companies that have raised a total of over $30M.

As TechStars has expanded into new cities, we’ve always started our programs from scratch. But Excelerate made us think differently. We were so impressed with what they’ve built that we asked them to join forces with us and turn Excelerate Labs into TechStars Chicago. TechStars and Excelerate have always been kindred spirits: we both put entrepreneurs first and believe in the power of mentorship.

Troy Henikoff says, “We are excited to combine Excelerate’s deep roots in Chicago with TechStars’ vast alumni and mentor networks. TechStars Chicago will be an even stronger force in Chicago and will add incredible firepower to the TechStars platform.”

“I congratulate Excelerate Labs and I am pleased that TechStars has identified Chicago as one of the best places to start a technology business. This advancement is a huge step forward for the city’s technology economy and will fit hand-in-glove with the other efforts being made to promote entrepreneurship and create new jobs around Chicago.” – Mayor Rahm Emanuel

Please join me in welcoming Troy, Sam, Nick, Adam, and the Windy City to the TechStars family. Applications to TechStars Chicago open today. Apply now and see our full schedule for additional details.

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