What Techstars Gave Me: Founder Stories

We recently celebrated our 10 year anniversary at Techstars. Over the 10 years, we have met so many great founders, mentors, partners and community leaders. We are honored to get the chance to work every day with amazing people building awesome companies, all around the world.

One of our core values since day one is #GiveFirst. Not only does this value and tradition still hold true today, but we are seeing founders, mentors, and more carrying it on throughout our Worldwide Network. We give without asking for anything in return and help any time we can. This is what helps entrepreneurs succeed.

We wanted to highlight the stories and work being done by some of our founders. We thought it would be an interesting new perspective to have them tell you what it feels like to be on the receiving end of #GiveFirst in the context of their Techstars experience. We hope you enjoy the video!








Funding and M&A Across the Techstars Worldwide Network

The last few months have brought several notable funding announcements and M&A activity for many Techstars alumni.

Congratulations to:

This brings us to a total of 121 Techstars companies acquired, and $3.5B raised by our accelerator companies.

In addition, here are the companies that have recently received significant investments!  

DataRobot (Techstars Class 21), raised another $54M in March to automate data science tasks. DataRobot transforms businesses with automated machine learning.

Placester (Techstars Class 9), raised $50M to expand real estate software tools. Placester is a digital marketing platform for real estate professionals.

Sphero (Techstars Class 6), the Boulder-based company that created the BB-8 toy robot, recently raised another $35.4M in early April.

Outreach (Techstars Class 12), raised $30M in late May. Outreach provides Sales and Marketing teams with the capabilities to drive deeper engagement with prospects.

Synack (Techstars Class 22), announced a $21M raise in early April. Synack is a security startup that combines software security tools with a network of white-hat hackers to help keep its customers secure

Filament (Techstars Class 45), a provider of wireless industrial networks, raised $15M in late March.

Tenfold (Techstars Class 47), the Austin-based startup that integrates customer relationship management systems with company phone systems and other communications tools, recently raised $15M.

Latch (Techstars Class 45), raised $10M in early May. Latch created internet-connected smart locks for the enterprise market.

Kalo (Techstars Class 46), formerly Lystable, raised $10M in March. Kalo allows companies to manage freelancers, track their work and pay them on time.

Freight Farms (Techstars Class 22), the company that builds automated farm systems in shipping containers, raised $5.6M in a new round.

Bitfusion (Techstars Class 47), an AI lifecycle management platform, raised $5M in a Series A round to strengthen their R&D efforts.

Chowbotics (Techstars Class 66), the company that created Sally, the salad-making robot, raised $5M in early March.

Amper (Techstars Class 96), raised $4M in March. Amper is a startup that offers AI-powered music composition.

Morty (Techstars Class 77), the first ever fully digital mortgage broker, raised $3M to make its mortgage marketplace available to users.

Remesh (Techstars Class 60), a software platform that uses AI, machine learning and natural language processing for market research, raised $2.25 million in seed funding.

RateGravity (Techstars Class 95), raised $2M in early May. RateGravity provides an automated service for matching homebuyers with low-interest mortgages.

MeetMindful (Techstars Class 68), raised $1.8M in April. MeetMindful is a relationship platform that connects a large, growing number of people pursuing a healthy, mindful lifestyle

Fam (Techstars Class 53), a video-chat app from the company Smack, raised $1.8M in mid March.

Stackery (Techstars Class 92), provides a production-grade, operational toolset for developers building serverless applications. Stackery raised $1.75M in April.

IronCore Labs (Techstars Class 91), the company that provides turnkey encryption customer controlled data for SaaS companies, recently raised $1.5M.

Sea Machines Robotics (Techstars Class 95), the company that provides autonomous self-driving systems for boats, raised $1.5M in May.

Polis (Techstars Class 67), raised $1.3M in March. Polis provides easy and scalable door-to-door outreach software for campaigns and corporations.

Apostrophe  (Techstars Class 91), is an innovative health plan that saves self-insured employers up to 40 percent on their healthcare costs. Apostrophe recently raised $1.15M.

Patch Homes (Techstars Class 81), provides home equity financing at 0 percent interest and no monthly payments. Patch Homes raised $1M in seed funding in April.

Prospectify (Techstars Class 88), raised $1M in March. Prospectify offers account-based intelligence that’s automated but personalized.








Help Us Stand Up for a Free and Open Internet

The success of America’s startup ecosystem depends on more than improved broadband speeds. We also depend on an open internet — including enforceable net neutrality rules that ensure internet service providers like big cable companies limit how and what we share on the internet.  

Without net neutrality, the incumbents who provide access to the internet would be able to pick winners or losers in the market. They could impede traffic from our services to favor their own services or established competitors. Or they could impose discriminatory fees on us, inhibiting consumer choice. Our companies should be able to compete in the marketplace based on the quality of our products and services, not the ability to pay tolls to internet access providers.

In 2015, the Federal Communications Commission put in place light-touch net neutrality rules that not only prohibit certain harmful practices, but also allow the Commission to develop and enforce rules to address new forms of discrimination. We believe this is the right approach.

Now is the time to voice support of net neutrality. The new leader of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Chairman Ajit Pai, has said he wants to roll back existing net neutrality rules that prevent big cable companies from discriminating against online companies and services. Congress is lining up behind him.

Together with Engine Advocacy and Y Combinator, we are organizing a letter opposing these actions, signed by startups, investors, accelerators, incubators, and entrepreneurs. Help us stand up for a free and open internet.

If you also support net neutrality, we invite you to add your company’s name to this letter, and share it with other entrepreneurs and innovators in your network.

We will transmit the letter to Chairman Pai on May 1. All signatures must be received by 5 pm ET April 28.








How Microsoft, Uber, Twitter and Google Came to Boulder

This post originally appeared on David Cohen's own blog at davidgcohen.com/

A thriving startup community provides a boost to the greater community in lots of ways. It encourages innovation and investment, attracts creative, entrepreneurial people, and generates a certain energy– making the entire city a more desirable place to live.

Additionally, when local startups are acquired by big companies, and those companies hire more people in the area, the result is more jobs, which boosts the local economy in a lot of new ways.

A great example of how big companies get here is Sketchup, a startup that my partner Mark Solon invested in back when it was a tiny company. Google acquired Sketchup in 2006 (yep, I was blogging about Colorado startups way back then), and we’ve had the footprint of Google’s presence in Boulder ever since then. Bolstered by the addition of around 1,500 jobs in Boulder, over the years that acquisition has significantly contributed to Boulder’s growth and housing boom.

Similarly, in 2011 Federated Media purchased Lijit (now Sovrn), leading to an increase in hiring at the Boulder office. And in 2014, Boulder startup Gnip was acquired by Twitter, leading to their large office here. By the way, even as I write this Twitter has 10 job openings in Boulder right now.

Microsoft brought an office to Boulder when it bought the startup Vexcel. Later, Uber opened up a Boulder office when it acquired some of the Bing assets and Microsoft continued to operate here.

There are plenty of other examples in Boulder alone. By my count, about 2,000 high paying, high tech, “big company” jobs in Boulder can be traced back to startups from the last decade. Not to mention the many thousands more jobs that are enabled by the current generation of startups today.

This is how an active startup community impacts the broader community, well beyond just the startup community itself. It impacts all aspects of the area, including real estate, retail and housing in major ways. Next time you find yourself wondering if startups really matter to a community, take a look at Boulder and ask yourself why Google and Twitter employ so many people here. Startups are responsible for most net new jobs in America. As big companies continue to cut back, we can continue to look to startups to create our future.

The purpose of Techstars’ Worldwide Entrepreneur Network is to help entrepreneurs succeed. Check out the impact of the Techstars’ network over the past 10 years.








Chowbotics: People Gotta Eat

Today, we’re thrilled to announce our Series A investment in Chowbotics (Austin ‘16), previously Casabots, an amazing company that builds robots that prepare food. You can check out the progress on the first product, Sally the salad making robot below. Go ahead, we’ll wait here.

Whenever we make a major investment, we often fit it into our “people gotta” framework. It’s our little way of ensuring that we’re thinking about investing in big market opportunities. For example, with SendGrid we believe “people gotta email” and with Uber we believe “people gotta get around.” Chowbotics was super obvious for us – “people gotta eat!”

We’ve known Deepak and the team at Chowbotics since they participated in Startup Next and later in Techstars Austin. After the accelerator program, we participated in the seed round. It has been incredible to watch what the team has accomplished with a modest amount of capital. Building robots is hard, but Chowbotics has made consistent progress.

When we recently visited their office, Sally made us salads for lunch.

It was easy for us to see how robots like Sally would be preparing our food in the future.

The automation and speed Sally provides means improved health and sanitation in food preparation, and consumers can have total control over their calories, ingredients and portions.

Today, we’re investing in their $5M Series A round with our friends at Foundry Group. I’m even more excited to be joining the board of the company alongside Jason Mendelson.

Bring on the future of food. Yum!

Techstars helps entrepreneurs succeed. Interested in joining the worldwide entrepreneur network? Learn how.








Techstars and YPO Launch Partnership to Support High Growth Entrepreneurship and Innovation

I’m excited to announce that Techstars will be a YPO Entrepreneurship and Innovation Network global partner and the premier partner for YPO’s 2017 global Innovation Week, May 8-12.

Techstars helps entrepreneurs succeed, and with over 24,000 members in 130 countries, YPO is the premier leadership organization for chief executives around the world. Its members are involved in many different types of businesses and industries. About one-third of their members lead family businesses, about one-third are entrepreneurs and one-third are hired chief executives. YPO member-run companies employ 15 million people and generate $6 trillion in annual revenue. Our promising startup founders aspire to achieve those same heights.

As a global partner with YPO’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation Network, we’ll be able to connect entrepreneurs throughout our worldwide network with YPO resources. The partnership will include content sharing, event coordination and innovation-focused idea exchange. Through joint event opportunities, new enterprises emerging from the Techstars ecosystem will have an opportunity to connect with YPO members globally to help foster opportunities for idea exchange designed to further accelerate innovation.

We’re excited to also be the premier partner for YPO Innovation Week, an event that connects a global community of chief executives in a week-long series of more than 50 events and activities across 30 countries, designed to accelerate innovation in companies and communities.

At Techstars, we source and support the world’s most promising startup founders and help them achieve liftoff through initial investment, business development and mentoring. Those that soar are not only excellent potential business partners for YPO members, but also could be future YPO members.

Techstars partnership in the event will bring unique insights on activity across the global startup ecosystem and enable collaboration across the Techstars and YPO member networks to support high growth entrepreneurship and innovation around the world.

Techstars helps entrepreneurs succeed. Interested in joining the worldwide entrepreneur network? Learn how.








Funding and M&A Across the Techstars Ecosystem

It has been an exciting start to 2017 with several notable funding announcements and M&A activity for many Techstars alumni.

Congratulations to:

In addition, here are the companies that have recently received significant investments!  

SalesLoft (Boulder ‘12), a sales engagement software company, announced a $15M Series B round at the end of January to continue to deliver new features and innovation. SalesLoft is based in Atlanta.

Neurala (Boston ‘13), recently raised $14M to build brains for drones and more. The Neurala Brain is a deep learning neural network software that mimics how the human brain works.

Zagster (Boston ‘12), the company that provides bike share programs for cities, universities, businesses and properties recently announced a $10M Series B round. Zagster is based in Cambridge, MA.

Filament (R/GA ‘15), a complete hardware and software ecosystem for building the Internet of Things, raised $9.5M in late February. Filament is based in Reno, NV.

INSPECTORIO (Retail ‘15), uses data and machine learning to improve quality control and bring transparency to supply chains. They announced a $3.7M seed round in early January. INSPECTORIO is based in Minneapolis.

Jiobit (Chicago ‘16), the company that created a wearable to give you peace of mind when it comes to your kid’s location, raised $3M in seed funding to continue to keep kids safe.

AdmitHub (Boston ‘15), announced $2.95M in seed funding to continue to guide students through school. AdmitHub provides virtual college counseling to students and helps colleges connect with prospects.

Hull (Boulder ‘13), the company solving customer data fragmentation, raised $2.6M in late January to become the central hub for all customer data. Hull is based in Atlanta.

Keymetrics (NYC ‘15), raised $2M in early February. Keymetrics is a real-time platform for managing and monitoring NodeJS applications.

Cuvva (Barclays London ‘16), announced £1.5M (~$1.86M) in new funding this past January. Cuvva offers flexible, on-demand car insurance by the hour. Cuvva is based in London.

Sequr (Atlanta ‘16), a SaaS solution for residential and enterprise physical access control, raised $1.75M in their second seed round in mid-January.

Apptentive (Seattle ‘12), a mobile customer engagement software that helps companies listen, engage and retain customers just announced another $1.7M round to continue to grow.

PartySlate (Chicago ‘16), announced a $1.6M raise in late February. PartySlate is an online platform to connect event providers with people looking to host an event.

PenPal Schools (Austin ‘15), raised $1.25M to connect students around the world. PenPal Schools connects classrooms around the world through online exchanges.

Bamba (Austin ‘16), raised $1.1M in mid-February. Bamba helps market research firms and development aid organizations open communication channels to engage mobile subscribers that generally would be considered inaccessible. Bamba is based in Nairobi.

Over the last decade, Techstars has grown a worldwide network with 100 exits, 1000 companies in the portfolio and 10,000 jobs created by those companies. Want to be a part of it? Learn how and apply today!








Congratulations to the Techstars Founders in the Forbes 30 Under 30

We are proud to announce that 19 Techstars’ companies have been named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 this year. Companies from Techstars city programs out of London, NY, Boston and Seattle were recognized as well as founders from our corporate programs with Disney, Sprint, R/GA and Qualcomm. A special shout out goes to Zapier, a Startup Weekend alumni, who made the list!

These founders have been called out as the “brightest young entrepreneurs, innovators and game changers.” We look forward to seeing more great things from them in 2017, and from all the amazing founders in the Techstars family all across the globe.

THE LIST:

Name

Company

Class

Category

John Wise

Lovepop

Boston ’15

Art & Style

Andre Lorenceau, Saswat Panda

LiveLike VR

NYC ’15

Consumer Tech

Ben Anderson

Amino Apps

Boston ’14

Consumer Tech

Keller Rinaudo

Zipline

Seattle ’11

Consumer Tech

Nate Beatty, Shane Scranton

IrisVR

NYC ’15

Enterprise Tech

Bryan Helmig, Wade Foster, Mike Knoop

Zapier

SW Alumni

Enterprise Tech

Andrew First

Leanplum

Seattle ’12

Enterprise Tech

Peter Johnston

Lystable

London ’14

Enterprise Tech

Matt Salsamendi

Beam

Seattle ’16

Games

Kendall Tucker

Polis

Boston ’16

Law & Policy

Patrick Pittaluga, Sean Warner

Grubbly Farms

NYC ’16

Manufacturing & Industry

Marine Couteau, Ladislas de Toldi

Leka

Sprint ’16

Manufacturing & Industry

Kurt Workman, Jordan Monroe, Zack Bomsta

Owlet Baby Care

R/GA ’13

Manufacturing & Industry

Chad Amonn

Inova Drone

Qualcomm ’15

Manufacturing & Industry

Daniel Altmann, Eric Posen

Naritiv

Disney ’14

Marketing & Advertising

Ricky Ashenfelter

Spoiler Alert

Boston ’16

Social Entrepreneurs

Martin McGloin, Sabine Pole

Sorry as a Service

London ’15

Retail & Ecommerce – Europe

Freddy Macnamara

Cuvva

Barclays UK ’16

Retail & Ecommerce – Europe

Helena Wasserman

Big Data for Humans

London ’14

Technology – Europe

Want to get on the list? Apply to Techstars today.








Expanding our Board of Directors

Techstars is building the best global ecosystem for founders to bring new technologies to market.

The last few years have seen amazing growth for us as we’ve expanded throughout the world. We are now regularly investing in 16 cities in five different countries, and running Startup Weekend, Startup Week, and other community events in over 600 cities and in 168 countries. Our portfolio of accelerator companies has now raised more than $3 billion and is valued at more than $7 billion, and we have seen well over 100 exits by merger or acquisition to date from our portfolio. We’re now managing $300M of our own capital and have been fortunate to be first round investors of companies now worth upwards of $85 billion.

We’re very proud of the team we’ve put together globally. Techstars now consists of 160 people living and working in the locations where we are investing and building startup communities. As we’ve expanded what we do far beyond just running accelerator programs, we decided it was time to rethink our board of directors and bring in some additional expertise.

We’re thrilled to announce that we’ve added Arthur Lev to our Board of Directors. Arthur is the former Chairman of Morgan Stanley Investment Management as well as a  former Managing Director and the Head of Alternative Investment Partners at Morgan Stanley.

As the Techstars ecosystem becomes more global and has more opportunity to invest in great startup communities around the world, we expect that we’ll soon be able to invest $1B+/year in Techstars portfolio companies. We believe that Arthur will be invaluable in helping us develop the right capital strategies for the long term at Techstars.

We’re also very excited to add Wendy Lea, the CEO of Cintrifuse, to the Board of Directors. As a Techstars mentor since 2007, Wendy understands the value of our mission. In 2016, she was instrumental in bringing the most recent Techstars founder event, FounderCon, to Cincinnati, an emerging startup hub in the midwest. Cintrifuse operates an innovative model that integrates large global companies and the startup community in unique and mutually beneficial ways.

As Techstars continues to bring larger corporations into our global ecosystem, we plan to lean on Wendy for strategies that make this a win-win for founders, startup communities, and corporations with a desire for innovation.

The Techstars Board of Directors now consists of me (David Cohen), David Brown, Mark Solon, Brad Feld, Jason Mendelson, Arthur Lev, and Wendy Lea. As a group, we’re excited to help build the global ecosystem for founders and take Techstars into its second decade.








Techstars Give First Awards 2016

This fall, at our FounderCon conference in Cincinnati, we began a new tradition called the Give First awards. We decided we wanted to recognize founders and mentors from our global network who consistently live this core value of Techstars.

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The idea behind #givefirst is that we try to be helpful without any specific expectation of return and in a non-transactional way. In short, if we can be helpful, then we want to be helpful.

Here are the founders and mentors who we recognized this year for how they live this value.

David Mandell is the co-founder and CEO of PivotDesk (Boulder ‘12) and a Techstars mentor. David shows up and helps at so many Techstars locations. He’s mentored at Patriot Boot Camp (a non-profit we funded early on and helped launch). He shows up at Techstars accelerator programs around the world and meets with companies because he loves being helpful. I suspect that he’s mentored in more locations than any other Techstars mentor. He’s consistently rated as a top mentor at these programs he visits.

John Guydon is the founder and CEO of the Lassy Project (Boulder ‘14). I love working with John because of his “straight talk.” He’s not afraid to tell us how we’re screwing up or how we could do something better on behalf of everyone in the network. At the same time, he’s incredibly generous with his time and a great representative of our alumni.

Rami Essaid is co-founder of Distil Networks (Cloud ‘12) which has grown into a very valuable company. However, just because Rami is the CEO of Distil, he hasn’t forgotten his roots and he is constantly giving back to Techstars by mentoring, hosting alumni gatherings, sponsoring FounderCon, and more.

Thanks to everyone in the network for all that you do. Learn more about Give First in this video.