We’re proud to be an investor in ConnXus, a supplier diversity technology platform. Techstars Ventures led the $5M financing in ConnXus, with participation from Serious Change L.P., Impact America Fund and The Social Entrepreneurs’ Fund (TSEF).
CEO Rod Robinson founded ConnXus as a result of his personal experience and frustration with the complexities associated with locating qualified diverse suppliers, tracking spending, tracking diversity certifications, and reporting reliable results in accordance with corporate and government mandates. ConnXus now solves this problem with its simple to use, cloud-based, technology platform.
We made a seed investment in ConnXus last year, and when Techstars launched several internal diversity initiatives – including the Techstars Foundation – we invited Rod to join the advisory board given his deep domain expertise. Rod has been a huge help to the Foundation. It’s a classic #givefirst story of Rod helping out with the Foundation that enabled us to get to know him better and ultimately, led us to make a larger investment in ConnXus.
Not only does ConnXus align with our initiatives to serve high-performing, emerging technology companies, but it has created innovative software that directly improves diversity in the supply chain for startups and corporations.
Techstars Ventures is the venture capital arm of Techstars with $265 million under management. We primarily co-invest alongside venture capital and angel communities in Techstars accelerator program graduates, new companies started by Techstars alumni, and companies formed by Techstars mentors.
Welcome, ConnXus, to the Techstars family!
The Techstars Foundation is a non-profit created to improve diversity in technology entrepreneurship by providing opportunities for underrepresented entrepreneurs through grants, scholarships, and sponsorships.
About the Books
Do More Faster: Lessons to Accelerate Your Startup
Do More Faster is a collection of advice that comes from individuals who have passed through, or are part of, Techstars’ accelerator programs. Each vignette is an exploration of information often heard during the Techstars program and provides practical insights into early stage entrepreneurship. While you’ll ultimately have to make your own decisions about what’s right for your business, Do More Faster can get your entrepreneurial endeavor headed in the right direction. Buy Now.
No Vision All Drive: Memoirs of an Entrepreneur
In 1993, David Cohen and David Brown founded their 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. Chronicling the story of that company from its beginnings up to 2003, when it was sold to ZOLL, and beyond, No Vision All Drive is the story of that company and the people who worked there. This book is not about business; it is about people. Buy Now.
The past three months have seen some exciting funding news for Techstars companies! Congratulations to:
- ThriveHive (Boston ’15) acquired by Propel Marketing
- Mentio Technologies (Seattle ‘15) acquired by Lendified
Also, a big shout out to the Techstars companies below that have recently received investments!
|DataRobot (Cloud ‘13), the Boston-based company that brings machine learning and data-science tools to businesses, raised $33M in a Series B round in February.|
|Latch (R/GA ’15), is the first smart access system that works for your apartment, your office and your home. Latch recently raised $10.5M in a Series A round led by Lux Capital.|
|StatMuse (Disney ’15), is an artificial intelligence platform to help sports fans explore data using simple, natural language. StatMuse received $10M in a Series A round in late January.|
|Wunder (Boulder ’14), the company that provides the solar expertise and partnerships necessary to make investing in, diversifying, and optimizing a solar portfolio delightfully simple, recently raised $3.6M in a new round of financing.|
|Naritiv (Disney ’14), announced a $3M Series A round led by Third Wave Digital in February. Naritiv is the platform that connects brands and advertisers with influencers on Snapchat|
|dopay (Barclays London ’14), the SaaS solution that provides payroll services to both banked and unbanked workers, recently announced a $2.4M pre-Series A round.|
|GreatHorn (NYC ‘15), is a cloud security platform that helps detect and prevent spear phishing and credential theft attacks in realtime. GreatHorn announced a $2.25M seed funding round this past March.|
|Infiniscene (Chicago ’15) recently raised $1.8M to scale-up and improve their existing platform. Infiniscene is a broadcast studio in the cloud that empowers gamers to easily create live broadcasts from their browser.|
|eRated (London ‘14), creates a single identity for e-commerce sites, allowing online buyers and sellers to utilize their already existing reputation everywhere they go. eRated raised $1.7M in late January.|
|Chainalysis (Barclays NYC ’15) has raised $1.6M in funding. Chainalysis specializes in countering money laundering and fraud in the digital currency industry.|
|Gorgias (NYC ‘15), the automated helpdesk enabling companies to respond faster to customers, recently raised $1.5M.|
|Tenacity (Sprint ’14), is a scientific cloud application to engage, retain and optimize your contact center workforce. The company raised $1.5M in funding this past February.|
|Socedo (Microsoft ‘12), raised $1.5M earlier this year. Socedo is an automated social media lead generation tool.|
|Datapath.io (Berlin ‘15) raised $1.1M this past February. Datapath.io is a network performance management solution.|
|DataCamp (NYC ‘15) is an online Data Science school that uses video lessons and coding challenges. DataCamp recently announced that they secured another $1M in funding.|
One of the questions I get asked regularly by founders is what they have to do to raise a Series A round of investment in the $3M-$10M range. I always encourage them to consider applying to an accelerator program since one third of all Series A rounds in 2015 were in companies that graduated from accelerators. But what about the companies that don’t get accepted into accelerator programs? The acceptance rate is fairly low (Techstars accepts 1% of all applicants), so startups should have a backup plan when it comes to securing Series A.
According to PitchBook, early-stage VCs may only look to top-tier accelerators for their pipeline of Series A-worthy prospects. With the amount of hands-on time these alums receive from mentors, founders, and other great entrepreneurial minds, it makes sense to look more closely at these startups when investing.
So your company missed the cut when applying to an accelerator program – how can your company attract more VC eyes?
Leverage Your Network
When fundraising, your network is critical whether you went through an accelerator or not. Surrounding yourself with the people who have done it right, who know the game well, and can give you the right tips is key to your company’s success in fundraising.
Recognize that there are an enormous number of companies being created each year and ultimately many of them are competing for the same Series A money. Techstars sees tens of thousands of startups applying to our programs each year, and we only fund about 250 at the seed level annually. Of those 250, about half go on to raise Series A rounds.
One reason those 125 or so companies are able to raise Series A rounds is due to tapping their networks early in their companies’ lifecycle. I see a lot of early-stage companies meeting with later stage investors well in advance of being in the market for a Series A round. They build relationships early, maintain those relationships, and knock when the time is right.
The market is currently flooded with seed capital, but there is no more Series A capital than there has been over recent years. So start early, and build genuine relationships before you start your Series A tour. Those in top tier accelerators may have an unfair advantage in that regard, but you can manufacture a strong network and book those early meetings as well.
Extend Your Network
The broader and more global your network is, the easier time you’ll have leveraging your progress and credibility in order to manufacture meetings. This broad network comes easier to companies that can go through an accelerator, as you connect with other in-program companies, investors and mentors, but how can you build a larger network organically?
You may currently have a small network, but growing that network has become easier with the use of social tools. LinkedIn, Conspire, even Facebook and Twitter allow you to grab branches that may have previously seemed out of reach.
Those LinkedIn connections, friends-of-friends, previous coworkers you haven’t spoken to in years, are all at your disposal. They may not be the VC you’d like to invest in your company, but they may be able to make an introduction or give you tips on how to get your foot in the door. You’ll never know until you ask.
Being Series A Ready
I’m often asked what it takes to be “Series A ready” in terms of metrics, progress, and traction. Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer. Series A investments are competitive right now, and the smartest VCs I know are still willing to take a chance before there’s any concrete proof.
What is necessary is conviction on the part of the investor. So think of traction as often necessary but generally insufficient evidence to help generate conviction. At least as important is helping the investor build conviction through a series of meaningful interactions over time.
Having recently raised $150M for institutional investors, I heard many people say no, and you will too. The key is to take as many meetings as possible. Build those relationships early. Maintain those relationships. Leverage angel and micro-VC connections before even thinking of pitching them.
When fundraising, your network is critical. Leveraging it early and often is the key. Don’t make the mistake of waiting until you need money to engage sources of capital. If you’re in a squeeze for capital and you have a solid, mutually beneficial, relationship with a VC, your chances of raising will increase dramatically.
This article was originally published in Fortune.
The start of 2016 has already seen some notable funding news for Techstars alumni.
Congratulations to SimpleRelevance (Chicago ‘13) acquired by Rise Interactive.
Also, a big high five to the Techstars companies below that have recently received investments!
This brings us to a total of 90% of Techstars companies active or acquired and over $2B raised by our accelerator companies.
|Placester (Boston ‘11), is a real estate advertising service that helps real estate agents and brokers market themselves better. Placester recently raised $27M in a Series C round.|
|Bluecore (NYC ’13), is a marketing automation solution for ecommerce brands. Bluecore received $21M in a Series B round led by Georgian Partners in December.|
|Degreed (Kaplan ‘13), the company that scores and organizes users formal and informal education to unlock employment and learning opportunities, recently raised $21M in Series B.|
|Nestio (NYC ‘11), announced an $8M Series A round in December. Nestio is a leasing and marketing platform for residential landlords.|
|Bevi (Boston ‘14), the Boston-based company that provides smart beverage machines, recently announced a $6.5M Series A round.|
|Revolar (Boulder ‘15), is a company that developed a wearable with the sole purpose to help keep you safe. Revolar announced a $3M seed financing round in late 2015.|
|Streamroot (Boston ’14) is a video streaming startup that raised $2.5M in a recent funding round. Streamroot cuts bandwidth costs for online broadcasters through its peer-to-peer video delivery solution.|
|Codeship (Boston ‘13) has raised another $1.5M in funding. Codeship automates the process of testing and releasing updates to software apps.|
|AdHawk (Boulder ‘15), the company that aggregates digital marketing campaigns across platforms and makes optimization recommendations, recently raised $1.4M.|
|MetricStory (Austin ’15), is a company that automates the entire process of setting up high value web analytics. The company raised $1.4M in funding this past December.|
|Slash (NYC ‘15), the New York based company that developed a keyboard app that lets users share rich media in mobile messaging without opening a separate app, has recently raised $1.3M in funding.|
|Sundar (Boston ‘14), a company that aims to redefine the apparel and design industries through a curated digital platform for materials discovery and supplier sourcing, recently raised $1.3M in funding.|
|Innervate (Seattle ’15) raised $1.3M to help developers and gamers build a better relationship. Innervate builds community and marketing tools for games.|
|Matcherino (Seattle ’15), a company that developed an eSports engagement platform for spectators and gamers, recently announced that it has raised a $1.2M seed round.|
|Cashforce (Barclays NYC ‘15), a company that brings banks and businesses closer together through an automated cash management platform, has announced a €1M Series A funding round ($1.08M).|
As a follow up to our White House diversity commitment and on the heels of the creation of the Techstars Foundation, a nonprofit with the goal of advancing opportunities for underrepresented tech entrepreneurs, we are now reporting on our progress and publishing our own diversity data related to the founders of our accelerator companies.
First, let’s recap what we’ve done so far to advance inclusive entrepreneurship:
- Published our diversity data (see below).
- Made a public diversity commitment as part of White House Demo Day.
- Launched the Techstars Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to advancing opportunities in tech entrepreneurship for underrepresented founders.
- In 2012, we created a mentorship program called Risingstars pairing Techstars accelerator alumni with underrepresented founders.
- We have been presenting Patriot Boot Camp for US military veterans since 2012.
- Trained internal staff on unconscious bias.
- Created the GSB Startup Weekend Women track.
- Addressed the topic of diversity at FounderCon, our annual conference for founders.
We have committed to and are currently working on the following:
- We have made our diversity initiative a company-wide Strategic Goal for 2016.
- We’ve created an internal committee focused on creating actionable diversity goals for staff across our 30+ global locations.
- We are working on programs to double the number of women in our accelerator program applicant pool and across our mentor network over the next four years.
- We are tracking participation in our programs by underrepresented minorities and are working on doubling that from the baseline over the same time period.
- We continue to work with NCWIT to develop a toolkit for Techstars companies as well as opening up NCWIT associate membership to all Techstars companies.
- We are also working with NCWIT on their Pacesetters Program.
Below is our diversity data related to founders of companies we’ve funded in the accelerators to date. Based on these figures, we certainly have a long way to go here at Techstars — but we also know that you cannot improve what you don’t measure. We will publish this information annually, along with notes on our progress. While we don’t have this data historically, we will be focusing on broader classifications in the future.
Special thanks to DataHero for the visualizations.
Today we are excited to launch the Techstars Foundation.
Over the past year, many of our alumni, investors, and mentors have encouraged us to think hard about inclusive entrepreneurship. We decided that we wanted to do something very meaningful that would have a lasting impact on this issue — and so we created the Techstars Foundation. The goal of the foundation is to improve diversity in tech entrepreneurship by providing opportunities for underrepresented entrepreneurs through grants, scholarships, and sponsorships.
Creating the Techstars Foundation is also a way for us to take further action on top of the White House Diversity Commitment we made in August. That commitment involves increasing the numbers of female applicants and mentors in our accelerator programs, tracking and increasing minority participation, adding women to our selection committee, and publishing our diversity data annually. We want to do all of this as well as having a direct impact financially.
Founders and employees of Techstars, along with a number of alumni and mentors, have made an initial cash contribution to the Techstars Foundation, which launches today with more than $500,000. We are thrilled to offer a way for Techstars accelerator alumni, partners, mentors, Startup Weekend and Next alumni, and other supporters to Give First by providing access and opportunity to underrepresented minorities and – together – create stronger entrepreneur communities worldwide.
The Techstars Foundation is fortunate to have the guidance of an incredible board of advisors, including Brad Feld (Managing Director, Foundry Group), Mary Grove (Director, Google for Entrepreneurs), Jenny Lawton (Chief Strategy Officer, littleBits), Rod Robinson (Founder and CEO, Connxus), and Lucy Sanders (Founder and CEO, National Center for Women and Information Technology).
If you would like to get involved, please consider donating cash or stock to the Techstars Foundation. You can also name the foundation as a beneficiary. Your contribution is tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law.
Techstars was founded in 2007 and since then we’ve funded more than 500 companies. These companies have been trusted with the obligations that come with more than $1.2B in follow on funding from angel investors and venture capitalists. Techstars is now funding close to 200 new companies each year. There are also now over 1,500 founders who have participated in a Techstars accelerator. Some of these founders have seen great success, some have tasted failure and some have even gone on to found their next companies.
Lately, we’ve all been reading about some bad behavior by startups in the industry. We’ve heard about startups stealing contact lists and spamming people in the name of “growth hacking.” We’ve seen companies posting fake comments and using hidden identities to discredit their competition. While we can’t fix the behavior of others, we have decided to be clear about behaviors that are not acceptable to us here at Techstars. That’s why we have published the Techstars Code of Conduct.
This is a living document managed by our community. We’re including the current version below in this post so that others can see what we expect of Techstars companies. Just as importantly, it’s the behavior that their business partners, customers, and employees can expect of them. Techstars is for life, so the benefits of being part of our ecosystem will always be there throughout each founder’s entire career as long as they continue to earn the trust of their community.
We have reviewed the Code of Conduct with founders of Techstars companies as well as many of our mentors. Each new Techstars company will receive this Code of Conduct when we fund them. I’m proud of the integrity and behavior that Techstars alumni have displayed historically, and that they are committed to doing business by this Code, now and into the future.
Techstars companies must hold themselves to the highest standards as part of the Techstars community. We recognize that each of us is an ambassador for Techstars and for each other. Integrity in each of our companies is central to protecting our reputation for each other and for future companies. As part of the Techstars global community, we realize that we are living in public and need to act appropriately at all times. Therefore, those who do not abide by this Code of Conduct will be removed from the Techstars community and will no longer have access to the associated benefits.
The Techstars Code of Conduct revolves around three key principles.
- We give first.
- We act with integrity.
- We treat others with respect.
We give first.
1. We help others whenever possible. We are all busy, but when the ask is sincere and realistic, we respond and help. We are respectful of each other’s time and are clear and focused in our requests.
2. We deliberately create a virtuous cycle. We proactively work to give back to the ecosystem by giving first to others in our community with no specific expectations of return.
3. We appreciate the help of others. No one goes it alone – startups are a team activity. We express our appreciation for the help of our customers, mentors, and others that make our success possible.
We act with integrity.
4. We are honest and transparent. If we say something either publicly or privately, then we believe that it is true. We do not intentionally omit important and relevant factual information in an effort to deceive others. We strive to be clear and transparent in our communications.
5. We protect sensitive information. When we are entrusted with sensitive, confidential or personal information we use appropriate measures to secure it. We respect requests for privacy and confidentiality.
6. We communicate with our investors. We will send an update on our business at least every six months and be responsive to their inquiries.
7. If we fail, we fail well. If we are going out of business, we will notify our customers and make their data available to them for at least 60 days. We will advise every one of our investors and provide the chance to discuss what went wrong in a live conversation. If we know the company is going to fail, we attempt to return as much capital to investors as possible.
8. We disclose known conflicts of interest early. We err on the side of too much disclosure.
9. We do not steal assets or content. We encourage and respect independent, innovating thinking.
We treat others with respect.
10. We commit to non-hostile, open, and welcoming workplaces. We commit that employees, partners, customers, and visitors feel accepted and free to express their opinions, concerns, and needs with an expectation that they will be heard and respected. We communicate professionally and appropriately at all times.
11. We don’t tolerate illegal discrimination or harassment in any form. We will quickly fire employees who do this, and train our employees to recognize and address bad behavior. We will ban or fire mentors, investors, employees, contractors and others who discriminate or harass others.
12. We encourage diversity. We commit to seeking diverse perspectives and building inclusive work environments, which we believe leads to better companies.
13. We stand up for others. We appropriately intervene in situations when we witness violations of this Code and report violations.
14. We are reachable and responsive. We will enable standard forms of communication so that anyone doing business with us can have a reasonable expectation of receiving a response in a timely fashion.
15. We participate in both offline and online forums with respect. We don’t cause or participate in flame wars online. We participate in respectful discourse in all forums. We do not comment anonymously or with false identities.
16. We respect our legal agreements. We do not attempt to circumvent their intentions.
17. We keep our promises. If we commit to do something, we do our best to do it. If we can’t keep our promises for some reason then we strive to make it right in any way possible.
18. We do right by our customers. We strive to deliver products that delight our customers and seek to exceed their expectations.
19. We do not attack others electronically. We don’t maliciously attack others using scripts, robots, or similar techniques.
20. We are not spammers. We do not send bulk unsolicited email nor do we scrape contact lists and abuse them. We don’t harass prospective customers who have clearly said no to us and opted out of communications.
21. We work for the benefit of our companies. We always work for the benefit of our company, not for our own personal benefit.
22. We encourage professional development. As founders, we do everything we can to ensure the happiness and professional growth of our employees.
23. We avoid gossip. We don’t share disparaging comments and rumors about others. We are constructive in our feedback and always provide it directly to the individual or company to which it pertains.
The Techstars Founders Code of Conduct is a living document managed by our community. For suggested changes, please contact us.
In April of 2012, Mike Dodd and Tom Ball of Austin Ventures reached out to me with a simple email. It said, in effect, “We need Techstars in Austin, and we’d like to help make it happen.” A few weeks later, Mike came to Boulder to meet with us. They helped us understand what was happening in Austin, and why it would be a great market for Techstars. In classic #givefirst style, they offered to do whatever they could to help us make progress and remove roadblocks.
Many things happened behind the scenes over the next year and Mike, Tom, and the whole gang at Austin Ventures helped with connections and really got behind the effort. One year later, we publicly launched Techstars into the Austin market with the support and backing of the broader community, including more than 100 fantastic local mentors. Watching how those mentors have dug in and helped startups succeed there has been inspiring.
Now Austin is part of the global ecosystem that is Techstars today. We operate accelerator programs in Austin, Berlin, Boston, Boulder, Chicago, Detroit, Kansas City, London, New York City, San Antonio, San Diego, and Seattle. Those 100 mentors in Austin are now part of a global network of more than 1,500 mentors across our system. Techstars has funded about 500 companies now, and those companies have gone on to raise an average of $2.2M each, and more than $1.1B in total.
Austin is now a big part of the Techstars global network. With the addition of our new $150M fund, we plan on continuing to invest in Austin. Jason Seats is a partner in this fund and is based in Austin. Derek Keller, a Principal with the fund is also based in Austin full time.
With the news last week that Austin Ventures would not be raising a new early stage fund, the headlines proclaimed that the experts were worried about the lack of availability of startup capital in Austin going forward. I have no idea who those “experts” are, but that’s not something I’m concerned about when I think about the Austin startup community. There are truly great startups being born there regularly. Money will always follow high quality entrepreneurs. Techstars will continue to make seed investments through the accelerator in Austin, but also watch for us to make Series A investments locally as well through our new fund and our active presence there.
Austin Ventures has obviously been a huge part of the growth and maturity of the Austin startup community. Thanks in part to their foresight and efforts, there are now many other sources of early stage capital in town. Techstars, and many other organizations in the city today have Austin Ventures to thank for encouraging and supporting us. They could have looked at us as competitive, but instead they put entrepreneurs first and thought deeply about the needs of the overall community, now and into the future.
Hats off to Austin Ventures.
Today, we are unveiling our third and newest Techstars Ventures fund.
Techstars Ventures 2014 is a $150M seed and series A fund. The fund’s strategy is to invest in companies emerging from the Techstars ecosystem, which includes Techstars accelerator program graduates, new companies started by Techstars alumni, and companies formed by Techstars mentors.
Since 2007, companies in our ecosystem of founders, alumni and mentors have raised more than $5 billion in venture capital from a diverse set of leading venture capital firms. We are incredibly proud of these existing portfolio companies, which employ thousands of people and have a total enterprise value of more than $42 billion. And, of course, we’re also very proud of the more than 1,500 Techstars mentors worldwide who through their efforts have changed the way that startups are created.
Through our venture funds, we’ve been co-investing alongside the angel and venture capital communities in Techstars companies since 2009. With this new fund, we will continue to thoughtfully co-invest alongside the broader venture community in companies that are part of the Techstars ecosystem of founders, alumni and mentors.
When Mark Solon and I decided to raise this new fund, we knew the job was going to get much bigger and we’d need more focused help. Techstars has been growing as an organization and some true superstars have emerged.
We are thrilled to announce the addition of three new partners to the fund:
- Jason Seats was the founder of Slicehost (acquired by Rackspace), and has managed both Techstars Cloud and Techstars Austin since joining us in 2011.
- Nicole Glaros is a fantastic investor who has managed and provided oversight for Techstars programs in Colorado, New York and Texas since joining us in 2009.
- Ari Newman founded Filtrbox (acquired by Jive) in 2007 and participated in the first-ever Techstars program that same year, then joined Techstars in 2011.
The Techstars team is now more than sixty professionals whose daily focus is adding value to our portfolio companies. We have offices with Managing Directors in Austin, Boulder, Berlin, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Kansas City, London, Los Angeles, New York City, San Antonio, San Diego, and Seattle.
We would like to thank our Limited Partners who have placed their trust (and money) with us. It’s a small group of some of the most notable institutional investors in the world and we’re honored to have them be an important part of this new fund. We love nothing more than investing in and helping startups do incredible things, so thank you to all of the founders and companies who have allowed us to be a small part of their inspiring stories. Techstars is mentorship-driven, and we too have had incredible mentors help us along the way. You know who you are, and we want you to know we appreciate everything you have done for us. You have been nothing short of incredible as people, friends, and mentors to us. Thank you!