I’m really excited to announce the ten teams for the first Techstars Connection, in partnership with AB InBev program. We ran an exhaustive search – talking to companies on almost every continent on Earth (sorry Antarctica!), and we’ve selected ten incredible businesses to work with Techstars and our partners at AB InBev between now and February 2nd here in New York City.
We’ve got everything from companies that make it easier to find people to go for a beer with, to companies that are fundamentally changing the way the fermentation process works.
We’re in the process of welcoming the teams to the amazing space that we’re sharing with AB InBev in midtown Manhattan, and I look forward to sharing news of their progress with you over the next few weeks and months.
Without any further ado – here are the teams:
Afineur – A biotechnology company pioneering the use of controlled natural fermentations to make better, healthier and more sustainable food products.
Analytical Flavor Systems – A B2B platform allowing automation and optimization of personalized food and beverage products.
Drinkeasy – A premium liquor marketplace built for messaging platforms. Part AI, part human agents, Drinkeasy already helps thousands discover and buy hard-to-find sprits – from a $2000 rare scotch to a small batch tequila.
Intelligent Layer – is a Machine Learning company reinventing customer engagement.
NaCa Fermentation – A service that improves and accelerates high quality wash production.
Paranoid Fan – A mobile software company that uses social mapping to mobilize fans at venues and in their own communities.
Party with a Local – A platform that connects people who love to party with a growing global community of local nightlife enthusiasts in over 150 countries.
PlanSnap – A service that eases event planning by allowing everyone to agree on the details of a plan with two taps.
Quantac – A wearable technology platform that uses transdermal sensing technology to monitor blood content.
GoNative – GoNative reimagines the video production process and uses cutting edge technology to innovate, scale, and accelerate the production of video content for brands and publishers.
Over the last few years, I’ve reviewed the good, bad and ugly of thousands of applications for startup programs all over the world. With six new Techstars city programs open for applications, providing some hints and tips seemed timely.
In no particular order, here are some things to consider:
1. Do a bit of digging into the program, the mentors, the MD and the partner and target your application accordingly. Do your due diligence on us and don’t be afraid to talk about it when we’re chatting. If you want to work with a particular MD because of their background or a program because of its mentors or corporate partners, then it’s a sign that you’ve done some research – which is great. For example, it’s unlikely that our Fintech programs would be interested in an Uber for pooper-scoopers. It’s always brilliant when we talk to companies who understand what we’re looking for, and who tailor their replies accordingly. We’re pretty clear on what matters most to us. There is a lot of detail on how we pick teams and why we don’t in our FAQ – well worth a read.
2. We ask people to make videos one minute long for a reason. It forces you to focus your thinking. Obviously, we can live with a little flexibility +/- 60 seconds, but not a huge amount!
3. Learn how to demo your product. Everyone should be able to do this. It can be as simple as a one minute screencap with you narrating the story of your incredibly technical, but not public-facing infrastructure start over slides. Don’t know how to make a screencast? Now you do. On the team video front, Alex Iskold wrote a great piece about how to make your application stand out, including some examples of great team videos. It’s definitely worth a read.
4. If you are applying at the idea stage, or if you don’t have a designer or developer on the team, you’d be amazed at how easy it is to create and impress folks with simple prototypes. Here’s how anyone can build one. This is also something you can use in your demo video. For Bonus Points – this can also be used to show potential co-founders and employees that you’re not building vaporware…
5. Be careful if you use placeholder videos in your application. You’d be surprised how many people forget to replace them. Be wary of using copy and paste – I’m looking at the person who shared something rather more adult than they intended in an application in the past. Also, don’t rickroll us in the video sections. 😉
6. Be precise. I wrote about the importance of words a while back. This is important. Short sentences that get to the point can help. Long rambling ones (and I recognize I’m guilty of this) don’t.
7. Don’t play the politician. We’ve all seen the trick they do – ignoring the question they were asked and instead answering the question they wanted to be asked. We ask specific things for specific reasons. If you don’t know the answer, that’s fine. Saying you don’t know something is not just ok, it’s actually great.
8. “I’m sorry I wrote you such a long letter. I didn’t have time to write you a short one” is one of my favourite quotes ever. Spend time on your application. Subtract the obvious and add the meaningful. Your goal is to get us sufficiently excited about your company to ask for a call or a meeting. Essay type answers to questions are tough to read and even harder to follow. Make it short. Make it to the point. Make it clear and easy to understand.
9. Create a Google Doc and collaborate with others on your answers. I’ve reviewed enough applications to know a thoughtful one from a cobbled together one almost straight away. Well prepared applications stand out. Get someone to review yours. Spelling, syntax, grammar and clarity are not deal-breakers, but precision in applications is a strong signal that you can take a systematic approach in other aspects of your business. Find someone who doesn’t know what you’re doing and get them to review it for clarity.
10. If you’re finalizing and submitting your application, just do a quick check on all of your social channels and website to make sure they all a) work and b) are active. You don’t have to have hundreds or thousands of followers on Twitter, but if I go to a social channel and see that the last update was shared 6 months ago and there hasn’t been anything posted on your website for a similar amount of time, I’m going to see a miniature red flag. Also, make sure that the www and non-www version of your URL both work (my inner-SEO nerd says don’t forget to pick a canonical domain).
11. Be honest. If you say people work for your company, make sure they actually work for your company. I reviewed an application recently that said that a pretty prominent person had joined a company in a C-level role. I was impressed. Until I talked to that person (who I happened to know). They had met the company once for coffee and had a very preliminary chat about an ad hoc advisory position. Lies have a funny way of finding their way into the light.
12. Update us. Once your application has been submitted, you can access the update field in F6S. The selection process can sometimes take several weeks or months – particularly if you apply early. Keep us posted on your progress. Show us traction and momentum. General excitement helps. A lot!
That should give you some food for thought. If you’ve got questions, queries, comments (or if you want to apologize for that NSFW link), you can find me on Twitter and all the other obvious places, or leave your comments below.
There’s a little over three weeks to go ahead of the deadline to apply for Techstars Connection, in partnership with AB InBev, so I wanted to share some info that will give interested companies and entrepreneurs a little more info on the program and what we’re up to.
I spent the last week meeting some amazing companies here in New York, and I want to meet more of you. We’re looking for a wide range of companies that can work with AB InBev to provide interesting solutions in areas like:
Data and Analytics – on everything from sales and marketing, to production through to logistics, and beyond
Connecting People with Product – everything from inventory management systems, logistics, on demand, sales tools and more
Enhancing Social Experiences – from VR, AR, AI, recommendation engines and products that connect people or augment and enhance experiences before, during and after events
Fermentation Technology and Healthy Fermented Beverages – agtech, ideas that leverage the hidden benefits of the raw materials used in brewing
The scope is huge. If you want to find out more about whether or not your company would be a good fit, then let’s chat. I’m going to be doing a ton of open office hours on Skype/Hangouts etc. You can find some time to chat in my calendar.
I’m also running a series of webinars – where you can join and find out more info about what we’re all about, what we’re looking for and how the process will work. You can tune in on the following dates:
For those of you who can’t join at one of those times, send me an email and keep an eye on my Twitter, as I’ll be recording a version of the webinar early next week. I just need to refine my pitch.
Also, here’s a thought – if you’re going to Glastonbury and you want to do the first ever accelerator office hours there, say hello on Twitter and maybe we can find some time to meet at West Holts on Thursday or Friday. 😉
I’ll also be in London, Dublin, NYC and possibly Austin before applications close, so if you’d like to meet in person, feel free to send me an email, a LinkedIn message, a DM, a PM, a tweet, a smoke signal, a Snapstorm or anything else you think will pique my interest. I look forward to answering your questions, telling you more about what we’re up to and hearing about the incredible businesses that you’re building.
It’s been almost 10 years to the day since I started my first company. Back then, there wasn’t much in the way of mentorship and advice in Ireland. What always stuck with me were the people who did help – not the ones looking for 5 percent (or worse yet, 51 percent) of your business, but the folks who took time to have a chat, critique the business and our ideas, and add real value. I always thought that if I was ever lucky enough to be in a position to pay that forward, then I would.
Over the last three years, I’ve mentored at Techstars’ programs in London, Berlin and Tel Aviv, as well as other accelerators as far away as Tallinn, Istanbul, Abu Dhabi and Tokyo. The #givefirst credo is one that’s always resonated with me and it’s why I’m so excited to be joining Techstars Connection, in partnership with AB InBev as Managing Director.
For this program, we are looking for B2B and B2C companies who:
- Seamlessly connect and bring people together for enhanced social experiences.
- Conveniently connect people to products with greater speed and efficiency.
- Enhance consumption experiences through curation, personalization and localization.
- Leverage the hidden benefits of raw materials, fermentation and brewing in products and systems that help people to live well.
Startups in Techstars Connection will interact daily with AB InBev executives and employees who will open doors that are otherwise hard to access, including:
- Distribution, manufacturing and logistics channels
- Inventory management tools
- Access to real-world venues around the world (stadiums, restaurants, live venues, bars, etc.)
- Brand marketing
- Advertising and media distribution outlets
- Agriculture technology
- Big data and analytics
If that’s you and you want to join Techstars Connection, applications are open until July 10. I’m also on the lookout for amazing associates. If you have questions, you can find me on Twitter or book some time in my calendar to find out more. We’ll be sharing a little more on the blog in the coming days, including details on upcoming webinars and office hours in London, Dublin, New York, Boston, Austin and beyond.
Alongside helping the Techstars Connection companies to launch, scale and deliver amazing experiences, I’m particularly excited about three specific elements of this role: connection, storytelling and building products people love.
Connecting People and Countries
Entrepreneurship happens everywhere nowadays, and your users can be anywhere. At Techstars, we have a huge network around the world through the accelerators and Startup programs. AB InBev have a huge global footprint to leverage. We will work closely together to connect people and products to global markets.
Telling Great Stories
My background in Journalism has instilled in me a passion to help people and businesses tell the most compelling story to investors, the media, customers and users. One of the things I will focus on is how to structure and tell the stories of those companies selected.
Building Products People Love
Everyone wants to build something their users love. Our partners at AB InBev have great expertise in that department, and I want to leverage that experience as well as insights from our community to help teams dig into the user experience. I look forward to building products people love with people who love building them!
Also, I talk and write about fun, mischief and whimsy a lot. If you can make someone laugh, chuckle or even just crack a smile – you’ve gone a long way towards lighting up the reward pathways in their brain and creating a memory. In an era of bots, AI, AR, and more, that’s going to be increasingly important. I’m looking forward to helping the teams create those incredible products and experiences.
Finally, a quick thank you: first to my mum and dad for buying me a Sinclair Spectrum 48k computer (and later an Atari ST) all those years ago. It’s been a long way from writing games in BASIC in the mid-80s and naming them after girls I liked (a story for another blog).
To Jon Bradford, Greg Rogers and Chris Adelsbach for putting up with me (you’ve created a query monster now), and to all of the entrepreneurs ready to apply and work with us at Techstars: I can’t wait to kick off in New York later this year!