Techstars Anywhere: Bringing Techstars to the Founder

Techstars is always about learning, innovating and experimenting.

This year, with 25 accelerator programs worldwide, Techstars will make around 275 investments in startups. Along the way, we’ll look at thousands of companies and talk to as many founders.

One of the things we’ve learned over the past ten years, is that our model of requiring companies to pack up and move somewhere works amazingly well, but it also means that there are some really great companies that we just can’t work with. Maybe they’ve got family obligations. Maybe the teams are distributed. Maybe it’s an exceptionally talented solo founder working with contractors on an early prototype. Or maybe the business just requires the founders to be in a particular place or on-site. 

Bringing Techstars to the Founder

Given today’s distributed nature of work and collaboration, we can provide a full Techstars experience to these founders by giving them Techstars Anywhere, a new offering built on the Techstars accelerator platform and driven by the exceptional Techstars network of founders, mentors, and investors around the globe. We make decisions based on our Founder First mentality and with this in mind, we are bringing Techstars to the founder. We identified a need in the market – and we’ve built this product to address the need.

This week, we’re launching Techstars Anywhere (BETA), our first virtual Techstars accelerator program designed for companies for whom a co-location requirement is not feasible, but for whom a Techstars accelerator experience could be a game changer.

The Anywhere team (me, our Chief Innovation Officer, Nicole Glaros, and Program Director, Karina Costa) are a bit of a startup ourselves. Karina has run virtual mentoring programs previously and we’ve learned a lot about how to make it work. We’ve developed a hypothesis about how to deliver an outstanding accelerator experience online – one that is free from geographic constraints and with flexibility built in. We’re excited to launch our beta with four great companies, carefully selected to help us learn and refine our model.

Learning and Iterating with this Prototype

It’s important to note that we fully expect to learn things we didn’t know before. Having worked with over 1,000 startups in our accelerators already, we know that once you expose an early product or a prototype to your first customers, you learn a lot. And it’s important to us that when it comes to investing in companies in a new and innovative way, that we are the ones who assume the risk if things go wrong–not the founders.

That’s why we offer our Equity Back Guarantee to ensure that if the experience we think we expect to deliver isn’t what we actually deliver, our founders have an opportunity to take back their equity, no questions asked. Techstars is the only accelerator program that does this.

Four Hand Picked Companies

During our most recent application cycle, we worked closely with all of our U.S.-based accelerator programs to try to identify founders who we thought would benefit from a virtual accelerator — great companies for whom a virtual experience could add MORE value than an in-person one.

We’ve hand-picked these four companies and we’ll be using the next thirteen weeks to build an industry and geographically relevant network around them, introduce them to amazing mentors from across the country, and help them prepare their companies for growth.

Presenting the inaugural class of Techstars Anywhere (BETA):

Smallhold is an urban agriculture technology company based in Brooklyn, NY. Founders Andrew and Adam have developed an innovative way to more efficiently grow mushrooms and other crops in a distributed farming network and distribute those crops to restaurants and markets around New York. They spend most of their days working on their farm and in their lab. Techstars Anywhere will allow them to tend to their crops while leveraging a full Techstars program with dirt on their hands.

Clarke.ai builds AI that can take notes for you during your meetings and phone calls. While they work together occasionally, most of the time CEO Shishir is at a coworking space in New York while cofounder Chris works from home in Philadelphia. They’re a distributed team that can keep their current pace, in two cities, without breaking their routine.

Qeepsake helps parents keep a baby book for their kids by answering age appropriate and topical questions about their kids via text message. Everyday, Qeepsake texts parents a question like, “What’s Charlie’s favorite food?” CEO Jeff and his wife Stephanie started the company based on a very real need he had–Jeff is the father of 5 kids in Boston, MA. Jeff works from home to be close to his family. His co-founder Duncan is based across the country in San Diego, California. (Duncan has no kids if you were wondering).

What Tax Form founder Emily is a solo founder based in San Diego. What Tax Form takes the WTF out of employee onboarding paperwork by providing a clean and simple interface to generate the most common new employee tax related documents. Emily works with a team of full and part time employees and contractors. Techstars Anywhere will allow Emily to have a full Techstars experience while allowing her to stay near her contractors and employees who normally wouldn’t relocate with her for an accelerator program.

Our goal is that these great companies learn an enormous amount from their Techstars Anywhere experience. And we hope to learn from them, too. Just like any good startup, we’ll be testing and iterating on tools and processes to ensure we’re constantly focused on creating a better product for our customers — the founders.

The entire Techstars team is excited about innovating new ways to better serve founders, and Techstars Anywhere is another step on our journey to help entrepreneurs succeed.








Announcing the First Class of the Virgin Media Accelerator Powered by Techstars

I’m excited to announce the first class of companies accepted to the Virgin Media Accelerator, powered by Techstars, in London. Companies from 71 countries around the world applied to come to London for the summer to be a part of this inaugural class to work side by side with world class mentors from Virgin Media and the Techstars London startup community.

When we launched the Virgin Media Accelerator, we set out to find companies that complemented not only Virgin Media’s business, but its brand as well. We worked to find and recruit companies who had technologies, businesses, and founders that are a good fit for Virgin Media and who had the potential to become world changing companies for their industries.

We’re excited about the potential these companies and founders have to become industry leaders. By leveraging the expertise, mentorship and resources that Virgin Media and Techstars have to offer, we are anticipating big things to come!

The ten companies in the first class of the Virgin Media Accelerator, powered by Techstars, are:

Ecoisme | ecois.me

Ecoisme is an IoT device that can detect the unique electrical signature of your home’s appliances and electrical devices allowing you to monitor energy usage on a device by device level which lets homeowners and businesses conserve energy and cut costs.

From Poland | @ecoisme

GoalShouter | www.goalshouter.com

GoalShouter allows supporters of non-professional football clubs (and other sports teams) to record and report stats during every match which provides fans who are not at the match to follow along in real-time, creating a tighter connection between the club and it’s supporters.

From Italy | @GoalShouterITA

KonnectAgain | www.konnectagain.com

KonnectAgain is a corporate alumni network for companies to keep engaged and up to date with their ex-employees. KonnectAgain helps create active groups of alumni which allow the company to share news, recruit, and foster community among their former employees.

From Ireland | @KonnectAgain

Synervoz | www.synervoz.com

Synervoz develops always-on voice communications software. Its flagship app, TurnMeUp, uses voice activity detection to automatically adjust volumes when somebody speaks, allowing people to listen to music and talk at the same time while wearing headphones.

From Toronto, CA | @turnmeupapp

Rally Networks | www.rallynetworks.com

Rally is a rapid device charging network that helps developers and enterprises drive mobile app downloads and high-value ad engagements. Customers at retail locations can charge their phone for free after downloading an app or engaging with an interactive ad.

From Los Angeles, CA | @rally_networks

Repairly | www.repairly.co.uk

Repairly connects people with local engineers to fix their electrical devices on-demand. Customers are assured the lowest price from the highest quality providers with quick turnaround.

From UK | @repairly

Sponsokit | www.sponsokit.com

Sponsokit matches sponsors and brands with YouTubers to produce custom videos that place the right products in front of the right consumers. It’s the easiest way for brands to find the right YouTuber for whatever campaign they’re planning.

From Germany | @sponsokit

Stepsize | stepsize.com

Stepsize’s desktop app and website helps programmers to find, reuse, and collaborate on code snippets so that they can be more productive. Stepsize’s mission is to make software development more accessible, efficient and powerful.

From UK | @StepsizeHQ

TelToo | www.teltoo.com

TelToo saves video content publishers up to 80% on bandwidth costs by creating a seamless P2P CDN for video distribution. There’s no software for users to download or plugins to install. Just watch the video. TelToo does the rest.

From Spain | @teltoo_cdn

Wizdish | www.wizdish.com

The WizDish ROVR is an omni-directional Virtual Reality treadmill that allows you to navigate VR worlds simply by walking. By allowing users to move around using a real world walking motion ROVR creates a much more engaging experience than using game console style controllers to navigate in Virtual Reality.

From UK | @wizdish








Virgin Media Accelerator, Powered by Techstars Info Sessions

The Virgin Media Accelerator, powered by Techstars, is looking for 10 amazing connectivity startups and we’re heading out on the road to find them. We’ll be visiting Berlin, Amsterdam, and Dublin in two weeks to meet the founders who are building great companies.

We’re looking for everyday simple ideas. Ideas rooted in connectivity and networks — but with the ability to reach into the everyday lives of millions of people to make good things happen. Companies could be involved in the internet of things (IoT), telecom infrastructures, customer data and experience, social enterprise, connected homes, connected goods and services, interactive home experiences, home health and wellness, and connectivity for social good.

Techstars and Virgin Media will be on hand to answer questions and tell you more about the program. We’ll also host a Techstars alumni panel so you can hear directly from founders about the experience of going through a Techstars program.

If you’d like to set up a 20 minute pitch meeting with Techstars Managing Director, Ryan Kuder, and Virgin Media’s Head of Innovation and Advanced Technology Trials, Neil Illingworth, prior to the meetups, there will be a limited number of appointments available.

Webinars

If you can’t join us for one of our information sessions in person, please join us for an online webinar. Ryan Kuder will lead a live online overview of the program with time for Q&A from participants.

Key Program Dates

Final application deadline: January 8, 2016

Program begins: March 28, 2016

Demo Day: June 28, 2016

Apply now!








Introducing the First Class of the Qualcomm Robotics Accelerator

Today, we’re pleased to welcome the first class of the Qualcomm Robotics Accelerator, powered by Techstars. These startups are representative of the tremendously talented entrepreneurs creating the future of robotics. In this class, the companies are creating commercial and consumer robots, new robot-enabling technologies, and the infrastructure for a robot powered economy.

Our 2015 class represents seven countries: Greece, Italy, Germany, Canada, Singapore, the UK, and the US–the most international class ever assembled for a US based Techstars accelerator. Two of the startups are homegrown here in San Diego, a testament to the strength of the local robotics ecosystem.

We’re excited to introduce the 2015 class of the Qualcomm Robotics Accelerator, powered by Techstars:

Carbon Robotics out of San Francisco, CA, is a robotic arm company geared towards consumers and mid-sized businesses that combines affordable hardware with an open platform. They are building TOBI, a table top arm targeted at developers.
CleverPet from San Diego, CA, is a technology company dedicated to teaching your pet new behaviors. Founded by a team of cognitive scientists and neuroscientists, CleverPet’s first product is a smart, in-home robot that provides your dog with the daily mental and physical stimulation he or she craves.
CtrlWorks, based in Singapore, is dedicated to transforming any mobile platform into an intelligent robot at an affordable price. Their first robot, Axon, attaches to just about anything and turns it into a fully autonomous robot through cloud navigation and specialized hardware.
Inova Drone, from San Diego, designs and develops advanced, professional unmanned aerial systems for the global commercial market. Their first product is a drone targeted at first responders and search and rescue applications.
Rational Robotics, from Edmonton, Alberta, CA, produces robots that automate the restorative automotive painting process. Utilizing 3D vision and advanced path planning, Rational Robots provide a safe and efficient way to paint cars on the shop floor.
Reach Robotics, from Bristol, UK, is developing Mecha Monsters – the world’s first gaming monster robots. They are controlled via smartphone or tablets and serve to bridge the physical and digital components of the gaming world. Mecha Monsters come with accessories that provide special abilities that make them more powerful.
Skyfront, based in Hoboken, NJ, builds hybrid-electric technology for long endurance drones. Skyfront’s technology extends typical drone flight times up to 10x and enables UAVs to be used for extended commercial applications.
Sky Robotics, from Athens, Greece, is enabling the streamlined, affordable creation of robots. Their OPRA (open platform for robotics applications) is a development platform that combines high-performance modular hardware and intuitive open source software to catalyze the realization of an infinite variety of robots.
Skysense, based in Berlin, Germany, builds and sells charging infrastructure for drones, enabling remote-controlled flights and autonomous missions. Their technology involves a gold plated charging station pad that can be easily scaled depending on the drone and application.
Solenica, out of Rome, IT, makes Lucy – a sleek, sophisticated robot that brings sunlight directly into your home. Powered by solar cells, Lucy follows the sun throughout the day to reflect light into your home or office, creating natural illumination while simultaneously reducing electricity use.







The Qualcomm Robotics Accelerator, powered by Techstars, is hitting the road!

We want to meet you and your intelligent machines, so we’re hitting the road in 2015! We are looking for robotics start-ups looking to take their company to the next level. If you’re going to be at CES or you’re in Boston or New York, let us introduce ourselves at one of our Qualcomm Robotics Accelerator Meetups.

January 7, CES in Las Vegas

Source the Right Financing Panel
Techstars will be participating in a panel discussion in the Investing In Emerging Technologies program sponsored by our partners at Qualcomm Ventures.

Office Hours with the Qualcomm Robotics Accelerator Team
Set up a meeting with our Managing Director at Eureka Park to pitch your robotics startup and learn more about the accelerator. Spots are limited. Click here and navigate to Jan 7 to see available times.

Qualcomm Robotics Accelerator Info Session
5-7 PM at Work In Progress in Downtown Vegas
Meet the Qualcomm Robotics Accelerator teams from Techstars and Qualcomm Ventures for food and drinks plus hear from Mark Bowles, Qualcomm Robotics Accelerator Mentor and founder of ecoATM, and Danny Ellis, founder and CEO of Skyspecs, currently at the R/GA Accelerator, powered by Techstars. Register at Eventbrite
Note: This is a joint meetup with Techstars Mobility, Driven by Detroit. We’ll be talking robotics and intelligent machines from 5-7pm and mobility and transportation from 7-9pm.

January 12, Boston, MA

Office Hours with the Qualcomm Robotics Accelerator Team
Set up a meeting with our Managing Director at the Techstars Boston office to pitch your robotics startup and learn more about the accelerator. Spots are limited. Click here and navigate to Jan 12 to see available times.

Qualcomm Robotics Accelerator Info Session
6:30 – 8:30pm at Techstars Boston
Meet the Qualcomm Robotics Accelerator teams from Techstars and Qualcomm Ventures for food and drinks plus hear from Rise Robotics co-founder and CEO and Techstars alum Arron Acosta. Register at Eventbrite

January 15, New York, NY

Office Hours with the Qualcomm Robotics Accelerator Team
Set up a meeting with our Managing Director at the Techstars New York office to pitch your robotics startup and learn more about the accelerator. Spots are limited. Click here and navigate to Jan 15 to see available times.

Qualcomm Robotics Accelerator Info Session
6:30 – 8:30pm at Techstars NY
Meet the Qualcomm Robotics Accelerator teams from Techstars and Qualcomm Ventures for food and drinks. Get all of your questions answered about the Qualcomm Robotics Accelerator and let us in on what you’re working on. Register at Eventbrite

Stay tuned for additional events coming up in San Francisco and San Diego. Follow @ts_robotics for updates. Learn more about the accelerator and how to apply at http://qualcommaccelerator.com

Hope to see you soon!








Ryan Kuder Joins Techstars as Qualcomm Managing Director

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” – Arthur C. Clarke

Back in 2009, I was part of a team that won a coding competition called the Rails Rumble. Our prize was a No Expenses Paid trip to Boulder, Colorado to meet David Cohen and the Techstars mentors and spend a week working on our project at the Techstars Bunker, which at that time was in a basement under a shoe store. The mentors and companies working in that space were among the most creative and driven I’d ever met. They did more faster than any startups I’d ever seen.

Throughout my career, I’ve been a founder of a handful of tech startups, been through a couple of exits and more than a couple of failures. I’ve seen just about every phase of the startup stack from two guys working in my living room to multi hundred million dollar exits. Along the way, I’ve learned a lot about starting up, and I’ve spent a lot of time working with founders helping them see the things I’ve already seen.

So a few months ago, when Techstars approached me with the opportunity to build an accelerator to help founders (whoo!) in my home town of San Diego (rad!) partnered with San Diego’s biggest company and industry innovator Qualcomm (wow!) to help robotics startups (ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!) it didn’t take much to convince me.

I’m humbled to join the Techstars team and work with Qualcomm to build the Qualcomm Robotics Accelerator powered by Techstars. The revolution in robotics is just getting started and by bringing together Techstars’ great history of helping founders build great companies and Qualcomm’s tradition of innovation and invention, we’re excited to be building the future of robotics right here in San Diego.

If you’re a founder working on a robotics startup, we’d love to talk to you. Hit us up on Twitter at @TS_Robotics or visit us at http://qualcommaccelerator.com.

Let’s build some robots!