For me as a founder, I always looked at Y-Combinator and Techstars as almost the best of the best when it came to accelerator programs. But honestly, I had gone through an accelerator in the past and I was always anxious of being part of another one and falling into a bad habit, as I‘ve seen so many other companies go through. But for us, the timing couldn’t have been better – we were going through a pivot in the company and I knew that this would be more valuable to us now more than ever.
I believe every accelerator program has its own purpose and mission when it comes to how they run and the kind of startups they want to have under their roof. I don’t believe that being a part of an accelerator program, no matter how good it is, will solve or create the most successful companies, but I do believe that if the founders have the right attitude entering the accelerator, it will be a success even if their initial idea has pivoted or even died… Nine times out of ten, there will always be one company within a class that will fail or pivot, this happened in ours.
After various interviews, we were invited to be a participant in the Techstars program that was partnered with Virgin Media and Liberty Global.
If I’m being honest, I thought I knew what we were up against entering this program, but it was very different than my expectations – actually, it blew away all expectations.
I hope that others can learn something from our experience, and maybe it will provide some guidance for anyone considering applying for Techstars.
First of all, we were an established business going in. By established, I don’t mean we had all of our shit figured out, but we had a team and a product that customers were using, as well as prior investment. This did not matter one bit – other companies in the program were at the idea stage, while others were still just ideas written on a piece of paper. Techstars works with companies based on the people, not the ideas…. this is one of the many reasons why I love Techstars and respect their model.
We were one of the only teams who brought over 90 percent of our team to take part in the 13 week program. For us this worked- I believe that the best thinking and execution happens when everyone is in the same room.
Meeting Sir Richard Branson
At the beginning of the program, I was flown out to San Francisco along with the other nine CEOs to meet Sir Richard Branson, visit top companies, visit the Liberty Global headquarters and visit the home of Techstars in Boulder, Colorado. After this trip, we officially started the program in Shoreditch, London.
Things began to change quickly during the program. Our routine as we knew it completely changed, we worked longer and harder and started to look at things differently within the business.
Within the first week alone, you are exposed as founders and as a company. Any insecurity or fear that you have hidden, and in times almost convince yourself that they no longer exist, are all exposed whether you like it or not.
Lesson Number 1: How can someone help you when they don’t know everything about you and your company? So start by being honest!
In Program: A Whole New Outlook
Our weeks consisted of both daily and weekly stand ups, family dinners on Wednesdays, KPI (Key performance indicator) and founder stories on Thursdays. This became our new routine and today, nearly a month after Techstars, some of these still remain and have now been adapted into our culture.
KonnectAgain and myself as a founder are very different after Techstars. It made us think even more aggressively about our business, our route to market, the value we measure to be a success and ensuring that we always know what we stand for.
Techstars ended like many other accelerator programs do, with a demo day. For KonnectAgain, this was not something that we feared or imagined that everything would rely on. Instead, we viewed this day as a celebration and an opportunity to tell others about our exciting company and why they should be excited too.
It’s important to touch on both the physical and mental struggles throughout the program. It is tough, even though myself and my other co-founder Helen worked out daily and ate as healthy as we could, we still would be in the office until 10pm, looked grey at times and constantly felt guilty if we took time off on the weekend. We did this happily because we knew this should be one of the only times that we work like this. We just went for it.
This was one of the most important lessons I took away. Yes, being a founder is hard, it takes over your life, but only if you allow it. I learned that working around the clock, having no time off and constantly thinking about work actually damages the company – as CEO, I’m not as fit, decisive and in control as I’d like and it sets a bad example. I knew I could keep up this pace for 13 weeks but could not adapt this as a new lifestyle. Now I know that you can work hard, play hard and enjoy life.
I believe any founder or team member who will openly talk about their lack of sleep is doing both themselves and their company an injustice. Rest is the most essential thing for us and it’s our responsibility to ensure we give our bodies and brains rest.
Techstars doesn’t stop after you finish the program, in fact, it kind of only just starts. I have already visited others in the Techstars network around the world and they have helped us in more ways imaginable. We are excited for this relationship to continuously grow.
This post was originally published on LinkedIn.
It has been a busy summer so far at Techstars with the addition of 41 new companies and the first-ever Demo Day for several new programs! Techstars had four Demo Days across the globe, including Barclays in Tel Aviv and Cape Town, Techstars Healthcare in partnership with Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles, and the Virgin Media Accelerator in London. Here’s a quick round up of the highlights:
Barclays Accelerator, Powered by Techstars in Tel Aviv Class of 2016
Barclays Tel Aviv is proud to announce its first Demo Day. Held at the beautiful Cameri Theatre in Tel Aviv, the Demo Day showcased ten fintech and cyber companies with products ranging from document tracking, remittance, financial news platform, rounding up change for donations and many more.
Len Rosen, CEO of Barclays Israel, opened the evening with an inspiring keynote, and Techstars Chief Product Officer, Nicole Glaros, and Tel Aviv Managing Director, Liron Rose, provided welcoming remarks. We were also proud to announce that 8 out of 10 companies have signed a proof of concept (POC) with Barclays, an amazing outcome for our first class in Tel Aviv!
Techstars Healthcare, in Partnership with Cedars-Sinai Class of 2016
Techstars Healthcare, in Partnership with Cedars-Sinai held its inaugural Demo Day at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on June 23rd in Beverly Hills, California. The event showcased eleven healthtech companies which represented a wide range in both product and funding. On one end of the spectrum was Ella, an online mindfulness based program to manage chronic pain, which was “born” in program after a product pivot days after the formal offer into the program, and on the other end was HomeHero, a non clinical home care provider, which has raised a 20M+ Series A round.
Darren Dworkin, the CIO of Cedars-Sinai gave the opening remarks, followed by remarks from David Brown, Managing Partner of Techstars, and the program’s Managing Director, Matt Kozlov. The Techstars Healthcare Demo Day served as the culmination of three months of progress and very hard work for the eleven companies in the accelerator program. During the event, each company demonstrated the traction that they’ve gained since founding their company, with an emphasis on the tremendous headway they made while in program. Through Demo Day, Techstars and Cedars-Sinai further accelerated the growth of the 2016 class, and their partnership in healthcare and technology.
Barclays Accelerator, Powered by Techstars in Cape Town Class of 2016
The first ever class of the Barclays Accelerator, Powered by Techstars, on the African continent has now drawn to an epic close.
An audience of more than 400, including investors, industry experts, fintech specialists, as well as Absa and Barclays executives, (plus 450 tuning in to the livestream globally) attended the Demo Day to hear how the startups are tackling different challenges in Africa and ultimately helping shape the future of financial services across insurance, payments and agriculture.
When you think of tech startup hubs, you likely think of places such as Silicon Valley, London, New York or Tel Aviv. But Africa is accelerating its economy and challenging the status quo of the FinTech landscape in a huge way. This has been demonstrated by the 10 companies selected from 9 different countries (making it the most geographically diverse accelerator program ever for Techstars)!
Solutions included: mobile medical insurance, lending platforms, land title registration via the blockchain and international payments solutions.
Techstars Managing Director, Yossi Hasson, together with Paul Nel, (Head of Open Innovation at Barclays), and Ashley Veasey, (Group CIO and CDO of Barclays Africa Group) provided welcoming remarks. It was a truly exciting event to celebrate the inaugural African Techstars class and the wider African startup community.
The next frontier for FinTech disruption is here. It’s now. It’s Africa.
Virgin Media Accelerator, Powered by Techstars Class of 2016
The first class of the Virgin Media Accelerator, powered by Techstars, just finished their first Demo Day at the St. James Theater in London, where the founders pitched to investors, Liberty Global and Virgin Media executives and the London startup community. Back in March, they kicked off the program with a trip to San Francisco where they met execs from Google, Comcast and Cable Labs, and spent time with Sir Richard Branson talking about entrepreneurship and how to make a real difference in the world.
Fifteen weeks later, the 10 companies ranging from a virtual reality treadmill, to a home energy monitoring system, to corporate alumni networks, disruptive ad tech, on demand iPhone repair, live football broadcasting solutions, always on voice solutions, intelligent developer tools, and peer to peer video delivery networks, all debuted their progress at Demo Day.
Building these startups with the support of Liberty Global, Virgin Media, Techstars and the amazing mentors and investors that comprise the London startup community has provided these 10 companies with an incredible start. Special thanks to Bruce Dines of Liberty Global Ventures and Neil Illingworth, Head of Innovation for Virgin Media, for their support of these founders.
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