5 Questions with Keith Camhi, Managing Director of Techstars Economic Mobility Powered by Samvid Ventures

Mar 20, 2023

Applications are due June 7, 2023 for the class beginning in September 2023.

Keith is the Managing Director of the Techstars Economic Mobility Accelerator Powered by Samvid Ventures. He is also the MD of the Techstars Future of Longevity Accelerator, run in partnership with Melinda French Gates’ Pivotal Ventures, and led the inaugural class of the Techstars Washington DC Accelerator Powered by J.P. Morgan. Previously, Keith led Techstars’ global accelerator team as Senior Vice President of Accelerators.

Prior to Techstars, Keith founded and led the rapid growth of FitLinxx (reaching #20 on the Deloitte Fast 500) and Great Play (ranking on Entrepreneur 500 list 3x). He has raised over $50 million in venture funding, holds several patents for sensor and machine vision applications, and loves helping and investing in entrepreneurs who are applying breakthrough technology to help people thrive. He received a BS in Computer Science from Cornell, and was an LGO Fellow at MIT, where he received an MBA and an MS in EECS.

01. What do you look for in startups applying to the accelerator, generally? 

I look for founders who have a unique insight into solving a big problem that they are passionately motivated to address, and who are strong executors making progress rapidly. 

They need to be able to communicate effectively so they can enlist others (customers, teammates, partners, investors) in their vision, and should be interested in receiving and applying feedback (both because it’s a generally good founder trait and specifically because it shows that an accelerator would be a mutually rewarding experience).

02. What are you looking for in startups for the Techstars Economic Mobility Powered by Samvid Ventures Accelerator, in particular?

In addition to being a fit to benefit from an accelerator overall, for this program, we’re specifically seeking startups building innovative solution for increasing economic mobility for low- and moderate-income Americans, including: 

  • Technical and skill-based education solutions, including AI-enabled personalized learning, workforce development, and market-responsive technologies that future-proof talent

  • Financial inclusion solutions, including financial literacy and security digital tools, and tools that improve the accessibility and usability of public and private benefits

  • Economic resilience solutions, such as support for those navigating transitions such as job changes, post incarceration, and changes in mental and physical health 

03. What made you want to work on this program?

I’ve always been inspired to work on businesses that make a difference, both in my own entrepreneurial journey, and in the companies that I’ve supported since. It makes the work meaningful. And because the problems being addressed are so substantial it creates the potential for a significant market.  

It also inspires a lot of others to show up for and “give first” to the startups.  We expect to find the giving mentality in droves in this Economic Mobility accelerator given the importance of the themes being addressed.  

This is a time of unmatched labor market participation and upward wage pressure. The theme of this program will draw passionate best-in-class advisors to strategize about the low- and moderate-income market.  And we look forward to engaging the ecosystem of investors who see there are rewards to be found in undervalued and under-discussed areas as well

04. What does our partner Samvid Ventures bring to the accelerator?

Samvid Ventures was started with the belief that society must accelerate the pace at which we expand opportunity, especially for those facing significant barriers. They aim to fulfill their mission of building stronger, more inclusive economies through initiatives primarily focused on education, entrepreneurship, and healthcare.  This accelerator grew out of their vision that the private sector generally, and innovative entrepreneurs in particular, can make a major contribution to this mission.  

As I’ve gotten to know the team at Samvid Ventures, I can see just how committed they are to the success of entrepreneurs addressing these challenges succeed -- from building a fabulous space for the accelerator in NYC, to their commitment to extending their network and expertise to the founders in the program, and providing additional learning and coaching, including resources on social enterprise revenue models and non-dilutive fundraising. We are collectively excited to see the creativity in business models and strategy that arise from our collaboration. 

05. What are some of the biggest learnings from your career and entrepreneurial journey that you bring to being a Techstars Managing Director and supporting entrepreneurs?

I consistently find that early stage companies with great teams can make extraordinary progress on limited resources if they are scrappy, customer obsessed, and execution-focused.  There are many things to accomplish in the journey to building a successful startup -- iterating toward product-market fit, overcoming tech hurdles, selecting a focused go-to-market approach, managing cofounder relationships, building culture, raising capital, etc.

It would seem in many regards that a large established company with far more resources would be better positioned to win a competitive battle. But ultimately, what startups lack in resources they can more than make up for with speed and agility, if they properly recognize and harness these strengths to their advantage.

This ultimately is the work we do together in the accelerator, and I love it. I bring a coach’s mindset, along with decades of startup lessons learned from being on the front lines myself, to my role as Managing Director.