Malte Witt’s phone starts buzzing on Friday afternoons. That’s when the founders from the Boulder accelerator program send him photos and recaps after their weekly standups.
“The Techstars program has been over for months, and yet these founders continue to meet on their own,” said Witt, the managing director of the Techstars Boulder accelerator program. “The value in those connections and the experience was that powerful and they have really leaned into that.”
And for good reason. Between the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank, downrounds, an overall funding squeeze and generally, a volatile VC market, 2023 was a rough year. It’s why Witt encouraged founders to double down on connections but also fundamentals and resilience. Those lessons are paying off for founders like Gadalia O’Bryan.
It’s been a year since Gadalia O’Bryan started her company, Dapple Security. She had been kicking around ideas about biometrics and privacy in her head for a decade and always wanted to be a founder. But she was busy working as a data security executive, and serving as a mentor for the Techstars Boulder program.
“I saw the problem and I knew this was the moment to seize,” said O’Bryan, a longtime cyber security expert. When word reached the Boulder team that their standout mentor had started a company, they invited her to join the program. O’Bryan was initially lukewarm to the idea but quickly changed her tune.
“I realized it was an amazing opportunity and I would be a fool to pass this up, and that is indeed the case,” said O’Bryan. “I would do it a million times over.”
“The support during our initial customer discovery and go-to-market strategy was incredible and really set us up for success, plus it will make me a better mentor too which is exciting.”
Success indeed. Just two months after program ended, Dapple closed a very competitive, oversubscribed pre-seed round.
“This gives us the resources and support we need to hit our next big milestones, and I am so pleased with the group of investors who came together,” says O’Bryan.
Raphaele Leyendecker, managing director of Techstars Sustainability Paris Accelerator, marvels at the conversations she’s had with founders this past year. Brilliant folks working on carbon capture and storage, sustainable mining, a marketplace for reusing kids clothing and someone who is figuring out how to prevent food from rotting.
“The sky’s the limit,” said Leyendecker, who is currently wading through hundreds of applications for the spring Techstars term.
And while France has not been spared from the market slowdown, Leyendecker remains optimistic about the European market and a new generation of investors willing to make an impact to fight climate change as well as momentum from companies focused on climate tech and sustainability. It’s why she continues to capitalize on what she calls, “a galaxy of incredible people including mentors in residence, volunteers, local entrepreneurs and other supporters.”
“Almost 50 companies are raising funds, seeing strong revenue streams and investor interest,” said Leyendecker. “We’re in a good position.”
Gemma Lenowitz continues to work alongside founders in Samvid Ventures’ accelerator space in New York after Demo Day wrapped earlier this month. Throughout the 13-week program, the office was buzzing with startups, mentors, Techstars staff and supporters engaged in the inaugural Techstars Economic Mobility Powered by Samvid Ventures Accelerator.
“We value in-person collaboration time,” said Lenowitz, program director for Samvid Ventures. “It leads to deep relationship building opportunities.”
Under the leadership of Managing Director Keith Camhi, who Lenowitz said brought a welcome coach mentality to the program, the team supported companies designing solutions to drive economic mobility for low- and moderate-income Americans. Samvid Ventures is a philanthropic foundation committed to improving the lives of underserved individuals through education, entrepreneurship, and wellness.
To avoid a one-size-fits-all approach, and because the companies come from different verticals, including fintech, edtech, and future of work, Techstars and Samvid Ventures teams worked to find common threads among founders, and build what amounted to a bespoke program for each.
“We found the people, like product coaches and industry leaders, who could serve as connectors,” said Lenowitz. “I think they were originally drawn to the mission of the companies, and upon meeting the founders, became inspired by their resilience.”
Preparing for next year, Witt is also reviewing hundreds of applications submitted from founders hoping to make the cut for one of the 22 classes starting in the spring. That means more texts from founders but Witt doesn’t mind.
“I believe in what we do,” said Witt.