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.