I’ve been investing in companies for the last five years — as an angel, part of syndicates and with Techstars and Zeroth. I’m excited to be continuing that journey as managing director of the Techstars London Accelerator. It’s especially meaningful, as Jon’s first program back in 2013 was my first opportunity to mentor. Following the programs that he and Max (who is now the VP of Innovation for Techstars) ran leaves me with some pretty big shoes to fill.
You can see some of the companies we’ve invested in through the London program here. It’s a pretty broad range of companies — from genomics to travel, food to language learning, B2B to B2C, AI to content businesses and all points in between. That range is a great match with my background. I’ve been a journalist, run content and travel guide businesses, developed games, helped incredible companies scale internationally, and invested in everything from fast fermentation for food, alcohol and pharma to on-demand office space (sadly not the one you’re thinking of).
tl;dr – applications for the 2018 class are open now — and we want the same diverse mix of founders, companies, sectors and stages in the next program. Get in touch on Twitter, find me on LinkedIn or just email me.
Alongside this, I wanted to share some of the sectors that I’ve been thinking about a lot recently. If you’re working on or in a startup in any of these, let me know. In no particular order:
I’ve long thought messaging apps are effectively a command line for our lives. That’s true whether it’s Alexa, Messenger, WeChat or another current or future app/tech/device! I’m really interested in how companies can almost become a real-life abstraction layer. Take a look at the Plansnap demo day pitch (and pay attention to how this plays out on mobile, SMS and Alexa) to get an idea of what I mean.
I love the idea of products that don’t require you to download apps — but instead exist everywhere you are, regardless of the platform you’re using at that time. Over time, I expect to see these types of companies coming out in health, fitness, education, mental health, travel, recommendations and elsewhere. There are huge challenges around UI, UX and more around this — but if it was easy, everyone would do it…
Blockchain and the Token Economy
If I’m not being asked about Brexit, I’m being asked about ICOs and how tokens will impact companies, VCs and the whole world. I’m a believer in the power of the Blockchain and the utility that will evolve on top of it. I’m a big fan of Ethereum, zcash and others. I also really like practical token-based platforms like Sweatcoin, Reality Clash and Yovo. I even love the concept behind Cryptokitties. I’m keen to meet companies using tokens in interesting ways — particularly those who have thoughts on how to make their products, tokens, tickets and more accessible to a mass audience, and those who have thought about how to be a closed or open ended economy around those products, tokens and tickets.
AI, Machine Learning and Computer Vision
This probably feels like a hygiene factor nowadays, but I’m looking for companies using AI, ML and computer vision to solve real, everyday problems for individuals and businesses. I’ve worked with and invested in Lingvist, Intelligent X, Gastrograph and many others. I’m a board member at ADA alongside some of the smartest folks in the industry, and I’m really interested to see how people are using this technology for everything from healthcare to education and beyond.
Tech for Older Populations
People are living longer and having fewer children. As a result, we have an aging population base in several countries around the world. What I find fascinating is that there is very little visible innovation in tech for folks in their 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and beyond. In many cases, the tech that does exist infantilizes people, is extremely condescending, or is frankly just ugly, non-functional and embarrassing. This is a demographic that in many cases has the means, the savvy and the ability to use, pay for, and most importantly — derive benefit from a wide variety of products.
There are huge opportunities around health and well being, nutrition, alleviating loneliness, entertaining, educating, engaging and more. I firmly believe this is a sector that will see immense growth over the coming years. The right products have the potential to not only cause change and improve life, but also build a real, sustainable and scalable business.
The Era of Escapism
The world is a grim place at times. Whether it’s our dopamine addiction or just the news, we’ve created a world of opportunities to feel blue. I want to invest in companies that are putting a smile on people’s faces. I invested in Party With because I love the idea of getting interesting people together in real life around the world. I love AR, VR, games, content and anything that can make people laugh or give them an amazing experience in the real world, a virtual world or anywhere. One of the best parts about being part of Farmvillain and Kiip was getting fan mail from folks who we cheered up with a simple cartoon that made them laugh, or a reward that made them feel amazing. I’d love to work alongside companies that are helping people to do fun, engaging things that put a smile on their face.
By 2050 we’ll need to feed over nine billion people. How can we do that without overwhelming the planet? I’m keen to meet companies that are leveraging technology to create new food brands, experiences and more. The Impossible Burger is literally one of the best burgers I’ve ever tasted, and I can’t wait to try Finless foods and many others. I love the elegance of the Apeel approach to produce quality and shelf life. I love what the team from Smallhold is working on with mushrooms and vertical farming.
I’ve invested in a couple of companies in this sector already — EatCultured, the world’s first beer brewed by AI and Gastrograph, who is using AI to understand and model human sensory perception for some of the biggest brands in the world. The food we eat, the way we grow it, the way we interact with ingredients, brands, dishes, restaurants and more is all changing, and I’m interested in hearing from anyone working on anything in the space.
The above is by no means an exhaustive list. I think we’re at the end of the beginning when it comes to the backlash against Twitter, Facebook and others. It strikes me that there are huge opportunities for platforms that allow smaller groups of people to interact around shared interests, or do something totally crazy like actually meet up in the real world. I’m curious how messaging, voice and more will impact how we (re)connect with one another IRL and online. I’m interested in what the future of marketing and advertising looks like — how do big brands do interesting and engaging things in a post-adblocking world? I’ve met some incredible companies working on healthcare, education and more — and I hope we can work with and invest in many of those areas as well as others I haven’t even mentioned yet.
Fundamentally, I think about things in terms of solving for basic human motivations. Are products making people happier or healthier? Are they saving them time or energy in a meaningful way? Are they helping people and businesses make more money, reduce waste and wasted time, increase engagement and more? Are they having a material impact on the people or the businesses that use them? I like to think about what the tangible benefits of a product are in the short, medium and long term — and how a company can craft a narrative around that to help with user acquisition, sales, marketing, retention, recruitment and all of the other processes that help make them successful.
If you’re working on a product that fits any of the theses above, I’d really, really love to hear from you. If you’re not, I’m still incredibly keen to learn about what you’re working on. We invest in all sorts of companies at Techstars London — the ideas above are just ones that I’ve been mulling over recently. I love nothing more than food for thought and opportunities to meet smart people working on products that make a real difference to their users, customers and the world beyond.
I’m as happy to invest in an amazing team where the ink is still drying on the back of the napkin where they jotted down their idea, as I am in investing in a Series A company with millions in funding and 10+ staff. Applications are open now. If you’ve got questions, you can message me on Twitter, find me on LinkedIn or just email me!
Hello startup founders in Europe and abroad!
I’m Eamonn Carey, the new Managing Director at Techstars London. We’re currently looking for amazing startups for our seventh program, which gets underway on the 17th of July. We want to help companies around Europe learn more about Techstars, our approach to entrepreneurship and our #givefirst attitude.
We want to meet as many of you as possible – so my colleague Marko and I are visiting cities across Europe, doing office hours with local startups, hosting presentations and meetups and generally trying to connect with as many great entrepreneurs, community leaders, investors and others as possible. Have a look at the map with the locations and sign up for the meetups in your city below:
- Dublin with startlab, powered by Bank of Ireland – 25/26th January – Join us here
- Amsterdam with TQ – 6th February – Join us here
- Lisbon with Beta-i – 19th February – Join us here
- Madrid with Google Campus – 20th February – Join us here
- Tel Aviv with Rise – 25th February – Join us here
- Tallinn with Tera Ventures – 1st March – Join us here
- Mumbai with Techstars India – TBD
- Bangalore with Techstars India – TBD
- Sofia with Launchub – 19th March – Join us here
- Bucharest with TechHub – 21st March – Join us here
- Kiev with iHub – 23rd March – Join us here
- London with Huckletree – 26th March – Join us here
- Tokyo with Slush Tokyo – 28/29th March – Link TBD
- Seoul with Launchpad – TBD
Alongside these events and meetups, we also want to help local startups with their product, business model and more. We’ll be offering mentoring and advice in a series of one-on-one meetings in each city – so let us know if you’d like to chat! Just sign up below for more.
Apart from the meetups and office hours across Europe, we have also organised webinars and Q&A sessions and are delighted to invite you to join us:
- Wednesday, January 24th, 5:00 PM GMT – Webinar #1 – Sign up here
- Wednesday, February 14th, 5:00 PM GMT – Webinar #2 – Sign up here
- Wednesday, March 7th, 6:00 PM GMT – Webinar #3 – Sign up here
- Wednesday, March 21st, 5:00 PM GMT – Webinar #4 – Sign up here
- Wednesday, April 4th, 5:00 PM GMT – Webinar #5 – Sign up here
I will be hosting these 45 minute webinars, which will cover what Techstars is, how the program works, what the value is for companies and founders, and I’ll share some of the Techstars London success stories. And, of course, some tips on how to apply.
The summer program starts on the 17th of July with a Demo Day in October. The applications are open now and you get yours started online now!
I’m really excited to announce the ten teams for the first Techstars Connection, in partnership with AB InBev program. We ran an exhaustive search – talking to companies on almost every continent on Earth (sorry Antarctica!), and we’ve selected ten incredible businesses to work with Techstars and our partners at AB InBev between now and February 2nd here in New York City.
We’ve got everything from companies that make it easier to find people to go for a beer with, to companies that are fundamentally changing the way the fermentation process works.
We’re in the process of welcoming the teams to the amazing space that we’re sharing with AB InBev in midtown Manhattan, and I look forward to sharing news of their progress with you over the next few weeks and months.
Without any further ado – here are the teams:
Afineur – A biotechnology company pioneering the use of controlled natural fermentations to make better, healthier and more sustainable food products.
Analytical Flavor Systems – A B2B platform allowing automation and optimization of personalized food and beverage products.
Drinkeasy – A premium liquor marketplace built for messaging platforms. Part AI, part human agents, Drinkeasy already helps thousands discover and buy hard-to-find sprits – from a $2000 rare scotch to a small batch tequila.
Intelligent Layer – is a Machine Learning company reinventing customer engagement.
NaCa Fermentation – A service that improves and accelerates high quality wash production.
Paranoid Fan – A mobile software company that uses social mapping to mobilize fans at venues and in their own communities.
Party with a Local – A platform that connects people who love to party with a growing global community of local nightlife enthusiasts in over 150 countries.
PlanSnap – A service that eases event planning by allowing everyone to agree on the details of a plan with two taps.
Quantac – A wearable technology platform that uses transdermal sensing technology to monitor blood content.
GoNative – GoNative reimagines the video production process and uses cutting edge technology to innovate, scale, and accelerate the production of video content for brands and publishers.
Over the last few years, I’ve reviewed the good, bad and ugly of thousands of applications for startup programs all over the world. With six new Techstars city programs open for applications, providing some hints and tips seemed timely.
In no particular order, here are some things to consider:
1. Do a bit of digging into the program, the mentors, the MD and the partner and target your application accordingly. Do your due diligence on us and don’t be afraid to talk about it when we’re chatting. If you want to work with a particular MD because of their background or a program because of its mentors or corporate partners, then it’s a sign that you’ve done some research – which is great. For example, it’s unlikely that our Fintech programs would be interested in an Uber for pooper-scoopers. It’s always brilliant when we talk to companies who understand what we’re looking for, and who tailor their replies accordingly. We’re pretty clear on what matters most to us. There is a lot of detail on how we pick teams and why we don’t in our FAQ – well worth a read.
2. We ask people to make videos one minute long for a reason. It forces you to focus your thinking. Obviously, we can live with a little flexibility +/- 60 seconds, but not a huge amount!
3. Learn how to demo your product. Everyone should be able to do this. It can be as simple as a one minute screencap with you narrating the story of your incredibly technical, but not public-facing infrastructure start over slides. Don’t know how to make a screencast? Now you do. On the team video front, Alex Iskold wrote a great piece about how to make your application stand out, including some examples of great team videos. It’s definitely worth a read.
4. If you are applying at the idea stage, or if you don’t have a designer or developer on the team, you’d be amazed at how easy it is to create and impress folks with simple prototypes. Here’s how anyone can build one. This is also something you can use in your demo video. For Bonus Points – this can also be used to show potential co-founders and employees that you’re not building vaporware…
5. Be careful if you use placeholder videos in your application. You’d be surprised how many people forget to replace them. Be wary of using copy and paste – I’m looking at the person who shared something rather more adult than they intended in an application in the past. Also, don’t rickroll us in the video sections. 😉
6. Be precise. I wrote about the importance of words a while back. This is important. Short sentences that get to the point can help. Long rambling ones (and I recognize I’m guilty of this) don’t.
7. Don’t play the politician. We’ve all seen the trick they do – ignoring the question they were asked and instead answering the question they wanted to be asked. We ask specific things for specific reasons. If you don’t know the answer, that’s fine. Saying you don’t know something is not just ok, it’s actually great.
8. “I’m sorry I wrote you such a long letter. I didn’t have time to write you a short one” is one of my favourite quotes ever. Spend time on your application. Subtract the obvious and add the meaningful. Your goal is to get us sufficiently excited about your company to ask for a call or a meeting. Essay type answers to questions are tough to read and even harder to follow. Make it short. Make it to the point. Make it clear and easy to understand.
9. Create a Google Doc and collaborate with others on your answers. I’ve reviewed enough applications to know a thoughtful one from a cobbled together one almost straight away. Well prepared applications stand out. Get someone to review yours. Spelling, syntax, grammar and clarity are not deal-breakers, but precision in applications is a strong signal that you can take a systematic approach in other aspects of your business. Find someone who doesn’t know what you’re doing and get them to review it for clarity.
10. If you’re finalizing and submitting your application, just do a quick check on all of your social channels and website to make sure they all a) work and b) are active. You don’t have to have hundreds or thousands of followers on Twitter, but if I go to a social channel and see that the last update was shared 6 months ago and there hasn’t been anything posted on your website for a similar amount of time, I’m going to see a miniature red flag. Also, make sure that the www and non-www version of your URL both work (my inner-SEO nerd says don’t forget to pick a canonical domain).
11. Be honest. If you say people work for your company, make sure they actually work for your company. I reviewed an application recently that said that a pretty prominent person had joined a company in a C-level role. I was impressed. Until I talked to that person (who I happened to know). They had met the company once for coffee and had a very preliminary chat about an ad hoc advisory position. Lies have a funny way of finding their way into the light.
12. Update us. Once your application has been submitted, you can access the update field in F6S. The selection process can sometimes take several weeks or months – particularly if you apply early. Keep us posted on your progress. Show us traction and momentum. General excitement helps. A lot!
That should give you some food for thought. If you’ve got questions, queries, comments (or if you want to apologize for that NSFW link), you can find me on Twitter and all the other obvious places, or leave your comments below.
There’s a little over three weeks to go ahead of the deadline to apply for Techstars Connection, in partnership with AB InBev, so I wanted to share some info that will give interested companies and entrepreneurs a little more info on the program and what we’re up to.
I spent the last week meeting some amazing companies here in New York, and I want to meet more of you. We’re looking for a wide range of companies that can work with AB InBev to provide interesting solutions in areas like:
Data and Analytics – on everything from sales and marketing, to production through to logistics, and beyond
Connecting People with Product – everything from inventory management systems, logistics, on demand, sales tools and more
Enhancing Social Experiences – from VR, AR, AI, recommendation engines and products that connect people or augment and enhance experiences before, during and after events
Fermentation Technology and Healthy Fermented Beverages – agtech, ideas that leverage the hidden benefits of the raw materials used in brewing
The scope is huge. If you want to find out more about whether or not your company would be a good fit, then let’s chat. I’m going to be doing a ton of open office hours on Skype/Hangouts etc. You can find some time to chat in my calendar.
I’m also running a series of webinars – where you can join and find out more info about what we’re all about, what we’re looking for and how the process will work. You can tune in on the following dates:
For those of you who can’t join at one of those times, send me an email and keep an eye on my Twitter, as I’ll be recording a version of the webinar early next week. I just need to refine my pitch.
Also, here’s a thought – if you’re going to Glastonbury and you want to do the first ever accelerator office hours there, say hello on Twitter and maybe we can find some time to meet at West Holts on Thursday or Friday. 😉
I’ll also be in London, Dublin, NYC and possibly Austin before applications close, so if you’d like to meet in person, feel free to send me an email, a LinkedIn message, a DM, a PM, a tweet, a smoke signal, a Snapstorm or anything else you think will pique my interest. I look forward to answering your questions, telling you more about what we’re up to and hearing about the incredible businesses that you’re building.
It’s been almost 10 years to the day since I started my first company. Back then, there wasn’t much in the way of mentorship and advice in Ireland. What always stuck with me were the people who did help – not the ones looking for 5 percent (or worse yet, 51 percent) of your business, but the folks who took time to have a chat, critique the business and our ideas, and add real value. I always thought that if I was ever lucky enough to be in a position to pay that forward, then I would.
Over the last three years, I’ve mentored at Techstars’ programs in London, Berlin and Tel Aviv, as well as other accelerators as far away as Tallinn, Istanbul, Abu Dhabi and Tokyo. The #givefirst credo is one that’s always resonated with me and it’s why I’m so excited to be joining Techstars Connection, in partnership with AB InBev as Managing Director.
For this program, we are looking for B2B and B2C companies who:
- Seamlessly connect and bring people together for enhanced social experiences.
- Conveniently connect people to products with greater speed and efficiency.
- Enhance consumption experiences through curation, personalization and localization.
- Leverage the hidden benefits of raw materials, fermentation and brewing in products and systems that help people to live well.
Startups in Techstars Connection will interact daily with AB InBev executives and employees who will open doors that are otherwise hard to access, including:
- Distribution, manufacturing and logistics channels
- Inventory management tools
- Access to real-world venues around the world (stadiums, restaurants, live venues, bars, etc.)
- Brand marketing
- Advertising and media distribution outlets
- Agriculture technology
- Big data and analytics
If that’s you and you want to join Techstars Connection, applications are open until July 10. I’m also on the lookout for amazing associates. If you have questions, you can find me on Twitter or book some time in my calendar to find out more. We’ll be sharing a little more on the blog in the coming days, including details on upcoming webinars and office hours in London, Dublin, New York, Boston, Austin and beyond.
Alongside helping the Techstars Connection companies to launch, scale and deliver amazing experiences, I’m particularly excited about three specific elements of this role: connection, storytelling and building products people love.
Connecting People and Countries
Entrepreneurship happens everywhere nowadays, and your users can be anywhere. At Techstars, we have a huge network around the world through the accelerators and Startup programs. AB InBev have a huge global footprint to leverage. We will work closely together to connect people and products to global markets.
Telling Great Stories
My background in Journalism has instilled in me a passion to help people and businesses tell the most compelling story to investors, the media, customers and users. One of the things I will focus on is how to structure and tell the stories of those companies selected.
Building Products People Love
Everyone wants to build something their users love. Our partners at AB InBev have great expertise in that department, and I want to leverage that experience as well as insights from our community to help teams dig into the user experience. I look forward to building products people love with people who love building them!
Also, I talk and write about fun, mischief and whimsy a lot. If you can make someone laugh, chuckle or even just crack a smile – you’ve gone a long way towards lighting up the reward pathways in their brain and creating a memory. In an era of bots, AI, AR, and more, that’s going to be increasingly important. I’m looking forward to helping the teams create those incredible products and experiences.
Finally, a quick thank you: first to my mum and dad for buying me a Sinclair Spectrum 48k computer (and later an Atari ST) all those years ago. It’s been a long way from writing games in BASIC in the mid-80s and naming them after girls I liked (a story for another blog).
To Jon Bradford, Greg Rogers and Chris Adelsbach for putting up with me (you’ve created a query monster now), and to all of the entrepreneurs ready to apply and work with us at Techstars: I can’t wait to kick off in New York later this year!