Applications for Boston’s Second Program Open Today

Today we announce the program dates for the Boston fall program in 2014. Applications are open today with an early deadline of May 4th and a final deadline of June 1st. After the current class finishes their demo day on April 29th, I will move on to focus full time on Project 11, my own early stage venture fund.

It’s with great excitement that I introduce Semyon Dukach as our new Managing Director in Boston. We are very excited to add him to the team, and he’s already spending his days helping with the current companies in the Boston program while learning the ropes. You probably already know Semyon as he is a prolific angel investor in Boston and a friend to the startup community. Semyon’s philosophy as an investor has been to focus on doing everything in his power to help the founders at his startups instead of just maximizing his own returns, which we see as a great fit with our “give first” mentor-driven approach. Prior to becoming a full time angel investor, Semyon has co-founded several companies including Fast Engines, which was sold to Adero in 2000. He is the Chairman of Nasdaq listed SMTP, and the founder of the Troublemaker Award. Semyon is also known for leading one of the MIT blackjack teams in the 90s. I will remain in a chairman role for Techstars in Boston and act as an advisor to Semyon going forward.

It’s been a huge honor holding down the fort at Techstars in Boston and I’m happy to pass the torch to Semyon. If you’re thinking about shipping up to Boston, apply today .

12 Companies for Winter 2014 Session in Boston

We are thrilled to announce the next Techstars class in Boston! We are now excited to launch our seventh Techstars program at our new home in the Leather District of Boston. Our session began this week and will wrap up on April 29th.

We continue to be extremely impressed with the quality of applications and love the diversity of their businesses. This session, the program includes companies building mobile-first communities, companies optimizing hiring and labor workforces and even one focused on self-improvement.

Finally, I just want to express how honored we are to have such strong support from our mentors, investors and sponsors in the Greater Boston community. We take this moment to thank them.

And now, here is the list of companies:

Cangrade automates HR with a candidate assessment and prediction tool

Change Collective
Transforming change. High-quality content from world-class experts plus technology built to help you change and learn anything.

ecoVent makes a smart, wireless, HVAC Zoning system that allows room by room temperature control in the home

Platform for doctors to prioritize inbound patient information for optimizing workflow

Hardware and software platform to quantify action sports and connect participants and brands

Litographs helps authors connect with fans by producing tasteful, customizable and unique literary merchandise

Mapkin navigation adds crowd-sourced, personalized, human details to the journey

Narvii is creating a mobile-first community platform for long-tail interests, organizations & brands

Onion is building a backend as a service software platform for connected devices

Refresh is building eco-friendly, cost-effective beverage vending machines.

Sundar provides a curated B2B marketplace for apparel and accessories sourcing, by matching suppliers with creative professionals

WorkMob is a partner driven freelance platform, initially targeting the API integration space

[VIDEO] Startup Stories: Zagster

Startup Stories are a series of short documentaries on the adventurous journey of various Techstars companies. A lot happens in the history of a company and we believe it’s important to tell these stories for other entrepreneurs. This short documentary is about Zagster, a bike sharing service for properties all over the country. Founded in Philadelphia in 2007 as CityRyde and now headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Zagster is one of the nation’s first bike sharing companies. The team is uniquely focused on contracting with property managers, hotels, businesses, and universities across North America to make bike sharing programs available to tenants, employees, guests, and students. Their highly efficient and unique model allows Zagster to offer services in areas that traditional city-wide bike sharing systems can’t reach.

Other Startup Stories:


Consider applying to Techstars, check out the schedule here.

Techstars Boston Spring 2013 Companies Announced

I am thrilled to announce the Spring Boston 2013 class.  Each session we push ourselves to get better and continue to try new things. This is the sixth Techstars program in Boston and we are pleased by the continued strong quality of the startups and by the support the community has shown for them. Our session begins today and will end on May 23rd with demo day.

We seek to invest in a diverse set of companies because our Boston mentors and investors have wide interests and experience across technologies and businesses.  This program includes companies that range from B2B enterprise software to technology-driven custom fashion, data hosting and visualization, mobile consumer services, developer infrastructure to “brains for bots” and more. Once again, we’ve stretched beyond software: this time to include a company transforming agriculture.

The founders bring a fantastic level of drive, knowledge, enthusiasm and tenacity that I know will make great businesses. Many of the companies are from the Boston area but we also have teams from Washington, DC, Austria, France, and Ukraine. If experience is a guide, I know they will all be blown away by the welcome they receive from the Boston community. This is an amazing city; we are all lucky to be here.

Here are the 14 companies in the Techstars Spring 2013 program in Boston:

An interactive and educational game and competition platform for developers.

A hosted continuous integration and deployment platform.

A crowd-sourced fashion label, where anyone can create and sell their unique designs with our 3D design tools, custom fit, and on demand production.

Helps communities and developers build better real estate projects.

A new social app for sports fans.

Freight Farms
A scalable farming platform can be installed anywhere and operated by almost anyone, transforming shipping containers into a source for high yield crop production.

Jebbit’s pay per performance model benefits both brands and consumers, guaranteeing a brand that their message is comprehended while rewarding consumers with cash for actively answering questions that educate them on the brand.

LinkCycle helps manufacturers manage resource consumption across product lines to reduce costs without any extra hardware or data collection.

We build brains for bots.

Using advanced economic modeling and data visualization to improve government transparency, efficiency, and performance.

Pharmacy simplified.

A “YouTube for numbers,” a platform that makes data broadcasting and data visualization accessible to anyone.

Helps organizations achieve their goals by connecting and engaging communities around meaningful actions.

Redefining vulnerability discovery.

Techstars picks 13 companies for Fall 2012 session in Boston

I am thrilled to announce the Fall Boston 2012 class.  Each session we push ourselves to get better and continue to try new things. This is the first time we have run more than one session in the same year in Boston and are delighted by the quality of startups and the enthusiasm the community has shown for a second program. Our session begins today and will end on November 14th with demo day.

Our Boston mentors and investors have great breadth and depth in technology and business so we’ve chosen a wonderfully diverse set of companies.  They range from consumer mobile to health IT, small business SaaS to travel and fashion marketplaces, and more. In fact, we’ve stretched beyond software to include a materials science company and a consumer product technology.

The companies bring an astounding level of drive, knowledge, enthusiasm and stick-to-itness that I know will make great businesses. Many of the companies are from the Boston area but we also have teams from Israel, Slovenia, Colombia and Ann Arbor. If experience is a guide, I know they will all be blown away by the welcome they receive from the Boston community. This is an amazing city; we are all lucky to be here.

Here are the 13 companies in the Techstars Fall 2012 program in Boston:

BetterFit Technologies provides personalized medicine for everyone.

BookingMarkets lets small and large web sites connect travelers with unique places to stay around the world.

CoachUp helps athletes achieve their full potential by connecting them with private coaches.

At Fashion Project you can shop daily designer deals and clean out your closet for your favorite cause.

Fetchnotes makes it easy to stay on top of what’s going on in your life and communicate with the people that matter to you.

ImpulseSave makes saving your money as easy and gratifying as spending it.

Med2Bed connects hospitals and post-acute care facilities to improve patient outcomes.

NBD uses unique surface chemistry to harvest water from humidity.

Ovuline helps couples conceive faster.

Saverr helps consumers save together. Connecting online and offline shopping. 

Wymsee is operating in stealth. 

Zepppelin helps small businesses see what’s happening in their company by connecting their cloud applications and team in one place.

A stealth company we funded is a consumer product company built on a breakthrough mechanical invention.

Founder Stories: docTrackr

Clément Cazalot © Techstars 2012

More often than not, gaining entrance into new markets is a ‘make or break’ point for fledgling companies. Reflecting the global nature of the startup eco-system is an important part of fostering relationships that open doors and minds to untapped niches. For Boston’s most recent two classes, 25% of the companies came from outside the United States. Countries included Estonia, Israel, France, and the United Kingdom. We have an active interest in making that list even longer.

Paris based Spring 2012 alum, docTrackr, is a great example of the role mentoring and exposure can play in the making of a transatlantic success story. Founders Clément Cazalot and Alex Negrea started out as employees of larger companies. As technologists, they were troubled by the conundrum presented by the increased use of online collaboration tools. This type of sharing helps teams communicate more effectively and streamlines workflow but also makes internal financial and proprietary information vulnerable.

By December 2010, they quit their jobs to fight the good fight against increasingly savvy (and often malicious) hackers trying to get their hands on your data. Within one month, ‘Silicon Sentier’ (the nonprofit behind France’s first seed stage startup accelerator program) took note and offered them a spot in the prestigious Le Camping. The opportunity was a great springboard from which they achieved their first goal: building a system that allows users to maintain control of shared digital documents, long after pressing the send button. Now corporate executives and small business operators alike can rest easy knowing their documents are as secure in the cloud as they would be in a vault.

While at Le Camping, Clément and Alex also benefitted from the most valuable thing any accelerator has to offer– its network. They struck up a fortuitous friendship with Entrepreneur in Residence, Aaron O’Hearn. His time in France was followed by a move back to the U.S. to join Techstars in Boston as Program Manager. Aaron called Clément to encourage them to apply. The rest, as they say, is history.

“Aaron asked, ‘Do you want to bring your business to the next level? You’ve had some early traction. Come to the U.S. for three months and you can speed that up.’ We said ‘Why not?’ and we applied. Two months after, we were going to the US.”

The process moved forward quickly. However, this isn’t a move that Cazalot would have undertaken before being approached. The best-kept secret in E.U. startup circles is that Techstars doesn’t care where your passport is from or whether you intend to keep a U.S. presence after the program wraps. “Everybody knows Techstars, but as European companies we don’t apply because you think there is a big gap between Europe and the U.S. People think we are not eligible or their companies are not mature enough. Just applying for a U.S. program is a big deal. That’s cultural, I think. We were definitely focused on the French market, only the French market, French companies. All of your employees, all of your partners, all of your mentors are French. You are speaking French. Same thing in Germany, Spain, etc. – you have to force yourself to think globally. Because markets are so segmented, you never see a way you can reach everybody in one shot.”

Clément and his team found that the Techstars network eased the transition to a different way of doing business.

“We were introduced to lawyers who took care of everything. That’s something I didn’t have this conception of; you give a task to a lawyer and they help you figure it out. You meet companies that already went through this process. You have to recreate the company in a legal way before entering the country. It takes a week. You have Visa issues. You get through it.”

Actually, docTrackr did more than get through it. Even with the heartburn of the immigration process, Cazalon says making that leap is one of the best decisions they made for the business. They emerged with the clarity, focus, and plans to expand their team on both sides of the pond.

“We arrived with technology and we are going out of Techstars with a real company, a real vision, a strategy for the future. We know what our big challenge is; things that three months ago, I was barely able to understand. The first year and a half, we tried to find people willing to buy what we build. With so many potential channels, it was difficult to say, There’s our sweet spotOur mentors helped us realize that we needed to think less about use cases, and then made intros to strategic partners. Instead of going alone in the wild, fighting to get 11 million users, integrated us into their network. Microsoft Bizspark (45,000 startups) and Bizspark+ (100 startups) put us in front of thousands. We had an increase of 100% having opened up this new market.”

With bread and butter clients lined up, docTrackr’s round of seed funding recently closed, anchored by prominent Boston VC firms. This just goes to show that the language a company’s original business plan is written in doesn’t matter. Great ideas translate and immersion into the Techstars mentor network helped the founders become fluent in communicating their company vision and strategy to anyone, anytime, anywhere.

Techstars: The Ultimate Startup Workout

Yifan Zhang, image via Entrepreneur Magazine

As we gear up for the July 1st deadline for the Fall 2012 Boston program, I’ve been thinking about what founders bring in when they enter the program, and what they take away. I sat down last week with recent alumna, Yifan Zhang of Pact to talk about her experience.

Yifan is a recent college grad who has already nailed the first pivot of her second start-up. She’s not looking for a job. She’s creating them: four to date, and three more in the next quarter. That’s impressive, even for an Ivy Leaguer. She and co-founder Geoff Oberhofer found a way to create and implement systems that incentivize positive behavior change. Their killer idea, GymPact, is a mobile application using GPS check-ins to keep customers true to their personal fitness commitments. If users don’t feel the burn from hitting the gym, they’ll feel it where it really counts: their wallets. Forgot your sneakers? Pay up. Kept up with the program? Lose weight while gaining extra $ paid out from the pool of user fines. The results? Fuller gyms. Healthier people.

The team applied to Techstars and made good use of their time while they waited to hear back. They took a detour south of the Equator for a grant from Startup Chile that included office space and ‘la oportunidad de practicar el idioma español.’ When they learned that they were being seriously considered for one of the coveted thirteen Techstars spots, they cut a mountain trek in Southern Chile short to hunt down a reliable internet connection (no small feat in a remote locale) for a Skype appointment to discuss their candidacy. Although brief, the call went well and they returned stateside having scaled a literal mountain as well as figurative one by securing a spot in Boston’s Spring 2012 cohort.

Ask Yifan if it was worth the effort, and you’ll get a resounding, “Yes!” She takes her role as CEO very seriously and I have seen her take full advantage of the Techstars network for everything: product direction, investor pitching, hiring, and leadership pointers. Most founders will tell you that, short of jumping in, there is no way to prepare for program’s intensity. Yifan’s experience proved that in spades.

Their first one-on-one meeting was scheduled with none other than Techstars co-founder Brad Feld. A tad intimidated, they went into the session having done their homework. As Feld took out his credit card to try out their app firsthand, that list of thoughtfully prepared questions promptly went out the window. Zhang recounts:

“The signup process was entirely on the website, and after the transaction was complete, users would get a download link for the app. We didn’t think that people would enter in their credit card info directly to their phone. Seventeen out of the twenty minutes of the meeting were spent signing Brad up. He finally ended up doing it, but it was the most painful experience ever.”

Everyone wants to “crush it” on Day 1, but it was clear when we de-briefed that they were a little crushed. Having guided other companies through the process, I pointed to the opportunity hidden in those agonizing moments. “Brad does not zero in on something unless he thinks it’s important,” I told them. I didn’t need to say another word. They recognized the value of addressing a core product issue head on. GymPact embarked on a three week product revamp that changed the concept from a hybrid web/phone experience to a native mobile application.

“It was a really smart decision. We saw the difference immediately. Our signup ratio switched to 70% (mobile) / 30% (web) and the conversion rate from download to paying customer jumped too.”

It was the first of many twists for Zhang and her team. Pre-Techstars, the company’s bootstrapping mentality paid-off with a monetized cash-positive model. The trick was breaking through to the next level. During mentor and investor pitch sessions, they came nose-to-nose with a perception problem that brought them to a pivotal realization.

“We had a meeting with Katie and Reed where we said – this sounds crazy but the name GymPact is affecting the level of interest in our company. They immediately think that it’s a very niche idea in a very niche industry – just gyms, just fitness tracking – when our idea was always about behavior change and incentives.” The steady stream of feedback provided the confidence to embrace their idea’s full potential to change lives. With three weeks until Demo Day, they changed their name to ‘Pact’ and transitioned from a single product to a platform for behavior change. GymPact became the flagship offering, demonstrating their model of building adaptable products that integrate with the APIs of widely adopted activity tracking systems. This allowed them to forge partnerships with major players in the health and wellness space (like Harvard Pilgrim and Puma).

Their progress didn’t stop there. Over drinks with mentor Sean Lindsay to celebrate wrapping the final presentation prep three days ahead of schedule they stumbled onto another revelation. At the beginning of the program, Sean had asked Yifan and Geoff if they wanted their feedback direct or candy-coated. That night at the bar, Lindsay served up his thoughts about their presentation as promised; straight-up. Their slide deck sucked. He was right. They finished their drinks and headed back to the office to call in a HackStars designer for help. At 3:00 a.m., they emerged with a tighter message and a slick new look.

On Demo Day, they crushed it on several levels. As Managing Director, I have a front row seat from where I can see the personal growth of founders translate into amazing results. Pact’s ability to listen, park their egos and take decisive action led them to a business direction far ahead of where they were at the start of the program. Keeping pace with Techstars’ experienced mentors gave them a finely-tuned product with consistent messaging. It is clear to both users and investors that going with Pact gives them a powerful ally in meeting fitness and financial goals.

Having just closed a seed round of venture capital funding only a month after the program, I can officially say Pact is on the fast track.

A Second Boston Program for 2012

We are happy to announce that we are running another Techstars Boston session this fall. If you have wanted to take part in Techstars in Boston, you don’t have to wait until next year: you can apply right now.

As our Boston program grows we have seen increasing demand from entrepreneurs and investors. There are so many applicants that we can accept only 1% of those who apply. Of the 12 companies in the 2011 class, 12 of 12 raised follow on financing and all are making great progress.

In light of this demand, the Boston investors who make this all possible have encouraged us to pick up the pace.

Our fourth class is graduating this May 3rd – Demo Day will be so much fun – and we have just opened applications for our next class, which will begin in September.

Please apply, or encourage companies you know to apply. If you are accepted you will receive $118,000 in funding and move to Boston for the intense 3-month session. Fall is a beautiful time of year in New England.

Boston has a diverse bench of mentor talent and Techstars wants to take advantage of this. Along with consumer web companies (Ubersense, Taplab, Pact) we have accepted health IT and medical device companies (, Strohl Medical), enterprise software (Evertrue, Placester, Simply Good, Sennex, docTrackr), infrastructure (Kinvey, MortarData), ecommerce (Shopsy, Murfie), and even transportation (Zagster).

We are hoping our next wave of applications will include robotics, bio informatics, health IT, digital manufacturing and ed tech companies.

Please spread the word and apply here.

Founders who apply before May 1st will be eligible for an invitation to this session’s Demo Day, which is not open to the public. This is a rare opportunity to see a select group of Boston entrepreneurs present
their companies to the world.

Techstars picks 13 companies for Winter 2012 session in Boston

Today is the start of the Techstars Winter 2012 program in Boston. It’s the fourth year we have been in Boston.

Once again, we had so many great companies apply that it was unbelievably hard to pick just ten. So we decided to invest in thirteen. Boston has deep bench strength and mentors from a broad set of disciplines so we chose a diverse set of companies: from e-commerce to education, financial markets to transportation, consumer mobile to B2B enterprise SaaS. These companies will help you crunch big data, raise a venture capital fund, track your documents, publish a book, and buy music. They will make your kids smarter, make you better at sports, and yes, even make you happier.

Boston, we are ready to rock! Here are the 13 companies in the Techstars Winter 2012 program in Boston:

Platform to fundraise for alternative investments

Social publishing

Mobile app that incentivizes regular exercise

An online creative software factory

Makes renting bicycles ridiculously easy and affordable.

Adaptive Educational Testing

Makes mobile couponing simple

Document tracking and metrics

The friendly music market. We offer a buying, selling and trading community with the benefits of CD ownership and the convenience of digital downloads.

Easy Hadoop in the cloud

Helps athletes and amateurs improve anywhere, anytime.

The retail graph

Crafting lessons through collaboration

For further information, please contact us.

New home for Techstars in Boston

We’re super excited to have found a home for Techstars Boston in the heart of Kendall Square, Cambridge, steps from the T station and right next to the MIT campus.

Kendall Square has an amazing density of tech companies. In a several block radius around Techstars are the hundreds of teams at the Cambridge Innovation Center, SCVNGR, PatientsLikeMe, Sermo, Backupify, HubSpot, Brightcove, Endeca, ITA, Akamai, of course Microsoft NERD, Google and Techstars Alums like Appswell, Localytics, and SocialSci.

Each Techstars location becomes a home for the entrepreneurs and a base for the mentors who support them. This Cambridge space is fantastic – take a look at the pictures – and we are very grateful to the generosity of Microsoft and Boston Properties for giving the Techstars Boston 2011 program a great home.