Techstars launches second accelerator focused on SportsTech, in Australia
BOULDER, Colo. – July 22, 2019 – Techstars, the worldwide network that helps entrepreneurs succeed, today announced the launch of the Techstars SportsTech Melbourne Accelerator. In partnership with government-backed Victoria startup agency, LaunchVic, Australia’s governing body for tennis, Tennis Australia and leading sports science Australian University, Victoria University, the mentorship-driven accelerator will run for 13 weeks and accept 10 startups on an annual basis. The program geared toward startups focused on innovations in SportsTech is the second Techstars accelerator focused on SportsTech, having launched the Techstars Sports Accelerator Powered by Indy in 2018.
The Techstars SportsTech Melbourne Accelerator will be based at Tennis Australia’s headquarters at Melbourne Park, the home of the Australian Open, and program participants will also have access to Victoria University’s state of the art sports facilities. The accelerator will support startups across different sectors, businesses, and at different stages, addressing issues in the SportsTech space. The program will provide startups with mentorship from Tennis Australia and Victoria University’s leaders and subject matter experts, as well as other industry experts from the community and Techstars’ worldwide network. The first year of the program will run from March 2020 through June 2020, culminating in a Demo Day where startups will pitch their accelerated business models to investors and industry leaders.
“LaunchVic is thrilled that Techstars, in partnership with Tennis Australia and Victoria University, will be providing SportsTech startups with the opportunity to participate in this world-class accelerator program here in Melbourne,” said Kate Cornick, CEO at LaunchVic. “Capturing a share of the growing global SportsTech market, which is projected to be worth USD $93.8b in 2027, presents a significant opportunity for Victoria to leverage its key strength in sport to fuel skilled jobs growth.”
“We are extremely excited to be partnering with Techstars for this groundbreaking sports technology accelerator, a first for Tennis Australia and sport in Australia,” said Dr. Machar Reid, Head of Innovation at Tennis Australia. “It’s going to be an incredibly exciting couple of years for Tennis Australia as we get set to welcome startups from around the world, all with the aim to better the world of sport and how we do things at Tennis Australia and the Australian Open.”
“This initiative has the potential to transform the sports startup and technology industry in Australia,” said Sam Roberston, Associate Professor of Sports Analytics at Victoria University. “It connects VU, a leading sport university, with future-minded, progressive organisations such as Tennis Australia and Techstars – all in one of the world’s great sporting cities, Melbourne.”
“Melbourne is the sporting capital of the world,” said Will Robinson, VP of Asia Pacific at Techstars. “Partnering with LaunchVic, Tennis Australia and Victoria University, we are poised to deliver an invaluable program to entrepreneurs transforming the world of SportsTech.”
Applications for the 2020 Techstars SportsTech Melbourne Accelerator will open in September. Startups interested in learning more about the program are encouraged to contact Techstars or visit https://www.techstars.com/programs/sportstech-melbourne-program/ to learn more.
Techstars is the worldwide network that helps entrepreneurs succeed. Techstars founders connect with other entrepreneurs, experts, mentors, alumni, investors, community leaders, and corporations to grow their companies. Techstars operates three divisions: Techstars Startup Programs, Techstars Mentorship-Driven Accelerator Programs, and Techstars Corporate Innovation Partnerships. Techstars’ accelerator portfolio includes more than 1,900 companies with a market cap of $22 Billion. www.techstars.com
LaunchVic is the state government agency tasked with growing Victoria’s startup ecosystem in Australia. We invest in organisations and projects that empower entrepreneurs to scale the global innovative companies that will deliver economic benefits that all Victorians can share in. http://www.launchvic.org/
About Tennis Australia
Tennis Australia is the governing body of tennis in Australia, promoting and facilitating participation in tennis at all levels, and also conducts national and international tournaments including the Australian Open. Visit tennis.com.au for more information.
About Victoria University
Victoria University achieved university status in 1991, and our preceding institutions date back to 1916. We are one of Australia’s few dual-sector universities, and have over 40,000 enrolled higher education, and vocational education and training students studying on our campuses. https://www.vu.edu.
Applications are now open for Q1 2020 Techstars mentorship-driven accelerators. These program spanning North America, Europe, and the Middle East are looking for the best entrepreneurs to join their 2020 programs. where they’ll experience 13 weeks of growth and business acceleration through hands-on mentorship, investment and access to the techstars worldwide network.
Accelerators accepting applications as of today include:
- Alchemist Blockchain Techstars Accelerator (NYC) – Apply Now
- Arcadis City of 2030 Accelerator, Powered by Techstars (Amsterdam) – Apply Now
- Barclays Accelerator, powered by Techstars London (London) – Apply Now
- BSH Future Home Accelerator Powered by Techstars (Munich) – Apply Now
- Cox Enterprises Social Impact Accelerator powered by Techstars (Atlanta) – Apply Now
- Techstars Anywhere Accelerator (virtual) – Apply Now
- Techstars Bangalore Accelerator (Bangalore) – Apply Now
- Techstars Berlin Accelerator (Berlin) – Apply Now
- Techstars Boston Accelerator (Boston) – Apply Now
- Techstars Boulder Accelerator (Boulder) – Apply Now
- Techstars Chicago Accelerator (Chicago) – Apply Now
- Techstars Hub71 Accelerator (Abu Dhabi) – Apply Now
- Techstars Lisbon in partnership with Semapa Next (Lisbon) – Apply Now
- Techstars Seattle Accelerator (Seattle) – Apply Now
- Techstars Smart Mobility Accelerator (Turin) – Apply Now
- Techstars Toronto Accelerator (Toronto) – Apply Now
In every Techstars accelerator, founders spend three months working with other founders, mentors, corporate partners, and investors to drive their companies towards rapid growth and success. Join the nearly 2,000 startups that have raised over $7 Billion in funding, boast a collective market cap of $22 Billion, and have accelerated their businesses through a Techstars accelerator over the past 12 years.
Think your startup is a good fit? Connect with us to learn more about Techstars accelerator programs and how you can join our worldwide network of more than 10,000 mentors, partners, investors and founders to accelerator your startup, or apply now.
Techstars is excited to announce a Network Engagement Partnership with Hyundai Card, Korea’s leading credit card service provider. The partnership will support startups within Hyundai Card Studio Black, a premium amenity-driven co-working space located in the Gangnam district in Seoul, to connect startups across the Techstars network with Hyundai Card for potential collaboration opportunities.
Through the partnership, a Techstars Entrepreneur in Residence (EIR) will be integrated into the community onsite at Hyundai Card Studio Black to provide startup support and help drive global market expansion for onsite entrepreneurs and startups. The partnership will also provide the Studio Black member’s access to the Techstars Worldwide Network of other startups, mentors, corporate partners, and investors.
“This partnership brings Techstars and Hyundai Card together to connect our networks of entrepreneurs, startups, and thought-leaders,” said Will Robinson, Vice President Asia Pacific Sales at Techstars. “Through this corporate innovation program, we’ll be able to drive impact and value together with Hyundai Card Studio Black, where we can assist and guide entrepreneurs toward growth and success.”
“Hyundai Card Studio Black is an optimal base camp that helps promising startups in Korea grow their businesses and prepare their entry into the global arena,” said Moonkee Ahn, Co Innovation Team Leader at Hyundai Card. “Hyundai Card Studio Black is an open innovation hub where startups in Korea and beyond create and accelerate new businesses.”
Techstars’ Network Engagement Program creates opportunities for Corporate Partners to gain access to the Techstars worldwide network of entrepreneurs and build strategic relationships with startups, founders, mentors, and investors to advance their business innovation goals. Partners will refine their corporate innovation methodologies through the program’s targeted portfolio reviews and proprietary innovation tool kits. The program is geared toward corporate partners who are interested in startup engagement for proofs of concept, investments, or mergers and acquisitions.
By Matej Michalko, Founder and CEO of DECENT
We at DECENT are investing in educating communities about the different ways that blockchain can be leveraged to make the world a better place. For example, in 2018, we worked with Techstars to bring a Techstars Startup Weekend Decentralize to Boulder. At this 54-hour event, participants pitched ideas for how to put blockchain to use, from improving infrastructure to bringing more equity into the insurance industry. However, one area we didn’t see discussed was how blockchain can restore trust in charities.
We all want to #GiveFirst and know that what we give is going to the right place, and blockchain can make this happen.
Charities Misuse Funds, Donors Become Mistrustful
In 2010, people gave half a billion dollars to the Red Cross to support victims after a terrible earthquake in Haiti. The Red Cross claimed to provide homes for more than 130,000 people with these funds, but in 2015, Propublica and NPR reported that most of that money did not go toward helping Haitians after this disaster, and only six permanent homes had been built. Also in 2015, the New York Times reported that four cancer charities—known collectively as the Reynolds Cancer Charities—took donations of nearly $200 million intended to support cancer patients and used these funds primarily for personal expenses.
These shameful examples left the public suspicious of charities. Trust in Charities 2018, a report from the Charity Commission for England and Wales, found an average level of trust in charities at 5.5 out of 10, with 45% of respondents self-reporting that their trust in charities has decreased—a dramatic increase of 12% compared to 2016.
Security, Transparency, Reliability
Blockchain can add much-needed security, transparency, and reliability into processes where those elements are important, like charitable giving. Here’s how:
1. Eliminate Corruption
All transactions on blockchain are available to public audit. This allows for donations to be tracked transparently, granting the donors direct information on when, how, and who handles their contributions. Users can put their trust in the fact that transactions are executed precisely as the protocol commands, removing the need for a third party. Changes to public blockchains are publicly viewable by all parties, which creates transparency, and transactions are immutable, meaning they cannot be altered or deleted. Donors want to see where the money goes and how it is used, and with blockchain, they can do exactly that.
2. Diminish Unnecessary Costs
Third-party intermediaries often eat into donations in the form of transaction fees or fees for payments. Blockchain can help charities avoid intermediaries and aggregators, and keep more money for the intended use. This can maximize the impact of the funds raised, and incentivize donors to continue supporting good causes with confidence.
In addition, charities will no longer need to depend on institutions like banks or various government agencies that may apply shady practices while handling the donated funds.
3. Turn One-Time Donors into Repeat Donors
The online fundraising platform Charity Checkout published a 2018 report on The Future of Online Giving, and found that nearly 90% of donors would rather donate through a charity’s website than a third-party fundraising platform. The report also found that “almost half of those donating directly via a charity’s website agreed or strongly agreed that they would be more likely to give again; this is compared to just 19 percent of donors saying they would give again after using third-party fundraising platforms.”
When charities use blockchain technology and accept donations on their own websites, they’re meeting donor preferences—and increasing repeat donations.
4. No Geographic Limitations and Real-Time Transfers
Blockchain works on an entirely decentralized basis. This means that it poses no geographic limitations for donors or charities, making cross-border payments seamless and much less expensive. Contrast this with traditional systems, like banks, which require any transferred funds to go through a single SWIFT network. A peer-to-peer-enabled system, like blockchain, can make it easy for charities to break down borders, allowing blockchain-created cryptocurrencies to be utilized from any country around the world.
Donations also take place in real time, with some of the more technologically mature blockchains being able to process upwards of thousands of transactions per second, eliminating atrocious waiting periods. This makes giving much more appealing for people who want to see their funds being received and used right away.
Re-establishing Trust Through Transparency
These are all important benefits. But the most important element for re-establishing public trust in charities is the transparency of blockchain.
For charities, this means that donations can be released quickly and transparently to those in need. Charitable donations can be tracked within the public ledger, making it visible for anyone to see exactly how the funds are distributed. Ultimately, this protects both the donor and the charitable institution accepting the donations from manipulated transaction records and any possible sanctions.
By utilizing cryptography and nodes which are distributed and decentralized, blockchain can ensure that these transactions are secured and immutable. By following protocols which intrinsically govern blockchain, known as smart contracts, donors are left with a sense of assurance between the trusted parties (i.e., the charity and donors). In their essence, smart contracts are fundamentally blockchain-enabled security protocols that ensure that a contract is fulfilled as per agreement. This can ensure that such contracts don’t get breached.
The New Kid On The Block
Blockchain is still the new kid on the block, often compared to the Internet in 1995, but it offers benefits that are hard to dismiss. The technology has experienced significant growth over just the past few years. Some charities are already taking advantage of these benefits to do good in the world, such as Alice, Humanity Token, AidCoin, and many more.
The number of blockchain charity projects is growing, and this is good for everyone: good for donors, good for people in need, and good for the charities that want to lend a helping hand. We look forward to seeing where else blockchain will solve problems and gain wide public adoption.
After all, the internet in 1995 may not have been too impressive—but the people and companies that saw its potential went on to change the world.
Techstars, the worldwide network that helps entrepreneurs succeed, today announced the launch of Techstars Talent: a new offering that will enable startup founders to build highly successful teams and gain a competitive advantage when it comes to Talent.
Founders can take advantage of Techstars Talent by connecting with our referral network of top talent, learning best practices from our content center, and leveraging best-in-class partners and services.
The broader network can benefit by connecting into the Techstars Talent Network. It allows candidates to access job opportunities across one of the largest entrepreneurial networks in the world.
“Techstars is always adding to our amazing Talent Network. Through our accelerators, our community programs and more, we attract amazing people year after year. Now, Techstars Talent enables you, as a portfolio company, to get access to that great talent network.” — David Cohen, founder and co-CEO of Techstars
After spending five years as the VP of People Ops for Techstars, Sabrina Kelly is now spearheading Techstars Talent. She is joined by Bala Girisaballa, President of Techstars India, to build out the offering internationally and give our companies exposure to global teams. Jason Thompson, Techstars VP of Diversity and Inclusion, will focus on building diversity and inclusion into the foundation of the Talent Network.
Want to get connected to the Talent team today? Go to talent.techstars.com to get involved.
Do you know how to be a great ally in the workplace? Why all startup founders should do karaoke? What the secret sauce of the Seattle startup ecosystem is? Create 33 Director Rebecca Lovell knows the answers to all these—and more.
Rebecca Lovell plays, as Brad Feld says, “a very important role in the center of gravity for the Seattle startup community.” Currently Director at Create 33, a resource center for tech entrepreneurs, Rebecca teaches entrepreneurship at the University of Washington and has held a number of roles in Seattle city government, from Startup Advocate to Acting Director of the Office of Economic Development.
Listen for more of her interesting career trajectory, which has gone through unexpected turns because of “nudges” given by mentors and others, resulting in Rebecca’s strong belief in the power of mentorship and giving first.
Then keep listening for actionable advice on how men can be allies to women in the workplace as well as Rebecca’s hilarious dive into why all startup founders should do karaoke.
Companies, people, and resources mentioned in this podcast:
- Backstage Capital
- Create 33
- Marie Curie
- Arlan Hamilton
- Illuminate Ventures
- The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World by Melinda Gates
- Janelle Monáe
- National Center for Women & Information Technology
- Cindy Padnos
- Eleanor Roosevelt
- Lucy Sanders
- Sayulita, Mexico
- Chrissy Teigen
Edited highlights from the conversation:
The secret sauce of the Seattle startup ecosystem
Rebecca: As I like to say, the secret sauce of the Seattle startup ecosystem is coffee. And it’s not just because we’re so highly caffeinated, but that can’t hurt. I think it’s that we have this undercurrent of collegiality and collaboration where you can get a cup of coffee with anyone that you want or need to meet. You combine that ethos with the lived experience of entrepreneurs and investors who just raised their hands and said Yes to supporting Techstars. That’s the moment that [Techstars Seattle, which started in 2010] stepped into. And now, you know, almost 10 years later there are 40 coworking spaces, there are 80 engineering centers located in greater Seattle. Facebook has the biggest footprint in Seattle, outside of its headquarters. We’re not just a one horse town dominated by Microsoft or even two horses, Microsoft and Amazon. It’s a really rich ecosystem. But you got here at pretty interesting inflection point in our story about ourselves as a community.
How can men be allies?
Brad: I’ve been very involved in an organization called National Center for Women & Information Technology for a number of years.
Rebecca: Lucy Sanders, absolutely.
Brad: I was board chair for a while and worked very closely with Lucy, and I learned a lot about this notion of male advocates or male allies. And I’d love to hear, in your words, how men can help around the issue of diversity and inclusion. From your frame of reference as a woman, how can men be allies?
Rebecca: Absolutely. I gave a couple of examples of when men can use their power and their privilege to promote women. The first case in my own personal history was that recruiter who happened to be a man who convinced me that I was management material and my classmate who was a man who convinced me that I just win things. They both had positions that they leveraged to open a door for me knowing that I would succeed. Those are just a couple of small examples.
I also think it’s in just everyday behavior and creating a discipline around making room for women. I kind of don’t like the phrase ‘lifting up’ women. What you really need to do is quit pushing us down. But here’s one way you can make room for us. I can’t tell you how many meetings I’ve been in, whether it’s in the tech sector or in city hall, where I’ll be one of just a few women in the room, and men categorically have a tendency to talk over us.
For example, if my colleague Jessica would make a point and the man running the meeting would run over her, I would make a point of saying, “to Jessica’s point,” then repeat what she said—it’s very critical to use her name—and then maybe add my piece to it. This is a technique that men can use. You can amplify women’s voices, but I can’t tell you how important it is to use their name when you do it. If you just repeat what she said, you will instantly be given credit for it. So be mindful of sharing credit, you know, shining a light on the incredibly important voices of women. Those are just small daily practices that you can engage in.
And then I think writ large, if you look at the deplorable share—disproportionately low share—of venture capital investment that women get, part of it is about the institutional bias that might be brought into a partner meeting on a Monday afternoon, where your bias is going to be towards investing in men. But the real issue that was uncovered by Illuminate Ventures out of the Bay Area, Cindy Padnos’ group, is you literally have to take more meetings with women. If you think about the venture funnel, if you take 900 meetings over the course of the year and that gets you to nine deals, you want to start at the top of the funnel by taking as many meetings with women entrepreneurs as you can.
So that’s a daily behavior change: just think about ways to find and say Yes to meetings with women entrepreneurs, and over time, both by changing the behavior of the men who dominate the VC industry and making room for more women to become investors and lead a VC firms—like Arlan Hamilton and Backstage Capital—that’s when we start changing the narrative and changing the results.
Karaoke as a metaphor for pitching your startup
Rebecca: The point of Karaoke is that it is 40% song selection, and in startup language that’s product market fit. You need to know your range, that’s your product, and you need to read the room, know your audience and try to pick a song that’s gonna resonate with them—that you can sing. That step one, that’s 40%. 50% of it is just selling it, getting on stage and acting like you own it. And that comes down to the grind and the execution that startups face. And if you do the math, that only leaves 10% for talent.
I love Karaoke, as I said, almost as much as I love entrepreneurship.
Rapid fire round
Brad: All right. First one. Favorite city in the world other than Seattle.
Rebecca: Well, would it be to visit, to live, to retire?
Brad: Oh, you get to define the way you answer the question.
Rebecca: All right. Just because I have such a hard time unplugging and truly chilling out and getting off the grid, I would say Sayulita in Jalisco, Mexico. I’m a scuba diver and there is no better way to get off the grid than sitting around with great food, amazing beach. This little town probably has as many chickens and dogs as it does people. And I’m almost hesitant to say it because it’s been this beautifully kept secret, but I love it there.
Brad: Second one, how about a book that you’ve read recently that you thought was fascinating?
Rebecca: Yeah, I have been this total podcast and audio book junkie of late and the one that I just finished up is Melinda Gates’ Moment of Lift, and it’s not for the philanthropy—I think that commitment as well known and the impact is well known.
I love reading books and learning stories when I can get some new insight. And what I loved about this book was hearing directly from the author—Melinda read the audio book—and she had this, what I think is a real startup-y, entrepreneurial approach to their theory of change. Like they went into the market of the developing world, knowing that there was a global crisis around children’s health and easily preventable diseases.
Their plan was to focus on kids, but when they did their customer discovery phase, in startup parlance, they spoke with so many women, mothers and learned that the most life changing thing they could do would be to provide birth control for these mothers. So they went in with a set of assumptions, but they did such a great job of listening. They pivoted to where they felt like they could make the biggest impact. That was a wonderful discovery that I got through that book.
Brad: I’d strongly recommend that book as well. I read it a couple of weeks ago and I think it’s going to be on my list of top nonfiction or memoir-type books of the year. I don’t know Melinda Gates personally, but you really get to know her from the book, which was another thing. It’s very hard for an author to do when they are going after a specific topic, and not have it just be an autobiography, and this certainly isn’t. You really get a sense of her as you read it, which is awesome.
A charity that you’d urge people to get involved in and why, especially for the listeners in Seattle?
Rebecca: Absolutely. I am a huge fan of a program called Apprenti that was launched by the Washington Technology Industry Association. This directly addresses the talent shortage that we have in the tech sector and seeks equitably shared prosperity. This is an accelerated training program for career changers who are seeking living wages and meaningful careers in IT. And they primarily focus on barriered and underrepresented populations like women, like people of color, like justice-involved individuals, like veterans. A remarkable story. They’ve now served hundreds of graduates with life-changing training.
Brad: Last question. Guns N’ Roses themed: If you could have dinner with anyone dead or alive.
Rebecca: Hmm. So I was a history major in college and have long been an admirer of Eleanor Roosevelt, just in terms of her commitment to race and social justice and gender equity. But if I were hosting, I would make it a dinner party and I would have Eleanor Roosevelt, Marie Curie, Janelle Monáe, and Chrissy Teigen. I think that would be a delightful party.
Brad: That’s a great group.
Thanks for the time today. And more importantly, thanks for all the awesome stuff you do for entrepreneurs and for everybody, both in Seattle and everywhere else.
Techstars Includes Diverse LEADers is our series highlighting diverse members of the Techstars Network. Techstars is committed to having a meta-impact on diversity in the tech space by encouraging a new generation of entrepreneurs to build inclusive companies from the very start, because we know diverse teams perform better and we believe inclusive companies will create a better future.
Today, meet Carrie Shuler.
Carrie Shuler in her own words:
I have a Masters Degree in Communication. In 2011 I began my creative journey, working for multiple award winning media companies as a content curator, producer, creative writer, and stylist. You can find my portfolio here. I founded my first company at the age of 24. It became a social media craze reaching 40k organic followers in just a few short months.
I am currently the Co-Founder at Stark Mobility (8.1k likes on FB). We were seeing $30K+ in monthly sales online of our electric skateboard with only $5 in ad spend. Almost all sales were coming from our social media and email marketing efforts. As the CMO I was in charge of all online customer touch points including the blog, IG, FB, product updates, photos & videos. Stark Mobility is now part of Startup Autobahn powered by Plug and Play and running a pilot program with a large German automotive.
Additionally I am the Berlin lead for the SoGal Foundation, the largest global platform for the education and empowerment of diverse entrepreneurs and investors. Our mission is to close the diversity gap in tech.
How Carrie LEADs:
Read the book “The 5 am Club,” and don‘t be afraid to be bold and ask for what you want.
Every woman that I have worked with in my life has had an impact on me.
One person in particular was my boss at CBS, Michelle Moder. We were working on a show called Hawaii Five-0. She was ruthless if you weren‘t on top of your game and the most generous person on earth when you were. She held herself accountable to her work and stayed true to her values. It takes a very strong person to lead an operation as big as ours was, and she did it with grace and humor.
She is the strongest, hardest working woman I have ever met, and I truly hope to work with her again one day.
- Have enough money in the bank or a consistent revenue stream to sustain yourself for 6-12 months before fundraising.
- Be open to opportunity. Give new experiences a chance, they will open your eyes to new ideas, implementations, market opportunities, and true passions.
- Bring people onto your team who are better than you.
- Don‘t jump the gun with co-founders. WAIT until you find the right person who compliments your strengths and weaknesses. The wrong person can turn your passion into a nightmare.
Competition. I want to be the best.
What makes you YOU?
I‘m a fighter! I‘ve been a tennis player since I was four and started training professionally when I was 14. My mind is programmed to take every day or challenge like it‘s a tennis match. Point by point. The game is never over until you shake hands!
Techstars and Hillstone Partners launch accelerator program in Pangyo, Korea
BOULDER, Colo. – July 9, 2019 – Techstars, the worldwide network that helps entrepreneurs succeed, and Hillstone Partners, a boutique capital consultancy firm specializing in startup business, announced today the launch of the Techstars Korea Accelerator in partnership with Hillstone Partners. The new three-month mentorship-driven accelerator program, Techstars first in Korea, will source 10 top performing startups per year. The accelerator will support and nourish the Korean startup ecosystem and is open to startups focused on digital and tech innovation across a variety of business verticals.
The accelerator will be hosted at the Pangyo Techno Valley campus (PTV), a business and innovation hub focused on information technology, biotech, cultural tech, and fusion tech. PTV is located in the major metropolitan area of Pangyo, Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province, South Korea, also known as the Silicon Valley of Korea, approximately 30 minutes from downtown Seoul.
Techstars expansion to Korea marks its commitment to continued global expansion and efforts to help entrepreneurs succeed across the world. Korea is an attractive market for Techstars, considering the country’s recent rise on the scene as a global startup hub, the active and well-designed innovation ecosystem, and the support from public and private sectors of the nation’s tech scene. Techstars will join the ranks of other US-based tech companies such as Google and Facebook that have set up shop in past years.
“Korea’s booming startup sector and Pangyo’s thriving tech ecosystem are the perfect ingredients for this accelerator program,” said Will Robinson, Vice President Asia Pacific Sales at Techstars. “With Hillstone Partners’ 10+ year commitment to the region’s startup community, and our experience propelling startup growth through mentorship and the Techstars network, we are well positioned to deliver an incredible and impactful accelerator in Pangyo. This is a very exciting move for Techstars, considering Korea’s access to other major Asian markets, the country’s massive internal market, and the public and private sector’s interest in mobilizing the tech industry.”
“Working with Techstars, we are excited to help develop growth opportunities and international and global impact for Korean startups,” said Rayol Hwang, CEO at Hillstone Partners. “Given Techstars expertise running accelerator programs across the world, as well as its deep network, we know this partnership will drive a significant degree of long-term impact, growth, and success for our startup community in Pangyo. This partnership will drive the continued development of our startup ecosystem and contribute meaningfully to our country’s focus on and dedication to South Korea’s status as a major startup, tech and innovation leader.”
Applications for Techstars Korea in partnership with Hillstone Partners will open in December of 2019, with the program running from June 2020 through September 2020. Startup companies interested in learning more about the program are encouraged to contact Techstars or visit the Techstars Korea in partnership with Hillstone Partners page .
Techstars is the worldwide network that helps entrepreneurs succeed. Techstars founders connect with other entrepreneurs, experts, mentors, alumni, investors, community leaders, and corporations to grow their companies. Techstars operates three divisions: Techstars Startup Programs, Techstars Mentorship-Driven Accelerator Programs, and Techstars Corporate Innovation Partnerships. Techstars accelerator portfolio includes more than 1,700 companies with a market cap of $20 Billion. www.techstars.com
About Hillstone Partners
Hillstone Partners was originally established as CGI Korea in December 2010 as a private equity fund manager. Hillstone has since delivered expertise in IT, gaming and clean technology sectors with a strong network of influence in the Asia Pacific. Since founding, Hillstone played key roles in cross-border M&A, helping Korean startups access foreign markets. Recently, it established a blockchain-cryptocurrency fund to connect startups with global VCs, contributing to the development of the technology-based startup ecosystem in Korea.
Pascale Hyboud-Peron, Co-founder and Director of Venture Centre, has an awesome Twitter bio: “Creating connections and exploring intersections between people and ideas by delivering meaningful opportunities to do good stuff together #entrepreneurship.”
Meaningful Opportunities to do Good Stuff Together
Pascale’s dedication to entrepreneurship goes far beyond digital self-presentation. Shortly after attending her own first Techstars Startup Weekend in 2013 in Tauranga, New Zealand, Pascale met her Venture Centre co-founders, and together they started this entrepreneurship hub and social enterprise designed to support and grow entrepreneurship in Tauranga: “When not coordinating programmes or producing events in our coworking space, I spend time on exploring and strengthening generative relationships and partnerships to ensure our community of entrepreneurs can access the resources they need to take the next leg of their journey,” Pascale says. “We work with founders with ideas to solve social and environmental problems, from the very early stage past ideation through proof of concept to their first drop sheet.”
Supporting People’s Empowerment
Pascale started her career as a teacher, before discovering her inner entrepreneur. “I was definitely not born an entrepreneur, nor did I call myself one until only very recently,” she says, “But the passion for supporting people’s empowerment has always been there.” She sees that as the through-line that connects her first career in education with her second in entrepreneurship.
Since 2014, Pascale has been organizing and then facilitating Techstars Startup Weekends all over New Zealand, although she likes to point out that she is constantly “playing an ever diminishing role :-)” That’s because she focuses on “enabling fresh energy and commitment, with a view to renew the crew incrementally and maintain the event firmly on our local ecosystem’s calendar.” Pascale knows that the best way to help others is to teach them, and encourage them to help themselves.
Pascale gets most passionate when talking about ventures that she has seen come out of Techstars Startup Weekend, or that she has been able to help through Venture Centre, such as SeeSpray and CLOser. These are both ventures that solve social problems—the founder of SeeSpray was concerned about the pesticides being sprayed on a neighboring orchard when her kids were playing outside, and CLOser tackles affordable housing and sustainable co-housing communities—and both, as Pascale notes, have “all female founders!”
Pascale’s big goal is to help “create new ventures that do good for our people and our planet. I want to help this change happen faster.”
What’s Your Twitter Bio?
Go look at your own Twitter bio. Go ahead, do it. And take a moment to ask yourself if you’re being who you want to be, living the life that you show the world on social media.
Pascale is. If you want to ask her how she does it, you can connect with her on Twitter, or meet her at Tauranga Startup Weekend_Sustainable Development Goals edition, coming up on 30 August 2019.
In January 2018, John Geyer took on an expanded role at MetLife, the Manhattan-based insurer: CEO of MetLife Digital Ventures, overseeing direct investments into startups as well as a new startup accelerator run in North Carolina, where the company has a technology campus. Geyer is also MetLife’s Chief Innovation Officer. We spoke with him about how he works with colleagues to understand new capabilities they need; how the company works with venture capital firms; and a new program modeled after E-ZPass, intended to enable MetLife to launch pilot tests and proof-of-concepts more quickly.
Making the Case
One of the four pillars of our enterprise strategy is operational excellence, and under that is a sub-pillar called external orientation. Leadership takes that seriously. It could be a customer orientation, and really understanding and having empathy for the customer. It could be orientation around competitors and the industry. And it could also be around what the next generation of capabilities will be…
The drumbeat of external orientation has been going on for a number of years, and it is now an embedded expectation in our leadership team that when you think through opportunities and challenges, you’re doing it with an external orientation.
Bringing the Business In
We interview 100-plus leaders across MetLife each year and ask them, “What capabilities would give you strategic advantage?” We do it with claims people, salespeople, underwriting people, and product people. We collect their requirements, and we share them with the VC firms and say, “Here are the things that our businesspeople are looking for. Whaddaya got?” They’ll make intros [to startups they have invested in], and my team will work with an internal group to drive proof-of-concepts to see if those emerging capabilities [can help our business].
We’ve driven more than 100 proof of concepts over the last four years, and about 30 of those have turned into commercial agreements.
In our vernacular, a pilot is when you put [something] in front of customers. A POC is proving it out within the company. Some things might be internal tools for us, like a cyber tool that can strengthen our environment. For that, we’ll do a POC to validate it.
Our Venture Capital Strategy
When it comes to startups, we made a decision as an enterprise over ten years ago that we were going to invest in the venture capital firms themselves as part of our overall investment portfolio. We invest hundreds of billions of our customers’ money so that we can pay them back when we need to. Most is invested very conservatively, but we have taken a small portion and put it into alternative investments like hedge funds, private equity, and venture capital. Today we have north of $1 billion invested in 17 of the leading venture capital firms…so that gives us a unique vantage point [about] where the markets are going, and where innovation is going.
A next evolutionary step [that] we’ve taken is that very often, one or more of these 17 venture capital firms will come to us and say, “We’ve come across this company, and we think it’s particularly strategically relevant to you.” In the past, we’d say, “We really don’t do that type of direct investing.” We didn’t spin up an internal corporate VC group [to source] deals or lead deals. But we have freed up $100 million so that when those opportunities come our way, we can participate alongside of our VC partners. The only circumstance where we’d make a co-investment is if we believe that the capability that the company has is strategically relevant to MetLife, and can create new forms of customer value. An example of that last year was Enigma, [a startup focused on extracting intelligence from data].
Launching a New Accelerator
Last year, we announced that we had entered into an agreement with Techstars to create the MetLife Digital Accelerator, powered by Techstars. They’ve been around for years, and have had a track record of success…
The term accelerator has taken on lots of different definitions and meanings. When we really looked beneath the covers of Y Combinator, and 500 Startups, and the regional ones, many of them are just about, “Hey, startups, join our network and we’ll provide you some informal coaching, plus a little seed capital.” What we liked about Techstars is it is…a defined, 13-week intensive program, where the founders have to co-locate on your campus. That’s unique and powerful, and it explains a lot of the success they’ve had. … We dedicate MetLife people from all over the company to be mentors—people that range from product to channel to operations, claims, strategy, technology…
We ran our first program with them in Cary, N.C. last fall, and graduated 10 companies. We’re recruiting 10 companies for this year’s accelerator. [Techstars] believes that each one gets better. It’s not the kind of thing you do once, declare victory, and go home.
… In the most recent accelerator, we had a range of companies [at various stages of product maturity]. A couple were really concepts that just needed to be fleshed out. Some had a very primitive minimum viable product, but three or four had a product you could put in front of customers. All of that is interesting to us. The earlier we can get in, and help shape it and direct it towards the needs of our customers, the better.
From the accelerator, we are looking to pilot in some way…with six of the ten companies that participated.
Innovation Starts in Labs and Universities
Innovation is a chain, and it starts very early with invention in labs and universities, where you have students creating new capabilities, but not necessarily thinking about commercialization. We have a very strategic partnership with the MIT Media Lab…
Some Startup Engagement Examples
We have worked with a company called Captricity [now known as Vidado], which does optical character recognition on steroids. Their technology ingests documents, even handwritten documents, with an accuracy rate that in many ways exceeds human capabilities. And in our business, there are a fair amount of paper documents still, when you’re dealing with doctors and dental records. We’re implementing it all over the company now very successfully.
Enroll Hero is a startup from our accelerator. Our mission is to help people navigate life, particularly during difficult times. When people are getting ready to retire and choosing a Medicare plan, it can be complicated and overwhelming. Enroll Hero allows you to enter profile information about yourself. It has all of the details of the different plans and options, and it presents the plan best-suited for your needs, [taking into account] your age and health and state. We piloted it with some MetLife customers, and we were very surprised at the take-up rate…
From the very beginning, we looked at measuring success through two lenses. One is activity, and one is results. Often, people say, “My company only cares about results; activity is bad.” But in the world of innovation, if you don’t drive the right activities, you don’t get the right results.
For us, an activity would be saying, “We’re going to interview 120 people this year, and identify 25 POCs or pilots, and enter into 8 or 10 contracts this year. We also run internal innovation programs, like brainstorming sessions and facilitated sessions. So we keep track of how many associates we engaged, and how many managers we trained. Those are all activities.[Results include things like] how much growth we generated, or how much efficiency. Did we improve associate engagement or enhance the customer experience. Those four measures are the four categories we measure to judge the success of the program.
One of the things that has frustrated the startups and the VC world for decades is how slow large companies move when it comes to pilots and POCs. It is really the Achille’s heel…
We wanted to create an effort called Pilot E-ZPass—it became known as Pilot Onboard Process. We met with the people across MetLife in procurement, legal, regulatory, architecture—all of the different constituencies who have a say when a vendor comes in. We said, “We want an E-ZPass system for these small vendors that isn’t weighted down by bureaucracy. Everyone bought in. We rolled it out last year. [It covers both pilots and proof-of-concepts.]
From the beginning, we said we wanted it to be less than a month [to get a pilot or proof-of-concept approved]. If it’s less than a month, it’s good. It took quite a while to bring everyone along, because you want to protect the corporation. We had to really educate them about what were trying to accomplish—that we were not trying to do end-runs around important provisions of contracts. I would say it took probably a year from when we conceived of doing it to when it was fully implemented. But the first half of it was introductory meetings and selling. The last half was creating documents and getting decision rights clear.