GradeSlam, a Techstars Startup Next Montreal Alumni, Raises $1.6M

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GradeSlam, a Techstars Startup Next Montreal alumni in the Education Technology field, has successfully raised a $1.6 Million Seed Round led by Birchmere Ventures

Founded by a former educator Philip Cutler, the Montreal-based EdTech startup GradeSlam is the online learning center that specializes in humanized adaptive learning for students K-12, and has facilitated over 350,000 tutoring sessions with students in over 80 countries. Their personalized educational support equips teachers and administrators with actionable insights on how students learn outside of the classroom.

The tutoring industry’s business model has always been to charge students by the hour for each session. But that model is flawed, according to Philip Cutler, CEO of GradeSlam: “Students shouldn’t pay for the hour,” he says. “They should pay to have access to these people whenever they need them.”

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Gradeslam is a startup graduated from Techstars Startup Next Montreal cohort. Other startups from the Montreal program include NavutLogrrMakerbloksNukernAsk-PamCrema AppRentHunt and many more.


At Techstars, we believe in the idea that no one is “too far along” for Techstars. Conversely, nothing is too early. Techstars has a program for every step of the entrepreneurial journey – from startup programs like Startup Digest, Startup Week, Startup Weekend and Startup Next to later stage offerings, including the accelerator program and venture capital for add-on funding.


Startup Next HK Spring 2016 teams need your help!

Just 5 weeks after our previous article, Startup Next Hong Kong Spring 2016 is almost over. We have been impressed by the teams’ progress and are confident that they will do great after the pre-accelerator. Big thanks to W Hub, for organising this edition with us and Jessica Choi from Hirely.

Continue reading “Startup Next HK Spring 2016 teams need your help!”

Startup Next Hong Kong Spring 2016 Cohort!

Startup Next Hong Kong is proud to present you the 8 teams that were selected for our second cohort!

When we brought UP Global’s programs (now Techstars Startup Programs) to Hong Kong in November 2011, little did we know how big our community would be 4 years later. Excitingly, we went from half a dozen of organisers to over 50; 70 alumni to 1,500+ and 1 edition to 16! An additional achievement is bringing Startup Next to Hong Kong for a cohort in fall 2015.


Startup Next, a Techstars program, is the #1 startup pre-acceleration program in the world

It prepares startups for accelerators and seed investment, by providing high quality mentorship and leveraging a global network of investors, mentors and founders.

The program is designed in such a way that founders are able to continue building their product, since it’s part time and consists of 3-hour weekly sessions for 6 weeks. The program is free of charge and no equity is taken.

Even though Startup Next is part of Techstars, it’s not exclusively preparing startups for Techstars accelerator programs.  Over time we have built a strong network of accelerators and investors worldwide and work closely with them to refer our accelerator/investor-ready alumni.

Read more here and our alumna’s journey (Jessica Choi from Hirely).



We are back for Spring 2016 and things look great already!

With the help of W Hub, we selected 8 teams out of 81 applications and met them for the first time on April 5th. The entrepreneurs will be under a lot of pressure to grow their business and make sure they are ready to pitch at our Demo Day late May.

  • myfairtool – digital solution to increase business results on trade shows
  • – a DIY platform to create interactive music lessons
TapTab team
  • ME Solution – E-Learning Platform for High School Students
Me Solution
  • Pilgrim Coffee – a community-built worldwide map of specialty coffee
Pilgrim Coffee
  • Vaultarch – securing the world’s collectable cards against counterfeit, fraud & loss
Vaultarch team
  • Todi – smart door lock using Bluetooth and Wi-Fi technologies
  • Coinvenience – machines converting spare foreign currencies into useful outputs
Coinvenience Team
  • Steel Available – marketplace for customized steel products dedicated to the heavy industry

Steel Available


We have partnered with great organisations to provide opportunities for our teams and open doors for them:

You can find more about our lead mentors, mentors and speakers on our event’s page here.


The Startup Next Hong Kong Spring 2016 is co-organised with W Hub and co-directed with Karen Farzam (W Hub), Jessica Choi (Hirely) and Matthieu Bodin (Techstars Startup Programs).
The previous cohort was run with the help of and took place at venues from wonderful partners: KPMG, blueprint, Paperclip, Brinc, Infiniti Lab and DBS Vault.

Follow us on Twitter and Facebook to find our updates.


Hirely’s Startup Next Accelerator Journey

This post has been written by Thomas Merritt – Find the article on Medium

Last year, Hirely was selected to join the first batch in Hong Kong of Startup Next, a Techstars program. Startup Next is the #1 startup pre-acceleration program in the world and was designed in a way that founders are able to continue building their product. The first edition was co-directed with Nest and Startup Weekend HK.

The timing was perfect for our startup as we were in the final stages of product development, gained steady traction with beta users and demonstrated proof of concept in a controlled group.

Joining the accelerator program helped us focus on our business goals, set objective KPIs and measure our progress from week to week. During the 6 weeks, we perfected our pitch, sharpened our business model and gained an invaluable business network.

Here are the top five takeaways from Startup Next:

  1. Test, test, test again.

We were reminded early that no simulation compares with getting live feedback early from the target market. We met and interviewed over 135 party vendors and entertainers in Hong Kong to test our product along every stage — from an idea on a napkin to a prototype to final launch product. Without testing with our potential customers, Hirely would not be as useful to them as it is today. Meet your market, understand their pain points, internalize feedback and tweak your solution. And repeat.

2. KPIs & accountability are king.

You can’t underestimate the importance of measuring quantitative progress. We were required to develop a set of KPIs to be accountable for every week. This enabled us to measure your progress step by step as well as keeping close count of what works and what doesn’t. Setting yourself growth targets is key but identifying the right parameters is just as important and they vary from one startup to the other. To this day (3 months on), we still use similar weekly KPI metrics that we developed from the Startup Next program.

3. Jump back into the arena.

It’s better to draw a blank during a test pitch then on demo day. To prepare for my first solo pitch, I practiced a one-minute pitch for days to perfection. However, under pressure, I lost focus and, in a blink, the pitch was over before I could recover. As embarrassing as it was, it was a useful reminder that things don’t always go to plan. In spite of the bruised ego, I put this behind me and delivered a 3-minute final pitch effortlessly a few weeks later.

Hirely Pitching
Our Startup Next final pitch


4. You get what you put in.

Joining an accelerator (or pre-accelerator) program is a big commitment in both time and work. Do your research, identify in advance what you want to get out of the program and from the mentors. Once you’re in the program, respect your own and others’ time by putting in the effort that’s required to get your startup to the next level. Everyone is there to help you along the way, but if you don’t pull your own weight, all efforts are lost.

5. Invest in your network.

The raw energy from being in a room with like-minded individuals with a common hunger was addictive. It was inspiring to see so many people volunteering their time to offer mentorship and support the start-up community. Through the network of Startup Next, we sponsored our first event and met business partners. Two mentors from Startup Next remain to be our advisors today.

Startup Next crew partying with Hirely
Startup Next crew partying with Hirely

Startup Next is back in Hong Kong for round two this spring with a kick-ass list of mentors. This time, it will be co-directed by W Hub. I encourage early-stage startups looking to join world-class accelerator programs or kickstart fundraising efforts to apply. Applications are due on March 22nd and you can submit yours here. Feel free to reach out to me at thomas[at] or hk[at] with other questions.

Tom is the cofounder of Hirely, an online marketplace that simplifies the way people find, compare and hire curated event professionals that make their events truly unique. Hirely recently launched in HK.

Applications open for San Antonio's first Startup Next!

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February 2016

Applications for San Antonio’s first ever Startup Next are open! What does that mean for our community? Startups with great ideas looking to to learn from experts, receive standout mentorship and perfect their pitches are in luck. Techstars now offers a pre-accelerator program that prepares startups to apply to accelerators and pitch seed investors. The program runs for six weeks on Tuesday evenings starting April 19th. Founders will have plenty of time outside of the program to work on their companies.

If you’re an early stage startup looking to take your company to the next level, apply by April 5th to be considered for the program! Startup Next is completely free and sponsored by Geekdom. Click here to begin your application! 

Who will lead the program? Blake Yeager and Luke Owen will manage Startup Next. Founders will benefit from Blake’s experience as Managing Director of Techstars and earlier work with Rackspace, ZeroVM and Gandi Innovations. Companies can also learn from Luke’s startup and operational experience as Geekdom’s COO and prior work with TrueAbility and Rackspace. More mentors and experts will support the program as well.

Topics covered in Startup Next will include pitching, customer development, market sizing, product/market fit and fundability. Sessions will begin at 6 pm each Tuesday with a talk from an expert. Founders will then have an hour to practice their pitches. Finally, sessions end with feedback from mentors.

Once again, apply by April 5th to be part of San Antonio’s first ever Startup Next!

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Startup Next Demo Day Dublin – VIDEO

After 6 weeks with mentorship, awesome speakers and lots and lots of pitching, our delightful Startup Next Dublin cohort number two were ready for their demo day!

In total 6 teams demoed on the day (with one video pitch put in to the mix from a team that was overseas getting new customers!).

If you would like to apply to our next program then just click HERE to find out latest Dublin program or programs located near you around the world.

You can check out the video below to learn more about Startup Next and our band of burgeoning startups from Startup Dublin Cohort 2.

Startup Next Demo Day Dublin image


Startup Next Telluride Open for Applications!

Hi everyone, my name is Marc. I recently moved to Telluride this year and have been doing as much as I can in my spare time to help build the startup community here. It continues to amaze me how many amazingly talented people are working on great things here already…. and no one ever knew it! It turns out you can live in a small mountain town, enjoy the amazing quality of life it offers, and solve real problems in the world!

I’m teaming up with Scot Ennis, another recent transplant to put on Startup Next. This is a “pre accelerator” program that I helped create about 4 years ago, and has been hosted over 120 times over 40 cities around the world. We believe that this program will be an amazing complement to the Telluride Venture Accelerator program and will target companies that might be slightly earlier stage.

We’re in the process of assembling a world class mentor list and recruiting some great teams. If you join us, we’ll build an incredible cohort of teams working on companies based in Telluride (that serve markets beyond just our amazing little box canyon).

If you’re working on something cool and could use a little help or know someone who is, have them apply now! Please don’t hesitate to reach out and ask any questions or join us at the upcoming Telluride Entrepreneurs Meetup on December 10th at the Hub…. oh yeah, check out the site too and give us any feedback!

Announcing the first cohort of Startup Next Hong Kong Fall 2015

Startup Next, a pre-acceleration program run by Techstars, is kicking off in Hong Kong with the help of Nest VC. The free program provides local entrepreneurs the opportunity to work with great mentors and coaches to get their business to the next level.

We have been organising Startup Weekend in Hong Kong since 2011 and through the 12 editions, we were able to positively impact over 1,000 participants. We are humbled by the passion people show during the intense 54 hours program. Complete strangers come together to create their very own tech startups and with hard work, make it a sustainable and fast growing company. We start to see the important impact of our events on the Hong Kong Startup Ecosystem and that encourages us to move forward.

Based on general feedback from Startup Weekend, we discovered that we could and needed to go one step further to help entrepreneurs in the following areas:

  • A deeper dive in the customer discovery and development processes;
  • More hands-on mentorship from experienced entrepreneurs;
  • Clear focus on preparing projects to successfully apply and get accepted into world-class accelerators and raise seed funding.

To help startups with these challenges, we have brought Startup Next to Hong Kong for the first time! As an example of its quality in different cities around the globe, the program has assisted over 20 startups to get into top accelerators, including Techstars and 500 Startups, while 11 more startups have collectively raised $11.1M for their seed rounds in 2014.


How does Startup Next work?

Startup Next is a six weeks, mentor driven pre-acceleration program that brings established teams together for three hour sessions on one evening each week.

The three key components of the program are:

  • Working 1:1 with top local mentors to address the main challenges each startup is facing, in order to help get the team focused on growth.
  • Learning from successful entrepreneurs about their experience on various topics like Product / Market fit or funding, which are crucial for founders to understand.
  • Getting feedback from a group of mentors on the strategy, execution and startup pitch.


Startup Next Hong Kong is run in a collaboration with Nest VC and a number of community partners, venues and the most amazing people helping startups and entrepreneurs to reach the next level. We’re proud to team up with some of the greatest co-working spaces in Hong Kong to host our teams for each session. Startup Next participants will discover KPMG, Blueprint,, Paperclip, the Infiniti Lab and the DBS Vault.


We are excited to announce the 7 teams that will take part of Startup Next Hong Kong this Fall 2015:

  • Limezy, -> a leisure learning video platform focused on food and beverage;
  • Salon7, -> a professional space for the shared economy of ideas;
  • Smartcasual, -> an iOS app to meet with professionals in the next 3 days with time and location pre-posted;
  • Holumino, -> Spincle is an app to create animated panoramas & generate 3D content in VR;
  • Easy Take, -> end-to-end medical app that includes appointment, payment, recording and medical reminder features;
  • Hirely, -> introducing local event service vendors to individuals and corporates organising events for their upcoming parties;
  • Deal N Ship, -> flash deal site that focuses on luxury “big ticket” items.

The program starts this Saturday and we will share teams’ updates on a regular basis. It is organised and facilitated by Jessica Cheung (, Mark Koester (Techstars), Tony Verb ( and Matthieu Bodin.

Interested in helping these teams, sponsoring or investing? Contact us at for an introduction.

Startup NEXT São Paulo

O Startup NEXT São Paulo 2015 deu por encerradas suas atividades no último dia 05, quando algumas startups que participaram do programa se apresentaram no primeiro NEXT DemoDay, Google – Brasil.

O Programa começou com um Happy Hour tímido e descontraído no dia 10 de março no The Joy Bar, onde as startups se apresentaram entre elas, de forma acanhada, mas com um objetivo muito claro: entrar no mercado com força e competência para progredir a cada semana.

Uma semana depois, no primeiro encontro com mentores, na Gema Ventures, as Startups já demonstravam progresso em seus pitchs e segurança para falar sobre seus modelos de negócios com nossos incríveis mentores, que dispuseram seus tempos e conhecimentos, para entender e instruir nossos desbravadores.

As semanas se passaram e grandes aceleradoras de São Paulo cederam carinhosamente seus espaços para nossos encontros, entre elas a Aceleratech, Wayra, Germinadora e Abril Plug and Play , que trouxeram junto com elas seus representantes e mentores, que abraçaram a causa de coração e se motivaram ainda mais nesse aperfeiçoamento colaborativo dos nosso pupilos.

Não deu outra. No Primeiro DemoDay NEXT, realizado na sede Google Brasil, a reação de todos os presentes, convidados e participantes eram as mesmas: “estou surpreso”, “que orgulho”, “vocês progrediram muito”. Não temos como relatar descritivamente esse progresso de todas, mas a verdade é que as “nossas” Startups estão prontas e maduras para enfrentar o mundo de empreendedorismo.

Nós, da organização, temos imensa gratidão e satisfação por vocês terem confiado seus dados e mais íntimos anseios a nós e nossos colaboradores.

Até o próximo.
Um beijo,

Montreal-based MakerBloks Hits Crowdfunding Goal in Two Days! Wants to Rethink How Kids Learn Electronics

MakerBloks A Montreal startup that wants to teach children about electronics is seeing strong success on Kickstarter, reaching its $25,000 goal on the second day of its crowdfunding campaign. MakerBloks are colourful blocks that allow children to create real electric circuits. A Kickstarter campaign to fund their creation launched on Tuesday morning, raising over $20,000 within 24-hours and reaching its goal on Wednesday afternoon. Francois Poirier, the CEO and creator of MakerBloks says he got the idea while working as a product designer. Clients would come to him with little more than a circuit board and his job was to make the products look good and be easy to use, but he says, “I actually had no idea what they had in their hand, the [printed circuit board] itself was a mystery to me.” Poirier says his then-seven-year-old niece was developing a strong interest in science and technology at the same time so he thought it would be fun for the two of them to learn about electronics together.

“I looked at all the different ways to do it, software, books, DVDs and toys,” he says, but nothing fit. When it comes to toys, he says, “they are all bad, they are all using outdated technology.” He says the toys on the market might make sense to engineers but they don’t make sense to a six-year-old. Having worked as a consultant for Mega Brands, he thought about creating an educational tool that involved bright plastic blocks.

One of the MakerBloks kits being launched as part of the Kickstarter campaign also includes a augmented reality feature – a mirror that attaches to an iPad’s camera and allows children to solve puzzles in a virtual game using their real-world blocks. It’s another thing that Poirier says sets MakerBloks apart from other electronics kits on the market. “They don’t use what the kids are using,” he says. “I thought it was important to adapt to the kids of today.” Still, Poirier says MakerBloks won’t be going entirely virtual. “For me it’s really important to always have the hardware piece, the blocks,” he says. “Because if they are more interested in electronics when they are 10, 12-years-old and they actually want to pick up a soldering iron and build real circuits, it’s always going to be a physical world.” As part of the Kickstarter campaign, MakerBloks is offering several different kits as individual perks, that will help guide future developments from the company. “I think the Kickstarter campaign will actually give us a really good idea of what our audience wants,” Poirier says. That’s a big part of why he decided to launch his product through a crowdfunding campaign. “Gaining visibility and validating the product is the major reason we’re doing the Kickstarter, for sure the funding will help but it’s not the main goal,” he says. “Dollars are the best feedback you can get.” While delivering the MakerBloks on time and living up to the promises made in the Kickstarter campaign is Poirier’s main goal right now, he’s also got his eye on the future. He wants MakerBloks to be the flagship product of a company that’s focused on science, technology, engineering and math learning for kids.

Makerbloks Awards
Makerbloks Press Coverage

Originally posted in TechVibes Canada