Air Force Accelerator Powered by Techstars Proudly Announces Class of 2020

Hot on the heels of a powerhouse 2019 program, Techstars, the U.S. Air Force, NSIN, and BAE Systems FAST Labs, are delighted to announce the 2020 class of the Air Force Accelerator Powered by Techstars.

In 2018 the program launched with the goal of connecting the Air Force to early stage commercially-oriented startups with innovative technologies, and adapting Air Force business processes to match the commercial world – instead of turning startups into full-fledged defense contractors. The first year of our program was a huge success, and in 2019 we welcomed BAE Systems FAST Labs as an additional partner to support the program. For BAE Systems FAST Labs, access to our pool of program applicants provides tremendous insight into current industry trends, and being part of our startup selection process affords a tremendous head-start in integrating our companies technologies into their military systems. Beyond our Air Force and BAE Systems FAST Labs partners, we are grateful to have the support of our sponsors the Air Education and Training Command (AETC), the National Security Innovation Network (NSIN, formerly MD5), AFWERX, the Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) and AFIMSC Tyndall Program Management Office (PMO) for our 2020 program.

Of our 20 alumni companies, 19 have gone on to win a collective $20+ million in Department of Defense contracts from AFWERX/AFRL’s newly re-designed Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)  “Open Topic” program. Many of these companies are also executing proof-of-concept projects from commercial entities and have raised significant private investment as well.

Funded by the U.S. Federal Government, SBIR, also known as the Small Business Innovation Research program, is one of the largest sources of early-stage capital in the United States, and is intended to help small businesses accelerate their dual-use products to market with non-dilutive prototyping contracts. In past years AFWERX and AFRL have transformed the legacy SBIR program to make it more attractive to commercial startups and VCs with generous matching grants – up to $1.5 million – and a much quicker turnaround time for awarding contracting, usually under 30 days.

Selecting the 2020 class of the Air Force Accelerator Powered by Techstars has been the most competitive to date, yielding a group of stellar technologies with both large commercial markets and clear warfighter use cases.  Now, we proudly present the Air Force Accelerator Powered by Techstars class of 2020:

 

Beagle Learning

What’s the best next question? Quantifiable training to help individuals work more effectively in group problem-solving and strategy sessions.

https://www.beaglelearning.com/

 

Lauretta.io

Autonomous Property Management using computer vision.

https://www.lauretta.io/

 

Mesodyne

Mesodyne’s novel ultra-high energy-density compact power generators increase the endurance of small autonomous systems by 10X over batteries alone resulting in increased capability and cost savings.

http://mesodyne.com/

 

MSBAI

Solving the reason most manufacturers don’t use cloud computing in engineering — with GURU, the Ultimate Engineering AI Assistant.

http://msb.ai/

 

PeakMetrics

PeakMetrics leverages data analytics to track media narratives and develop successful digital content faster.

https://www.peakm.com/

 

Southie Autonomy Works

Southie Autonomy makes a Magic Wand for robot arms that enables producers to affordably automate manual tasks regardless of volume and lack of robotics expertise. Our No-Code software platform lets users simply use gestures and voice via augmented reality to task a robot. No programming or engineering, let alone computer skills required.

https://www.southieautonomyworks.com/

 

Spiral Technology

Augmented Reality platform increasing labor productivity of industrial workforce by visualizing technical information.

https://spiral.technology/

 

Target Arm

Target Arm produces Tular, a universal drone launch and recovery platform for moving vehicles, both rotary wing and fixed wing, up to 65+ mph. Tular works for both commercial and military uses.

http://www.targetarm.com/

 

VeriTX

Trusted Digital Marketplace for Aerospace and Beyond.

http://www.veritx.co/

 

Vermeer

AR Enabled Drone Photo and Video.

https://www.getvermeer.com/








Above the Clouds: Three ways partnering with the US Air Force catapulted Techstars alumni to new heights

With yet another application round for the Air Force Accelerator powered by Techstars having closed at the end of October, it is hard to believe that it’s been less than a year since the 2019 batch was initiated. It’s hard to believe, too, just how prolific this past year has been.

Since February, more than a handful of the selected startups have developed their projects from concepts to market-ready products. A number have secured multi-million dollar contracts, and one founder even found himself ringing the Nasdaq bell as winners of the Rice University Business Plan Competition.

On the heels of a very successful inaugural year, this 2019 edition of the Boston-based accelerator program brought together program Managing Director Warren Katz and team with representatives from the US Air Force innovation program AFWERX, the Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) and BAE Systems FAST Labs.  Matched with these esteemed mentors, select startups were awarded the opportunity to embark on a three-month program uniquely designed to speed up and streamline engagements between the Department of Defense (DoD) and early-stage startups.

The already reputable Air Force Accelerator powered by Techstars is open to innovators developing dual-purpose solutions (both commercial and military) for autonomous systems, AR/VR for training and education, advanced concepts for the Air Base of the Future,  as well as any other application that could offer the US military an edge. But in order to maximize growth potential – and thus meet backers’ soaring expectations – teams have been empowered through AFWERX’s new fast-tracked Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) “Open Topic” contracts. A true game-changer, the highly competitive SBIR government funding option is designed to promote and incentivize R&D for dual-purpose technologies potentially suitable for both the private sector and government applications.

Reflecting on the accelerator program’s noteworthy successes, we sat down with three alumni from previous programs to learn how the program and SBIR contracts have helped scale their growth in such a short time. Shahriar Khushrushahi, Founder and CEO of Notch Technologies, David Kovar, Founder and CEO of URSA Inc, and Caleb Carr, founder and CEO of Vita Inclinata Technologies, joined us to elaborate on the key reasons behind the program’s momentum:

1. SBIRs made acceleration more accessible

Back before being accepted to the 2019 program, Shahriar Khushrushahi was already aware of SBIR contracts as one of the only funding options available for concept-stage products like the metamaterial he was developing to amplify the range of antennas. He knew what it could mean for his idea.

“The SBIR process was perfect for an entirely new concept like Notch, as there would have been no other way that a product like this could have proliferated in any other ecosystem,” he said. “In regular accelerators, investors want measurable results immediately, but new ideas require more time.”

There was just one problem: like many early-stage innovators, Khushrushahi had been hesitant to apply for SBIR given the lengthy and highly competitive application process. The process included submitting a 25-page technical document and waiting months for the application to be reviewed.

But AFWERX was aware of this obstacle, and took measures to streamline the process, developing the SBIR Open Topics program in 2018. The new option includes a redesigned and more succinct application process; it increases the amount of R&D funding available throughout the three-phase program, and also executes a much quicker turnaround time for grant applications.

“With the new program, you don’t have to do 25 pages, only a 5-page technical document and 15 slides which you can do in a day, and you can get an answer in one week.” Khushrushahi recollected. “Whereas the original application process took up to four months, now reaching stage 2 funding of $750K-$1.875M can be completed in just three months.”

And as application time decreased, the rate of funding approvals has jumped. Whereas before only a handful of contracts were approved for each specific round of the SBIR program, an Air Force recruitment sprint earlier this year awarded more than 450 R&D contracts, totaling $140 million, in just 12 days.

David Kovar emphasizes just how streamlined the process has become for applicants: “Now, the output from phase one leads directly into phase two, and the documents needed to pass onto the next stage are pretty much the same documents submitted at the end of the last stage. The process is improving year over year.”

Program partners also play a huge role in helping startups to secure SBIR funding. During the most recent program, experts from BAE Systems FAST Labs team not only helped startups like smileML complete and submit their SBIR applications, they also provided letters of support for startups such as FortifyEdge who was successfully awarded a SBIR Contract with AFWERX USAF.

These types of endorsements from industry leaders like BAE Systems are invaluable, and dramatically improve the chances of a project being awarded government funding. In a handful of cases, partners have even gone a step further and teamed up with startups as subcontractors on their projects too.

2. The partnership created invaluable connections for real business growth

Asked about the principal reason behind the success of the Air Force Accelerator powered by Techstars, each of the three founders we spoke to stressed the shared passion, expertise, and support of Techstars, AFWERX, AFRL and BAE Systems FAST Labs.

David Kovar, who took part in the 2018 program and continues to participate as a mentor, believes that the sense of community, as well as the energy for collaboration and support, are fundamental to the program’s track record of driving real business growth. He praised the program’s philosophy of encouraging startups to ‘pay it forward’ via collaboration, explaining that the approach not only helped foster personal bonds but also facilitated a number of solid business deals. With good reason, he himself has brought on board an alumni member as commercial partner for his innovative UAV data analysis platform.

Caleb Carr had more to add. Carr has previously taken part in other aerospace-focused accelerator programs around the US, working to develop technology that eliminates the swing during helicopter hoisting-and-sling load missions. He argues that the Air Force Accelerator offers an unrivaled advantage by coupling a direct relationship with key players from the DoD and the business growth experience awarded via work with Warren Katz’s team. Carr noted that while there has been a big push for DoD innovation in recent years, these relationships provided his team a much needed conduit and mechanism for engaging this community, and for understanding what innovation really means for DoD.

In the past, securing DoD contracts had the ill fame of taking years due to red tape and complicated administration systems – something that does not jibe well with the fast-paced world of startup innovation. However, Carr, whose company has since procured upwards of $75M in pending contracts, explained that having direct access to AF advisors well versed in DoD processes streamlined the process a tenfold.

“The Air Force is dealing with hundreds of potential contractors at any time. The likelihood of us being able to get quick answers, and quick reactions from our home base in Seattle would be minimal.” Carr stated. “However, being here in the same ecosystem, allowed us to close a contract in nine days, and boosted our ability to exponentially grow within the DoD.”

3. The program offered a structured path for lightning-speed commercialization

On top of SBIR’s singular funding options, and in addition to the propitious contacts afforded through the program, the remaining factor behind the accelerator’s success has been its fast-paced, comprehensive approach to ensuring startups are prepared. And ‘preparedness,’ explained our three interviewees, means not just readiness to close government funding, but also to succeed in the private market.

The SBIR is a three-phase program that rapidly takes founders from the concept validation phase to developing an MVP, all the way to actively commercializing the product with real customers – all the while contributing scaleable funding during the first and second stages. It’s worth noting that, under the guidance of the program’s partners, most of the startups in the 2019 batch were already prepared to enter phase three by the end of the acceleration period.

David Kovar in part attributes the effectiveness of the accelerator’s intensive approach to an SBIR grant stipulation requiring products to be dual-purpose. The stipulation, says Kovar, motivates founders to quickly develop strong, sustainable business models, leaving them in a strong position upon completion of the program. By forcing startups to finish the program with real customers lined up, and with ‘bootstrapped’ non-dilutive funding, the program ensures founders aren’t forced into accepting average VC term sheets just to keep their projects alive.

“The fact we had to be commercially viable increased our chances of overall success.” He added. “Every time we filled out a SBIR document we had to tick this box – the Air Force wants products to be commercially viable to ensure that worthwhile projects survive, even if government funding dries up.”

The Air Force Accelerator obliges companies to swiftly get their ‘houses in order,’ paying careful attention to administration and accounting. Throughout the program, they’re pressed to articulate their technologies and business models, and then to undertake customer acquisition in a challenging environment. Through all this, the program helps produce healthier companies prepared not only to engage with the DoD, but to triumph on the commercial side too.

For Caleb Carr, the fact that his company was pushed to go down the licensing model route to make their product viable for the private market helped them to tap into what might have been otherwise unrealized potentials. This would not have been possible, he says, if the DoD had invested in his product development directly, rather than via SBIR.

Carr emphasizes that it was the SBIR program’s demanding and versatile approach that ‘catapulted’ his company into the next phase. On top of their contracts with the DoD, VITA is now aiming to roll out its product in a range of commercial applications including emergency services, oil and gas, and construction.

The horizon looks bright

With so much achieved in such a short time, the Techstars team is extremely excited about the next chapter of the Air Force Accelerator powered by Techstars, and thrilled about continued cooperation with AFWERX, AFRL and BAE Systems FAST Labs.

By increasing accessibility, streamlining processes, and driving structured growth via the three-phase SBIR option, the program is transforming the way that the DoD is able to interface with early-stage startups. The result, thus far, has been a uniquely empowering accelerator program capable of producing remarkably strong products, ready both for sale to the government and for commercial success.

Expectations are sky-high. But thanks to a rigorous, well-conceived program, and exceptional resources, our startups are going above and beyond. The horizon looks bright.

The 2020 program of the Air Force Accelerator powered by Techstars will begin on February 10 and culminate in a Demo Day on May 7. Learn more about the Air Force Accelerator powered by Techstars.








Announcing the Opening of Applications for the Air Force Accelerator Powered by Techstars 2020

Techstars, the U.S. Air Force, and BAE Systems FAST Labs are proud to announce the opening of applications for the third class of the Air Force Accelerator Powered by Techstars.  This year’s interest areas expand beyond previous year’s focus’ of autonomous technologies and AR/VR for training and education to include physical and cybersecurity of bases and installations.

Kicking off in 2018, the inaugural Techstars Autonomous Technology Accelerator with the U.S. Air Force, which renamed and expanded in 2019 to the Air Force Accelerator Powered by Techstars, was an experiment by the Air Force in establishing closer ties to innovative early-stage startups with commercially viable products and making it easier to do business with the Air Force. AFWERX, the sponsoring agency, determined that the pace of innovation in the private sector is accelerating away from the military. To maintain dominance, the Air Force needs to engage startups that otherwise avoid DoD bureaucracy, by making it as easy to do business with the Air Force as it is to do business with any commercial entity, rather than trying to train small businesses to be defense contractors. The 2018 and 2019 programs yielded 20 companies that have won more than $14M in non-dilutive contracts for prototypes and products, and are on the verge of fielding state-of-the-art capabilities to warfighters.

“We were surprised and delighted by the disruptive innovations produced by the first two classes, and the commercial pace at which those innovations are being fielded,” said Captain Steve Lauver, Director of Technology Accelerators at AFWERX.  “As we aggressively seek to improve our sales cycles, processes, and the speed at which we transition promising technology to the warfighter, it is invaluable to have an experienced and respected partner, like Techstars, to help us build trust and interact seamlessly with the startup ecosystem.”

As with the 2019 program, several Air Force offices have signed up to deliver capability at the speed of relevance for our 2020 program, including the AFIMSC Tyndall Program Management Office (PMO), National Security Innovation Network (NSIN, formerly MD5), and Air Force Research Lab Small Business Office (AFRL/SB). The Boston-based program will again be run by Warren Katz, Managing Director.  

BAE Systems is once again a corporate sponsor of the program, and as such, will fully participate in the recruiting and selection process, and have close interactions with all the participating companies during program. More on BAE Systems’ FAST LabsTM research and development can be found here

“At BAE Systems we have learned first-hand how teaming up with Techstars supports our goal of leveraging and developing disruptive technologies to deliver discriminating solutions to our customers,” said Dr. Jerry M. Wohletz, Vice President and General Manager of FAST Labs at BAE Systems. “We remain committed to lending our technical expertise, market knowledge and resources to startups in support of the local innovation ecosystems.”

To support the seamless purchase of prototypes and products produced by companies going through the accelerator, AFWERX has pioneered a new variant of the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program that utilizes massively simplified proposal formats, accelerated award cycles, and a Phase II structure that resembles commercial product purchase orders as opposed to defense-contractor style labor contracts.  The program will award some $200M of contracts to commercial entities, including accelerator class companies, in FY2020.

The Air Force Accelerator Powered by Techstars will focus on commercially viable startups with dual-purpose technologies– a private sector application as well as government application.  Though startups with innovative solutions in any dual-purpose industry are encouraged to apply, specific areas of interest include: 

    • Autonomous technologies that might enable or enhance the ability to detect, track, identify, characterize, attribute or mitigate unmanned systems, including but not limited to sensor technology, high-performance computational hardware and software, computer vision and digital image processing, AI, multi-modal sensor integration, secure communications, trusted identification, power systems, high-performance materials, integration systems, and human-machine interface. 
    • Innovative immersive-training technologies including AR/VR and adult learning methods such as gamification, social delivery and self-directed learning, and technologies to support data-enabled recruiting, training and education.
    • Base of the Future technologies that improve the security, affordability, efficiency, connectivity and quality of life at Air Force installations across the world.  These will be specifically tied to a multi-billion-dollar, landmark effort by the Tyndall PMO to support the “long-term redevelopment of Tyndall Air Force Base as the model Air Force ‘Installation of the Future.'”

Interested in this program? Applications are open now.

Note: There is no endorsement of or formal partnership between the Air Force and BAE Systems.  The Air Force solely decides whether it enters into direct contracts with any participating startup companies in the Accelerator program.  Additionally, any startup company could ultimately contract with industry at its discretion (i.e., BAE Systems or any other company as it deems necessary).







Interview with Captain Steve Lauver, Director of Technology Accelerators, AFWERX

This interview originally appeared in a report from Innovation Leader, sponsored by Techstars, “Startup Engagement: Best Practices for Large Organizations.” Read the complete report here

Captain Steve Lauver is the Director of Technology Accelerators for AFWERX, a program that seeks to foster innovation within the US Air Force. Lauver oversees AFWERX’s accelerator, which links up active duty Air Force, Reserve Air Force, contracted personnel, and startups to solve problems.

Five Elements For a Successful Startup Initiative

In order for an innovation cell to exist within any organization, there need to be a couple of stakeholders aligned. We actually look at this. We call it the five-node process or the five-node approach.

  1. The first and most important node is what we think of as the entrepreneur. That’s the person who has the idea. … They’re the ones that are passionate about solving a problem and who understand the problem. …
  2. The second one—and this is really key to any innovation program—is leadership buy-in or top cover. If you’re doing something differently or against the grain, you will hit barriers. Having leadership [have] your back is so important for greasing the skids and removing those barriers when they pop up. …
  3. The next one is, in my opinion, are the unsung heroes in many cases. That’s the contract and legal support. … It’s the lawyers who are saying, “Is this legal, ethical, or not?” We need to have them aligned from the beginning of any new project all the way through to the end because, if we don’t, they’re going to become one of those barriers that we have to figure out a way around or to work with.
  4. A funding partner. Whenever we take on a project, we want to follow an actual real problem. … Having an organization that says, “I have a real problem. I’ve got funding to solve it, if you can find there’s a solution.” It’s super-important.
  5. The last one is the actual solution. … Either a tech solution or…a policy solution.

Define the Problem, Not the Solutions

We had a tendency to—and this is [common] across the world, not just in the government—see a problem and then to say what we think the solution is, instead of just saying the problem.

[H]ere’s an example. … If we want to see over a hill for whatever military purpose, what we have a tendency to do is to say, “Look, I need you guys to create me a satellite that’s going to be in geo orbit. It’s going to have these specifications.” Very specific, and, in reality, we just wanted to see over the hill. We don’t care if they come back with a hot air balloon or a carrier pigeon with a camera on it.

If they can give us the most affordable, most effective solution, whatever that looks like, that’s great. [We are] shifting towards a culture of telling companies our problems, and less so what we think the solutions look like [to] solve that problem. …

Advice for Other Government Innovators

The first one would be, “Come talk to us,” for sure. Talk to anyone that’s done it before, because we make so many mistakes. We make tons of mistakes. We’re fortunate to have a culture from leadership down that says, “It’s okay to make mistakes. Just fix them fast, and move forward…”

The second…is just get good people, and put them in a room, and don’t over-control them. There’s an “it factor” when you’re talking to people in any organization, but especially in the Department of Defense or in any particular service…when you talk to somebody, you say, “Wow, this person is inspired. They get it. They want to make a difference.”

… Get a small group [of those kind of people] together and then just start to talk about it. It’s like primordial soup. You just get the right people together and something good will happen. … Just get good people, and put them in a room, and don’t over-control them.








Vita Inclinata Rings the Nasdaq Bell!

This morning, July 3, 2019, Vita Inclinata rang the opening Nasdaq bell as winners of the 2019 Rice University Business Plan Competition. Check out CNBC’s coverage:

https://www.cnbc.com/video/2019/07/03/opening-bell-july-3-2019.html

Vita, based in Denver and Seattle, is pioneering new, innovative hardware solutions for daily safety challenges in aerospace, construction and other dangerous industries. Vita’s first product, the Load Stability System, was created to solve the deadly swinging of helicopter hoisting and sling-load systems. They are alumni of the 2019 Air Force Accelerator Powered by Techstars

Vita CEO Caleb Carr was joined by Brad Burke, managing director of the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship, which hosts the annual business plan competition, Col. Randall “Laz” Gordon from AFWERX, Capt. Steven Lauver from AFWERX, Ryan Helbach from Air Force Research Lab, and Warren Katz, managing director of the Air Force Accelerator Powered by Techstars. 

 








Air Force Accelerator Powered by Techstars Proudly Announces Class of 2019

After a wildly successful inaugural 2018 program, Techstars, the U.S. Air Force, MD5, and BAE Systems FAST Labs, are delighted to announce the 2019 class of the Air Force Accelerator Powered by Techstars.

The program was originally brought to market in partnership with the Air Force, who at the time was focused on increasing its engagement with early stage innovative startups and altering their approach to how they interface with and buy from startup organizations—without turning them into full-fledged defense contractors. This initial program was so successful that additional sponsors Air Education and Training Command (AETC), MD5, and BAE Systems FAST Labs have joined AFWERX and Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) to support the 2019 program.

All 10 cutting-edge companies from the program’s first year have gone on to win U.S. Department of Defense contracts, commercial proof-of-concept projects, or private investment, and are in the process of fielding state-of-the-art products to warfighters. In addition, nine of these companies received funding from the Air Force’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program.

Funded and supported by the U.S. Federal Government, SBIR is one of the largest sources of early-stage capital in the United States, and is intended to help small businesses conduct R&D—and opens another funding option to founders looking to maintain equity. A few updates to AFWERX’s specific SBIR program for 2019 makes it even more attractive to both entrepreneurs and VCs: companies who have already received SBIR contracts who go on to raise a traditional funding round can get that funding matched by SBIR, up to $1.5 million. AFWERX is also executing a much quicker turnaround time for grant applications, thanks to a redesigned application process.

Nearly half of the 2019 class of companies already have open SBIR contracts, awarded before the start of the program—making them eligible for that generous matching option.

We are proud to announce the Air Force Accelerator Powered by Techstars class of 2019:

AirShare

Complete, end-to-end, non-destructive counter-drone system safely tracks, intercepts, and neutralizes malicious drones and drone swarms

http://www.airshare.ca/    

Avocado Systems

Internal cloud threat detection that can identify zero-day vulnerabilities after intrusion

http://www.avocadosys.com/

Botanisol

Handheld Raman Spectrometer that can identify molecular composition of substances in near real-time

http://botanisolanalytics.com/

Cleo Robotics

“Hockey Puck” drone that can be thrown and bounce of floors and walls for special operations reconnaissance and inspection of constrained spaces

http://www.cleorobotics.com/

FLITE Material Sciences

Proprietary surface treatment making materials naturally water and ice repellent, and rust resistant

http://www.flite.tech/

FortifyEdge

Edge-based AI for cybersecurity of IoT devices

https://www.fortifyedge.com/

SafeFlight

Drone incident reporting app and cloud SaaS service to inform public safety and homeland defense of malicious drone and swarm events

http://safeflight.io/

SliceUp

Ultra-low latency Time Series Database (TSDB) for autonomous vehicle data analytics, IoT, and financial data processing.

SmileML

Emotional recognition AI to feed back user experience data to user interface designers, courseware designers, for improving customer experience and interface effectiveness

https://www.smile-ml.com/

Vita Inclinata

Stability device for sling loads under helicopters and cranes to counter dangerous chaotic motion due to high winds, sea motion, and vehicle dynamics

https://vitatech.co/








Techstars and U.S. Air Force Announce Expansion of Accelerator Program

On the heels of a widely acclaimed 2018 inaugural program, Techstars and the U.S. Air Force are announcing the expansion of the autonomous technology accelerator to include additional technology areas, the addition of a corporate sponsor,  and the enhancement of the complementary version of the SBIR program aimed at funding accelerator companies.

The Techstars Autonomous Technology Accelerator with the U.S. Air Force, held in Boston Q1 2018, was an experiment by the Air Force in establishing closer ties to the most innovative early startup companies with commercially viable products that the Air Force found compelling. AFWERX, the sponsoring program office, determined that the pace of innovation in the private sector is accelerating away from the military.  To maintain dominance, the Air Force needs to engage startups that otherwise avoid DoD bureaucracy, by adapting Air Force business processes to match the commercial world, not the other way around. The first program, closely monitored by senior Air Force leadership, accelerated 10 cutting-edge companies who have gone on to win DoD contracts, commercial proof-of-concept projects, private investment, and are on the verge of fielding state-of-the-art products to warfighters.

“We were encouraged by the disruptive innovations produced by the first class,” said Captain Steve Lauver, Director of Technology Accelerators at AFWERX.  “As we aggressively seek to improve our sales cycles, processes, and the speed at which we transition promising technology to the warfighter, it is invaluable to have an experienced and respected partner, like Techstars, to help us build trust and interact seamlessly with the startup ecosystem.”

Seeing the potential to deliver innovations to the warfighter “at the speed of relevancy”, several additional Air Force offices have signed up to support the program.  With the additions of the Air Education and Training Command (AETC), and MD5 to the Air Force Research Lab Small Business Office (AFRL/SB), AFRL Strategic Development Planning and Experimentation Office (AFRL/SPDE), and Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center (AFNWC), AFWERX and Techstars concluded that it would be beneficial to broaden the Boston program into the Air Force Accelerator Powered by Techstars. The Boston program will again be run by Warren Katz, Managing Director, and Conrad Hollomon, Program Director.

Techstars is also delighted to announce that the most prolific corporate contributor to the first program, BAE Systems, who provided mentorship and paid pilot projects for several program participants, has joined the program as a formal sponsor.  As such, BAE Systems will fully participate in the recruiting and selection process, and have close interactions with all the participant companies during program. More on BAE Systems’ FAST LabsTM research and development can be found here

“BAE Systems is committed to lending our technical expertise, market knowledge and resources to startups in support of the local innovation ecosystems,” said Dr. Jerry M. Wohletz, Vice President and General Manager of FAST Labs at BAE Systems. “Teaming up with Techstars supports our goal of leveraging and developing disruptive technologies to deliver discriminating solutions to our customers at the speed of innovation.”   

To support the seamless purchase of prototypes and products produced by companies going through the accelerator, AFRL has been experimenting with a new variant of the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program.  Air Force solicitations 18.2 and 18.3 offered special topics that utilized massively simplified proposal formats, accelerated award cycles, and a Phase II structure that resembles commercial product purchase orders as opposed to defense-contractor style labor contracts.  In conjunction with the 2019 accelerator program, the Air Force intends to expand the number of topics and funding amounts for this new commercially-oriented SBIR.

The Air Force Accelerator Powered by Techstars will focus on commercially viable startups with dual-purpose technologies– a private sector application as well as government application, including companies with autonomous technology that might enable or enhance the ability to detect, track, identify, characterize, attribute or mitigate unmanned systems, to include, but not limited to, sensor technology, high-performance computational hardware and software, computer vision and digital image processing, AI, multi-modal sensor integration, secure communications, trusted identification, power systems, high-performance materials, integration systems, and human machine interface.  In addition, we seek companies with innovative immersive-training technologies, to include AR/VR and adult learning methods such as gamification, social delivery and self-directed learning, and technologies to support data-enabled recruiting, training and education.

Stay tuned for updates on Air Force Accelerator Powered by Techstars meet ups, webinars, and news on the application process.

Interested in this program? Applications are open.

Techstars is the worldwide network that helps entrepreneurs succeed. Through the Techstars Worldwide Entrepreneur Network, founders and their teams connect with other entrepreneurs, experts, mentors, alumni, investors, community leaders, and corporate partners who will help their companies grow.  Techstars accelerator portfolio includes more than 1580 companies with a market cap of $16.1B.

Established in 2017 by the SECAF and reporting to the Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force, AFWERX is a catalyst for agile Air Force engagement across industry, academia, and non-traditional contributors to create transformative opportunities and foster an Air Force culture of innovation.  The core mission of AFWERX is to improve Air Force capabilities by connecting innovators, simplifying technology transfer, and accelerating results.

BAE Systems

BAE Systems provides some of the world’s most advanced, technology-led defense, aerospace, and security solutions. The company employs a skilled workforce of 83,200 people in more than 30 countries. Working with customers and local partners, BAE Systems develops, engineers, manufactures, and supports products and systems to deliver military capability, protect national security and people, and keep critical information and infrastructure secure.








Announcing Techstars Autonomous Technology Accelerator with the U.S. Air Force

Techstars is excited to announce our second defense-focused accelerator and our second accelerator in Boston – Techstars Autonomous Technology Accelerator with the U.S. Air Force. I will be the managing director for this program. Applications open today, and the program will begin in January 2018 in Boston.

Techstars is the worldwide network that helps entrepreneurs succeed. Techstars has long had a presence in Boston – starting with Techstars Boston Mentorship-Driven Accelerator and Techstars Startup Weekend events in 2009. Since that time more than 1,300 entrepreneurs have participated in Techstars Startup Weekend Boston and we have accelerated more than 100 companies through the Techstars Boston Mentorship-Driven Accelerator.

For decades, the U.S. military has been a key driver of technology and innovation, with the Pentagon serving as the primary funder for early growth of Silicon Valley. Super Glue, Post-It Notes, GPS, cellular technology, lithium ion batteries, even the internet, all originated with the military. In fact, the U.S. military is responsible for almost all of the technology in the iPhone. We wouldn’t have Siri without the Department of Defense. In addition, the Department of Defense budget is $600 billion annually – almost 10 times larger than all U.S. venture capital combined ($69 billion).

Most exciting, however, is that we are working with some forward-thinking entrepreneurs inside the military who have realized that the pace of innovation in the private sector is accelerating away from the military.  To maintain a leadership position,  the U.S. military must start doing business with startups that otherwise avoid bureaucracy, by adapting their  business processes to match the commercial world, not the other way around.

The Techstars Autonomous Technology Accelerator with the U. S. Air Force will focus on commercially viable startups with dual-purpose technologies– a private sector application as well as government application, including companies with autonomous technology that might enable or enhance the ability to detect, track, identify, characterize, attribute or mitigate drone systems, to include, but not limited to, sensor technology, high-performance computational hardware and software, computer vision and digital image processing, AI, multi-modal sensor integration, secure communications, trusted identification, power systems, high-performance materials, integration systems, and human machine interface.

Go to our page to sign up for our email list to get updates on Techstars Autonomous Technology Accelerator with the U.S. Air Force meetups, webinars, and news on the application process.

Interested in this program? Applications are open.