Applying to Techstars: Tips from Our Managing Directors

Techstars’ managing directors devote their time to finding the best startups. Between office hours, roadshows and AMAs, they are available to answer your questions and tell you more about Techstars.

Can’t join them in person? Check out our FAQ and read on for insights from our managing directors on what they are looking for in applications from startups.

What to know before applying:

Our current application consists of three parts: basic information, team information, and program specific questions. You can use the same profile and team information to apply to different programs. Some of our programs are on one joint application because they share similar timelines, others may be separate because of the unique timeline or specific focus.

Do your research, learn more about each program and the team behind it, and check out who we’ve accepted in the past.

Don’t let your misperceptions stop you! Our managing directors set the record straight:

You are never too far along! Techstars can, and has, helped at all stages. It’s not just pre-product, pre-revenue companies.

“There isn’t a ‘minimum’ requirement. Each application is different. We look at a lot of things to make a decision. If you’re early or far along, if you’ve got customers or are pre-product, there are a lot of different kinds of companies that get into Techstars.”

About the team video:

“When we ask for your team video, we really want to know about your team. Who you are, how you met, how long you’ve worked together, why you’re awesome.”

We’re looking to hear your story. And don’t forget, show some personality and make it personal! This really is the most important element of the application. Keep it simple: be yourself, don’t read your pitch from a screen, and don’t work about a high quality production.

What about the demo video?

Like the team video, everyone agrees: this doesn’t need to be super polished. Instead: demo what you actually have, show us the product, give us a simple walkthrough!

As a guide: “a super crappy product demo with an ugly UI is 100x better than a marketing video.”

What else? Here is specific feedback, direct from our MDs.

About your team
We love the story of how you met, how long you’ve worked together, and how you work together. Show us your interpersonal relationships, why you want to solve this problem, and why you are uniquely qualified to do so!

On your location selection
Your first choice location will prioritize reading your application.

“The location you select will determine the network you’ll build. Make sure you pick a location that will give you the best opportunity to build the right network with the right mentors. There’s a decent chance you may wind up locating your company there for the long haul.” And, “If you’re planning to fundraise, choose a site that you think you’d have success fundraising in.

Company & Vision
“Make it brief, long rambling answers are never effective.” But think big, too: MD’s also want to see “A clear immediate goal and very big, encompassing long term goals of disrupting an industry.”

Team & Commitment
Make sure you really highlight what makes your team unique! As one MD says: “There are people who were born to do what they do. I really want to know that this is the thing you were put on earth to do and that with hard work and good luck, you can do it better than anyone else on the planet.”

Traction
From our MDs, “the more detail on this, the better,” but detail doesn’t have to mean metrics and raw numbers. We want to see the momentum you’ve gained, and what you’ve learned from your customers.

Funding
One guiding principle: Be honest!

Runway
Help us see where your money is going. And know that “You’ll need to have enough runway that with the money from Techstars, you can last until your next likely round of financing.”

Cap Table
Plain and simple: “We want to understand your cap table so we can help you.”

Help us see the full picture: Give any notes about team members that are no longer with the company but own > 5%.

And remember, like funding: Be honest!

Competition
Never say you don’t have any competition! As one MD says: “It’s either another company, and if it’s not, it’s email or a spreadsheet, or voicemail, or something else that people hack now to solve the problem they have that you’re solving.” And when you list it out, make sure to be specific.

Above all: “Having competitors is good. It gives you someone to go up against. You should know who they are and most importantly, how you are different and better than they are.”

We hope these tips from our MDs helped! If you have any further questions, reach out to our team at info@techstars.com.

Applications are open for 10 of our worldwide mentorship-driven accelerator programs, and the Techstars roadshow has kicked off and is coming to your community! Check out the locations to meet with our managing directors, staff and alumni!








Applications Open for Multiple Techstars Accelerator Programs

Here at Techstars, we are on a mission to help entrepreneurs succeed. Over the past 10 years we have helped over 1,000 companies grow and raise over $3.5 billion in funding, with a market cap of $9.6 billion. Now we’re on a search for the next wave of companies to join our worldwide network! Our managing directors and program staff cannot wait to discover you and your company’s potential.

Today applications are open for multiple Techstars mentorship driven accelerator programs, distributed all around the world. Apply now to take the next step in your journey and join the Techstars Worldwide Network with more than 10,000 mentors, partners, investors and founders.

We are also excited to open applications for three new programs: Techstars Anywhere Accelerator (our new mostly-virtual program), Techstars Dubai Accelerator in Partnership with GINCO, and the Techstars Toronto Accelerator.

This is more than a three month program, the Techstars Worldwide Network is for life. Listen to stories about our founders from Techstars alumni companies like SendGrid, ClassPass, and DigitalOcean.

Application deadline is October 15, 2017 for this session that kicks off in early 2018.

We will be announcing details for information sessions and online events where you can connect with Techstars founders leading innovative startups, as well as mentors who have the experience and proven track record to help you succeed. Be on the lookout for more details soon.

When you apply, you can choose from any of the following locations and verticals:

Start here to apply to Techstars. For tips and resources on the application process, check out our Application Toolkit.








Ask Techstars: Common Mistakes to Avoid When Applying to an Accelerator

We recently held AMA sessions about applying to an accelerator program. To help answer questions, we had Lesa Mitchell, managing director for Techstars Kansas City, and Jenny Fielding, managing director for Techstars IoT in New York City. 

What are common mistakes to avoid when applying to an accelerator?

Jenny: If you send an incomplete application, meaning you don’t put a video of your product and of the founders, that’s going to be really hard for us. You have to understand that we get thousands and thousands of applications, so the first thing we do is look at the founder video. If you don’t put that in, that’s really tough for us. Similarly, the product video is very helpful.

Another common mistake is being very verbose and writing paragraphs and paragraphs. This is not a college essay, this is all about being concise and making your point. I encourage you to think it through. If you tend to be long-winded, then have someone edit it.

Another mistake is the question in the application where it asks if you could list a few competitors, and people say ‘none.’ That always gives me pause, because I’m pretty sure that there are people in the space that you are working in. They may be thinking about it differently, but you need to know your market.

Another thing I would say is that you can wait for the night before, but the thing I would encourage you to do is try to make contact with people that are running these programs before you apply. If you just send in an application, you’ve never been to any of our events and you’ve never had any contact with us, and you send it in the night before, sometimes that’s not the best approach.

Although we look at and read every single application, my strong advice is get to know us before and apply early. That way, as we read them we can get back to you and schedule something or contact you if we see something missing.

Lesa: There is no such thing as being too simple when describing what you’re doing. You want to do it in a way that investors and customers can understand. Keep it as simple as possible in terms of trying to help us understand the problems that you’re solving with your company.

You can watch the answer here and also replay the full Q&A.  

Techstars helps entrepreneurs succeed. Interested in joining the worldwide entrepreneur network? Learn how. Applications close April 9. 








Ask Techstars: How Important is Traction?

We recently held AMA sessions about applying to an accelerator program. To help answer questions, we had Jenny Fielding, managing director of Techstars IoT in New York City, and Ted Serbinski, managing director for Techstars Mobility in Detroit. We often get asked about how startups can talk about traction when applying for an accelerator program. We asked Jenny and Ted to weigh in with their advice. 

How important is traction when selecting a startup?

Jenny: We want to see passionate founders that are working on a life mission, and probably that they haven’t founded the company two days ago. We really want to see some data points. There isn’t one metric in terms of traction, it’s just that you have been executing whatever you said you were going to be executing. If you were going to get a website up, you were going to get some utility or transaction in that, and you did all those things. Then you’ve moved onto the next stage, you’ve gained some early customers. All of these things are considered traction. There really isn’t one answer to the traction question. It’s really that you’re moving on in the journey, and that you’re not just talking about it. Watch the answer here.

Ted: There’s definitely no one size fits all to traction. One of my best performing companies came into the program with very little traction, but it was clear that they could build something, and they demonstrated that. I’ve also seen companies with lots of traction and real revenue struggle, too. So the traction doesn’t mean good or bad, but at this point it’s a data point to give more understanding around that company.

We’re looking for companies that can execute and really build something that can create value. In the 90-day period of Techstars, you don’t create diamonds without a lot of pressure.

If you put a lot of pressure on these companies and they can’t execute or build anything, and they can’t get traction, they’re going to have a hard time outside of the program. If this is pre-program with a lot less pressure and they still can’t execute, there’s going to be a lot more pressure in the program. One size does not fit all, but traction does help us understand if the team can execute at large. Watch the answer here.

Techstars helps entrepreneurs succeed. Interested in joining the worldwide entrepreneur network? Apply now to our programs around the world. 








Applications are now open for the METRO Accelerator for Hospitality, Powered by Techstars

In 2015 and 2016, Techstars ran the first two programs focused on hospitality with our partner, METRO, Europe’s largest wholesaler to restaurants and hotels.

The 21 companies that went through the programs have now raised over $50 million in capital. While this is very exciting, we are anticipating another benefit that we think can add serious value to startups: lead generation.

Over the last year, METRO has quietly been building up the Horeca.Digital unit. This subsidiary markets digital solutions to restaurants and hotels across five countries in Europe (Germany, France, Austria, Italy, and Spain). In those five countries, there is a dedicated sales force that does nothing but market digital products.

Now, every startup that goes through the METRO Accelerator for Hospitality, Powered by Techstars has the opportunity to run a pilot with Horeca.Digital. In this pilot, we test lead generation of the product with the Horeca.Digital sales force. If successful, there is potential for a multi-year lead generation agreement.

Over the last month, Horeca.Digital has delivered over 1,000 warm leads to one startup with which they have just signed a deal. Now this company has been scrambling to hire salespeople. What a problem to have!

If you run a startup where your product is aimed towards restaurants or hotels, you should apply for this program. Here are the details of what you’ll receive:

  • An offer of 120.000€ of investment
  • Mentorship from and access to key METRO and Techstars executives and leaders, other hospitality industry leaders, venture capitalists, and experienced entrepreneur
  • An opportunity to test with METRO lead generation of your product to restaurants or hotels in one country (Germany, France, Austria, Italy, or Spain)
  • Free dedicated working space in the heart of Berlin for the duration of the program
  • A Demo Day in December 2017, where each team will present their company and product to hundreds of investors
  • The chance to become a member of the METRO and Techstars alumni network for life

If you are interested in joining the METRO Accelerator for Hospitality, Powered by Techstars, apply before the final deadline on June 30th. If you apply before April 30th, we will be able to help give you feedback on your application.








Ask Techstars: Applying to an Accelerator

We held an AMA with Cody Simms, Greg Rogers (Executive Directors) and Nicole Glaros (Chief Product Officer) of Techstars where they answered questions from founders about applying to an accelerator. This post includes a transcript of their answers to these question in this AMA.  To sign up for our next AMA, check out the schedule here!

How many active users are needed on a live running website/app to be considered by an accelerator program?

Cody: There is no answer to that question, at least when it comes to Techstars. I assume a lot of other programs are looking at things the same way. The most important thing we are looking for when you are applying and when we are looking at companies that are looking into a program is an awesome team.

We are looking for founders who have a killer drive toward the idea that they are looking to do, as well as founders that show that they can execute.

That is sort of in line with how many active users need to be on a site, but not specifically. We also look for founders who have really great chemistry and complement each other as a team. So, the team dynamic is by far the most important thing we are looking for.

One of the things that I think is really important: when it comes time to showing signs of execution, that doesn’t mean you need to be at 10,000, 100,000 or 1 million daily active users, but the more you are showing that people want your product, the better.

What I always look for are signs that you, as a founder, know how to test hypotheses in your business and can come back with the answers – showing that you are making progress along those lines. So you may still even be pre-product, but you are showing signs that you know how to understand what the market wants about your product, whether that’s running small experiments, doing user studies, etc.

As long as you are out there actually talking to customers or putting something in front of customers and getting feedback, as well as being able to prove that with each one of those your business is getting better.

Nicole: To expand on that, at Techstars we talk about a bunch of things that we look for in our application. We look for team, team, team, market traction and idea. Notice the traction part was second to last and that the idea part was last.

To walk you through the team, team, team part quickly, we are looking for teams that are passionate about what they do, that are well-formed (it doesn’t have to mean that they have been together for a long time, it means they can communicate well, they can execute together, they can work through difficult times together, etc.) and that they can execute. Those are the most important things that we look for at Techstars.

The second thing after that is markets. We have to be interested in the market that you are in, and then comes traction.

But really, at the heart of all of this – if I had to summarize one thing, and this would be true for probably any accelerator or investor you go after, would be belief.

Do we believe that you guys are capable of pulling off the thing you are trying to pull off in a way that is going to give us, as an accelerator or an investor, the returns that they are going to need to be successful? There are a lot of things that feed into that belief. One of them, naturally, is traction. One of them is active users, that is an element that feeds into that, but that is only one of many elements.

There isn’t any one thing that is going to make or break you, it’s a bunch of little things that tell a story about our ability to believe if you are able to execute on the thing that you are trying to do and be successful, and that we can make money from it, because that’s our jobs.

Greg: I remember Brad Feld telling us as MDs something really interesting the last time we got together with him. If you don’t know who Brad Feld is, he is a very prominent venture capitalist in Boulder, Colorado.

We asked him, “Brad, you’re an amazing investor. How do you choose which companies to invest in? How do you know when the founding team is the right founding team?” (As Nicole and Cody have said, this is such an important criteria for us).

Brad responded with a simple answer (the great thing about Brad is that he distills things into very simple answers for complex topics). He said, “Well, really what I do is I look at the founding team and I ask myself one thing, were they born to solve this problem? Were they put on this earth to solve this problem and are they so obsessed by it that they can’t take a shower, can’t get dressed, they can’t have a conversation without thinking about this problem because it obsesses them.”  

As you think about your applications, and you think about your entrepreneurial journey, I would ask yourself that question. If you can say yes to that question, then you know you are ready for the journey.

The journey, as I know many of you have probably heard, is like a rollercoaster. It is incredibly joyful but it might be the most masochistic thing that anyone can put themselves through. You have to be obsessed.

I remember going to go watch an author do a book reading, and being a writer is a very creative, very joyful, very painful experience, similar to being an entrepreneur. Somebody in the audience asked this really famous author, “Why do you do what you do if it is so painful and so lonely?”

She responded, very simply, “I do it because I have no other choice. It is what I was born to do.” That’s something you really want to ask yourself, because it is a really interesting journey and can be really painful one, so you want to be ready for that.

The next AMA is March 16 – Register today. Don’t miss your chance to join a Techstars accelerator program – Applications close April 9. Apply today.








Applications Open Today for Techstars Global Programs

Applications are now open for the Techstars accelerator. Apply now to join the Techstars network with more than 10,000 mentors, investors and founders. Deadline to apply is April 9, 2017 for the next session which kicks off in July 2017 in 11 locations across the globe.

We’ll also hold global info sessions to connect with the best startups and founders in the world. Stay tuned for more details on these events and how you can meet the Techstars teams from different programs.

When you apply, you can choose from any of the following locations and verticals:

  • Chicago
  • London
  • New York City
  • IoT
  • Kansas City NEW!
  • Los Angeles NEW!
  • Techstars Mobility (Detroit)
  • Techstars Retail, in partnership with Target (Minneapolis)
  • Techstars Atlanta, in partnership with Cox Enterprises
  • Techstars Adelaide (Australia) NEW!
  • Alexa Accelerator, powered by Techstars (Seattle) NEW!

Start here to apply. Check out our Application Toolkit for tips and resources to streamline your application!








AMA: Applying to an Accelerator

Join us for a live, interactive Ask Me Anything session to get all your questions answered about applying to an accelerator program! We’ll go over tips for your application, how to best show your product and team, and anything else you’ve been wanting to know!

Answering your questions:

  • Cody Simms, Executive Director, Techstars
  • Jenny Fielding, Managing Director of Techstars IoT and Barclays NYC Accelerator

Techstars currently has applications open for 9 programs around the world. Join us in this AMA to learn more and get your application ready by Oct 15th.

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER!








Techstars Opens Applications for Q1 2017 Session

Applications are now open for Techstars Q1 2017 accelerator programs. Apply now to join the Techstars network with more than 10,000 mentors, investors and founders. Deadline to apply is October 15, 2016. The Q1 2017 session kicks off in January 2017 in locations around the world.

With this session, we’re streamlining the schedule for our accelerator programs. We will now accept applications twice a year, and the programs will run in two sessions: Q1 (January – April) and Q3 (July – October). This change makes it easier for startup founders to know when to apply.

We’ll also hold a global recruiting tour to connect with the best startups in the world. Stay tuned for more details on this event and how you can meet the Techstars teams from the different accelerator programs.

Start here for your application for Q1 2017 now.








Getting Funded Advice Just Works For Those Getting Funded, Anyway

There is no shortage of advice on how to get funded – Lots and lots of sophisticated advice.

Does it work? Yes.

Does it work for everyone? No.

For whom does it work then? It helps investable companies to get funded.

I have now invested in 27 startups over the last few years. Admittedly, we live in a great funding environment.

In all these investments, I have only seen a single company that should have been funded fail to raise. All other well performing companies raised a round. And in addition, a few that may have been less deserving.

The reason? Angel and VC investors by now are pretty experienced when it comes to picking companies. There are more active investors than high quality startups – the good ones get funded.

When we launch an accelerator program, I say the same thing to all founders: it is not my job to get you investors. It is my job to help you build an investable company. Once you have that, you should be able to raise the capital you need.

How do you build an investable company? 

In my experience, founders go through some stages:

  • Idea and first customers
  • Insight and more customers to validate insight
  • Building a marketing, sales, product, etc. machinery
  • Building out the business

Each time, when you progress from one stage to the next, you become more investable. More progression, more investable, etc.

Now you know why it is called an accelerator. We work with companies to accelerate them to the next stage.

 

Demo Day E-6

www.metroaccelerator.com is focused specifically on those startups that have a focus on hospitality and food tech.