I’m excited to announce that we’ve opened applications for the 2017 class of Techstars Retail in partnership with Target. You can apply online here. Applications are open through April 9th and the program starts in July.
Recapping Last Year
In case you missed it, our first year of the Techstars Retail accelerator was a massive success. We had 11 startups from all over the world descend upon Minneapolis for the summer. They received mentorship throughout the program from Target’s senior leadership, successful retail-tech entrepreneurs, and investors from across the country.
Watch this video for a great overview of the program.
Our Demo Day was a blur but it was incredibly exciting to see almost 1,000 investors, mentors, Target team members, and supporters from all over the Twin Cities startup community show up and support our companies.
And wow — did they kill it! Here are some highlights of what was accomplished by our startups during the program:
- Inspectorio – Announced in just 11 months, Inspectorio has already completed 2,000 inspections for 21 clients in seven countries. They recently announced closing a $3.7M funding round led by Target.
- Nexosis – Announced the company saved more than $90,000 in one location in a pilot with Pepsi this past summer and they are integrating into the Shopify e-commerce platform. They recently announced closing a $5M Series A round
- Branch – Shared the results of their successful pilot program with Target stores and plans to move headquarters to Minneapolis. Branch is will soon announce the closing of their seed round.
- Revolar – Announced a partnership with the National Domestic Assault Hotline and university campuses to tackle campus assaults in 2017.
- Blueprint Registry – Announced multiple partnerships that is expected to increase the number of accounts on its site to over a million. They recently announced closing a $1M seed round.
- Spruce – Started the program as one company and ended as two. Spun out technology company, SpruceBot, from their retail location and are on a mission to exponentially improve the customer retail experience for millennials.
Since our program has wrapped up, our companies have already collectively raised almost $15M, with another $5M to $10M coming soon. Stay tuned, as many more partnerships and deals are in the works to be announced this year.
What to Expect in 2017
For 2017, we expect to once again find the top retail tech startups from around the world and welcome them to Minneapolis for the summer to our beautiful working space located, literally, within Target HQ.
Have a disruptive retail technology startup? We’d love to chat. We’ll be visiting New York City, Cincinnati, Toronto, Waterloo, Seattle, Portland, Miami, Austin, Washington DC, Boulder/Denver, San Francisco and Los Angeles to discuss our program. Simply send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to coordinate.
All in all, it was an incredibly successful first program and we are already looking forward to the next! Apply today!
West Stringfellow is the VP of Internal Innovation and Operations at Target Corporation as well as Entrepreneur in Residence. He is a mentor for Techstars Retail, in partnership with Target. This is the second post in a series on corporate innovation, originally published on LinkedIn.
This past summer, Target launched its first-ever startup accelerator in partnership with Techstars. We chose to partner with Techstars because of their unbelievably high success rate in launching startups.
You can boil Techstars’ track record down to one thing: mentorship.
Techstars has mastered the art of mentoring. Without it, most startups – and many innovation efforts – fail.
Here’s what amazes me: the proven value of mentoring is right out in the open, yet the vast majority of innovation initiatives fail to leverage it. Mentoring is literally the secret sauce of every accelerator.
For example, Endeavor Insight studied thousands of startups and interviewed nearly 700 founders, and they validated the powerful role of mentoring. 33 percent of founders who were mentored by successful entrepreneurs went on to become top performers.
Why Mentorship Works
Following our successful retail accelerator program this summer, I took time to assess what worked and why.
- Entrepreneurs and Innovators were willing to accept help: The startup teams that participated in our program were ready to absorb knowledge from anyone who walked into the accelerator space. As a result, teams didn’t waste time struggling with problems, but instead sought out experts who could help guide their decisions.
- Experts were willing to offer help: We were fortunate to have a large number of mentors who were willing to educate, collaborate with, and provide general help to our startup teams. Collaboration was especially important because it provided opportunities for teams to pilot projects and thus refine their capabilities.
- Positive ways to say “no”: No one wants a lame mentor, so we encouraged mentors to be honest about when and how they could help. One outcome we saw repeatedly was a statement to the effective of “I don’t know, but I will help you find someone who does.”
Contrast #1 with the way many innovation efforts proceed. An “innovation team” goes off in a corner and tries to come up with something new. They are cut off from the larger organization and don’t have much interaction with the outside world. Unless their team is filled with experts, you can be guaranteed they DO waste time struggling with problems and they DON’T routinely seek out experts.
I feel so strongly about this that my advice is that you are crazy to launch an internal innovation effort – or a startup – without first understanding how you will gain access to mentors. Not just one or two, but multiple mentors with expertise in the numerous specialties you will need master to succeed.
In my next post, I’m going to examine reasons to be a mentor, and I want to give you a preview by suggesting that the only way to truly be an expert is to share your expertise with others. The very definition of expert means that you are someone others turn to for knowledge, wisdom, and guidance. Without helping others, you may be knowledgeable, but you are not an expert.
Said another way: true experts function as mentors.
West Stringfellow is the VP of Internal Innovation and Operations at Target Corporation as well as Entrepreneur in Residence. He is a mentor for Techstars Retail, in partnership with Target. This is the first post in a series on corporate innovation, originally published on LinkedIn.
As I described in my last post, we just wrapped up our first Target + Techstars retail accelerator. Today I want to share some lessons about building an accelerator that is attached to a company of scale such as Target.
Recruit Companies who have a Strategic Fit with Yours, but that also want to do Something Meaningful
We started with the hypothesis that we should be recruiting retail tech companies. We knew that Techstars has a spectacular ability to select the startups most likely to succeed, but we didn’t know which ones would excite Target’s team members… and thus foster the most productive collaborations.
Luckily, we selected a few companies that not only aligned strategically with our company, but that also are seeking to do the right thing for humanity.
For example, Revolar combines an app with a wearable safety device designed to help protect women from abuse and assault. Inspectorio helps to guide overseas factory inspectors throughout the supplier compliance verification process; their work focuses not only on quality but also on detecting socially damaging practices with regards to factory workers.
Our CEO, Brian Cornell, found both of these endeavors compelling and his passion helped to ignite engagement among so many of our Team Members and other mentors.
Create a Broad Mentor Pool
Top-down support from leadership is critical, yet some of the strongest mentors will be the on-the-ground specialists.
Startups are often in more need of fundamental tactics as in “here’s how you get little things done”. These are often simple business mechanisms that seem unremarkable to the people who understand them best. But when, say, an engineer is trying to figure out the best way to package a product and make it look pretty, such tips may be lifesavers.
Thus, bring in mentors with numerous perspectives and from many different levels across your company. Then maximize interactions between startups and team members. Do not try to force business partnerships; enable team members and startups to spend time together – in both informal and formal mentoring settings – and partnerships will emerge organically.
Remember this: if you build an emotional connection between the people, mentorship works much better.
Watch out for Cultural Differences
At Target, people might not get back to each other for a week after a meeting, as they explore possibilities and work out necessary details. But the startup mentality is far different, and after a day with no response, entrepreneurs start to wonder what went wrong. The better your ability to identify and understand such differences, the easier it will be to diffuse them.
Look for Winning Teams, Not just Ideas
Ideas will evolve and pivot throughout the program; teams are the reason a startup succeeds or fails. Focus on companies that are eager to learn. Startups that entered Target with the sole goal of learning – and weren’t just focused on selling – emerged with the strongest relationships and partnerships.
The Ability to Scale Matters
Let’s face it, entrepreneurs can talk big. “Sure, we can easily scale.” But it’s a sobering challenge to sell to – and serve – a large enterprise. When a founder tells a Target Team Member that they can handle scale, that Team Member is likely to respond with something like, “OK, let’s run a test today of your ability to handle 200,000 transactions per hour for two hours.”
There are good ideas, and then there are good ideas that scale. You want to find startups whose teams have the ability to scale.
Launching this accelerator had a huge benefit for Target: it taught us how to be better at mentoring, and we are now applying those lessons internally across our company. That alone makes this program a gigantic win.
Our next Target + Techstars accelerator will be next summer, and we’ll start taking applications in January. But, in the meantime, we built a website that allows startups to introduce themselves to Target.
P.S.: If you missed the Demo Day and are keen to catch the highlights, please do so here.
Fall is in full-swing here at Techstars with the addition of 64 new companies! Techstars recently had seven Demo Days across the globe, including Berlin, Mobility in Detroit, Barclays New York, London, Techstars Retail in partnership with Target in Minneapolis, New York City and Chicago. Phew!
Here’s a quick round up of the highlights:
Berlin Class of 2016
Techstars Berlin’s second Demo Day, held at the iconic Kino International, showcased 10 companies from six different countries with products ranging from machine learning and AI, to SaaS and mobility.
Techstars Managing Director, Rob Johnson, opened the event and Executive Director, Greg Rogers, provided welcoming remarks. It was an exciting day to celebrate the 2016 class with investors, mentors and other founders from the Berlin startup community!
Techstars Mobility, driven by Detroit Class of 2016
Techstars Mobility hosted its second annual demo day in downtown Detroit on September 8. It was a showcase of the growing collaboration between startups and the automotive industry.
Over 2500 attendees from 12 different countries watched as 12 startups pitched their businesses impacting the future of automotive and transportation. These startups were building businesses around autonomous, connected vehicle, shared services, mapping, and big data and analytic technologies. Three of the 12 companies announced partnerships with the program’s title sponsor, Ford Motor Company.
The entire demo day was live streamed and that video can be watched on YouTube here.
Managing Director, Ted Serbinski, announced that Techstars Mobility has brought two additional high-growth startups to Detroit: Mapbox and Polysync, the latter of which is a Techstars Ventures investment. These companies will be opening their Detroit offices out of the Techstars Mobility space, joining Oblong who opened their Detroit office last year.
Bob Caza, Director of Communications at the North American International Auto Show, expanded on Techstars Mobility mission to expose more startups to Detroit by announcing that we’re opening applications to bring 50+ mobility, automotive, and transportation startups to the 2017 Detroit Auto Show.
To capture this growth of the startup community, coupled with the entrepreneurial resurgence in Detroit, we debuted a trailer for Long Haul Films who is developing the documentary Restarting the Motor City. This is a feature-length documentary about the creators, innovators and entrepreneurs who are reimagining Detroit. They are breaking free from the shackles of 20th-century thinking to create a new model for cities across the globe.
Barclays Accelerator, Powered by Techstars in New York Class of 2016
Techstars Barclays NYC’s second Demo Day Event was held at the Edison Ballroom in the heart of the Theater District. Ten cutting-edge FinTech companies showcased products solving problems in real estate, capital markets, security, banking and the freelance economy.
Joe McGrath, the CEO of Barclays Americas, opened the evening with a warm welcome and recognition of the impact of Barclays’ programs around the world, which have seen collective valuations rise 190% from their pre-accelerator valuations.
Greg Rogers, Executive Director at Techstars, introduced the companies to the 600+ attendees including investors, mentors, Techstars alumni and community members. Jenny Fielding, the Managing Director, closed the event with a special thank you to mentors and Jon Zanoff, Entrepreneur in Residence, for their tireless devotion to this class and role in these companies’ success.
London Class of 2016
Led by Max Kelly, the Managing Director of Techstars London, the 2016 program kicked off with new offices, a new fund and a great new class. Within the class, one-third have PhDs and there are 19 separate nationalities! The variety of industries is astonishing – from grease to graph databases, from aid to artificial intelligence.
Each company presented their pitches to a packed venue during Demo Day, which took place on September 20 at the Royal Institution in London.
It is always exciting to be in the front seat of this kind of innovation.
Techstars Retail, in partnership with Target Class of 2016
Techstars Retail’s first Demo Day, held at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis, showcased eleven companies with products ranging from voice search, machine forecasting, visual registries and retail experience bots. More importantly, all these teams were able to demonstrate their accomplishments they achieved over the summer.
Techstars Managing Director, Ryan Broshar, welcomed almost 1,000 attendees then opened the evening with an inspiring message and fun facts about this year’s class. Target’s Chief Strategy & Innovation Officer, Casey Carl, shared welcoming remarks and reflected on his experience as a mentor. It was an exciting day to celebrate the 2016 class and the broader Twin Cities startup community!
New York City Class of 2016
For the 2016 class, Techstars NYC experimented with a new take on Demo Day. Rather than live pitches Managing Director, Alex Iskold, introduced Exclusive Investor Preview and Investor Only Demo Day.
As with our previous classes, this was a diverse group of founders solving a wide range of problems. In addition to six teams from NYC, we had teams from Rochester, Atlanta, San Francisco, two teams from Philadelphia, a team from the UK, a team from France and two teams from Canada. Of these 15 companies, five have women CEOs.
The new Demo Day format was a hit among founders and mentors, and aligns with the spirit of innovation at Techstars.
Chicago Class of 2016
Techstars Chicago’s seventh Demo Day, held at House of Blues in Chicago, showcased the latest ten startups selected from a pool of thousands of applicants. Companies ranged from a wearable hardware device enabling parents to keep track of their kids to enterprise and B2B software solutions, and showed both the diversity and high potential of the midwest startup ecosystem.
Techstars’ Managing Directors, Troy Henikoff and Brian Luerssen, along with Excelerate Labs co-founder, Sam Yagan, welcomed a packed house filled with notable investors and entrepreneurs. Chris Gladwin opened the afternoon with a keynote on the need for grit in operating his business to the recent 1.3 billion dollar sale of Cleversafe to IBM. It was an exciting day to celebrate the 2016 class and the broader Chicago startup community!
Get a head start on your own entrepreneurial journey. Apply to an accelerator program. Applications close on October 15th.
I’m thrilled to announce the 11 companies that will be joining us for our first 2016 Techstars Retail Accelerator, in Partnership with Target in Minneapolis. Our program officially kicks off next week on Monday, June 20th, and are looking forward to three wild months of acceleration. Our program will be capped with our Demo Day at Orchestra Hall on Tuesday, September 20th during Twin Cities Startup Week.
When recruiting startups, we strived for diverse ideas and founders. I think we nailed it as more than ½ of our startups have a female founder and two startups are from outside the United States. This aligns perfectly with both Techstars and Target’s sincere commitments to diversity.
This is the first year of our program and we’re fortunate to have over 150 incredible mentors from the Twin Cities startup community and Target. Thank you, mentors! We couldn’t do this without you.
It is going to be a great summer in Minneapolis and we can’t wait to kick things off next week. By leveraging the expertise, mentorship and resources that Techstars and Target have to offer, we are anticipating big things to come!
Follow all the action via twitter at #TSRetail.
Without further ado, here are the 11 companies joining the 2016 Techstars Retail Accelerator, in Partnership with Target:
AddStructure: AddStructure helps consumers discover products across any retail search channel (organic, on-site, mobile, voice, chatbot) using their own unique voice.
Blueprint Registry: Blueprint Registry is a life-event driven marketplace based on your home’s blueprint – shop or register for products from a variety of retailers in one native platform.
Branch Messenger: Branch Messenger is an application that helps retailers reduce absences and increase productivity by improving company-wide communication.
Inspectorio: Inspectorio is reinventing the way quality inspections are performed. Using data and machine learning to help retailers verify supplier compliances and bring transparency to their supply chains.
Itsbyu: Itsbyu is the do-it-yourself wedding flower kit company; make your own wedding flowers and save up to 80%.
MakerBloks: MakerBloks is a dual play experience that combines electronic building blocks with digital activity books.
Makerskit: Inspiring creativity with online and in-store experiences paired with fun DIY kits and artisanally made goods sold in over six-thousand stores.
Nexosis: Nexosis provides retailers an automated machine learning platform enabling better data driven decisions.
Revolar: Revolar is a wearable safety device that encourages you to live a more vibrant and fulfilling life, knowing you can ask for help in a heartbeat by sending location-based alerts to trusted contacts.
Spruce: Spruce has built a platform that allows brick-and-mortar retailers to customize the experience for their customers in the same way we’ve come to expect from online retailers.
Good and Gather: Good and Gather is a food brand where transparency and responsibility meet.
The Techstars Retail Accelerator in partnership with Target starts this year, and applications are now open. We are looking for 10 retail technology startups that are looking to disrupt the $22 trillion retail industry. Sound like you? Let’s chat!
We are jet setting across the country in the coming months to meet with founders and discuss this amazing opportunity in Minneapolis this upcoming summer. We’ll be visiting New York, Boston, Minneapolis, San Francisco and Seattle to meet with awesome founders building innovative retail technology.
We are looking for startups that are rooted in fundamentally improving the customer retail experience. This is fairly broad but can be applicable to everything from online, in-store, delivery, distribution, manufacturing, payments, logistics and beyond.
Techstars and Target will be on hand to explain this further, explain the perks of the program, and answer questions about the program. Food and drink will be provided.
2016 Info Sessions:
- New York City, RISE NYC: January 19th, 6:30-8:30PM – RSVP Here
- Boston, General Assembly Boston: January 21, 6:30-8:30PM – RSVP Here
- Minneapolis, Target Plaza Commons: January 26th, 5:00-7:00PM – RSVP Here
- Seattle, Startup Hall: February 9th, 6:30-8:30PM – RSVP Here
- San Francisco, Target Open House: February 11th, 6:30-8:30PM – RSVP Here
If you can’t join us for one of our information sessions in person, please join us for an online webinar. Ryan Broshar will lead a presentation on the program with time for Q&A from participants.
- February 2nd – Click here to sign up and attend
- February 16th – Click here to sign up and attend
- March 2nd – Click here to sign up and attend
- March 15th – Click here to sign up and attend
- March 17th – Click here to sign up and attend
2016 Key Program Dates:
- Final application deadline: March 20th
- Program begins: June 20th, 2016
- Demo Day: September 20th, 2016
Interesting in joining the program? Apply now!
I’m excited to announce today that I’m joining Techstars to serve as Managing Director for the new Techstars Retail Accelerator, in partnership with Target, in Minneapolis. I cannot think of a more ideal local corporate partner than Target to help bring the power of the Techstars network to Minneapolis! Target is a proud startup supporter that continues to push boundaries in design, customer retail experience, and, now — technology.
The retail industry is massive — and we are about to disrupt it. Worldwide, total retail sales were more than $22 trillion in 2014. That’s trillion with a “T.” No other industry integrates into every aspect of today’s economy and our day-to-day life. Retail technology is a huge opportunity and to most observers, still in its infancy.
This is not the first time my path has crossed with Techstars, and in a way, it brings things full circle for me since I hastily packed up a truck and moved with my wife to Boulder from Minneapolis in 2008. I had just been accepted into the CU-Boulder MBA program and was looking for new opportunities and a change of scenery. Having recently sold my first business I started while at the University of Minnesota, I was eager to continue my founder journey under the backdrop of the Rocky mountains. Boulder was undergoing massive transformation at the time, and when I left in 2012, this small city was firmly planted amongst the top startup communities in the U.S.
When we made the transition back to Minneapolis, I plugged back into the startup scene and was impressed by the quality of founders and startups here. It was clear that there was something special brewing.
As I surveyed the startup scene in Minneapolis, I wanted to help connect Minneapolis founders to the rest of the world. I decided to create Matchstick Ventures to help fund early-stage tech companies in the Twin Cities and in other startup communities across the country. I also co-founded Beta.MN to showcase local startup companies and provide networking opportunities and connections for founders. Finally, I co-founded Twin Cities Startup Week to further unite and shine a national spotlight on the startup community.
What was missing all that time? Techstars! Which is why this announcement is such an exciting day for me and why I am so bullish on Retail + Techstars + Target + Minneapolis combination. I’ve been involved in the creation of this program helping to drive initial discussions and can’t wait to get it up and running. I’ve seen firsthand how Techstars can be a force for good in the cities it operates in and I’m excited to bring it back home to Minneapolis.
Have a startup that plans disrupt the retail industry? Let’s chat. Hit me up at email@example.com or on Twitter @rbroshar.
The program will kick off in June in Minneapolis. Applications are open – apply here!
Techstars is excited to announce a new accelerator program with Target focused on retail innovation. Target and Techstars are committed to inviting the most promising and innovative entrepreneurs to Minneapolis to create the best new technology in the retail industry.
The Techstars Retail Accelerator, in partnership with Target, will launch next year and will open the doors to any startup that aspires to improve the retail experience, whether online, in-store or a combination of both.
The partnership, which will seek innovations that address all aspects of retail, will have a powerful impact on the Minneapolis / Twin Cities startup community. The area was recently named by Forbes as one of the fastest growing for tech jobs in the U.S. and Target’s investment in building the startup community will only accelerate this growth.
The Techstars program, a three-month, immersive, mentorship-driven startup accelerator, will be based near Target’s headquarters in downtown Minneapolis, MN. Important application dates will be announced before the end of the year along with further details.
For founders who want more information before applications open, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.