How these ‘refugee’ chefs prepared an amazing dinner at Startup Weekend Zwolle

At Startup Weekend Zwolle, we asked two chefs – refugees from Palistina/Syria – to prepare dinner at Saturday evening.

The result was amazing: a great variety of excellent food was served and all attendees enjoyed the rich meal these good guys (and their wifes) have been working on for two days!

To me, it’s no surprise these chefs want to start a new restaurant in The Netherlands – since they’ve had a restaurant in Damascus for 10 years. Maybe some people in your network can help their dream to become reality, I’m sure they will appreciate that! You can contact mr. Mohammed Salameh at +31 6 26098022.

For now, watch the pictures below:

Pictures by Hans van Eijsden Photography |

Santiago Shows Startup Muscle with Mega Event for Techstars Global Startup Weekend 2017

Photo from:

Santiago de Chile is a city found in South America, in the middle Los Andes, and a busy place for entrepreneurship in Latin America. Chile has the highest rate of Internet users in Latin America and the country ranks 9th in the world for mobile phone use according to the PEW research center.

Last year during the Latin American Techstars Summit, we met a lot of people who help Santiago maintain its position as a hub of innovation and entrepreneurship. One of those leaders is Rocío Fonseca, Director of Startup Chile, a governmental organization created in 2010 to support ideas and entrepreneurs from all over the world.

At the summit, more than 80 Techstars Startup Weekend and Techstars Startup Week community leaders from Latin America came together to meet, share best practices and learn how to grow startup communities. The summit was possible because of Gonzalo Mena, lead organizer of our programs in Santiago. He has helped re-ignite the Techstars community in Chile.

Photo from Techstars archive.

During Techstars Global Startup Weekend 2017, Santiago held its first ever MEGA event including verticals like video games, social innovation, research and a non-themed vertical.

“The idea of doing a MEGA event– 4 themed verticals within a single weekend– was born because we wanted to celebrate the community. After doing a non-themed Techstars Startup Weekend back in April, we wanted to bring attention to topics that have been growing importantly in the city but that do not get much media”, says Gonzalo. The video games and research themes– which are not super popular– were complemented with social innovation and another non-themed vertical.

The participants’ high energy mixed with the facilitators– who knew each other previously– were the perfect match to make the event a success. “More than 150 participants got to live the experience of going from idea to product in those 54 hours, for most of them it was the first event and we saw an amazing change in them between Friday night and Sunday’s final pitch,” according to Gonzalo.

A grand prize of mentorship from the commercial area from the Ministry of External Relations of Chile will help the winning team to get their project ready to launch abroad.

When asked about the upcoming plans for the community in Santiago, Gonzalo says that thanks to the exposure that came with Techstars Startup Weekend MEGA and the participation of high profile Judges, they will start pushing to make more events that support different thematics around tech entrepreneurship in 2018, collaborating with other communities that include Startup Grind, Emprendedores Anónimos, Founderlist and more.

To connect with the Startup Weekend Community in Santiago, you can visit their website or their Facebook Page. To learn more about Techstars Startup Programs or to find an event near you, go to

The Amazing Judges Joining us for Techstars Global Startup Weekend

We are honored to support the largest celebration of entrepreneurship in the world, Global Entrepreneurship Week. We will hold over 200 events, in over 60 cities this year over in just two weekends!

As part of the celebration, Techstars Global Startup Weekend comes with a Regional and Global Showcase, with prizes from Google, Amazon, .CO, and more.

Local winners from each event have the opportunity to submit their startup and our regional judges will select the best team regionally. Regional winners go on to the finals where our global judges panel will select the winner. The global winner will get additional exposure and perks, but the other competitors will not be left empty-handed.

The Global Judges

David Cohen

David Cohen is the Founder and co-CEO of Techstars. David has been an entrepreneur and investor for his entire life. He has only had one job interview in his career, successfully got that job but then quit shortly thereafter to start his first company. Since then, he has founded several companies and has invested in hundreds of startups such as Uber, Twilio, SendGrid, FullContact, and Sphero. In total, these investments have gone on to create more than $80B in value.

David is the co-author (with Brad Feld) of Do More Faster; Techstars Lessons to Accelerate Your Startup.

You can find David tweeting at @davidcohen and blogging on the web at

Mary Grove

Mary Grove is the Director of Google for Entrepreneurs, leading Google’s efforts to support startups and entrepreneurs in more than 100 countries around the world. Mary is passionate about building community and has worked with groups of entrepreneurs in Pakistan, Iraq, Gaza, and Afghanistan, and previously led numerous international partnerships for Google.

Mary earned her BA and MA from Stanford University. She is the co-founder of Silicon North Stars, a nonprofit that connects youth from the Midwest to Silicon Valley. She has served on the Board of UP Global, the Techstars Foundation and the Stanford Alumni Association.

Debbie Levi

Debbie Levi is part of the Venture Capital Business Development team at AWS managing relationships with top tier VCs and their portfolio companies on behalf of AWS and broader Amazon. Prior to joining the team in 2016 she was part of the Israeli VC community for about 5 years (most recently at Viola Ventures (FKA Carmel Ventures) and JAL Ventures).

Before becoming a VC Debbie managed marketing teams at a series of start-ups (Mytopia, mySupermarket and Kasamba (acquired by LivePerson) and spent time in corporate America (News America Marketing, a division of News Corp). Debbie holds a MBA from Bar Ilan University and a BA in Psychology and Communications from the University of Michigan. Debbie is a NYC native and an alumna of Stuyvesant High School.

Fadhi Gandhour

Fadi Ghandour is the Executive Chairman of Wamda Group, an organization consisting of a Venture Capital fund that invests in technology-enabled companies in the Arab world. He is also the Founder and a Board Member of Aramex, a global logistics and transportation provider.

Fadi is a member of the Board of Abraaj Capital, the Board of Endeavor Global and the Board of Trustees at the American University of Beirut (AUB). Additionally, he serves on the Advisory Council of the MIT Media Lab. He is also the Founder and Chairman of Ruwwad for Development, an initiative that helps disadvantaged communities across the region overcome marginalization through activism, civic engagement, education and financial inclusion.

Rocío Fonseca

Rocio is the Executive Director at Start-Up Chile, one of the biggest and most diverse startup communities in the world. She has a MS in Management at MIT, is a Master in innovation and entrepreneurship and Biotech Engineer. Her passion is to help people to transform their ideas into business.


Regional Judges:

Check out more about our regional judges on

With still one weekend left in Techstars Global Startup Weekend, you have the opportunity to participate and be part of the celebration!

Pangolin takes the 1st place in Techstars Startup Weekend Toronto, powered by INFINITI.

54 hours of action took place during the weekend of October 20-22, in Workhaus Commerce Court in downtown Toronto. Participants from all over the Greater Toronto Area got together to pitch their ideas, form teams and take the first steps to launch their startups. The event was possible thanks to the support of INFINITI Canada, a company that empowers entrepreneurs in different stages, previously with their INFINITI LAB for later stage companies and now through Techstars Startup Weekend, the event where entrepreneurs go to ‘get their start’.  

On Friday night more than 24 ideas were shared in front of the audience, and out of those, 7 were chosen to be worked on by teams during the weekend. On Saturday, the teams were coached by mentors from all over Ontario, including mentors from the Toronto startup community like Oksana Salamaszek from The Working Group, Tariq Haddadin from Techstars Toronto, and Grant Brigden from the startup Rover, which won 1st place in the past edition of Toronto INFINITI LAB. The teams got advice from mentors from the INFINITI Canada team, including Julie Daigle Raphael Huegli and Chris Little. You can see the full list of mentors here.

Some of our Coaches and Jen Riedel, facilitator of the event.

On Sunday the teams presented a 5-minute pitch in front of a panel of 3 judges: Theresa Humphrey, Brand Manager for INFINITI, Angelo Del Duca, Angel Investor, and Sunil Sharma, Managing Director of the Techstars Toronto Accelerator Program.

The top 3 places went to the following teams:

1st Place: Pangolin –  Pangolin helps lower the premium for retailers by mitigating risks for insurance companies using smart IoT devices

2nd Place: Hybernate – Hybernate helps businesses decrease the expenses related to HVAC through IoT

3rd Place: GEM – GEM helps millenials be congruent with how they spend their money and what their values are, using a ‘GEM’ reward system.

Besides taking the top 3 places in the contest, one member of each of the winning teams got a full scholarship to join the January cohort of Founders Institute Toronto, so they can continue developing the skills needed to be great founders.

Techstars Startup Weekend was a great success. Thanks to our signature sponsor INFINITI, Workhaus for being great hosts, and to all the mentors, coaches and judges that helped empower this amazing group of entrepreneurs.

Stay connected to the Techstars Toronto community by following us on our Facebook page here. 

Join Techstars Startup Weekend Latinx in Tech this weekend!

The Latinx community in the United States is the second largest ethnic group in America made up of 52 million people. By 2060, over a quarter of the entire U.S. population will be Latinx – that’s about 119M people and over a trillion dollar market that remains untapped – until now!

The weekend of September 29th – Oct 1st, Oakland, Chicago, New York and LA are bringing 400 Latinxs and allies together for 54 hours to learn how to create their own startup. Participants will be mentored by some of the brightest minds in tech, business, and development.

Techstars Startup Weekend Latinx in Tech is supported by amazing local Community Leaders in the four cities and national partners Kapor Center for Social Impact and Techqueria.

Everybody is welcome to join this special edition! A few tickets are still available in all 4 locations.

More information and tickets:


Los Angeles

New York


In October, with the support of the Knight Foundation, Techstars Startup Weekend Latinx in Tech will take place in the city that has the most Latinx leading tech ventures in the United States: Miami. Stay tuned for more information!

Buffalo Startup Weekend 2017: How to Start a Business

Buffalo Startup Weekend enters its 7th annual run next weekend, September 29th through October 1st at Dig Buffalo, 640 Ellicott St. The 54-hour crash course on entrepreneurship explains how to grow a simple idea into a full-fledged, successful business.

The event kicks off with networking on Friday night at 6 p.m., where all guests are invited to pitch their startup idea and receive feedback from their peers. Teams organically form around the ideas and from there the coaches mentor the groups on how to create a business model, design their website, and supporting marketing collateral, market validation, and coding basics.

“What we like to see is a lot of people who come to Startup Weekend who maybe don’t necessarily have an idea, but have the energy to put some creativity into it,” said Janae Pitts, Co-Founder OneTen Capital.

Startup Weekend brings together talented people. Each idea and team member brings a unique point of view and skill to the table.  Attendees take their learnings from being able to freely express their thoughts among peers and really launch their entrepreneurial career.

Brendon Dever, co-founder of Heads Up Solution, won the competition in 2013. His takeaways from the event enabled him and his team to raise private and public capital funding, which was used to research the market and develop their technology to fit.

“Startup Weekend is an opportunity to take control over your career and life,” Dever said. “If you have a dream to chase, Startup Weekend is the perfect starting point.”

The event culminates with presentations on Sunday afternoon, when the winning teams are able to present their business plans to local leaders serving as judges.

Tickets are limited. Order today. 

Building the Future of Entrepreneurship with the Girl Scouts

When I was younger, I experienced the Girl Scouts program like many girls have. I made it to the “Juniors” level before retiring my cookie-selling skills. I learned a lot through the program and had a few fun summers at camp. But I also remember begging my way out of the sewing activity, because after many failed attempts at it, I knew it wasn’t what I wanted to learn or what I was good at.

Now, the Girl Scouts are adding new activities and development paths to their programs, creating incredible opportunities for girls with desires and skills of all types. There are four focus areas that form the foundation of the overall program and the Girl Scouts Leadership Experience: STEM, Outdoors, Life Skills, and Entrepreneurship.

I got to experience this entrepreneurship focus firsthand helping out as Facilitator at the first Startup Weekend with the Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles earlier this year. This event in Los Angeles had 26 girls come together over a weekend to build companies. The girls formed six teams to work on products in all types of industries, work with mentors, and pitch to judges at the end.

When I told people about Startup Weekend joining forces with the Girl Scouts for this event, everyone had the same reaction: It makes so much sense. What other group is able to sell cookies to anyone, anywhere? To have a country waiting and counting down to when their product is available? The hustle of selling all those boxes, tracking orders, working with others, and delivering to customers is essential block building for a future in entrepreneurship.

By the end of the Startup Weekend event in Los Angeles, the judges were floored with the progress the girls had made. They perfected the pitches, worked strongly together as teams, and some even had app mock-ups with branding, logo color guides, and more (thanks to local sponsor Marvel App!) They understood the need for having a real, paying customer, not just the idea of one, the cost to run a company, and what revenue looks like.

These are the type of events we need to help ensure plenty of young women are ready for roles where it seems to be tough to find them currently: engineering, tech leadership, CEOs and founder roles.

It’s this type of event and opportunity I wish I had when I was younger. While our weekends were filled with many activities, this type of learning and creating didn’t exist. Our closest form of this activity was our self-taught lemonade stand in the yard and balancing town hall budgets in SimCity.

Now is the time to ensure our schools, after-school groups, weekend activities, and programs like the Girl Scouts have these types of activities. During my day to day, I get discouraged witnessing the conversations and struggles with finding female founders or women in engineering roles. But every time I help with one of these youth events, I walk away inspired and excited knowing that the future is bright, and that future is filled with amazing young women ready to take on technology and entrepreneurship.

Let’s build a future filled to the brim with strong female entrepreneurs.

These events are essential for building a stronger future filled with women as founders, engineers, and developing our most important industries. Do your local schools and youth groups have activities building skills in these areas? Are you involved with a Girl Scouts chapter in your area? Let’s connect to see how we can create more events like this everywhere.

For more information about Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles and full photos from the event, check out their Facebook page

Announcing the Startup Weekend Canada Competition

Techstars believes in the ability to start a successful company anywhere, beyond borders, and beyond large metro areas.

In Canada we have seen a growth in startup activity, the introduction of the startup visa, and we are expanding with Techstars Toronto, our first Canadian Accelerator program. The time is ripe to drive momentum and to ignite the startup community nationwide.

What better way to do this than through a friendly competition? From September 1st through October 1st, we are excited to launch the Startup Weekend Canada competition! In this inaugural year we will see seven cities compete through Startup Weekend programs happening all over Canada.

From the far port city of Saint John to the beautiful lakes of Kamloops, startup ideas will be spurred into action and the winning team from each city will be given the opportunity to compete for a grand prize.

“This first Startup Weekend Canadian competition is the tipping point to inspire and educate Canadians, no matter where they are, to launch tech ecosystems like we did in Montreal, as well as to help each other.” -Sergio Escobar, Startup Weekend Montreal Community Leader

On October 3rd, a panel of esteemed judges, including our Managing Director for the Techstars Toronto program, will crown a grand prize winner.

Are you ready to kick start your entrepreneurial journey? Save the date (or dates!) and venture out to a Startup Weekend near you.

If you have an idea that you are ready to take to the next level, curious to learn the foundations of becoming a successful entrepreneur, or simply want to network with the brightest people from your city, sign up for an event near you.



Register Now

Kamloops, BC

September 8-10, 2017


Belleville, ON

September 15-17, 2017


Calgary, AB

September 22-24, 2017

Coming soon!

Montreal, QC

September 22-24, 2017


Brampton, ON

September 29-Oct 1, 2017

Coming soon!

London, ON

September 29-Oct 1, 2017

Coming soon!

Saint John, NB

September 29-Oct 1, 2017

Coming soon!


Fighting the Good Fight: Looking Back Five Years

I was recently invited to share the story of my company, Hip Pocket, with another startup community. The organizers’ stated goal for my talk was to help attendees, “hear your Fintech startup story” and because, “we need to inspire hundreds more like you.”

The organizers were lucky enough to catch me on a great week and my talk was inspiring…according to those who talked with or emailed me afterward.

But, the attendees were catching me on a pretty great week that was almost five years in the making.

The truth is, many entrepreneurial weeks – maybe most – feel like this:

Many – maybe most – of my fellow founders will identify with the feeling of being knocked down unexpectedly…from behind…then slammed around repeatedly…then pushed off the edge…only to fall face first and mouth open into dirty water…and I think I saw a bandaid in there…maybe two…and now I have an infection.  

That can be the entrepreneurial experience in the bad times. The “we’re almost out of money, crying in the kitchen with your spouse” times.

I’ve been there! You?

When that happens, it’s easy to question why anyone would want to go on this ride.

For many, it’s a compulsion from the onset. Or a deep seated unrelenting drive to create.

But for others, like me, it was mostly accidental and only makes sense now in hindsight.

This September will mark five years since the Startup Weekend where the base idea for our company was first uttered aloud in a simple one-minute pitch format.

I went to that 2012 event by myself as a non-technical participant. I had been in the financial services industry for seven years at that point and was curious about how technology would impact our industry. This event could help me better understand how technology can impact industries as well as how you can take an idea to prototype in a short time.

Before going, a friend who would later go on to found one of the early GAN accelerators, suggested I consider pitching my own idea vs. just expecting to join another team. That day, I worked on this:

And yes, I still have this piece of paper.  

The basic idea – with the worst name ever in “NetWorthing” – was that people often make less than optimal financial decisions on most products, while banks make a lot of money when this happens. But, what if everyone could easily see the best financial decisions of anonymous peers and then act quickly to never fall behind?

At the root of my pitch wasn’t the solution. The root was that banks make money unfairly due to customer inertia and technology could be an equalizer.

The idea received enough votes to recruit a team of three others to help build the idea out, and enough validation and traction to finish third overall that weekend.

Since then, here’s some of our story in numbers:

  • Four co-founders in 2012
  • Several co-founder “Come to Jesus” meetings over the summer of 2013
  • Only one founder left by fall of 2013
  • Two accelerators in 2013 and 2017
  • Four angel investors in 2016
  • One substantial pivot & two abandoned products in 2016
  • Three brief times into negative cash balance
  • Fourteen corporate clients over the years
  • Countless wipeouts we only sometimes saw coming:

Oh yeah, nice try…we got this, we got this like a boss…..IEEEEEE!!!!!

After all of this, we were invited to share our “Success Story” at that event…as well as here on the Techstars blog.  

I didn’t ask any of the organizers why they considered us a success worthy of a spotlight.

Are we a success because we’ve survived five years?

Are we a success because we’ve been able to generate sales, investors, and some potential large partnerships?

Or, are we a success because we’ve had our asses handed to us repeatedly and we still get back up again and again?

Something like this:

There’s something to that last one in hindsight. Something I didn’t understand before reflecting on it.

We’ve been through the startup valley of death in that we’ve experienced many of the top reason startups fail, and yet we haven’t stayed down.

You could label our story as obstinance or tenacity, but we came through the fray and now have assembled a team that has fallen in love with the problem of helping people save money from their phones in just minutes.

The solutions and partners and paths forward have changed a lot over time, but we’re still on a mission to compete with all we have! We haven’t forgotten why we got into the arena in the first place…because we believed we could win!

Or, at a minimum, that we had to get into the arena and fight the good fight. We had to fight the problem.

This despite selling B2B into a regulated industry…which has challenges:

Just one more corporate vendor vetting step to clear and then contract is…IEEEEEE….MY FACE!!!!

When you’re in the thrash of entrepreneurship, aka the wipeouts, it can be hard to take stock of where you’ve been as well as staying focused on what’s ahead. It’s hard because you’re experiencing the physical and emotional shock of the recent blow, which is understandably disorienting.  

But the pain of each blow is eventually paired with time-tested knowledge that “this too shall pass.” Eventually, the time between shock/pain and recovery gets quicker.

NOTE: I’m referring to the outside pain of the startup journey and not the pain of depression, which is very real and can f*ck with a lot of us. That’s real and requires the strength to engage with those around you for help. A strong founder support group is vital for this and so many other reasons. Here are some resources on this topic.

There will be shocks and pain ahead. But, if you believe in your industry, in the problem you’re solving, and in your ability to address it, then you should stay the course. You should fight through and endure some of the pain.

It’s to be expected, especially toward a point of breakthrough. Recently, I’ve found it useful to reread “The Dip” by Seth Godin at these times of potential greatest pain and greatest breakthrough.

If the fundamentals of your industry are the same and you believe you can get through this, then you owe it to fight through the last mile at a time when so many give up.

I wrote this piece to share our own LONG journey with those are are on the same path.

I wrote this for those of you in pain.  

I wrote this for those who may be starting and unaware of the potential obstacles – which despite the painful pictures above – are often just obstacles to be bested.

I wrote this for 2012 me who read and was told how hard entrepreneurship is and yet was still unprepared and had to experience the pain for himself to really understand.

And I wrote this for so many of you in the final dip.

Wherever you are, know this: You. Are. Not. Alone!

You have many, many fighting the fight with you.

Entrepreneurship isn’t an overnight success story, though it can seem so when you compare your own struggles with someone else’s exit.

I hope today is a great day. Or a good day. Or even just a day.

I hope the same for myself but I know you or I will still be OK if there’s some pain. I finally understand this. It just took me five years to figure that out.

Are you ready to learn, network, startup? Find a Startup Weekend event in your region today!

This post is also published on Medium.

Empowering Entrepreneurs and Building Communities in Asia Pacific

As the Asia Pacific region is growing into a global center for innovation, there’s an increasing challenge of how to offer the best resources for new startup communities. Oko Davaasuren, Techstars Regional Director in APAC, and Anurag Maloo, Techstars Regional Manager in APAC, answer questions on how Techstars is working to help inspire entrepreneurs in the region.

Watch the whole AMA here.

What is your vision for Techstars and building communities in Asia Pacific?

For some of you who don’t have a larger view of Techstars, this question comes up a lot as I’m traveling to different countries.

Techstars has three distinct parts to it. The first part is our startup programs, which includes Startup Weekend, Startup Week, and Startup Digest. These give access, education, and exposure to the communities or ecosystems.

The second part is what Techstars is mainly known for, which is our mentorship-driven accelerator programs. We’re running about 29 of these accelerators all around the world.

The third part of the business is the venture arm, which invests in startups that mainly go through our accelerator program and maybe some outside. Those are the three main pillars of Techstars as an organization.

We are running startup programs in about 28 countries out of 50 plus in Asia Pacific. We are running about 500 programs, including the bootcamps and other editions of our startup programs. We’re seeing about 10-20 percent growth year-by-year.

With that said, although we run thousands of Startup Weekends around the world, there are a lot of people we haven’t reached. You hear people who have been touched by these programs and know the impact of these programs in their communities. These people know how awesome it is.

The mission here is, “how can we share this awesome experience with as many people as possible?” We literally get to change people’s lives.

In the simplest terms, we want to enable and empower individuals in communities all around the world.

We want to continue doing that, because there’s so much still to go, especially in Asia. Economic growth is here and it’s the frontier of everything. This is where people need access, power, and exposure more than anywhere else.

Besides that, we’re not just talking about the individual impact programs, but as a collective of accelerators and the investing arm, we’re trying to help ecosystems in Asia Pacific to grow so that the true values of Techstars are materialized.

Entrepreneurs should be everywhere. You should be able to build your startup wherever you are from or where ever you are. But in order for that to happen, your ecosystem needs to grow and have all the right elements to be able to provide the environment for people to do that.

With the collective, our goal is to basically make Asia Pacific better than Silicon Valley or become an iteration of Silicon Valley by finding the strength of ecosystems to help it grow.

We have a lot of work to do.

Are you ready to help your community learn, network, and startup? Organize a Startup Weekend event in your area today!