Techstars Music 2021: Unprecedented challenge… and opportunity

Aug 25, 2020

Techstars Music will run virtually in 2021; Techstars Music startups have now raised $90 million post-program; Amazon Music joins the Techstars Music Membership for 2021.

Hi, I’m Bob Moczydlowsky, Managing Director of Techstars Music. Each August of the past four years, I’ve written this blog post to mark the beginning of our annual recruitment and evaluation process for the Techstars Music Accelerator. Each year I’ve explained a bit about the program, our thesis, and reported on exits (congrats, Superpowered!) and shared some numbers about financings for our portfolio companies (who have now raised more than $90 million in post-Techstars funding, with more to announce soon).

But this year is different. The global music business is facing both unprecedented challenges, and opportunities. Now, more than ever, we need to do our part to support incredible entrepreneurs, regardless of their cultural background, economic status, or physical location.

As investors, we think this is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to build a gigantic business in music and live events. We also think it is the perfect opportunity to build a more equitable and diverse music business.

As a result, we’re making the following changes to Techstars Music for 2021:

  • Techstars Music 2021 will run virtually — we will no longer require startups to relocate to Los Angeles upon acceptance. Our $120k USD per startup funding offers will remain the same, as will our perks package and program content. Techstars Music 2021 will start February 16th and end with our annual Demo Day on May 13th, 2021.

  • Techstars Music is committed to 50% of our program CEOs being diverse — with a particular focus on Black, LGBTQ+, and female founders. Black and LGBTQ+ culture are undeniable drivers of global music culture, and we believe startups led by individuals who identify with these cultures are best-positioned to shape the future of the business. Our program will use this benchmark of 50% Diverse CEOs going forward. ‘Diverse CEOs’ includes people of color, women, LGBTQ+, people with disabilities, historically marginalized communities, indigenous people, and military veterans.*

  • We will be updating our sourcing and selection process to create equitable access to Techstars Music — no travel or in-person meetings required. All evaluation and recruiting events will be conducted by video conference, including our final screening event with Techstars Music member companies in December. Less expense for founders, less bias for the system, more and different effort from us to find incredible founders solving real problems for the music industry.

It is important to note: We are not making these changes to the program solely from the Techstars perspective. As I hope is widely understood at this point, Techstars Music is a collaboration between Techstars and the global music business.

For 2021, the Techstars Music Member companies are Warner Music Group, Bill Silva Entertainment, Sony, Concord, Royalty Exchange, AVEX Inc., Peloton, Entertainment One and new for this year… Amazon Music. The membership is a formidable team of artist managers, live event companies, streaming platforms, consumer product manufacturers and global rights-holders, all working to accelerate startups and attract more capital to the music tech ecosystem — and increase its cultural diversity (more news to come on this front in the weeks and months ahead).

Techstars Music members provide more than just operating capital; they run the program with us, helping at every step of the process, from selection, to mentoring, to business development, and often, follow-on investment. Over just the last two years, members helped startups break into the Japanese market via national television, secure global distribution for music content, and negotiate experimental licenses for some of the most valuable music content on the planet. They’ve also made 16 direct follow-on investments into Techstars Music alumni, totaling more than $7 million USD.

In addition to our member companies, Techstars Music startups also spend time with hundreds of world-class mentors from music, tech, and venture capital who #GiveFirst to help our portfolio companies build their businesses. Outcomes here include live-event experiments, automotive and major brand partnerships, artist collaborations, and national press.

Together with our members, we are actively working to diversify our recruiting efforts, our global mentor pool (comprised of 300+ mentors from tech, venture, music, and live events) and even the membership itself. We will include more voices in every step of the process for 2021— and work diligently to recruit more diverse co-investors to provide follow-on capital, too. If you’re a music/events company or an investor with an eye toward shaping and owning a piece of the future of music, please get in touch.

Do you know a founder, mentor, or investor who cares deeply about the future of music? My email is I’m @bobmoz on Twitter. Please reach out.

Is your startup next? See below, and let’s meet up.

— Bob Moczydlowsky, @bobmoz

Managing Director, Techstars Music




PS — You may have noticed my asterisk on our diversity commitment above. Here are the details from Techstars globally:

*Additionally, Techstars as a whole is making a system-wide wide commitment to accept 1000 diverse CEOs to Techstars accelerator programs by 2026. Right now, fewer than 4% of our Techstars Accelerator U.S. CEOs identify as people of color. That’s just not acceptable. Our goal is to triple this number over the next five years.