On the heels of 2020, it’s difficult to discount the major influences that shaped technology, the innovation ecosystem, and startups over the past 12 months. The last year brought rapid - and forced - digital transformation, strong calls for social and racial justice, and more sustainable practices and solutions worldwide. Entrepreneurs were vital contributors and problem-solvers for our society’s most pressing and complex challenges.
During our first term of 2021, Techstars ran 12 accelerator programs across the globe:
More than 120 startups participated in these accelerators, focusing on growing their businesses and driving innovation across numerous industries, sectors, and geographies.
Many of these companies are addressing market needs that have either surfaced, or accelerated, as a result of the pandemic. Many of the entrepreneurs who went through our Term 1 accelerator programs are bringing to market solutions in six categories: sustainability, future of work and HR, social justice, education, fintech, and proptech and lifestyle.
Sustainability continues to be an area where entrepreneurs are building critical solutions and increasingly catching the interest of investors. Many Techstars Term 1 startups are building companies in the sustainability space that limit waste and reduce carbon emissions.
From the Equinor & Techstars Energy Accelerator, Vortex Bladeless is reducing the cost of electricity through eco-friendly, low maintenance, oilless, and bladeless turbines that harness wind energy. HILOS, from the STANLEY + Techstars Accelerator, is taking on the fourth most polluting industry in the world — fashion retail — and bringing consumers the first zero-waste, 3D-printed, personalized high-heel shoes, designed to be disassembled and recycled when they are worn out. And out of the Techstars Anywhere Accelerator, E-Fish is tapping into the $100 billion seafood industry to bring consumers fresher, tastier seafood by connecting them to independent wholesalers at scale through their D2C seafood marketplace, contributing to a sustainable seafood industry and supporting a healthier ocean.
In Italy, Techstars Smart Mobility Accelerator’s Blink is offering low-environmental impact, highly efficient, and sustainable same-day-delivery for consumers and e-companies. “Soon, every single e-commerce company in Europe will need an experience like Amazon Prime,” says CEO Giulio Cantoro. Addressing the $24 billion delivery and fulfillment market opportunity in mid-to-large size European cities, Blink aims to address this high-growth market opportunity with fleets of vans and cargo bikes.
In addition, Wiseair and Latitudo 40, also from the Techstars Smart Mobility Accelerator, are addressing the thousands of local administrators and policymakers projected to spend more than €300 billion in the next four years on the region’s green transition. Wiseair offers a solution for data-driven policy-making through their tech platform, which enables data analysis, visualization, and dissemination of data about air quality. Latitudo 40, a smart geospatial platform, is helping municipalities plan for city growth through satellite imagery and AI, making city planning simpler as our global population grows.
The events of 2020 significantly impacted the way work gets done and have left a lasting effect on workers and the workforce. Startups from our Term 1 accelerators are providing solutions for HR teams and employers to optimize their workflows, and to improve the job search, recruitment process, and work experience for jobseekers.
Qualifi of the Techstars Anywhere Accelerator is aiming to disrupt the time-consuming, costly, and competitive $245 billion talent acquisition market. Through their on-demand screening platform, recruiters pre-record interview questions, empowering them to scale phone interviews to hundreds of candidates in just minutes, while simultaneously reducing bias and capturing actionable data to inform hiring decisions. Techstars Berlin Accelerator’s Mockmate also uses natural language processing technology to support companies’ hiring processes, improving job seekers’ experience. The platform allows candidates to practice interviewing and companies to screen more candidates. Already, Mockmate is decreasing clients’ recruitment costs by 20%.
From the Techstars Music Accelerator, Creative Futures Collective is bringing a diversity, equity, and inclusion marketplace to the creative industries, focusing on sourcing and training talent from disenfranchised communities. They’ve already secured partnerships with the likes of the Los Angeles Lakers and Spotify, validating their market and showing that organizations recognize the importance of diverse talent.
Seeing the opportunity to improve workflows and efficiency for engineers, and the $100 billion opportunity in the collaborative notes industry, Techstars Anywhere Accelerator’s Bytebase is delivering a fast and frictionless solution for engineers to organize collaborative notes and thoughts. Code Inspector from the Techstars Boulder Accelerator knows just how expensive technical debt and bad code can be ($350 billion per year to be exact), which is why they’ve built a code analysis platform to help developers write better code faster, and provide real-time feedback, automated code reviews, and tailored advice.
Startups are jumping in to improve DEI and address social justice challenges — and using technology to do it. Employers across industries are experiencing talent shortages and are focused on recruiting and hiring underrepresented candidates, as diverse, equitable, and inclusive companies continue to perform at a competitive advantage. Law enforcement will also benefit from the safer and more equitable practices that new technologies and new companies can provide.
Unpacking from Techstars Social Impact Accelerator is helping organizations decrease turnover by prioritizing workforce values with DEI training. Their online DEI learning platform leverages gamified diversity training and interactive experiences, paired with analytics, to help employers improve employee experiences and decrease turnover, particularly among millennials and Generation Z, who are projected to make up 70% of the global workforce by 2030.
Techstars Seattle Accelerator’s AfriBlocks is working to create a diverse network of skilled African professionals through their two-sided freelance marketplace. They’re equipping freelancers and buyers with collaboration tools and secure payments technology, bringing more opportunity to highly qualified, affordable African freelancers. With 60% of the 1.3 billion population in Africa under the age of 25, AfriBlocks sees huge untapped potential in the African workforce.
And in a year where more Americans have been killed by police officers than there are days in a year, app Legal Equalizer from the Techstars Social Impact Accelerator aims to make law enforcement encounters safer for all parties. Through live video streaming to contacts, streamlined texting to trusted family and friends, attorney contact facilitation, and rights and laws education, Legal Equalizer is a virtual eyewitness during police encounters. JusticeText, also from Techstars Social Impact Accelerator, is optimizing the process of cataloging, storing, and transferring surveillance footage to help the 80% of incarcerated Americans whose cases involve some form of video evidence. Generating automated transcripts of digital discovery and extracting key legal insights, JusticeText’s technology makes it easy for attorneys to create clips in preparation for trial and improve the chance to earn their clients a fair and speedy case.
A large impact from the pandemic was the acceleration of digitization in the education space. Many startups from our Term 1 accelerators are seizing the opportunity to create new offerings for remote learning with long-term potential in areas like science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).
Techstars Anywhere Accelerator’s Circletime is taking on the under-digitized supplemental education space. Circletime created the world's first connected knowledge ecosystem for children, bringing together experienced educators, subject matter experts and children into a safe, socially interactive learning community. In addition, Techstars Berlin Accelerator’s Labbox is inspiring the next generation of engineers through their accredited monthly delivery of child-friendly electronic kits of hands-on STEM projects to help kids understand ‘why’ and ‘how’ things work. Another company in the supplemental education space, Brite from the Techstars Seattle Accelerator, is making it easy to start, run, and grow after-school programs, workshops, and camps. Brite’s SaaS platform helps educators to deliver high-quality STEM curriculum to students as a turn-key solution.
As students self-report less motivation and lower morale, another impact of the pandemic has been the dramatic impact on student engagement in education. Techstars Austin Accelerator’s Enlight is addressing this struggle through their app which curates in-depth student profiles and in-classroom assessments, enabling educators to understand and support their students in quantifiable ways. With funding from Headstream and Teach for America, they continue to gain real momentum in the marketplace.
Floop from Techstars Boulder Accelerator is also supporting educators through their technology that facilitates the giving and receiving of feedback to students. Through Floop, teachers give feedback four times faster and students learn the lifelong skills of seeking, giving, and using feedback to learn.
And as educators expand their work beyond the classroom, Techstars Boulder Accelerator’s Immigo is empowering educators focused on private and 1-1 learning to build and monetize their own micro-schools. Removing the clutter of scheduling, payment, and course building systems, Immigo is a solution for tutors to engage with and expand their value to their learners in one place, building their own ‘paid’ learning community.
Multiple recent Techstars graduates are showing us how innovative technology can play a role in helping create, offer, or maintain financial stability.
Lightning Social Ventures from the Techstars Berlin Accelerator is helping those facing financial hardship receive fast financial support to recover from shocks and build financial resilience. Partnering with nonprofits and public sector institutions, their secure platform verifies financial needs and pays out funds in just a matter of days - a process that typically takes weeks. Also from the Techstars Berlin Accelerator, SympliFi is addressing the unbanked population through their digital wallet solution where users add money to their digital wallet, it becomes digital collateral, and their family back home can instantly access low interest loans locally, anytime they need cash.
Techstars Boulder Accelerator’s Defynance is taking on the U.S. student debt crisis with their solution for college graduates to refinance student loans with a debt-free income share agreement (ISAs) and a career resources marketplace. For fixed income investors, their ISA Refinance Fund provides passive income with low volatility and stable returns closer to equities, while making social impact in the process. Techstars Hub71 Accelerator’s Pax Credit is also supporting students through their cross-border payments platform which eases the financial needs of international students, giving access to key financial products to pay student loans, tuition, and health insurance, and local bank accounts for living expenses. This one-stop-shop platform saves students money and reduces the time, stress, and paperwork involved in international education.
Flaist, from the Techstars Hub71 Accelerator, sees the $100+ billion market for banking enterprise software and is democratizing the digital banking experience for banks and financial institutions. Through their platform of plug-and-play solutions and AI, they’re re-imagining the retail banking customer journey, helping banks ‘fintechify’.
New York Barclays Accelerator’s Smash is working to untangle the work for DeFi for the next wave of investors. Building and curating tokenized portfolios, they’re making it easier for newcomers and passive investors to invest in DeFi. Their investment portfolio serves as a guide to help investors make sense of the space and provides a one-click-to-buy experience into its portfolios and underlying assets.
As a result of the pandemic, society is seeing an increased appetite for flexible living options and solutions for successful community living. Techstars entrepreneurs are challenging themselves to provide easier access to housing, and more convenient lifestyle solutions, so consumers can love the way they live.
Stackhouse from Techstars Anywhere Accelerator is building the future of real estate through their movable container homes and vertical docking communities. Stackhouse is not only democratizing the housing industry by providing an affordable entry point into the homeownership market, but empowering people to not have to choose between owning a home or being mobile. The first Stackhouse community will be built in Denver, CO in 2021, with plans to develop 25 locations around the United States by 2025.
Techstars Austin Accelerator’s Kousso, Livo and BallBox are all building solutions for people to live more convenient and stress-free lives and easing burdens for property managers. Centralizing home data such as manufacturing labels on kitchen applications to user manuals for the custom fireplace, the Kousso platform provides homeowners information and insight to make critical decisions about their home, reducing maintenance costs and addressing concerns before they become major problems. Livo has built a turn-key solution to manage and streamline entire rental processes, helping property managers maximize rental yields while allowing renters to lease without bias accounting for factors such as move-in date and length of lease. Ballbox sees the opportunity with e-commerce sales doubling in the past 12 months and more than 2 billion packages delivered to apartments every year, and is helping property managers eliminate costs and stress associated with package management by turning package management into a revenue-generating amenity for residents.
AskSid AI from Techstars Hub71 Accelerator is also addressing the increased e-commerce opportunity and has built a digital shopping assistant that learns from existing brand data, providing automated expert guidance to online consumers anytime, anywhere. Their technology builds a ‘retail AI brain’ including a knowledgebase of Q&As, tags and intents from available data to power consumers' shopping experience, boosting e-commerce conversions, and help brands uncover new business opportunities with new and existing customers.
As we reflect on all that our Term 1 companies have accomplished, it’s evident that Techstars’ most recent class of graduates is helping build our world’s future with businesses and products that are shaping how we live, do business, and interact with one another around the world. Learn more about these solutions and the other 90+ recent graduates that are also building incredible and important solutions. To check out all these startups’ recent Demo Day pitches or to get in touch with them directly, visit demoday.techstars.com.