Techstars unveils the inaugural cohort of Advancing Cities Fund portfolio companies in New York City

Jan 20, 2023

New York, NY, January 20, 2023 — Techstars, one of the largest pre–seed investors in the world, introduced the 59 companies from the inaugural cohort of the Techstars Advancing Cities Fund to more than 100 prospective public and private investors on Tuesday, January 17, 2023. The event was held at J.P. Morgan’s offices in New York City and convened graduates of the first Techstars programs powered by J.P. Morgan – Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, Miami, and Washington, D.C. – for a day of demonstrations.

The $80 million Techstars Advancing Cities Fund, raised through the J.P. Morgan Private Bank platform, was announced in Spring 2022 and will invest in more than 400 companies across nine U.S. cities through 2024. Open to founders of all backgrounds, the fund was raised with the aim of providing equitable access to funding and support for entrepreneurs who are Black, Hispanic and Latino, Indigenous American and Pacific Islander.

“Despite all of the verbal commitments the VC industry has made to support diverse founders over recent years, it was recently reported by Crunchbase that in 2022, only 1% of U.S. venture dollars went to Black founded companies and Q3 of 2022, 0.63% to Latino founded companies,” stated Maëlle Gavet, CEO of Techstars. “Alongside J.P. Morgan, we are leveraging the power of our combined networks to invest in a large number of underrepresented entrepreneurs across more than 20 industry verticals. Our proven accelerator model provides high-potential startups with crucial opportunities to raise capital, expand their investor bases and ultimately scale their businesses. We’re proud to have deployed more than $7 million in capital to our Advancing Cities portfolio companies since launching the program last year.”

“It has been a privilege for our team to mentor and celebrate this first cohort of entrepreneurs as they excel through the Techstars curriculum,” said Leyonna Barba, Managing Director, Technology & Disruptive Commerce, Middle Market Banking & Specialized Industries, J.P. Morgan Commercial Banking. “This investor spotlight was the culmination of months of hard work. We are excited to see what is next for these founders and to continue to expand our efforts with Techstars to improve access to capital for underrepresented entrepreneurs.”

Throughout the day, prospective investors in attendance had the opportunity to hear from founders including:

Ben Camara, CEO of Remote Coach, a London, UK-based white label digital infrastructure company that enables creators to launch their own apps and grow their digital community-focused businesses.

Corinne Vargas, CEO of SMARTCharts, a Chicago-based healthtech platform that helps clinicians spend less time documenting and more time with patients. SMARTCharts won a Grand Prize of $100,000 at the TechRise Finale and was named a "Future 5" company in Chicago.

Karissma Yve, CEO of Gildform, a Detroit-based print-on-demand jewelry design and manufacturing platform using 3D technology to help creators make jewelry from concept to creation. Her products have been sold in over 15 countries and Gildform collaborated with Marvel’s Black Panther in producing their fully licensed jewelry collection and manufacturing. Karissma has been named Forbes 30 under 30, Crain’s 40 Under 40, and was awarded investment from Pharrell Williams’ Black Ambition Prize.

Fonta Gilliam, CEO of Wellthi, a Washington, D.C.- based fintech that helps banks turn one customer into a community of customers. Wellthi has been recognized for over a half dozen awards for its innovative technology including: 2021 AARP Innovation Lab Winner, 2020 Winner of the International Payments Competition (IPA).

Chiko Chingaya, CEO of Talisman, a Miami-based platform that automates IT including software management, onboarding, offboarding and hardware management for cloud companies.

“This event was a valuable opportunity to share our vision for disrupting the future of software management and connect with potential investors who understand the value of our solution. Opportunities like this are crucial for early-stage companies like ours to gain visibility and accelerate growth,” stated Chiko Chingaya.

Of the 59 companies in the inaugural cohort, the founder class includes 43 CEOs that self-identify as Black, Hispanic/Latino or Native American and 18 that identity as female. The founders have backgrounds as diverse as their businesses ranging from serial entrepreneurs, ex-big tech employees, former traders, professors and marketing experts. The startups come from 28 cities in 12 U.S. states and eight countries.

“Together with Techstars, we congratulate the cohort of founders as they begin the next stage of their business’ journey,” said Tiffany Lewis, Head of Diverse Manager Strategy at J.P. Morgan Private Bank. “We are excited to work with an organization dedicated to creating more equitable economic opportunities like Techstars. As the accelerator programs continue through next year, we’ll see more capital and resources being distributed to entrepreneurs that often are constrained by institutional, structural, and systemic barriers.”

In 2023, Techstars programs powered by J.P. Morgan will operate 17 programs in nine cities adding Los Angeles, New York, Oakland and New Orleans to those already underway in Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, Miami and Washington, D.C. The Advancing Cities Fund will invest in more than 200 companies this year.