Pre-Seed Funding – The New Friends and Family Round

Techstars Rising Stars is a pre-seed fund investing in underrepresented founders of color in the U.S.

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Filling A Crucial Funding Gap for Underrepresented Founders

Friends and family funding is a critical early capital source for many startup founders. While great ideas can come from anywhere and anyone, not everyone has a built-in network they can tap into to bring their company to life. This missing friends and family funding holds back too many historically under-appreciated entrepreneurs in the United States. We aim to change this.

Techstars created Rising Stars to fill this crucial funding gap. Rising Stars is a pre-seed, pre-accelerator fund specifically structured to provide underrepresented founders in the U.S. with access to investment at the very beginning of their startup journey.

Rising Stars invests $100k in promising but overlooked startups that would otherwise be ignored by traditional venture capital. Along with a financial boost, Techstars connects our founders with our worldwide network for unparalleled mentorship, real-world startup know-how, and access to opportunities for growth.

And, selection for Rising Stars puts these founders on the best footing for future consideration to join one of our 50+ accelerator programs located throughout the U.S., and around the world.

Rising Stars may be for you if you are:


A member of the founding team must be from a historically underrepresented racial or ethnic group (Black, Hispanic and Latino, Indigenous American, American Indian or Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, and Filipino, Hmong and Vietnamese Asian)


Your startup should be in the very earliest stages of development and have not previously received outside funding. If your company is more advanced, but still early-stage, consider applying to one of our accelerator programs.


Rising Stars is exclusively for U.S-based startups. You and your company must be located and operating in the United States.


Techstars is always seeking founders and teams who demonstrate grit, resilience, and a proven ability to execute against a big vision.

Our Rising Stars Team

neal sales-griffin
Neal Sáles-Griffin

Managing Director

Saba Karim
Saba Karim


Lilliana de Souza Robinson
Lilliana Robinson

Investment Manager

david cohen
David Cohen

Founder & Chairman

cord brown
Cordelro Brown

Investment Advisor

sophie davis
Sophie Davis

Investor in Residence

sierra moller
Sierra Moller

Corporate Counsel

zach noffsinger
Zach Noffsinger

Senior Corporate Counsel

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