Wednesday October 31, 2012 0 comments
Boulder-headquartered tech startup accelerator is a coveted and highly selective program
By Katrina Pfannkuch
BOULDER -- The TechStars accelerator program began supporting web-based, startup technology companies in 2007, leading their first graduating class with the motto "do more faster."
As of 2012, they have more than 1,200 applications for the coveted 12 spots available annually, and are known as the No. 1 technology start-up accelerator in the world.
How did they get there so fast?
Answer: By providing very clear, specific support, encouragement and direction through a team of seasoned mentors, showing startups how to build the best possible strategy and team to support long-term success.
And the $18K of seed funding for each company and optional $100K convertible debt note for each TechStars participant doesn't hurt, either.
TechStars has five startup locations in Boulder, Boston, New York City, Seattle and San Antonio. TechStars is backed by more than 75 different venture capital firms and angel investors.
Nicole Glaros, managing director at TechStars Boulder, points out that by providing the resources and funding each startup's needs quickly and up front, companies are free to fully focus on what they are trying to create and develop offerings that can be actively tested in the real market.
This type of real-world, hands-on training and resources are exactly what startups need to focus on the end-game - revenue.
"The financial support we offer gets a TechStars company to a point where it's generating revenue. During their time in this program they need to find a way to raise money," says Glaros. "Then, the success of each startup is determined by how quickly they can become self-sustaining."
Glaros says learning about the lean, startup methodology and understanding how to identify and solve the needs of customers is integral to the success of all startups in the program.
"We teach how to look at the realities, not deal with assumptions," adds Glaros. "One of the other reasons I think TechStars as an accelerator has been so successful is because we offer open source results. We put all of our earnings, successes and failures out on the web for the public to see, which helps keep us honest in our own process."
One of the elements that truly sets TechStars apart is its three months of intensive mentorship support provided by a host of experienced mentors who have successfully gotten their own ventures off the ground.
One recent example in Boulder is Timothy Ferriss (pictured), author of the No. 1 best-selling book "The 4-Hour Workweek" and nominated by Fast Company magazine as one of their "Most Innovative Business People of 2007."
Current participants in the program can choose from various mentors in all six locations to get insight specific to their unique experience and location.
Recent TechStars graduate Carly Glodge, co-owner of Ubooly.com with Isaac Squires and Gavin Lee, feels the mentor support is one of the most valuable aspects of the program, and they still frequently tap into the insight of program alumni.
Ubooly is a tech-savvy tool that transforms an iPod touch or iPhone into a stuffed animal, in a sense. Ubooly is a furry, cuddly creature that you "insert" a device into so kids can connect with it as a snuggly learning toy. It talks, automatically downloads free stories and games from an e-portal (ecommerce) and -- most importantly -- helps kids improve listening skills in today's vision-driven learning environment.
"We are really tapped into the casual gaming aspects of Ubooly (for parents and kids) because it fills a specific need for both that further connects people to their technology in a more meaningful way," said Glodge.
Ubooly still works out of the TechStars offices in Boulder, one of the benefits that Glaros stresses is ideal for all TechStars. "Startups work on site and collaborate with their core team daily," she said.
"We want well-rounded, A-game players with passion and a demonstrable ability to execute. It's important that 100 percent of all brain power is focused on the project."
For Glaros, the fun is in connecting and offering support. "I love working with really smart, awesome people and helping them grow - and help them be a success - that is so rewarding.
"I love what I do."
For more details on everything TechStars, check out techstars.tv to see the documentaries of actual TechStars startups. This "Reality TV style" approach to startup culture serves as a great learning tool for other companies considering taking the plunge.
The 2012 season was filmed this summer and is available online now.
For more information, visit www.techstars.com.
TechStars quick facts
- TechStars was founded in 2006 by David Cohen, Brad Feld, David Brown and Jared Polis
- Headquarters are in Boulder with four other TechStars locations in New York City, Boston, Seattle and San Antonio
- More than $258 million in funding has been raised so far for TechStars startup companies at all five locations
- Approximately 1,100 full-time-equivalent jobs have been created
- TechStars companies average more than $1 million in outside capital after their participation in the program
Source: TechStars website
Above photo: Timothy Ferriss, author of bestselling "The 4-Hour Workweek," mentors TechStars participants in Boulder. Photo by Andrew Hyde