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Huh? What? You didn’t know there was a TechStars Chicago? There is now.
Last night I was in Chicago at 1871, the amazing 50,000 square foot co-working space in the Chicago Merchandise Mart that has become the convening spot for the digital economy in Chicago and the home of Excelerate Labs. It was the mentor kickoff night for the fourth year of Excelerate Labs and I was delighted to be able to announce that Excelerate Labs and TechStars are joining forces to create and run TechStars Chicago.
Excelerate Labs is a three year old, high-quality accelerator in Chicago managed by Troy Henikoff (SurePayroll) and Sam Yagan (OkCupid, SparkNotes, Match.com) as well as Sandbox Industries’ Nick Rosa and New World Ventures’ Adam Koopersmith. In its first three years, it has already earned a place among the very best accelerators in the nation. Its first three classes of thirty portfolio companies have raised more than a combined $30M and I had the distinct honor of keynoting at their Demo Day last August.
Our relationship with Troy, Sam, and team started when Troy came to TechStars Demo Day in Boulder in 2009. Next Big Sound had gone through TechStars and Troy was a seed investor. He spent a bunch of time with me and David and suggested we start a TechStars Chicago. At the time, we weren’t ready to scale TechStars beyond Boulder, as we were obsessively focused at the time on getting things right and really working in Boulder before we tried to do a TechStars in another city. But we encouraged Troy and Sam to do their own Chicago accelerator, which became Excelerate Labs. David was a formal advisor, we both were mentors, and Troy and Sam did an outstanding job of picking our brains as they created Excelerate.
I remember showing up on one of the first days of the Excelerate program to do a mentor talk and Sam said “I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing but this is going to be awesome!” It turned out he did, and it was, and Excelerate quickly became one of the best accelerators in the world.
Last fall when I was in Chicago for the Startup America Partnership regional meeting, I had lunch with Troy and asked him if he’d consider joining forces with us. Up to this point, we hadn’t expanded into a new city with another program – the TechStars programs in Boston, Seattle, and New York were created from scratch. And our vertical and powered by programs – Cloud (in San Antonio with Rackspace), Microsoft Accelerator (in Seattle with Microsoft) and Nike Accelerator (in Portland with Nike) were also started from scratch. We wanted to explore expanding by partnering with existing accelerators and based on the relationships, superb quality of Excelerate, and amazing Chicago startup community, we felt like Chicago was at the top of the list for doing this.
Fortunately, Troy, Sam, Nick, and Adam agreed and a few months later we are psyched to launch TechStars Chicago and welcome them to the TechStars family. Excelerate Labs is now TechStars Chicago. Apply today.
Thirty-five great candidates were interviewed for this position; the only offer we extended was to Eugene. His background includes NY-area investments BuzzFeed and Bedrocket while he was at New Enterprise Associates. Prior to that, he worked at Warbug Pincus and Morgan Stanley. We were looking for deep competence and culture fit with TechStars and we found it with Eugene.
It’s been amazing to me to see TechStars NY grow since David Cohen and David Tisch launched it in the Winter of 2011. Tisch provided amazing leadership over the three programs, helping launch 36 new companies, of which 1 has been acquired, 2 have failed, and 33 have gone on to raise around $50m and employ over 200 people. The NY startup community has been awesome with engagement from over 75 mentors. And as the NY entrepreneurship scene has exploded during this time, it’s been fun to be part of it with both TechStars and our investments in companies such as MakerBot, Medialets, AdMeld (now Google), CrowdTap, Organic Motion, Jirafe, Next Big Sound (which was part of TechStars Boulder Summer 2009) and SideTour (which was part of the second TechStars Summer 2011 program).
Nicole Glaros is serving as Interim MD and will be based with Eugene in NYC during this year’s program. David Cohen will be present as well, helping get Eugene up to speed. I”m also going to be spending a week at TechStars NY during the program from April 15 to April 19.
Eugene – welcome to TechStars. I’m psyched to have you as part of the team!
If you’re working on a quantified self product or are part of a startup that would benefit from integration with Nike+, you have less than a week left to apply to the Nike+ Accelerator, powered by TechStars (deadline is February 3rd). If accepted, you will receive $20,000 in seed funding and support from TechStars, and mentorship from leaders within TechStars and Nike.
The program begins in Portland on March 18th and will be led by Managing Director Dylan Boyd and TechStars is the investor in your company. Nike offers mentors, executives, technology, access to the developer portal, API, and more.
Don’t be bashful – apply now!
The roster at TechStars continues to grow with awesome people. In the past month, TechStars has announced Mark Solon as a general partner, Luke Beatty as managing director for Boulder and Ari Newman as Network Catalyst. I’m proud to claim all three as close colleagues.
Mark is a long time friend – we’ve invested in a number of companies together over the years including SendGrid, Orbotix, and Lijit. He’s been involved as a mentor to TechStars since the beginning and his endless positive energy and attitude was a huge inspiration for my Boulder Thesis. When he announced that he wasn’t raising another fund at Highway 12 Ventures, David Cohen started talking to him about taking a more active role with TechStars. Voila!
Luke Beatty was the founder of Associated Content (sold to Yahoo in 2010) and has mentored the Boulder program for years. I fondly remember a long conversation at one of the first events we were at together at a number of years ago where I keynoted some Colorado industry event either right before or right after Tim Armstrong. Luke brings an enormous amount of entrepreneurial experience, as well as mentor experience, to the TechStars Boulder program.
Ari was a part of the first TechStars program all the way back in 2007 and his company, Filtrbox, was acquired by Jive Software several years ago. They were the fourth TechStars company to have a positive exit (of 18 to date now). Ari is perfectly positioned to make introductions and facilitate action across our growing group of alumni.
We’ve got a lot of things planned for 2013, including more “powered by TechStars” programs like the one we just announced with Nike, additional TechStars cities, and a few completely new things we are going to try.
For everyone who had been involved in some way along the journey since we started TechStars in 2006, thank you. You are dynamite. And welcome Mark, Luke, and Ari to the full-time team!
When we started TechStars in 2006, one of our premises was to help build a strong startup community in Boulder. Our experience with TechStars – starting in Boulder, but expanding to Boston, Seattle, and New York – helped us understand not just TechStars’ role and impact on a startup community, but what drives startup communities over the long term. We’ve seen this dramatically accelerator around the world through the Global Accelerator Network and when I wrote Startup Communities: Building a Startup Ecosystem in Your City, much of what I used as the basis for the Boulder Thesis came from my experiences here.
Several years ago David Cohen, Jason Mendelson, and I started talking about the idea that the same principles of an accelerator model could apply to specific vertical markets or companies. TechStars Cloud, which is about to start it’s second program, was our first experiment with this. The first year was a great success, we learned a lot from it, and applied much of our learning to our first “powered by TechStars” accelerator that we did with Microsoft.
Today, Nike announced their first Nike+ Accelerator program, powered by TechStars. Ten companies will participate in a three-month, mentorship-driven program. The technology focus will be about leveraging the success of the Nike+ FuelBand, Nike+ Running and NikeFuel to support digital innovation. Based in Portland, the program is just a short drive away from Nike World Headquarters. will begin in March of 2013 and conclude in June with two investor demo days; one in Portland and one in Silicon Valley.
I’m an avid marathoner and completely obsessed with the idea of instrumenting myself to track extensive data about my health and fitness. I also believe that the best way to accelerate core technologies like what Nike has worked on is to build significant startup communities around their core products and technologies. That’s what the goal of the Nike+ Accelerator program is.
I’m excited to join the likes of Nike’s Vice President of Digital Sport, Stefan Olander, Naveen Selvadurai, co-founder of Foursquare, and Tim Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Body and all around awesome entrepreneur, as a mentor in the program.
With over 15 successful programs under our belt and over 200 companies having gone through a TechStars program, TechStars is powering the accelerator for Nike and we’re already looking forward to the outcome of combining our own firsthand knowledge in the setting of an impressive organization. To apply, go to www.nikeaccelerator.com for details and applications. The application deadline is February 3rd, 2013. Accepted companies will be notified in late February.
If you are a startup around digital health, human instrumentation, and the quantified-self, apply now to be part of the program. I look forward to meeting you!