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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.