Techstars Anywhere Inaugural Class Takes Virtual Graduation Walk

[Corrected 4/20/09, 5:35 am. See below.] From Adelaide to Toronto, the Techstars accelerator that began in Boulder, CO, runs 39 programs in 27 cities around the world—with the prerequisite that admitted startups must relocate, if necessary, to the city where their three-month program is based.

Today, however, the inaugural class of the 40th program—Techstars Anywhere—is graduating after completing an online Demo Day that capped the past three months of the program’s first “virtual accelerator.”

“We started Techstars Anywhere so that companies could still get the full benefit of our mentorship-driven accelerator, whether they are in San Diego or Halifax, Nova Scotia,” said Ryan Kuder, who is the program’s San Diego-based managing director. More than 1,000 startups applied last year for Techstars Anywhere, with over half applying from outside the United States. (Kuder declined to disclose exactly how many applications Techstars received, but wrote in a blog post, “It was an incredibly competitive applicant pool that resulted in a less than 1 percent acceptance rate.”)

The 10 companies that enrolled in Techstars Anywhere (which actually included startups in San Diego and Halifax) worked remotely from their homes or offices, primarily using video conferencing and Slack collaboration software to participate in the program. The group also came together for three one-week sessions—in Los Angeles for the first week, in Boulder for the sixth week, and in San Francisco for the 12th and final week of the program.

The enrolled companies agreed to the same standard terms as every Techstars program, Kuder said. During the 12-week program, Techstars provides each startup with $20,000 and offers a $100,000 convertible loan as well as mentors, educational sessions, and more specialized help in marketing, technology development, operations, and other startup business issues. In exchange, Techstars gets a 6 percent ownership stake from each company.

Asked if he felt that the virtual program was worth it, Cody Barbo, the founder and CEO of San Diego-based Trust & Will, said, “To me it’s not about the equity. It’s about the networking and the mentors that Techstars provides. The greatest thing about Techstars are the mentors. You are literally a phone call, or a Slack message away from anyone in their network.”

After founding Trust & Will last fall with Daniel Goldstein, Barbo said, the startup Web services business has grown into a six-member team that already is offering to prepare a last will and testament for a fee. The company plans to provide additional commercial services, including “white glove” trust services.

“They made great progress during the program,” Kuder said. “They really got their hands around the business.”

All 10 startups recorded their Demo Day pitches last week in San Francisco, and Techstars streamed the videos earlier today for investors and others who logged in from around the country, Kuder said. Investors posed real-time questions to the team, who were standing by to respond.

[Corrected with updated information from Techstars] The 10 participants were:

StoryTap, based in Vancouver, BC, provides Web-based technologies that make it easier for marketers to get high-quality and authentic testimonials from their brands’ customers.

Trust & Will, in San Diego, is a Web-based service that provides legal forms and information to help online customers prepare their own estate plan.

Flikshop, based in Washington, DC, has developed a mobile app that makes it easy for families to turn smartphone photos into physical postcards they can send to relatives in prison.

DNSFilter, in Washington, DC, provides IT professionals with cloud-based technology for enterprise customers, enabling them to manage their users’ online experience by filtering inappropriate content., out of Boston, MA, uses AI to help recruiters and startup teams identify, evaluate, and hire the best engineers. They signed several Fortune 100 companies during the 3-month program.

Queen of Raw, based in New York City, is an online marketplace for raw materials used in clothing. Factories, brands, and retailers can post their unused fabric on the website, enabling designers to buy fabric directly from suppliers.

BioInteractive Technologies, of Vancouver, BC, has developed a wristband that understands what your hands are doing, and helps users prevent and recover from hand-injuries.

Groundhog, from Halifax, Nova Scotia, is building a cryptocurrency wallet and payment platform that makes it simple for developers to accept recurring payments from their customers. (The company initially set out to offer a monthly subscription to curated and vetted ICO tokens.)

Goodr, from Atlanta, GA, is a sustainable waste management company that uses online technology to redirect surplus food from food service providers to the millions of people who may not know where their next meal is coming from.

Lynq, based in New York, is a smart compass and tracking device that doesn’t require smartphones, connectivity, or infrastructure. The company performed an exercise with the U.S. Pacific Command that significantly improved the ability to locate wounded soldiers.

Bruce V. Bigelow was the editor of Xconomy San Diego from 2008 to 2018. Read more about his life and work here. Follow @bvbigelow

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