TechStars Expansion to Seattle Fueled by Boston Success, Says Brad Feld

Yesterday’s official announcement that TechStars, the startup boot camp and seed-stage investment fund, is coming to Seattle next fall has a lot of us here buzzing with anticipation. Founded in Boulder, CO, in 2007, the program invites about 10 small tech startups for three months of training and mentorship, and awards $6,000 per founder in exchange for a 6 percent equity slice of each company. So far, TechStars has supported 39 startups, with about three-quarters of them receiving follow-on financing. The program expanded to Boston earlier this year.

Of course, there will be some challenges unique to Seattle. More on that soon. Meantime, I pinged TechStars co-founder Brad Feld, a noted entrepreneur and VC, to ask him whether the program’s experience in Boston explicitly paved the way for Seattle.

“Absolutely,” Feld says. “When we expanded to Boston, we weren’t sure if we would be effective in another city. The experience in Boston far exceeded any expectations we had. The Boston community really rose to the occasion and embraced TechStars, and as part of it we were able to generalize our view of what was necessary for TechStars to be successful in another city. We spent a lot of time this fall thinking about expansion beyond Boulder and Boston and now have a very deliberate strategy for what we are going to do and how we are going to do it.”

A big part of that is finding the right person to lead the local effort—in Seattle’s case, it’s tech investor and entrepreneur Andy Sack, who co-runs the seed-stage fund Founder’s Co-op. Sack has previously served as a mentor in TechStars (and he started his career in Boston).

“We spent a lot of time last year thinking about the right profile for the person to run the program in Boston,” Feld says. “As part of that, David Cohen (TechStars’ founder—who has been running the Boulder program) identified the characteristics he had that made special magic happen in Boulder. We determined the person needed to be an entrepreneur who deeply understood the Internet and software, had both successful and unsuccessful startup experiences, had raised angel and VC money in previous companies, was well connected and respected in the local community, was a tireless advocate for startups and entrepreneurship, and had a style that could relate to first time entrepreneurs. Oh—and the person had to be a nerd.”

“Sound like Andy?” he asks.

Feld adds, “This was what we went through when we recruited Shawn Broderick to run the Boston program. We used the same filter when we thought about Seattle and Andy was the unambiguous top choice. And it was awesome that he wanted to do it!”

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