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As of 2020, Techstars is no longer a member of the Global Accelerator Network. This will come as somewhat of a surprise to many of the members, especially after Techstars helped to create it in the first place, so we wanted to take the time to explain why we’re no longer participating in GAN.

The predecessor and the idea for GAN was born inside of Techstars. In 2011, we hired Patrick Riley to help us create a network of accelerators that were loosely based on the design of Techstars. The goal was simple – help them be successful and in turn help more entrepreneurs succeed.  While most people find it odd that we’d want to help our competitors be successful, to us it was simple #GiveFirst math and ultimately was done to benefit founders in those programs. We couldn’t be in all of these places around the world, so we opted to build relationships with others who were operating in those locations by helping them get their accelerators off the ground. If they were going to exist anyway, we wanted to help them be as good as they could be.

Over time, we even bought a few of the accelerators from the network that were world-class, including Springboard (created by Jon Bradford) which is now Techstars London, and Excelerate Labs (run by Troy Henikoff, Sam Yagan, etc.) which is now Techstars Chicago.

We struggled in the early years to build this best practice sharing network because we found that others were, at least in part, joining in order to have a closer association with Techstars. This led to us spinning GAN out as an independent entity in 2014, where Techstars had no ownership or control. The goal of doing this was to take something we loved, and thought was needed in the world, and to literally give it to the community without trying to control it in any way. 

Since that time, Patrick and his team have done an incredible job of building up this network of accelerators around the world. However, in truth, Techstars hasn’t participated in the GAN network in any meaningful way since it spun out. Our operations of more than fifty accelerator programs globally are just unlike any of the other members, so it hasn’t made sense to be in this best practice sharing network with is generally focused on much smaller organizations. 

Ultimately, we love GAN and the idea of best practice sharing across accelerators. This is why we created it in the first place. But, here at Techstars, we’ve outgrown our own need for it. At the same time, we have many relationships where we provide access to our network of thousands of companies. We’ve found that the market is confused as to whether or not GAN represents exposure to our network and our portfolio. Since it doesn’t, we’ve made the decision to drop our GAN membership to avoid this type of market confusion. Coupled with the fact that it’s been some time since we’ve actually engaged in any way with GAN, this hard decision feels like the right one for us. 

We are glad that GAN exists, and wish Patrick and his team the best of luck in the future. Our experience is that it has been stronger without us than with us, and we hope that this trend continues.

David Cohen
(@davidcohen) Founder & Managing Partner of Techstars, previously founder of several technology companies. David is an active startup advocate, advisor, board member, and technology advisor who comments on these topics on his blog at DavidGCohen.com