The Western Union Accelerator powered by Techstars is looking for passionate entrepreneurs solving challenging problems. Applications are open now.
Over the next few weeks we’ll be hitting the road to meet with founders in Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Guadalajara, Mexico City, New York, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, Seattle, and Toronto. If you’re in any of those cities you can sign up for in-person office hours or virtual office hours if you live elsewhere. Sign up HERE to request a meeting.
Who Should Apply?
We are looking for startups doing work in payments and remittances; financial inclusion technology and products that serve the under/unbanked; digital wallets and stored value; POS systems; regtech around KYC and AML; anti-fraud technology and digital identification tools, data analytics tools; technologies that improve settlement and transactions; borderless banks; crypto and blockchain; AI/ML, as well as personal financial products with an emphasis towards financial inclusion that can serve Western Union’s 100M+ customers.
We strive to create a diverse class that looks like the world around us. Forty percent of the companies in our 2019 class came from outside the U.S. and half of the CEOs came from underrepresented backgrounds.
We are stage agnostic and open to companies from pre-seed to Series A. We’ve accepted companies into the program from pre-product and no revenue to $20M in funding with millions in revenue and dozens of employees.
- You want to build a big company.
Techstars has a world-class track record, running accelerators around the globe since 2007. Techstars portfolio companies have a market cap of nearly $25B, with numerous billion dollar companies in the portfolio like Sendgrid, Pillpack, Digital Ocean and a total of 32 companies worth $100M+ or more.
- You want to scale quickly.
Western Union has incredible scale and know-how that they want you to leverage. There are hundreds of thousands of Western Union® agent locations across 200 countries and territories facilitating transactions in over 130 currencies. With direct access to WU decision makers and the opportunity for a potential commercial arrangement, those in the program will have a distinct advantage.
- You want to be part of a network that is going to back you for life.
Techstars is for life. We maintain a network of 4,000 founders, 5,000 mentors, 10,000 investors and 100+ corporate partners who all #givefirst. Whenever you need help in the future – whether it’s a couch to sleep on, or an intro to a Fortune 100 CEO – the people you meet through Techstars will be the people you turn to first for the rest of your life.
As a founder, I went through a Techstars program myself. It was a life changing experience for me, so feel free to ask me about my experience and I will tell you why I’m such a fan.
Step 1: If you’re interested in joining the program, completing the application should be your next step. This will allow us to have a deeper conversation when we meet in person for office hours.
Step 2: Once you apply, please fill out the office hours request form and we’ll reach out to set up a time to meet.
Today, Techstars in partnership with Western Union, is proud to announce the inaugural class of the Western Union Accelerator Powered by Techstars. The 13-week mentorship-driven accelerator program will work with the following 10 startups driving innovation in the next-generation of financial services solutions and payment technology. Presenting, the 2019 class of the Western Union Accelerator Powered by Techstars!
Today, I’m starting a new role as Managing Director for the Western Union Accelerator Powered by Techstars, where we are seeking out the world’s best entrepreneurs working in payment tech and cross border money movement. I’m thrilled to be applying my experience as a founder to help startups think big and different around the cutting-edge of these spaces, and to partner with a forward-thinking company like Western Union in doing so. The startup world is a place I’ve spent a lot of time, and I like it here. Let me explain.
Cast your mind back to 2008. I know, it was just 11 years ago, but those years have been huge. Social media was still brand new (Twitter was founded in 2006, the same year that Facebook opened up to everyone with an email address). The world economy was in financial crisis. Payment tech wasn’t something that the average person knew or thought about: IndieGoGo got its start in 2007, and Kickstarter in 2009.
As for me, in 2008 I launched a startup called GiveForward, centered around peer-to-peer fundraising. My co-founder Desiree Vargas-Wrigley and I had this notion that people should be able to use the internet to raise money for the people and causes they care about. To us, this seemed like a pretty sensible idea. But when we went to raise capital from VCs, we were laughed out of the room. Literally. Time after time, we were told this idea would never work and that we should instead be a non-profit. We knew these investors were wrong but we didn’t have many options, so we decided to bootstrap the company and hoped that one day people would come around on the idea.
Two years later we found our first true believer. We received an offer to participate in the inaugural class of Techstars Chicago (then called Excelerate Labs). After deliberating for a solid half second, we accepted the offer. I can pinpoint that moment as one that would change my life forever.
Coming out of Techstars, we raised several rounds of venture capital, partnered with Nationwide Insurance, and went on to help people all over the world raise hundreds of millions of dollars on our platform for things like cancer treatments, organ transplants, and life-saving surgeries. Just a few years after we launched, the idea that you could raise money on the Internet officially caught on. More than a thousand platforms like ours sprang up around the world, and this new industry has changed the way we think about financing everything. Today, we know this space as crowdfunding.
I tell you this not to claim I can see into the future (I can’t, unfortunately), but to demonstrate that I’m comfortable with new ideas that may sound crazy—but may also be the beginning of next big thing. And to explain why I’m such a strong believer in Techstars and the amazing boost that it can give to startups—by believing in them, investing in them, mentoring them, and connecting them to the worldwide network.
I also want to point out that I’m not alone in my love of big ideas. Western Union has been an innovator for its entire 167 years. They built the first telegraph line across the U.S. (1861) and launched the first commercial satellite into orbit (1974). Today, more than 70% of their digital transactions originate on mobile devices, and in the past year they moved $300 billion across 200 countries and territories and 130 currencies. They can handle your big idea: they want to hear it. Just imagine how crazy that telegraph line sounded the first time someone pitched it!
Western Union and I want to hear your crazy, amazing, world-changing ideas for payment tech and cross border money movement. We’re looking to solve the industry’s biggest opportunities through technologies such as digital identity/KYC, digital/omni-channel solutions, digital wallets, reg-tech, crypto and blockchain, ML/AI and new analytic approaches, all while leveraging the creative and agile thinking of some of the fintech industry’s brightest minds.