The Techstars Network in Action: Firebrand’s Investment in Sickweather

I ran the Sprint Accelerator powered by Techstars from 2014-2016 and saw many examples of the Techstars ecosystem in action. But you may have wondered: how does it really benefit those who are in it?

Because the ecosystem is so vast and comprised of different types of people – entrepreneurs, mentors, investors, corporate partners – its benefits are equally diverse. One great example is the Firebrand Ventures investment in Sickweather, a Techstars alumni company.

Starting the Journey

Sickweather scans social media for reports of illness and uses a patent pending process to turn those reports into accurate real-time and forecasted sickness data. In other words, they can tell you what illnesses are in your area and forecast future outbreaks. I was excited to offer them a spot in the first class of the Sprint Accelerator powered by Techstars in 2014. They made fantastic progress during the program, even inking a deal with Sprint’s mobile ad division Pinsight Media.

Staying Engaged with the Network

Like many Techstars companies, Sickweather set out to raise capital after Demo Day, which led to Brad Feld’s FG Angels syndicate investing in them.

Even though CEO Graham Dodge and his team went back to Baltimore and California after the program, they kept in touch by sending regular email updates to mentors and investors. I can’t overstate how important this is! David Cohen wrote about this in his blog post Don’t Go Dark. It’s how I learned Sickweather landed key partners including The Weather Channel and Clorox. They also always gave a heads up when they were visiting Kansas City or a conference I was at. There were valuable touch points to keep the relationship strong.

From MD to VC

In August 2016 I transitioned from my Techstars Managing Director role to a full-time investor and launched Firebrand Ventures, a seed fund that invests in early stage software startups in the Midwest.

Techstars was hugely supportive. My mentors Brad Feld and David Cohen provided invaluable advice and I was fortunate to add David as an advisor.

Investing in the Network

When Graham told me they were raising a round it was a relatively easy decision to invest in them. Graham had kept me up to date so I knew about their great progress; they were a great fit for our investment criteria; and most importantly I had known him and his core team for over three years.

I always thought the health data analytics part of their business had huge potential and after two years their data set had become valuable to consumer health and pharma companies. I joined their board shortly after Firebrand invested.

Growing Startup Communities

Ever since that 2014 Techstars program, Graham and his co-founders loved KC for its super supportive community, great food and music, and low cost of living. As a result of the Firebrand investment, Sickweather decided to open an office in Kansas City and possibly move the headquarters there. The KC startup community is buzzing and it’s perfect timing as the new Techstars Kansas City program kicks off in July.

The Techstars network is also fantastic for funds like Firebrand. It’s no coincidence that three of our first four investments so far were in Techstars alumni. Beyond investments, I’m a big believer in Give First. I plan to continue mentoring at as many Techstars programs as possible.

I look forward to continuing to play an active role and investing in more great Techstars companies!

Techstars helps entrepreneurs succeed. Interested in joining the worldwide entrepreneur network? Learn how.

Announcing the 2016 Class of the Sprint Accelerator Powered by Techstars!

We are excited to announce the ten companies that will be participating in the 2016 Sprint Accelerator powered by Techstars in Kansas City. We kick things off this week on February 22 and are looking forward to three months of amazing progress, capped off by Demo Day on May 24.

This is the third program in Kansas City and Sprint has continued to be a fantastic corporate partner. We’re also fortunate to have the support of both returning and new program mentors. We’re grateful for the time and guidance you provide to our companies. We couldn’t do it without you. Thank you mentors!

We love Kansas City and know 2016 is going to be an amazing year for Techstars and KC!  

Without further ado, here are the Sprint Accelerator 2016 Techstars companies:

Backstitch: Backstitch makes corporate intranet communications personalized, relevant and actionable. From Detroit, MI.

Karmies: Innovative AdTech platform that monetizes emojis by making them smart and branded. From Denver, CO.

Leka: Leka makes an interactive, multisensory robotic ball that greatly enhances therapies for special needs children. From Paris, France.

Mycroft: The first open source, voice-driven, AI platform for the connected home and beyond. From Lawrence, KS.

Nozzle: A marketing analytics platform that provides on-demand customer acquisition reporting and timely alerts. From Lehi, UT.

Responsive Ads: Reimagining the best possible fluid ad creatives for screen, user and context. From New York, NY.

SocialCapital: SocialCapital automatically generates accurate personality profiles by applying AI to social and online behavior. From San Francisco, CA.

SpaceView: A mobile augmented reality platform that visualizes real world products in virtual spaces. From Portland, OR.

Stride: Stride.AI uses advanced sentiment analysis to enable businesses to translate their textual data into actionable insights. From Bangalore, India.

Super Dispatch: A platform that enables automotive logistics companies to eliminate paperwork, manage loads, drivers, and billing all in one place. From Kansas City, MO.

Applications Open for the Expanded Sprint Accelerator powered by Techstars


We are very excited to announce that applications are now open for the 2016 Sprint Mobile Accelerator powered by Techstars. The scope of the 2016 program has been expanded to include any mobile startup, which could include but not be limited to:

  • Wearables
  • Consumers apps in areas such as entertainment, lifestyle, or productivity
  • Mobile services such as advertising, commerce, or in-home/multi-screen
  • IoT / IoE
  • Data / Analytics
  • Health and wellness
  • Mobile enterprise apps

Ten startups will be selected to participate in the program which begins on February 22, 2016. The program is located at the award-winning Sprint Accelerator facility in the Crossroads Arts District of Kansas City, MO. The selected startups will benefit from targeted workshops, experienced mentors, Sprint’s mobile resources, and the vast Techstars network. Each startup receives up to $120,000 in funding after being selected.

If your startup leverages mobile technology and you want to significantly accelerate your business, apply today:

Announcing the 2015 Class for the Sprint Accelerator Powered by Techstars

I’m very excited to announce the ten awesome companies participating in the 2015 Sprint Accelerator powered by Techstars. This is the second time we’re running this program and the entrepreneurs will have access to our new health system partners such as KU Med and Providence Health, in addition to expert mentors and advisors from the Sprint and Techstars networks.

We’re especially proud of the diversity in this class. Four of the ten CEOs are female as well as many of the co-founders. One of the companies is based overseas and many of those based in the U.S. also hail from other countries.

The solutions being developed by the companies range from a personal connected breathalyzer, to a fertility thermometer and app, to software that connects pets with vets. Here is our amazing class of 2015:

  • Alcohoot is a police grade personal breathalyzer that leverages mobile technology to help you be more responsible when consuming alcohol.
  • HealthID is a mobile platform that assigns unique Health ID codes via a card or wristband enabling users to manage and share personal health information.
  • Hidrate is a unique smart water bottle that syncs to your phone to help keep you hydrated.
  • iDoc24 provides convenient and expert dermatology consultation for your skin concerns via your mobile device.
  • Jolt makes wearable multi-sport head impact sensors to help young athletes play smarter and safer.
  • Ovatemp is a cutting edge mobile app and thermometer that allows women to take control of their fertility.
  • Oxie is the first smart, wearable air purifier enabling users to breathe clean air and receive real-time air quality information.
  • Rex Pet Health is the first all-in-one app that enables pet owners to compare vet pricing, reviews, and services, while also scheduling appointments for their pets.
  • Social Code is an online support community that improves the patient’s health via social connections, behavior change, and a greater understanding of their illness.
  • Triomi is a portable 12-lead EKG that saves lives, costs, and time.

Applications now open for the 2015 Sprint Accelerator powered by Techstars!

We are very excited to announce that applications are now open for the 2015 Sprint Accelerator powered by Techstars. Following the lead of the awesome 2014 class, we are once again focused on mobile health. If you have an innovative startup that’s health-related, and your product has a mobile component, apply for the 2015 program today!

How do we define “mobile health” as we look for our next ten companies? It includes, but isn’t limited to, the following:

  • Wearables – medical devices, movement tracking, vital monitoring etc.
  • Sensor-driven devices and networks
  • Products to help you care for parents, kids, or pets
  • Socially enabled products and services focused on achieving personal health goals
  • Health tools that interact with mobile cameras or sensors
  • Mobile apps that can diagnose chronic disease or other illnesses
  • Medication adherence platforms and apps
  • Big Data – platforms for better quality of care and reduced expenditures

Our 2014 program was a huge success. The ten companies of the 2014 class presented to 1,700 attendees at our demo day, and are continuing to grow their businesses. It was a diverse group by design, including everything from Sickweather, a platform that mines social media data to provide real-time illness forecasting, to FitBark, a small and stylish activity monitoring device for dogs.

We are so excited to find the next ten great mobile health companies, we’re leaving no stone unturned. The following is a list of some of the events we’ll be attending or hosting:

Sept. 9-11: Las Vegas, Super Mobility Week

Sept. 17-18: Denver, Denver Startup Week

Sept. 22-25: Santa Clara, Health 2.0 Annual Conference

Oct. 1: New York City, Health 2.o “Pitch Yourself into the Shark Tank”

Oct. 2-3: Pittsburgh, Meetup /Launch CMU at the Carnegie Mellon Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship

Oct. 8: Kansas City, Open House and Reverse Pitch at the Sprint Accelerator

Oct. 21: Sunnyvale, SVHealth Pitch Competition and Meetup

Oct. 28 (approx): Boston, Health 2.0 Boston Meetup

Nov. 18 (approx): Minneapolis, Mayo Clinic Business Accelerator

Dec. 7-11: Washington, DC, mHealth Summit

If you’d like to connect at any of the above events, or if you just have questions, feel free to contact me via twitter @johnfein, or via email.

The Sprint Accelerator powered by Techstars will transform your company and provide unprecedented access to Sprint’s resources, and you’ll become part of the Techstars network for life. Your new network will include thousands of mentors, investors, and fellow entrepreneurs. This is the biggest factor in the incredible success of our companies. Want to join us? There’s one thing you’ll need to do:

Apply today to the Sprint Accelerator powered by Techstars!


The First Class of the Sprint Accelerator, powered by Techstars: The Real Journey Begins!

Today’s Demo Day for the Sprint Accelerator, powered by Techstars is a major milestone. It marks the end of the first program, but for our ten companies the journey is really just beginning.

The ten startups are focused on various areas of mobile health, and all are determined to make a real difference in the world. Their products range from helping diabetics better manage their disease, to quickly arranging a doctor house call, to downloading your medical records right onto your smartphone.

During the last three months, some of the companies have completed product development and landed key pilots, while others have significantly grown their customer base. All have made substantial progress and it has truly been my pleasure to work with them. They’re all on a mission to change the world one patient or user at a time, and it shows in their passion and grit.

Please join me in congratulating the inaugural class of the Sprint Accelerator, powered by Techstars. I’m extremely proud to call each of these teams a Techstars company!

  • AkibaH is the world’s first all-in-one smartphone case glucose meter. Check them out:
  • FitBark is a compact dog activity monitor that provides owners a mobile platform to better care for their pet. Check them out:
  • Ollo Wearables makes a voice controlled, wearable cell phone that keeps seniors connected to their families, while monitoring their health and well being. Check them out:
  • is a clinically validated, symptom-tracking platform that displays real-time, actionable data for patients and doctors, providing timely intervention and reducing hospitalization and ER costs. Check them out:
  • Yosko is a mobile collaboration platform for doctors and nurses that increases patient safety by improving physician communication in hospitals. Check them out:

The 10 Mobile Health Teams in the Sprint Accelerator, Powered by Techstars

The first session of our three-month intensive mentor-driven program officially started yesterday. The Sprint Mobile Health Accelerator, powered by Techstars will provide entrepreneurs in this field an amazing advantage to hone their business strategies and structure and be mentored by leading technology experts from Sprint, regional healthcare leaders and successful entrepreneurs from around the country.

Teams participating in the Sprint Mobile Health Accelerator, powered by Techstars are developing solutions that encompass hardware, software platforms, transformative services, big data and mobile applications. Without further ado, the teams participating are:

Lifeline Response
Ollo Mobile
Tenacity Health

The ten teams come from all different regions of the U.S plus Australia, but they all have excellence in common. With the quality of these ten startups, we have no doubt they’ll achieve amazing things during the program. Follow along with our program on Twitter at @sprintaccel and on the hashtag #givefirst.