The Inaugural Class for The Heritage Group Accelerator Powered by Techstars Aims To Disrupt Existing Markets in Advanced Materials, Construction, and Environmental Services

We are thrilled to announce the 2019 class of The Heritage Group Accelerator powered by Techstars. We have chosen ten exciting startups for the inaugural class of this accelerator in partnership with Indianapolis-based company, The Heritage Group (THG). Hailing from Canada, Estonia, Germany, and the U.S., the 2019 class represents a diverse array of technologies, from wireless charging in roads to recycling waste into valuable materials. All of these companies share a mission of tackling some of society’s biggest challenges by innovating in traditional industries such as energy, transportation, construction materials, and chemicals.

The Heritage Group manages over 30 companies in the core industries of transportation infrastructure & materials, environmental services, specialty chemicals and fuel products. Over the next 13 weeks the startups will scale their businesses under the guidance of mentors from both Techstars and THG’s leadership, allowing the founders to work with dozens of expert mentors in a variety of industry-specific specializations. 

As part of its effort to reinvent traditional industries, THG built The Center, a state-of-the-art collaboration and R&D facility in Indianapolis where The Heritage Group Accelerator is housed. The Center was purpose-built to incubate disruptive technologies and connect entrepreneurs with researchers and industry leaders. HG Ventures, THG’s venture capital arm, is also based at The Center and invests $50 million annually in related startups.

Without further ado, here is the inaugural class of The Heritage Group Accelerator powered by Techstars:

Alkemy Environmental’s patented technology recycles waste materials into concrete aggregate.

Boston, MA


AquaRealTime provides an early detection and monitoring system for harmful algae blooms, allowing stakeholders to better prepare for and contain environmental hazards. 

Boulder, CO

Ateios’ thin-film printed batteries are naturally flexible and stretchable, enabling new forms of wearable technologies with better ergonomic design. 

La Jolla, CA


E.O.I Technologies’ remote laser-based vibration sensor allows rapid and large-scale data collection. This enables early detection and prevention of failures and downtime for key infrastructure and industrial assets.

Calgary, Canada

Gelatex aims to make the fashion and textile industry more sustainable by making an eco-friendly textile that is scalable, affordable, and chemically identical to leather.

Tallinn, Estonia

Magment’s infrastructure solutions use patented magnetic concrete which enables dynamic wireless charging for electric and autonomous vehicles.  

Unterhaching, Germany


MITO Material Solutions manufactures hybrid nano-additives, enabling composite manufacturers to create tougher, lighter, and more durable products.

Stillwater, OK

Recycled Granite has developed numerous technologies which enables granite and stone waste to be converted into sustainable building materials. 

Schererville, IN

Wildnote is a digital platform to seamlessly collect and report environmental data, eliminating the need for time-consuming traditional paperwork. 

San Luis Obispo, CA

Zilper Trenchless has developed an award-winning trenchless boring technology for the construction industry, leading to 40% cost savings and minimizing disruption to infrastructure and traffic.

Cambridge, MA


Techstars Kansas City Announced 2018 Class

Techstars Kansas City is proud to welcome Techstars Class 137! This year’s class hails from three countries and includes six companies from the midwest. Although our companies come from many industries, they share in common that they are all solving problems to make the world as we know it more efficient and transparent. From making our water safer, our food safer, to solving the problem of payday loans right where they began — in Kansas City. These ten companies will make a big impact on our city and our economy.

Techstars is the Worldwide Network that helps entrepreneurs succeed, and strong partners and incredible mentors help make this happen. We’re grateful for their support as well as the support from the broader global network.

We kick things off this week, and will conclude with an exciting Demo Day and conference in partnership with TechWeek October 11th.

We hope to see you there!

Without further ado, here are the 2018 Techstars KC companies:

Bellwethr automating forecasting bots for your business.

Daupler a first-response platform for the water industry.

EdSights helps universities measure and improve the student experience.

Noviqu is digitizing safety, training and maintenance in the manufacturing industry.

Qwyk is leading the path towards digitized international logistics interactions.

Reducing recovery times for occupational injuries through our digital assistant, SaRA.

Don’t go alone. Go SoLo. A mobile lending exchange connecting lenders and borrowers.

Smart Diagnostics Systems detects pathogens in food 75% faster, 90% more accurate, while reducing costs by 50%.

Townfolio is a real-time analytics platform for local economies.

Wattbuy helping homeowners take charge of their electricity.


Non-Sexy Sectors Are Ripe for Disruption

In the process of looking for a new crop of companies to invest in on behalf of Techstars Kansas City, I thought I should highlight the type of companies I think are undervalued and critical to our economy. In 2017 we invested in Ampogee. The founders of Ampogee realized they had uncovered a solution that could help the manufacturing industry as a whole optimize their workforce and increase productivity by a minimum of 20 percent.

My first question was of course, according to my friends at MIT, all manufacturing facilities will soon be full of robots, not people, so how can this be relevant? The founders quickly helped me understand that most manufacturing companies or companies with manufacturing facilities do not have granular data on productivity and therefore understanding what can actually be automated would be extremely difficult due to the lack of data.

As Tim O’Reilly has referred to in his new book WTF (Why the Future, and What’s Up to Us), machines will in most cases be extensions of humans, not necessarily a replacement for humans. In a similar way we have no complete provenance data on machine parts, nor any supply chain transparency on the steak I am eating for dinner. We are making massive assumptions about many things with a lack of granular data that can inform logistics, supply and in this case employee engagement and productivity. All of this might be considered super boring (not sexy), which has actually increased my interest.

A significant number of manufacturing facilities fall into the category of 100-500 employees. In 2015, there were 251,774 firms in the manufacturing sector in the United States, with all but 3,813 firms considered to be small (i.e., having fewer than 500 employees). These firms have little to no technology in place to measure productivity, let alone engage employees to boost productivity and retention.

According to Kylene Zenk with the Manufacturing Business Technology, “in 2016 alone, manufacturers contributed $2.18 trillion to the U.S. economy. In fact, for every dollar spent in manufacturing another $1.81 is added to the economy, which is the single largest multiplier in any industry.” This “boring” problem is a huge economic opportunity.

Robert Lawrence of the Kenny School at Harvard further explains that “while some blame measurement errors for the recently recorded slowdown in manufacturing productivity growth, spending patterns in the United States and elsewhere suggest that the productivity slowdown is real and that thus far fears about robots and other technological advances in manufacturing displacing large numbers of jobs appear misplaced.” But, manufacturers in the United States currently put only 10 percent of their capital spending into tech equipment and software, according to data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Sounds like a market opportunity.

Michael Mandel, chief economic strategist of the Progressive Policy Institute has stated that “we’re about to find out that innovation in domestic manufacturing isn’t a job destroyer at all—it’s a job creator.” According to the National Association of Manufacturers over the next decade, nearly 3.5 million manufacturing jobs will be needed. This is occuring in parallel with a recognized massive skills gap and shortage of available employees to work in manufacturing firms. Attracting and retaining employees in the manufacturing sector has to become a national priority.

All the above leads me to believe that in this industry segment, productivity is about more than autonomous cars and robots. There are few technology solutions focused on employee engagement and productivity, and Ampogee has proven success with their customers that today include across industries (Sandvik, Michelin, Thermo Fisher, Commscope etc). The time has come to embrace technology in the manufacturing industry and I am feeling pretty confident about the role that Ampogee will play in the future of this industry.

Announcing the First Class of the Techstars Kansas City Accelerator

We are excited to announce the ten companies that will be joining the Techstars Kansas City Accelerator for our 2017 program. We kick things off this week and are looking forward to three months of awesomeness, capped off by Demo Day on October 12. This is the first class to go through the Techstars Kansas City program.

Techstars is the Worldwide Network that helps entrepreneurs succeed, and strong partners and incredible mentors help make this happen. We’re grateful for your support and we couldn’t do it without you. Almost all of our companies were referred from our mentor network.

We love this city and know 2017 is going to be an amazing year for both Techstars and Kansas City. If you have additional questions about our companies, please feel free to reach out to me at

Without further ado, here are the Kansas City 2017 companies:

Ampogee gamifies manufacturing, engaging and motivating employees – making operational excellence look easy.

CasaIQ is a smart home solution for multi-family properties.

GRIT Virtual Construction creates VR software solutions for the simulated use and construction of our built world.

Hanzo is a cutting-edge platform that helps companies quickly scale.  

NexusEdge is a career development platform for lifelong learning powered by artificial intelligence.

Planetarians provides plant based high protein, high fiber food products at an affordable cost.

REP provides artificial intelligence for human movement. A revolution in the world of sports and physical rehabilitation.

Somatic Labs provides a software and hardware stack that animates your sense of touch, enabling a future of wearable devices that leverage what our bodies do best: feeling.

TeacherTalent where big data predicts teacher effectiveness and matches the best teachers with client schools.

Vector Legal Method is building the first comprehensive litigation case management, collaboration and analytics application.


Building a More Inclusive Network for Entrepreneurs

When you receive an invitation to meet Anita Hill and spend time with Ellen Pao, you go. And later, you share the experience with others.

Mitch and Freada Kapor have been personal guiding lights for me on the topic of inclusion for a long time. They challenge my own understanding, sometimes beating me up but, always making me better. Recently, they hosted a sold out event in San Francisco that allowed all of us to Reimagine Equality – cleverly titled after one of Anita Hill’s books.

After working in support of greater inclusion in and around entrepreneurship since 2004, it is difficult not to be frustrated that Anita and Ellen became “famous” for similar reasons twenty-six years apart. Anita Hill with her famous Clarence Thomas sexual harassment case, Ellen Pao after her lawsuit for gender discrimination with a Silicon Valley VC firm. These two women changed the conversation about bias and harassment.

One of the reasons (on top of sheer admiration of the team) that I joined Techstars was and is the opportunity to take everyday action in supporting and growing a worldwide ecosystem of entrepreneurs that are inclusive. I am happy to work in an organization that pushes us each day to assure inclusiveness in everything we do. A work in progress.

In 1931, J.T. Adams wrote the Epic of America, which is highlighted in one of Professor Anita Hill’s books. “A dream of a social order in which each man and each woman shall be …recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.”

At Techstars Kansas City, we are in the process of selection for our first Techstars class and I am keeping this quote top of mind every day. We are looking for companies that will have a positive impact on lives if they scale and founders who are uniquely capable of scaling those companies – regardless of birth or position.

In the process of applications and interviews, I have talked to a number of entrepreneurs who say – I’m too early in the process but I wish there were ways in which I could engage with you and get ready. At Techstars, we have a broad network of opportunities like Startup Weekend and Startup Week to help you get ready.

For individuals in the midwest, take advantage of Startup Weekend Kansas City, I will be there looking for 2018 Techstars applicants that are getting ready. I hope to see lots of new faces there and commit to a weekend of inclusion and support for you.

Accelerating the Disruptors

We are excited to launch our new Techstars KC program. I have begun the hunt for the ten companies to begin our inaugural year.  

The rise of digital has eroded boundaries. Today a company can start anywhere in the world. Despite the ever-increasing access opportunities, starting a company is still a lonely, scary journey and the chances of failure are high. To be successful, founders need access to the best global resources to perfect their business model and product, and to ultimately scale the company.  

The Techstars team in Kansas City is looking for founders who are solving big, complex problems. To do this, we want the most promising minds join this program. I’ve worked with entrepreneurs for many years, and I will continue to be a tireless supporter of the companies selected for Techstars Kansas City.

As a city program we are not driven towards a specific vertical. We’re looking for companies that are:

Disintermediating markets. Companies that will eliminate the intermediary in a sector, lower costs, and have a powerful, positive impact in the marketplace.  Great examples are Neighborly and Classpass.

Capable of having a positive impact on the future of infrastructure. This could include (but isn’t limited to) companies that are developing sustainable building materials, sensors collecting new types of data, and business models that will reduce the cost and improve outcomes for humans and the planet.  

Not only will developed economies be rebuilding old infrastructure for the next 20 years, but growing economies will be doubling down on new and better technology. (Sidewalk Labs’ recent Medium post entitled Data is the New Concrete provides excellent context setting for the future.)

Addressing talent, skills and education. We have a huge gap between skills needed in the current and future economy and the availability of talent to address those skills. We have hosted many Teach For America entrepreneurship conferences in Kansas City, and it is apparent that there are not enough solutions to address this problem locally or globally.

I will be gathering experts and mentors from across the country to come to Kansas City and enable successful outcomes for all the companies accepted into Techstars Kansas City.

Techstars is transparent about the companies that have joined our ecosystem, and a proxy for the company’s success can be viewed through the lens of follow-on dollars raised. You can review the recently released summary data on this topic via Mattermark or review even more granular data here.

Techstars Kansas City will be accepting applications until April 9, 2017. Apply here!

I will be hosting office hours in Durham NC on Feb 16/17, Phoenix AZ Feb 22 and Johannesburg, South Africa March 15.

Look to this blog and follow me on Twitter @lesamitchell to receive updates.