Techstars Alumni Plated Acquired by Albertsons

It was 2013, I was running the Techstars NYC program and was on the lookout for great founders to accept into the next class.

I remember meeting Nick and Josh in an interview for the Techstars accelerator program in New York in 2013. I walked away thinking, “Wow, these are two driven entrepreneurs, that are also dear friends that want to change the way we eat. They have a big idea, they have respect for each other, and they have a tremendous ability to execute. I’m sold. Let’s get them into the program.”

That was four years ago. When they started at Techstars, they had a small refrigerated warehouse and a handful of employees. They barely had any customers yet, but they did have a big vision of what this could be. And four years later, they have sold Plated to Albertsons.

That 2013 NYC class has developed into a great one, with companies like Bluecore, Sketchfab, Jukely, Dash, WeeSpring, Faithstreet, Placemeter and more. Collectively the class has raised over $131M, not including this major acquisition. We worked hard together, we played hard together – and while we can’t take any credit for all the hard work that Plated has done the last four years, we were all part of that initial Plated journey.  

So to Nick, Josh and the entire Plated team – from your entire Techstars family – we salute you. Congratulations on a well-deserved outcome. And to the rest of the companies in that 2013 NYC class – who’s next?!?! Don’t make me throw ping pong balls at you!

Ask Techstars: Applying to an Accelerator

We held an AMA with Cody Simms, Greg Rogers (Executive Directors) and Nicole Glaros (Chief Product Officer) of Techstars where they answered questions from founders about applying to an accelerator. This post includes a transcript of their answers to these question in this AMA.  To sign up for our next AMA, check out the schedule here!

How many active users are needed on a live running website/app to be considered by an accelerator program?

Cody: There is no answer to that question, at least when it comes to Techstars. I assume a lot of other programs are looking at things the same way. The most important thing we are looking for when you are applying and when we are looking at companies that are looking into a program is an awesome team.

We are looking for founders who have a killer drive toward the idea that they are looking to do, as well as founders that show that they can execute.

That is sort of in line with how many active users need to be on a site, but not specifically. We also look for founders who have really great chemistry and complement each other as a team. So, the team dynamic is by far the most important thing we are looking for.

One of the things that I think is really important: when it comes time to showing signs of execution, that doesn’t mean you need to be at 10,000, 100,000 or 1 million daily active users, but the more you are showing that people want your product, the better.

What I always look for are signs that you, as a founder, know how to test hypotheses in your business and can come back with the answers – showing that you are making progress along those lines. So you may still even be pre-product, but you are showing signs that you know how to understand what the market wants about your product, whether that’s running small experiments, doing user studies, etc.

As long as you are out there actually talking to customers or putting something in front of customers and getting feedback, as well as being able to prove that with each one of those your business is getting better.

Nicole: To expand on that, at Techstars we talk about a bunch of things that we look for in our application. We look for team, team, team, market traction and idea. Notice the traction part was second to last and that the idea part was last.

To walk you through the team, team, team part quickly, we are looking for teams that are passionate about what they do, that are well-formed (it doesn’t have to mean that they have been together for a long time, it means they can communicate well, they can execute together, they can work through difficult times together, etc.) and that they can execute. Those are the most important things that we look for at Techstars.

The second thing after that is markets. We have to be interested in the market that you are in, and then comes traction.

But really, at the heart of all of this – if I had to summarize one thing, and this would be true for probably any accelerator or investor you go after, would be belief.

Do we believe that you guys are capable of pulling off the thing you are trying to pull off in a way that is going to give us, as an accelerator or an investor, the returns that they are going to need to be successful? There are a lot of things that feed into that belief. One of them, naturally, is traction. One of them is active users, that is an element that feeds into that, but that is only one of many elements.

There isn’t any one thing that is going to make or break you, it’s a bunch of little things that tell a story about our ability to believe if you are able to execute on the thing that you are trying to do and be successful, and that we can make money from it, because that’s our jobs.

Greg: I remember Brad Feld telling us as MDs something really interesting the last time we got together with him. If you don’t know who Brad Feld is, he is a very prominent venture capitalist in Boulder, Colorado.

We asked him, “Brad, you’re an amazing investor. How do you choose which companies to invest in? How do you know when the founding team is the right founding team?” (As Nicole and Cody have said, this is such an important criteria for us).

Brad responded with a simple answer (the great thing about Brad is that he distills things into very simple answers for complex topics). He said, “Well, really what I do is I look at the founding team and I ask myself one thing, were they born to solve this problem? Were they put on this earth to solve this problem and are they so obsessed by it that they can’t take a shower, can’t get dressed, they can’t have a conversation without thinking about this problem because it obsesses them.”  

As you think about your applications, and you think about your entrepreneurial journey, I would ask yourself that question. If you can say yes to that question, then you know you are ready for the journey.

The journey, as I know many of you have probably heard, is like a rollercoaster. It is incredibly joyful but it might be the most masochistic thing that anyone can put themselves through. You have to be obsessed.

I remember going to go watch an author do a book reading, and being a writer is a very creative, very joyful, very painful experience, similar to being an entrepreneur. Somebody in the audience asked this really famous author, “Why do you do what you do if it is so painful and so lonely?”

She responded, very simply, “I do it because I have no other choice. It is what I was born to do.” That’s something you really want to ask yourself, because it is a really interesting journey and can be really painful one, so you want to be ready for that.

The next AMA is March 16 – Register today. Don’t miss your chance to join a Techstars accelerator program – Applications close April 9. Apply today.

Techstars Application Tip: The 140 Character Description

When applying for Techstars, one of the first questions is “Describe your business in 140 characters or less”. This is basically your elevator pitch. Anyone will tell you that your elevator pitch is pretty critical to nail – you have only a few seconds to capture someone’s attention. Same thing applies to your Techstars application – you have to nail your 140 character description because it’s my first impression on what you do, and once that’s set, it’s pretty hard to recover from it.

So here’s a quick tutorial on how to write your 140 character description (and also your elevator pitch!)  You start with a basic formula, then add color.  Formula is:

For {customer segment},  with {x problem}  we offer {y solution}.  

This is a really rough formula, and I don’t recommend that you use it exactly, but it gives you a starting point.  

The key here is to be specific. Generic language can be deadly. I want to know what you specifically sell or do, not who you are. The best way to highlight this is to give some examples.

Here are some 140 character descriptions from some previous Techstars companies. These aren’t perfect, and this was before they went through the program, so you’re getting the raw, unedited version. But they’re pretty good and I have a very clear picture of what they do in only a few short words.

  • DealAngel’s website uses data mining and pricing analytics to rank online hotel offers.
  • Birdbox is a platform for managing all your photos and videos in one place, connecting everything from Facebook and YouTube, to Amazon and Dropbox.
  • Ubooly is a 6” tall, plush creature powered by your iPhone. It uses wifi to download new content every month.

And here are some examples of BAD 140 character descriptions:

  • We are an internet service that will reshape a dated 27 billion dollar industry thru tech initiating a global movement.
  • Solving life’s problems one app at a time.
  • PalmLing is Google Translate with a Human Touch.  (By the way, this company is VerbalizeIt and did get into the program despite their description)

Notice in this last batch I don’t know what they do. Even the last one, what is it? A web application? A device you carry around in your pocket? What does a human touch mean?

When I read 140 character descriptions like that, I’m left to my own devices to creatively imagine what you do, and I could be wrong. I probably am wrong. As I dive deeper into your app, I’m starting from a different mindset on what you do, and therefore am highly likely to misunderstand your whole entire business. The likelihood of getting cut goes up dramatically.

So spend some time crafting your 140 character description, or your elevator pitch, and test it on people. Take their feedback, iterate, and test again. Keep testing until you land on something where people know immediately what you do. You don’t just need it for your Techstars app, you desperately need it for your startup.


Techstars Opens Applications for Q1 2017 Session

Applications are now open for Techstars Q1 2017 accelerator programs. Apply now to join the Techstars network with more than 10,000 mentors, investors and founders. Deadline to apply is October 15, 2016. The Q1 2017 session kicks off in January 2017 in locations around the world.

With this session, we’re streamlining the schedule for our accelerator programs. We will now accept applications twice a year, and the programs will run in two sessions: Q1 (January – April) and Q3 (July – October). This change makes it easier for startup founders to know when to apply.

We’ll also hold a global recruiting tour to connect with the best startups in the world. Stay tuned for more details on this event and how you can meet the Techstars teams from the different accelerator programs.

Start here for your application for Q1 2017 now.

First Generation College Students to Intern at Techstars Accelerators in Berlin, Chicago and Detroit

We’re excited to welcome four students from Florida State University (FSU) as interns at our accelerators this summer. The students are part of FSU’s Tech Fellows program, which creates tech entrepreneur internships for outstanding college students from underrepresented and economically disadvantaged populations.

As interns at the accelerators, the students will get hands-on experience and build connections in tech entrepreneurship through working with our staff, mentors and  startup companies in the accelerators.

Meet the students:

James, 19, is a business major from Apopka, Florida. James aged out of the foster-care system and is an intern at Techstars Chicago.



Ezreyah, 17, is a Computer and Electrical Engineering major from Be’er Sheba, Israel. Ezreyah is an intern at Techstars Mobility in Detroit.


Christian P., 21, is an Information Technology major from Naples, Florida. Christian co-organizes one of the largest hackathons in the southeast and is an intern at Techstars Berlin.

Christian E

Christian G., 20, is a Computer Engineering major from Cochabamba, Bolivia. Last summer, Christian volunteered at a school in Bolivia to teach students IT skills and set up and maintain computers. Christian is an intern at Techstars Chicago.

christian G.

Check back to hear directly from the students as they share their experiences here on the Techstars blog. You can also follow their journey on the Tech Fellows Twitter.

Ensuring the Best Entrepreneurs Can Stay in the U.S.

At Techstars, it breaks our hearts when we see world class entrepreneurs come to this country to grow their startups, only to return home because of visa and immigration issues. These are bright founders who will be hiring, paying large salaries, paying taxes, and becoming productive members of our society, but they are turned away. This is asinine to me, we should be recruiting entrepreneurs to the U.S., not turning them away! It’s bad for the startup, it’s bad for the entrepreneur, and most importantly, it’s bad for the U.S.

But luckily, there are some clever individuals out there that have come up with unique solutions to the visa issue for startups.

Organizations like the Global EIR Initiative, that lets entrepreneurs, backed by Techstars, work for a state university as an Entrepreneur-in-Residence, until they qualify for a permanent H1B visa directly with their own startup. Thanks to Brad Feld for all his work on this organization and this issue.

Or Unshackled, who hires the founder as a W2 employee of Unshackled, in exchange for equity, until that founder can qualify for their own permanent H1B visa.

Techstars is working closely with both of these organizations to help bring the world’s best and most promising startups and entrepreneurs to the U.S. Hopefully the government is listening…

If you’re part of a state or local initiative around immigration and visas, please reach out to me directly or in the comments below. We’d love to hear what you’re doing.

Techstars Boulder Demo Day 2014

Today 13 incredible companies will take the stage at the Boulder Theater to celebrate the culmination of their Techstars experience. Demo Day in many ways is the distillation of all the lessons, laughs, struggles and accomplishments that have been jam-packed into these past thirteen weeks, and we couldn’t be more excited for this cohort of entrepreneurs and what they’ve accomplished in such little time.

Under rapid-fire, marketing plans have been created and executed, videos have been produced, logos and branding have been refined, pitches have been reiterated at least a thousand fold, and that just scratches the surface. These growing pains, though familiar, are usually par for the course. The real magic has been in just how cohesive and generous this class has been in helping each other not just succeed, but thrive.

This year’s Boulder Techstars cohort, however, is remarkable in many ways. 10 of the 13 companies are comprised of serial entrepreneurs, meaning this isn’t their first rodeo, and perhaps that’s most telling by the fact that 9 of 13 are already generating revenue.

Beyond these benchmarks, these companies are tackling big issues, ones that touch almost every aspect of our daily lives: they’re helping communities save missing children; they’re creating new markets for renewable energy; they’re reimagining how we manage our credit; and they’re rethinking how technology can be a pathway for more authentic connection.

Please join us in celebrating the Techstars Boulder class of 2014.


All4Staff moves traditional employee onboarding to a mobile first solution that workers complete before they arrive.@All4Staff
Bawte connects manufacturers who sell through retail to their end customers.@Bawte
ExpenseBot is artificial intelligence for enterprise finance, starting with expense reports that do themselves.@ExpenseBot
Final is a new type of credit card that creates dynamic card numbers, radically reducing fraud.@Final
Kapta helps CEOs track and manage the most critical priorities of their business.@Kapta
Lassy Project notifies an entire local community about a missing child within seconds.@LassyProject
Native is a fun and beautiful mobile app for college students to find, create, and share activities in their local community.@Native_App
Notion is a multi-function sensor engineered for complete home intelligence.@Notion
QuotaDeck is a marketplace for the 8 million salespeople to receive warm introductions to their target buyers.@QuotaDeck
ShareableSocial is content on cruise control! We create and post industry specific social media content for small business owners.@ShareableSocial
Sportsy is a mobile training and education platform for sports.@Sportsy
Wellhire is a mobile first app that matches enterprise company opportunities with highly compatible job candidates.@WellHireNews
Wunder is a marketplace that reimagines solar project finance by connecting investors with thoroughly vetted opportunities.@WunderCapital

Techstars Boulder Informal Job Fair on 8/27

Companies in the current Techstars Boulder 2014 class are trying to do more faster, and they need to hire immediately!

On Wed, Aug 27th, from 6-7:30 pm EST, Techstars Boulder will open its doors to highly passionate and motivated people wanting to work for a startup.  You’ll meet the companies in the current class that are hiring over an informal beer. There won’t be an agenda for the evening, just networking with great startups!

Available Positions include:

  • Designer (UI/UX)
  • Graphic Designer
  • Business Development
  • Growth Hacker
  • Account Manager
  • Inside Sales Person
  • Sales & Marketing Generalist
  • Sales Executive
  • Sales Manager
  • Marketing Intern
  • Marketing Director
  • Director or VP of Marketing (DOE)
  • Senior Developer
  • Junior Developer
  • Full-Stack Engineer/Generalist
  • Director or VP of Operations (DOE)
  • Operational/Organized Rockstar

Companies looking to hire:

Lassy Project
Shareable Social

Requirements: Want to work for a very early stage startup. That’s it.

Please bring a bunch of hard copies of your resume, and don’t wear a suit!

RSVP here

Meet the 13 Companies Participating in the Boulder Class of 2014!

Today is always an exciting day for me.  It’s the day I get to tell you all about the companies in this next Techstars Boulder 2014 class – and it’s day 1 of the Techstars program!  But before you read about them,  I’d like to take a moment to tip my hat to the teams who weren’t selected.

I read every single application. I watched every single video. I read about their backgrounds and played with their applications.  I got to know many of the companies and their founders very well which always makes the decision gut wrenching and often heartbreaking.  This year was particularly hard and it seems to get harder every year.

But the thing I always wholeheartedly believe is that not getting into Techstars isn’t a rejection – it’s why we call it internally non-selection.  There are fantastic companies that we don’t accept for reasons that aren’t reflective of the company itself.  For instance, I think a different Techstars program is a better fit for that particular company, or I don’t have the mentors necessary to move the needle for that particular market, or the company has some things it needs to figure out before really being able to optimize around the program.

We have a couple of mantras around Techstars, and one of my favorites is #FoundersFirst.  All of my decisions map to that. And I have a team of people that help me make sure I’m staying true to that mantra.   If you read between the lines, you’ll see that theme in all of the reasons I cite above.

So, I just wanted to throw a little love to all the teams that applied but didn’t get in, for all the people that sent recommendations for them – for all the hard work everyone puts into the Techstars application process.  I can only hope you got as much out of the process as I did.  And I’m looking forward to seeing your application again next year.

No more looking backwards.  Let’s look forwards.  Without further ado, I present to you the Techstars Boulder Class of 2014!


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Mobile HR Paperwork and more


Mobile app that manages your products and their warranties, instruction manuals, and customer support


Expense reports that do themselves

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A credit card for the 21st century


Management and tracking of executive team objectives and KPIs

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Notify an entire local community about a missing child within seconds


An all-in-one sensor for simplified home security

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Platform for B2B freelance salespeople generating qualified leads for businesses

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Social media posts for SMBs

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Mobile training & coaching for sports


Virtual travel agent and mobile travel assistant

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Hiring decisions made easy

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Crowdfunded commercial solar

Additional Openings for Hackstars for the Boulder Class of 2014!

Part of the fun of accepting a slightly larger than normal cohort of exciting and mind-blowing start-ups is being able to hire a few more Hackstars for the 2014 program!

What is a Hackstar?

A technical ninja who provides teams with his/her time and technical skills to help companies become viable businesses by the end of the three-month program

What do we look for?

·       You are a code-slinging mac-daddy superstar guru at any one or more of the following: PHP, Java, .NET, Python, Objective-C, Ruby, JQuery, OR a rockstar designer or UI/UX pro.

·       You are willing to work full-time in Boulder (or are willing to relocate) during the summer program (mid-July until October 10, 2014).

Why Do it?

·       Community – The staff, associates, mentors, and founders are all part of a very fun and special family.  It is a highly collaborative environment where strong life-long relationships are built.

·       Learning – Everyone learns from each other. You will work side-by-side with some of the country’s most promising new founders and young companies and learn all about startups and funding from our mentors.

If you want to join a startup or if you want to start your own startup, there is no better deal out there.

How to Apply?

Email Julie Penner at ASAP.

For more information