Startup Insights: How Techstars’ accelerator programme is changing the world

If you’re a part of the tech world, you’ve most likely heard the Techstars story and perhaps wanted a piece of that investment pie. Founded in 2006 by a team of tech entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, the US-based tech accelerator now has programmes in more than 35 cities worldwide.

Techstars has made a name for itself because of a prescient ability to choose and mentor successful startups: the 2,157 companies it’s worked with in the past 14 years have raised a combined total of $9.3bn in funding, and many are now household names: ClassPass, Contently, Digital Ocean – and of course, SendGrid, which became the first startup from an accelerator programme to be publicly traded (NYSE) and which was famously bought last year for $3bn.

The real tech crunch

But aside from graduating successful founders, Techstars is known for something else – only accepting 1% of the companies that apply to its accelerator programme. “Elite” doesn’t begin to cover it, and while that rigour has only increased the company’s notoriety and fame, it’s not something that’s going to change any time soon, says Vijay Tirathrai, managing director of Techstars UAE.

“It’s true that we only accept the very best,” he confirms. “It honestly takes around nine months, maybe longer, to go through the whole process of recruiting and reviewing. It’s a thorough and careful process and it ends up with ten global companies each year to be incubated in Abu Dhabi, who we take forward into the next round.”

The ten startups chosen last year were from countries as far apart as the UK, USA, Netherlands, Turkey and Ireland, and each were given $120,000 in investment, as well as going through the accelerator programme, based in and run in partnership with Abu Dhabi’s leading tech ecosystem, Hub71.

Hasan Tosun, founder of the property and cleantech company SensGreen, said it wasn’t just the Techstars Hub71 programme that was such a boon to his startup, but the opportunity to be accepted into the Hub71 Incentive Programme, which offers startups 50-100% free housing, health insurance and Wework x Hub71 office space for up to three years at no equity, to reduce upfront costs.

SensGreen is one of six Techstars alumni that made it into the Hub71 programme, and have since taken the leap to set up in Abu Dhabi’s vibrant tech community. “Techstars and Hub71 have really been our dedicated partners in up-selling and improvement,” says the Turkish entrepreneur. “They’ve introduced us to companies and clients, marketers and investors – all of which helped to make us better.

“As a tech entrepreneur who has come to Abu Dhabi now, I’ve not only expanded my network, but it’s also made me a better businessman – allowing me to make decisions in a better way and take critical decisions faster.”

Mentoring and networking

Mentorship is a key part of Techstars’ approach, says Tirathrai, and all of the decision-makers who are part of the reviewing panel for Techstars’ varied accelerator programmes have walked the walk. “All our managing directors have led the entrepreneur life,” he explains. “So they’ve gone through the difficulty of standing up a company, getting funding, building it up and even exiting those companies they sell – so they can relate to startup owners.

“But more importantly, they know the tell-tale signs of an entrepreneur in startup mode. And that gives us our ability and a skill set to be able to be sharpened enough to pick the right companies to “bet on”, if you will – we have the experience to determine who are the founders who are fit enough to run the full race and journey of success, as opposed to just those who have wishful thinking about an idea.”

“In short,” Tirathrai adds, “we identify founders who have potential to be ”local champions with global ambitions.'”

If you’re a tech entrepreneur who thinks you can run the gamut with Techstars, you’re in luck – the Abu Dhabi accelerator programme is now accepting applicants for its 2021 class, and Tirathrai says they are open and willing to hear from anyone in all sectors including those as diverse as aeronautics, fitness and travel.

The future is here: Register now for Barcelona’s New Economy Week

Barcelona New Economy Week (BNEW) starts this Tuesday with the goal of turning the Catalan city into the "global capital of the new economy".

BNEW runs from 6 to 9 October, with registration remaining open throughout the event, offering insight from 350 speakers on how businesses can bounce back from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. It will feature top speakers from the business sectors of real estate, logistics, digital industry, e-commerce and economic zones.

The hybrid, business-to-business event – which is taking place in physical and virtual forms – is organised by Consorci de la Zona Franca (CZFB) and will showcase the way in which Barcelona is preparing for the post-Covid world and the "new economy". It is the city’s first big business event of the year and aims to help revitalise and restart the local economy.

“BNEW will be the first great event for the economy’s global recovery that will allow the redesigning of the productive fabric,” says Pere Navarro, state special delegate at CZFB. “It is an honour to have the participation of renowned professionals and attendees from all around the world.

“As we are not in a position to do a proper ‘in person’ fair, we decided to adapt by creating a disruptive and useful event in this way to relaunch the economy.”

The conference will encompass five interconnected events incorporating real estate, logistics, digital industry, e-commerce and economic zones. More than 8,000 professionals from 91 countries from all over the globe will take part virtually. A further 1,000 delegates are expected to attend the five events in person. Over 200 speakers will take part physically, while the rest will give their talks via a digital platform especially created for the unique event. An advanced digital networking platform – using artificial intelligence – will cross-reference the data of all those registered to offer a large number of contacts and directly connect supply with demand.

The conference will also be simultaneously broadcast in high-quality streaming on six channels, one for each of the five interconnected events and an additional stream showcasing Barcelona’s culture and gastronomy.

BNEW will take place in three venues in the city: Estació de França, Casa Seat and Movistar Centre. All are open, digital spaces committed to the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda. Estació de França will host the BNEW Logistics, BNEW E-commerce and BNEW Real Estate events, while Casa Seat will be home to the BNEW Economic Zones event, and the Movistar Centre will host the BNEW Digital Industry.

Some 36 companies are sponsoring BNEW, and 52 start-up companies will take part and present their highly innovative products and services. A further 128 firms will participate in BVillage, a kind of virtual stand where they can show their products and schedule meetings with potential clients.

Highlight sessions will include: "the era of humankind toward the fifth industrial revolution," by Marc Vidal, a digital transformation expert; "rational optimism," by Luca Lazzarini, a commercial communications specialist; and "future smart cities’ challenges and opportunities," by Alicia Asín, a leading voice on artificial intelligence. Sandra Pina will also talk about how sustainability is transforming us, Jorge Alonso on the humane future of cities and Pilar Jericó on how to face changes in the post-Covid era.

BNEW is described as a new way of developing your know-how, expanding your networks and promoting innovation and talent.

“Networking is always one of the main attractions of the events, so to carry it out in this innovative way at BNEW – with the high international profile it boasts – is a great opportunity for companies,” says Blanca Sorigué, managing director of CZFB.

Readers can register for BNEW for free via this link using the discount code BNEWFREE.