Get your startup funded and off the ground while learning from the best.
We’ve very selective. TechStars only accepts about ten companies each summer. Last year, 393 companies applied and ten were accepted. Getting in is hard, and it means something special. Are you among the best?
Seed funding. TechStars fills the startup funding gap by providing just enough capital to get your idea off the ground. Your new company receives up to $18,000 in seed funding.
Advice and Mentoring. TechStars fills the experience gap by bringing together the best and the brightest in one place and surrounding you with incredible proven mentors for the summer. With this much talent in one place you’ll get great advice on your product and strategy, thereby ensuring the best possible start for your new business.
Connections. TechStars companies get immeasurable benefits that come from introductions and connections to potential partners and customers. At the end of the summer, each company also has the opportunity to pitch during an investor event that we organize. Usually there are more than 150 VCs and angel investors in attendance.
A great deal and a great co-founder. In exchange for the TechStars summer program, seed funding, advice, mentorship, connections, and investor demo day, TechStars receives a 6% equity stake in your new company. TechStars receives “founders stock” which is just like yours. We want to be thought of as an experienced and well connected co-founder so we have the same risk and reward system that you do. Learn more.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much funding do TechStars companies receive?
You get $6,000 per founder, up to 3 founders. So at most, you’ll get $18,000 for the summer. We’ve proven that this is plenty of money to survive for the summer and to crank out a substantial prototype so you can get to the next level. You also get a free server hosting, a nice place to work if you want to, legal services, and more. Finally, there is immeasurable value in the connections and advice that you’ll receive when you start your company with TechStars, and also in the opportunity to pitch to angel investors and venture capitalists at the end of the summer during our Investor and Demo Day.
What sorts of companies do you fund?
We fund technology oriented companies, typically these are web-based or other software companies, but we’ve funded companies that don’t quite fit that mold as well. We’re also looking for companies that can have national or worldwide reach. Specifically, we don’t fund medical device companies, biotechnology companies, restaurants, consultancies, or other local service oriented companies.
Who’s behind the program and why are you doing this?
We are a group of very successful entrepreneurs and investors who truly enjoy helping startups and (like many others) think that Boulder is a great place for them to be. More about us.
Is TechStars a “Colorado-only thing”?
No. TechStars receives and funds applications from all over the world. So far we’ve funded twenty companies, and only four of those have been from Colorado.
Why does TechStars need and want stock in my new company?
Like you, we’re entrepreneurs. We think that the value of the learning, networking, and coaching provided by the program is of tremendous value. The TechStars program will provide you with the healthiest possible start and greatly improve your chances for success and sustainability. Once we invest, we’re motivated to help you succeed by introducing you to people who can help, assisting you with strategy, finding more investors, and generally helping you to succeed. That’s a good deal for both of us.
TechStars almost sounds too good to be true. What’s the catch?
There’s no catch. Just ask any of the twenty companies who’ve been through the program. Twelve of them (60%) are now either angel or VC backed companies, having raised substantial funding for their ideas. Another two (10%) never raised money, because they left TechStars as a profitable company. So 70% of the companies we’ve funded are profitable or have received investment as a direct result of the program. From the first year (2007), two of the ten companies have now been successfully acquired by the likes of AOL or Wordpress. We encourage you to check out our companies page and ask the founders about TechStars yourself.
Do I have to stay in Boulder for the entire summer?
No. It’s your company so you can come and go as you see fit. But we do require that you be primarily based here during the summer. This benefits you because you can take advantage of the numerous learning opportunities, networking and coaching that will be provided.
Do I have to stay in Boulder when the program ends in August?
No. It’s your company, so you’ll live where you want to.
What else does TechStars provide? Office space, Internet, legal, hosting, etc?
The 10,000 square foot TechStars office in downtown Boulder, Colorado just off the beautifully awesome Pearl Street pedestrian mall is affectionately known as The Bunker. We provide working and meeting spaces, as well as a nice lounge all with super fast and reliable wireless Internet access. Still, many of our founders choose to work from their apartments or local coffee shops. It’s up to you. Media Temple is a sponsor of TechStars, and they provide our companies with free top-notch hosting during the summer. Cooley Godward Kronish and Kendall, Koenig, and Oelsner are two outstanding legal firms who provide free legal council and services for our companies. Metzger and Associates is a premier new media public relations agency who is also a sponsor providing free services. Basically, we’ll help you get everything covered with minimal expense. We just want you to focus on creating a great product while you’re here, and not have to worry about all this other stuff.
How can we get funded after the summer?
We provide the seed funding to get you going, but you may well need more funding to really make it. Near the end of the summer, we’ll organize an Investor Demo Day in Boulder where angel investors and venture capitalists from all over the country will check out your technology and listen to your pitch. Usually we have about 150 investors there. We’ll coach you so you’re as effective as possible, and do everything we can do help get you follow on funding. We may also fund your company further ourselves in some situations. So far, 16 of our 20 companies have received follow on funding and/or immediately became profitable after TechStars ended. Once a year, we take some of our companies out to Silicon Valley to present as well. Read the recent TechCrunch post “TechStars Demo Day: Acquisitions galore as twelve companies strut their stuff.”
Can you tell me more about the networking and educational opportunities?
About two or three times per week, we will organize an informal dinner and invite our mentors to speak on a relevant topic. These will be presented as appropriate by highly successful entrepreneurs, angel investors, legal experts, venture capitalists, investment bankers, etc. Sometimes, we’ll just organize a brief talk with Q&A by a CEO or CTO of a well known Colorado startup. We’ll even venture out to some of these companies (such as Photobucket, Newsgator or Rally Software) and do the session there. Typically, top executives and techies from Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, Amazon, and more visit and provide early feedback and opportunities to our companies. Here’s an example where Google hung out with us in 2008. Generally speaking, they’ll be in the early evening. All of these sessions will be very informal and give you plenty of time to interact with the mentors personally. Here’s a video of one of our sessions with the founders of MyBlogLog, just to give you an idea.
What if my company doesn’t ultimately succeed?
Well, at least you tried. Because not just anyone is accepted into the TechStars program, you’ll have an impressive resume item for your next gig that will look way better than almost anything else you could have spent your time doing. And you will have met a large number of smart and well connected people who can help you tremendously with whatever you do next. Hopefully that will be another startup.
What sort of control am I giving up by granting equity to TechStars?
TechStars wants to be viewed as a co-founder. We expect to have all the same rights as any other founder, relative to our minority ownership position. In a nutshell, we don’t want any special or controlling interests in your company. We won’t ask for a board seat or for any uncommon investor rights. You will still run the show.
I’m a single founder. Can I get accepted into TechStars, or do you only look for teams?
While we don’t screen applications just because they have a single founder, it does make things more difficult. We look for great, balanced teams who have a full range of skills. We strongly advise you to seek co-founders who balance your skillset. For example, if you’re a strong developer, you might consider adding someone with business and/or marketing experience. If you’re a great business evangelist with no developer, it’s very unlikely we’ll accept you into the program, so go find a rock star developer to join you.
Where will we live while we’re in Boulder?
That’s up to you - we don’t provide a place to live. If you’re accepted into TechStars, we immediately assign someone on our end to help you find housing here in Boulder. There are usually many furnished sublets available during the summer because the University of Colorado is on break during TechStars. It hasn’t been much of a problem for past founders.
How do you choose which companies to accept into the program and to fund?
We will choose great founders who are proposing products that solve real problems or create meaningful innovations. For us, it’s about the team. Because of this reason, we’re less likely to accept single founder companies. The best things you can do to strengthen your application are:
- Round out your team with business, technical, and other necessary skills.
- Make progress on your prototype or product and reference it in the application.
- Show us you’ve really thought about your business and have gotten off your butt to do something about it.
Is my age a factor in your selection process?
No, but if you’re a young entrepreneur it’s important that you read this blog post to better understand what else might be a factor. The typical age range of our founders is 25-40 years old, but we’ve had much younger founders and much older founders in the past.
Do I need to send in a business plan?
Nope. Just fill out the informal online application - that’s all you need for us. In fact, we probably don’t want to see your business plan if you have one.
When is the deadline to apply and what’s the overall timeline?
The application deadline for Summer 2009 is March 21st (applications open on January 19th, 2009). However, if you apply by March 1st, we may invite you to attend TechStars For A Day on March 3rd if you want to. This is not a required step, but it can be a great way to learn more about TechStars and for us to get to know each other better.
Where is the TechStars office and what’s it like?
We have about 10,000 square feet of space near the Pearl Street Pedestrian Mall in downtown Boulder for the TechStars companies to use during the summer. It’s affectionately known as The Bunker. It’s fully equipped and has both traditional and lounge-like space. Of course, it’s your company so you set your own schedule, office hours, etc. You don’t have to work in The Bunker unless you want to.
What will a typical day be like for a TechStars founder?
It’s your company, so you’ll be hard at work on your product. You can choose to work out of The Bunker if you’d like, or you can work anywhere else that you might prefer. About two or three nights a week, we’ll organize informal educational sessions with our mentors. We also expect many of the mentors to drop in to TechStars at various times throughout the summer. In general though, you’ll be working on your product each day, just like all of the other founders in the program. We don’t tell you what to do or when, but we create an environment that is conducive to helping your startup every day. And we’ll make sure you have lots of experienced mentors around to help you. Watch this 5 minute video by Current TV to get a sense of what it’s like. You can get a feeling for how close the TechStars companies are with each other by watching this fun lip dub they made during the summer of 2008.
Can I apply if I’m not from the United States?
Yes. As long as you and your team can be in Boulder, Colorado legally for the summer, please do. We have accepted overseas founders in the past.
Is Boulder really a decent place to work on a startup?
It’s one of the best.
Is my company too early (or late) stage to apply to TechStars?
Almost nothing is too early. We’ve accepted companies with no more than an idea, a dream, and maybe a dog. One of the great things about TechStars is that we help you refine your idea and business model. Likewise, no company is too far along to apply (well, maybe Google, but we think we could help them too!). Learn more.
I’m concerned that if I apply, you won’t protect my intellectual property. Should I be worried about this?
We’re certainly not in the business of stealing ideas, and we won’t show your application to anyone outside of TechStars. Each year, we see hundreds of applications and many of them include similar ideas. For this and other practical reasons, please don’t ask us to sign an NDA. Our application does not ask for your “secret sauce”, and there is no reason you have to disclose this to us if you’re not comfortable doing so. We hope that our reputations speak for ourselves on this topic.