Berlin - September 2015
Accelerators are programs that provide startups financing for equity, mentorship and access to networks. These programs usually last a couple of months. For founders going through an accelerator, it’s all about getting a lot of things done in a short period of time. In recent years there’s been a glut of startup accelerators that have been created in Europe. From what I heard in conversation there’s over 100 of them active in Berlin alone.
Personally, I’m not a big fan of accelerators. Most of the accelerators are not deeply interested in technology itself. In most cases they focus mainly on the adaption of existing technologies to markets. This is why their programs all too often prioritise for customer development and operations.
In contrast, my interest is in tech-intensive early stage startups. I like startups that have worked on a product for more than a year before engaging with them and are clearly exceptionally product-driven.
However, when I first met Jens over a year ago and heard his vision for Techstars Berlin and later saw that Brian joined him (whom I knew from his previous role at Web Summit), I decided to make an exception and gave mentoring at TS Berlin a chance. Techstars fosters ecosystems within different cities, as opposed to a lot of ecosystems outside of the Valley which are both less open and less entrepreneur-friendly. Adapting this thesis locally, Jens and Brian had all kinds of good ideas on how to help Berlin become more founder-friendly. Some of these ideas were later subsumed under the #givefirst ethos.
To my positive surprise, apart from SAAS and markteplace teams that fit the clusters in the Berlin startup scene there were also many tech-intensive startups that I liked in the top 10 batch, including security, platform and infrastructure startups. The equivalent sub-ecosystems within the broader Berlin startup scene for these kind of startups are yet to evolve. It’s remarkable that they can now find support within Techstars. This type of support did not exist when we were pitching Xyo (“better app search than Google’s”) in the community. Techstars’ success is a function of the high demand and TS’s global brand awareness. For the Berlin program 820 startups applied. Over 100 of them were Israeli - who tend to be strong on the tech and weak on the product-market-fit side, just as I like them.This sets Techstars aside from other accelerators in town, with an average of 200 applications.
What remains to be seen is how the startups will capitalise on the Techstars experience post-program, where they will suddenly find themselves without structured mentoring or daily support from their peers. Demo Day on Thursday poses an excellent opportunity for the founders to pitch in front of 250 selected investors on stage. Yet the real challenge will be scaling both locally and internationally after Techstars - possibly with newfound pockets of support while at Techstars.
Published by: Matthaus in Tbc