Business week in Seattle: Techstars

On the last day of the SFU-GEM Business week, we went to the North of Seattle to
visit an accelerator called « Techstars ». If this name sounds quite familiar to you this must be because it is the one that supported UBER in its early development. The company is located at the top of the stairs, overlooking the area between the University District and the bay, and is located on the second floor of 1100 NE Campus Parkway.

As we walked through the door, the reception area gave us the feeling that we had entered a place where great ideas flow and where people can move freely. Pipes and neon lights could be seen from the ceiling and transparent glass doors were separating one area from another. As we strode into the conference room, we were struck by the neon green color, probably a source of great inspiration, and a part of TechStars’ logo, that covered an entire wall. We therefore sat on the green chairs, all curious to learn more about this innovative company.

A unique company …
Founded in 2006 by 4 American entrepreneurs, Techstars is a mentorship-driven startup accelerator in the United States of America. It is a global ecosystem that helps entrepreneurs build great businesses wherever they choose to live. This accelerator provides a program for every stage of a startup development, such as startup weekends, accelerator programs and funding. Located in 12 countries all over the world, it has funded 900 companies and all the startups it has supported have a market capitalization of $65.9bn. Today, this organization is considered one of the best startup accelerators in the world.

…. Benefiting from a unique location
The company benefits from its location: as stated before, being close to the University of Washington enables Techstars to have access to lots of resources and to attract lots of students. Moreover, given the fact that Seattle is a city where many big companies have their headquarters (Microsoft, Boeing…), Techstars often collaborates with innovative companies that raise the standards of innovation.
On the Seattle offices, Techstars works hand in hand with the University of Washington which enables startupers to develop their project during 3 months, have access to a network of entrepreneurs, mentors and receive tips from the accelerator’s partners.

After an interesting presentation of what the company’s activity, our speaker explained us in depth what is an incubator and a start up accelerator and how Techstars is not like any other incubator. We then had a tour of the company’s offices. According to Techstars’s activity, it was not surprising to discover huge open spaces where people can work together. We were also able to imagine how easy it was to learn from each other in such offices. Big offices with 5-6 people working around, sofas, huge blackboards, a whole wall on which it is possible to write …Everything was gathered to create a stimulating atmosphere!

Want to know more about Techstars’ programs?
Techstars provides 5 innovative services for both people who want to build a startup and people who already have one but want to develop it. These services include:

Startup digest
This service is clearly designed by the community for the community. Techstars organizes events on different topics, in Seattle or other innovative cities in order to help
every entrepreneur to be more connected with experts and other entrepreneurs in the field they want to launch their innovation from. The more connected you are, the more successful you become!

Startup weekend
Here, Techstars offers the opportunity to creative people to jump ahead and to conceptualize their product/service in only 54 hours with the help of the best mentors, investors, and people who have already launched their company. These events can’t be missed if you have an entrepreneurial soul!

Startup week
If you need some motivation and want to improve your knowledge in a specific field, these events are designed for you. A startup week is a five day event where people can choose which event they would like to attend. All the events are held by various people, entrepreneurs or not whether they belong to the community or not!

Accelerators
Techstars propose a three-month program during which entrepreneurs are immersed in the corporate world and have the opportunity to launch their company. What stunned us the most was the very low percentage of startups that get selected in this program, only 1% of applicants!

Venture
The company also acts as a business angel by providing funds to the most promising
startups. They are now investing in their third fund ($150M), and they invest each time up to 6% in the capital of the new-created company!

How this was linked to our courses?
The speaker stressed on the team aspect being a key factor for startup to succeed within TechStars. Indeed, as a project moves forward, the original idea does not matter so much as it can constantly change. Therefore, it is important that the team stays motivated, united and strives to continue the adventure despite the obstacles encountered. This is exactly the same thing with our group project for the semester.
Indeed, the common objective of this Innovation & Entrepreneurship program, through our four courses was to teach us how to develop and launch successful products or services to customers in a determined market. To do so, we also had to identify all the
challenges associated with existing economic and innovative models. The four courses
have allowed us to set a concrete project which first idea has been continuously changed and refined throughout the semester. Thanks to our users’s interviews and prototype tests, we had the occasion to meet our users, get to know them and catch their interests better.
We all gathered interesting insights that have changed the way we used to see and carry out our project.
Thus, the idea we are currently working on, for each group, is very different from the first one. However, no group has split yet and our adventure in SFU continues …

Sources:
TechStars official website: http://www.techstars.com/programs/seattle-program/
Nicolas

Article by Nicolas Delpech, François Guibourt, Jade Hoang, Gaspard Hirardot, Lili Papon and Xavier Roso.

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