Fueling Boulder’s Tech Leadership

TechStars brings innovation to bear

Since its founding in 2007, Techstars has helped make Boulder a hotbed for tech startups by following a key philosophy: it’s all about the team.

The Boulder-based startup accelerator helps nascent technology companies achieve their potential by offering them money, mentorship and networks – think SendGrid, Kapost, Sphero, Native and nearly 500 others. In choosing startups to help (and hundreds compete for every spot), the company considers ideas, business plans, technologies and market potential. But the team trumps all.

“In the early stages, team is far and away the most important component of a great company,” says program manager Julie Penner. “So when we consider a company for investment and mentorship, we look foremost at its people. Are they dynamic? Do they have the right mix of skills and expertise to execute the vision?”

The focus is proving right headed. While 92% of tech startups fail, 90% of the companies Techstars backs thrive. Soon the firm will announce which companies have won the coveted 10 spots in its intensive Boulder summer program that begins June 15.

Today, Techstars’ reach expands far beyond its Boulder headquarters. The company is running accelerator programs year-round all across the U.S., and in London and Berlin, uncovering new ideas and developing innovations so they can make it to market.

Native

Boulder-based Native is an outgrowth of the intensive mentorship that Techstars offers. Founded by CU graduates Devon Tivona and Lianne Haug, the company was accepted into Techstars under a completely different concept from the one that is exciting clients and investors today. Native has developed a mobile travel app that operates like a personal travel assistant – showing business and leisure travelers their best bets for restaurants, lodging, attractions and getting there.

That they could transform the initial company concept into something completely different is testament to Techstars’ focus on the team.

“Devon and Lianne were the right people, and that’s what mattered,” Ms. Penner says. “We like to say Techstars for Life – and that means choosing the right people from the start and sticking with them.”

Techstars’ success is one of the reasons Boulder keeps popping up on national lists like Forbes recent 10 Most Innovative Tech Hubs in the U.S.   With offices in downtown Boulder, the firm’s growth has led to some big announcements recently, chief among them the closing of a new investment fund. Eager to make the most of the entrepreneurial momentum it has created, Techstars upped its investment ante when it closed in early January a new $150 million fund.  With that fund in place, Techstars can now capitalize on the global network of startup founders and advisers it has created since 2007.

The company has almost doubled in size in the last year or so, and recently announced major appointments in its Boulder office.

Entrepreneurial superstar Nicole Glaros, who has run Techstars Boulder programming as managing director since 2009, will continue as a partner in Techstars Ventures as well as moving into the role of chief product officer. The company appointed Zach Nies and Boulder native Natty Zola as its new managing directors.

With a long list of entrepreneurial successes in their bios, Mr. Nies was the chief technologist at Rally Software and Mr. Zola the founder at Everlater, a Techstars alumni, which was later acquired by AOL. Mr. Zola is a true Boulder native who attended New Vista and Fairview High Schools. When news of the appointment broke, he tweeted: “A dream job in my hometown.”

We look forward to watching Techstars’ successes ripple in and far beyond Boulder Valley, and are thrilled to celebrate the company as our Featured Friend this month.