Techstars Retreat 2015

techstars logoTechstars, the one of the largest accelerators in the world, recently purchased UP Global and subsequently removed its nonprofit status. UP Global was the umbrella company holding Startup Weekend, Next, Startup Week and other programs under it. As organizers of Startup Weekend, many were excited about what the name Techstars could do for the still rather new organization; however, there were plenty that were also concerned about the merger.

My largest concern was what this traditionally high-barrier accelerator would mean to a low-barrier entry point into the entrepreneurial ecosystem. In Reno, we have used the event to generate excitement and interest in entrepreneurship. It teaches participants how quickly you can truly advance an idea in 54 hours. It also allows the participants to “play” at entrepreneur without the risk of real world failure.

Techstars, on the other hand, is an elite accelerator with world renown. And while many fanboys of the startup world, along with entrepreneurs in the loop, aspire to be an entrant into one of Techstars many accelerators, it is also a daunting task to accomplish.

Startup Weekend logoDavid Brown, co-founder of Techstars, gave an AMA (Ask Me Anything) talk to this limited group on Saturday along with Marc Nager, former CEO of UP Global and now working within Techstars. Before the event was opened up to questions from organizers from all over the United States and Canada, both Nager and Brown gave a short talk about why the acquisition by Techstars of UP Global not only made sense in both of their strategic visions, but why UP Global’s programs would benefit from the merger.

It was clear that while many organizers were generally excited about the acquisition, like any change, there were concerns. There was a focus on no longer being a 501(c)3 and how that may affect us when fundraising, what Techstars had planned for the future (Brown admitted that “Techstars has no plan [for UP Global programs]”) and what we may be benefiting from with the new association with the Techstars brand.

I was fortunate enough to ask what both Brown and Nager thought about the concern of the high-barrier brand of Techstars potentially hindering the message of Startup Weekend. My fears were assuaged when they said that may be a real issue for some areas and that we as individual cities are free to make the decision to push the Techstars connection or not.

Meeting with the other organizers from across the globe is a treat with this organization as the people involved on the ground are remarkable, but I’m beginning to believe that those interested in helping to create their entrepreneurial ecosystems are inherently remarkable.

Nager made a comment about diversity being baked in from the beginning, and looking around that room, you knew it was true. Not only were various backgrounds present, but judgment was completely lacking. I hope Techstars continues to foster the inclusion and friendliness that Nager and his team have built into the UP Global organization as it is an asset that can be hard to find in entrepreneurial development endeavors.

I’m excited to see what happens in the next few years!

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