How accelerators like Techstars help startups grow during the pandemic

  • Accelerators like Techstars Boston, which ran a digital demo day for startups to attach with traders in April, are pivoting to help rising companies climate the storm.
  • Meanwhile, founders concerned in accelerators have needed to both double down on their enterprise methods as demand has spiked because of the pandemic or improvise to maintain clients coming in.
  • Founders and VCs are staying related whereas self-quarantining at dwelling by way of accelerators like Techstars and 500 Startups and through video calls and Slack channels.
  • “Some of the best companies were created in downturns,” Techstars and Foundry Group founder Brad Feld stated during the Techstars Boston occasion. “Economic stress causes unexpected opportunities, but there will always be smart people looking for work.”
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for extra tales.

As 10 startups in Techstars Boston’s accelerator program ready to pitch their companies during a digital demo day this previous April, managing director Clement Cazalot pumped up the Zoom name by taking part in the in style Black Eyed Peas track, “Let’s Get It Started.”

It was the largest attended Techstars demo day occasion but, and its first held nearly during the pandemic. There was additionally a shock visitor: rapper and “Law & Order: SVU” actor Ice-T. 

“I wanna give a warm welcome to all the startups in the Techstars Boston class,” he stated in a recorded Cameo video. “2020 rhymes with money. Lets get it. Peace.”

Ice-T at Techstars virtual demo day with Clement Cazalot

Ice-T at Techstars digital demo day with Clement Cazalot.

Michael Haley

Over the previous three months, startup founders have been pressured to reckon with looming points rooted in the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing recession — and accelerators are pivoting to help them out. 

“Companies that came out of the global economic crisis in 2008 benefited from the pandemonium,” Techstars and Foundry Group founder Brad Feld stated to the startups during the digital occasion. “So in this post-COVID-19 world, whatever that means, there will be foundational changes and the opportunities that emerge will be substantial, but hardship and stress will be seen in process.”

Accelerator packages — packages that mentor founders, plant seed investments, and help grow the enterprise — are serving to startups navigate that stress. Some are using short-term methods to outlive week by week, whereas others devise new long-term plans. 

As certainly one of the largest accelerator packages in the world, Techstars has a helpful community, with over 50 packages from Singapore to London to Boston. It brings on over 500 corporations in numerous industries, from expertise to healthcare, all receiving fairness investments. 

“Everyone is still learning this version of reality we’re living in,” Aaron Blumenthal, head of 500 Startups, one other accelerator holding on-line demo days and inspiring digital networking between startups and potential future traders, informed Business Insider. The connections accelerators like 500 Startups are making are helpful and will result in extra financing. 

“Young companies need to establish financing quickly,” added David Cohen, cofounder of Techstars. “Once they have the capital to get through a situation like COVID-19 is when they can have immediate optionality.” Once enrolled in an accelerator, like Techstars or 500 Startups, startups additionally actively search out future traders, whether or not a sole angel investor or a agency, with a view to put together for development.

In the first quarter of 2020, accelerator and incubator packages invested $110.29 million in personal startups amongst 1,287 offers, in keeping with information Business Insider pulled from Pitchbook. $41.62 million has been invested to this point by accelerators in the second quarter of 2020. Given the preliminary strike of COVID-19 occuring in the midst of Q1, these numbers might decline in the months forward.

Business Insider spoke with founders who participated in accelerators about what they realized by way of the experiences that is serving to them climate unsure occasions.

A spike in demand means it is time to rethink bringing a product to market 

During the Boston digital demo day, every startup founder went by way of pitching every of their enterprise fashions and detailing why their firm issues in 2020 to angel traders and VCs on the name. Some have been extra related to the coronavirus pandemic than others, like Statera’s clinician compensation monitoring software.

Amy Jackson of Statera presenting at Techstars virtual demo day

Amy Jackson of Statera presenting at Techstars digital demo day.

Michael Haley

“Financial stress is a big driver for physician burnout even before COVID-19, now of course physicians are more burnt out,” stated Statera Founder Amy Jackson, who needed to expedite the launch of the platform when many physicians began getting sick because of treating sufferers with COVID-19.

“Our mission is even more urgent than it was a month ago,” Jackson added. “There’s a huge need for physicians to feel financially stable and to address any concerns to rebuild trust and confidence in a stable environment.” Statera’s focused healthcare customers are in something however a steady setting, with many working lengthy shifts in hospitals and docs places of work with a view to deal with these with COVID-19.

Amy Molk, founder and CEO of instructional expertise startup Beanstalk, stated the firm has dramatically ramped up its service. In simply three weeks, whereas in the Techstars Boulder 2020 cohort, Beanstalk went from 150 to 7,000 customers as youngsters have been out of the blue pressured to do college from dwelling. Both Statera and Beanstalk acknowledged their relevance during a pandemic and sped up launching their platforms to grab a helpful alternative, underneath steerage from Techstars and their mentor community. And they don’t seem to be the solely corporations which have seen a dramatic shift in the market.

Other startups must put their principal experience on the backburner and improvise

“If we stayed in the tampon business, we would’ve gone out of business,” stated Claire Coder, founder and CEO of Aunt Flow, a 2018 Techstars NYC alum. Aunt Flow offered menstrual merchandise for colleges and places of work, however as soon as these locations closed attributable to the coronavirus, it pivoted to manufacturing FDA-certified medical masks. As many entrepreneurs have found, flexibility is simply as essential to development as market demand.

When Geospiza graduated from Techstars in 2018, the firm analyzed information to visualise dangers surrounding local weather change. But since the pandemic began, orders have been scarce.

“When COVID-19 became intense in China, we had internal discussions on what our next steps were,” stated Sarah Hamma, Geospiza’s director of product administration. She defined how the firm’s background in emergency administration experience higher positioned them to help present purchasers. 

“The staff was not thinking we would be where we are today, but with our knowledge we still had companies and organizations reaching out to ask, ”Can you help us out more?'” Hamma stated.

Geospiza now focuses 90% of its efforts on addressing conditions involving the COVID-19 pandemic, since they have been already working in an adjoining sector with administration of emergencies. It’s unsure when they may swap again to overlaying local weather change. 

“We’re a little worried about what that means long term, but we’re taking note and previewing what disruption climate risk will have on our society,” Hamma stated. Luckily, the firm already accomplished its Techstars accelerator whereas additionally receiving a $1 million fairness spherical May 2019 from Techstars and different traders.

Mastering a related digital pitch and on-line networking is a should for everybody

Cazalot emphasised to the digital demo day attendees “one ask, one intro,” which means all the angel traders and enterprise capitalists current have been challenged to help startups community and join inside the trade.

Connections are inspired greater than ever when face-to-face encounters, occasions, and offers will not happen in the foreseeable future.

500 Startups has carried out Slack communications with startups, mentors, and traders throughout the globe to additional elevate networking inside its teams. 

According to Cohen, 80 corporations in Techstars quite a few accelerator packages are already related to COVID-19 and pivoting their enterprise fashions to deal with the state of affairs.

“Some of the best companies were created in downturns,” Feld stated during the Techstars occasion. “Economic stress causes unexpected opportunities, but there will always be smart people looking for work.”

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