Today, Techstars announced a new initiative called Techstars Studio which will allow Techstars to source new company concepts from Techstars alumni founders, community leaders, venture capitalists, mentors, and corporate partners. The Techstars Studio will then build prototypes, test market adoption, and select the most promising concepts for launch. Techstars Studio will then launch new startups and source talent and capital from the Techstars worldwide network to run the new companies.
The goal of each Techstars Studio is to launch four new companies annually. The first Techstars Studio will be in Boulder, just like the first Techstars accelerator was in 2007. As with the expansion of Techstars Accelerators around the world (Techstars will run 41 accelerator programs in 31 cities and 11 countries in 2019), expect Techstars Studios to follow a similar expansion path.
At Foundry, we have a lot of experience with the Studio model. We are investors in PSL (in Seattle) and High Alpha (in Indianapolis). We are also investors in the venture funds associated with the studios (PSL Ventures and High Alpha Capital) as well as Techstars Ventures.
Over the past five years, we’ve looked at potentially investing in numerous studios. We think the studio model, while very attractive with the right team, resources, and network, is very difficult to execute well. We’ve been deliberate in our choices and the leaders of both PSL and High Alpha have been helpful with Techstars as they’ve gone through their thought process on how to build out a studio.
We are especially excited about the founding team of Techstars Studios. Along with the leadership of David Cohen (the co-CEO of Techstars) will be Isaac Saldana, founder of SendGrid and Mike Rowan, former VP of SendGrid Labs. We’ve worked closely with Isaac and Mike over the years and are psyched to have another chance to create something with them from the ground floor.
A number of the most successful Techstars accelerator alumni are participating as founders in residence and advisors to Techstars Studio. In addition, more than 25 corporate partners of Techstars are involved in the initiative at launch.
If you are interested in the Techstars Studio, drop me an email and I’ll route you to the right folks.
I’m in Seattle for the next few days. I’ve built this trip around Techstars Seattle Demo, a bunch of time at PSL, and a Moz board meeting. Oh – and time with several of our portfolio companies as well as some nice social stuff with long time friends.
Today, PSL announced their new $80 million venture fund. We are significant LPs in the fund and my partner Lindel is joining the PSL advisory board. In addition to being LPs in PSL Ventures, we are major investors in PSL Studio and I’m on the board. While we don’t have an office in Seattle, I’m confident we have a comfortable place to hang out when we are in town.
Amy and I have a periodic conversation around what happens if one of us died unexpectedly. We each know that it would be impossible to keep living alone in Boulder given our deep connections to many things as a couple. So, we each have our “other place” we’d live if it wasn’t Boulder. Amy’s is Paris; mine is Seattle.
I’ve been going to Seattle regularly for business since 1990. Feld Technologies was in the inaugural Microsoft Solution Provider program that Dwayne Walker created around 1991. I fondly remember a box of happiness from Microsoft showing up at my office in Boston every month, usually full of software, books, an occasional t-shirt, or plaque. At the time, we did almost all of our Windows development using Microsoft Access, which was a remarkably effective pre-client/server app development environment.
In the mid-1990s, I made a handful of angel investments in Seattle and spent more time at Microsoft for AmeriData, which had acquired Feld Technologies. Windows NT was beginning its conquest of Novell Netware, and AmeriData was a huge Novell reseller. I was part of the championing of Windows NT, regularly suggesting to the leadership at AmeriData that we needed to get on the NT train. I wasn’t as effusive as Steve Ballmer was, but close.
By the late 1990s and into the early 2000s, I was still going to Seattle regularly for a variety of reasons, including several investments that Mobius made. At some point Dan’l Lewin invited me to join the Microsoft VC Advisory Board where I had even more reasons to hang out in Seattle. I had become comfortable with Seattle the city, Amy and I were spending more time at our house in Alaska (so Seattle was occasionally a stop on the way to Alaska), and I’d started to enjoy the rain.
When we started Foundry Group in 2007, we knew that Seattle would be a key geography for us. It’s been really fun to be involved, through many different organizations, and with many people, in the massive growth of the Seattle startup community. We expect our various investments in PSL will provide a key focal point for the next decade of our Seattle experience.
I’m really looking forward to the next three days in Seattle. Even though they are very scheduled, I’ll be with a lot of people who I enjoy – a lot.
In October 2015, Pioneer Square Labs launched. We led the financing, and I joined the board to work more closely with Greg Gottesman, Geoff Entress, Mike Galgon, and Ben Gilbert to build a long-lasting and enduring startup studio in Seattle.
Today, Julie Sandler joined Pioneer Square Labs as the fourth managing director. Julie previously was a partner at Madrona Venture Group and is deeply involved in the Seattle startup community. She has also been a leading voice for women in technology as a founding member of the Seattle Entrepreneurial Women’s Network and Startup Weekend Women’s Edition.
Basically, Julie is awesome. And it makes me super excited to get a chance to work more closely with her at PSL.
Foundry Group has a deep connection to Seattle. In addition to currently being investors in Pioneer Square Labs, we are also investors in Boundless, Glowforge, Mighty Ai, Moz, and Rover. Over the years, Techstars has expanded their footprint, now running Techstars Seattle as well as the Alexa Accelerator (powered by Techstars). And, as many of you likely know, Techstars acquired UP Global several years ago, which was headquartered in Seattle.
As I’ve gotten to know Julie over the years, I can’t think of a better person to join the PSL team. The PSL entrepreneur-in-residence program has become an attractor for quality entrepreneurs in Seattle – both experienced and emerging ones. In some cases, entrepreneurs come to PSL to work on a specific idea the PSL team has developed, while others choose to iterate on a product of their own and launch something new with the PSL team.
This has happened in an incredibly short time. If you had told me 18 months ago that PSL would have already spun out six VC-backed companies already, along with building out the now 17 person PSL team, I wouldn’t have believed you and would have suggested a time frame about double that. But the PSL team has achieved that and, with the addition of Julie to the team, is moving even faster on its mission.
Julie – welcome!