Techstars Seattle Alumni Raises $4.8m in Series A Round

Great news rolled in today. Leanplum, a Techstars Seattle alumni, just closed a series A round. Leanplum is out of the Techstars Seattle 2012 class. The two ex-Google founders Momchil and Andrew worked immensely hard during the three-months program, or as they call it “our ninety day week”. It initially paid off with a $825k seed-round raised upon Demo Day, and now an additional $4.8m from Shasta Ventures.

Techstars Seattle is on the lookout for exciting IoT-startups

This year, Techstars Seattle is expanding its focus. Traditionally, we have been focused on software companies, because of their nature - they scale easily. However, similar to the companies we accept into our accelerator, we also have to adjust our focus according to what is happening in the market. One of the most exciting market trends is, in my opinion, the Internet of Things (IoT). Decreasing costs of hardware components is making it possible to connect virtually anything to the internet or a smart device. This opens up for countless opportunities to bring new exciting products to market. NEST, which was recently acquired by Google, is a great example of an IoT-company. Their focus is just one of many opportunities to make our homes, businesses, and "dumb" devices smarter.  

For this reason, Techstars Seattle is accepting IoT-focused hardware companies to the 2014 program. Are you working on an exciting startup in this space? - Apply to Techstars Seattle before the final deadline on May 4th. You can apply here.

3 reasons why should you apply to TechStars Seattle


It’s that time of year again! I’m thrilled to announce that we have opened applications for our 4th TechStars program here in Seattle! 2012 was a great success for the entrepreneurs and the entire Seattle community and we’re really excited about making the class of 2013 even better.

3 reasons why should you apply to TechStars Seattle?

1. The Mentor Network is awesome.TechStars introduces you to a group of Seattle’s high-quality mentors, investors, and resources, you will be immediately plugged into a massive network of like-minded people ready to help.

2. You’ll work with a high quality group of other entrepreneurs! You’ll be surrounded by other companies who are sympathetic confidants, and be able to share this experience and learn from one another, plus you’ll have someone to try all those microbrews with.

3.  You'll belong to a lifelong entrepreneur club.You’ll form a collection of alums, mentors and friends that you will have access to for the rest of your personal and professional life. Once you’re in TechStars, you’ll be a member for life.

Still not convinced why you should apply to TechStars Seattle? Click here to read about 4 more reasons why you should apply to TechStars Seattle. This year we’re expecting lots of applications – making competition tough -- so be sure to apply early! (i.e. now)

We’re looking for smart, cohesive teams that can iterate quickly and execute.  If you are one of these people then join forces with TechStars Seattle and see what three months of top-notch mentorship could mean to your startup.

Apply now!

Early application deadline is May 3rd and final deadline is May 31st. TechStars Seattle 2013 applications are now open!

Microsoft Accelerator kicked off yesterday!

The Microsoft Accelerator for Azure kicked off yesterday! I had my first round of office hours with the founders and I have to say this is a super solid class, really excited for the next 3 months. If you haven't checked out the teams take a look at them here.  I thought I'd enclose a picture of our office for all of you who want to SEE what's going on :-) 

Azure 2





Something you might not know about TechStars...

Each TechStars company now gets $118,000!

Every TechStars company now receives an automatic offer of $100,000 convertible note in addition to the traditional $18,000 investment.

There was a lot of buzz about the Star Power Fund when it was announced last fall. However, in case you missed it or forgot, I'd like to highlight it here because it's pretty freaking cool.  This additional $100k investment is from about a dozen investors who got together to form the Star Power Fund. To clarify, it's an offer, so it's optional. My hunch is that 99.9% of companies will take it.

Why this rocks for entrepreneurs:

1. Rounds will already have some traction.

2. It's an entrepreneur-friendly investment.

3. No more living on ramen noodles.

4. It's a good indicator that investors are excited about the quality companies they see coming out of TechStars.

5. Teams without a designer can hire one or outsource temporarily.

6. Softens the, "I can't afford to be an entrepreneur because I have a mortgage" problem.

7. More run way if needed.

8. It's $118,000 dollars more than you had before :-) 

I'm looking forward this year's class and how this incredible offer will benefit them.

Applications for TechStars Seattle are open. Early application deadline is May 25th and final deadline is June 15th.


Startup SEO is both awesome and hard

This has been a crazy week for me - Lighter Capital launched our new site and our explosive capital countdown and Techstars kicked off our second Seattle program. 

Rand Fishkin from seoMoz gave an awesome talk to the Techstars group that got the my mind racing for how Lighter Capital could be better focused on SEO. A couple things he said I thought were particularly relevant:

1. SEO can be a great marketing tactic for startups to beat established businesses since it requires creativity and nimbleness instead of $$, which plays AGAINST the advantages of  big company. 

2. SEO can be really hard for startups that are introducing a new product that the market doesn't know they want - ie Lighter Capital's revenue-based loans are a type of hybrid between bank debt (which people know about) and VC equity (which people know about). So how does a startup like us get people who are searching for bank debt or VC to find Lighter Capital? 

Thanks for the insights, Rand.

TechStars Seattle is Hiring HackStars!

You’re a brilliant developer, a great designer, a UX star, you can execute like mad, sling top-quality code with the best of them, or turn pixels intro perfection, and you’ve always wanted to go through TechStars… but you just don’t have a team or idea.  Dilemma!  Until now…

The TechStars companies always need more technical skill to help them do more faster during the program. Hackstars are highly-skilled software developers and designers that would love to work with the companies and go through the TechStars program.  Plus, you get paid $6K for the program (just like the founders) and might even land a job with one of the startups. What a great way to hack into TechStars!

Do you meet this profile?

  • You're a a code-slinging mac-daddy superstar guru at PHP, Java, .NET, Python, Objective-C, Ruby, JQuery, or design/UI/UX.
  • You can design, cut and code efficiently and brilliantly
  • You want to have a TechStars experience so you can learn all about startups and funding from our mentors.
  • You want to work side-by-side with some of the country's most promising new founders and young companies.
  • You live in Seattle, or are willing to relocate for the program and are willing to dedicate 100% of your time during the program to TechStars. 

HackStars is your chance to get an amazing experience, broaden your network in ways you could never imagine, and get exposure to some of the greatest up and coming companies and teams in the country.  Interested? Email to apply.

TechStars Seattle 2011 – Kicking Off and Ramping Up!

 It's that time of year again! TechStars Seattle applications for the 2011 program opened yesterday.  Judging by the number of applications already received, the response is huge!! 2010 was a great success for the entrepreneurs and the entire Seattle community.  We’re really excited about making 2011 even better. 

We are on a mission to make the Seattle startup scene kick ass ASAP by:

1. Recruiting even better quality founding teams (which will be hard given how well the teams in year one did)

2. Improving mentor engagement and 

3. Increasing investor engagement post Demo Day 

Reviewing the Results from 2010…they look great to me…how about you?

TechStars Seattle had a really impressive inaugural year.  We took the top 2% of applications and 8 of those 10 companies are still active (7 funded, 1 bootstrapped).  I’m really proud of all the hard work that went into that ratio and the sheer talent that graduated out of TechStars Seattle.  

Kicking off 2011: How to Apply? 

This year we’re expecting even more applications – making competition for those 10 spots even more fierce.  We’re looking for smart, cohesive teams that can iterate quickly and execute.  If you are one of these people then join forces with TechStars Seattle and see what three months of top-notch mentorship could mean to your startup.

Want to play the TechStars Game?

We’re laying an element of fun onto recruiting for Techstars.  To play the TechStars Game, login with Facebook Connect at the bottom of this page then start broadcasting applications and sharing from the toolbar. You'll automatically start accumulating Influence points!  Check back often at to track your points, badges, and rank.


TechStars demoday tickets in short supply!

Only 10% of tickets remain for TechStars Investor Day on November 11th.  In 13 days the inaugural class of TechStars Seattle will unveil their companies and demo products.  If you're an interested investor and haven't registered yet, email to rsvp before we sell out.  Hope to see you there - it's going to be a great event!

Brad Feld's Daily Deals is worth checking out


I've got a favor to ask. One of our fellow Techstars teams is working on daily deal marketing, and launched a store today for one of the TechStars founders (Brad Feld). On the store you can purchase a $50 voucher for $25 that can be used at a website that has lots of great outdoor clothing, shoes and gear. It doesn't matter where you live... they can ship anywhere. 
Please support these guys on their big launch here


Your elevator pitch should follow a simple "mad-lib"

T.A. McCann of Gist fame spoke with the TechStars founders today and shared some solid ideas about building products with the customer in mind.  One key takeaway that I felt was especially relevant as the founders dig into the product development phase was:


Your elevator pitch should follow a simple "ad-lib": We focus on ______ (target customer) who need _________ (market need), so we provide _________ (feature set) and we charge them ______ (business model). This standardized elevator pitch actually simplifies some of the challenge that the founders have been facing in explaining their business to mentors.  His idea is to adjust the answers to the blanks until the statement feels exciting and feels like it accurately describes what you do.  I couldn't agree more and hope the founders take this to heart as they hone their business plans.


Thanks to T.A. for coming by!

Practice and feedback make for great pitches

At TechStars, we've already had 2 pitch practices. These are exercises where everyone gives the 30 second company pitch and then gets feedback. It's simple -- and yet not many people do it. We do it dozens of times at TechStars!  I already witnessed significant improvement amongst the teams in the clarity and confidence of the pitches. If you're an entrepreneur make this a regular practice!

Top 5 things heard at TechStars in Seattle on Day 1

  • It's your company. 
  • Be aggressive -- about all aspects of your business.
  • We chose you ....not your idea. 
  • TechStars is an opportunity for massive entrepreneurial acceleration
  • Be intellectually honest 

Having just left the office -- I gotta say...the day was long but really exciting.  Nothing quite like being at the starting line of 10 companies filled with hope, dreams, and idealism to change the world one bit at a time. 

TechStars in Seattle to start in 1 week

I admit it -- I'm getting excited....and a bit anxious.  One of the out of state teams arrived today and another is driving out from the east coast.  I've been meeting off and on with some of the teams. I'm really looking forward to digging in and making something happen.  I'm pleased already with the support that the mentors are providing. I think we've got a good schedule of presentations and office hours. 

Not sure what else I should be doing this week to get ready....any suggestions? 

TechStars in Seattle is looking for a Fall Associate! Please forward on...

This is a unique opportunity to be intimately involved with the evolution of 10 startup companies through the course of the TechStars in Seattle fall accelerator program, as they grow from early stage to venture funding. These are internet/software companies, so some level of interest in this area is preferable. 


  • Access to an extensive network of mentors from the world of start-ups, venture capital, angel investment, and law. See:
  • Attend weekly events, with experts speaking on various topics. A few of the [tentatively] planned events are here:
  • Full involvement in TechStars “social” events with the Founders and the Seattle community
    • Events include retreats, TechStars Community Parties, Poker Nights, and more! (law firms love sponsoring cool stuff)
  • Access to any meeting you find interesting – a chance to personally experience the advice that mentors give to the companies on a variety of business issues
  • Backstage attendance at Investor Day in November (yes, you will work during this event, but you have the best seat in the house!)

This is a chance to develop an amazing network with successful professionals from around the nation while observing, participating, and learning about how startups succeed (or fail). Watch videos from last summer to learn more:


  • Basically, we need a “jack of all trades”. You must be able to do anything and everything necessary to ensure smooth daily operations.
  • Examples of responsibilities: Identifying needs and preparing for upcoming events (ordering and/or picking up food,beverage); organizing meetings and running logistics for special guest mentor visits; taking meeting notes; setting up office space for events; etc. 
  • There will be no task too small or too large for you.


  • Monster executor
  • Organizing guru
  • Available days, evenings, or basically whenever needed. The schedule is flexible and not necessarily full-time, but you are expected to be present when needed (i.e., before/during/after events). The old saying, “you get out, what you put in,” applies well to this position.
  • Great attitude, desire to learn and meet new people, lots of energy and enthusiasm
  • Afraid of no job; willing to take the not-so-glamorous tasks along with the awesome ones

Enlistment Dates         August 16th à November 12th (approximately)


To Apply:                       Submit a resume and personal statement (max one page each) describing why you want this position and why you are the perfect candidate.

                                                To: Kayla Roark,

Saying not selected to TechStars applicants is hard(er) than I thought

Yesterday, we sent out 375+ not selected notices.  It happened with the push of a button. I wasn't prepared for the amount of email from aspiring entrepreneurs who really want to attend the program. Emotionally it was harder than I expected. 

I wish that all the responses could have been more personal and customized. But sheer volume wouldn't allow it.  So for all of you who took the time to apply -- I encourage you to keep going.  Build your businesses -- and if applying again makes sense. Definitely apply to TechStars again. 

Entrepreneurship is about persevering and proving to others and oneself that you can build a profitable business -- so persevere.  The TechStars team strives to be helpful whenever we can -- our door is open. 

For those of you -- about 30 companies that were selected as finalists. Congratulations!  Now is the time to lift your game and prove that you belong in the final 10. We'll be making final selections between now and July 7 -- make sure you lift your game up, you've got a 1 in 3 shot of getting in. 

What it means to be a TechStars in Seattle finalist?

Since TechStars in Seattle applications were due June 1, we've been working diligently on reviewing and processing the over 400 applications. This is no small feat. I assure you.  We've strived to have 3 people review every application. Tomorrow, we're going to be notifying approximately 30 finalists. Being a finalist means you're in the top 10% of applications. It does not mean you are in the program. Over the next few weeks, we'll be meeting and interviewing the "finalists" and making a final list of approximately 10 companies that will comprise the TechStars in Seattle companies.  

For those companies not selected as a finalist, we're going to try to be as responsive as possible.  I encourage you to continue to pursue your dreams of building your own company. TechStars is a great catalyst for those companies lucky and good enough to get in ....but it is by no means the end all be all arbiter of success. The specific market you're in is the arbiter. There are lots of reasons that we chose not to select a company as a finalist. Some common issues that came up were :

  • Location and visa issues - we definately looked at international applicants but dealing with visa issues is HARD for the entrepreneur and the program
  • Team - we definately have a preference for 2 or 3 member teams that can participate in the whole program
  • Niche market - companies focused on specific niches are sometimes discounted as thinking too small
  • Commitment and perseverence -- those entrepreneurs that simply submitted applications and demonstrate a continued interest in standing out from the 400+ applications will have a harder time getting selected

The above list is not intended to be comprehensive. It's just intended to give people some visibility into the selection process and our thinking.