TechStars shines with $24M, looks to support grads with $100,000 checks

Future graduates of TechStars will have the option to walk away with a little more cash in the bank as part of a new program being announced today. The high-tech incubator, which started in Boulder in 2006 and expanded to Seattle last year, has raised $24 million that it will use to bankroll entrepreneurs who complete the 90-day startup bootcamp.

Historically, TechStars has provided up to $18,000 to entrepreneurs in exchange for a six percent equity stake. That arrangement will not change as part of the new offering being announced today.

However, entrepreneurs who graduate from TechStars — starting with the 2012 classes — now will have the option to take an additional $100,000 convertible note. Structured as debt financing, there’s no additional dilution for the founders until a future financing round or exit of some kind.

Cohen

It may seem a little risky to pump that kind of money into companies that are just 90 days old. But it does signal a big commitment by TechStars to the entrepreneurial teams they are incubating in Boulder, New York, Boston and Seattle.

“Obviously, these investors are familiar with the risks of investing in any early stage company,” said TechStars co-founder and CEO David Cohen when asked about the risk levels. “Through studying the data available the investors determined that this was a strong investment opportunity.”

And what does the data say?

According to Cohen, TechStars companies on average have raised over $1 million after moving through the program.

Inside TechStars’ Seattle

The dynamics of the program also are changing a bit with TechStars now accepting some companies that are more developed than two guys, a dog and a business plan. (We’ve seen that in Seattle where entrepreneurs Marcelo Calbucci and Russell Benaroya of EveryMove are now participating in the current TechStars class).

Offering an additional $100,000 could “entice a broader spectrum of would-be entrepreneurs to consider TechStars,” notes Cohen. It also will help entrepreneurs focus on building their products rather than raising money during those formative early stages.

Teams in each of the four cities where TechStars operates will be eligible for the financing round beginning next year. Cohen tells GeekWire that there are no current plans to expand geographically. “We think we’re in fantastic markets,” he said.

The syndicate of investors participating in the $24 million round includes Foundry Group, IA Ventures, Avalon Ventures, DFJ Mercury, SoftBank Capital, SVB Financial Group, RRE Ventures, Right Side Capital Management, TechStars Alumni and several individuals.

In total, more than 75 venture capital firms — including most of the major firms in Seattle — support TechStars.

Previously on GeekWire: “Meet the lucky two percent: A peek at the startups that just entered TechStars Seattle”

(Editor’s note: GeekWire’s Rebecca Lovell and Jonathan Sposato are both mentors in the TechStars program).

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