Techstars just announced that they acquired UP Global, including the organization’s Startup Weekend, Startup Week, Startup Next, and Startup Digest programs. For those of you who do not know what this means, it is HUGE news for the startup community. These events and workshops are arguably the largest startups events in the world.
I met up with David Cohen, managing partner and co-founder of Techstars, to ask him some questions I had about this deal.
Q: What is the key goal for the acquisition?
Cohen: Techstars, since 2006, has been building the world’s first truly global entrepreneurial ecosystem. This is a big move helping us to accomplish our vision. Startup Weekend and the other UP Global programs have done an amazing job inspiring and educating entrepreneurs all over the world. Techstars has done a great job accelerating and providing venture capital to the most promising companies to make the biggest long term economic impact. Putting these two organizations together is very powerful and is a major step towards our goal of building a truly global entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Q: I know from my own experiences that Startup Weekend and other UP Global initiatives are sort of neutral in terms of promoting organizations like Y Combinator and Techstars. Are you worried that this acquisition will make it seem that Techstars will look to one-sided in terms of promoting brands?
Cohen: Yes, that is a concern we have, and we are doing everything we can to make sure this doesn’t happen. Techstars is fully committed to keeping Startup Weekend, Startup Week, Startup Next, Startup Digest, and other programs of UP Global open sourced and community-oriented. Everyone will be welcome, just as they have been in the past.
Actions speak louder than words and we believe that everyone will see that there is no intent to change the nature of these events. We will not be rebranding them or plastering the Techstars logo all over them. Startup Weekend, for example, will remain Startup Weekend as it has from the beginning in an open, community-oriented way.
Q: This acquisition is very interesting. You have events that attract early-stage thinkers and creators and Techstars, which is one of the world’s leading accelerators to help build, market and create new high growth businesses. What is next?
Cohen: If you think about the complete entrepreneurial journey, from inspiration to IPO, UP Global has been very focused on inspiration and education. Companies need capital to grow, and now that Techstars has more than $300 million under management we can continue to provide a longer path for the most promising companies who will ultimately deliver the most long term economic impact. We are focused on building a global ecosystem that can support entrepreneurs through their entire journey. I think what is most exciting about all of this is the way we see Techstars and UP Global alumni or past participants coming back and becoming angel investors and/or mentors in the network. This is a virtuous cycle that we believe will have a very long term impact on global entrepreneurship.
Q: I think partnerships like this are a necessity in terms of maintaining the growth of startup communities around the world. At AlleyNYC and Entrepreneur Media, our goal is very much in line with Techstars. How do you think we can start to move the needle in terms of more partnerships with companies that share ideology within the Techstars ecosystem?
Cohen: In your example, New York City is of course a key part of the global network, as it is one of the top startup communities in the world. I think there are ways that perhaps organic partnerships can occur in local geographies with groups that are extremely focused on their communities. That’s really how Techstars began, as a grassroots movement in Boulder, Colo., that happened to catch fire and expand around the world. I think people being open to randomness and ideas from others can create really interesting partnership opportunities.
The UP Global and Techstars partnership and joining of forces is a great example of staying close to an organization that feels mission aligned and you never know where that may lead. There are many cases where UP Global gave first to Techstars with no expectation of getting anything back and many cases where Techstars did that for UP Global. In the end we stayed close and are ultimately joining forces to make a larger dent in the entrepreneurial universe.
Q: What geographical areas is Techstars going focus this partnership in? It it more global or domestic or both?
Cohen: UP Global already has more than 1,500 events, operates in over 500 cities and over 100 countries, reaching hundreds of thousands of entrepreneurs annually. Our intent is to continue to grow this footprint. Techstars is truly global; you’ll see us continue to expand all our programs worldwide, including accelerators, our venture capital, as well as the UP Global programs including Startup Weekend, Startup Next, Startup Digest, etc. Our goal is simply to make entrepreneurship more accessible to everyone around the world throughout the entrepreneurial journey, from inspiration to IPO.
I am huge fan of Techstars. They are a huge value add to the startup ecosystem. I want to personally congratulate the Techstars family on the HUGE news.