The Winners (and Losers) of TechStars
One-hundred days: that's how long they had to build a viable company. That three months was spent not only under the watchful eyes of investors, but the glare of lights and intrusion of cameras. After that, it was sink or swim for the 11 start-ups of TechStars's inaugural New York class. And not all made it out alive.
While yesterday afternoon ushered in the new class of TechStars start-ups at Demo Day, last night Bloomberg TV aired its final installment of TechStars NY, the reality show that documented the lives of entrepreneurs as they pitched, pivoted, and pulled all-nighters throughout the three-month program. The first of its kind, the show was initially met with some skepticism. After all, can you really broadcast the lives of entrepreneurs in 30-minute segments?
"We didn't change anything about TechStars to do this," David Cohen, the founder and CEO of TechStars, told Inc.com "You'll see success, and you'll see failures."
He wasn't lying. The show offered one of the first real glimpses into the ups-and-downs of life as entrepreneurs scrambling to launch their companies.
Not all of those made it out alive, either.
ToVieFor, a "fashion-oriented eBay" abruptly shut down in September when its founder realized the company was not getting the traction it needed to scale.
"We went through TechStars and realized that the business model had fundamental flaws," said its CEO Melanie Moore Tuesday evening. "Ultimately I had to make the tough call and shut it down." (The company may have failed, but Moore's entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well: Shortly after burying ToVieFor, Moore launched Elizabeth and Clarke, a start-up that manufacturers plain white T-shirts for under $30.)
The rest of the 11 companies, however, look to have bright future, having raised a combined $25 million since they premiered at Demo Day.
"This class blew me away," says Cohen. "It's probably the best TechStars class ever."
By far, one of the breakaway successes profiled last evening was OnSwipe, a software company based in New York that lets publishers create iPad apps. Jason Baptiste, the company's (allegedly arrogant) founder—and Inc. 30 Under 30 alum—announced that the company has received $6 million in funding, and has begun work with publishers such as The New York Times and Hearst.
There were plenty of other notable rounds of funding, too. Nestio, a site that simplifies renting real estate, raised $750,000, Immersive Labs, an advertsing company, raised $1 million, and CrowdTwist, a customer loyalty and rewards program, raised $7 million.
David Tisch, TechStar's managing director, noted that the CEOs are "walking out of this program with big careers ahead of them."
The show even offered a bit of drama one might expect from reality television: a bad breakup.
While enrolled in the TechStars program, Immersive Labs co-founders Jason Sosa and Alessio Signorini decided to split as co-founders.
"Even the best marriages don't work," Signorini told the crowd last evening. "It took us three months to realize we were not the right fit."
So far, no word from Bloomberg if we can expect a season two. But stay tuned for more details.