Techstars Names New President, Accelerates Plans for Worldwide Reach

8/9/13Follow @MichaelXBD

In its quest to go global, Techstars is going back to its roots.

The Techstars startup accelerator held its annual demo day Thursday in its hometown of Boulder, CO. Along with pitches from 10 startups, the presentation included a rare joint appearance by all four Techstars founders and the introduction—or possibly reintroduction—of its new president, David Brown.

Brown cofounded Techstars in 2006 with David Cohen, Brad Feld, and Jared Polis. He since stepped back from the accelerator and was president of Zoll Data Systems, which develops emergency response and dispatch software for fire departments and ambulance companies.

Techstars is continuing to expand its vision as it adds accelerators across the U.S. and, for the first time, overseas, CEO David Cohen said. The growth means it needs to expand its leadership team. Brown has been on the job full time for about a week, Cohen said.

“I can already see how much better a manager he is than me, and he’s helped a ton,” Cohen said.

“I’m the brand new guy…but I really am an old guy,” Brown said. “I was around at the beginning, and I got to see the first couple Boulder programs get off the ground. I faded away a little bit, I had a different gig, and I’ve been out of the program a little bit for the last three or four years. To come back here and see the quality of the teams and the presentations, to be in the office and meet the managing directors from all the different cities…has been amazing.”

In the past year, Techstars has launched a new accelerator in Austin, TX, and acquired established programs in Chicago and London. Techstars is now in seven cities, but there are about a 1,000 programs like Techstars around the world, Cohen said. The company wants to take advantage of its momentum and become the preeminent global accelerator program.

“Techstars wants to amp up this network. We’re awesome at using it locally, now we’re going to make it even more awesome globally,” Cohen said.

Techstars has been planning its strategy and reflecting on its own history, and it seemed appropriate to get the founders together.

“The idea of a mentorship-driven model has had a huge impact around the world, and I think it was time to get the band back together. We actually don’t spend that much time together in person,” he said.

Brown is the least well known of the founders, despite having the longest personal and professional relationship with Cohen. They’ve known each other for 22 years and cofounded three companies. Their biggest success before Techstars was Pinpoint Technologies, a company that developed emergency response software. They founded the company in the early 1990s, back when they were “young, rag-tag twenty-somethings” according to the book Brown wrote about the company, which is named No Vision, All Drive.

They would sell the company to Zoll Medical Corp., and Brown remained with Zoll for most of the past decade.

Brown is the latest executive addition Techstars has made over the past year. Another significant move was the addition of Highway 12 Ventures general partner Mark Solon as general partner in charge of overseeing the more than $70 million Techstars has under management.

The appearance also was a chance for Polis to briefly make a pitch for immigration reform. Polis was starting a political career around the time he co-founded Techstars, and since 2008 he has represented Boulder in Congress.

Polis has made immigration reform one of his causes, especially as the issue relates to entrepreneurs and tech companies. He is one of the leading proponents of the so-called startup visa, which would increase the number of visas available to entrepreneurs from foreign countries.

Their news seemed to be upstaged, at least given the reaction of the sometimes-raucous crowd that filled the Boulder Theater, by the news that Intuit had purchased GoodApril, one of the startups, for an undisclosed price. It was the first time a Techstars company had been purchased before actually completing Techstars, Techstars Boulder managing director Luke Beatty said. More than 300 companies have gone through the accelerator, and GoodApril is the 24th to be acquired.

GoodApril developed tax planning software, and Intuit (Nasdaq: INTU) makes TurboTax, so the pairing makes sense. Intuit approached GoodApril a few weeks ago, and the deal was closed on Tuesday, according to GoodApril cofounder and chief operating officer Mitchell Fox.

Michael Davidson is the editor of Xconomy Boulder/Denver. He covers startups, venture capital, clean tech, energy, aerospace, telecoms, and whatever else happens above 5,280 feet. Contact him at mdavidson@xconomy.com. Follow @MichaelXBD

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