TechStars Seattle: The Early Word on the Lucky Few
While most of us are enjoying the summer, one group of entrepreneurs is buckling down for three intense months of work. TechStars, the national tech startup accelerator program, has just named its latest Seattle-based class of companies.
Well, most of them, anyway. Ten companies in all were chosen from a long list of applicants, and TechStars today named nine of them publicly—it’s not uncommon for some teams in the “boot camp” program to stay somewhat private in the early stages, since their product, company name, and employee roster can change a lot in a short time.
This is the first TechStars class in Seattle since the Boulder, CO-based program began offering larger seed investments to its startups. The original TechStars model gives all accepted companies up to $18,000 in exchange for a 6 percent stake in the startup. The accelerator has now added an optional $100,000 convertible note (a loan that can become stock) for each startup.
The Seattle branch of TechStars is directed by Andy Sack, an entrepreneur and early stage investor who also co-manages the Founder’s Co-op investment fund with partner Chris DeVore. Their headquarters, in South Lake Union right in the heart of the growing Amazon campus, has turned into a real beehive of activity for Seattle startup folks.
TechStars also has branches in New York, Boulder, and Boston, and it has recently partnered with Microsoft to run sponsored accelerator programs based around Microsoft’s Kinect motion sensor and its Azure suite of cloud-computing services.
This is the third TechStars class in Seattle, and the companies are coming from all over the place. There are plenty of Seattle-area startups on board, but there are also teams from New York, San Francisco, Portland, Toronto, and (most recently) Santiago, Chile.
TechStars provided some quick thumbnail descriptions of the new Seattle class this morning, and I spent some time trying to track down more information about the people involved and the ideas they’re working on. It wasn’t always a fruitful search, but here’s what I came up with. We could hear more from these startups and entrepreneurs along the way, and we’ll get the real lowdown in about three months when the program has its Demo Day of pitches for investors.
—Apptentive: This is one of several startups in this class offering tools for mobile developers. Apptentive’s product helps app owners communicate with their users more effectively, through notifications and feedback systems.
One particular focus is getting users who are big fans of an app to rate it in the app store—something that is critical to helping an app surface amid the ever-growing sea of things to install on your mobile device.
The Seattle-based company lists four co-founders, including CEO Robi Ganguly, a tech veteran who formerly worked for Yahoo, and CTO Mike Saffitz, who recently worked on Windows Phone for Microsoft.
—Bizible: Bizible sells online marketing software, particularly for small businesses. Among the offerings are search engine optimization, tools for cleaning up outdated information, and analytics.
The startup is led by two former Microsofties: CEO Aaron Bird and CTO Peter Thompson. Bizible also lists three marketing consultants and a WordPress developer as part of its team. The company is already in Seattle, and has previously raised angel financing.
—Linksy: Linksy is social media marketing software that organizes the way a business reaches out to its fans online to ask for help spreading the word. It integrates with the major social networking tools, and shows the effects of the campaign in real time for those participating.
The founder is Adam Loving, a software developer with a long list of contract jobs for companies like BigDoor, Gist, and Vulcan.
—Maptia: This was one of the harder ones to pinpoint. Maptia’s tagline is that it’s making “The most inspirational map in the world.”
From what I can tell, the idea is for a Web application that travelers can use to load images and other personal remembrances of places around the world, making a map that’s more personal than the satellite-based electronic versions we typically use to navigate.
The team of four hails from around the world: The U.K., China, and Switzerland. They were most recently working on Maptia in Santiago, Chile, as part of a government-sponsored accelerator program called Start Up Chile.
—MobileDevHQ: MobileDevHQ helps mobile app developers get their creations found in app stores. As the number of apps grows, there’s an increasing frustration by many developers about the sometimes haphazard ways of getting their apps in front of users. MobileDevHQ says its software is akin to SEO services tailored for the mobile app world.
The company is led by Ian Sefferman, a former Amazon software developer. He’s been working on the company since 2009, and initially was hoping to help consumers navigate the app-buying process in a much easier way (it used to be called AppStoreHQ).
MobileDevHQ has a strong connection to the Seattle TechStars crew: Listed on LinkedIn as co-founder and chairman is Chris DeVore of Founder’s Co-op.
—Sandglaz: Sandglaz is another startup relocating to Seattle for TechStars’ three-month program, hailing from Toronto. The startup offers productivity software aimed at helping professionals manage their lives, with an emphasis on user interface that translates well to mobile devices.
Founders Zaid Zawaideh and Nada Aldahleh both have software development backgrounds. If you’re interested in seeing the backstory of a TechStars applicant, Aldahleh also has a post up today on her personal blog talking a bit about how Sandglaz landed a spot.
—Tred: Tred wants to help consumers buy cars more easily with a Web-based application. Users select the kind of characteristics they’re looking for in a new ride, and Tred runs those variables by car dealers to find the best match.
The startup was previously working out of General Assembly in New York. CEO Grant Feek has a Harvard MBA and experience in the finance industry, along with some time working for BMW. CTO John Wehr has startup experience, previously working as CTO at a company called HiiDef.
Tred also has a big-name lead investor who knows a thing or two about the car business: Rick Wagoner, the former CEO of General Motors who was ousted by the federal government in the wake of the government bailout of the auto industry.
—Superbly: From Portland, OR, Superbly is building a software service that allows secure sharing, markup, and approval (including signatures) of legal documents. The startup has previous investment from the Portland Seed Fund, and two of its co-founders have worked with the Portland Incubator Experiment.
The founding team has a really interesting array of experience. Technical chief Ken Keiter previously worked at RedHat and Verb, a product design and engineering firm. CEO Eli Rubel has a background in art, specifically photography, along with some work in user experience and project management on the Web. Third co-founder Justin Thiele does a bit of everything, including product, programming, user experience, and marketing.