[APRIL FOOLS] Techstars NYC 2015 to put the end to only 1% get in nonsense

One of the hardest things about running Techstars NYC is selecting 10 companies out of 1,000 applicants for every program. Many companies, especially the ones that didn’t get in, pointed out just how unfair this system is – some companies get in and some don’t.

Over the past several weeks David Cohen, Brad Feld and I have been working together to figure out how to solve this problem. We really wanted a solution that would once and for all eradicate the only 1% get in nonsense.

We spent countless lunches and dinner meetings trying to come up with a fair and balanced approach. After exhausting all the other possibilities we stumbled upon the answer that was staring us in the face all along – accept all 1,000 applicants into the next batch.

The benefits to the companies are obvious – as soon as you apply, you are guaranteed to get in. The benefits to me as the Managing Director are clear too – no need to meet the candidates, no need for lengthily and complicated selection process, no need for assessing the market opportunity or building financial model – all complexity is just gone.

Congratulations to all the future applicants, and particularly to the millennials. All you now have to do is apply.techstars.com and you are in.

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2 comments

  1. Such a joy to combine “so much easier” with “so much less effective.”

  2. Obviously this is an April Fools joke (sorry to ruin it), but theres clearly a kernel of this that is true.

    There’s no clear distinction between a company that gets in, and a company that almost gets in. It’s all subjective, and many possibly successful companies get left out every year.

    The problem is, the biggest thing about Techstars/YC/500 are the brand names. They provide a pool of companies that are pre-vetted for investors. It’s a symbiotic relationship: Investors like this because it’s easier/faster to target stellar companies, accelerators like it because their companies raise more money faster, which leads to faster and possibly bigger exits.

    The fear is that increasing the pool in a meaningful way may dilute the brand name (higher percentage of failure, more noise) and the value of any individual company. This is why you’ll never see 100% acceptance rate. BUT, we may see something closer than today.

    While this may be a joke, Techstars is clearly starting to expand. Yes, they only accept 10 companies per class, but now there are ~5 more programs/classes this year, which is 50 more companies accepted. While the individual acceptance rates at each location may still hover in the low single digits, many companies apply across programs, with a shotgun approach. This artificially deflates acceptance rates and also leads to “borderline” companies in one program getting accepted to another. Clearly, David et. al felt that there were good companies that were getting left out.

    Another good example of the Techstars expansion is this years Techstars Boulder’s “8 weeks of Awesome” program. They are exploring ways to improve their applications by commoditizing popular Techstars talks and giving them to anybody who shows up. These talks were once exclusively for Techstars companies. Again, this improves the quality of applications, but it’s also like a mini two month techstars for everyone!

    So why stop there? The fear of diluting the brand name?

    I think in the future, we will see accelerators that are essentially “startup schools”. While Techstars is really a FUND of preselected companies, and will never expand to be much larger than XXX companies a year, these “schools” would focus on a more egalitarian model. Maybe not 100% acceptance, but say 25%, like traditional colleges.

    You can remove the physical aspect of the accelerator, and the restrictive dates, and work with hundreds more companies. You can take the knowledge and put it online, and your ability to help increases exponentially. You can train people to be good mentors, just like people study to be professors increasing your available mentor pool significantly. Maybe there is a drop off in quality. Maybe there isn’t.

    The accelerator/fund model isn’t infinitely scaleable. But startup education is.

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