Melissa Pegus had her work cut out for her when she was tapped as the Managing Director for Techstars Atlanta Powered by J.P. Morgan, one of the latest startup programs to open in the city.
The program was searching for startups building in the commerce, consumer, and creator economy spaces. To do so, she spoke to founders from across the globe.
Pegus and the Techstars team announced this week they have selected 12 startups to join its inaugural cohort. Eleven out of the twelve companies are led by women or diverse founders, according to a statement released by Techstars on Monday.
Two of the selected startups, Retavo and Buzzbassasdor, already have a presence in the Southeast. The others are looking to do business in Atlanta and plug into the Techstars mentor network. Those startups include Bhala AI (commerce tech – Massachusetts), LyRise (commerce tech – California), DiversiBoard (commerce tech – New York), Privacy Packs (consumer products – New York), Friendly Shoes (consumer products – California), Super Bloom Bakery (consumer goods – California), Aspen Apothecary (consumer products) – New York, Neufluence (creator economy – New York), Remote Coach (creator economy – England ), and Tychon (creator economy – Trinadad and Tobago).
We asked Pegus to take us back through her thought process when it came to selecting these companies and what she expects during the upcoming 13-week program.
Here’s what she had to say:
Question: Walk us through a bit of the process of narrowing down the applications for this first cohort? In your mind, what makes a startup ready for an accelerator like this?
Answer: As a Managing Director it’s our role to have as many tools in the toolbox to uncover founders in some of the most inconspicuous ways. From leveraging my personal and professional network, tapping into Techstars’ Pipeline team, attending and speaking at conferences the list of how I source founders is endless.
Once I identify them I conduct hundreds of founder interviews before I make my final decisions. For this program I was seeking out founders who are building businesses with a focus on innovations in commerce, consumer, and the creator economy. I also look for founders who have the energy and passion to transform their industries, elevate their communities, and change the world. As I narrow my shortlist down, I have panel interviews with other experts to whom I trust and who can weigh in on the technology, readiness of the founder, founder/customer pain points and solve-ability of the issue the business is trying to address.
It is never an easy process, as sometimes I come across an amazing founder who may just not be ready, so I make sure to stay in touch as you never know what the future may hold!
Question: There is a lot of uncertainty during time for startups as outside capital is slower than the last few years. What are the advantages you see of a startup going through such a program now?
Answer: Capital is still out there, it just may appear to be more competitive to secure it. Funds have capital and while some may be taking a pause, at some point those funds will need to be deployed. Funding is not contingent on a strong equity market.
The advantages of going through an accelerator program now remain the same as before:
- Credibility – Techstars has a strong well known brand and for a founder to have gone through an accelerator with us is a door opener.
- Capital – we have a strong track record at helping founders raise capital. Our average raise post program is $1M for founders.
- Network – by helping founders fill in the gaps in expertise that they may not have. As a mentor-driven accelerator, we leverage our network to provide founders with the support that they need.
In competitive funding environments, whatever you can do to standout is helpful and
Techstars has a proven track record of supporting funders during good times and helping them to weather the storm in more challenging ones.
On a more anecdotal perspective, we are seeing positive optimism amongst founders in our portfolio and also with founders who are considering the path to entrepreneurship.
Question: It looks like this cohort is very international/national. What do you think it means that a Techstars program in Atlanta can pull in startups from around the globe? What will that mean for the Atlanta startup ecosystem as a whole?
Answer: With Techstars’ already vast global reach it is about meeting founders where they are and where they want to be. Sometimes it’s about finding/working with the right Managing Director who’s investment thesis matches with their business goals and other times it is about the physical location of the accelerator program. The Techstars Atlanta powered by JP Morgan is a hybrid program (in person and remote) that has a connection to Atlanta yes, but is centered around investing in founders who are creating specific innovations in commerce, consumer, and the creator economy. This program also has a strong focus on supporting diverse founders. We also have another Techstars program here in Atlanta powered by Cox and due to the rich and vast numbers of entrepreneurs present in this market we knew that this market could absorb another accelerator while positively impacting and growing the local tech ecosystem.
Over In Alabama…
Techstars Alabama EnergyTech also announced those startups selected for its next cohort this week.
This is the third class to go through the accelerator focused on energytech, cleantech, climate tech, and sustainability. Startups selected for this cohort include:
ShipShape Urban Farms Mobile, AL
Eneryield – Sweden
Solar Unsoiled – Durham, NC
Ecolytics – Washington, DC
PowerTechs – Providence, RI
Idyllo – Washington, DC
Rivalia Chemical Co. – New York
Hop In Technologies Toronto, CA
Latimer Controls Boulder, CO