The Aztec Theatre was flooded with a sea of badges Thursday night. The badges of investors, mentors, and startup members dangled around their necks while they mingled excitedly in the networking reception after hearing the pitches of Techstars Demo Day.
Techstars is a startup accelerator program providing mentors and seed-stage investment services for technology-focused companies, offering $18,000 in each startup for a 6% equity stake. Startups can take an optional $100,000 convertible note from a group of investors who partner with Techstars. Started in 2006 as a grassroots movement in Boulder, Colo., Techstars has since spread to more than 600 U.S. cities and 120 countries.
During its fourth year in San Antonio, part of the first year of San Antonio Startup Week, the 11 selected startups worked closely with mentors over three months, rethinking business models as recommended and focusing on the financials while perfecting pitches for Demo Day.
Demo Day was live-streamed, so each startup had the opportunity to present their company to a room full of in-person and online investors to showcase their cloud-oriented companies.
As I chatted with tablemates before the pitches started, I noticed the investor badge of Kevin Green from Corsa Ventures in Austin.
“I’m here checking out the tech startup scene in San Antonio,” Green explained. “Techstars is a great addition to the San Antonio ecosystem of tech startups. Companies like ours like working with Techstar startups because we know they get mentoring and benefit from Techstar’s network so they can share ideas with talented folks.
“From an investor perspective, we know there’s a certain level of vetting and due diligence for TechStar startups—their financials and legal paperwork will be in order. That reduces those risks for us,” Green added.
During the three month period, Techstars companies work with mentors and potential investors and have long discussions about what they’re doing, explained Techstars co-founder David Brown, giving investors more exposure to the startup than is typical in a short pitch.
The 11 startups included three international teams and two local teams.
HelpSocial (San Antonio) equips brands and contact centers with an easy to use platform that turns social media into an integrated customer service tool.
ilos (St. Paul, Minn.) allows businesses to communicate with customers and team members by instantly and easily recording and sharing videos.
Popily (Austin) automatically visualizes insights from large complex data sets so everyone in your organization can quickly identify trends.
HuBoard (Austin) provides simple agile tracking boards so developers can focus on coding and managers can easily oversee software development projects.
Jumble (Dublin, Ireland) secures your email by providing easy to use encryption that integrates directly into existing email clients like Gmail and Outlook.
Switchboard (Orlando, Fla.) simultaneously distributes live video content to multiple platforms like YouTube and Roku, allowing content creators instant access to targeted audiences.
Pomika (Malaga, Spain) allows online shoppers to submit any image for identification of the item, enhancing the online shopping experience.
Clyp (Austin) is an online community for musicians to upload, share and collaborate on the music they are creating.
UXTesting (Taipei City, Taiwan) takes user experience testing from expensive on-site locations to mobile devices, allowing you to better understand your users and optimize their interactions with your app.
Sage Hero (San Antonio) provides businesses a learning platform for customized, real-time guided training courses for employees.
Haste (Atlanta) is a private network service that optimizes the Internet for people engaged in live, interactive experiences like eSports and videoconferencing.
TechStars Managing Director Blake Yeager, who emceed the event, noted the diversity of the startup teams in terms of products and services as well as physical origins.
“We focused on several varieties of cloud vertical-focused tech companies—ones providing cloud-based infrastructure products, cloud-based platforms and tools, and big data focused products,” Yeager said.
“We also have the three international teams and that’s deliberate. We look for a good mix of U.S. and international companies, hoping that some might decide to relocate to the U.S. So far, the three international companies all want to stay in San Antonio, and that’s great for San Antonio,” Yeager said.
With more Techstar companies joining the San Antonio startup scene, Tech Star’s Demo Day aims to continue to attract the large audience of investors.
“We want to build a global ecosystem to support entrepreneurs as they evolve their company from concept through the growth cycle,” Brown said.
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*Top image: David G. Ortega, Co-founder of Pomika, performs “magic” by changing clothes rapidly, like the magic of Pomika to use searchable images rather than words for online shopping. Photo by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone