Interview with Rob Johnson

Start-Up-Accelerator: No Ifs, Buts or Maybes

Why Techstars METRO Accelerator is a better deal compared to other corporate accelerator programs – a conversation with Rob Johnson, Managing Director of Techstars of Techstars METRO Accelerator, 32, on success rates, freedom and return policies for start-ups.

Rob, why should a tech start-up join the Techstars METRO Accelerator?

Rob: Techstars METRO Accelerator is totally different from other funding opportunities that are currently available to start-ups. And not just because of our unique focus on technology in the hospitality and food industry. We also provide all of the components of a tried and tested, extremely successful Techstars program. Techstars is a hugely successful, international provider of start-up mentorship programs – which is why the Techstars METRO Accelerator is a great program. It was created as a way to help companies build on the success they have already achieved. We are here to find and sponsor the ten best tech start-ups in the hospitality and food industry from around the world.

What exactly makes Techstars programs stand out?

Techstars is committed to mentor driven start-up investment programs and has a wide-reaching, global alumni and mentor network. In nine cities in the US, UK and Germany, Techstars offers three month programs, as well as a number of collaborations with renowned international brands for particular industries, as with METRO. Techstars started in 2006 and has some incredible success statistics: about 76% of the startups selected are still active on the market, 14% have been acquired, and only 11% failed to succeed.

After a startup makes it past the tough selection process – what is the difference between Techstars METRO and other accelerator programs?

We offer a support system made up of mentors specifically selected for the particular needs of each startup. We believe that the know-how of these specialists is absolutely key for the founder’s success. Each of the ten startups can choose from over a hundred top mentors and receive regular, individual support. These are not some anonymous lectures for a faceless audience; they are personal conversations with substance and immediate effect. We don’t force any of the startups to go to certain events – everyone decides for themselves what advice they will take from their mentors.

What do you mean by a global network and how can startups take advantage of it?

Any founder who has been in a Techstars program is a lifelong member of the community. This includes industry stars such as Brad Feld and David Cohen, or former Techstars startups such as Digital Ocean, a successful cloud hosting server. The UP Global network has also recently joined the Techstars community. Startups also have access to the Startup Weekend communities, a founder’s initiative growing rapidly in 112 countries around the world.

Startups that join the Accelerator give up a share of their business. Is that a one-way street for the founders?

With Techstars METRO Accelerator, start-ups receive up to 120,000 euros in funding, in return for 7 to 10% equity in their company. This is normal practice for so-called seed investments – and a good opportunity to become part of the Techstars network. Techstars also offers an equity back guarantee offering founders the chance to get back their shares at the end of the program if they feel they did not get sufficient value. That is without question unique anywhere in the world and shows how much trust we put in our programs.

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