Two brothers, Seth Godin’s teenage son, and three UPenn dropouts.Those are just some of the founders who will be debuting this summer at Techstars NYC Demo Day.
Getting accepted into the three-month long startup accelerator program is ridiculously difficult. Out of 1,068 applications, only 12 companies and 31 founders were selected.
That’s an acceptance rate of 1.1% — lower than any ivy league school. It’s the most competitive TechStars session yet (by comparison, last winter there were 600 applicants).
David Tisch, Managing Director of Techstars NYC, tells us how he made the hard decisions.
“One of the main characteristics in this group [of people] was a deep passion and/or understanding of the vertical they are working on,” he says. “Because of the quality of applicants, this time, companies that stood out were incredibly strong teams, working in a big market, with an interesting idea/product. It took all 3 to get in this time really.”
We stalked all of the founders online, dug up their pasts, and found out why they were picked to represent the summer group.
What it is: Contently crowdsources professional writers. 'It gives publishers and brands access to a professional, scalable writing workforce at lower cost than in-house, and it gives freelance writers opportunities to get paid well to do what they love,' says Snow.
Meet the founders: Joe Coleman started Contently in 2010 and his friend Shane Snow spent the first few months helping him hash out the concept. 'I realised that I had to join full time as cofounder, or else miss out on a great opportunity,' says Snow, a 2011 Columbia Journalism graduate.
Prior to Contently, Snow started another business designing infographics. He's made them for Mint.com and MTV.
Coleman, a 2005 graduate of the University of Idaho, founded another company in 2006 called CashCrate which gives prizes to members for trying new offers online. Coleman says he grew the company to 2.5 million members.
Goldberg joined the Contently team in 2010 as a cofounder. Prior to Contently he founded UPenn's Venture Association where he studied law and business. He graduated from Duke University in 2003 and was a legal intern for the US Senate.
What it is: Arootz helps people discover and book experiences recommended by locals.
Meet the founders: Goyal has a Harvard MBA and cofounded Arootz in March. Prior to that, he was VP of business development at Joost and former director of business development at MTV international. His first job was as an analyst at McKinsey and Company back in 1998 after he graduated from Harvard.
Mistry was former vice president of General Atlantic LLC, a venture capital firm, and a financial analyst at Morgan Stanley. He also has a Harvard MBA and MPA, and he graduated from UNC Chapel Hill in 1997.
Foss joined the Arootz team as a cofounder this month. Prior to Arootz he cofounded Smart Medial Solutions and also designed a 'perfect cup for dipping buffalo wings.' His other venture is Algean, a ColdFusion-based software development company. Foss received his BS and MBA from Rochester Institute of Technology in 2001.
Webster helped Foss develop the perfect 'WingDipper' and also was a partner at a design agency, Kickstart Concepts. Before that, he was the creative director at Intercast Networks, a creative director at Joost, he worked for the NBA, and graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology.
What it is: 'Chatalyst,' renamed ChatID for Techstars, was founded in April 2011. The original concept was a live chat advertising platform for brands to talk instantly with shoppers on the web. Now it is an instant message solution for all businesses.
Meet the founders: Herman led business development for a mobile platform and worked at cross-channel commerce platforms Myndbend and Propel. He's a tennis and basketball player too.
Waqas codeveloped XMPP server, Prosody, and did freelance work prior to ChatID. He's also a national programming competition champ.
Wild cofounded Prosody with Waqas and co-manages Jabber.org. He enjoys 'long walks on the beautiful English countryside and volunteering for self-sustaining woodlands.'
What it is: Coursekit is redesigning online courses by making them more social.
Meet the founders: Cohen, Getelman and Grandpre were expected to graduate from UPenn Wharton in 2012 and 2013. They all dropped out to start Coursekit.
The trio is heading into Techstars with a $1 million seed round from Founder Collective and IA Ventures.
Before Coursekit, Cohen interned at Betterfly and started a DJ business with his friend. He also made his own radio station.
Getalman's only real work has been as an online developer for The Daily Pennsylvanian.
What it is: Dispatch.io is a cloud sharing, movement and management service. It was formerly called AirDropper and was founded in August, 2010.
Meet the founders: Stamas was a 2008 University of Florida graduate and a junior developer at Accusoft Pegasus. He's currently working on Dispatch.io and on Webstop.com as a developer.
Lamb is a former attorney and University of Florida graduate. He also works on Webstop.com.
Godin is the son of marketing guru Seth Godin and is the second-youngest Techstar ever. His 'expected' graduation from high school is in 2012. 'I got a 50 on my AP Chem midterm,' he says on his website.
The youngster has an entrepreneurial past though. He was a New Work City resident. He's also a talented programmer who formerly founded a mobile dj company.
What it is: Formerly named One Plus Four, FredRover helps people discover web and mobile apps.
Meet the founders: Chun cofounded FredRover in August 2010. Prior to that he worked for Disney in corporate strategy and IAC in mergers and acquisitions. He has an MBA from Harvard and a BS from MIT. He's also musical and sporty. He plays basketball, golf, guitar and piano.
Adams is a self-proclaimed robotics nerd. He met Chun at MIT. He got his PhD there in 2006 and was a principal investigator at iRobot, which makes 'practical robots a reality.'
What it is: Ordr.in is an API for ordering food. (Think of it like a job board: any publisher can put it on their site and get a cut of the profits if food is purchased by a visitor). Ordr.In is a former DogPatch Labs company and it's already being used by a massive hotel chain.
Meet the founders: Bloom and Sheng founded Ordr.in during January of 2010. Bloom was formerly COO of America To Go, a food company, and director of industry development at American Express.
Back in the day, he was a special assistant to the Chief of Staff in the US Department of Treasury. He graduated from Bates College in 1993 and has a business degree from Cornell.
Sheng graduated from the University of Chicago in 1995 and worked for The New York Times as a software engineer in the late '90s. After that he was a consultant and president of Deasil Systems, Inc.
What it is: A game and visual network that crowdsources picture responses from mobile phones.
Meet the founders: Slimak has founded a number of ventures including a food business, Lena, and a sustainable energy company, Ledsence. He graduated from Pratt Institute in 2004 and hails from Venezuela.
Loreto is an MIT grad who is a senior developer at Google.
What it is: TimeStream is a social calendar. Before Techstars, Josh was working out of the startup incubator WeWork Labs.
Meet the founders: Joshua and David are brothers.
Joshua, 30, graduated from art school and formerly cofounded a design firm, Magnetism Studios. The two have co-authored a book, Formal Notices; they also make 'insanely great tees.'
David graduated from Worcester Polytechnic Institute in 2005.
What it is: Urtak is a Canada-based publisher polling tool.
Meet the founders: Lizoain graduated from Harvard in 2007. Urtak, which he cofounded in 2008, is his first and only job.
Gibralter was his classmate; he spent an extra year on Urtak, which he began right after graduation in 2007. Gibralter is a 25-year-old born and bred New Yorker who grew up in Paris and Singapore.
He claims to be the 'fastest backwards-runner you've ever seen.' He also says he is 'American -- Black, White, Native American, Christian, Jewish and Atheist.'
What it is: Wantworthy is a Pennsylvania-based startup that helps people discover and share women's clothing/accessories.
Meet the founders: McDevitt is a UPenn graduate who has been working in marketing.
Wais is the product half of the team. He was McDevitt's classmate at UPenn and has done business development for Qualcomm and Shopkick. In 2007 he founded another venture, Crave Mobile, which focused on social messaging.
What it is: Zferral is an easy way to build referral commissions into products and services.
Meet the founders: In December 2009, the trio from Michigan created Zferral. Epstein graduated from Michigan State in 2004 and went to law school at Chicago-Kent.
He's an entrepreneur at heart though. He has founded a few other ventures such as eSparto.com, a failed company that wanted to be the 'unofficial homepage of MSU students,' a marketing company called Finest Affiliates, and a one-day startup competition called Funded By Night.
Schwab just graduated from Davenport University; he is Zferral's lead developer. Before that he founded five companies including as Enrolled.In, a social network for classes, and GeckoFuel, a PHP development and MySQL database management startup.
Christian says his education is 'self-taught,' on LinkedIn. He is a cofounder and software engineer at Zferral. Prior to that he worked as a photographer.
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