Pando

Techstars acquires Startup Weekend parent company UP Global

By Dennis Keohane , written on June 16, 2015

From The News Desk

The very first tech event I attended was a Startup Weekend in Boston some number of years ago. It was an interesting experience, being able to watch hopeful entrepreneurs pitch what they thought could be the next big Internet company. Some ideas seemed like they could work; others, not so much.

The best ideas attracted talented engineers, "Lean Startup" fanboys, and those who had watched The Social Network and thought startup life could be cool. Those poor founders who thought that a zombie-detecting application would have mass appeal, were left to wallow in solitude with the realization that they might actually not be sitting on the kernel idea for the next big thing.

Beyond witnessing entrepreneurs navigate a wide range of emotions in a very public setting, Startup Weekend allowed me the opportunity to watch companies at the moment of their inception, in all its exciting and brutal rawness. Frankly, I had never experienced anything like it before or since.

Today, Techstars has announced that they have acquired non-profit UP Global, the parent company of Startup Weekend and also Startup Week, Startup Next, and the Startup Digest programs.

Originally founded in Boulder — in the basement of Techstars, according to a blog post by Techstars' managing partner David Brown — UP Global now has run its programs in more than 100 countries and over 560 cities. Startup Weekend is the organization's most well known program, inviting entrepreneurs to enter the 54-hour event with a rough business concept at its earliest stage and, after receiving mentorship and other helpful startup services, leave with multiple-person company and potentially a small amount of funding.

The move makes sense for Techstars in two distinct but important ways. First, it gives the startup incubator early access to companies from their birth, as I had witnessed first hand. Now, as part of the hunt that each Techstars program undertakes as it prepares to incubate a new class of startups, it will have a direct pipeline to a great feeder in the UP programs.

As Techstars co-founder and managing partner David Cohen said in a phone interview last night (which was actually conducted on my end from the women's room at our Pandoland kick-off party, after I frantically entered the wrong bathroom): "This expands our reach to earlier entrepreneurs who are still being inspired about being educated before they are fully committed to [running a company.]"

Second, as Techstars looks to expand globally, it now has an arm that has both international brand recognition and an alumni network of more than 150,000 UP Global program members. As Cohen said, "These things are reaching 75,000 to 100,000 entrepreneurs each year."

As part of the acquisition, UP Global's programs become part of Techstars, yet will remain independent entities. Also, Brown announced in the blog post that Techstars will eliminate fees for UP Global's pre-accelerator program Startup Next, with the thought of giving more free access to budding startup founders.

"These programs are important to the fabric of entrepreneurship," said Cohen, "and by joining forces, we make sure that they stay independent, community=run, and sort of open-sourced like they are now. With the venture capital that we have and accelerator platform we have, the combination of all this creates the first fully integrated startup community that is global and can support companies from idea to IPO. And that's pretty neat."

[photo by Andrew Hyde]