Techstars: Where Are They Now?
What can 12 weeks of intensive mentoring and broad exposure to a Who’s Who of local business leaders do for you?
Just ask the participants of Techstars Atlanta, a Cox-supported entrepreneurship program that will soon welcome a third class of startup founders into its ranks.
As we prepare to announce the newest class of Techstars on July 13, let’s look back at three past participants whose experience with the program is already catapulting them toward commercial success.
Sukh Singh (left) and Harleen
Kaur co-founded Ground News.
GROUND NEWS (CLASS OF 2016)
This unique news platform launched in late spring of this year and already has about 30,000 users, according to Harleen Kaur, who co-founded the Canadian company with her brother, Sukh Singh.
Ground News aggregates news content from three sources: mainstream publishers; verified breaking news from social media; and independent journalists. Kaur said the most valuable part of participating in Techstars was the exposure to the news industry.
“We got to talk to CNN, Turner Broadcasting, Weather Channel and Cox Media Group properties,” Kaur said. “They were all saying ‘what we need is a solution that gives us the perspective of people who are experiencing the news we’re covering.’”
At the outset of Techstars, Kaur and Singh were working on an app called uCiC, a social platform that marshalled an army of smartphone-enabled witnesses to swap information about conditions and events in their area. The technology enabled users to communicate about conditions in a part of the world they were interested in traveling to or learning about. At the end of 2017, about 500,000 people had downloaded the app.
However, thanks to all they learned during the Techstars season, Kaur and Singh have zeroed in on news as the most promising commercial application for their technology and they have since focused their efforts on developing Ground News.
Alex Smereczniak and Dan D'Aquisto co-founded
2U LAUNDRY (CLASS OF 2017)
2U Laundry, a Charlotte, N.C., company, soft-launched in Atlanta in late 2017. The laundry and dry cleaning pickup and delivery service initially outsourced laundering to local laundromats and dry cleaners. However, co-founder Alex Smereczniak said the company recently bought land and built its own laundry facility in Charlotte, in partnership with the home appliance manufacturer Electrolux. The facility opens July 14.
If that investment is successful in lowering costs, improving their control over all aspects of the business and helping them produce consistently high-quality results, 2U will look to open laundering facilities in Atlanta and future markets.
Smereczniak said he and co-founder Dan D'Aquisto also are working to raise capital to launch their service in eight other Southeastern U.S. cities by early next year.
Techstars introduced 2U Laundry to a network of business leaders and “got us on the map with the right people very quickly,” said Smereczniak. A key part of the program, called Mentor Madness, involves meeting with 100 business leaders within a two-week time frame. Several of those meetings yielded fruitful partnerships or investments that continue to benefit the company, Smereczniak said.
The Bark team, as of Spring 2018, includes Chief
Parent Officer Titania Jordan (center left) and founder
Brian Bason (top left).
BARK (CLASS OF 2016)
Bark is designed to help parents keep their children safe from online dangers, like cyberbullying and sexting. But one of the most exciting and high-potential growth areas for the Atlanta-based company is Bark for Schools, which became available for free to any U.S. schools in February.
In just a few months, the application has been swiftly adopted and it is now used to protect 1.6 million students nationwide, said Titania Jordan, the “chief parent officer” for Bark whose role encompasses product, design, copy, customer acquisition and education, and media relations. She joined founder Brian Bason soon after the company formed.
Being a part of Techstars is what put Bark on a national stage, said Jordan. When the program culminates on Demo Day, all the participants take the stage to pitch their product in front of about 800 people (including potential investors) who fly in from all over the world. The crucible of preparing for that event proved to be an invaluable experience, said Jordan.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been as nervous as I was that day getting on stage and telling the world about Bark,” she added. “But perfecting your elevator pitch is key. Investor meetings are not happy-go-lucky cocktail hours. You have to quickly convey your value and your traction, and Demo Day is your first taste of that.”
To learn more about Techstars, click here.
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