Techstars, which supports the growth of startups around the world, has established ties to Buffalo.
Techstars has announced a partnership with 43North, the business plan competition. Their goal is to build on efforts underway to promote a stronger startup culture in the region.
Alexander Gress, 43North's president, said he viewed Techstars and 43North as "closely aligned" in serving entrepreneurs. Gress said Techstars will bring benefits to area entrepreneurs in the form of mentorship, business development and access to Techstars' global network.
"It's really accelerating the growth of the area to its next level," Gress said.
To support its local presence, Techstars will hire an executive director plus two staff members who will reach out to different elements of Buffalo's startup scene, said Chris Heivly, Techstars' vice president of innovation. Techstars received about 150 applications for the executive director's job.
Brad Feld, a co-founder of Techstars, said he believes every metro area with over 100,000 people needs a robust startup community for its long-term health, and that Buffalo is no exception.
Feld said if the partnership with 43North succeeds, the region's startup scene will grow faster, and will benefit from linking to Techstars' global network, through resources such as "investors, mentors and talent."
Eric Reich, 43North's chairman, said Techstars' decision to come to Buffalo was "tremendously exciting, motivating and certainly validating for our area."
Reich said on his first day as 43North chairman last year, he gave copies of Feld's book about startup communities to 43North's staff. He told the employees that the region had all the components described in the book, but needed to find a way to adapt the principles to Buffalo's unique circumstances.
"Now here we are a year later, actually partnering with Techstars on this and being the beneficiary of the people and the expertise and the experiences that went into developing that book, and developing a program that is an aspiration for so many communities," Reich said.
Techstars is connecting to Buffalo at a time when other startup efforts are also moving forward, as well. Launch New York received a $4.5 million grant from the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation, to bolster investments by its seed fund. And the Founder Institute, a rigorous training program for entrepreneurs, has just established a Buffalo chapter.
One element of Techstars' partnership with 43North: the newly launched Techstars Startup Ecosystem Development program. That program will include mentorship for 43North companies and other startups, as well as coaching and promoting interaction with area mentors, community leaders, investors and potential investors. The program is being supported by M&T Bank, National Grid and others yet to be announced.
Colorado-based Techstars was founded in 2006. The organization is known for its accelerator program, which helps develop companies over a three-month period and takes a stake in those businesses. But Techstars has not committed to launching an accelerator program in Buffalo.
"We're kind of starting a little more grass-rootsy on the ground, and then we'll see where that goes," Heivly said.
What does Techstars gain from the partnership with 43North? Feld said Techstars' goal is "to be the worldwide network that helps entrepreneurs succeed," and that Buffalo adds another connection to its network.
"We think that flow of people and the flow of information, mentors, resources, activities, funding, is not geographically limited," Feld said. "By engaging deeply with Buffalo, our hope is that Buffalo gets more from Techstars than Techstars gets from Buffalo."