Techstars in Boulder ColoradoImage by fredwilson via Flickr

I was in Boulder Colorado yesterday for Techstars demo day. This is the second year that I have attended this event.

Techstars started in Boulder three years ago and this year expanded to Boston. It's one of the many Y Combinator style startup programs and in my opinion, one of the best. They work very hard to connect their teams with mentors and the value of the mentoring shows in the quality of the projects and the presentations.

I saw ten companies present yesterday morning and every single presentation was good. Like all early stage investments, not all of these teams will end up being successful, but I am sure that many of them will.

My favorite projects were Next Big Sound, Everlater, Take Comics, and Vanilla. I almost hate to mention my favorites because all the projects were strong and the ones I like best reflect the areas I am most interested in as an investor.

If you want to see a list of all the companies that presented, Don Dodge has a post up on Techcrunch with a description of all ten.

Everlater actually used our recent trip to Stockholm and Slovenia as a demo for their service so I can't help but like what they are doing. As a family that does a lot of travel blogging, I can attest to the fact that there isn't anything that does a great job in this sector. I'm eager to use Everlater on our next trip this winter.

Next Big Sound is "compete for musicians". They made the strongest presentation, the service shows very well, and they know exactly what they want to be and why. It is interesting that they were accepted into Techstars with a different plan and switched it during the program. There was no hint of that. Nicely done.

Take Comics is "iTunes for comics". I confess that I am not a big comic fan and never have been. So this one is not in my sweet spot but I was very impressed by the product they have built. I think they will be successful.

Vanilla is open source forums software for the web. The team has been working on this project for quite a while before joining Techstars. So the value they got out of Techstars was not a product. They got mentoring and motivation to build something bigger. And they announced a hosted version yesterday which is the beginning of a revenue model and a business. That's great to see.

There are nine more Techstars companies in Boston and they have their demo day in early September. I'm not sure I'll be there someone from our firm will be there. Speaking of these programs more broadly, we are very big fans of them. We've been attending Y Combinator demo day since the early days and this year we will attend six different demo days and wish we could attend more.

These "startup programs" are teaching hundreds of teams each year how to start and build businesses, they increase the pool of talented entrepreneurs, and they increase the number of quality opportunities we can invest in. That's great for everyone.

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Comments (Archived):

  1. andyswan

    Vanilla is just a great name for a company. Rarely a favorite, but always the best seller

    1. fredwilson

      Its my favorite actually. But I mostly like ice cream on pie

  2. benjaminjtaylor

    The Next Big sound looks fantastic, getting buzz around the web too. Great for the industry, and people interested in data and analytics (like me). I’d love to see more consumer friendly applications, with Big Sound’s data. The Hype Machine and We are Hunted do a fairly good job on the consumer side with music, but they lack the deep contextual layer of data I’m looking for as I explore and discover new music. When it comes to music nothing replaces word of mouth, from friends etc…, but I’ve certainly discovered new artists via those sites.

    1. tom

      How is this info helpful to me as a consumer? I’m suppose to like something based on the amount of play it gets? I never knew I was a Britney Spears fan? As far as it usefulness to the industry I’m sure Big Champagne is not too worried.

      1. benjaminjtaylor

        You’re making an assumption there is only one type of “consumer”…that being you. A Britney fan I am not. You ought to spend time on the Hype Machine and/or We are Hunted. It’s about discovery and exploration, and for me those sites are useful.

        1. tom

          I do spend time on HypeM and we are hunted, but they gather their data from third parties (blogs) which offers to the filtering and validation. If you take the ‘plays’ or ‘fans’ data from social networks there is no filtering which offers no value to my musical discovery because it doesn’t tell me anything but it’s popularity. An artist has Big Champagne which offers more extensive data to the industry regarding their online (both legal and pirated) activity if they choose to utilize. Also, what happens when those sites see Next Big Sound using their data for other reasons? My guess they will be blocked. Wishing you the best but not much there from an industry perspective.

  3. David Semeria

    Fred, was your everlater page populated manually, or did it drag-in the content from other sources?

    1. Ryan Wanger

      Hey David, this is Ryan – Community Manager for Everlater. For Fred’s trip, some of the information was brought in from other sources (photos), and the rest was done manually. However, we are working towards being able to take content you’ve already published around the web and have it populate automatically. Stay tuned!

      1. Aaron Klein

        Ryan, I’m leaving for a trip to Ethiopia in a few months. While I’m there, I’ll have very little internet access, if any. My primary source of communication will be SMS and Twitter.One feature you need — and I didn’t see — is to be able to add to Everlater by setting up a hashtag (perhaps mine is #eth) and have Everlater grab all the tweets with that tag and add them to your Everlater page.Just a thought.

        1. Ryan Wanger

          Thanks, that’s a great idea Aaron! What about just connecting your twitter account to Everlater and using an #everlater hashtag? That would prevent us pulling in tweets accidentally from someone else. Though I guess you’d lose a few characters :-)We have an iPhone app in the works as well, which you’ll be able to use offline and sync up later when you have a connection. But for someone like you who is already using (and being followed on) Twitter, the hastag like a priority.

          1. Aaron Klein

            Oh, I definitely meant connecting my account so it only got tweets from me with that tag. But #everlater is long when you’re only dealing with 140. Maybe #el?I do the same thing with “selective twitter” on facebook by adding #fb. Keeping it short is better, especially when you’re in a country with no ability to do a blog post.And I should add: I’m taking my BlackBerry world phone on a QikRoam SIM card, which I couldn’t do with the locked iPhone. So the iPhone app wouldn’t help me. 🙂

          2. ShanaC

            That’s more common than you’d think. I don’t think the market is going long term to Apple, from my subjective train counts.

          3. Aaron Klein

            I don’t know if Disqus is just behind, but my e-mail reply isn’t here.I completely agree with you on that count. I spent a year with the iPhone, it’s a great device, but you can pry my BlackBerry out of my cold, dead hands. 🙂

          4. ShanaC

            Trust me I now use this “hobby” as a flirt tactic. I got two guys in an argument last night where they tried to explain to me which one was better….(Leave it up to the pros, guys 😉 )That being said, I would love to set up street teams over Memorial Day weekend to do the following: One, get counts on the subway of the types of phones people suddenly decide to pull out of pockets and bags unobtrusively, and to try getting a few people to look over the shoulder/ask to see what they are doing with them.and two, interview in big tourist sights in exchange for, say candy, about what cellphone various people are using and why. Also what they like and don’t like about it, what plans, how many minutes they think they are using. Sort of get them in coversations in the street about cell phones. Just to see what people expect out of them. And to observe how it is different from actual behavior. Even having street teams in bars and parties to observe about how often people take out cell phones and using them would be extremely useful information.For example:I had one guy write down my name in a blackberry last night, and it is of interest of me, not that he wrote down my name, but that he wrote it down in a blackberry. This is useful to someone who wants to build applications, somewhere.

          5. Aaron Klein

            LOL. That’s funny.I write down people’s names on my BlackBerry all the time. My most common tactic for ANYTHING is sending an e-mail to myself. I’m in my own address book as “AK”, and the process takes me about 3 seconds to have a new e-mail open and write in haiku to myself.That was the biggest thing I missed when I got the iPhone, bar none.

          6. Aaron Klein

            We’re on the same page on that one. It’s a very nice product, but there are lots of issues for professionals, among them the keyboard. I’m back to sending 7-8k e-mails per year via BlackBerry. I think I sent 500 the entire year I was on iPhone.

          7. Aaron Klein

            We’re on the same page on that one. It’s a very nice product, but there are lots of issues for professionals, among them the keyboard. I’m back to sending 7-8k e-mails per year via BlackBerry. I think I sent 500 the entire year I was on iPhone.

          8. fredwilson

            I love this discussion you guys are having about how to integrate everlater properly with travelers on the move using sms and twitter. This is keyI send photos from my bberry to flickr which autotweets them. Because that works so well, I do it a lot

      2. David Semeria

        Thanks. Nice site, good luck!

    2. fredwilson

      Manually. But I told the team that if they could automate it, that would be a home run

  4. vrikhter

    Out of curiosity, what are the other 4 demo days you are attending this year (excluding Techstars & Y-Combinator)?

    1. fredwilson

      seedcamp london, launchbox DC (was this week as well), dreamit philly, and techstars boston.

      1. Sanjay Parekh

        You’re welcome to join us on this Monday (August 10th) when we do Demo Day for Shotput Ventures companies too! 🙂

        1. fredwilson

          mondays are not a good day for demo days because many (most?) VC firms dotheir weekly meetings then

          1. Sanjay Parekh

            You’re absolutely right and we’ll do better next year. That said, I make sure Startup Riot ( is never on a Monday (after the first year where I made that mistake too). Maybe we can get you down here for that. It’s a chance to see 50 companies in 1 day in a non-threatening environment. Would love to have you here for that.

  5. Peter Cranstone

    What – no mobile companies?

    1. Scobleizer

      Take Comics specifically showed off their iPhone app (which really rocks, by the way). I agree with Fred, all the companies were strong. I hope this trend continues all year at other launch events like TechCrunch50.

      1. Peter Cranstone

        I went and checked out Take Comics – the iPhone app will scale to other mobile phones – the only issue will be the “look and feel”. Interesting concept – I’m wondering how well it scales from a revenue standpoint and what/who the eventual exit strategy would be?

        1. ShanaC

          The Comics app by @ComiXology had an amazing look and feel as an Iphone app. I saw it demoed earlier this week at #nytm. They’re also already working closely closely work small comic stores to be a locator for buying comics, since a lot of people collect them, as well as being a storage system to rate them (It is made by a guy, who runs a blog,, which tracks deliveries. One of the interesting choices was how they made the comic flip between panels and pages, just well done.)

    2. Natty Zola

      Hi Cranstone – We (Everlater) are not a mobile company but do have an iPhone app to help travelers record experiences as they happen. Should be in the store in a few weeks. Some of the other teams have mobile applications to their core web products to help extend their reach. Be on the look out for those. But overall, you are correct, no pure mobile plays from the Boulder group this year.

      1. Peter Cranstone

        Hi Natty,I have to admit I have a bias to extending web applications to mobile vs. building mobile applications. The first mobile app is the easiest to build. You keep it simple because it’s early days. The problems arise as you expand your web service offering and then try and architect those new features and capabilities into the mobile app. (I’m think 9 months – to a year down the road). Of course by this time your customers want it on different platforms which don’t have the same UI/Navigation capabilities so your costs and delivery times go up (in business terms, it’s increased risk).I’ve looked at your site and see nothing that couldn’t be integrated in to the browser and delivered as a web service. All you (the web service) need is real time user, device and location information and a way to add new “Everlater” menus to the existing browser menu. I’ll knock up a quick demo and post a link that you can look at.

        1. Peter Cranstone

          Natty,I just knocked up a very quick sample demo for you (screen shots but also accessible via a mobile device at….Here’s the screen shot page:… The first image is a Blackberry Browser hitting your web site (I’ve modified it a little). The browser/web service instantly knows it’s you, what your device capabilities are, and also your real time location. It offers you a selection of services already personalized for you. If you click on the browser menu you will see (2nd picture) a new menu – Natty’s Everlater Service – if you click on it, it would take you to your services at Everlater.The 3rd picture shows some of the data that is being transmitted to your server in real time. Lots you can do with this meta data. The final shot shows additional customized browser menus that can change dynamically based on the services that you have signed up for.I created/hacked all this together in about 25 minutes. I can change everything with a few keystrokes and it works identically on Windows Mobile (and soon Android etc). Compare that with how long and how much it costs to design, build, QA, and the rev a single mobile app.And yes we could tie the menu system into the camera – so i can click on the menu, run the camera, integrate gps location and then upload that seamlessly to your web service.

          1. Natty Zola

            Thanks for the mockups. They look great! Really good ideas too. You are right, a mobile view is needed and is much easier than a native application. Its on our road map and hopefully will be done soon. Would love to connect with you more on it, can you email me at [email protected]?We are hot on the iPhone application because it lets users add content when not connected to any network and sync it back to their Everlater travel story once they hit wifi or cell coverage. Which is important as data plans are so expensive overseas. We think its pretty cool! However, we are not focused just on Apple products and want to get into Blackberry, Windows Mobile, etc. Keep in touch and we’ll let you know when it gets built. Thanks for all the ideas and comments.

          2. Peter Cranstone

            You’re welcome. Our goal is to release the free versions of Windows Mobile and Blackberry next week. You’ll be able to do what I did in an afternoon. I’ll send you the datasheet on how it works along with the readme – which has a set of open api’s in it so if you want to connect your app’s data to it you can.

          3. fredwilson

            I use foursquare via its mobile app and its fast and easy on a bberryMost foursquare users use the iphone app but I don’t use an iphoneI think mobile web is key even if you are doing an iphone appI also think sms and twitter integration is critical. See my least common denominator post for more of my thoughts on this

          4. Peter Cranstone

            Just knocked up another sample demo for you.Mobile version:… Go there in the desktop browser and then do a right click and select view source from the pop up menu option. Notice the code near the top that has your Twitter address in it.Next go to this link:… to see screen shots of everything integrated. It (the web service) knows who you are, where you are, your current speed, your login name and password (fake one for the demo) to Twitter and also your SMS service login password (fake one for the demo).Also in real time you will see your Twitter@FredWilson menu option which is actually live in the browser. When you have our mobile app installed you can click on it and it will take you to your Twitter page. If Twitter looked in their logs they would also see all of your location data etc.You can now start to see how flexible this solution is – when I go to Everlater I get a completely different web service fully integrated into mobile and then with literally a click to another web service all the menus change and I have a new service.BTW – there are also 6 search engines already integrated into this so if you wanted to say surf to Google et al they would also get your location data as well.Fred… the pages I put up are to show you a quick demo – if you want me to remove them just ping me back and I’ll delete them.

        2. ShanaC

          I second that bais, but not for the same reasons. I keep counting more blackberries, and even a few Nokias here and there on trains, especially among the critical 18-25 crowd. The touchscreen is not the end of the world for them, the BBM is.

  6. Andrew Hyde

    Just wanted to say thank you again for coming!

  7. Vaibhav Domkundwar

    Hi Fred:I was a little surprised you didn’t mention SendGrid which is in an unglamorous space but solving a real problem with a huge market. What do you think about them?

    1. fredwilson

      I believe that plenty of esps handle transactional mail and there are other cloud based esps as well so I was not that excited about SendGrid. But maybe I missed something

  8. Dave Pinsen

    The Y-Combinator sounds like a great idea. It seems that so many people are eager to help those who have already had a measure of success, so it’s nice to see investors and mentors willing to help entrepreneurs at the creation ex nihilo stage.

  9. Matt Dutremble

    Saw many of these startups present at the Boulder Denver New tech Meetup here in Boulder. I’m not a comic fan either, but take comics really impressed me. I think they have a tremendous chance of hitting it big.

  10. Garrett Melby

    You ought to add GoodCompany Ventures to your incubator rotation. GCV, sponsored by the Wharton B School and regional venture industry, is training social entrepreneurs to maximize their impact by developing for-profit, “investable” business models to meet unmet social needs. The interaction between these passionate, driven change agents and the venture industry experts we bring in to mentor them has been much richer than the typical incubator content. We are wrapping up our first summer and looking forward to presenting our first ten graduates (2 environmental, 2 education, 2 healthcare, 2 community and 2 social finance) to the investor community on September 17th in Philadelphia. We’re at

  11. fredwilson

    brad feld tells me that it is similar to seed/early stage VC. about a thirdare total wipeouts. a third are ok but not great. and a third end up beingreally solid investments.

  12. jedc

    I’m compiling some of these statistics for a masters’ dissertation I’m writing this summer (on YC/Techstars and similar programs). Techstars and Ycombinator clearly stand out from the rest.While Ycombinator has had some very high-profile exits (Reddit to Conde Nast, Omnisio to Google for $15million within a few months of “graduating”), TechStars seems to have more regular exits. (Four of 20 companies founded before this summer have exited.) Ycombinator seems to fund more companies and leave them to their own devices while TechStars works with their smaller group of companies more closely.My data is here:

  13. fredwilson

    it’s harder to do that for a bunch of reasons. one is that its harder to get people to up and move for three months. second is the startup costs may be higher due to higher costs of living. third is these youngsters hangout with each other all day and night and it creates this awesome community.i’m not saying your idea is wrong. it is right. just harder to implement.

  14. Natty Zola

    Thanks for the complement. We really think people deserve great interfaces and beautiful layouts, especially when telling a compelling story like a travel experience. If you have ideas how we can improve, please let us know. Hope to see some of your travel stories!-Natty (founder of Everlater)

  15. ShanaC

    Actually I think Vanilla will do quite well, especially if they decide to ever release it as two separate products, self and local hosting.It reminds me a lot of WordPress. And something I have been noticing about WordPress, is that even though there are more domains registered with Blogger, you are starting to hear about in the far reaches of quiet towns of this thing known as “WordPress.” Apparently people think it is a good thing for ones “Internet Image,” especially if they are older and running a small business, and can’t afford web design.If Vanilla can gain that sort of slow building name Cache with the same sort of crowd- and also will allow outside as well as internal hosting (or at least name masking), it will have a following.

  16. Nate Abbott

    Also just ancedotally, from someone in the program, there are quite a few late 20’s/married people in Techstars (my unscientific survey would estimate that roughly half are around thirty and married). Most of these teams are just passionate about starting businesses and willing to make the sacrifices that doing that entails.Techstars fosters a real community, and I personally think that the support network from the other teams and huge mentor community makes the process of starting a company easier for the demographic you refer to than doing it on their own. It’s less about the cash ($6000/founder is just living expenses), and more about having support through the process of building a product and a business.

  17. kidmercury

    not sure if all the youngsters hanging out and creating their own echo chamber is a great thing. might benefit from having some old-timers in there to talk some sense in to them, though obviously i’m biased.but IMO there is still way too much friction in these microfinance things, has to be more like social commerce. as such i think a microfinance thing would benefit from starting a community first, then adding the investing portions in later, and doing as much as possible online, so as to keep transaction costs minimum until greater investments are warranted. maybe there is something out there that i’ve missed, but most of what i’ve seen seems more like a bootcamp or presentation contest, which IMHO keeps transaction costs too high.

  18. fredwilson

    Techstars is a great program.

  19. fredwilson

    I’ll check out your data

  20. Keenan

    Great List jedc! Gotta love google docs

  21. amirmc

    Nice! Quite a bit work you’ve put in there (looking forward to the dissertation).

  22. fredwilson

    That’s great feedback nate. I would not have guessed that. Impressive

  23. fredwilson

    The moderators are the old guys

  24. fredwilson

    I mean mentors

  25. Preston Rutherford

    What other services are there out there that serve this need? Seems fundamental to continue to democratize and scale this process.