May 19, 2017
Startup Founders may wonder how they would benefit from being a part of an accelerator. As one who ran the Sprint Accelerator powered by Techstars from 2014-2016, I saw many examples of the ecosystem in action – it is so vast and comprised of different types of people – entrepreneurs, mentors, investors, corporate partners – the benefits of being a part of an accelerator ecosystem benefits are equally diverse. One great example is the Firebrand Ventures investment in Sickweather, a Techstars alumni company.
Starting the Journey
Sickweather is a sickness forecasting and mapping app that scans social media for reports of illness and uses a patent pending process to turn those reports into accurate real-time and forecasted sickness data. For those lil ones that are prone to catching every germ and bug out there, this app can tell you what illnesses are popping up in your area and forecast future outbreaks.
This startup was part of the first class of the Sprint Accelerator powered by Techstars in 2014 and made fantastic progress during the program, even inking a deal with Sprint’s mobile ad division Pinsight Media.
Staying Engaged with the Network
After Demo Day, Sickweather set out to raise capital and landed an investment from Brad Feld’s FG Angels syndicate.
Even though CEO Graham Dodge and his team went back to Baltimore and California after the program, they kept in touch by sending regular email updates to mentors and investors. I can’t overstate how important this is! David Cohen wrote about this in his blog post Don’t Go Dark. By having founders do this, it was one of the ways I learned Sickweather landed key partners including The Weather Channel and Clorox. They also always gave a heads up when they were visiting conferences or coming back to Kansas City. There were valuable touch points to keep the relationship strong.
From MD to VC
In August 2016 I transitioned from my Techstars Managing Director role to a full-time investor and launched Firebrand Ventures, a seed fund that invests in early-stage software startups in the Midwest.
Techstars was hugely supportive. My mentors Brad Feld and David Cohen provided invaluable advice and I was fortunate to add David as an advisor.
Investing in the Network
When Graham told me they were raising a round it was a relatively easy decision to invest in them. Graham did his part by keeping me up to date about their great progress and ended up a great fit for our investment criteria. Most importantly, I had known him and his core team for over three years.
I always thought the health data analytics part of their business had huge potential and after two years their data set had become valuable to consumer health and pharma companies. I joined their board shortly after Firebrand invested.
Growing Startup Communities
Ever since that 2014 Techstars program, Graham and his cofounders loved Kansas City for its super supportive community, great food and music, and low cost of living. As a result of the Firebrand investment, Sickweather decided to open an office in Kansas City and possibly move the headquarters there. The KC startup community is buzzing and it’s perfect timing as the new Techstars Kansas City program kicks off in July.
The Techstars network is also fantastic for funds like Firebrand. It’s no coincidence that three of our first four investments so far were in Techstars alumni. Beyond investments, I’m a big believer in Give First. I plan to continue mentoring at as many Techstars programs as possible.
I look forward to continuing to play an active role and investing in more great Techstars companies!
Read more about startups in Kansas City here.
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