Today is a big day for TechStars. With the announcement of TechStars London, we are taking a first step outside of the United States.
We’ve always been cautious with our growth, always prioritizing quality over quantity. We have great programs in the US that are well respected, and have built an incredible network of hands-on mentors and alumni. We’ve learned that the most important thing when entering a new location is to ensure that the quality of the person running the program (we call it the Managing Director), their team, and the mentors is exceptionally high. We found that in London in Jon Bradford.
The reality is that we found it some time ago. I first met Jon about three years ago when he was launching The Difference Engine in Newcastle. I went there to help him understand how to build a high quality mentorship-driven accelerator. We spent a few days talking about the philosophy of giving first, and about the powerful motivation of building startup communities. It was immediately obvious that we were culturally and philosophically aligned. Jon put the startups first in every thought he had. Because of this, we kept in touch over the years. We compared notes and tried to help each other. Each time I would come to the UK we’d get together, and it was the same when Jon visited the US.
Fast forward a few years and Jon had moved to London and built Springboard. In London, Jon had more “raw material” in the form of experienced mentors and startup talent. More and more interesting companies started to emerge. Jon continued to give back to startups by co-founding f6s which has since grown into a very large and useful social network for startup founders. After one of Brad Feld’s trips to Springboard, Jon encouraged and contributed to the Mentor Manifesto.
Meanwhile, TechStars in the US had funded some fantastic companies such as Memrise (from London, $6M in venture funding), GrabCAD (Estonia, $12M in venture funding), and DocTrackr (Paris, $2M in venture funding) so we also became more familiar with the great talent that TechStars London could tap into.
Then in September of last year when I visited Jon in London again, it was very clear to me that something had changed there. It just felt different. Better. Google Campus was teeming with startups that were thinking big. The Tech City branding had attracted more talented and provided visibility to what was happening in London. Big companies were starting to help the little companies. The community was showing all of the early signs that form the Boulder Thesis in Brad Feld’s book Startup Communities.
This is when I approached Jon about becoming part of TechStars. He agreed and the story is to be continued as TechStars London.