Earlier this year we got the epic news - Virtue, formerly Pledger, was invited to take part in the prestigious Techstars Tel Aviv program! Were we over the moon? 100% yes. Was there an epic journey ahead? Also yes.
Let's start from the start. We've known about Techstars for as long as we've been working in tech. They are super famous because a) Techstars, being a pioneer in their field, is one of the longest running and well-known accelerators on earth b) Techstars has had some huge successes, being early stage backers for startups such as SendGrid, Classpass, Digital Ocean, to mention a few and c) they have massive reach and network.
The quality of the program and Techstars success stats make it one of the top, shoulder to shoulder with Y Combinator and 5oo Startups.
But this ^ is all stuff from the internet. Let me share what the TS experience meant for us in our unique position.
To adventure or not to adventure?
The first time we engaged in conversations with the accelerator, Mariya', New Zealand based Virtue CEO, had just had a baby. Relocating to Tel Aviv with the little human was not on the radar until then. Westen, Virtue CMO, has just spent 8 months on the road. He and his wife were super excited to finally set roots in his newly rented London apartment. Liam, the CTO, had so much on his plate at the time that this page will crash if we were to list it all here. Despite all of this - we went for it! The opportunity was too good and we were ready for an adventure to mark the end of Covid rules and the start of our journey as a seed funded startup.
We were selected for the Techstars Tel Aviv program., which meant re-locating to TA for 3 months. This city can be really fun. It's unique and varied - the beach, bohemian streets, sky scrapers and the historical old city Jaffa are all 30min walk from each other.
It is also expen$ive. Lets put it this way, this is the first time we really lived like students since being students =)
There were also a lot of holidays while we were there which meant lots of time to catch up on work outside the program curriculum (and to party)
But probably the most interesting, and unexpected for many part of it all is that this is the first time the team worked together IRL. Virtue was launched during lockdown so that makes sense. However, IRL beats zoom by far when it comes to really getting to know someone.
Techstars Mentor Madness
The first part of the program is 'mentor madness'. This is when startups meet 60-70 mentors 1:1,. These are high caliber industry professionals and/or entrepreneurs. Every part of your business goes into the spotlight and gets challenged- from company values, to founders' motivations to exit plan.
The hardest part - saying the same information about what we are building that many times.
The best part - you get pretty good at articulating what you are building by the end of it
Even better - we got incredibly high quality mentors to support us throughout the program and beyond.
We are genuinely grateful to get unique perspectives from so many super sharp and experienced people.
Execution Month - going double speed
This is when teams go hard building and busting growth power moves. This month is packed with workshops, program work, and the pressure to get tangible outputs for the business. It basically feels like having two jobs...we've all done that before right...
Posting fun pix from around the office to numb out the stressfulness of execution month.
Investor Month - thank you David Cohen
This part of the program is really insightful. David Cohen, Co-Founder of Techstars, did an epic session on fundraising. If you ever wonder how early stage startups get their first investors - read up on David's stuff. It literally changes lives.
Demo Day - show time!
This is where all the startups pitch to a room full of mentors, investors, media and friends. It's a big celebration and a lot of fun. But it also has a bitter sweet taste. Finally we were at the end of the marathon that is Techstars- woohoo!. Which also means saying good bye to people and places that have grown to mean a lot to us.
By the way, a massive amount of prep, practice and support goes into each startup's pitch. It looks like magic, and some of it is, but really a lot of it is practice.
And of course we had to party about it by singing our favourite classics incl 'Gangsta's paradise', 'My heart will go on' and 'Oops I did it again'...
Being work mum aka #doingboth
Everything you do before baby is harder with baby. Doing an accelerator + running an early stage startup + being a parent = big challenge. But honestly, we have exectly zero regrets. The Techstars program team and the Managing Director were so incredibly awesome to get a tiny techstar into their worlds. Having both parents work on the same startup also helps, a lot!
So what are we taking away...
In short - a much clearer version of our startup, a much more polished strategy, but most of all > relationships. The founders, mentors and TS team are now a massive part of our story. And we can't wait to see what's next for all of us!
That's our experience! Happy to catch up with startups thinking of taking the TS path.
Written by Mariya, CEO & Co-Founder 💙
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