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TechStars Boston doubles down on startups; will run two annual programs

Posted by Scott Kirsner  April 16, 2012 01:10 PM

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The TechStars Boston accelerator program for startups will now take place twice a year, managing director Katie Rae tells me. That will double the number of new ventures that can participate in the program, to about 24 annually.

And Rae and Reed Sturtevant, who helps run the Boston program, say they are hoping to expand its focus, explicitly inviting robotics, bio informatics, health IT, digital manufacturing and edutech companies to apply. The fall program will begin in September.

"The main driver for increasing the frequency of the program is the high quality of companies applying," Rae says. "We also have an incredible mentor network that grows every year, and I think we're personally getting better at running the program. Doing it twice a year lets us have a continuous staff." The spring TechStars Boston program, taking place now, has been held for four years now.

I asked why they wouldn't just expand the size of the spring session, from a dozen to 20 or 25 companies. "We think that core to our model is working with a small group of companies, and enabling them to have lots of one-on-one sessions," Rae said.

Companies accepted into the TechStars program receive $18,000 in seed funding in return for six percent of their stock. They are also offered an additional $100,000 in convertible debt. Participants get free office space for the duration of the three-month program, and the opportunity to present to a group of investors at its conclusion.

Rae and Sturtevant have also been working since 2010 to raise a fund for Project 11 Ventures, a micro-VC fund of their own. Progress on that has slowed down since the duo got involved with running TechStars Boston, but the accelerator's track record — 12 of 12 companies last year received follow-on funding after participating — could help them attract investors for the fund.

Applications are now open for the fall program. I wish you luck: TechStars accepts only one percent of the companies that apply.

Update: TechStars just put up a blog post about the fall program.

(Rae will be my guest this Friday for the Friday Five webcast. It airs Friday at noon.)

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Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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