Apr 9, 2021

How Techstars uses Filo to enable Virtual Accelerators

Since its founding in 2006, Techstars has become one of the world’s most prestigious startup accelerator programs, with investments in over 2,200 companies that include SendGrid, PillPack and ClassPass. By connecting entrepreneurs with mentors, investors and corporations in their space, Techstars builds collaborative, supportive communities for founders -- why it's known as "the worldwide network that helps entrepreneurs succeed."

Over the last year, as many Techstars accelerators shifted to virtual accelerator programs, maintaining the same level of connection was challenging. To accommodate, several programs added a digital layer within Filo. 

Here’s a glance at how three Techstars startup accelerators are using Filo to maintain community and connection in virtual programs. 

Personal Offices for Easier Ad-hoc Meetings

Just like in any distributed team, communication in a virtual accelerator often becomes heavily asynchronous. The moments of quick collaboration - tapping someone on the shoulder for a quick question or sharing an idea - are lost or get relegated to Slack messages. Eventually, the energy of working as a team begins to fade, and innovation becomes hindered.

To accommodate, The New York Barclays Accelerator, powered by Techstars, created a culture of openness and ad-hoc meetings early on. Program Managers and associates use dedicated virtual offices so founders and staff can jump into quick, ad-hoc meetings anytime. Just cutting out the friction of having to see where to meet, share a link, and spin up a call has led to more conversations, staff say.

“Knowing you can pop into an office anytime, and not having to figure out where or how you’re going to meet, reduces that daily friction in virtual meetings, and goes such a long way to driving more conversations."
-Marita McGinn, Program Manager at The New York Barclays Accelerator, powered by Techstars.
Virtual offices for easier ad-hoc meetings at The New York Barclays Accelerator powered by Techstars.

Fast, Seamless Networking

Techstars is known for its incredible network of mentors. During the first month of program, Techstars connects hundreds of mentors with the startup founders in short, 20-30 minute meetings. 

This rapid-fire networking is a core pillar of Techstars accelerators. In a virtual accelerator though, the idea of juggling hundreds of Zoom links can create nightmares for facilitators. By creating an organizational structure for their virtual accelerators within Filo, this planning and facilitation is streamlined.

For example, the Stanley + Techstars Accelerator allowed the mentors to tour through the companies’ rooms to meet each founder. At the end of their time slot, the mentors simply easily move on their own to the next meeting, without requiring staff to continually operate Zoom breakout sessions. 

Drop in meetings facilitate easy, seamless networking sessions within Filo. (Names have been changed for privacy.)

Drop-In Hang-Out Areas

We’ve all been to our fair share of virtual happy hours over the last year. While they are an easy way to connect, creating purpose-driven social opportunities is a refreshing opportunity to drive connection. It invites people to engage on their own, without need for a facilitator or a formal invite.

Cox Enterprises Social Impact Accelerator, powered by Techstars, knew their founders liked board games, so they used this as a launching point for their social area, with rooms for chess, Battleship, backgammon and more. 

A Central Hub to Bring Founders Together

Techstars’ virtual accelerator programs using Filo also all relied on the ability to foster connection by having a central virtual office for their programs. Using Filo as a central hub for their virtual accelerators gives founders a consistent place to build community; allows for much easier program facilitation; and most importantly, makes it far easier to keep the conversations flowing. Conversations -- both planned and unplanned -- are key to maintaining the energy, camaraderie and community of a world-class accelerator.

“Being able to see who is having a meeting; who is in their office; or who is socializing in the lounge allowed us to interact with one another in a more genuine and spontaneous way. That is when you start to feel like you are creating a community.”
-Santiago Zindel, Sr. Program & Operations Associate at The New York Barclays Accelerator, powered by Techstars