I spent more on coffee and croissants last Friday than I care to admit, but it was for a good cause. I was camped out at Voltage in Kendall Square for most of the day, for meetings with several current TechStars Boston companies in advance of Wednesday’s Demo Day. And you have to keep buying stuff to keep the internet running.

Tomorrow, 13 companies will take the stage and pitch a business that, in almost every case, has come a long way over the past two months. My goal Friday was to get a progress report from as many of those companies as possible.

I chatted with four founders, and heard from one more via email, so consider this a Boston Demo Day preview, if only a partial one.


CoachUp has made progress on a number of fronts since I wrote about the company’s launch in May. The company offers an online marketplace for private coaching, and is up to eight full-time staff. Co-founder, CEO and former basketball pro Jordan Fliegel updated me on a few of the firm’s latest progress.


On the Value of TechStars

I was curious to quiz Fliegel on the value of TechStars, as his company has progressed in a relatively straight line since entering, and because he’s seen the benefits of MassChallenge and TechStars simultaneously.

“More than anyone I was skeptical,” he said, noting that his company was further along than some. But his tune has changed. “I’m totally convinced of the value of it, especially for a first-time CEO,” he said, citing the critical importance of a personal network for founders. “It’s a very personal thing doing a business. It’s kind of sad leaving. It’s like college.”


Paige Brown has lived in seven cities in the past few years, so when she says she’s staying put in Boston after coming here for TechStars, it really means something. Especially because the first market for her product is Brazil.

I can’t say too much about the BookingMarkets product, as I agreed not to give too much away before the company’s demo day reveal. But it’s a cloud-based SaaS offering aimed at the travel and hospitality industries. Or, as Brown describes it,  “OpenTable for indie hotels.”

Brown extolled the merits of the Boston startup scene, particularly in travel. Investors and mentors here get the complexities of travel technologies, she told me, in a way that lots of startup folks typically do not. The result has been less time spent explaining the problem and more time working on the BookingMarkets solution.


  • Built a whole new product in the past month (to be revealed on Demo Day

On the Value of TechStars

Brown had applied to TechStars in the past, and was amazed at the progress she was able to make through the series of intense workshops on things like business model during the first weeks of the program.

“It was really good for just questioning everything,” she told me, explaining that prior to TechStars she’d never been able to commit the time to really pick apart what was and wasn’t working with the business.

The Fashion Project

Anna Palmer and Christine Rizk, co-founders of The Fashion Project, don’t have a typical startup background. Both are Harvard law grads with prior experience in both charities and politics. Their business creates a secondary market for high end clothing, through which charities can profit. The problem is that if you donate your jeans to a church or charity, they’ll sell them in bulk. If the jeans are super expensive, the charity foregoes that value. You can read more in our previous coverage, but I spoke with Palmer Friday to hear how the company is progressing.

Though the company is unique, she told me that Boston investors have been receptive. I asked if there was pressure as a fashion startup to move to New York, but interestingly Palmer doesn’t see it that way.

“Our plan is to stay here. Boston has a really interesting community of people that came from re-commerce,” she explained, citing Gazelle and ThreadUp. “There’s a lot of people who understand the space.”


  • Came into TechStars with a minimum viable product that included manual processing of orders; will launch a newly built website and backend on Wednesday to scale the business.
  • Have raised half a million from angels plus the TechStars note.

On the Value of TechStars

“TechStars forces you to be extremely honest,” she told me, echoing what others had said. It also helps when it comes to raising money. “Having TechStars there gives investors confidence that this problem is something that needs to be solved.”


It’s seldom that I feel a product has been specifically designed for me, but these Michigan dropouts – technically on leave, but with no plans to return – have done it. FetchNotes is a very simple to-do and note-taking app with a spash of Twitter thrown in. Rather than describe all the features, I suggest you simply try it. Suffice to say, I’m considering dropping Trello – the only organizational app I’ve ever really liked – in favor of FetchNotes.

I asked CEO Alex Schiff the boring Boston investor question: sure you’ve got a bunch of users, but how do you make money and how does this become a huge business? So as not to give away his reveal on Demo Day, all I can say is that I liked his answer.


  • Had 8,000 users within a week of launching the business in April, and 19,000 when TechStars began. Now at 32,000 users.
  • Nearly 20% of those who create an account use the product daily. Daily users use it on average 5.3 times per day.

On the Value of TechStars

“This type of mentorship driven model is really good for our type of company,” said Schiff, adding that the investor community has been helpful and receptive. “The risky choice would be to stay in school,” he continued. “Because then you end up working for Goldman Sachs or something.”


While I didn’t get the chance to talk with Zeppelin’s Anze Vodovnik, he did send me an email with a bit more detail into the company:

We believe that apps like Facebook, make it really easy for us to discover events that are going on around us in our social life – like a friend we haven’t spoken to in 5 years, just had a baby. These events then spark conversations. But in the Business World, the data to unlock those conversations, is hidden away in the myriad of cloud applications that we are using (SalesForce, Google Analytics, Zendesk, Mailchimp, etc.). In fact, the average startup or SMB uses at least 7 cloud apps, and this is only expected to grow.
There is a lot of data to sift through (the apps are really complex sometimes), it’s often hard to understand and it’s getting harder to find.
To solve this problem, and make it easier for teams to connect with all the business data, we built Zeppelin. Zeppelin is an online SaaS tool that gives teams access to all the relevant business data from the cloud applications in a single place, and enables them to have conversations around it.

So there you go. A partial preview of what you’ll see at Demo Day tomorrow. To read a bit more about the other companies, click here. And below, check out an update on TechStars’ progress overall: