The latest Techstars Chicago cohort was announced Tuesday, and it contains an impressive list of 10 startups covering a wide range of industries and topics, including bitcoin, gaming, marketing, and the sharing economy.
The 2015 Techstars Chicago class contains five Chicago-based companies, two startups with ties to Chicago*, and three international early-stage businesses (Canada, Spain, India). There were around 900 applications this year, Techstars says, and the final 10 will participate in the summer accelerator with the expectation of demoing their product in Mid-October.
“I think this is our best class yet,” Techstars Chicago Managing Director Troy Henikoff said in an interview. “We’re seeing companies that are a little more mature applying because they’re realizing how much value they get from the Techstars network.”
The Techstars network has been what separates the accelerator from other programs–with 18 programs around the globe Techstars is the “worlds largest network of entrepreneurs, mentors and investors,” Henikoff says–but it’s also been a difficult selling point to convey, Henikoff added. How do you present the true value of a “network” to a potential startup?
That’s why one year ago Techstars implemented an equity backed guarantee. Techstars takes a 7-10% cut of the company in exchange for $118,000 investment. But now, if a startup gets to the end of the program and doesn’t believe it was a worthwhile experience, they get to name how much Techstars was worth, be it 3% equity, 2% equity, or 0%.
“(After) a couple hundred companies have gone through the program in 18 locations, zero have chosen to give any equity back,” Henikoff said. “100% have said of course it was worth it.”
To see if that trend continues, here are the 10 startups selected to the 2015 Techstars Chicago class:
Urban Leash is a sharing economy startup for dog owners. The startup offers on-demand dog walking services for busy professionals, and its mobile app lets you get instant notifications, track your dog’s walk with GPS, read notes of what happened on the walk, and you can even see pictures of your pet.
Tribe is helping teams assign tasks, making it easier to get projects done from anywhere, at any time. Tribe works with emails, text, and chat so that coworkers, clients, and contractors can stay coordinated working in their tool of choice.
AkoubaCredit provides an algorithmic underwriting platform to banks that allows them to reduce the cost and time required for issuing a small business loan. The platform, customized to each lender’s underwriting principles, allows small businesses to apply and track their application electronically, with results delivered within 48 hours.
Glidera enables developers to add bitcoin buying and selling services into their applications. Glidera brings USD-to-digital-currency-conversion capability to hundreds of digital currency wallets and applications, making it easy for any wallet developer to offer bitcoin buying and selling services directly in their applications. Using Glidera’s API, developers can integrate the service in just days.
Growth Geeks is a marketplace for growth hackers and marketers. The company helps companies discover and hire freelance marketing professionals to grow their business. With the startup’s thousands of vetted “geeks” already on board, it makes shopping for marketing talent faster and easier.
Infiniscene enables gamers to easily create live broadcasts in their web browser. They can design, produce, and direct from anywhere with no experience or expensive hardware, seamlessly connecting game data and third party services and displaying stats and community updates live to their audiences.
Specless creates richer, more effective advertising experiences for businesses that run virtually anywhere. For publishers, Specless provides the freedom to easily test and deploy higher value custom ad formats. For advertisers and agencies, Specless means managing fewer creative assets, yet more flexibility to run campaigns in any type of media.
Noida, UP, India
BetaOut is a customer intelligence and marketing automation platform built specifically for e-commerce businesses. The startup makes it easier to track and segment users based on their interaction data, and provide customers with smart marketing tools across email, sms, and on-site engagement.
Hooks lets you discover and create push notifications for just about anything, and configure the notifications based on your needs. You can choose from thousands of subjects and types, from television, music, sports, social media, weather, and more. Hooks has already sent more than 30 million notifications worldwide to more than 100,000 people.
Vancouver, BC, Canada
Routific offers route optimization as a service for any business with deliveries, pick-ups or multiple stops a day. Its dashboard and mobile app enable business owners and fleet managers to plan their daily routes across an entire fleet and dispatch to their drivers in minutes. Businesses using its platform save time and up to 40% in their fuel costs.
*Henikoff said Stu Grubbs, the CEO of Infiniscene, is from Chicago, but the rest of the team is in California and Ohio. Growth Geeks’ team is in Florida, Arizona and Kentucky, but listed Chicago because it’s the only place they’ve all worked together.
Image via Techstars