Types of startups and entrepreneurs that should apply

I’m often asked what kind of companies we invest in and what stage they should be in.

Short answer: It doesn’t matter what kind of stage you’re at — as long as you’re ready for acceleration, and you can answer two big questions I like to ask: 

  1. Why are you and your founders the best people in the world to solve this problem?
  2. Are you really aware of the challenges and requirements to make this company great?

Techstars Berlin does not have a specific vertical focus. I do not invest in e-sports or AR/VR media plays.

When vetting companies, I look for stand-out, exceptional founders who want to be great entrepreneurs.

Andrew (GoSave) had previously raised tens of millions of dollars from Sequoia, with his last startup LIFX.

Stone (Eversend) was advising YCombinator founders who were building startups across Africa.

David’s Beelinguapp app had won a ton of awards, and also had more than three million users when he applied.

Zhanna (Anytype) didn’t have a live product or company when she applied. She did however have an extraordinarily clear product vision. She’s previously been very successful at launching apps.

Subu (DiscoverDollar) has one of the most humble beginnings. When he applied, the startup had already helped Target Inc (the US retailer) recover hundreds of millions of dollars.

Hilary (Bestselfy) was managing a family with two kids, spent 15 years working in the industry, and had cultivated a network of HR practitioners around her Secret-HR-Society, when she applied.

So whether it’s their first time journey straight out of university, or later on in their life, it’s really about the individuals themselves, and how they demonstrate the fact that they’re so exceptional. 

Here are some of the things I look for, in companies that apply:

  • Well-rounded teams, with CEO/CTO/COO roles defined.
  • Teams should have experience in the domain/industry they’re tackling, with at least one person who has a proven and verifiable track-record in that industry.
  • Founders, and the CEO in particular, must be coachable.
  • Founders must know their market, and competition.
  • Founders need to be present in Berlin for the vast majority of the 12 week program.
  • Familiarity with fundraising principles and concepts (the Venture Deals book is required reading before the program begins – get a head start now!).

Preferred, but not an absolute requirement

  • A basic plan, and evidence of the ability to achieve €100k in monthly sales (MRR) within 12-18 months.
  • Pre-seed fundraising round of between €250k and €750k nearing completion, or already completed.
  • A desire to be based in, or at least set up an office, in Berlin for the next 12-18 months.

We’ve accelerated teams that came into our programs with zero revenues, and we’ve also accelerated teams that came in with almost a million dollars in recurring revenue. The common thread between all those companies is the stellar founders, who could prove that they were the best people for the job, and that there was a real market that they could capture.

We base our decision-making on the following criteria (ranked in order of importance), when we’re going through the selection process to pick the 10 companies we’ll work with in the Techstars Berlin Accelerator, not just for the three months during the program, but for life:

  1. Team
  2. Team (because it’s that important)
  3. Team (yes, we’re re-emphasising this because it’s incredibly important)
  4. Market
  5. Traction
  6. Idea

What this should indicate to you, is that the ‘team’ component is the most important thing. Out of the hundreds, if not thousands of applications we receive every year, the ones that stand out showcase a team that has what it takes, to get the job done.