As you may have seen in the news recently, Fort Worth is now the home of a Techstars accelerator program that will bring startup companies to Fort Worth to help them grow and bring innovations in physical healthcare. This is big news for Fort Worth as our city was the largest city in the country that did not have an accelerator program like this, which invests directly in the companies and recruits the best of the best companies from around the world.
But, accelerator programs are not well-known in our area. And, Techstars has not had much of a presence in North Texas. So what is this program and why is this a big deal for our entrepreneurial ecosystem?
Here are five things you need to know about this new program that will have a transformative effect in our local economy and startup ecosystem.
1. What is an accelerator program?
The typical definition of an accelerator program is that it is a “fixed-term, cohort-based program that typically includes seed equity investment, connections, sales, mentorship, educational components that culminates in a public pitch event or demo day to accelerate the growth of early-stage companies.” There are lots of examples of startup (sometimes called seed) accelerators like Techstars, Y Combinator, 500 Startups, Mass Challenge and Health Wildcatters (which is based in North Texas). To learn more, see our Sparkyard blog post on accelerators here.
These programs have been instrumental in launching many household name products and services. Silicon Valley-based Y Combinator, the first and perhaps best-known accelerator program, boasts Airbnb, DoorDash, Coinbase, Dropbox, Stripe and Instacart as a part of its portfolio.
2. What is Techstars and why are they coming to Fort Worth?
Techstars was started in Boulder, Co. in 2006, by co-founders Brad Feld (a Dallas native), David Cohen, David Brown and Jared Polis (the current Governor of Colorado). The original startup classes in the program were held in Boulder, but a few years later they began to expand to other US cities, including San Antonio and Austin, and have since expanded globally.
Techstars recognizes that Fort Worth is now the 12th largest city in the country and they know that our area is a great place to grow innovative startup companies. They are very interested in some of our local assets that will support innovation in physical health, like HSC, Tech Fort Worth, the Neurological Recovery Center, the iterate health community and Cowtown Angels.
The program will ultimately bring 30 companies to Fort Worth for the program over a three–year period. Applications for the first year opened on February 22 and the application window will close in May. The selection for the first ten companies for the first cohort will be made over the summer. The first class is expected to arrive in Fort Worth in mid-September. The first class will end in early December with a demo day, where the companies in the first class will pitch for additional investment. This cycle will continue for years two and three of the program.
3. What is physical health and why will this program focus on this industry vertical?
Half of all Americans will see a physical therapist this year. And yet, many of the practices still being used in traditional physical therapy treatment haven’t been disrupted in decades. In the United States, physical health conditions cost $980 billion each year or five percent of GDP for treatment and lost wages.
But physical health goes far beyond just physical therapy. There are countless new platform technologies being developed that aren’t being applied to help with our shoulders and knees, sprains and strains. Platform technologies like robotics, virtual reality, artificial intelligence and “big data” analytics could all hold tremendous promise for helping to diagnose, treat and recover faster from our musculoskeletal injuries. Applying these technologies could help stroke patients learn to walk faster, athletes get back on field quicker and solve chronic pain for patients.
Plus, COVID has created some serious physical and neurological conditions for the “long haulers” who can spend months fully recovering from the various aspects of coronavirus. This program will help identify and help treat patients with this relatively new set of symptoms and ailments.
4. Who is bringing this program to Fort Worth?
In true Fort Worth-style, this is a public-private partnership. The City of Fort Worth and Tarrant County are both funding this program to bring innovation to our area. Plus, the hope is that after we get to show off the best of our area to these innovative companies for the four months of the accelerator, they will move here.
HSC and Goff Capital are also involved as partners in the project. They will provide medical expertise and capital to fund the growth of these startup companies.
This represents a unique model for a Techstars accelerator program that brings so many different entities to the table to bring this program to life.
5. Who will run this program?
In each city where Techstars has a program, they hire a local Managing Director to run the accelerator. This person is in charge of sourcing companies to apply, developing the program for the four-month accelerator, recruiting mentors for the startup companies and recruiting investors to participate in the demo day at the end of the program.
For this program, Techstars has selected Trey Bowles, an entrepreneur and non-profit leader with decades of experience in building companies and entrepreneurial ecosystems, to be the Managing Director. He might be best known for co-founding The Dallas Entrepreneur Center (now The DEC Network), but he has also started several technology, healthcare and entertainment companies.
Now that the program has been officially announced, recruiting the best and brightest startup companies in physical health to come to Fort Worth for this program has begun. If you know someone who would be a good fit, please share the application with them. And, when they arrive, let’s all do our best to make them feel welcome and connected.
Remember, entrepreneurship is a team sport and the more we can help these companies find success locally, the more likely they will be to stay and build their companies here. And, the quicker their innovative solutions for physical health can reach patients.