The expiration of Sprint’s three-year agreement with Techstars to fund the Kansas City-based Sprint Mobile Accelerator is opening up new opportunities for both firms.
Sprint — which has funded the accelerator’s operations for three years while Techstars has managed the program — is now examining support of the accelerator by exploring new corporate and civic partnerships to help fund it. A global accelerator firm, Techstars offers a three-month, mentor-led program to help grow tech startups.
“The good news is that Techstars is 100 percent committed to Kansas City.”
– John Fein
While there are currently no plans in place, Techstars says it’s committed to staying in the area — with or without Sprint’s support.
John Fein, the accelerator’s managing director, said that Techstars has loved its time in Kansas City and plans to remain in the area regardless of its now-expired agreement with Sprint. Fein said Sprint has been an excellent partner, but that Techstars is now in discussion with several area corporations for prospective partnerships.
Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure said Tuesday at the accelerator’s demo day that the wireless carrier is hoping to find other corporate partners in the area to maintain a program. Sprint and Techstars, however, have yet to discuss those details, Fein said.
“The good news is that Techstars is 100 percent committed to Kansas City,” Fein said. “We’ve valued the Sprint partnership over the past three programs and hope that we can continue to do this with Sprint. But regardless, Techstars is 100 percent committed to growing the Kansas City community. … The bottom line is that there’s a ton of momentum in Kansas City, and Techstars recognizes that and wants to continue to play a role in that.”
Founded in 2014, the Sprint Accelerator has now fostered 30 startups from around the world with its three-month, mentor-led program. In 2016, it broadened its focus from mobile health firms to startups in mobile technology. Its latest class — which included two international and two local firms — featured such industries as advertising, analytics, logistics, artificial intelligence and more.
Sprint and Techstars have injected $3.6 million into those firms — $120,000 a piece — in exchange for 6 percent equity of each firm. In total, five firms in the program have relocated their headquarters to Kansas City and more than 10 have retained a local presence.
“I feel like we’ve had some great companies that have come through the program,” Fein said. “Just being able to contribute to the growth of the Kansas City community has been awesome.”
Techstars — regarded as one of the world’s best accelerator programs — is led by David Brown, David Cohen and Mark Solon. Nearly 80 percent of its 745 graduates worldwide are still active, according to the firm. Collectively, they’ve raised more than $2.24 billion. Typically, Techstars startups go on to raise more than $3 million in capital.
“We felt bringing (Techstars) to Kansas City helped elevate Kansas City — we think we’ve accomplished that.”
– Kevin McGinnis
Kevin McGinnis, co-founder of the Sprint Accelerator and vice president of Sprint subsidiary Pinsight Media+, said that Sprint is still evaluating details of its relationship with Techstars. McGinnis added that Sprint is now working to expand a pool of support for a new program that will foster early-stage tech firms in Kansas City.
“Our goal is to figure out how to go from one company trying to support the ecosystem through an accelerator of this size, to have it be multiple civic organizations and multiple corporations that are doing something similar,” McGinnis said. “We’ve opened up the invitation for others to participate and we’re already in conversation with several about what it could look like. … We want to figure out how to grow this into something larger with multiple stakeholders and not just one.”
During his introduction at Techstar’s demo day, McGinnis said that Sprint views the accelerator as a means to tap a wealth of innovative ideas and creators. What’s more, he said Sprint hoped to boost Kansas City as a whole via the accelerator.
“Our original goal was to bring (Techstars) in to elevate Kansas City,” McGinnis said. “We felt bringing that brand to Kansas City helped elevate Kansas City — we think we’ve accomplished that. … Working with them has been a tremendous learning experience for both sides. They’ve changed how they approach corporations and we’ve changed how we think about engagement and how to run an accelerator program. We have a whole new appreciation for business agility.”
Startland News will keep you posted regarding the accelerator’s changing operations.