Since COVID-19 kept members of Techstars Kansas City’s 2020 cohort from visiting the City of Fountains during the three-month accelerator, an Aug. 27 virtual demo day will be as much a meet-and-greet with the startups as a pitch event for potential investors, said Lesa Mitchell.
“Our cohort didn’t ever come to KC. That was horrible for all of us, as well as the community at large,” said Mitchell, managing director for Techstars KC, noting the live virtual event will be Kansas City’s first opportunity to get a glimpse of the startup founders via a new format for the accelerator: abbreviated, one-minute pitches.
Click here for tickets to the Aug. 27 Techstars Kansas City virtual demo day.
Full-length, four-minute demo day presentations are expected to be posted on the Techstars KC website the day of the event, she added, giving investors and angels greater access to the cohort member companies at their own convenience.
“We learned in Q2 that investors will spend time reviewing pitches online, but hosting a virtual ‘live event’ that would be a couple of hours just doesn’t work,” Mitchell said.
Click here to learn more about the 10 startups joining the Techstars Kansas City portfolio, which features young additions from Portland to Ireland — including two St. Louis startups. Atlanta-based MusicBuk, a finalist in Opportunity Hub’s OHUB.KC minority accelerator, is the only startup in the cohort with a Kansas City presence.
Narrowing the window for pitches during the event not only allows more time to celebrate the startups, but affords the opportunity to welcome special guests to dive deeper into issues of diversity — a key component of the 2020 accelerator for Mitchell, she added.
A panel conversation featuring Brad Feld, startup community pioneer, author and Techstars co-founder, and Marlon Nichols, founding managing partner at LA-based MaC Venture Capital, is expected to take a hard look at the makeup of ecosystems as communities across America reflect on diversity and social justice realities, Mitchell said.
Click here to learn more about Feld’s new book — “The Startup Community Way: Evolving an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem” — which helps communities “recognize their lack of diversity and actually doing something about it,” Mitchell said
“The small number of non-white male CEOs founding and being supported in scaling their ventures is not new and is a huge issue in the way of finally addressing the wealth gap,” she said. “I chose to double down on diverse founding teams because I have a personal belief that opportunities are not equally distributed. I think many others have caught on to this reality in the past three months. The great news is a lot of other mentors feel the same way and I think our founders benefit from mentors wanting to support problems our founders are trying to solve.”
Mentors themselves have been a critical piece of amplifying the quality of the 2020 accelerator in the face of COVID-19 challenges, Mitchell said.
“The KC mentors who took on lead mentor roles this year killed it in working with the companies,” she said. “I think because so many people were ‘stuck’ in home offices they might have had a little extra time and we were able to score that extra time in support of really digging in with founders.”
And while the pandemic prevented the cohort from coming to Kansas City, its virtual programming opened the door to recruiting expert mentors from outside the metro who otherwise wouldn’t have been able to commit the time needed for a Kansas City-based, in-person accelerator, Mitchell added.
“We feel sad that COVID might have ruined the opportunity for KC, but lucky that COVID might have helped increase mentor engagement,” she said. “For that we are extremely grateful.”