The merger makes sense, since Startup Weekend brings aspiring entrepreneurs together for an intense, 54-hour experience in creating a company, while Techstars provides a three-month course designed to get those aspiring entrepreneurs to turn their ideas into going concerns. While the former is heavy on inspiration and excitement, the latter provides some cash and more concrete, practical help in getting startups off the ground.
“It’s a ‘you complete me’ kind of moment,” said Techstars managing partner David Cohen, in a conversation with VentureBeat yesterday. Jerry Maguire references aside, the combination does seem to make sense: Techstars is for early-stage companies, and Startup Weekend (and its associated siblings, like Startup Week and Startup Digest) is for super-early, proto-companies and entrepreneurs. The one leads into the other quite naturally.
Also, there’s history: Cohen said that the idea for Startup Weekend came about during a conversation in his office with Up Global CEO Marc Nager. The very first Startup Weekend was held under the auspices of Techstars, in Boulder, Colorado, with Cohen pitching in. So in a way, this is a kind of corporate reunion.
Startup Weekend will hold about 1,000 events in 120 cities this year, according to the company, while Startup Week will reach 75,000 participants in 75 different events.
As for Techstars, 550 companies have gone through the program, which now operates in three countries and 13 cities. These companies collectively have raised $1.3 billion in capital and represent almost $50 billion in market capitalization. Techstars itself, as an investment fund, has more than $300 million under management.
But there’s that delicate bit about Up Global being a nonprofit — up to now, that is. Once incorporated into Techstars, Up Global will become part of that company’s suite of for-profit products. But, says Cohen, that’s no cause for worry.
“In order to acquire a nonprofit, you have to be mission-aligned,” he said. The board of Up Global wouldn’t have agreed to the combination if they weren’t confident it would further the organization’s goals.
“We’re not going to rebrand any of this. We’re not going to plaster our logo all over it,” Cohen said.
Indeed, the for-profit status gives Techstars more flexibility in supporting Startup Weekend and related projects, Cohen said, because these events no longer have to rely on donations or fees to support themselves — they can benefit from being part of the overall Techstars line. Toward that end, Techstars is eliminating the fees for Startup Next, a five-week program to help companies get seed funding or get into accelerators. (It currently charges $150-$300 per person.)
Cohen says that Techstars will benefit from the combination and will find ways to leverage it over time, but that’s not the primary purpose for the merger.
“We have the resources to sustain it and grow it,” Cohen said. “We’re very committed to keeping it open source, community based, and it’s not there strictly to provide deal flow.”
Terms of the merger weren’t disclosed. Up Global CEO Nager will become the vice president of community for Techstars, and all of the nonprofit organization’s 40 or so employees will be moving over to Techstars.