March 06, 2015      

Doesn’t get better than this

The Techstars archipelago stretches from Berlin to London to Boston, New York, Chicago, Austin, Boulder, and Seattle, then swings south to the newest high-tech island in the chain, San Diego.

For the Techstars-challenged out there: Techstars is a mentorship-driven startup accelerator founded by David Cohen, Brad Feld, David Brown, and Jared Polis that holds 13 week programs for startups all along the eight-island archipelago.

Whereas the islands in the chain are basically open to most anything in high tech, especially, IT, Techstars San Diego has something special going on with its newest site in Southern California: it?s all about robotics.

?Robotics is a hugely untapped frontier that is quickly becoming a focus for Techstars given recent tech advances that let machines be prototyped faster and easier than ever before,? says David Cohen, co-founder and managing partner.

If you are a robotics startup and chart a course for 32° 42′ 55″ N / 117° 9′ 23″ W, you?ll make landfall smack in the parking lot of Techstar?s corporate host, Qualcomm, where the 10-company Qualcomm Robotics Accelerator calls its home port.

If a robotics startup is selected for Techstars?less than one percent survive the application?s gauntlet?it is given four months of space in Qualcomm?s new headquarters building and a bankroll of $120,000, also courtesy of Qualcomm. In addition, each startup gets a heavy dose of mentoring from a star-studded group of high-tech luminaries.

In return, Techstars looks for 7-10 percent equity in each star?s company.

The mentoring is critical, according to Cohen, and it?s something startups tend to overlook.

Mentoring, mentoring, mentoring

mentors techstars

“We think of the Techstars product as not really the accelerator but the network,” said Cohen, in a recent Inc. interview. “That’s what entrepreneurs should be valuing here. I think it’s the most undervalued thing that many entrepreneurs don’t get.

“What you need are three or four who are paying attention to what you’re doing, whom you have a lot of respect for, and who have experiences that are applicable to what you’re doing,” he says.

“Don’t think of it as, I need to get famous people around me. Think of it as, I need real operating experience.”

Totally robotics

Beginning this May (2015) ten startups will take up residence at Qualcomm (deadline for applications is March 8th).


Qualcomm (NASDAQ: QCOM) is a perfect host for robotics. For the Qualcomm-challenged, it?s a global semiconductor company that designs and markets wireless telecommunications products and services (in San Diego since 1985) with 26,000 employees and annual revenue that touches $28 billion.

Among those 26,000 are the folks who conceived of and designed the Snapdragon processor, now with added autonomous controls, which are being used in, you guessed it, robots. Couple that together with nearby Brain Corp (funded by Qualcomm Ventures) that developed the world?s first training-based operating system for robots?BrainOS.

If any of the ten startups gets on a roll with its technology, there?s always the aforementioned Qualcomm Ventures (with a website that proclaims, ?Here?s to the Renegade?) close at hand that may take a distinct capitalist liking in the technology.

And if all that were not enough for budding robotics companies, there?s the City of San Diego that wants badly to become America?s next big robotics hub, as well as the University of California San Diego that just cranked up a major robotics program.

See related: Qualcomm and Techstars to Grow Robots in Sunny San Diego

All that in addition to the Coronado, Balboa Park and the best weather in the U.S.

I mean, com?on.