All you need to know about Techstars Anywhere Accelerator w/ Ileana Gonzalez

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Ileana is the tip of the spear, constantly meeting entrepreneurs and innovators on the bleeding edge of technology and business in the hottest markets in the world for tech and innovation. She finds and screens pre-seed startups in preparation for admission into the Techstars Anywhere accelerator.

Once startups are accepted to Techstars Anywhere, Ileana helps maintain the relationship with startups and is constantly on the lookout for opportunities to get them exposure to potential employees, investors, customers, partners and other VIP's through Techstars Anywhere.

Ileana’s story and how she started working with Techstars Anywhere

I worked for the tech industry in San Antonio, and I lead the biggest nonprofit that is for advocacy in tech. So San Antonio is not a very techy city per se, and so it was just rallying up those from Rackspace, rallying VCs from there. And so that was pretty much my first exposure to tech companies and tech industry ecosystem.

Then I jumped on to Capital Factory. That is the main centric place for startups in Texas. Throughout Texas, Capital Factory is where you find your next co-founder, where you find your investor, where you find your mentors. I was a Venture Associate at Capital Factory. I was recruiting companies from the San Antonio area and Austin to be a part of the fund from Capital Factory.

So from there I applied to Techstars. I wasn't really looking for anything, but Techstars has always been something that I've been hearing about since college, like, one of the top accelerators in the world. So I applied to the Anywhere program because of the remote flexibility, their verticals, what they invest in, what they look for. And obviously also I looked up the Managing Director, which is Ryan Cooper. He's just an excellent person. And so I ended up at Techstars Anywhere, also as a venture associate.

My current job is to source companies before they apply. As they apply, I take care of reading all of their applications along with my Managing Director also. And I take care of investor relations on the back end of the program after they graduate of 13 weeks or while they're in program. A lot of companies decide to raise during program, and so I take care of doing those warm intros for investor relations, connecting with constant investors to see who would be a good investor and a good company fit. So I'm the super-connector of the team.

Why was Techstars Anywhere started?

Techstars Anywhere is the original first virtual accelerator that Techstars is running. We did this in 2017, before COVID even started. We say virtual first because we do meet in person with the founders a few weeks of the 13 weeks. And so the reason why we started it was because originally Techstars had city programs. So if you were to apply to Techstars Boulder or Techstars Austin, we require you to move to that city for three months because of where our limited partners for each program were coming from.

We wanted to promote economic development and also wanted to expand beyond all the founders that are in that city. And so it was just kind of promoting economic development. The Anywhere program came about in the idea of LPs that are not in big cities or LPs that are not really into the economic development of the city itself, but are into raising founders, investing in underserved founders and anywhere.

So that's where the idea came from. On our current program, we have founders from Spain, we have founders from Switzerland, and so we're very worldwide. We cover the entire world. Really.

What are the investment terms?

All of Techstars programs have the same standard deal that you're going to. We have 43 programs, but we do the standard deal, which is the $20,000 for 6% of equity. But if you look at it just from the money standpoint, we are pretty expensive.

But we're not just a money investor, we're an operational investor for our founders. Not only throughout the 13 programs that we accelerate your growth, but it's Techstars for life.

What’s the Ideal stage to apply at Techstars Anywhere?

The program is 13 weeks long. Like I said, the first few weeks, it's a little bit more about let the cohort get to know you, where you're standing, what's your story, and then we go straight into what it is like to the power of storytelling, the power of telling your pitch correctly, the power of how you are expressing and communicating ideas as to what you're building.

We do a lot of deep dives also. We have twelve companies, you have four staff members full time that are dedicated to going through KPIs. What data points are important for you?

By week two and three or three and four depending, we do Mentor Madness, and that is over 80 calls. Eight meetings with mentors from our network that have given their time to helping our founders. And so these are 80 meetings. It's like twelve meetings a day. And we do it for two weeks long, sometimes shorter, sometimes longer, depending on the quality of the mentors and what they're looking for.

Those are pretty taxing, to be honest. Our founders just finished with theirs, and so they're pretty exhausted at this point right now. And we're only in week 3. Right? Then from there, they kind of choose their lead mentors based on what their needs are. This is, again the personalized experience as to what you need as a founder. We're not just a startup machine. You get out there and you go through every single session, it's personalized. It is built for these twelve companies that we chose.

I touch on fundraising. I start preparing them literally from day one. What does your investor pipeline look like? What is the preparedness checklist that you need to go through and think about by the time that you are in demo day by week 13. And so we spread that fundraising content throughout those 13 weeks, from pitch decks, to the pipeline, to the data room, to the portable emails, to what are good standard practices. And like I said, it's very personalized.

We're down in the nitty gritty with you working on your startup. Per week time commitment for a founder to attend the program? So for the 13 weeks, we do kind of say, please let your families know that you are going to be just so disconnected from everything else for those 13 weeks. Are they worth it? 100%. But we also focus on the founder wellbeing, right? Because it's important, our mental health, our balance in life.

The time commitment, I would say would be three to 4 hours a day, if not more. If you're going through Mental Madness, that is a lot more. But that is the standard.

Then when we meet in person, those weeks are literally from 8 to 8, right? We fill you up with programming. We work the entire day. And then towards the afternoons, we invite investors, other founders for you to meet with at happy hours or networking events.

So the days that or the weeks that we meet in person are also very heavy.

What kind of founders get selected?

I don't have, like, a magic formula for you. We're selecting founders that have the right stories for these things to come alive. We're selecting founders that are humble, that are able to take feedback that not only listen, but also process and take action on that feedback.

Our sourcing timelines are long that I get to know a founder. For example, one of our founders that are in the program now. We started in July. One of our founders I met in February. So I've been tracking her since February. We don't make her an offer until end of June. So what does that mean?

I want to see what she did in those six months and how she converted words, feedback into action. And so that's what we care about, even if it's not much, but being able to correctly tell your story of I did this, this didn't work, I'm going out there. I'm the hustler. We call them the crazy maniacs that are going to make things happen. Also, the people that have the right background, the right stories, that would be the common pattern that I'm seeing.

Backing underrepresented founders

It's a focus. It's an emphasis. We're looking for it. But it's also natural. Right. We're not just choosing founders to choose founders. We're choosing the best. And we have the capacity to identify that the best are people of color. We're the number 1 in backing diverse founders. Actually, a report came out from Harlem Capital. Super proud of it. Still a lot of work to do, but it's definitely something we're looking for. We're hiring diverse people in our teams.

I'm Latina. I was born in Mexico. I recognize Latin American problems that maybe us people don't. I recognize different strengths in Hispanic people. I recognize their stories. I relate to it. And so it's not only important to invest in founders, it's also very important to recruit and make these underserved people employees to be able to recognize those opportunities for diverse founders themselves.

When do founders get the initial investment wire?

If we start on Monday, you get it on Friday. Or if you took longer with your due diligence and put as much information that you get at the Friday after we started. Founders also have the option to take a $100,000 in convertible notes. Out of the 12 companies, I see about 4 taking it. It's not necessary. This is up to you. This is up to you, knowing your own financials, but that is an option.

What are some exciting previous cohort companies?

We have Trust and Will, which is digitally being able to put your will in order. And so you don't have to go to a lawyer, you don't have to pay all those fees. It's simplifying a process that should not be as complicated as it has been for the previous generations. Trust and Will doing really good. I think they just got named like top company to work for in San Diego. So that's been really exciting.

We have Sēkr who just closed their seed round. Also, I think. I don't remember the number, and I don't want to lie, but pretty big. Breanne is an underserved founder. She's a queer female of color and so super proud of her. It is founders like Breannea that we bet on, right? First. And it's sad we shouldn't be the first, but we do provide those opportunities and super excited to continue to support Breanne. And she supports us, right. In our workshops. She's a mentor. She's constantly at the happy hours. And so it's awesome the type of relationships that we form throughout our accelerators.

Another one that just closed their round, and this is not even public news yet, but it's one of those moonshot companies that we invested in 2020, 2021, actually. They just graduated and they are Pipe Dream labs. They are in Austin, Texas. And what they are is underground robots that connect from house to house, business to business. They can fast ship anything that you can think of that is the weight of 39 bananas. And so they just raised a round. People are super excited about it. I mean, imagine, you don't have to buy a hammer that could fit in your garage or your place. You can just ship it and get it in 30 seconds and then ship it back through the underground tunnels. So, yeah, we do bid on a couple of moonshot companies like those, and we bet in companies that are the B2B SaaS. Not that they're boring. It's just kind of exciting hearing crazy ideas like that. 

What’s the value add?

There are mentors and there are sessions happening. The other value add is honestly, I wouldn't call it hand-holding, but we are creating a personalized experience and learning lessons by company of how much they want to raise, how that process works, really working you through it, instead of just, here's a couple of workshops, learn from them and that's it. No, these are working sessions. Let's dive in with you. Let's build it out with you.

And so it is a little bit of hand holding and it's a little bit of like when they get out of the program, they fall off. A little bit of like, oh my God, I need my team. Because we become a part of your team. Operationally. Like I said, we don't just say we're an operational investor lightly. We don't take that lightly. We really are an operational investors for our founders. 

What happens after the program ends?

We still have monthly calls with them, see how they're doing, see how we can get engaged with them. A lot of them just kind of go and do their own thing because they went through 13 weeks of seeing us every single day. But there's a lot that say, I really need my help with fundraising. And so they're constantly having calls with my Managing Director or my Program Manager.

We are continuing to be a part of their investor update emails. And so I'm helping as much as I can for a couple of asks that they make in these newsletters. And they also have the support of the Techstars network. Their mentors continue to be on their board if they want, and the communication is there.

Now you get what you put in and that's something that we say a lot. If you're doing Techstars for the name, you're not doing it because you are open to pivoting, to changing, to being flexible, to deep diving through your company and seeing that your baby is ugly, you're not going to get the most out of it. And so that's the type of founders that we look. We look for founders that are going to be in it with us. Not just for the name, the marketing race with the name behind it. That's not the purpose of Techstars.

Is Techstars Anywhere completely sector agnostic? 

Pretty much. We don't really do a lot of like medical devices, medical IP or hardware on that end. Pharmaceutical we also don't do, but we're pretty agnostic. It's mostly about the focus of investing in companies that are changing the way that we as humans normally work.

So I don't want to call it future of work, but it's pretty agnostic in the way that we do that. 

How does the in-person part of the program feel like?

As much as we love virtual, there's nothing like hugging, meeting somebody in person. And so we recognize that we travel altogether for that week. We do meet right now for three weeks out of the 13. And so this last class we started in San Diego a couple of weeks ago, now they're all coming to Austin. I'm in San Antonio, right? It's an hour away. And so everybody's coming up to my backyard, Austin in August 22.

And now we're going to be closing up with Demo Day. All of us watching it together. It's virtual, but we're still going to all be together in Miami. Why do we choose those cities? Just because we care about what's going on in the ecosystem in that city and we want to get them better connected throughout the US. 

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