Sketchfab accepted into TechStars NYC, so why would anyone apply to TechStars London?

Apr 9, 2013
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Last week TechStars announced their Spring 2013 class of startups for their New York program – 11 startups which will receive $18K in funding and a $100K convertible note. Among those announced was LeCamping alumnus Sketchfab, who recently raised a small seed round to continue the growth of its YouTube for 3D website. With 20K+ users using the service, Sketchfab is a startup who has dreamed big – much like TechStars Boston startup and LeCamping alumnus qunb – and it seems their big dreaming has caught the attention of TechStars.

Under TechStars’ wing, Sketchfab will have access to potential partners who will help them grow and scale up their service, along with an onslaught of feedback about what does and doesn’t, can and can’t, will and won’t work. Of course, it will ultimately be up to the vision of founders Alban Denoyel, Cedric Pinson, and Pierre-Antoine Passet to decide how to grow the company, but their acceptance into TechStars NY is already telling of their willing to go anywhere and do anything to realize their vision for SketchFab.

If European Startups can get into TechStars NYC, why would you choose to go to London?

TechStars recently ‘acquired’ UK accelerator Springboard, its first European footprint (also its first non-US location) which reinforced the US interest in European startups; however, while the first TechStars London application are still open until May 5th, I took a look at their London mentor list and noticed a distinct lack of US mentors – one of TechStars’ strongest attributes is their great network of onsite mentors – if I go to TechStars London and only receive mentoring from London-based mentors, then why didn’t I just call them up on my own? The European startup scene is not so big that a mentor will only take interest if you are part of an accelerator – this was the positioning that TechStars took in the beginning, in terms of value-added for mentors “There are a ton of startups out there – we’ll do the filtering, you commit to come mentor them.” I am still not convinced we have this same problem in London/Europe.

I think that any European startup that has succeeded and is succeeding these days is doing so without the help of an accelerator, despite the fact that many exist. This either means, as many accelerated startups and program directors will say that “it takes time,” or it means that there is not so much competition among great startups that you have to fight to get attention in front of European mentors. If Martin Varsavsky thinks you’re worth talking to, he’ll answer your email. He doesn’t have (I don’t think) 500 startups contacting him a day, unlike the mentors at Techstars NYC,Boulder, etc.

I will be watching patiently, skeptically to see if TechStars London will be the bridge for European startups to get into the US market, or the safety school that everyone applies to just in case. Then again, there’s always the chance that US Startups use TechStars London as a way to come to Europe – but London’s barely Europe anyway, so they’ll be sorely disappointed.