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Excelerate Programming’ Category

Meet the Associates for the Summer 2013

It is not always obvious just how much work goes into putting on a three month program like TechStars Chicago.  We started ramping up in January getting ready for applications to open February 1st and will finally slow down a bit around Thanksgiving.  A program like this could never come together without the dedication and incredible work of the entire team.  We want to proudly introduce the three Associates that have already been working for months, they will have a lot more visibility as the program starts next week!


Colin Boardway - Originally from Buffalo NY, Colin just graduated from Loyola University. He specializes in inbound marketing and is working to make a name for himself in the Chicago Startup community. He’s put in his 10,000 hours as a working DJ and also manages digital marketing efforts and events with Entrepreneurs Unpluggd. Though he would eventually like to run his own startup, he is eager to put his skills to work helping the TechStars teams this summer. In his spare time he enjoys being probably the Midwest’s leading taco aficionado. You can usually find him biking the streets of Chicago, or you can follow him on Twitter @ColinBoardway.

Ian Connell - Ian loves all things startup. A California transplant, Ian began his career with a startup focusing on improving state and local government through SaaS program management solutions.  Mid 2012, Ian was looking to gain some experience on the other side of the table and took a duel role as 1) a summer associate at Kapor Capital working on early and seed-stage investments in the EduTech and Human Capital verticals and 2) as a strategy intern for one of Kapor’s portfolio companies UniversityNow Inc. Ian is currently pursuing his MBA at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. Since moving to Chicago, Ian has been working as an associate with Hyde Park Venture Partners and Hyde Park Angels. Outside of work and school, Ian volunteers with Management Leadership for Tomorrow (MLT), a nonprofit focusing on increasing the pipeline of under-represented groups in top universities, and spends all of his remaining time praying for a 70-degree day. Check him out at @IanConnel271

Ryan Fukushima - Hailing from sunny streets of Silicon Valley, Ryan has a soft spot for warm beaches and startups. Two years ago, he decided to take his talents to Michigan’s Ross School of Business and hasn’t looked back since. While Michigan is lacking in the beach department, he has been supporting the entrepreneurial community as an associate at two local VC funds. The Midwest has definitely won him over and he’s excited about the vibrant Chicago scene. When he’s not in the office he’s likely cheering on his fellow Wolverines, trying to surf in Lake Michigan, or validating product-market fit. His fun fact is quite awesome but you’ll have to chat with him to find out more – follow him @RyFukushima

Filed under: Excelerate Programming,Status Updates — May 19, 2013

Excelerate Labs is Taking Steroids

Q. What do First Round Capital, Battery Ventures, SV Angel, Founder Collective, and countless other VC firms have in common?

A. They have all invested in alums of Excelerate Labs in its three short years of existence and none of these firms even has a presence in Chicago.

Excelerate Labs is the best accelerator most people (outside of Chicago) have never heard of.  Ranked #3 in the nation (after TechStars Boulder & YC) by both Kaufman and Forbes, Excelerate Labs has earned a place among the very best startup accelerators in the world, and has done so very quietly.

Today, that changes.

In the last three years, almost 1,000 entrepreneurs have applied to Excelerate, with the only the best 30 making it in to our classes.  Excelerate companies hail from Chicago and the Midwest, yes, but also from California, Massachusetts, Texas, Kentucky,  Florida, France, and India.  Those founding teams have described joining Excelerate as “life changing” and “the best decision I ever made.”

Today, founders across the world have a chance to challenge themselves like never before.

Excelerate is a three-year-old startup going through an incredible growth phase, bringing in better investors, better mentors, better companies, and most importantly, better entrepreneurs as it matures.  Like any other high-growth startup, there comes a time in in the life cycle when it makes sense to pour fuel on the fire.

Today is that day.

And that fuel is TechStars.  Excelerate Labs is now TechStars Chicago.

TechStars Chicago is everything Excelerate Labs was with the added benefits of everything TechStars is.  This is an unprecedented joining of forces, marrying two kindred spirits to better serve entrepreneurs.

TechStars Chicago companies will get all the same program leadership and awesome mentors that previous companies have gotten, plus the leverage of a larger national platform specifically designed to supercharge the growth of early stage companies.  Not only that, but TechStars Chicago will offer companies over $100,000 in funding – much more than Excelerate Labs offered previously.

The team that built Excelerate is now the team building TechStars Chicago.  Co-Founders Sam Yagan, Nick Rosa, and Adam Koopersmith will remain on TechStars Chicago Board and I will continue to run the program as I have for the last two years.

On that note, I should get back to work building our next chapter as TechStars Chicago.  And you should tell everyone you know to apply to TechStars Chicago – Applications open today!

- Troy

Filed under: Excelerate Programming,Status Updates — Tags: , — February 1, 2013

5 Startups that stood out at Excelerate’s demo day


Chicago’s Excelerate Labs held its annual demo day on Wednesday, trotting out the 10 fledgling companies that underwent its intensive accelerator program this summer. At the end of that program come $50,000 grants investments from Chicago’s New World Ventures as well as the chance to pitch their companies to 200 angel and early-stage venture capital investors from both the Midwest and other regions of the country.

While Excelerate focuses on Chicago-based startups ,this particular class had a much broader background with entrepreneurs temporarily relocating to the Windy City from as far away from India and France.

Read entire post on GIGAOM

Filed under: Excelerate in the News,Excelerate Programming — August 29, 2012

3 Tips on How to Interpret Mentor Feedback at Your Startup

The first month of Excelerate is “mentor dating month”- a chance for startups to meet as many mentors as possible with the goal of forming meaningful long term relationships.

With only two weeks left in mentor dating month, we took time to catch up with some of the company founders and see how they’ve been dealing with all of the feedback they’ve received. We’ve already had hundreds of meetings take place inside the Excelerate office this month and expect still to have hundreds more by next Friday, so you can imagine the astronomical amount of advice shared in these past few weeks can get a bit overwhelming.

Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Excelerate Programming — Tags: — June 20, 2012

Top 3 Tips from Excelerate Alumni

During the first week of Excelerate, the alumni gather to share their sage words of wisdom to new companies. This year’s wisdom sharing was exceptional, with about twelve alumni from the last two classes sharing their successes and shortcomings frankly. Here’s what they advised (and what you can incorporate in your startup regardless of where you are):


1) Stay on Top of Relationship Building- The first month of Excelerate, companies meet with over 100 mentors. Some are potential investors, while others are industry experts and all of them offer their expertise openly. Justin Massa from Food Genius was infamously organized when dealing with so many relationships.

“I kept mentor month self contained. No matter how late I had to stay, I wrote every thank you note to that day’s mentors. It was imperative not to fall behind.”

This strategy can be applied to any new relationship you make. If you’re planning on writing a follow up, take notes during the meeting and follow up as quickly as you can.

2) Tap Into Your Community- Almost all alumni wished they had gotten to know each other sooner. I can attest to this: my Excelerate Class (’10) became exponentially closer AFTER the program than during it. There is always work to be done, but being close to so many amazing people is a short term phenomenon. Take advantage! If you work in a coworking or shared office space, are you friends with everyone around you? Make sure to reach out and make connections with the people you see every day…sometimes if we are not mindful of this, these relationships are the ones that are ignored.

“Make friends sooner. Take lunch away from the laptop and talk to someone new every day!” – Ethan Austin, GiveForward

3) Do Your Research- Before mentor meetings, alumni all agreed that doing research on each mentor truly optimized the interaction. It may seem like an obvious piece of advice, but it happens more frequently that one would imagine that entrepreneurs get caught up in work and forget to look up information on a contact before they meet. Avoid this by using Rapportive, or having a LinkedIn app on your phone.

“Mentors are exceptionally busy, accomplished people so assume they know nothing about you, but know everything you can about them.” -Seyi Fabode, Power2Switch

This summer’s teams are prepped and ready to take on whatever challenges this summer will bring. If you’re working on a startup, are you ready for Summer 2012?

Filed under: Excelerate Programming — Tags: — June 11, 2012