Mile Javitt He lived and worked during economic downturns, as a start-up entrepreneur and CEO of a technology company. And she doesn’t like what’s on the horizon.
“The economy is melting, and specifically in the tech industry, we are looking to reset the market on a large scale,” she said.
But Japhet, the former CEO of Priceline and Compass who became CEO of Techstars Last year, he also saw an opportunity.
“We help founders build sustainable and resilient businesses and prepare them to go into their next role,” she said. “Our formula is more important during the economic crisis.”
GeekWire interviewed Gavet this week in Seattle, where she was visiting from New York City for a series of events hosted by Techstars. Nearly 3000 startups have been through Techstars accelerators for 3 months since its launch in 2006.
Techstars expanded to Seattle in 2010, and since then more than 130 companies have participated in the program. They have collectively raised more than $2.5 billion in private capital. Class 2011 alone Produced three unicorns.
“Seattle has a very vibrant ecosystem,” Japhett said.
Before taking the reins at Techstars, Gavet previously held the position of COO at real estate giant Compass. She was also the CEO of Russia’s largest e-commerce site, OZON.ru, and published the the book In 2020 titled “Drampled by Unicorns: Big Tech’s Empathy Problem and How to Fix It.”
We asked Javet what advice she would give entrepreneurs in the midst of the current crisis; Why Techstars Focus on Underrepresented Founders; and more. Interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
GeekWire: Thanks for talking to us, Maelle. What do you say to the founders now?
Mile Javitt: The truth is, very few founders went through this kind of downturn. We spend a lot of time talking about public awareness of what is currently happening in the world. We help them think about their own cash flow and how to do it to reduce burnout, and create additional cash facilities. We haven’t seen rounds yet, but I think they will. We are preparing the founders for what is likely to be a head-to-head fight for fundraising.
what do you mean by that?
There are always exceptions, but fundraising for the past 18 months has generally been relatively easy. Now back to the more normal, fundraising takes six to nine months and you have the painful due diligence. But the market won’t stop completely. The venture capital industry still has a lot of money to spread. There is an opportunistic approach by a lot of investors with lower ratings.
Techstars has been around for 16 years. What is the secret sauce?
Techstars is built on one basic principle: give first. This idea is what gives it first, supports communities, builds ecosystems, helps entrepreneurs succeed, and along the way things will work out. Now Techstars is one of the largest investors in the world.
When it comes to the venture capital industry, we are partners. We help entrepreneurs fill gaps and build businesses that can become VC-powered, and we do it at scale. We do the work that most venture capital is not equipped to do because of its structure.
Tell us about Techstars’ commitment To support underrepresented entrepreneurs.
It is good for business. There are underserved founders with incredible potential and very few people catering to their needs. The tech investment world has focused on the same pool. We focus on the ocean, help founders get their pool ticket and figure out how to act when they get there.
Financially, the biggest rise comes from unexplored and unsupported pockets. Let’s go find the founders who are not getting the attention they deserve and give them support.
Thoughts on Seattle?
It is hard to find a more welcoming ecosystem for entrepreneurs, whether in terms of people, infrastructure, or a genuine interest in innovation. And Seattle does it in a way other than Silicon Valley. There is just something about Seattle that is more welcoming. There’s a real conversation going on here about the impact we’re collectively making as we build and support businesses.
Applications Open For the 14th group of Techstars in Seattle. What is your advice to founders who want to apply?
Come and talk to us before entering the application process. Talk to us about what you’re working on and what you’re excited about. What is the problem you are trying to solve, that is so big and so important that you are willing to sacrifice ten years of your life trying to solve it? And what do you think of your team? What team are you looking to build? We strongly believe in human contact as a source of success.