Through a three-month mentorship driven accelerator, Techstars offers companies access to financial and intellectual capital, and to their ecosystem of entrepreneurs and investors to fuel the success of their businesses. In August 2018, Techstars announced the creation of two accelerators based in Indy: the Techstars Sports Accelerator Powered by Indy and the Heritage Group Accelerator Powered by Techstars.

Indy tech veteran Kelli Jones recently joined Techstars as the Program Manager for The Heritage Group Accelerator. We spoke to her about the goals of the program in Indy, and the ways in which the city’s community and Techstars can support each other over the next few years.

What did you see in Techstars that made you excited to take on this new role? How has your career prepared you for your current position?

Landing this role at Techstars was sort of a full-circle moment for me. I was first introduced to Techstars in 2015 or 2016. I was living in LA, and they were on the brink of launching their new Music Accelerator. At the time, I was part of the management team for audio engineer Young Guru, and he was serving as a mentor in the program, so it allowed me to work really closely with the accelerator team. I was super impressed with Techstars and how they were working with startups, so I always made sure to keep Techstars on my radar.

When it was announced that they would be launching two new accelerators here in Indianapolis, I was instantly interested. I looked over the job descriptions and realized my background was a perfect fit for the program manager role–all the way down to recruiting experience (my previous role was as Director of People & Culture at Givelify).

When I moved back to Indy, I had two goals in mind: impact local diversity and inclusion initiatives in technology, and begin my track to becoming a VC working directly with entrepreneurs. Joining the Heritage Group Accelerator Powered by Techstars is the perfect next step in my journey.

What trends have you observed in the tech community in Indianapolis that you think make it a favorable location for the program?

New Technologies: With Indy being mostly known as an enterprise SaaS/martech hub, I think the two new Techstars accelerators, The Heritage Group Accelerator Powered by Techstars and the Techstars Sports Accelerator Powered by Indy, will help shed more light on other types of tech companies including hardware, apps, and other technologies.

City Brand: The global imprint of a top accelerator like Techstars will help add to the Indy “city brand” and put Indy on the map as a tech hub to keep an eye on—both for companies and outside investors.

Startup Ecosystem Establishment: These accelerators (and potentially other Techstars programs like Startup Week or Startup Weekend) will help Indy establish itself as a true entrepreneurial ecosystem and community.

As you begin reviewing applications for 2019,  what are you looking for in a participating entrepreneur/company?

Strong teams, founder coachability, and innovative and disruptive ideas.

What are some of the challenges Techstars applicants face as entrepreneurs and how does the program prepare them to tackle those challenges?

A few of the common challenges we see are finding product market fit, pricing models, financial models and building a team that can scale. These are all roadblocks that often plague companies with the inability to scale. The majority of companies fail before their fifth year. Our job is to help de-risk their model and support them as co-founders for life.

How does the presence of a nationwide Techstars network benefit the participants?

As noted in Brad Feld’s book, Startup Communities, the density of entrepreneurs within a community is a flywheel. Increasing the numbers of successful entrepreneurs in a community has an amazing spillover effect with the community.

Entrepreneurs aren’t a part of Techstars just for the 90 days of the accelerator. Entrepreneurs are part of Techstars for life and have lifetime access to the Techstars worldwide network including more than 10,000 mentors; 2,700 investors; 1,200 alumni companies and 180 staff members.

Also, as part of Techstars, you gain access to Connect, which is our own internal “Linkedin” that connects our network of entrepreneurs, mentors and investors digitally.

What value can the Indianapolis tech community expect to derive from the first class of Techstars?

In addition to the three things I mentioned above—new technologies, city brand, and start-up ecosystem establishment—I expect to see an increase in the number of companies that relocate here and plant their roots in Indy as part of the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Again, increasing the number of successful entrepreneurs in a community has an amazing spillover effect. This can include more jobs, resources, connections, and an overall boost to a city’s, and this case, Indy’s, local ecosystem.

In what ways can the Indianapolis tech community get involved with the Techstars Accelerators program to support the success of its next cohort?

Become mentors or workshop leaders. Support the Techstars entrepreneurs and help them see Indy as home. Attend and support our demo day in December.

How do you encourage participating entrepreneurs to engage with the tech community in Indianapolis?

I’m an Indy native and have been a part of Indy’s tech ecosystem for a while. As we build out programming, one of my personal goals is to ensure that the first class of participating companies in The Heritage Group Accelerator Powered by Techstars can see Indy as home, even if only for the 90 days of the program.

We plan to connect them to the local ecosystem through our own hosted events, inviting local mentors, investors, and workshop leaders to engage with our entrepreneurs, inviting entrepreneurs to local tech events, and ensuring entrepreneurs are fully immersed in the program and everything Indy has to offer.

Applications for the Q3 cohort of the Heritage Group Accelerator Powered by Techstars are open now until May 26.