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Is Techstars Boise in Idaho’s future?

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Attendees at the keynote for last year’s Boise Startup Week. Photo by Sharon Fisher

Techstars, a 13-year-old Colorado-based seed accelerator, is one of the most exclusive and influential organizations in the tech world. And it could be coming to Boise someday.

Amos Schwartzfarb, managing director of Techstars Austin, is in the City of Trees for Boise Startup Week to get a lay of the land for future investments.

“My guess is that it probably isn’t so far off, especially if Boise continues to grow in the way it’s been growing,” Schwartzfarb said. “I’ve had my eye on Boise for 14 years now.”

Schwartzfarb will discuss his book “Sell More Faster: The Ultimate Sales Playbook for Start-Ups” on Oct. 10 with Mark Solon, a Techstars managing partner.

What is Techstars?

Techstars, which puts entrepreneurs through a three-month program, starts new locations in one of two ways, Schwartzfarb said. First, a major company such as Micron, Clearwater Analytics or HP could acta as an anchor or corporate partner and builds an innovation center, he said.

Alternatively, Techstars sets up a program itself when there’s a budding startup community that the company thinks is underserved, Schwartzfarb said. Techstars has done this in New York, Austin, Chicago, Seattle, Los Angeles and Kansas City. The company runs 50 accelerators.

Another factor will be how Schwartzfarb is received by the Idaho technology community, he said.

“Am I invited in? Some places you go and they don’t want outsiders to come in,” he said.

It’s not out of the question that Schwartzfarb could come to stay, he said, adding that Solon is trying to get him to move to Boise.

“It’s a conversation my wife and I have all the time,” he said. “Certainly Idaho is 100% on the short list.”

Rick Ritter, lab director for the New Ventures Lab incubator, said he thinks there is a place for what they do in the Boise ecosystem, “but it is a small space given the numbers.”

Austin connections

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Rick Ritter

Techstars helps organize startup weeks worldwide, including Boise’s, one of more than two dozen scheduled over the next year.

Schwartzfarb’s time at Boise Startup Week will lay the groundwork for a visit he plans next spring to look for Idaho entrepreneurs to send through the Austin program, he said.

So what will he be looking for?

“First is, can I get conviction that the CEO has the ability to build a meaningful company and attract great talent?” Schwartzfarb said. “If I don’t have that, I don’t further the conversation.”

Schwartzfarb said he also considers whether the founding team is cohesive and uniquely qualified and whether there is an interesting, potentially large market he can be passionate about.

Accelerator program attendees – about 10 in Austin each year, Schwartzfarb said – give Techstars 6% of their company. Out of Techstars’ portfolio of about 2,000 companies, about 10% have gone out of business, about 12% have been acquired and the rest are still operating, he said.

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Jay Larsen

Schwartzfarb isn’t the only Austinite visiting Boise Startup Week. Gregory Pogue, deputy executive director of the IC2 Institute at the University of Austin, is also in town, said Jay Larsen, president and CEO of the Idaho Technology Council (of which Solon was a founding member), in an email message. The IC2 Institute focuses on innovation and entrepreneurship in rural areas and small isolated cities.

“Greg is very interested in Boise and how we are able to grow innovation and technology, especially because we are one of the most remote cities in the United States,” Larsen said. “He will discuss how we focus on the unique attributes we have in Boise and the region and what similar strengths we have with areas like Austin.”

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