Sleepless In Seattle By Tongayi Choto
If you’ve been following our journey, you know that we recently participated in the prestigious Techstars accelerator. Accepting fewer than 1% of the over 17,000 applicants yearly, AfriBlocks was one of 10 to be accepted into this year’s Seattle cohort.
Techstars is a global program that helps early-stage startups grow and become investment-ready. Over the past three months, my co-founder Roger and I have gleaned as much as we could from Techstars’s vast mentor network. Though we were frequently challenged, the program ultimately reinforced our thinking regarding building a scalable startup.
We met Techstars Seattle Managing Director Isaac Kato and program manager Qxhna Titcomb when they participated in a panel for Transparent Collective (a fantastic showcase for underrepresented founders). Isaac and Q were impressed with the AfriBlocks mission and vision; and invited us to apply.
After a few grueling interviews, we were excited to find out that we had been accepted; and we were excited to join the Techstars community and learn from mentors and our fellow founders. AfriBlocks made history as the first Zimbabwean startup to be accepted into TechStars.
In the Techstars program, no two days are alike. Activities ranged from group webinars proctored by industry experts, to fireside chats with successful founders, to one-on-one meetings with a curated group of mentors. Though the timezone difference with myself being in Zimbabwe and Roger being in Los Angeles took some getting used to, we were able to adjust and fully immerse ourselves in everything Techstars had to offer. (Fun fact: I won the “The Most Likely to Secretly Be a Vampire” award at the end of the program!)
During the first month, we were involved in what has been deemed “mentor madness.” We had over 60 meetings with tech founders, operators, and investors to select our five program mentors. The second month we shifted our focus to sales, marketing, and the ever-elusive traction. Techstars devotes the final leg of the accelerator to fundraising and investor readiness. There were a few overarching themes of the program, but the most prevalent was #givefirst. This mantra is the reason Techstars has been able to grow such a robust mentor and alumni network. Beyond that, two things that are a constant of most Techstars programs are knowing your customer and building traction.
Since participating, Roger and I have grown as founders. The knowledge gleaned from Techstars equipped us with the tools and know-how to optimize our story, product roadmap, and go-to-market strategy. We highly encourage other entrepreneurs looking for a substantial boost to their companies to apply. Just be sure to refine your idea and talk to other founders who have been where you’re trying to go (before applying to Techstars Seattle, we reached out to a few alumni founders to get some advice).
The things we learned are baked into the DNA of AfriBlocks and will inform many of our decisions going forward.
We are forever thankful to be included in such an invaluable experience!
We keeping working hard towards our mission to build the infrastructure for Africa’s future of work.
DEMO DAY VIDEO