[UPDATED] Is There A Future For The Target + Techstars Retail Accelerator In Minneapolis?

Those who have been following along with the Target + Techstars Retail Accelerator will recall the contractual term between these two respective companies has come to a halt after three years and some ~30 startups later.

Updated 12/13/2018 11:30 CST: Earlier this month, the questions was answeredYES, and…

As originally published on 11/12/2018 11:30 CST:

Target, for their part, ran the query up the PR chain following demo day 2018 and provided a generically inconclusive response that was reinforced again this past week:

“We’re excited about a successful third year partnering with Techstars and continuing to support the participating startups and program alumni. Regarding future accelerator programming with Techstars, we don’t have any plans to share at this time,” wrote a spokesperson for Minsok Pak, Target EVP, Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer.

Techstars Director of Marketing Joanie Kindblade echoed Target’s statement practically verbatim:

“Techstars doesn’t have any plans to share at this time, but stay tuned. We are excited about a successful third year partnering with Target and the results coming out of the program.”

….meanwhile Managing Director Ryan Broshar, who sits of the middle of things, says nothing about it on the record.

None of this is a good prognosis for the program’s future in Minneapolis considering the natural state is for it all to be over now that the initial three year deal has been met.  So unless and until someone from either company explicitly says otherwise, there is no more Target + Techstars Retail Accelerator in Minneapolis going forward…the default is the end.

Everything that went along with it for the past 36+ months – the entrepreneurs, the startups, the mentors, the demos, the investments, the acquisitions,  the goodwill for both Target and Techstars in Minneapolis, and the energy + excitement they brought to Minnesota’s tech industry and beyond – is all in the rear view.  And should it stay there, it will be remembered and respected for making such a positive impact all around.

Internally, they might just be knee deep in the midst of some sensitive re-negotiations that no one on the outside can understand or appreciate what’s at stake.  Or, it could just be a matter of both sides considering if and how to make any public announcements of the closure, buying some time while applying their attention towards alternative future concerns.

For Target, that’s “innovation”.  For Techstars, well, they’re on to the next one – next retailer, next town, next batch of startups; their ever-expanding machine won’t be affected nearly as much as Target’s reputation in the tech world would be.   But there is no blame, for without knowing the internal dynamics, neither side is uniquely responsible.

Like any true partnership both sides must come together and stay together for it to work out, to continue creating the same outcomes for entrepreneurs in and outside of Minnesota’s tech industry – which from this vantage point – is the what made it so special to begin with.

So while we watch and wait, here’s to hoping these these influential corporations have the ability to come together again and make it happen!


  • http://thebigidea.com/ TheLittleDuke

    The “short answer” is NO. Look at the track record. You only get to pick losers so many times.

    If only someone could do a longitudinal study on “beauty pageants” like this and say the “MN Cup” to demonstrate that hand picked “vanity judges” selected because of their affiliation with corporate sponsors don’t know jack about startup land…only then might we teach people to stop outsourcing their discretion…

    • Daren Cotter

      For the record… the “track record” of the Techstars Target program is very good.

      Quality companies? Check.
      Follow-on capital raised? Check.
      Exits? Check. (still less than 3 years out)
      A few great companies relocating to MN? Check.

      Probably safe to assume Target didn’t get the value they wanted, and that’s disappointing. But this program has been — unequivocally — a value add to our startup community.

      The Techstars program is nothing like MN Cup. Participating companies are selected by experienced entrepreneurs. There are no judges or winners. If anything, the “market” judges the companies by deciding which to invest in post-program.

      I always find your criticisms of MN Cup to be quite harsh. While I disagree with your perspective, I respect the fact that you’re acting upon your view vs. just complaining. How did the 2018 launch of The Big Idea go? Will you be publishing the participants and winners so the community can track their progress over time?


      • http://thebigidea.com/ TheLittleDuke

        Tease out WHY Target did not get the value they wanted…it is a simple matter of ROI…

        I get that Techstars is very different than the MNCup. No shade on Techstars writ large. Among all the so called “accelerators” I think they do a pretty good job of vetting compared to some of the others in our neck of the woods. They get high marks from me for their “after care” program as well.

        As for my critique of the MN Cup — as far as I can tell, I’m the only one with an open contrarian opinion. I don’t activate on ritualistic clapping. I can certainly say with confidence that I’m not the only one who shares the view that it is largely a self-serving beauty pageant primarily to shop their technology transfer program. Go back and look at the participants for the last few years — nearly ZERO other schools were represented. And by the numbers the bulk of the entrants are undergrads. It should be called the “Gopher Cup” IMHO.

        Furthermore the judging is too opaque. I have it on good advice from a current judge that they stopped meeting to calibrate their scores. What’s the old adage about who has more power? The people counting the votes?

        As for the The Big Idea (TBI) there appear to be a few promising entrants who completed all the steps and at least one will be moving forward with a REG-CF crowdfunding raise, paid for by us. Ultimately we don’t pick the winners. The crowd does. In fact we’re retooling the program for 2019 to shift from a “business plan” competition to a “business funding” competition now that Silicon Prairie has the ability to charge success fees and thanks to our Geppetto Smart Document system we basically now have a “Robo-Lawyer” that has lead to dramatically lowered cost of capital to the point where we think even trying to raise $20K makes sense.

        What we’ve learned over the past two years is that there are “entrepreneurs” and “wantrepreneurs” — the latter are enamored with a fictional lifestyle that does not exist. Add to that matrix the ones that are “for profit” versus the ones that are “for vanity” and the pool of viable startups drops dramatically.

        One of the most valuable insights and outputs from TBI was our “high five” questions, distilled from reviewing hundreds of pitch decks and dozens of books on business planning. Our “aha” moment was discovering that pitch deck ORDER has historically been WRONG. There are five simple questions that need to be answered, IN ORDER and you must get buy-in from your audience to progress to the next question, otherwise, you’re likely never going to get funded.

        1. What problem are you solving? If I don’t understand or agree might as well stop here.
        2. What is your target market doing right now to solve it? Including doing nothing.
        3. Now tell us what your solution is? What unfair competitive advantage do you have?
        4. What is your plan to go get everyone in #2 to change their behavior to do it your way in #3
        5. When do you break even doing it. Don’t show us hockey-stick charts just show us when you stop bleeding cash and how fast.

        That’s it. Bring your audience through the “high five” and your chances of getting funded dramatically improve. Assuming you’re pitching to someone who ALSO thinks that you and your team are the ones to pull it off. Five questions and answers turned into a five-ten page business plan that includes the cover and a lean-canvas.

        Look, I’m ALL for being supportive of entrepreneurs — we offer our RealWorld/1 event space to other meetups and make ourselves available every Friday morning from 9:30-11:30 for free. But it serves nobody’s purpose encouraging people to pursue fools errands and potentially putting their financial livelihood at stake by just being a cheerleader. Giving someone HONEST feedback is a kindness…


      • http://www.id3498469.sexyli.website harpoon_gaming

        darencotter no but