Andres Barreto, a veteran entrepreneur, venture capital investor and Techstars New York graduate, has been tapped to serve as the managing director of the Techstars Boulder startup accelerator program.
He takes over the leadership role for Natty Zola, who left his position this summer to focus on Matchstick Ventures, an early-stage investor in software companies that he co-runs with Minneapolis investor Ryan Broshar.
Barreto — co-founder of music streaming service Grooveshark, advertising network Onswipe and software programming education nonprofit group Coderise.org — joins Techstars as the accelerator pivots to an all-virtual format for the foreseeable future.
He sees this format, which Techstars Boulder adopted midway through its spring 2020 program, as a potential opportunity to make the accelerator “more inclusive and able to target a wider variety of companies.” Would-be participants who in the past would shy away from the program because of the logistical challenges of uprooting and relocating to Boulder may be more inclined to join a virtual cohort,” Barreto told BizWest.
“Everything is a Zoom call away,” said Barreto, who began his new Techstars role a week ago. “Opportunity is no longer limited by geography.”
Despite the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, “I think now is the best time ever to be raising capital” as a startup based outside of traditional tech hubs such as Silicon Valley, he said. “… It’s now normal to invest in companies you haven’t met in person. This removes obstacles of funding, an opportunity that was a problem before.”
As part of the virtual accelerator program, “we’re really focusing on being able to deliver a more custom and personalized experience for each company, regardless of what stage they’re in,” he said. “During in-person Techstars classes, it was common to have a meeting or workshop for everyone, independent of what stage they were in.”
While Techstars Boulder is adapting to the new COVID-19 normal, Barreto is looking forward to a day when the accelerator is able to hold some in-person events such as the popular Demo Day at the Boulder Theater. However, those events aren’t necessarily critical to Techstars’ success, he said.
“In-person Demo Days are an important symbolic celebration of going through the program,” Barreto said. “But it’s not necessarily the end result of the program. The end result of the program is for companies to grow exponentially and have great businesses.”
That growth and greatness are equally likely to be a result of the in-person accelerators or all-virtual programs, he said.
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