TechStars, the self-described “#1 startup accelerator in the world,” recently announced the 11 startups that were selected for the New York 2013 class from among a field of 1,700+ applicants. Today, Jamyn Edis, CEO and Founder of Dash Labs, a company producing an application that chronicles road trips, tells AlleyWatch about his decision to apply to TechStars and shares his thoughts on New York’s startup landscape.
Tell us about the decision to apply for TechStars.
Our company, Dash Labs, is building a next-gen connected car platform. Our product – like a Fitbit for vehicles – will make any car a “smart car.” The vision is to use data to make the roads smarter, safer, greener and more affordable for drivers. As a company, we were at an inflection point – an early-stage startup, which had built a great product, including hardware and mobile apps (iOS and Android), as well as a web presence.
We were pre-launch, pre-funding and pre-revenue. As someone who had been exposed to the stellar TechStars community in the past (I was a mentor to 2 companies in last year’s program, as well as close to many executives from alumni companies), I knew the frameworks and standards were without peer. We saw an opportunity to accelerate our company and product, using the network of mentors and investors to give an unprecedented platform for our launch. We were fortunate to go into the program with confidence in our vision and a relatively evolved product. That being said, we knew that we had much to learn from the community and process, which would only improve upon our execution.
Why did you choose TechStars NYC versus other locations?
The New York tech startup scene has witnessed a remarkable expansion in the last 2-3 years in terms of companies starting/succeeding, as well as an influx of talent, investment and exposure. The city also has a world-class infrastructure, with broad government support (from the Mayor/City Hall, all the way to State). Couple that with stellar academic institutions, which fosters innovation with R&D, we find that the city has found its feet and proven itself without peer on the East Coast.
There were no other locations that we felt competed on the East Coast, and only one other on the West Coast. As a New York company, this was the natural choice. And finally, it’s worth noting that while my co-founder/CTO Brian Langel is a Midwesterner, I am an immigrant. Originally from England, I came here 10 years ago, drawn by the opportunity and entrepreneurial environment here in the United States. And while Ellis Island is now largely symbolic, New York, as a city, represented to me the gateway to that opportunity. Perfectly positioned – geographically, economically, culturally and socio-politically – to take advantage of this huge market and step away from Europe, the Middle East and Central/South America, and their commensurate markets.
What is your take on the current scene in New York?
Even with all the progress we have witnessed in the New York tech scene these past few years, I firmly believe we are only in the early stages of the ecosystem. There is a network effect building on the legacy of today’s companies to strengthen the chances of success for those that come in the future. This early validation of New York as a legitimate tech hub – alongside its legacy sectors in finance and media – will only serve to increase the virtuous cycle of attracting top-flight talent and investment to the region. The challenge for the city will be maintaining that momentum. Whenever there is any effervescence in a sector, you’ll naturally get a systemic deflation at some point. Sometimes that becomes critical, but it can also be an organic correction, which then serves as a springboard to the next phase of evolution. I think for where we are right now in New York, we’re seeing a shakeout of ideas and companies that deserve to be shaken out. That strengthens our core, which is a foundation that we can grow upon for the next phase. I’m very optimistic for the future of the tech sector in New York, and I’m excited to see the new generation of startups coming over the horizon.
Hardware, as a sector, has been traditionally underserved in the area. But with the rise of companies like MakerBot and Shapeways setting the pace for hardware startups, we think we are very well positioned to take advantage of the opportunity. In addition, with our early development on the NYU campus, we are part of a growing legacy of companies, from Twitter to Pinterest, whose early incubation was alongside the faculty, students and community of the university system in New York. And finally, we see ourselves as a case study in how the city – largely driven by the vision and support of Mayor Bloomberg – nurtures early-stage technology companies in funding, infrastructure and talent, in order to give startups the best chances of future success, thereby driving increased investment, innovation and job creation to the city.
Prior to our move to the TechStars office, we were based out of the Varick Street incubator, which is underwritten by Bloomberg’s Economic Development Corporation for New York. The support of the city was essentially subsidizing our offices during a critical part of our incubation as a company. We have to thank the city for having that vision and supporting ours. We’re proud to be “Made in New YorkTM.”