Techstars London teams up with Polygon to launch a Web3 Accelerator

These are interesting times for blockchain entrepreneurs. From one perspective, the associated technologies are rarely out of the news. We hear a lot about cryptocurrencies, mostly about their investment prospects and the dangers of hype or scams. Meanwhile, the eye-watering prices paid for a select group of digital artworks have ensured that the term “non-fungible token” has also become increasingly familiar. Those with a more technical disposition can also speak knowledgeably about the transformative role distributed ledgers will play in transformation processes across a range of industries.

But despite all this, it’s probably true to say that most of us would struggle to describe how all these variations on the blockchain theme affect our lives. NFTs – from expensive works of art to more utilitarian marketing tools – tend to be the playthings of relatively few early adopter enthusiasts or collectors. Crypto investment and use is certainly widespread, but not yet mainstream. And if blockchain is adopted by industries such as banking and insurance to introduce new processes, then it is a revolution that is not particularly visible.

That may change. According to some analysts, the next major stage in the development of the Internet will be the arrival of Web3. Simply put – and to be honest, it’s not really that simple – the third generation internet will move away from a centralized model said to favor “big tech” towards a much more decentralized model driven largely by blockchain technologies.

If that vision of the internet turns out to be correct, there will be opportunities for blockchain entrepreneurs. What will these opportunities actually look like? Well, the London division of global investor and accelerator operator Techstars may be able to provide a partial answer.

Techstars London has partnered with blockchain development platform operator Polygon to offer a 13-week accelerator programme, with a specific focus on Web3 and its enabling technologies. Following similar programs in Seattle and Dublin, the London accelerator will be open for applications from 29 August.

Why now?

So why is now a good time to focus on Web3? When I spoke to Techstars London’s CEO, Saalim Chowdhury, I was keen to find out.

In Chowdhury’s view, London has an opportunity to become a global hub for Web3 development. But that raises a question. How big a deal will Web3 really be? With the likes of Elon Musk and Jack Dorsey expressing their skepticism in recent tweets, there is a feeling in some quarters that the brave new internet is more hype than reality. Others strongly disagree

And as Chowdhury sees it, the arrival of Web3 will pave the way for new business models. “Web3 is not a product. It’s about architecture. It is a way of delivering services, he says.

And in that regard, blockchain and related innovations around cryptocurrencies and tokens represent the fundamental technologies of the new internet. “At the moment they’re not hitting 1% of what they want to do.” In the future, he says, Web3 will be embedded in just about everything we do.

A product and customers

What does Techstars look for from applicants to the program?

The general rule of thumb is that members of Techstar’s London cohorts come to the party with a product and hopefully a customer or two. In this regard, the ideal is that there has already been a certain degree of validation. Techstars London also wants to see a team – and preferably a diverse one.

Beyond that, there is a fairly high degree of flexibility. As Chowdhury explains, candidates may currently be working in the Web2 arena but are seeking ways to move into Web3. Nevertheless, they can already work with next-generation products or technologies.

A willingness to swing

But the startup that goes in may not look the same as the business that emerges at the end of the program. “In the last cohort, 3 companies pivoted and 7 emerged with different revenue models,” says Chowdhury.

To that end, the accelerator is also looking for entrepreneurs who are willing to adapt. “We look for people who are open-minded, willing to learn and open to quizzes. Intellectual elasticity is a phrase I use a lot, says Chowdhury.

Techstars London specializes in one-to-one mentoring within its accelerators, but the program is carefully structured with the first month focused on building a product that customers want, and the second helping to identify markets and develop growth strategies. Month three home in on income and fundraising.

So what comes out in the end? From Techstar’s point of view, it provides an opportunity to explore the potential of Web3. “Our founders will help us identify the use cases,” says Chowdhury.

But what about the outcome for the founders and their teams? “A good result is that companies have a product that customers want and a well-balanced business.

Will changing business models emerge? We’ll have to wait and see.

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