TechCrunch’s favorites from Techstars’ Boston, Chicago and workforce accelerators

Building off TechCrunch’s coverage of the recent 500 Startups demo day, we’re back today to talk about some favorites from three more accelerator classes. This time we’re digging into Techstars’ latest three accelerator classes.

What follows are four favorites from the Techstars’ Boston, Chicago and “workforce development” programs. As a team we tuned into the accelerator live pitches and dug into recordings when we needed to.

As always, these are just our favorites, but don’t just take our word for it. Dig into the pitches yourself, as there’s never a bad time to check out some super-early-stage startups.

Four favs from Techstars Boston

Everyday Life

  • What: A platform that wants to make life insurance flexible and personalized.
  • Why we like it: The insurtech wave, from auto insurance to home insurance, has underscored the need for more consumer-friendly plans. Life insurance still feels like an untapped part of the equation, and Everyday Life wants to use technology to make the process cheaper and simpler.
    The founding team says that there’s solid interest in life insurance amid the coronavirus pandemic, which amounts to a $20 billion market opportunity.

Another Lane

  • What: A place to buy and sell more exclusive sneakers, with an eye on curation.
  • Why we like it: The sneaker resale market is huge, growing and lucrative. That much was made clear by the rising profile of — and fundraising ability — of StockX. Another Lane is playing in the same general market area, with a few changes. First, it’s supply comes more from collectors of shoes than normals. Instead of merely building a huge marketplace, Another Lane is working to build a community with memberships, media, personalized stores and more. StockX has grown large, broadening its scope as it has scaled. Another Lane is a bet that a sneaker-focused service can compete and thrive with a more narrow remit.


  • What: The company has developed subsurface imaging to provide a sustainable approach for resource exploration.
  • Why we like it: It’s a freakin MRI for planet earth. But, seriously, the decarbonization of the world’s energy supply won’t end the need for resource exploration and mining. If anything, a shift to electrification will mean more work needs to be done to find the metals and minerals that are required to make billions of batteries that supply electric vehicles. Lunasonde’s work could provide a better, more precise way to locate the resources the world will need.

Machinery Partner 

  • What: The startup connects contractors to a machinery marketplace to buy quality goods from a variety of sellers.
  • Why we like it: Machinery Partner works as a replacement for a heavy machinery dealer, providing a tech layer of for sale goods, servicing and repair services, and ordering. There is also a way to track previous orders, support records and review any purchases made, adding structure to an old process. In the same way startups like Shop-Ware have found success in helping traditional shops adopt digitization, Machinery Partner has the potential to be much more than a simple marketplace. 

Four favs from Techstars Chicago


  • What: Improovy is a marketplace for contracted painters, with an eye on expanding its services lineup over time.
  • Why we like it: The world of hiring contractors is famously poor; if you don’t have a recommendation from a friend, you’re stuck parsing an online mess. Improovy wants to bring painters and demand together in a single place. The goal is to help painters find jobs, not leads, and help consumers in need find someone with less hassle than looking through different online bidding platforms. Improovy itself helps generate a quote, so there’s likely a faster time to getting a project posted, accepted and underway. The startup has already generated $500,000 in business in the Chicago area, claims to have strong SEO-powered inbound demand and a low-cost way to reach new markets. Toss on another service category or two, and Improovy could get big.


  • What: A platform for pharmacists to begin operating more like minute clinics to prescribe basic medications and treatments.
  • Why we like it: Companies like Ro, Hims and Hers, and others have made a mint bringing the world of prescriptions online for certain medical conditions. Now ScriptHealth is bringing that same service to pharmacies and drugstores thanks to changes in regulations around the services that pharmacists can provide. With a shortage of physicians coming in the U.S. and exploding costs of care, providing better access to healthcare in more locations is a win for everyone — and potentially a multibillion dollar business.


  • What: A matchmaking app for the autistic community.
  • Why we like it: There are about 66.2 million Americans in the U.S. who have autism, based on estimates that the neurodivergent condition is prevalent in 2% of the world’s population. Those folks diagnosed with the condition are 79% more likely to experience feelings of loneliness than their peers and people who consistently feel lonely are 10 times more likely to die prematurely. And there’s an even grimmer statistic. Autistic adults between 18 and 33 are up to 15 times more likely to commit suicide. Hiki is a social ecosystem designed to enable neurodivergent adults to lead healthy lives starting with a dating and matchmaking service and potentially solve this loneliness epidemic. It’s a matchmaking service that could potentially save lives. What’s not to like?


  • What: A running app and community with a focus on coaching.
  • Why we like it: Running is deceptively simple and also rather difficult. Finding the motivation to run is hard. Finding tips for your current physical state is hard. Bird wants to work on both, focusing on building a community for runners who aren’t in ultramarathon shape and integrating coaching into its platform as well. According to the Bird team, runners struggle to find coaches, and coaches struggle to find runners to help. So, it wants to bring them together in a place that is less stats based than some rival services. If Bird can scale and create a beginner-friendly running community while helping coaches monetize, it could help a lot of folks get in better shape and enjoy the thrill that is running when your body figures out how to do it.

Four favs from Techstars Workplace Development


  • What: The startup helps employees feel less guilty about leave of absences they might take from work, either for mental health or a new baby. The startup helps other companies explain the ever-changing and political world of paid leave so employees can feel empowered and supported to take time off.
  • Why we like it: TilT sees absence software fitting into the HR software stack similar to how payroll software has evolved over the years. The startup has early gains, including a 20% close rate on a 90-day sale cycle as well as 100% retention of employees who take a leave using the TiLT experience. 


  • What: A part-time childcare platform meant to help working parents cover gaps in their childcare schedule. Designed as a benefit for employers to offer to employees with kids.
  • Why we like it: The pandemic has turned childcare on its head. Even if you’re lucky enough to have consistent childcare figured out at this point, surprises happen. Got things covered every day but Friday? Murphy’s law says Friday will be the day there’s a mandatory all-hands. Caresplit helps you find a vetted, background-checked caregiver who will lead your kid on a 3-4 hour activity like nature hikes, crafts or LEGO building. The stars not aligning between childcare and work is a constant and looming source of stress for just about every working parent right now, and just knowing that an “AGH, HELP!” button is there would help to alleviate it and stave off burnout.


  • What: An AI-driven platform meant to help employees figure out the next career step after a layoff. It analyzes each employee’s skillset, suggests possible career paths, helps them determine what skills they could polish to jump into a new path (and how long that would take) and matches them with potential hirers. Meant to be offered by companies and staffing firms to employees during layoffs.
  • Why we like it: Layoffs are awful and can leave incredibly talented people feeling like there’s no right next step. Saying “Sorry you’re being laid off, but let me know if I can do anything” doesn’t really help. This seems like a proactive way to help employees connect the dots during a transition that goes beyond showing them the door and saying “Best wishes!”


  • What: A platform that connects students to universities with a focus on helping lessen debt and friction. Each student is assigned a success coach to help with accountability and the ups and downs for college. It is on track to serve 75 students in its launch year and is piloting in Denver, Colorado.  
  • Why we like it: As COVID-19 limits college tours and the entire concept of a 4-year university, colleges need new ways to access students. AdvanceEDU is a creative solution to the pipeline, with the bits that students care about now (workforce opportunities and mentorship) baked into the process. The goal is to serve 10,000 students within 10 years.