Draper Startup House launches first accelerator program, choosing Austin as its home

Austin, Texas, is becoming the new home for large companies (Tesla), investors and startups alike. 

It is now also the new home for Tim Draper’s newest initiative to help support early-stage founders: Draper Startup House Accelerator Program.

Backed by Draper, of course, the program will launch in April 2022. As founder of the famed Silicon Valley venture capital firm known as Draper Fisher Jurvetson, or DFJ, Draper in 2018 introduced the Startup House concept. Today, there are more than 15 locations globally that are either hostels and/or co-working spaces aimed at traveling startup founders, digital nomads and other remote workers. Locations include Bali, Indonesia; Bangalore, India; and Valencia, Spain, among others. Besides Austin, the only other site in the U.S. is located in San Mateo, California, but that is a co-living space inside of Draper University.

This latest effort marks Draper Startup House’s only accelerator program, according to Daniel Wiegand, co-founder and president of DSH Accelerator.

DSH will hold two cohorts in 2022 — both in Austin, consisting of 10 startup teams from around the world. The first cohort will take place in April and the second in August. As part of the program, DSH will invest up to $100,000 in pre-seed startups. 

Each cohort will last three months, take place two times per year and be located in Austin in 2022 and across the globe in 2023.

“This will not be your typical accelerator, but in addition to standard practices such as investment from the newly raised Draper Startup House Accelerator Fund, mentors, workshops and a demo day, DSH plans to incorporate a strong leadership building component as well as unique activities that will test the founders’ grit, creativity and push them outside of their comfort zone,” Wiegand said.

It will be a mix of Draper University and a typical accelerator, he added.

The program will feature “unconventional twists to the standard accelerator model,” Wiegand told TechCrunch, and will be focused on early-stage deals across all industries. While the accelerator will accept applications from startups all over the world, the hope is that many of the startups will decide to continue their growth from Austin.

Startups will be required to live together for the entirety of the program, dedicating the three months entirely to building their business. Interested entrepreneurs, founders or startups that want to learn more or apply to be in either cohort can fill out the application here

“We look for really great founders who are building big companies and have huge ideas,” Wiegand told TechCrunch. “It’s really all about the founder, which is why through the program, we will do a lot of leadership training to see if they are founders that are poised to take their company to where they want to take it.”

DSH has also decided to add a co-living option for entrepreneurs who want to live in the house amongst the portfolio companies and participate in the programming, which is a paid program. They can get a single room for $2,500 a month or a shared bunk room for $900/month.

Initially, Draper’s intent was to launch its first U.S. location in Austin at SXSW as a hostel for entrepreneurs. The vision was to create a landing pad for entrepreneurs and startups traveling to Austin to get familiar with the local startup scene as well as the greater Draper network.

But then the COVID-19 pandemic led to SXSW being canceled and the city essentially shutting down. 

Recognizing that the pandemic would present extreme challenges, founders Katie Russel and Wiegand quickly pivoted to turn what was to be a hostel into a flexible coworking space for startups and entrepreneurs.

Over the past 18 months or so, Draper Startup House helped facilitate funding rounds for multiple Austin startups such as CoachTube, Mentor Method and Tabella.

“We saw the talent in Austin, as well as inquiries from startups across the globe looking to enter the U.S. and talent-rich Austin ecosystem,” Wiegand said. “We wanted a way to really hone in and double down on the startups we saw great potential in. As Katie and I grappled with how to do this, it became clearer and clearer that a pop-up accelerator was the right path forward.”

The model is designed to eventually allow DSH to reach even more startups all over the world. While the accelerator will continue to have at least one cohort located in Austin, DSH Accelerator plans on moving the second cohort to a new destination each year. Future plans consist of programs emerging in multiple cities simultaneously. 

Wiegand and Russel intentionally advocated to locate the accelerator somewhere other than in Silicon Valley.

“We’ve been working for four or five years in Silicon Valley. We’ve seen all the great opportunities and tools and resources that are here, but it’s just not accessible to everyone,” Wiegand explained. “It’s very expensive in Silicon Valley, especially for a startup that is bootstrapping. So what we pitched to him [Draper] was ‘hey, let us take this ecosystem and this brand that you’ve built over the last 20-30 years, and let us bundle up everything you have in San Mateo and spread it across the globe.”

For his part, Draper said in a statement: “We are very excited about how the Draper Startup Houses around the world are becoming beacons for entrepreneurs everywhere. The DSH Accelerator, based in Austin, will take advantage of the amazing startup environment in Austin and bring more activity to the Draper Ecosystem.” 

DSH will be conducting a month-long pilot in January.