The TechStars startup empire expands to Austin with new program

TechStars must have a hankering for live music, barbecue, Google Fiber and some awesome enterprise-focused startups, because the Boulder, Colo.-based accelerator program is opening an Austin class. This won’t be TechStars’s first rodeo in the state — its TechStars Cloud program is hosted out of San Antonio in part because it has ties to Rackspace,(s rax) which is headquartered there.

“There’s so much happening in Austin, it was place we had been wanting to expand to, and especially with the cloud program in San Antonio we had a lot of visibility because of proximity,” said Jason Seats, the managing director of TechStars Austin. “It was always a matter of when and not if.”

Seats, who was the former managing director of TechStars cloud, is moving about 90 miles up I-35 to take over the Austin class of startups. He told me that TechStars will, “keep the cloud program basically as it is. I’ll be involved with it but we are working on filling the director role.”

The Austin program won’t have an explicit theme and joins programs in Boston, Boulder, Chicago, New York City, Seattle, Wash. and London. TechStars Austin will provide $18,000 in financing and the option of a $100,000 convertible debt, but the most valuable aspect for most will be mentoring from establish entrepreneurs and other program participants.

In an interview with me, Seats said he is looking for about 10 companies for the first class that will run from August 5 to Nov. 1. TechStars looks for founding teams with an idea who want to take that idea to the next level. Generally that means companies seeking outside financing, but as the head of a former boot-strapped startup (SliceHost, which sold to Rackspace) Seats is happy to bring those in as well.

As for connecting with the Austin entrepreneurial community, including the existing Capital Factory incubator, Seats has laid the groundwork. He notes the Capital Factory founders Joshua Baer and Bill Boebel are already TechStars Austin investors and mentors, and both Seats and Baer are planning to work together, despite both running accelerator programs. “The last thing we want to do is cleave the ecosystem,” Seats said.

Seats has also reached out to support from the venture community in Austin, notably Austin Ventures, but also to Silverton Partners and local angels. He expects to see a lot of enterprise software deals given that Austin has a track record of building and then selling or taking such companies public. That’s a plus from his perspective since he views enterprise software as “the first cousin of the cloud,”

“I’ve spent the last two weeks canvassing the city and meeting the CEOs and founders and operators and investors, and the depth of talent and expertise is excellent,” Seats told me. “I have one data point of experience building and running a company, but I’ve met with so many people in Austin who have run and sold their companies and are on their third or fourth of fifth thing.”

That experience, plus more visibility provided by TechStars, should only help Austin and its entrepreneurs get even more experience.