Max Kelly, Managing Director, Techstars London

Why did you get involved with Techstars London?
I love helping startups. After 12 years at Virgin starting up companies, it made sense. I started mentoring for Techstars and then got more and more involved until I eventually found myself running Techstars London!

You are all about the team, team, team, yet you are the only managing director at Techstars London. What are the ups and downs of being a loner VC vs having partners?
So the great thing about Techstars is the network. I work with Marko who is my program manager. During the program last time, we had two ‘entrepreneurs in residence’ and 7 associates – all there to help the companies. And then we are very lucky to have an amazing group of mentors – more than 300 people have asked to be mentors on the program. And finally, there are all my colleagues across the globe who work for Techstars in many different locations. So although the core Techstars London team is small, the network is huge.

When you visited Sofia for the first time, what made the strongest impression on you? Do you see the raw talent needed to build exciting startups here?
I entered LaunchHub and it felt like I could be anywhere in the world – London, New York, Berlin…. A well designed co-working space needs a great internet connection and to have all the right facilities – now a very well trodden path. So Sofia feels like a great place for companies to start up. And then there is the technical talent! Bulgaria, like other CEE countries, has a history of great STEM education. So the technical capability of companies in Sofia is great. The challenge for many startups is to make sure that they have the commercial talent on the team – the capability to build a strong business.

Do you find any Bulgarian startups particularly innovative and promising?
I had a great time talking to 15 startups one-to-one and chatting to more in the evening for our meetup. I met some great founders and I have a feeling that we’ll see at least one Bulgarian company in the coming cohort. Exciting stuff.

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