Sink or Sell Episode 5 - Ready for the Big Leagues: Going to Mass Retail for Startups

9th April 2017

Ryan Broshar, managing director, Techstars Retail Accelerator, talks partnerships between startups and mass retailers. For those who’re unaware, Techstars (in partnership with Target) is a mentorship-driven bootcamp for startups, where promising teams come together to learn valuable skills and make connections over a summer-long program.

Ryan starts off by saying that the two main things to remember when considering mass retail are that it’s very, very hard to get into and it’s not for everyone. There are many different paths to retail distribution, and they don’t all include mass retail. In addition, mass retail is extremely difficult for outsiders to penetrate and is mostly based on relationships. It’s much easier said than done, and it requires a lot of red tapes and cuts down your margins, while also requiring mass retail-level customer service.

All that being said, it’s easy to see that Ryan is passionate about the mass retail industry and the Techstars Retail Accelerator program. The program accepts applicants from all around the world; the 75 top contenders are interviewed and then screening occurs for the last final companies, before the winners are chosen. Applicants are picked not only according to their great ideas, but also according to how likable and inspiring the team members are. Then, each startup group moves to Minneapolis for a totally immersive camp experience, where all groups work together in the same space, go to workshops, hear speakers, have one-on-one sessions with Target executives and mentors and form a supportive community.

Top lessons that the groups are learning as they go through the program include discovering that the entire retail process takes a wealth of patience, and that the proper expectations are key. After the program is over, startups do receive some funding and they walk away with relationships needed to get on store shelves. However, the work is far from over.

Some groups in the program discover that mass retail isn’t for them, and that’s okay. Ryan stresses that mass retail is not the be-all, end-all, and these groups are still capable of reaching a legitimate customer base, and they now have needed skills to do so.

If you’re interested in submitting an application to the TechStars Retail annual program, you can easily apply online to be considered, as well as receive more information regarding all the ins and outs of the experience. Visit to find out more, or email Ryan at

Learn more tips like this at HardwareCon 2018, the Bay Area’s Premier Hardware Innovation conference on April 19th-20th.  Experience two full days of keynotes, panels and workshops focused on the most important topics around building a successful hardware company. Get your tickets here now if you want to meet the hottest startups, investors and industry leaders across the global hardware ecosystem.

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