Kato was named managing director of the long-standing accelerator, which just opened up applications today for its 11th class. He was previously president at MightyAI, the Seattle startup that developed training data for computer vision models and was just acquired by Uber last month.
Kato joined MightyAI in May 2018 after founding and leading London-based data center company Verne Global for nearly a decade. The Stanford and Harvard grad previously co-founded and sold Sven Technologies in the late 90s before stints at two investment firms.
He’ll replace Chris Devore, the former managing director who stepped down earlier this month after nearly five years leading Techstars Seattle.
“I’ve worked with a handful of folks on the Techstars leadership team, and they really walk the talk when it comes to their entrepreneur-centric, #givefirst value system,” Kato said. “They promote a giving culture very similar to what I’ve tried to foster at Mighty AI and my prior organizations, and people and culture fit is the starting and ending point for me.”
Kato is a relative newcomer on the Seattle startup scene but he already has deep connections to local tech executives and investors. Now he’ll get a closer look at entrepreneurs inside Techstars Seattle, which provides $120,000 in funding to each accepted company in exchange for 6 percent common stock, along with mentoring and coaching on the three-month journey.
Techstars Seattle, the third version of Techstars after Boulder and Boston, has graduated 110 companies since 2010. Alumni of the accelerator — companies such as Remitly, Outreach, Skilljar, Bizible, Leanplum and Zipline — have collectively raised nearly $1.2 billion in investment capital. Most have built their startups in the Pacific Northwest, helping expand the entrepreneurial clout in the region. The accelerator just renewed its lease at the University of Washington campus for an additional five years.
Kato told GeekWire that “we’re still in the early days of achieving the area’s entrepreneurial potential.” He said the community is “incredibly welcoming, open, and supportive of new people and ideas.”
“The intersection between the talent coming out of the larger tech enterprises and our tight-knit community of experienced entrepreneurs and investors is creating tremendous innovative ferment and opportunity to build great tech companies,” he said.
Techstars Seattle is part of a larger Techstars network that includes 43 programs across the globe and also features a Techstars venture capital fund and a startup studio model. Techstars Seattle shares space with the Alexa Accelerator, a separate program co-led by Techstars and Amazon focused around voice technologies. Aviel Ginzburg, a Founders’ Co-op general partner, will continue his role as managing director of the Alexa Accelerator.