What’s the biggest thing TechStars NYC looks for in a startup?

Consumer startups angling for a spot in TechStars NYC better have a plan for attracting users. And it better not involve the buzz words “social” and “viral.”

“Our first question to anyone who’s consumer facing and not really found a specific niche to go attack is ‘how do you get users?’, said TechStars NYC managing director David Tisch. “It’s not viral, it’s not social. Those answers are flags to me that they have no idea what the answers are.”

In an extended Soundcloud interview with tech maven Robert Scoble, Tisch said that when the top New York startup incubator evaluates companies, it considers the team, market, product and idea, as well as what he said SV Angel’s David Lee calls “the product-founder fit.”

But the element he said he looks for and emphasizes most with startups now is design.

“If you look at the biggest missing piece in almost every company, it’s probably a great product person, a great UX person who can really understand how users want to engage in a product,” he said. “That’s the piece we really look for.”

Of the thirteen companies in the class that will present at TechStars’ Demo Day next week, he said nine had a designer founder and all started the program with an internal designer.

In its third year, TechStars NYC received 1,600 applications for its latest class of startups. Last year, the program graduated 23 startups (between two classes), 21 of which have collectively raised $55 million in venture funding. This week, the national TechStars program, which is headquartered in Boulder, Colo., announced that it was launching a new (aptly-named) “boot camp” for veterans and service members.

Asked about the recent warning to startups about the ramifications from Y Combinator’s Paul Graham, Tisch said he doesn’t expect to see a slowdown in seed funding for startups in New York, especially since there are different streams of money coming into the startup ecosystem.  But given all the startups expected to compete for funding at later Series A rounds, he said the crunch “everybody’s been referring to for two years now” could be ahead.

Still, he said the hallmark of New York entrepreneurs right now is that they seem to be in it for the long haul. “Over the past two years there’s been a huge shift from ‘we’re cute and we’re rising’ to ‘this is real and we’re going to build a foundation for what’s to come,'” he said.