Women, We Want YOU… To WIN!


Tonight we’re announcing an important initiative – the WIN Challenge. (Women Investors Now)  [Link to Dave’s article on Techcrunch.]
The number of women founding startups is growing. However, we have yet to see this same growth on the other side of the table – women writing checks and investing in startups, particularly at the angel investor level. We need more women angel investors like Esther Dyson, Caterina Fake, Christina Brodbeck, Jayne Hillman, Jennifer Lum, Randi Zuckerberg, Rashmi Sinha, Brit Morin, Danielle Morrill, and Mari Baker.

If you’re a woman who cares about seeing more women founders, women CEOs, and women leaders, then take the WIN Challenge. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to invest in at least 3 startups at least $5,000 each over the next year.

Visit http://500.co/women-angels to take the challenge. All you need is an AngelListaccount.

Be a role model. Be on the other side of the table and WIN.

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Co-Founding Love: Secret Saturdays & Popping the Question

Secret Saturdays


This story is by Manolo Diaz on how he started working with Alberto Colin on Yogome.Yogome makes awesome educational games  for kids on web browsers and the iPad. You can follow Yogome on Twitter here.

Alberto (Left) & Manolo (right), Co-founders of Yogome.


I met my co-founder Alberto when I hired him for another educational project in Mexico, but I wasn’t happy with the approach that the project was taking so I quit and began working on Yogome.  Alberto decided to leave a 20+ team and a good salary to join me on the Yogome project. We started working secretly on Saturdays in an office from another business I had. It was really exciting.


The coolest part it was when we came to Silicon Valley on a 1-way plane ticket. We didn’t buy a ticket to go back to Mexico because we wanted to see where the adventure takes us. Finally  we convinced Dave during a demo day from a previous incubator in Mexico to bring us into the 500 family.  It was a great week, we got into the top 10 of educational games in the US app store and we got accepted to 500 too, so cool!


I Popped the Question 



This story is by Alexa Andrzejewski on how she met Ted Grubb. She and Ted, along with Soraya Darabi are co-founders of Foodspotting, where you can find and recommend dishes, not just restaurants. Follow them on Twitter here.



Alexa & Ted fundraising for Foodspotting.



I first came up with the idea for Foodspotting over 3 years ago. I was a designer at Adaptive Path, but I couldn’t actually build things. I set out to find a cofounder by sharing my idea with anyone who would listen. I soon realized that I didn’t even know what to look for in a developer. Luckily, one afternoon at an Adaptive Path happy hour, I overheard this guy Ted talking about a food app he was working on. I jumped in to share my idea. He liked the idea and agreed to help me figure out what to look for in a technical co-founder. A few months later, I thought, “Hmm, it sounds like YOU would be the perfect cofounder!” Over pizza at Flour + Water, I popped the question, and a few weeks later, Ted said yes!
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And That’s A Wrap! Recap of 500 Startups Demo Days

This week, we wrapped up the last of three Demo Days in 3 different cities. Hundreds of investors, press, and techies-at-large laughed, tweeted, analyzed, and pulled out their checkbooks as the 27 companies of our Spring 2012 Accelerator Program unveiled what they’ve been working on.



Activity Hero
Happy Inspector
Reclip It


Tie Society
Umba Box


Timbuktu Labs
Tokyo Otaku Mode


The 1st Demo day was hosted at 500 Annual Partner Microsoft’s campus in Mountain View.  The companies kept their pitches short, sweet, engaging, and smooth. The audience roared with laughter as the startups delivered clever lines and, at least for 1 startup, compared their traction to being “more viral than syphilis”.



Microsoft’s stage is ready for 500!


Our 2nd Demo Day was hosted at Zynga’s spiffy new HQ in San Francisco. This time we had the musical talents of Hella Good to add some spice to the evening. Dave McClure made a big announcement introducing Women Investors Now (WIN) , challenging women to become angels and commit to investing in at least 3 startups at a minimum of $5,000 each over the next year. We received a lot of support for WIN from both men and women alike. The pitches continued and indeed proved to be, like the band, hella good.


#500Strong! Picture taken by Kevin Warnock Photography


Only a few days after the festivities in SF, all our companies jumped on a plane and flew out to the Big Apple for the final Demo Day at the New York Institute of Technology Auditorium. Once again, the companies ROCKED their pitches and went out with a BANG. A sweet ending to our Demo Days!



Andrew from Bluefields pitches hard in New York.

Also, check us out in the press:












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WIN Wednesdays

Last week at Demo Day SF, we announced the WIN (Women Investors Now) Challenge.In an effort to increase the number of women angel investors, we challenged women to invest in 3 startups at a minimum of $5,000 each over the next year. Since then, more than 100 have taken the challenge and WIN has sparked a ton of exciting conversationaround the topic of women angels and women investors.

To keep up the momentum, we’re introducing our new Wednesday blog series, WIN Wednesdays. Beginning next Wednesday, we’ll highlight a notable female leader in tech each week. Whether she’s an angel investor, a founder, an engineer, or a warrior princess that fights crime with a Macbook Air, the featured WIN Wednesday woman will always be someone that we think is an inspiration and awesome role model for women (and men) everywhere!

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Welcome Mike Greenfield To Team 500!

From the very beginning, “Design, Data, Distribution” was the mantra of 500 Startups. We always aspired to help our companies beyond just writing them a check (or rather, wiring them money). When it comes to that third “D” Distribution, we’ve done a lot to help our companies – we’ve formed strong relationships with platform companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, we have a slew of amazing mentors who are domain experts in all types of distribution and customer acquisition tactics, and we’ve held countless weekly talks, meetups, events and conferences on many distribution topics. However, we aren’t stopping there.

Today, we’re excited to welcome a new 500 team member that will pull a Jerry Maguireand help us help our companies even more with distribution.

Mike Greenfield will be working with us for the next few months as our very first Growth Hacker-In-Residence (GHIR) for 500 Startups… and possibly the world. He’ll be helping us scheme the crazy master plan that will scalably help our companies with distribution and customer acquisition through a masterfully choreographed ballet of growth hacks, platforms, paid and organic marketing, and more.

You may know Mike as co-founder and CTO of Circle of Moms and founder of Team Rankings. He also honed his growth hacking and analytics chops at LinkedIn and PayPal.He preaches about data ‘n startups over at his blog, numeratechoir.com.

Tweet him a warm 500 welcome at @mike_greenfield!

Our new GHIR and his protege reading something very interesting.

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Co-Founding Love: Giant Pig, Ham

This story is by Mo Yehia on how he met Avand Amiri. Mo and Avand are  co-founders of Sqoot, a local ad network & analytics tool. Sqoot is part of our current Spring 2012 accelerator batch. Follow Sqoot on Twitter here.


After quitting my job in finance in favor of playing polo in Argentina, a friend introduced me to TechStars. I applied to the Boulder program & was asked to fly out as one of the top few dozen companies. After the day long event, the group strolled over to a local watering hole to drown its’ sorrows. There, I met another “contestant.” He wore a sports coat and a tee-shirt with a giant pig logo. The pig’s name was Ham, the contestant, Avand (in no particular order).

The next week, I met Avand in Chicago over dinner at Blackbird (it was the most I spent on dinner in 6 months). I pitched this crazy idea most easily described as “Priceline for restaurants.” He was skeptical (justifiably), but we stayed in touch. A month later we were both rejected from TechStars, and a month after that we were both accepted into competing incubators. Despite a competing offer, I somehow convinced Avand to join me at Dreamit Ventures. Fast forward 2 years, 3 cities, and 4 failed businesses, and we’re still together, under the tutelage of the maestro, Dave McClure, & The Greatest (Freak) Show on Earth, 500 Startups (booyah!). We wouldn’t have it any other way.

“Timing, perseverance, & ten years of trying will eventually make you look like an overnight success.” – Biz Stone

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‘CAPTION THIS’ Contest 2 > Score a Ticket to unSEXY from MailChimp

Our favorite chimps at MailChimp are giving away a free ticket to unSEXY to the joker who provides the best caption to the pic below (btw – Ben Chestnut, Founder of MC will be speaking at unSEXY):

1. Post your caption in the comment section below > You have to scroll WAY down.
2. When the contest has ended, the folks at MailChimp will select a winner.
3. We’ll post the winner to our blog and notify via email
4.  The free ticket can be used for future events so play along if you can’t attend unSEXY!

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Women Designers Share Stories For The Next Generation


Enrique Allen partnered with 500 Startups to create the Designer Fund, a community of designers who invest in designer founders through mentorship, funding, and access to their network. 500 Startups is a sponsoring partner of the Designer Fund along with other top venture capital funds.


“Stories are currency,” shared Elle Luna, Senior Communication Designer at IDEO at the Women in Design event this past Friday. If that’s the case, the speakers at this event were some of the richest women in Silicon Valley with plenty of stories of how they got started, took risks, failed, persevered, and became who they are today.

“Stories are currency,” shared Elle Luna, Senior Communication Designer at IDEO at the Women in Design event this past Friday. If that’s the case, the speakers at this event were some of the richest women in Silicon Valley with plenty of stories of how they got started, took risks, failed, persevered, and became who they are today.

The intention behind the event’s storytelling format was to strengthen the sense of community among women designers while inspiring the next generation (e.g., several high school and college students attended).

Here are a few highlights of the speakers’ journeys and tips for fellow women navigating the world where design, technology, and entrepreneurship intersect.

Kate Aronowitz, Director of Design at Facebook

One of Kate’s first design gigs was photoshoping abs onto muscular men for a Herbal Supplement company. She shared how years later, she turned down the position for Director of Design telling Facebook’s recruiters they needed “a young guy” (not a mom) and gave them a list of five recommendations. They persisted and she finally said yes, when she realized she was in fact the right person for the job.

Learn how to code.
Design with purpose (which your portfolio should reflect).

Kate Aronowitz, Director of Design at Facebook by womenindesign

Nancy Broden, Design Lead for User Growth at Twitter

Nancy was a dancer for many years before she realized it was a great hobby but a “sucky” profession. She then become a museum curator and had to move back in with her parents when she met a freelance developer who showed her what an html tag is. Surprised by how simple it was, she delved deeper into computer science and has been working in the design/tech field since then.

Don’t mistake knowing your tools with knowing your business.
Have a mission statement.

Nancy Broden, Design Lead of User Growth at Twitter by womenindesign

Janice Fraser, Founder of LUXr & Former Founding Partner at Adaptive Path

Janice cut straight to the gender issue after making the audience dance to Beyonce’s “Run The World”. Is it true that there is a gender bias in the world of tech startups? It doesn’t matter because the effect remains the same whether or not there is a bias. She referred to “stereotype” threat, a concept validated in social science research, which is when perceived bias (as a result of being the “other”) makes one physiologically anxious and want to leave the situation.


For women in tech/design/business fields:
Change internal narrative by owning what you do.
Don’t flirt or play the little sister!

For others:
Aim for 50% female representation. If not, get at least 33% of women in design/tech/startups, which is the critical mass proven in research to reduce stereotype threat.
Neutralize language. Example: “We believe you would be great to write this piece in Tech Crunch” (note no mention of gender).

Janice Fraser, Founder of LUXr & Founding Partner of Adaptive Path by womenindesign

Elle Luna, Senior Communication Designer at IDEO

Elle started in a film program before she realized she was most attracted to storytelling, and transferred into graphic design. She submitted her application to IDEO through the website, the good old fashioned way (no networking) and was hired two weeks later. As a Texan she drew a risky (and awesome) parallel between Texas Debutantes and women in design.

Design your story.
Ask yourself: What makes me happy? What gives me meaning? Orient your life around these two answers.
Find someone who is 2-3 years ahead of where you would like to go and take them out to lunch.

Elle Luna, Senior Communication Designer at IDEO by womenindesign

Sasha Lubomirsky, User Experience Researcher at Airbnb

Sasha had started working at Google for a couple of months when she heard a rumor that it was acquiring YouTube; she told her manager “I want to go there.” She was soon the first user researcher at YouTube where she helped make user research an integral part of the design process.

Don’t overthink. Go for it.

Sasha Lubomirsky, User Experience Researcher at Airbnb by womenindesign

Christina Brodbeck, Founder of TheIceBreak & Former Founding Designer at YouTube

As a history major destined for law, she caught her college roommate playing with photoshop which sparked her interest in a completely different career track. She bought the book “HTML By Example,” and started building websites for friends and family until her first paid job as a web designer making education sites for kids. During her graduate school in instruction and technology, she fell in love with startups.

Accept risk and you will open yourself up to luck.
Get out there and meet as many people as you can.

Christina Brodbeck, Founder of TheIceBreak by womenindesign

Karen Kaushansky, Principal Device Interaction Designer at Jawbone

Karen was one out of ten women and ninety men who earned a Computer Science degree from her graduating class. Since she had a strong technical background and loved to solve problems, her move to design felt quite natural. Though she had never designed hardware before, she took a leap and accepted an offer from Jawbone as the Principle Device Interaction designer.

Stand your ground.
Get outside your comfort zone to move forward.

Karen Kaushansky, Principal Device Interaction Designer at Jawbone by womenindesign

Abby Sturges & Jennifer Lopez, Founders of Culture Kitchen SF

Jenn and Abby met at Stanford and Culture Kitchen SF grew out of their masters project. After working in corporate world, Abby knew she wanted to build products that wouldn’t end up in a landfill. Jenn shared that she never understood how her parents, who were Hispanic immigrants, thought they could hold the whole world in their hands. Like Abby, she felt destined to create meaningful social impact in the global community.

Partner with someone who works hard.
Find someone who can lift you up when you are down.

Jennifer Lopez & Abby Sturges, Founders of Culture Kitchen by womenindesign

Angela Shen-Hsieh, Founder of Groupvisual i/o & Board member at AIGA

Angela talked about the market challenges she experienced over and over to starting her data visualization business: a recession, the dotcom boom, and the financial meltdown of 2008. She eventually turned visual i/o into a venture backed software company. Immersed in the world of architecture, real estate, and business, she noticed men’s suits were a “quiet backdrop” with subtle highlights and found her equivalent: pants, jackets, stylish wedges, and a dash of color here and there as to avoid being too conservative or “designer-y”.

Learn the lingo of raising money, take a course (e.g., VC 101).
Don’t be afraid to show who’s boss (or use “I” when pitching).

Angela Shen-Hsieh, Founder of Groupvisual.io & Board Member of AIGA bywomenindesign

Jessica Hische, Freelance  Illustrator, Letterer, and Designer

“I like making resources for people. None of the things I have ever made have been profitable. And that’s ok.” She refers to her many educational side projects such as “Should I work for Free?” “Don’t Fear the Internet” and “Mom This is How Twitter Works 2.0.” Projects like these, that showed her passion, earned her the respect of several fellow designers. Jessica is a master of procrastiworking, a term she coined, which means doing that side hobby you love to do when putting off the work you have to do.

Place work you would actually want to do in your portfolio.
Find clients as passionate about the work as you are.
Procrastiwork! (when you are putting off the work you have to do, do the side hobby you love to do).

Jessica Hische, Freelance illustrator, letterer, & designer by womenindesign

Liz Danzico, Chair of MFA in Interaction Design at School of Visual Arts (SVA)

Liz’ grandfather, a furniture designer, made a saltbox which sat next to the oven throughout her childhood. She overlooked the possibility of being a design educator in the same way people overlook the power and history behind salt. For years, Liz has been an educator on the side kind of how salt is a meal’s best “side-kick.”

Don’t underestimate what you do on the side
Think little risks and big rewards

Liz Danzico, Chair of MFA in Interaction Design at the School of Visual Arts bywomenindesign

Themes Across All Speakers


Expertise and Development

1. Develop a Technical Side. Kate predicted the next person with her position at Facebook will know how to code. Learn how to code.

2. Know and Showcase Your Expertise. After Angela’s talk on appearance and perception in the world of venture capital, she still concluded that substance and expertise were more important.

Confidence and Self-Knowledge

3. Don’t Underestimate Yourself. As Nancy put it: ladies, lose the insecurity!

4. Be Genuine and Know Yourself. How did Jessica get 30,000 Twitter followers? She is 100% genuine, often tweeting in her pajamas at 4:00am. It is as simple as it gets: knowing yourself is the key to designing your story and ultimately steering your career path.

Attitude and Risk-Taking

5. Have a Yes Mind. Janice encouraged women to say yes to every speaking invitation they get. An attitude of “yes, I can do it!” emerged again and again throughout the speakers’ talks.

6. Get Outside of Your Comfort Zone. Karen talked about making bold career choices which were often uncomfortable but pushed her forward. “Fear what you do the most!” – Nancy. “Leap and Learn by Doing!” – Christina

Special Thanks

Speakers: Kate Aronowitz, Nancy Broden, Janice Fraser, Elle Luna, Sasha Lubomirsky, Christina Brodbeck, Abby Sturges, Jennifer Lopez, Karen Kaushansky, Angela Shen-Hsieh, Jessica Hische and Liz Danzico
Sponsors: The Designer Fund, Khosla Ventures, Andressen Horowitz, Kleiner Perkins, 500 Startups, Facebook, Product Design Guild, Jess3, KKLD, San Franola Granola, Farm to Cup and Benchic Chocolate
Organizers: Maria Molfino and Enrique Allen

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99 Problems But A Pitch Ain’t 1!

If you’re having startup problems I feel bad for you son. I got 99 problems but a pitch ain’t one.

If you’re having startup problems I feel bad for you son. I got 99 problems but a pitch ain’t one.

It’s almost time for Demo Days at 500 Startups! Founders from our current accelerator batch are all prancing around, prepping and practicing their pitch in preparation for Spring 2012 Demo Days. This week, we will be livestreaming the 27 startups from our current accelerator batch as they demo what they’ve been working on to investors and press. Exciting? HELL YES!

You can watch the livestream at  livestream.com/500startups on:

– Tuesday 7/17 starting at ~12:45pm. We’ll be streaming the very first Demo Day from our hood in Mountain View but at a bigger venue – Microsoft.

– Wednesday 7/18 at ~6:45pm. For the first time, we’re bringing the accelerator batch to San Francisco! We’ll be hangin’ at Zynga.

For all the up-to-the-minute updates, check out our Facebook or follow our tweets on@500Startups and watch as #500STRONG takes over the Twittersphere.

Join us as we continue to BLOW UP STARTUPS!

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Friday, I’m in Love.

“Monday you can fall apart
Tuesday, Wednesday break my heart
Thursday doesn’t even start
It’s Friday I’m in love”


Everyone in the startup community has at one point or another alluded the co-founders relationship to being married. Your co-founder is the one you spend the most time with, share an emotional rollercoaster of running startups with, and basically raise a baby (your company) with.  But behind every successful partnership is a story of how those co-founders met and fell in co-founding love. So to celebrate the biggest essence to what makes a company great, a strong founding team, we’ve started this weekly series. 500 Startups presents to you, Co-founding Love. Starting next week, every Friday we’ll feature at least one or more stories from founders talking about their relationship. They’ll share how they met, eventually tied the knot, and whatever other awesome details that will make you want to barf roses.  We hope it’ll make you smile, inspire you to find that perfect partner, or high-five the beloved co-founder you already have. We’re all about love, rainbows, teamwork, and ass-kicking here at 500. Enjoy and remember… to build a great business, you must have a great team! #500strong!


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