Want to Get into 500 Startups’ First SF Accelerator? Here’s What You Need to Know

Thinking of applying for our first San Francisco accelerator program? Well, stop thinking and start APPLYING! Applications are only open for 6 more days, so you need to get on that ASAP. To help you make your application stand out, here’s some information about what we’re looking for, what the program is like, and why you should apply:

What do I have to do to get noticed by Dave McClure or 500 Startups?

ANSWER

Does 500 Startups invest in startup founders at the idea stage?

ANSWER

How much money do startups typically raise on a demo day?

ANSWER

What are some of 500’s biggest exits?

ANSWER

What do startups get out of 500’s accelerator program?

ANSWER

What kinds of startups is 500 looking for?

ANSWER

What is 500’s investment thesis?

ANSWER

What have been the most successful 500 Startups companies so far?

ANSWER

Reviews of our program

READ ‘EM 

Ready to apply? Do it on AngelList NOW. Best of luck!

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When and How to Define Your User Engagement Cycle

This post is part of the ongoing Distribution series. Every week the 500 Distribution Team highlights actionable resources for marketing your startup. Get even more tips by following @500Distribution on Twitter and subscribing to our email newsletter.

 

In my last post, I talked about how startups should think about metrics in the context of growth. Given that the most urgent questions for many start-ups revolve around HOW they can grow, and whether the growth they may be experiencing is scalable and sustainable, this post focuses on the more tactical aspects of achieving growth.

 

Let’s say that your product is in the marketplace, you have an initial set of users, and you may even be experiencing some nascent growth. How do you take the next step towards accelerating your efforts? You need to develop an understanding of how your users are interacting with your product, and which users are most valuable. Defining your user engagement cycle is a good place to start. Engagement is synonymous with retention, which is the most critical element in a sustainable, scalable growth dynamic—more so than user acquisition.

 

Each company’s cycle is unique, depending on the feature set of the product, key usages, and monetization scheme. At its core, it spans the cradle-to-grave experience that users have, starting with the sign-up/purchase funnel and ending with them becoming non-users by either becoming permanently dormant or deleting their account. In between, you need to identify all of the key activities that users can engage in, as well as all of your touch-point opportunities with them. Some of the key questions you need to be able to answer include:

 

    • Where are your users coming from? How are they finding you?

 

    • At which stage are you seeing significant drop-off: acquisition, activation, etc.?

 

    • How many users are using your product daily? Weekly? Monthy?

 

    • What are they doing, and how active are they?

 

Keep in mind that your user base is heterogeneous and should be thought of in terms new, casual, core, and dormant user segments. Your goal is to first define what classifies a user as belonging to each of these segments. Then, you must understand how core users—who are your most valuable users—differ from casual and dormant users in terms of behavior. It could be that core users complete registration upon their first visit, add a profile photo immediately, invite at least two friends, come back at least three times during the first week, or complete their first purchase in their first visit. Identify which actions correlate most closely with a high LTV.

 

As a next step, develop and test a series of hypotheses for how you can nudge new and casual users into the core user bucket. For example, At Hulu a key predictor of a Hulu Plus subscriber’s customer lifetime was how many minutes of content they watched during a given time period. Knowing that, we worked towards maintaining the necessary level of video consumption by personalizing the user experience and serving up relevant recommendations, through the application UX as well as through email campaigns.

As a corollary, you should also test different means of reactivating dormant users and rescuing users who have bailed. Email, or push notifications if your primary point of user engagement is a mobile app, is your only realistic opportunity to reactivate dormant users. While reactivation is generally a long-shot, you can maximize your odds by offering meaningful value to these users: a discount, an offer to a complementary service, or high-value content.

Rescuing bailed users takes two forms. Those who bail during registration or on-boarding can be re-engaged using retargeting or email, if you capture email addresses at the top of your funnel. Those who bail after being active users for a period of time are the least likely to reactivate because they’ve ceased to find your offering valuable. Include a survey in your cancellation flow to gain insight into the user’s reason for leaving; if it’s tied to a factor that may change over time, for example pricing or feature set, you may have an opportunity to win them back later via email.

At this point, you’ve defined and optimized your user engagement cycle. With an understanding of which users are the most valuable, and how to maximize that value, you are now ready to go into full-blown growth mode: testing and identifying which customer acquisition channels can drive the most users likely to become core users in an ROI-positive and scalable manner.

What’s Next?

If you enjoyed this post, first check out these additional resources for how you can up your game from the 500 Distribution team:

 

 

 

Then, sign up to get a daily bite-sized distro hack (and one awesome GIF) delivered to your inbox:

>> Subscribe to Distrosnack here <<

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On the 500 Livestream This Week: Robert Scoble, Sean Percival, and Warm Gun Design

We have three great events on our livestream this week! Check them out below and add them to your calendar:

Robert Scoble on Social Media
When: 11/19, 12:00pm PST
Livestream: http://new.livestream.com/500SAcc

Getting Started with SEO: Sean Percival, 500 Distribution Expert
When: 11/20, 12:00pm PST
Livestream: http://new.livestream.com/500SAcc

Warm Gun Design Conference (Speakers from Lyft, Uber, GitHub, Etsy, Instagram and more)
When: 11/22, 9:00am – 6:00pm PST
Livestream: http://www.livestream.com/500startups

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¡Orale! Meet the 17 Startups in the Latest 500 Mexico City Accelerator Batch

Our compañeros down south have been busy choosing the next batch of companies for our Mexico City accelerator! Many applied, and after a rigorous interview process (which may have included a wrestling match with these two), our team was able to pick 17 companies to join the 500 family.

While our LATAM accelerator is located in Mexico City, these new companies are from all over Latin America. They hail from major cities like Buenos Aires, Bogotá, Mexico City, and Santiago de Chile.

The 17 startups in this batch will go through a 5-month program (in our trendy and kinda hipster office in La Roma, DF) where the 500 team will assist with distribution, product development, design, and fundraising. Of course, they’ll also have access to 500 Startups’ global network of more than 200 mentors.

Here’s a full list of the companies:

soukboardSoukboard

An intelligent assistant that helps online stores with sales and marketing.
AngelList: https://angel.co/soukboard

cotizaContrataCotiza & Contrata

Platform that connects you with service professionals.
AngelList: https://angel.co/cotizaycontrata-com

growlersGrowlers

Get the best domestic and imported beers delivered right to your door.
AngelList: https://angel.co/growlers-mx

aiotraAiotra

A curated community of video producers for brands.
AngelList: https://angel.co/aiotra

nubityNubity

Platform that integrates public and private cloud services such as Amazon AWS, Rackspace, and Softlayer.
AngelList: https://angel.co/nubity

autoChilangoAuto Chilango

Driving app with traffic alerts, insurance management, and other vital information for drivers in Mexico City.
AngelList: https://angel.co/auto-chilango

survmetricsSurvmetrics

Create interactive surveys, then use geo-referencing and visualization tools to analyze results. .
AngelList: https://angel.co/survmetrics

novelistikNovelistik

Tool that allows you to easily publish interactive e-books.
AngelList: https://angel.co/novelistik

firstJobFirstJob

A marketplace for young professionals in Latin America. We make it easy for students and graduates to enter the job market.
AngelList: https://angel.co/firstjob-me

99Minutos99 Minutos

Ship anywhere within Mexico City in under 99 minutes.
AngelList: https://angel.co/www-99minutos-com

wavestackWavestack

The first online tool that facilitates musical collaboration between artists from anywhere around the world.
AngelList: https://angel.co/wavestack

liitchiLiichi

Behavior analytics for the offline world.
AngelList: https://angel.co/liichi-1

fullBoxFullbox

We connect people who need temporarily furnishings with people who have extra: Airbnb for furniture.
AngelList: https://angel.co/fullbox-1

geniuslyGeniusly

A tool for SMBs to assess and minimize shipment risks.
AngelList: https://angel.co/geniusly

rocketRocket

Asses and organize your personal finances online.
AngelList: https://angel.co/rocket-la

facturamaFacturama

Simplifies a company’s billing process through consolidating receipts, reports, and more.
AngelList: https://angel.co/facturama

obzesObzes

Online store that specializes in beauty products.
AngelList: https://angel.co/obzes-com

Join us in welcoming all these startups to the #500Strong family!

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What You Need to Know about How Facebook Displays Links

This post is part of the ongoing Distribution series. Every week the 500 Distribution Team highlights actionable resources for marketing your startup. Get even more tips by following @500Distribution on Twitter and subscribing to our email newsletter.

If you use Facebook at all  – if you don’t, wtf? –  you know  images rule Newsfeed. They look better than any other kind of content, and people are much more likely to share an image than a status update or link. Have you ever shared a status update? Probably not.

For startups looking to broaden their reach, uploading funny, insightful, or inspirational images (usually with text overlaid) is a great way to drive more people to a Facebook page and build an audience. But a potential downside is that people who come to your page through shared images might never actually click on the links you want them to. Even if you include an external link above an image (probably to your startups’ blog or product page), there’s little incentive for people into this after they’ve already shared or liked the image.

So why not just post a link directly the content you want people to see? The main reason: it used to look like crap on Facebook.

Here’s a link I shared back in August on the 500 Startups Facebook page.

Screen Shot 2013-11-12 at 3.28.12 PM

2,626 people saw it, but only 7 clicked the like button (a pathetic .0026%). According to Bufferapp, only 27 people clicked through. Not ideal.

Thankfully, doing this doesn’t look awful anymore. Here’s what it looks like now:

Screen Shot 2013-11-12 at 3.48.56 PMIt’s almost indistinguishable from an image upload, and clicking any part of the image takes you directly to the content. The really great thing is that you can upload your own custom image instead of using the automatically-generated preview. Just click on the “upload image” option after you paste a link.

Screen Shot 2013-11-12 at 3.47.52 PM

In order to see this option, Facebook has to receive information from your link to automatically generate a thumbnail, so be sure there’s at least one image on your destination page. (In this case, it’s the beautiful face of 500’s resident firefighter, George Kellerman)

So why’s this a big deal? While Facebook engagement is great, it’s mostly a vanity metric that makes you feel good. Likes and shares won’t do much for your company if people never actually click through to your content. Since Facebook links now look almost identical to images, you can “trick” people into clicking through by uploading a good custom image.

For example, I recently posted a link to our AngelList page (we’re accepting applications for our first SF batch BTW!) and used this image:

BY0MOEXCMAAQ2Ym

157 people clicked on the image and went through to our application page, and we saw a jump in submitted applications that day.

Regular images still have a place on Facebook, but if your goal is to get people to click through to an external site, pasting the link and uploading a custom image might be your best bet.

You should test out both to see what works best, but it’s nice to know that linking directly looks pretty good now. How you noticed a difference in how your Facebook content performs now that link previews look better? Let us know below.

What’s Next?

If you enjoyed this post, first check out these additional resources for how you can up your game from the 500 Distribution team:

Then, sign up to get a daily bite-sized distro hack (and one awesome GIF) delivered to your inbox:

>> Subscribe to Distrosnack here <<

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Marc Shedroff, VP of Samsung’s Open Innovation Center, on What He Looks for in Startups

Samsung launched the Open Innovation Center (OIC) in Silicon Valley this past January, which operates four main functions – strategic investments, acquisitions and partnerships as well as an accelerator, with locations on both coasts. We interviewed Marc Shedroff, OIC’s Vice President, who previously worked as head of entertainment and sports partnerships at YouTube. Check out what Marc has to say about Samsung’s OIC and Accelerator:

samsung

For so long, Samsung was very focused on manufacturing hardware and devices. Now, over the past couple years, you’re focusing more on software. Can you share how Samsung OIC is doubling down on software innovation?

Samsung has seen amazing growth. We are the market leader in TV and mobile and, in just the last year, we grew revenue from $143BB in 2011 to $187BB in 2012. One of the ways we will sustain that growth is through continuing to make great devices. But, to differentiate experiences and accelerate growth over time, we must create a thoughtful integration of our existing hardware expertise with world-class software and services. OIC is organized to cover the entire spectrum of innovation from startups, ranging from investment, to partnerships, acquisitions, and even incubating our own in the Samsung Accelerator.

OK, let’s start with Investing in startups. What are the top 5 things that Samsung OIC looks for when considering making a new investment in a startup?

There are two main axes on which we evaluate an investment – (1) what do we think of the company, and (2) the strategic fit for Samsung as a partner. In regards to the company, we examine the strength of the investment in terms of innovation – does it solve a big problem? What is the ultimate value to our consumers? If the investment team has passion, the drive to win and a true willingness to listen and push boundaries – that’s very important too. Lastly, we look at the competitive differentiation – technology, domain expertise, execution and market position.

In terms of strategic fit for Samsung, we intend that every one of our venture investments ultimately has some sort of collaboration with a Samsung business unit. To accomplish this we only invest in companies that we think have that potential, and we also involve our business unit colleagues in the evaluation.

What are your investment sizes?

Seed, Series A, and Series B or up to $3MM.

OK, let’s talk about Accelerator. From a startup’s perspective, what does the Samsung Accelerator offer that other Accelerators don’t offer?

While the Accelerator provides the traditional benefits of a startup – agility, small and collaborative teams and risk-taking energy – what separates us from the rest of the pack is access to Samsung’s considerable resources.

Can you elaborate on the distribution traction, people and plans that startups who partner with Samsung will have access to?

Each startup requires a unique set of resources and assets, so it does vary. All Accelerator startups have access to internal Samsung teams, product roadmaps and key decision makers as needed.

How can startups apply for your accelerator?

Those interested in applying can do so directly via sam@samsungaccelerator.com.

What advice can you give to bootstrapped startups trying to get their startup off the ground?

Remain focused, concentrate on attracting top talent and, during the initial incubation phase, consider issues that challenge consumers the most. Additionally, always have the big picture in the back of your mind and set your sights on adding value – regardless of the product. It’s become fairly cheap, and quick, to “bootstrap” a v1 MVP, and you can get a pretty good sense of whether the product is resonating with users. What’s not easy is to build a scaled, full-featured product and even harder yet is to build a company. So my advice would be to know that success is found over multiple years, not months. The other thing I would suggest is to think a lot about distribution and user adoption. There are hundreds of thousands of apps in the app store and millions of websites, so discovery is a huge challenge.

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5 Ridiculous Marketing Tricks that Used to Work

This post is part of the ongoing Distribution  series. Every week the 500 Distribution Team highlights actionable resources for marketing your startup. Get even more tips by following @500Distribution on Twitter and subscribing to our email newsletter.

Online marketing is constantly shifting and changing. Today’s startup marketer has the daunting task of keeping up with all these changes while quickly adapting strategy as needed. Growth doesn’t come easy, but then again, few good things do.

In fact, it’s probably best to think of your marketing like a mining operation. If you plan and execute well enough, you’re likely to strike a few rich veins (acquisition channels) that yield good results. Of course those veins can run out, so you’ll need to find new ones to mine. If you're clever, you'll become very efficient at getting every last ounce of value out.

But before you put on your hard hat and dig up a gas line, let’s pause and take a look back. Yes, it’s time to visit a few great moments in marketing — this time in the form of the ridiculous online marketing tricks of the past. Part of us wishes some of these still worked today, but thankfully, we know better.

 

Freakishly Long Keyword-Rich Domain Names

longcat

Earlier on the web, many domains were looooong. Scary long. This was due to several things, but in many cases, companies just wanted to stuff keywords right into the domain name itself. As such, it was not uncommon to find something like www.booktraveltohawaiionline.com or much worse.

Today, we know that it’s better to use a memorable brand name. Google has also recently taken steps to reduce the value of these domains even further in what was called the EMD (exact match domain) Update of 2012. So when in doubt, avoid the keywords and go for something easy to spell.

Pro Tip: It should be a domain name you could tell some in-person easily, without  him or her asking you to repeat it for clarification.

The Digg Effect

giphy

Before Reddit and Hacker News, there was Digg, and it was glorious. The community kicked ass, the site was clean, and the content was literally the best of the web. It was where you went to find the latest trend before BuzzFeed started putting everything in GIFs.

Getting to the front page of Digg crashed the featured websites quite often. That was the Digg Effect. When harnessed correctly, it was an incredibly powerful way to drive traffic or to just entertain a large audience. Nowadays, audiences you reach from Reddit or Hacker News are OK, but not fantastic. We miss you Digg, but we do kinda like where things are going today with the new site.

 

 

 

Absurd SEO Hacks

11-4-2013 11-50-28 PM

I can’t help but try to imagine what was going through the first person’s head when trying to trick search engines with transparent text. Did he or she laugh manically as the code was updated? This, along with myriad other absurd SEO hacks, have been tried over the years. Google deploys a small army of content reviews, data scientists, and other smart people who fight this stuff even to this day.

To those crazy fools who post blog comment spam and to those who auto-generated millions of fake pages, we salute you. Yes—even you—the genius behind keyword stuffing. Thank you. Someone had to get crazy, and you did it. Of course, you ruined it for us all, and now Google subjects us to routine torture with cute animal names like Panda and Penguin. We're not exactly happy about that.

 

 

 

Open Graph Hacking

giphy (1)

Facebook has done a lot for the modern-day marketer. In fact, many start-ups are able to get some form of lift off using Facebook Ads and Facebook Login for user onboarding. For a short window, several enterprising startups managed to use Facebook Open Graph actions to grow insanely fast. The one that did that best was probably SocialCam, which attracted 75M users in just over a year.

Of course, though, the ride didn’t last long, especially after several other apps tried to mimic the aggressive growth techniques. That ultimately led to many of those actions being deprecated or adjusted. The big lesson for startups: a diverse approach to growth is vital. Dependence on any one platform can hurt, and hurt bad.

 

 

 

Overly Demanding Brand Pages

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Sometimes it’s better for marketers to be extremely direct about what they want users to do. This is known as the “call to action" or CTA. But in the 140-character world of social media, this is sometimes taken to the extreme. The worst offenders: bossy community managers and overly demanding brand pages. They ask you to “like this” or “tweet that” or “engage here.” It can be really damn annoying at times but also effective.

In the end, it’s probably better to skip most of these tactics or to use them sparingly. Facebook has even recently begun to punish pages for lower-quality posts. Resist the urge of vanity metrics such as Facebook Likes you must.

yoda

Know of any other ridiculous online marketing techniques that used to work? Tell us in the comments.

 

 

 

What's Next?

If you enjoyed this post, first check out these additional resources for how you can up your game from the 500 Distribution team:

 

 

Then, sign up to get a daily bite-sized distro hack (and one awesome GIF) delivered to your inbox:

>> Subscribe to Distrosnack here <<

 

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