Who’s 500 Distro?

Back in January, we bombastically proclaimed 2015 to be the year of DISTRO EVERYWHERE.

How exactly are we doing on that?

Apparently, fuzzy ideas + sharp ambitions = REAL STUFF HAPPENING.

Since then, we’ve given “DistroCamp”-style workshops to 50+ startups in Hong Kong and Taipei, joined up with General Assembly to put on a video marketing panel in Los Angeles, and recently announced a $10 million DistroFund to put our money where your growth is.

We’ll also be at 500’s Weapons of Mass Distribution conference on startup growth, giving on-stage talks and doing hands-on growth office hours — the event is TOMORROW.

But the purpose of this post was only kind of to blatantly promote and side-mote our various DISTRO happenings.

The real reason I’m writing today is to shine light onto the not-very-numerous team of people on 500 DISTRO who are making DISTRO EVERYWHERE possible, all while supporting the 30+ companies in every 500 Accelerator Batch with everything from growth strategy down to everyday hacktics.

Today’s post is an ode to the friends / colleagues / entrepreneurs / sales hackers / DistroFund Partners / comedians on 500 DISTRO — thanks for making me feel like this:

I love 500 DISTRO

WHO’S “500 DISTRO?”

Tammy Camp

Tammy started coding at age 6, when data was still saved on cassette tapes (and she lived in the Deep South). Today, she’s a 500 Distro Hacker-in-Residence and also the founder of Palytte.

Here at 500, she helps companies on a whole bunch of different things, but is especially game-changing at analytics, sales hacking, and video ads.

She’s a graduate of Singularity University at NASA Ames and a YEA 2013 United States G20 Delegate.

She’s also a world-class kiteboarder on the side, nbd.

Motto: Test. Measure. Analyze. Iterate. Repeat.

Tammy on Twitter

 

Dominic Coryell

Dominic has Co-Founded Garment Valet (in college where he won the Global Student Entrepreneur Award) and Talkable.com (500, YC). Outside of doggedly helping startups with traction, he loves mountain biking and animals.

Motto: Smoke ’em if you got ’em — use smoke tests to validate ideas & identify unique advantages BEFORE building product.

Dom on Twitter

 

Matt Ellsworth

When Matt’s not helping 500 companies grow through sales & marketing automation, he’s most likely eating a large, delicious meal or telling a loud, bad joke. Most recently, Matt was the VP of Growth at Storefront and before that lead enterprise sales teams at multiple startups.

Motto: Don’t worry I’m sure your product will sell itself, happens all the time.

Matt E on Twitter

 

Mathew Johnson

Mat likes to help startups through customer acquisition, metrics and testing, and most recently led the launch of the DistroFund.

He previously worked at General Assembly, Charles River Ventures, Grockit and Socrata. He loves interesting ramen, trail-running, and has lived in Kenya, Cairo, and Copenhagen.

Motto: “There’s no sense in being precise when you don’t even know what you’re talking about.” – Von Neumann

Mat J on Twitter

 

Justin Mares

Justin is the co-author of Traction book and the former Director of Revenue at Exceptional, a software company that Rackspace acquired for 8 figures in 2013.

He previously founded RoommateFit, a company that allows you to find a compatible roommate, much like an eHarmony for roommates. You can guess how this idea came about. During my senior year, RoommateFit was accepted into Pittsburgh’s startup accelerator, Alphalab.

Justin on Twitter

Motto: Always test multiple acquisition channels, then double down on what works.

 

Andrei Marinescu

Andrei is a product- and user-focused growth marketer with expertise in media, subscription, and mobile, and hardware businesses.

He’s extra passionate about digital media, hardware, quantified self & healthtech, fintech, mobile, productivity, SaaS, e-commerce, behavioral economics, the lean startup methodology, design, and UX, among other topics.

Before 500, Andrei led marketing at Ring Labs, Hulu, and Viddy.

Motto: Engagement & retention > Acquisition

Andrei on Twitter

 

Susan Su

Susan’s an email marketing diehard and a longtime Ashtangi with a lot of stamps in her passport.

Before 500, she specialized in email marketing and content at AppSumo, Inside Network, and I Will Teach You To Be Rich.

She’s a lover of airports who’s lived in India, France, Turkey, Canada, China, Indonesia, and of course ‘Murica!

Motto: Email = $$$. Always be collecting, don’t be random, measure what matters TO YOU.

Susan on Twitter

By the way, we’re growing our team. Talk to us at distribution@500.co.

We’re almost to 2015’s halfway point, and we’re really excited for what’s coming the rest of this year. Time to turn this up, like

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500 Startups announces $10M TukTuks (ตุ๊กตุ๊ก) Fund

We’re proud to announce the launch of “500 TukTuks”, a $10M USD micro-fund focused on promising startups, managed by new 500 investing partners Krating Poonpol and Moo Natavudh. Why the name TukTuks? Well they are small, lean, fast, agile, and dangerous. JUST LIKE STARTUPS. We’re excited to take a trip through the winding roads of Thailand to discover smart, badass entrepreneurs.

Anti-Government Protesters Occupy Government Ministries

Why 500 TukTuks?

500 sees an opportunity to invest early and often into the next generation of Thailand’s most promising startups and empower them with best of Silicon Valley’s education, thinking, talent, and money to provide unfair advantage in the local market. 500 will be the first major SV accelerator and seed stage investor in the local Thai market and founders will gain access to our global network of high-value mentors and 2,000+ founders. 500 will look to invest in not just companies that can succeed in the local Asian market, but through its accelerator, find and work with Thai companies that can succeed in the US and global market.

500 TukTuks Management & Investment Team include:

Who are the local investment partners? 

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Previous to starting 500 TukTuks, Krating Poonpol was a Global Lead Marketing Manager of Google Earth and Head of Asia Pacific Quantitative Marketing at Google Asia. Having experience in supporting startups both bootstrapped and venture backed, Krating founded Distrupt, the #1 Startup Incubator Program in Thailand. Krating is also the Director of Founder Institute in Bangkok and advisor to ClaimDi.

“Thailand’s Startup Ecosystem is growing rapidly from next-to-nothing in 2012 to almost 25 M USD raised in 2014. With two sizable exits in 2014-2015 (one2car and ThinkOfLiving ), and a few “Centaurs” like Ookbee and aCommerce we are feeling confident. We hope, with 500TukTuks and 500 network, Thailand’s Startup Ecosystem will hopefully produce the first Unicorn and plenty of Centaurs…Thailand could potentially be at the center of startup ecosystem in SEA.” – Krating Poonpol, Venture Partner (Thailand)

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Moo Natavudh is a tech entrepreneur with over 15 years experience in founding, funding and managing tech companies. He is currently the Founder and CEO of OOKBEE, SEA’s biggest e-book store with market shares over 85% in Thailand. He’s already got a head start with 8 angel investments in Thailand over the past 12 months.

“Southeast Asia has never had so many VC funds. When we look at the region, most people are thinking of Indonesia, since it’s the largest market. However, I strongly believe that Thailand has huge potential with all the right ingredients: large market with customers that are willing to pay,  increasingly internet savvy population (social networks are hugely popular) and a strong infrastructure with talented folks who embrace entrepreneurial spirit. 500 Tuk Tuks will invest in at least 50 kickass Thai startups over the next few years.”  – Moo Natavudh, Venture Partner (Thailand)

Recent Press Coverage: TechCrunch, e27, DealStreetAsia, Post Today, Prachachat, Daily News, Blognone, TechSauce

Want to learn more? Read retrospective and highlights from our Managing Partner Khailee Ng.

 

Join the #500Strong Family – Land a Job at One of Our Companies!

Want to get on the fast track to working at an kickass startup? We’re hosting a Job Fair on Friday, May 8th at our HQ in Mountain View, CA. From 2-5pm, you’ll get a chance to meet founders in our current batch of startups (Batch 13) and wow them with your awesome skills and sparkling personality.

In addition to working an early stage startup, you’d get to experience everything that comes with 500’s accelerator program – working out of our awesome office space, meeting tons of people in the 500 family, attending events and fireside chats with big-name founders, and more.

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“I showed up and instantly felt like I was in the right place. Every person I talked to was enthusiastic and driven. I didn’t even realize it was an internship fair at first. I thought it was more of a networking event. So I made it a point to talk to as many people as possible and learn about their startups.” –  Chris Hiestand (Batch 9, Lenda)

What kinds of candidates are our startups looking for? Pretty much anyone who can help, as long as they’re passionate about startups and willing to help out in any way possible (these are early-stage startups, after all). Don’t be intimidated if you’re not technical – plenty of our startups are looking to hire people in marketing, sales, biz dev, customer support, and other roles.

Ready to hustle? Register for the job fair here. (JOB SEEKERS ONLY PLEASE).

PS – Are you a founder who wants to join our next accelerator batch in San Francisco? Apply here via Angelist.

500 Startups Announces Batch 13 in Mountain View

Double dang. Can you believe we’re already on our 13th accelerator batch? For those of you keeping track, this is our tenth batch in Mountain View!

As always, our companies have all types of founders from everywhere on the globe. There are 28 companies in this group, and 46% of our companies have at least one woman on the founding team. Additionally, 61% of our companies have at least one foreign‐born founder.  Countries include: US, UK, China, Argentina, Uruguay, Singapore, Taiwan, Australia, Estonia, New Zealand, South Korea, Netherlands, Hong Kong, Italy, Brazil, Russia, Kuwait…. <cue… It’s a small world world after all…..>  Follow of our companies on AngelList.

If you want to join 500 in the future, you’re in luck – Batch 14 (San Francisco) applications are currently open. We’re always on the look out for great companies with traction and awesome founders.  APPLY NOW

Without further ado, here are all the companies in our latest accelerator: 

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Alumnify

Alumnify is a location based professional networking application that enables communication between mutually interested alumni. Using LinkedIn’s API, Alumnify pulls users’ professional information and uses filters to match potential graduates who are most likely to have similar interests based on their geolocation, industry, and education. This creates a job networking tool that fosters relationships based on the affinity users have with their university that is fun and addicting.

AngelList: https://angel.co/alumnify

Founders: AJ Agrawal, Eghosa (Iggy) Aihie

From: San Francisco, CA

Fun Fact: AJ can touch his nose with his tongue and has double-jointed ring fingers.

 BetterWorld Wireless

BetterWorld Wireless

BetterWorld Wireless is a U.S. mobile solutions company with a mission: Connect America’s underserved with civil society. Our goal is to lift all boats and create digital inclusion by connecting economically-disadvantage people in the U.S., and keeping them connected. Customers (who can) pay it forward through the Phone for Phone donation program.

AngelList: https://www.betterworldwireless.com/

Founders: Matt Bauer, Amy Tucker, Jim Kenefick, Darian Rodriguez Heyman

From: United States

Fun Fact: Matt and Amy are both chicken (and hen) owners.

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CellBreaker

You know those cell phone contracts that folks hate to be stuck in? Cell phone carriers breach those quite often, and each breach is an opportunity to cancel the contract with no early termination fee. CellBreaker + Veeto automates monitoring, managing, and breaking cell phone contracts.

AngelList: https://angel.co/cellbreaker-1

Founders: Jon Colgan, Justin Baker, Jules Hill

From: Durham, NC

Fun Fact: Jules claims that he can drink a bottle of water in less than one second.

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ChattingCat

ChattingCat is a platform that connects non-native speakers who want to write better English to native speakers who want to help them. Non-native speakers get instant correction of their written English. ChattingCat changes the way people learn to write foreign language and enables them to confidently write English for professional communication. ChattingCat brings disruptive innovation to both the language education and professional language service market.

AngelList: https://angel.co/chattingcat

Founder: April Kim

From: South Korea

Fun Fact: April is a writer.

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Clowder

Clowder is an on-demand coffee delivery service based in New York City. Order a cortado for yourself or a tray of lattes for your most deserving friends. Brewed and delivered from their hands to yours with no hassle, no additional fees, no order minimum.

AngelList: https://angel.co/clowder-1

Founders: Christine Miao, Matt Casey

From: New York, NY

Fun Fact: When Christine applied to her first job as a designer, she did the entire exercise in Microsoft Paint and Excel.

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Coach Market

Coach Market was founded to help people achieve more in their careers by providing expert guidance throughout their lifelong career journey. Coach Market believes that by making it easier to access the best professional career coaches, they can help their customers achieve their career potential and lead happier and more fulfilled lives.

Website: https://www.coachmarket.com/

Founder: Glenn Laumeister

From: New York, NY

Fun Fact: Glenn has traveled to over fifty countries.

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CoContest

CoContest wants to disrupt the interior design market, connecting designers and customers from all over the world and breaking borders. Thanks to the “contest” method applied to private properties, the selection process for the best designer is based exclusively on the project quality, transforming this relational market into a meritocratic one.

AngelList: https://angel.co/cocontest

Founders: Filippo Schiano di Pepe, Federico Schiano di Pepe, Alessandro Rossi

From: Italy

Fun Fact: Filippo dreams of sailing solo around the world in his boat.

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CrowdPlat

CrowdPlat is a crowdsourcing platform that connects customers with freelance teams from around the world to build custom apps and execute technology projects. The system includes two main components, cOutsource, the crowdsourcing platform and cLancers, the freelancing platform. Customers use cOutsource to post project specification, receive bids from several qualified freelance project managers, award the project and manage execution of the project. Freelance project managers use cLancers to submit proposals for projects and, if selected, execute customer projects. Other freelancers use cLancers to express interest on projects, engage the project manager and, if selected, work on the project.

AngelList: https://angel.co/crowdplat

Founders: Sahil (Sal) Sarosh

From: Milpitas, CA

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Digital Currency Council

Often referred to as “the CFA for Bitcoin”, the Digital Currency Council (DCC) is a vertically integrated solution for lawyers, accountants, and financial professionals who are building practices related to the blockchain. The DCC currently provides its 1000 plus members with training and certification, as well connectivity to peers and prospective clients. Tomorrow, the DCC will be the professional’s toolbox for the blockchain.

AngelList: https://angel.co/digital-currency-council-1

Founders: David Berger, Dan McArdle

From: New York, NY

Fun Fact: Dan built and deployed a real-money Internet poker-playing bot over a decade ago. It didn’t lose money.

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Edools

Edools is like Shopify for e-learning: they cure the pain of any company willing to manage a full-service e-learning system. Edools takes care of all the complicated stuff: video and document hosting, students management, e-commerce integration, scalability, appearance, and even provides a killer API to integrate with the customer’s internal and third-party services. All it takes is activating the modules that make sense for their business.

AngelList: https://angel.co/edools

Founders: Rafael Carvalho, Maurilio Alberone, Bernardo Kircove

From: Rio De Janeiro, Brazil

Fun Fact: Maurilio showers with his iPhone.

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EnvoyNow

EnvoyNow is an on-demand food delivery app focused on the college market.  Since the workforce is 100% student-powered, the Envoys (delivery people) knowledge as well as the exclusive access to deliver food to a hyper targeted location, whether it be on the third floor of a lecture hall or the basement of the library, creating an extra step of convenience for students and faculty that is unprecedented in the food delivery space.

.AngelList: https://angel.co/envoynow

Founders: Anthony Zhang, Chad Massura, Gabe Quintela, Nick Wang

From: Los Angeles, CA

Fun Fact: Anthony owns a tenacious teacup pig named Sterling.  Follow Sterling’s adventures on Instagram @sterlingtheminipig.

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Fishfishme

Fishfishme helps people find and book fishing charters around the world. In simple words, they connect fishing charter boats with people that want to go fishing. Fishfishme knows how difficult it is to find a boat with a good skipper to take you fishing. And even if you are lucky and already found one, then it’s a big hustle to book the trip and make the payment. Fishfishme’s mission is to make finding and booking a fishing trip super easy.

AngelList: https://angel.co/fishfishme

Founders: Abdullah Alshalabi, Jose Gil Zafra

From: Kuwait

Fun Fact: Abdullah has worked and lived all around the world including Kuwait, Hong Kong, Spain, Uruguay, the United States, and Dubai.

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GlamST

GlamST helps retailers and beauty brands provide a multi-channel and customized experience for Millennials by giving them freedom, creativity and choice through a mobile and web virtual experience. Through the GlamST app, users can try makeup on their selfie (using their Virtual Makeup API which generates realistic images of the applied makeup on the user’s selfie), watch how-to video tutorials, compare shades and find new products to complete the look. It is a new way of interaction in the sale process and a way of making warm introductions to new shades, products and brands reducing the barrier of trying new shades and looks in seconds and helping them find the best look.

AngelList: https://angel.co/glamst

Founders: Agustina Sartori, Carolina Banales

From: Uruguay

Fun Fact: Carolina grew up on a farm in rural Uruguay and is just as comfortable lassoing sheep from horseback as she is committing lines in C++.

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Green Way Laboratories, Inc.

Green Way Laboratories, Inc. produces MastiClean, a patented multi-purpose cleaning formula. This highly unique blend of DfE and REACH approved ingredients create a true green and powerful cleaning solution. The science behind MastiClean enables the formula to break down the carbon chain of many common substances that are notoriously difficult to remove without the use of harsh and toxic solvents. MastiClean is safe to use on hands and virtually any surface. There is not a single ingredient in MastiClean that is toxic to the human body. It is odorless, hypo-allergenic, safe to use around food, non-flammable, non-corrosive, non-reactive and no rinsing is needed after use.

AngelList: https://angel.co/green-way-laboratories-inc

Founders: Ted Cote, Zack Gorlick

From: Long Beach, CA

Fun Fact: Once when Zack was snorkeling in the ocean, a stingray gave him a hickey on his arm.

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Hazel Lane

Travel without ever leaving home! Hazel Lane‘s subscription box features the best of eco-chic, artisanal products from a new city every month. #HappinessInABox Products range from apparel and scents to food from award winning restaurants, jewelry to home goods.

AngelList: https://angel.co/hazel-lane

Founder: Sam Strom

From: San Francisco, CA

Fun Fact: Sam grew up in several different communes.

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Kollecto

Kollecto helps you build an affordable art collection by pairing you with your own Personal Art Advisor. Think of the service as your new art-buying mentor. Upon signing up, you’re matched with a personal advisor who has extensive experience navigating the gallery scene. He or she will work with you to figure out your needs (something big, over the couch), budget (under $1,500) and overall hopes and dreams (you’d love to impress friends with a sophisticated collection. There, you said it.)

AngelList: https://angel.co/kollecto

Founder: Tara Reed

From: Detroit, MI / New York, NY

Fun Fact: For most of her life, Tara has been a competitive hip hop dancer.

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KonoLabs

Kono is an Artificial Intelligence (AI)-driven personal assistant to ease scheduling. Kono will improve your scheduling experience and make your life easier. Simply type in “what” with “who”. Then Kono will recommend the 3 best locations at the best available time based on attendee’s preferences, locations, traffic, and availability. KonoLabs is a team of mainly Korean engineers with expertise in mobile product development, data analysis, and machine learning. 

AngelList: https://angel.co/konolabs-inc

Founders: YJ Min, Jung-hee Ryu, Mincheol Song

Fun Fact: YJ is a geek for new devices, gadgets and services, and heavily addicted to coffee and SNSs.

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Linguatrip

Linguatrip is an online platform for booking quality language courses and student accommodations worldwide. It allows potential students to compare language schools and find the one that suits all of their needs. Linguatrip also allows users to book accommodations and flights, get information about the visa application process, and share their experiences. On the other side, schools can easily add information about themselves and update their potential customers on current promotions and availability.

AngelList: https://angel.co/mp-reserver

Founders: Dmitrii Pistoliako, Maria Mogilko, Dmitry Kravchuk

From: Russia

Fun Fact: Dmitrii has participated in amateur Go Karting World Championship Boxing.

MoBagel

MoBagel

MoBagel empowers and visualizes IoT businesses. MoBagel lets you create your own Internet of things. With no lines of code, get your IoT up and running in minutes. With MoBagel’s real-time analytics tools, you get to see user behavior, churning circumstances, command and status history, and malfunctions in visualized graphs. MoBagel helps you identify the most valuable customers and scale your business. Through AI and machine learning, MoBagel will help prevent breakdowns of your devices via real-time notification and pre-established settings. MoBagel’s system will gradually become smarter as more data is being analyzed and will then have the ability to recommend the right decision to business owners as well as the right product to consumers. With MoBagel’s platform and data analysis, the world will become a better, more convenient and safer place to live in.

AngelList: https://angel.co/mobagel

Founders: Adms Chung, Iru Wang, Chao-Kuan Lin

From: Taiwan

Fun Fact: Adms used to be a host on a TV news show.

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Nodal

Nodal produces Numa, a physical device that makes you safer by examining all of the traffic that moves in or out of your network. Paired with the Numa M mobile app, it is a comprehensive monitoring and security solution for every device from fridge to phone. Numa isn’t just a firewall – it’s much more than that. Where firewalls just look at the envelope, Numa takes an x-ray. Numa M isn’t just a way to see what’s going on with your network, it protects your phone wherever you go, without draining your battery. Numa stops attacks that antivirus software can’t. It keeps malicious traffic from getting in in the first place, so it protects connected devices such as thermostats, refrigerators, IP cameras, and control systems. Numa is security for the next generation of Internet applications. Our devices are getting smarter. Shouldn’t our networks, too?

AngelList: https://angel.co/nodal

Founders: Marcus Eagan, Bruce Kleinman

From: Mountain View, CA

Fun Fact: Marcus is a self-proclaimed fountain of useless information and is bringing the fanny pack back.

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Omate

Omate is a hardware and software design company exclusively focusing on designing wearables. Omate’s mission is to connect the world through a wearable experience by offering fashionable wearable devices at affordable price. Omate is designing the wearables of the 21st century as we imagined them while watching “Back To The Future II” when we were kids. Omate designs and retails ready-to-wear products that are pre-sold throughout its online store and sold via a portfolio of distributors worldwide.

AngelList: https://angel.co/omate

Founder: Laurent Le Pen

From: Hong Kong / Shenzhen, China

Fun Fact: Laurent is addicted to honey and knows most flowers by their Latin names.

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Pixc

Pixc provides on demand product image editing. Pixc helps eCommerce stores and individuals selling online increase their sales with better product images. Pixc removes the background and touches up the photo within 24 hours. A great product on a contrasting background can increase your sales by 39%.

AngelList: https://angel.co/pixc

Founder: Holly Cardew

From: San Francisco, CA

Fun Fact: Holly used Odesk so much that she was featured in their annual report.

Publishizer

Publishizer

Publishizer is the Kickstarter for publishing. Publishizer is building a book pre-orders platform that helps non-fiction and fiction authors bring their books to market with pre-orders. Publishizer has funded over $300,000 in pre-orders so far. The Publishizer team is focused on building automated marketing tools that help authors activate and expand their audience, by integrating with Facebook, Twitter, Google, LinkedIn and MailChimp.

AngelList: https://angel.co/publishizer

Founder: Guy Vincent

From: Singapore

Fun Fact: Guy can catch small thrown things (grapes, M&M’s, etc.) with his mouth from a surprisingly impressive distance.

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ResultsOnAir provides web analytics-level insights for direct response TV (DRTV) campaigns. We help advertisers and media agencies increase ROI on TV ad dollars up to 40%. By tracking how an audience takes action we optimise ad buying and increase conversions.

AngelList: https://angel.co/resultsonair

Founders: Cristo Pajust, Kristo Peterson

From: Estonia

Fun Fact: Combined, Kristo, Kristel and Cristo have travelled to 100+ countries. Also lived and worked in Asia, Europe and America

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RingCaptcha

RingCaptcha is a service that helps any app developer onboard and verify users in just minutes with a single SDK. RingCaptcha was built because of the huge growth of mobile and the growing phenomenon of trendy “log-in with phone” or “verify your phone” features on many apps. Before RingCaptcha, there was no service for developers and product managers needing a free utility to onboard and verify their mobile users with a two step SMS – like most of the big online players have been using for a while (e.g. WhatsApp, Yo, Airbnb). Now they do! RingCaptcha’s mission is to help the next WhatsApp apps to onboard and verify their users in the snap of a finger.

AngelList: https://angel.co/ringcaptcha

Founders: Mariano Fernandez, Martin Cocaro

From: Buenos Aires, Argentina

Fun Fact: Martin has a twin brother.

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Storygami

Storygami lets you easily add related content into your videos. Now you can embed blogs, image galleries, extra videos, maps, subscription tabs, and social media streams right into your video content. 

AngelList: https://angel.co/storygami

Founders: Heidi Lindvall, Guy Gunarante

From: London, United Kingdom

Fun Fact: Guy spent the previous few years before founding Storygami bouncing around conflict zones as a video journalist, negotiating with war-worn military generals, interviewing heads of state, and surviving a minefield.

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Transfercar

Transfercar provides free one-way rental cars to flexible travelers while offering low cost transportation to rental car companies. On Transfercar, you can search rental cars and RV’s needing to be transferred from some of the major United States rental car companies. In return, you will be helping the rental car companies reduce their freight costs and reduce the number of trucks on the road.

AngelList: https://angel.co/transfercar

Founders: Brian Karlson, Espen Grimstad

From: Auckland, New Zealand

Fun Fact: Espen claims to have the strongest left arm in the world.

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UCreate3D

UCreate3D provides a high quality 3D printing infrastructure to the world’s largest retailers. UCreate3D is the first company to combine a profitable consumer-driver assortment, infinitive stock without a footprint, and on-demand 3D printing. By optimizing UCreate3D’s 3D printing infrastructure through data analysis, consumers find the exact product they are looking for. UCreate3D’s global network of professional 3D printing partners enable them to ship the highest quality products at revolutionary speed. UCreate3D combines mass manufactured and locally 3D printed components to offer retailers and consumers breakthrough products that are affordable, high quality, and customizable. 

AngelList: https://angel.co/ucreate3d

Founders: Vincent Van De Poll, Koen Munneke

From: San Francisco, CA / Netherlands / Hong Kong

Fun Fact: Two of Vincent’s ancestors were the majors of Amsterdam.

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Virect

Virect provides a simple and effective way to get a great video. For customers who need video, Virect provides retrieval to browse and search videos and creators, recommendations based on requirements and statistical data, pitch deck submission and review, secure escrow payment transactions, and project management and feedback for communication.

 AngelList: https://angel.co/virect

Founders: Chee-Hyung Yoon, Nae Jin Hyeon

From: Korea

Fun Fact: Chee-Hyung has been coding since age six with MSX2.

To Build a Mobile App Business, Build a Growth Engine First

Mobile growth is something we haven’t talked about enough here on the 500 blog. All that’s about to change with the following monster 500 DISTRO post from our friend Alex Austin at Branch Metrics. Btw, you can catch Alex on stage at 500’s conference on startup growth, Weapons of Mass Distribution — next Friday May 1  in San Francisco.

You’ve decided you want to take a stab at building the next successful mobile app business. First off, spend some time and think about whether you’re ready for this. I’d liken the process to running in a marathon followed by wrestling in a sumo match. If you have the energy to make it through the first part, you’re most likely going to be eliminated in a fraction of a second by a professional.

Jimmy Fallon Sumo Suit

Mobile companies tend to spend far too much time building out the first version of their product, polishing every pixel to perfection before users lay eyes on it. This is only the first few miles of the marathon I described above. It’s the fun part. You’re still high on excitement from the idea and not yet tired enough to question why you even started in the first place. Do not drag this out too long. Your first version will not work, and will require constant iteration. Don’t fall for the illusion that you have a greater chance of success simply because you’ve optimized the button color on your signup page. Build it, ship it, iterate it to find product-market fit as soon as you possibly can so that you can get to work on the only problem that matters: growth.

Great. You launched and saw a couple thousand downloads in the first day or two. You’re just starting mile three of the marathon. How are you planning to stand out from the 50,000 other apps launched this month? A human being only has limited time on a phone per day. How are you going to convince someone to invest the few minutes to install your app and give you a chance? This is the grind. This is the remaining 24 miles of the race with the sumo wrestler waiting for you at the end. Very few companies make it through this part of process.

Not fazed? Then let’s get started. We at Branch spend the majority of our waking hours thinking about ways to help you get through the marathon and then be equipped to tackle the sumo. We build the tools that empower every app to become a self-sustaining growth engine. We’ve seen a lot of approaches: some that work and some that definitely don’t. The rest of this post shares useful tactics through the use of examples that have worked for apps on our platform.

The growth engine of your app

Before diving into the tools that we’ve seen work, let me first describe a framework for thinking about growth. A growth engine is a cyclical process that results in your existing users inviting their friends or new people to join them. Breaking down the the different components of this engine can help create a mental model for optimizations and improvements. See below:

Mobile growth engine awareness to activation cycle

The first step of the process is driving app awareness. How are people going to get to your app store page in order to press download and install? There are many, many different ways to drive awareness and the distribution of different channels will vary over time. It’s important to measure every one of these channels so that you can improve and optimize your efforts.

The second step is the download. This download will hopefully come naturally with increased awareness, but there is always a dropoff from awareness to download. You’ll find that some channels will drive much higher conversion from awareness to download. For example, a direct SMS from a friend drives viral awareness and leads to a high conversion to download, whereas Twitter will typically show an order of magnitude lower conversion from awareness to download.

The third and mostly overlooked step is activation. 20% of downloaded apps are used just once. To avoid this no-man’s land, once a user commits to download and opening up your app, you want to get them to take some action to commit to your product. That might be in the form of a registration screen or some onboarding step. This is where personalization and deep linking come into play. The more you can do to delight these fresh users, the more likely they are to activate and keep using the product.

The final step of the cycle is to drive users to share. Sharing can come in many different forms, from incentivized referrals to content sharing and everything in between. Word of mouth is the most effective form of marketing so the ultimate goal is to leverage your activated users to drive more awareness and therefore feed back into the cycle.

Attributing downloads to the source

You have to send new potential users to the app stores in order to drive downloads but the app stores are a black box when it comes to measurement, which makes it extremely challenging to get a clear picture of where these new downloads are coming from. This is the first critical problem to resolve in order to grow.

Mobile growth engines awareness activation cycle step 2

All you can see is the total number of new downloads per day. So how can you know what’s working? Let’s say you spend 8 hours a day making marketing posts on Facebook and 4 hours a day building relationship with affiliates. What if affiliates were driving thousands of downloads while your Facebook marketing was only driving tens per day? With the attribution data on how many downloads each channel drives you can confidently deprioritize one versus another.

In order to measure these various channels, you’ll need to use a mobile attribution company like Branch, AppsFlyer, Adjust or Kochava. Every referral link you create has the power to attribute downloads and even in-app user events back to the source. These can be easily visualized or exported to compare how different channels are performing.

The only growth channel that remains a mystery today is organic search traffic in the app store. It’s currently impossible to know exactly how many users just typed your name into the different stores or searched for a keyword. After replacing every link that points to your app with a uniquely tagged Branch link, you can calculate the organic com by process of elimination for a high level estimate.

Instacart & Yummly: Attributing Affiliate Traffic

Instacart, an on-demand grocery delivery service and Branch link user, found that a lot of their users were managing recipes with the recipe discovery app Yummly. They thought it would be a great idea to partner with Yummly to allow instant ingredient ordering through the Instacart platform. This affiliate relationship between the two companies would need to be tracked so that Yummly could be fairly compensated for driving downloads and orders through Instacart. Instacart decided to put Branch links to work here.

Instacart instructed the Yummly engineering team to create a Branch link in the Yummly app that points back to the Instacart app. In the screenshot below, you can see the flow in Yummly where they dynamically create the Branch link when the user clicks ‘Shop for ingredients.’

Instacart Yummly mobile app deep linking flow

Since Branch also supports contextual deep linking, Yummly has the ability to include the exact ingredient list to pass to Instacart so that the new user’s cart is immediately pre-populated on install. This gives the user a delightful experience upon fresh install.

instacart yummly mobile app flow with branch

Lastly, Instacart gets a report from Branch on the exact number of installs that occurred through this affiliate channel.

instacart yummly mobile app branch metrics report dashboard

8tracks: Attributing Email Performance

In some situations, you might have collected a large web presence and are trying to drive new users to the mobile app. An awesome user-generated music playlist service named 8tracks was facing just this problem.

They were trying to experiment with messaging and calls to action in order to drive the most number of downloads to the native app. One tactic is to put an app download button in the frequent marketing emails that go out to the user base. Unfortunately, it’s hard to know how many downloads are actually being generated by each email. To solve this problem, 8tracks started using Branch links to handle the button press in order to track the number of clicks, downloads and even signups per email. 8tracks is now able to measure the exact number of app downloads across both platforms for each email campaign.

8tracks app install email campaign with CTA

Converting downloads to activations

You’ve worked hard to raise enough awareness to drive a new download. This new person is likely skeptical about your app and will need convincing to stick around. Hence the need to focus on the next phase of your growth engine: converting this new download to an activation.

app engagement flow download to activation

According to numbers we’ve seen across our network and our own app trials, if you require users to register in order to enjoy the features of your app, you’ll lose over half of the users right away. This means that half of the work you’ve invested in convincing them to download is wasted and you need to work twice as hard for the same number of activated users.

Fortunately, there are a lot of things you can do to convince new users that your app is worth sticking around for. At Branch, we bucket them into two categories depending on what’s most applicable for the app: personalization and contextual deep links.

Personalization involves showing the user something relevant to their social context. This technique is best used by apps that are building an invite or referral feature for their app. For example, if a new user received an invite from their friend to install an app, that user could be greeted by their friend through a custom modal in the app upon install.

Contextual deep links bring the concept of a link router from the web era to mobile apps. It is the philosophy that if a user clicks a link that points to a page in your app, no matter if the app opens right away or the user has to install it first, you should route them to the appropriate page associated with that link. At Branch, we believe the mobile ecosystem and its users benefit from the adoption of this philosophy, as it passes the user’s context from outside of the app into the app, giving the user what they expressed interest in. From an implementation perspective, you simply create links for pages in your apps when users share them, then route new or existing users to that page when the link is clicked.

Gogobot: Personalized Onboarding for High Activation

Recommendations from friends and family are the most common way to discover new apps. With 77% of app users downloading new apps based on recommendations (source), Gogobot decided to make this pathway easier for their existing users by allowing them to invite their friends to sign up and join through an SMS invite feature within the app. Additionally, they decided to use Branch links to personalize each download that came from an invite. In each message that went out to other users, they inserted a Branch link embedded with the original user’s name, profile pic and user ID.

When a new user receives the link and downloads the Gogobot app, Branch passes that original user’s name, profile pic and user ID to the new app session and populates a personal welcome modal prompting a sign up. Users who saw a personalized welcome from their friend were 71% more likely to register in the app. This small change to the user experience powered nearly doubled the conversion from download to activation for referred users.

See below for the comparison of the basic activation screen to the personalized one.

Gogobot onboarding screens

Allthecooks: Contextual Deep Linking for High Activation

On the web, sharing is as easy as sending a friend a link to content anywhere on the internet. However, in the mobile world this type of sharing is hindered by the difficulty of passing information between apps. Currently, a link that drives a user to either app store loses the referring information. Once a user downloads the app they are forced to manually search for the content that brought them to the app in the first place. For apps with pages of content, a contextual deep link is an absolute requirement.

Allthecooks has built a community around sharing and discovering recipes. With this at the heart of their product, they want to be sure they are optimizing the sharing experience. Every time a user wants to share a recipe, Allthecooks automatically creates a Branch link that can easily be shared via text, email, Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest.

allthecooks Contextual deep linking screenshots

What makes this link so special is that it directs the recipient to the recipe inside the app right after opening, regardless of whether or not they previously downloaded the app. It’s a delightful experience. As a side note, users that originate from a Branch link are 2.1 times more likely to activate into a registered user.

allthecooks contextual deep linking with branch

Driving more sharing

Now that you’ve optimized the conversion from awareness to activation in order to drive a solid base of active users into your app, you can focus on the next stage of the growth engine: convincing those users to share the app with friends. This drives a new viral awareness channel that can only open up after you’ve activated enough users.

If you’re reading this blog, chances are that you don’t have a large marketing budget to make paid a large component of your user acquisition efforts. Additionally, it’s very rare that you’ll be able to make paid a significant portion of your traffic in a sustainable way due to the astronomic prices of installs, but it can be a great method to buy an early batch of users to test the robustness of conversion from activated users to sharing.

app-flow-activation-to-share

Sharing as a label can be a little misleading, as it takes the form of many different viral implementations. For example, app sharing can take the form of an incentivized referral program, where users are rewarded with money for convincing their friends to download and use the app (ex. HotelTonight, Uber). Another example might be the basic content sharing feature, where a user is allowed to send a reference to some content in the app to their friends or social network (ex. Flipboard, Allthecooks).

Sharing and viral growth in general has been looked down upon due to the ways that some early Facebook apps have abused it, but it plays a key role into most growth engines today. To do sharing well, it’s important to build it into the natural flow of your app or to tap into the emotional ebb and flow of your users. If you just add a sharing or invite feature to check the box (as most apps do), don’t expect more than 1% growth from this feature. If you build it the product and it feels natural, you can see explosive growth from even the simplest referral feature.

The League: Natural Referrals for High Share Conversion

Dating in this day and age can feel like window shopping through an infinite mall. People are desperate for an edge that can give them an advantage over other the crowd, or at least help them filter out the noise. Enter ‘The League’, an exclusive invite-only, application based dating app. To get access to the app, you must sit on a waitlist before being approved or be invited by a friend. The exclusivity factor has a couple natural companion sharing features that have driven astronomic growth to the core user base.

The first ‘natural’ sharing feature they built was the ability to move up the waitlist by inviting more people to the waitlist. Using a Branch link, they could track the number of users that each existing user generated. They would show your current position on the waitlist and reduce it with every person you invited, when Branch notified them of a new referred install.

the-league-waitlist-screen

The second sharing feature they rolled out leveraged their existing ‘accepted’ user base, allowing them to invite individual friends to give them exclusive access to bypass the waitlist. The League also used an expiring Branch link to ensure uniqueness of each invite that was sent out. See below of an example of one of the tickets.

the-league-sms-reminder

As a result of The League’s clever sharing implementations, over 18% of the activated user base has shared the app via social media or other channels, resulting in a substantial portion of new traffic to be generated directly by invites.

The Full Circle Growth Engine

This framework provides a mental lens for you to examine your growth problem in order to prioritize the work to improve it. For example, if you’re seeing high awareness->download and activation->sharing but low download->activation conversion, you’ll want to to work on optimizing that flow using some of the tricks I’ve recommended or other generic onboarding tweaks. Similarly, if it’s activation->sharing, you can try to devise a sharing flow that is more inline with the user experience.

While I’ve broken down the circle into unique, bite-sized chunks, you must think about the growth engine as a system as it’s likely that sometimes improvements to one section of the engine might have an impact down the funnel. One metric you can use over time is what I’ll refer to as k-Factor, which is an effective measure for how viral your service or product is. K-Factor is simply just the total number of new activated users generated by a single existing activated user. You can use this to gauge the health of your engine, and the response to significant changes.

It’s easy to measure if you’re measuring your viral installs using Branch links. To calculate it, you just need to multiply three conversions together to get the result: (download -> activation) * (activation -> share) * (share -> new viral-driven download). Please be careful to keep time a constant while pulling the conversions, or you could see some strange time sensitive responses.

Closing Thoughts

There is no single answer to growth. There isn’t a prescription solution and each successful initiative has to be perfectly tailored to every app’s situation. The most important tenet to remember is to just keep building as you’ll never get it right the first time.

For EVEN MOAR 500 Distro — come see us LIVE AT Weapons of Mass Distribution, our once-a-year conference on startup growth coming to SF on May 1. Register with code 500READER to get 15% off your ticket.

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YouTube Famous: Is Video a Viable Growth Channel for Startups?

YouTube gets more than a billion uniques a month, featuring “big” influencers with multiple millions of subscribers, “mid-size” influencers who have hundreds of thousands of subscribers and “small” influencers who still boast more followers than some small towns have people.

It’s not just YouTube, though. Influencers on Vine, Instagram and elsewhere have aggregated millions of followers on those channels too.

So the numbers are exciting, and video is clearly a promising medium for content distribution and growth. But is it really ROI-driven — and affordable — enough for startups?

internetfamous-pic

500 Distro recently partnered up with General Assembly in L.A. to talk about video as a viable growth channel for startups, not just fancy brands with buckets o’ dollars.

Our panelists were Evan Asano, CEO & Founder at MediaKix, Marcelo Camberos, CEO & Founder, Ipsy, Phil Ranta, COO at Collective Digital Studios, David Renteln, CMO & Co-founder at Soylent and Sam Rogoway, CEO & Founder, Victorious. The panel was moderated by 500 Distro Hacker-in-Residence, and khaki pants model, Andrei Marinescu.

Below is a brief recap. You can also skip straight to our video of the panel here.

How should STARTUPS think about video to drive growth?

Phil Ranta: Every brand needs to realize it’s hard to be a brand these days without also being an entertainment company.

The two go hand in hand. If you don’t have a social presence, then you’re missing out on a huge marketing opportunity: “I’m running this marketing campaign, and based on the followership that I gain from this campaign, my next one is going to be more effective.”

Step one is to figure out who you are as a brand and then what that looks like as entertainment.

Marcelo Camberos: It doesn’t even have to be only entertainment. It can be content-driven too.

If you’re selling life insurance or something that’s not funny or entertaining, you might not want to be on YouTube and Instagram, but you can still figure out what your brand is, and then identify WHO are the people who ARE LIKE that brand.

Who are the five YouTube or Vine or Instagram “creators” that are most LIKE my brand?

Then I would just invite them to your office or to dinner or to a party, find out what they’re doing and how you can help them and maybe work with them.

Evan Asano: At MediaKix we look at things in terms of a channel of influencers. There are YouTubers with millions of followers, and there are also people with 5,000 or 10,000 subscribers that also have loyal opportunities. There are opportunities all across the spectrum, it really depends on how much money you have.

Go out there and find the 2, 5, 10 people that really resonate with your brand. You’ll be surprised, if you have a product that really resonates back with THEM, then that’s the starting point.

Who has done a great job of leveraging video for growth recently?

Marcelo Camberos: Anastasia is a beauty brand that does an amazing job. She’s the brow queen. They’ve nurtured a very authentic posse — they’re just FRIENDS with each other. They’ve done a great job of simply engaging.

This works well here in L.A. A lot of the people who are influencers are right here in LA, and brands can connect via parties, via giving them products or tools or bringing them in as part of the family. It’s so much more authentic than when you’re paying for it. That’s not to say that it won’t work when you’re paying for it — especially if you’re thinking about building a program that you can scale — but I think starting out the brand that I would really call out is Anastasia.

YouTube Influencer Samantha Schuerman with Anastasia Beauty

Phil Ranta: It sounds weird… but I think Taco Bell is doing a great job with influencers and social.

They did one recently called the Breakfast Phone, where they give influencers a burner phone and said, we’re going to text you every day with something to share on social about Taco Bell, and at the end of the 30 days we’re going to give you something.

I would guess probably 80% of influencers flat-out said no, but the other 20% thought, hey this is a super fun game. People participated because they were just curious enough to know what the prize was at the end (it turned out to be a hoodie).

What attempts have been less than successful?

Phil Ranta: There was a car company that we recently worked with. They were doing a travel show, got a couple influencers to star in the show, but didn’t work on marketing with the influencers. They had big stars in it, but it was a tree falling in the forest. It was getting 500 to 1000 views per episode and they were clearly spending like crazy for that.

I learned a valuable lesson from that: discoverability has to happen first. You can make something really good, but if people have no way to view it that first time and then begin to share it and make that cycle start, then it might as well not even happen because there’s so much content on YouTube and it just disappears.

Andrei Marinescu: Big brands like Taco bell or car companies have huge budgets and aren’t necessarily ROI-driven because they’re brand building. For startups, especially early stage, where cash is not plentiful by the hundreds of millions, they have to be ROI-driven.

What are examples of companies that have done a great job running a video campaign that’s strongly ROI-driven? And how do you even do ROI in this world where it’s about “influencing” and squishy concepts like how many views you got?

How do you determine whether those views actually translated into signups for your email list, or registrations on your site or subscribers or people just buying whatever your service is? How do you bridge that gap?

HINT: the answer’s at 21:15, with lots more in the full panel video here.

For EVEN MOAR 500 Distro — come see us LIVE AT Weapons of Mass Distribution, our once-a-year conference on startup growth coming to SF on May 1. Register with code 500READER to get 15% off your ticket.

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Elizabeth Yin Joins 500 Investment Team

500 Startups continues to grow, both in the number of international folks joining our team, as well as individuals elevating into new leadership positions. We’re happy to welcome Elizabeth Yin to the 500 Investment team, where she will be running our Mountain View accelerator program! Prior to joining 500 Startups, she started a company called LaunchBit, which was an adtech company that she sold last year to a larger adtech company. In another life, Elizabeth worked on products at Google and has a BSEE from Stanford and an MBA from MIT Sloan. We’re really lucky to have her.

Elizabeth new

With Batch 13 kicking off this Monday, I caught up with Elizabeth to learn more about her journey, insights and experience working at 500.

You’ve come a long way from founder in Batch 2 to now Partner at 500. Congratz:) Who were some of your greatest mentors along the way? 

From a personal perspective, my best mentors were my parents (both immigrants who came from different countries) who worked hard and made Mountain View (yes, Mountain View) their home, where I grew up. A handful of my teachers from middle/high school and my co-founder at LaunchBit Jennifer have also been very influential to me over the last couple of decades.

What initially drew you to join 500’s accelerator program back in 2011? What was the experience like back in the day? Fast forward to 2015, how do you think it’s changed? 

Honestly, Dave and Christine’s integrity is a big reason I wanted to join the 500 accelerator. I’d been burned by an investor before and had heard other stories too of unscrupulous investors, so I knew that there were good investors and bad ones. I only wanted to work with good ones.

in500

The 500 Startups accelerator has changed A LOT!! (and is constantly a work in progress). In 2011, honestly, 500 was just starting out and didn’t have anything!  There wasn’t even carpet let alone everything you would expect from a top accelerator. We’ve come a long way since then.  These days, for example, each accelerator company gets two coaches — a customer acquisition coach and a startup coach, who help you with essentially marketing/sales and fundraising, two of the biggest problems startups face. I can’t think of any other accelerator that gets this hands-on with its companies.  We also have tons of content during our program — we have speakers coming in constantly to talk about tactical issues such as “How to optimize your email marketing?” or “How to recruit technical talent?”  Companies can pick and choose what to attend based on what’s relevant to them. Lastly, we have hundreds of mentors in our network, and these people come in and out of the office, holding office hours around the clock. So, a lot has changed since when I went through the program, and we are still working to do more for our companies.

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But some things haven’t changed.  Our commitment to diversity has remained the same. We scour the world — literally — looking for the best founders.  We look for a wealth of experiences in our founders and have invested in a range of people across age, race, gender, geography, vertical experience, etc.  I recently ran the numbers, and even as far back as my batch (2), 35% of the companies in my batch had at least one female founder.

I was amazed in my batch that you could put a group of very different people together and four months later leave Demo Day as a strong, united family, and this consistently happens in every batch.

How has the approach to fundraising changed since then? 

The fundraising scene has changed a lot since I raised. 2011 was the rise of AngelList (a 500 company), which has singlehandedly changed the angel investing scene. It enabled individuals to become powerful enough to help fund early stage companies without the need for VC money. With more fundraising options for early stage companies, it has made it a bit easier for startups to raise some money and make progress on their businesses more quickly than ever before. This trend will continue with the recent announcement that unaccredited investors will be able to start investing in startups. This is great for the startup ecosystem.

What this means for institutional investors (including 500) is that we need to become more valuable. Money is becoming commoditized.  The best founders can raise money from anyone these days.  If you don’t provide more value to founders than cash, then you’ll go extinct. So, hence, why we work so hard on our programs here — our accelerator programs as well as our new Distrofund. Our programs provide tactical fundraising and customer acquisition help, which is in many ways more valuable to our founders than the small amount of cash that we invest.

 The tech industry keeps renewing itself, where are you excited to see it headed? 

I grew up in Mountain View and got my first taste of the tech industry when I was a teenager interning at a different startups during the dot com boom.  So I’ve seen a lot of changes.  Even though the dot com boom was a gold rush, this current era is actually much more exciting, and here is why:

1) Software is moving to main street.

When I was a child, the tech industry was a small sector and limited to very geeky people. I was drawn to it, but I never thought that most of my peers would be in the software industry. You know software is moving to main street when the best jobs are all in tech and people who don’t have a tech inclination or background are working in it. It’s because tech has moved into every industry.

Marc Andreessen famously stated, “Software is eating the world.” Tactically speaking, what this means is that in the next five years, you will not be super successful in any major industry without having and using great software.  We already see this happening.  You cannot be a successful cab driver without being on Uber. You cannot be a successful hair stylist without being on Mayvenn or StyleSeat (both portfolio companies).  To Jamie Dimon’s point, old-stodgy, bureaucratic banks will also have to adapt or die — they, too, will not be successful unless they make their banking, lending, re-financing, etc super easy and accessible online.

This also means that we’ll see a new wave of entrepreneurs.  We’ll see SMBs and tech businesses blend together, and this is already happening.  Homejoy (a portfolio company) is an example of this — tech companies are everywhere and are a blend of traditional businesses done better with tech.

2) Startup ecosystems are moving beyond the Silicon Valley

500’s vision is to help build startup ecosystems worldwide — this is why we fund entrepreneurs from everywhere and give talks and run Distrocamps in various cities around the globe.  There are a lot of people who say that Silicon Valley can’t be replicated, but I disagree.  It may take time, but I think we are already seeing major startup ecosystems explode that didn’t exist 10 years ago.  In the US, places like New York, Austin, Boulder, and Portland are great examples of this.  If you have 1-2 billion dollar companies grow up in a city and cultivate a culture of giving back by way of investing and mentoring, then you can jump-start an ecosystem.  This is exciting, because in a time when you read about how no one has jobs anymore and simultaneously read about how the tech industry can’t hire fast enough, I think this trend will help revitalize cities worldwide.

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 What are some really exciting companies you’ve seen come through 500?

Since I’ve only been on the 500 team for one accelerator batch, I’m not super familiar with most of our companies yet.  One company from the last batch that I’m really excited about is called ProSky.  They are an online platform for hands-on internships.  I love this concept, because there are tons of college students these days graduating without “useful” skills and cannot find a job.  On ProSky, students can do projects for companies so that they can obtain useful skills and then companies can use the platform as a recruiting tool to try to attract the best students to their respective companies.

We recently spoke on a Diversity Panel at General Assembly, do you think SV is doing enough to change the ratio? 

This is a work in progress that will take more effort and more time. I think awareness that there is a problem is the big first step.  For a long time, lots of people would say, “Oh, SV is a total meritocracy. Women just aren’t interested in doing startups.” But now, lots of female founders are going public with their personal stories of weird things that happen to them while running their companies. We need to have more of these conversations to head-on acknowledge problems in the industry.

richard_ey

What is your definition of a successful entrepreneur? 

I see entrepreneurship as a career not a one-off project/company. Entrepreneurs need to have a lot of “at-bats” in order to learn, grow, and build successful companies. So, for me personally, my definition of a successful entrepreneur is an entrepreneur who sticks with entrepreneurship through his/her life and is in some way able to make an impact on lives.

What is some advice you’d offer to a founder applying to our accelerator program? 

At 500 Startups, we value unit metrics quite a bit!  By unit metrics, we’d like companies to get a sense of things like their monthly recurring revenue, the lifetime values of their customers, the cost to acquire those customers, and churn. To be clear, most startups don’t have an accurate view of their unit metrics, and we realize this will change over time.  But monitoring key metrics is the first step to running a good business, so knowing your unit metrics backwards and forwards is a good indicator of who tracks KPIs closely and who doesn’t. And secondly, we want to get a sense of how much do your users/customers love your business and how much room is there to pay for marketing — those initial unit metrics give us some sense of this.

Wishing Elizabeth and team a great start to Batch 13 on Monday! 

500 Startups announces $10M DistroFund to Accelerate Post-Seed Companies to Series A

500 Startups is proud to announce the launch of DistroFund, a $10 million allocation from 500 Startups main fund dedicated to post-seed, pre-Series A companies looking to scale and operationalize their growth marketing function. This new fund will be managed by 500’s in-house growth team aka “Distro” team. (note: Distro is the 500 nickname for “Distribution” or customer acquisition).

DistroFund will initially invest $100K-$250K in 25 post-seed /pre-Series A companies over the next 18 months, with 50% of fund capital reserved for follow-on investments in companies that raise Series A. $50k from the first check will be earmarked to pay for growth and marketing resources. DistroFund will invest in both existing and new 500 portfolio companies. Ideal candidates will already have demonstrated growth and/or revenue, and are looking to operationalize their marketing to continue predictable growth at scale.

Mat Johnson

 

“After working on growth strategies with many of our accelerator and seed-stage companies, we realized we were essentially doing due diligence on their future Series A financing. Given our in-depth knowledge of their customer acquisition costs, unit economics, and risk profile, it was a no-brainer to consider investing in the more promising companies” says Mathew Johnson, DistroFund Partner.

The 500 Distro Team began life two years ago as an in-house portfolio services function, working with our accelerator and seed-stage companies to help them grow customers & revenue. Since then, this hands-on expertise in growth and distribution has become a top selling point for founders who join 500. Distro Team members are previous founders, growth marketing leaders, and investors from notable startups and established technology companies. The 500 Distro Team will continue to work closely with each DistroFund investment to scale their business.

 

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Justin Potter, CEO of Cleanify says: “The 500 Distro team was extremely valuable throughout our time in the accelerator. We beefed up our analytics, started testing new channels, put together a strong referral program and more. The team has been instrumental in helping bring our acquisition costs down, while increasing sales, and preparing us for VC funding. We wanted to continue working with the Distro team to attack more channels, dive deeper into our analytics and continue educating our team.”

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Diishan Imira, CEO of Mayvenn say: “We worked with the 500 Distro team after graduating from Batch 6 when we had found product/market fit and needed to begin to scale. Over four months we worked intensely with them, creating an innovative online-to-offline funnel that had our CPA’s so low our other investors thought that we were lying! One year later, we still use the same fundamentals to manage our marketing and optimize our funnels today.”

500 DistroFund has already made three investments to date in Cleanify, Pijon and one unannounced company.

DistroFund is now accepting applications for companies to present on-stage at Weapons of Mass Distribution, 500’s conference covering growth marketing on May 1, 2015. Three finalists will pitch to a panel of top VCs and one winner will get an investment offer from DistroFund. Apply here.

DistroFund is also deploying capital through a series of 2-month Distro Dojo growth accelerators. Seed-stage companies can expect to gain 6-12 months’ worth of marketing progress in a 1-month period by bringing multiple intensive growth resources to bear on their business all at once. 500 Startups successfully piloted this program in Malaysia in 2014 and will be expanding it to other global locations in 2015.

Recent Press Mentions: TNW, WSJ, PandoDaily