500 Startups Announces Batch 14 in San Francisco

Heeeyyyyy yo! Can you believe we’re already on our 14th accelerator batch? For those of you keeping track, this is our fourth batch in San Francisco!

As always, our companies have all types of founders from everywhere on the globe. 38% of our companies have at least one foreign‐born founder.  Countries include: Finland, Brazil, UAE, Uruguay, Serbia, Ghana, Russia, Canada, Jordan, UK, South Africa, India, France…. <cue… It’s a small world world after all…..> Follow our Batch 14 companies on AngelList.

If you want to join 500 in the future, you’re in luck – Batch 15 (Mountain View) applications are currently open. We’re always on the look out for great companies with traction and awesome founders.  APPLY NOW.

Announcement shared via TechCrunch.

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

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43Layers

Marketplace to design and make custom goods on-demand

AngelList: https://angel.co/43-layers

Founders: TJ Ross, Emerson Knapp, BJ Terry

From: San Francisco, CA, USA 

Fun Fact: TJ paid for rent in college by selling t-shirts at USC football games and online poker winnings. Now he pays for rent by complimenting his roommate’s (AKA his mom’s) cooking. When Emerson isn’t writing code, he is using the 3D printer he built to make parts for his yoyo collection, while sipping on Japanese whiskey. BJ has been on a multi-year project to watch every episode of Star Trek in chronological order starting with the original series. There are 726 episodes. He has finished 598.

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Aircall

Phone Support Software for your Business

AngelList: http://angel.co/aircall

Founders:  Olivier Pailhes, Xavier Durand, PB Béchu

From: Paris

Fun Fact: As part of Aircall’s value proposition and as we’re a team of musicians, we wanted to offer customized music on-hold and ringtones to our customers. We’ve worked really hard on this. In the end, we’ve found our unique Aircall ringtone (inspired by Keith Jarrett’s Koln Concert) but we got bashed by our customers on our music on-hold performance. We’re actually coming to 500 to benefit from the best California music studios to finally record music that rocks!

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Apptuto

Gamified, social learning platform for standardized tests

AngelList: https://angel.co/apptuto

Founder: Nicholas Cooper

From: Dubai, UAE

Fun Fact: Nicholas’s first career was as a child actor in Australia

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AutoLotto

AutoLotto let’s you play the lottery from your phone

AngelList: https://angel.co/autolotto

Founders: Tony DiMatteo, Matt Clemenson

From: San Francisco, CA

Fun Fact: Matt enjoys wakeboarding. Tony is an amateur skydiver.

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Baker

Frequent Flyer Program for Cannabis Dispensaries

AngelList: https://angel.co/baker

Founders: David Champion, Roger Obando, Joel Milton

From: Denver, CO USA

Fun Fact: Baker signed up its first 1,000 users by luring people in with a beer pong game at their Cannabis Cup booth – their intern’s idea.

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BetterView

Platform for Data-Gathering Drones

AngelList: https://angel.co/betterviewmarketplace/

Founders: David Lyman, Dave Tobias

From: San Francisco, CA, USA

Fun Fact: Out of four team members, we have three Daves. Our team consists of a former TOPGUN instructor, a commercial roofer with 3 decades of experience,

a guy who scaled a small family operation into a large national insurance inspection report business, and an fbFundee turned 500 Startups LP turned startup founder again.

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ConcertWith.me

Concert discovery with online preview

AngelList: https://angel.co/concertwith-me/

Founders: Vit Myshlaev, Anatoliy Polikarpov

From: Ryazan, Russia 

Fun Fact: We’ve traveled with our company from Russia to Cyprus, from Cyprus to France, from France back to Russia and now we are in US!

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Datasembly

Transform web content into structured data

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

Founders: Ben Reich, Dan Gallagher

From: Washington, DC, USA 

Fun Fact: The founders became friends when Ben was assigned to train Dan at their previous jobs. 

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Decisive Health

Bringing the convenience of Expedia.com to healthcare services

AngelList: https://angel.co/decisive-health

Founders: Nathanael Rosidi, Jonathan Shih

From: San Francisco

Fun Fact: Nate brews his own beer, and Jonathan dry-ages his own steaks, and neither has given the other food poisoning . . . yet. 

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Encore Alert

The best automated marketing assistant you’ve ever had.

AngelList: http://angel.co/encore-alert

Founders: James Li, Tammy Cho, Felipe Lopes

From: Arlington, VA USA

Fun Fact: James – first “venture” was a Pokemon trading card club in fifth grade. Tammy – has traveled to over 37 states (and Canada!) in the span of 30 days. Felipe – huge fan of snowboarding and makes an annual GoPro mountain trip video

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Eyes On Freight

The “match.com” for the logistics industry.

AngelList: https://angel.co/eyesonfreight

Founders: Chris Nyenhuis, Matt Thomas

From: Columbia, Missouri, USA

Fun fact: Chris Nyenhuis: On my honeymoon, I swam (in a cage) with a Great White Shark, sat next to a pride of lions and ran around with a bunch of penguins all in one week. Matt Thomas: Once drove a race car 151 mph around the Dallas Motor Speedway.

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Fuzzy.io

Twilio for AI

AngelList: https://angel.co/fuzzy-io

Founders: Matt Fogel, Evan Prodromou

From: Montreal, Quebec, Canada 

Fun fact: Both founders are left-handed. 

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GiftStarter

Buy anything piece by piece, with and for anyone you want.

AngelList: https://angel.co/giftstarter

Founders: Arry Yu, Christie Gettler Tarazon

From: Seattle, WA 

Fun Fact: Arry Yu has had more than 3 careers, each lasting more than 10 years. Christie has moved 3 times and had a baby in the past year while starting a startup. She can lick her elbow.

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Havenly

Havenly provides unparalleled online interior design services, all for a flat fee of $185 per room. You can get your space designed, as well as purchase all the furniture with one-click shopping, all in one place.

AngelList: http://angel.co/havenly

Founders: Emily Motayed, Lee Mayer

From: Denver, CO/ New York, NY 

Fun Fact: The company was founded by sisters (Emily and Lee) out of personal need. 

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Junior Explorers 

Connecting kids to nature and wildlife through fun learning experiences.

AngelList: https://angel.co/junior-explorers

Founders: Anurag Agarwal, Sarah Sheehan

From: Brooklyn, NY, USA

Fun Fact: Anurag has lived on 3 different continents and had 5 different careers prior to this role. Sarah originally moved to NYC to study and pursue acting.

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Kudobuzz

Kudobuzz is the smartest way for SMBs to generate verifiable reviews, drive traffic and increase sales.

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

Founders: Lovell Larbie, David Tetteh, Kena Amoah

From: Accra, Ghana 

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Lab Sensor Solutions

We build IoT sensor networks for the healthcare industry

AngelList: https://angel.co/lab-sensor-solutions

Founders: Jarie Bolander, Geoff Zawolkow, Daniel Paley, Bill Judd, Marvin Raab

From: Redwood City, CA USA

Fun Fact: Jarie was a participate in the 1984 Summer Olympics, authored 3 books and is an extreme ultra-endurance athlete. Geoff was a participate in the 1968 Summer Olympic trials, knows sign language and cures his own bacon. Daniel roasts his own coffee, taught kayaking and is an Extra Class Ham radio operator. Bill was at Woodstock (the original), a real secret agent and programmed on the Newton Note Phone. Marvin plays in the World Series of Poker, has 100+ board games and loves to fly his drone.

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MapJam

A next-generation map publishing platform

AngelList: https://angel.co/mapjam-2

Founder: Jack Gonzalez

From: San Francisco 

Fun Fact: Scollay and Jack first met when they were 17 in Jack’s geography class at Pine Rivers High School, Queensland Australia. Scollay went to Australia participating in an international exchange program (US/Austalia). After school, Jack became a geogrpahy teacher and they both launched their careers overseas, (Jack – London and Scollay in New York) 22 Years later, they both reconnect thanks to a a sushi review Jack found. See video here! https://vimeo.com/71210817

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MonkeyLearn

MonkeyLearn is an Artificial Intelligence Software as a Service Cloud Platform for automatic text processing.Get Data from text using Machine Learning with MonkeyLearn!

AngelList: https://angel.co/monkeylearn

Founders: Raul Garreta, Martin Alcala Rubi, Ernesto Rodriguez, Eduardo Mangarelli

From: Montevideo, Uruguay

Fun Fact: Monkeys will conquer the world ;). We’re a bunch of serial entrepreneur geeks trying to make AI technologies for Text Data processing more accessible for companies, or even for Monkeys.

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Pacifica Labs

Daily tools for stress & anxiety based on CBT & Mindfulness.

AngelList: https://angel.co/pacifica-labs

Founders: Dale Beermann, Chris Goettel

From: San Francisco, CA 

Fun Fact: The name Pacifica started as a code name for the mobile application. Chris currently lives in Pacifica. Noe is the code name for the server-side codebase, from where Dale lives in San Francisco. While we initially picked Pacifica because of its association with the ocean, and the general theme in our app, it wasn’t until it was pointed out several months later that pacifica meant peaceful or tranquil and was remarkably fitting for our app. Chris – “I was a screenwriter in high school and came THIS close to selling one to Drew Barrymore.” Dale – “My friend nicknamed by thumbs ‘Jaba the Thumbs’ in high school. They’re huge. I was also our high school badminton champion. I don’t think there’s a correlation.”

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Pipefy 

Workflows & Process Management for startups

AngelList: https://angel.co/pipefy

Founders: Alessio Silva Alionço, Leandro Johann, Kelvin Stinghen, Paulo de Leo, Raphael Costa, Maurivan Luiz Padilha

From: Curitiba, Paraná, Brasil 

Fun Fact: Alessio – has a very bad memory. Leandro – obsessive compulsive when it comes to cleaning and organization. Kelvin – Our viking (you will see why). Paulo – A giant that loves lollipop, yogurt, sweets, snacks and toys. Raphael – love junk food. Maurivan – Nuts, left a leadership position in one of TOP 3 telecom companies in Brazil to follow our dream.

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Remitbee

Cross currency money transfer from your mobile or web devices.

AngelList: https://angel.co/remitbee

Founders: Yogi Yoganathan, Mano Pera

From: Toronto, Ontario, Canada 

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Saint Harridan

Masculine clothing and accessories for women and transmen.

AngelList: https://angel.co/saint-harridan-inc

Founders: Mary Going, Martha Rynberg

From: Oakland, CA  

Fun Fact: Mary can flip omelets without using a spatula. Martha is a closeted race car driver.

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Sajilni

Event Management simplified for businesses, venues, organizers and individuals.

AngelList: https://angel.co/sajilni

Founders:  Hiba Mansour, Khalil Al Salem, Fareed Al Namrouti

From: Jordan

Fun Fact: Hiba, CEO and Guitar enthusiast and event lover! Fareed, CTO and Video Games professional. He actually competes on regional levels. Khalil, the on demand connection maker, problem solver.

 

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StackShare

See all the best cloud services and who’s using them.

AngelList: https://angel.co/stackshare

Founder: Yonas Beshawred

From: San Jose, CA 

Fun Fact: Yonas is Ethiopian!

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Stamplay

API Lego for developers. Streamline back-end development to launch apps in a fraction of the time.

AngelList: https://angel.co/stamplay

Founders: Giuliano Iacobelli, Nicola Mattina

From: London, UK 

Fun Fact: Despite Giuliano’s classic look, he hides an unexpected love for gangsta-rap and hip hop. Nicola is a terrific chef and loves to craft tasty gelatos.

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StreetHawk

StreetHawk is the Mobile Growth Automation Engine for App hackers & marketers to create Organic Growth and Virality.

AngelList: https://angel.co/streethawk

Founders: David Jones, Linda Fernandez

From: Australia

Fun Fact: David: grew kale before it was fashionable – still trying to find a way to eat it! Linda: Thinks the startup rollercoaster is almost as fun as the life rollercoaster.

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SweepSouth 

On Demand Home Service Marketplace for the Developing World

AngelList: https://angel.co/sweepsouth

Founders: Aisha R Pandor, Alen Ribic

From: Cape Town, South Africa 

Fun Fact: Aisha’s left eye involuntarily streams tears when she eats tasty food. Alen was part of a circus troupe slapstick act when he was 13 years old. 

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TopHatch / Concepts

Design tools with a human touch (NOTE: This company is named TopHatch in some of our documentation but for external communications they want to use the name of their app which is named “Concepts”).

AngelList: https://angel.co/tophatch

Founders: Ben Merrill, David Brittain

From: San Carlos, CA, USA & Turku, Finland 

Fun Fact: Ben jumped out of planes for the US Army and was a stuntman for indie films. He recently got a hug from Dave McClure for worst pitch / best numbers. Dave is an avid pole dancer (slang in the kitesurfing community for windsurfers).

 

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TruckTrack

SaaS for managing trucking company’s daily operations. Putting trucks in the cloud.

AngelList: https://angel.co/trucktrack

Founder: Vuk Nikolic

From: Belgrade, Serbia 

Fun Fact: Vuk has been programming since age of 6 (commodore 64 ftw). Started TruckTrack because his mom has a trucking company. 

 

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Village Defense

Village Defense provides a simple way to connect and share real-time information with your neighbors.

AngelList: https://angel.co/villagedefense 

Founders: Sharath Mekala, Nathan Black

From: Atlanta, GA, USA

Fun Fact: The team was mentioned in Bermuda’s State of the Union address. 

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WeGrow / Growbots

The Slack bot for fast and easy feedback at work.

AngelList: https://angel.co/wegrow

Founders: Jeremy Vandehey, Joseph Estrada, Justin Vandehey

From: San Francisco, CA, USA 

Fun Fact: Their first iteration of Growbot was a public, anonymous feedback platform. It quickly grew to 500k profiles and got put on LinkedIn’s probationary API list.

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You-App

Self-improvement through micro-actions.

AngelList: https://angel.co/you-app

Founders: Nelli Lahteenmaki, Aleksi Hoffman, Nora Rosendahl, Jaakko Hyvarinen, Toni Sallinen

From: Helsinki

Fun Fact: Their company, Fifth Corner Inc., is named after a beautiful hipster area in Helsinki Finland. Their first office was located Viiskulma, “Fifth Corner” where five streets merge, formulating five corners. They really loved the place, which might be the reason several of us founders had thought about the same name…

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Zendy Health

Priceline-like marketplace for health and dental services.

AngelList: https://angel.co/zendyhealth

Founders: Vish Banthia MD, Roumen Antonov, PhD

From: Los Angeles, CA, USA 

Fun Fact: Vish Banthia MD — Double Board Certified Head and Neck Surgeon / Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon. Played Eddie Van Halen’s solo for Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” during my Residency in a rock band in NYC. Roumen Antonov, PhD — brought the internet to Bulgarian universities; avid pilot / flies planes.

 

 

Meet Blake Commagere, Growth Marketing Badass & Newest 500 DISTRO

Blake Commagere is a growth marketing badass. Like, big time.

Blake was one of the original “growth hackers” back before it became an official job category on tax returns.

We somehow got the impressive Mr. Commagere to join 500 Distro as a growth marketing advisor, and today he’s sitting down with me for a brief AMA that should serve as a prelude for the Commagere Greatness that’s to come.

BLAKE, WHY 500 DISTRO? WHY NOT MARS, OR THE WHITE HOUSE?

For last 7-8 years I’ve been giving talks on growth as well as meeting 1:1 with founders to discuss how to implement specific growth concepts in their products.

In that time, I’ve had the chance to meet with entrepreneurs in every space I can think of and it has not only sharpened my existing skills, it’s allowed me to learn an enormous amount about other growth techniques. Meeting with founders has been by far the most fun part of my career over the years, and so it only made sense for it to be something for which I formally carve out time.

As to why 500 specifically, I recently had the chance to meet with the 500 Distro Team and they’re absolutely amazing. Some I’ve known for years and a few I’ve gotten to know over the last few weeks – and they’re all awesome.

The portfolio at 500 means that I’ll have access to so many awesome people from whom I can learn – and hopefully I can help teach them a thing or two as well!

Plus, I have a total mancrush on Dave.

2. CAN YOU REMIND OUR READERS OF YOUR CELEBRATED / SORDID PAST IN GROWTH MARKETING, STARTING FROM YE OLDE DAYS OF SOCIAL APPS?

Well, my sordid past is quite extensive.

I was an early engineer at Plaxo, the online address book sync tool which was co-founded by Sean Parker. It was an awesome opportunity to not just grow as an engineer, but the team there gave me the chance to learn an enormous amount about growth, UI/UX, user psychology, etc. I believe we grew the audience to ~100M users.

Years later, I had the chance to work with Sean again at Causes. I was in charge of building the Facebook app at Causes and it quickly became the focus of the company (and reached over 100M people).

Shortly thereafter, I created the first social games on Facebook which I grew to reach over 50M players.

Honestly, I wasn’t the best game designer, so I took what I knew about viral marketing + retention and created game mechanics based on them.

Those mechanics have been the basis for the majority of the organic user acquisition techniques used by mobile and social games over the last several years. So… sorry about that.

3. WE KNOW GROWTH MARKETERS LIKE TO KEEP THE BEST STUFF IN THE CELLAR, SO WHAT’S YOUR *2ND* FAVORITE (UNDERLEVERAGED) GROWTH TRICK / TIP RIGHT NOW?

Everyone knows that they should target their messaging to users, but frequently companies don’t efficiently target because they don’t think they have data that can help with that targeting.

Sometimes they are overlooking data that they have on their users because it is implicit to their existing data. As an example, if the only explicit user data you have on a user is their phone number, then you also know with a high degree of certainty their physical location (or at the very least a location that they used to live).

Going deeper, if you have a 212 area code, then I know you at one time lived in NYC, you’re probably over 25 (since most cell carriers stopped allocating 212 numbers several years ago) and that your household income is likely to be above the US median. Got an AOL email address? Pretty sure you’re not a teenager.

From these assumptions you can better target your messaging and get better results.

4. WHAT’S OVERRATED?

By far the most overrated thing in growth right now is dismissing it as “just marketing.”

It’s common to be dismissive of jobs and roles that you’ve never had to do, but given how few people are actually decent at growth and how critical to a company’s success it is, it’s particularly striking that there’s such backlash against the concept.

I get it, the term “growth hacking” is overused. So was viral marketing. I’m sure we’ll have a new term soon and it will incite vitriol as well, but that won’t change the fact that if a company doesn’t have someone that is good at growth, they’ll probably never have any users and nobody will ever hear of it.

5. WHAT ARE A FEW NON-OBVIOUS GOODIES FROM YOUR GROWTH TOOLBOX?

Oh, the most non-obvious part of my toolbox is pop culture immersion.

It’s way too easy for entrepreneurs to make sweeping statements like “That [insanely popular] show sucks!” without taking the time to consider that they are trying to build a product that will reach a fraction of the same audience.

You may be able to beat the Kardashians on an SAT test, but they’d probably kick your ass in a cross-promo competition on Twitter.

Like them or not, the Kardashians are an amazing marketing machine and assuming that there’s nothing you can learn from them is limiting your knowledge of your target audience.

6. PARTING THOUGHTS / SWEEPING STATEMENTS / PROPHETIC VISIONS?

Well, obviously I’m incredibly enthusiastic about the opportunity to help out more of the 500 portfolio.

If you’d like me to be prophetic and make sweeping statements, here’s one that is fun: The narrative and backlash against Google Glass is incredibly similar to the backlash against the first cellular phones.

The core innovation of the first cell phone was that you could be reached and communicate no matter where you were. For Google Glass, the innovation is a HUD. In each case, only a few thousand units were sold, they were incredibly expensive and they were dismissed as ‘toys for rich assholes.’

So many people are giddy with glee that Google Glass was not a commercial hit, and I’m sure their parents were just as giddy when the DynaTAC 8000X only sold a few thousand units. But Google Glass was an important stepping stone for the HUD, just like the DynaTAC was an important stepping stone for mobile communication.

In both cases, the form factor wasn’t right just yet. And in both cases, something that seems like it’s just for rich assholes will become a critical tool to improving our lives in the years that follow.

Granted, the form factor may need to be that it has to look like regular glasses, or maybe it’s contact lenses. But in the near future I will have a HUD that warns me when I enter a room that the CO levels are rising, can tell me that a floor is slippery before I walk onto it, can record someone that demands my wallet and can tell me more about everything in this world just by me looking at it.

The HUD is coming, it will be affordable and it will provide life changing data in real time to those that have it. And the luddites that rallied against Google Glass will eventually have HUDs and find some other new thing to whine about.

HUGE THANKS TO BLAKE, whom you should follow on Twitter immediately.

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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 Wednesday, August 5th at our HQ in San Francisco, CA. From 4-6pm, you’ll get a chance to meet founders in our current batch of startups (Batch 14) 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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“We had no expectation of finding anyone at the 500 job fair, but we ended up finding Anthony whose amazing growth hacking and performance marketing skills became instrumental in the quick growth of our company” – Yves Boudreau (Batch 12, Qimple)

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).

Inside the London Distro Dojo

WTF is a Dojo?

Going on the assumption that the definition is not immediately obvious, I’d like to tell you a bit about the Distro Dojo, and what we’ll be doing in London.

Distro = Growth – In classic Startup theory, you need four things: Talented founder, big market, good product, great distribution (Distro). In fact, I’d argue that Distro is actually more important than product quality.

The history of innovation is full of great products that fail because of poor distribution (such as Sony’s decision not to license Betamax to other hardware companies).

Most founding teams have product and engineering in their DNA. Most have no shortage of hustle. But very few co-founders have growth in their DNA.

A dojo is not a classroom, and it’s not for noobs. It’s a martial arts studio where experienced devotees go to study under a master and learn through practice.

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The Distro Dojo is hands-on, and teams will spend most of their time working on their businesses side-by-side with leading growth marketing experts. We emphasize action and experimentation against the key performance indicators that matter most to each individual company.

Who may enter the Dojo?

First, getting into the Dojo requires that you’d  qualify for an investment from 500 Startups. We’ve blogged about our investment selection previously  here, here, and here. However, because the Dojo is more operationally intensive, we only admit a small number of companies, and the bar for entry is substantially higher.

The Distro Dojo has two additional qualifications:

  1. Traction: It’s a post-seed investment, so you should have funding to a point where you have some measurable traction – a decent sized group of active loyal customers.
  2. Founder Commitment: A committed founder is willing to spend money to drive growth, including ad spend and hiring; and they will give access to their coders to implement growth programs on the core codebase. Finally, like an actual Dojo, students are humble and genuinely eager to learn.

Who are the sensei?

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Yes, the plural of sensei is sensei, I looked it up. We have assembled masters of each of the subdisciplines of growth (e.g. paid channels, UX and conversion optimization, sales lead generation and nurture, email marketing, social media, two-sided network API hacking).

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The London faculty will represent a mix of tenured members of the 500 Startups growth marketing team from overseas, plus accomplished London-based growth marketers such as Andrew Young. This mix allows us to impart 500’s core Distro DNA, but also learn from experts in the local market.

My name is Matt Lerner, I lead the Dojo, and I have been driving growth and building growth teams in software and SAAS companies for 15 years. I specialize in conversion optimisation and UX, engagement and retention, hiring and managing, and analytics.

Structure of the Dojo

Distro Dojo London is a  three-month program with one month on-site at WeWork Moorgate. That first month is quite intensive and hands-on. For the subsequent months, you’ll return to your home office, with twice weekly check-ins with the 500 team.

The Dojo culminates in an invitation-only showcase event for London’s top VCs.

Week 1

Each company in the Dojo gets a dedicated point of contact (POC) who will work hands-on with them throughout the program.  In the first week, you work closely with your POC to document your hypotheses about how the business works. This includes such things as your product market fit (who are your most loyal customers and why do they love your service?) and your growth equation. You’ll identify your critical KPI and make sure you’re instrumented to track it.  Next, you’ll list your hypotheses and decide where to focus your first tests. Finally, you’ll define your weekly KPI targets for the duration of the 12-week program.

Week 2

In addition to running your first experiment, you’ll begin to lay the foundations for your growth engine. You’ll develop customer personas, and draft and post a job description for your next growth hire.  Together we’ll do a UX audit of your funnel, tighten up your messaging, and identify your “aha moment.”

Also, on Friday, you’ll have your first KPI Review. At that point, you’ll present your dashboard to the Sensei, and talk about where you’re ahead or behind and why, and what you’re going to do about it. This rhythm of weekly accountability conversations forms the backbone of the rest of the program.

Weeks 3 & 4

You’ll remain in the Dojo working closely with your POC and mentors on optimizing your funnel and traffic generation via experimentation.

Weeks 5 – 10

At this point, you’ll return to your own offices and continue the iteration. Early in the week (e.g. Tuesday) you’ll have an extended check-in with your POC where you can review progress and work on tough problems. You’ll also consult with mentors during that time. And every Friday you’ll have the two-hour KPI check-in with the Sensei.

Weeks 11 – 12

In addition to the normal rhythm, you’ll come back to the Dojo for pitch prep. At this point, you’ve probably raised money before, so you should have a decent pitch. Our focus will be learning how to present your marketing KPIs so they can be easily understood, even by a VC.

The Big Day

Finally, at the end of the program, you’ll get a chance to meet key potential investors in a more intimate setting.

Faculty, mentors and guest speakers

In addition to the staff, we are lucky to have a team of world-class mentors – growth marketers and successful entrepreneurs – with expertise on a wide range of subjects.

While the overall focus is on action, we will have up to four lectures per week on foundational topics such as:

  • Growth Hacking 101 – Mindset, Process & Case Studies
  • Data-driven mentality, essential KPIs, tracking tools overview
  • Referral marketing and retargeting
  • Content marketing and SEO
  • Facebook ads, Google AdWords, Twitter, and emerging channels
  • UX & Conversion Optimisation
  • Design and copywriting principles
  • Positioning, category creation, and pricing
  • Legal for Marketers (e.g. trademarks and IP)
  • PR and Buzz
  • Pitch Prep with a focus on how to present growth KPIs to investors.

But, does it work?

The success or failure of any startup depends mainly on its founders and team and their execution.

The rest is a combination of luck, timing, and DISTRO.

Here are a few success stories from the 500 Distro Team’s work over the previous year:

How to ‘apply’ for the Dojo

There are only five team spots  available for our London cohort, so acceptance is very limited. We’re not accepting applications, and participation is by invitation only. 500 Startups will be sourcing companies via referrals from our network of 3,000+ founders, mentors and investors.

If you have already launched a product, established solid product-market fit, raised a round, and are interested in the Distro Dojo program, we recommend you tap your current investor and advisor network for an introduction. We look forward to hearing about you!

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Zero to Million Dollar Run Rate — A Story of Growth & Hustle ft. Avanoo

Avanoo is a 500 Startups Batch 12 company that went from being a zero dollar business to hitting a million dollar run rate by the time they got to Demo Day this past May.

Prosper Nwankpa AvanooI first met Prosper and Daniel back at Founders’ Weekend in Vegas, and I’ll be honest — I was a tiny bit skeptical of these earnest young founders and their plan to build a business off of 3-minute self development videos.

But that’s exactly what they’ve done, with clients like Toyota, KPMG and Kaiser Permanente, among others of similar gargantuan stature.

Today’s growth case with Avanoo’s Prosper Nwankpa looks at:

  • how Avanoo went from a 3% email open rate to 60%
  • their biggest time waster for building out sales teams
  • their early strategic mistake that almost cost them their business
  • and how they went from zero dollars in revenue to a million dollar run rate in 10 months

Zero to a million. Give us the summary.

Avanoo logoWe partner with the world’s best experts in human potential — New York times bestsellers, renowned corporate speakers and others — and we work with them to create 3 minute a day, daily programs that help people unlock their potential and improve their performance in the workplace.

Back in August 2014, we had zero dollars in revenue. In April 2015, we did $50,000 in revenue. In May, we hit $80,0000 — our million dollar run rate.

When we joined 500’s Batch 12, we were still messing around with consumer and doing B2B as a trial, thinking about how to crack into the corporate training space.

When we started working with the Distro team, it became very clearly that we needed to focus on enterprise in order to scale.

So strategic guidance from the Distro team — aka Distro Real Talk — moved you to B2B, and towards that million dollar run rate.

Not only that but Distro also helped us to focus on a more systematic way to bring clients in and convert them to paid product.

Dominic, aka DistroDom, was instrumental in helping us figure out how to get leads, to turn cold leads into warm leads. 

How did you turn those cold leads into sales?

We experimented in a ton of things: advertising on LinkedIn and Facebook, social media outreach through Twitter.

In the end what ended up working well was finding people in our target market through LinkedIn (looking at positions and companies we were interested in). We would then cold-email them and try to get them interested in Avanoo.

Early on, it was a pain in the butt because our emails were all going to spam or not being received. Even when they did go through, we didn’t have good subject lines and so those emails didn’t get opened.

Eventually, after a lot of experimentation and a few key fixes, we went from an open rate of 3% to over 60%.

We experimented a lot with where we got our leads. We started out with data.com because it was super cheap, but the emails were so crappy, and that’s how we got the 3% open rates. Heads up for anyone who’s looking for a bunch of crappy leads 🙂

Then we had to figure out how else to get leads. At first it was like, these are email addresses, why wouldn’t they work? Dom and Matt helped us to a lot here, to understand that just having a bunch of email addresses isn’t enough.

So we tried another source of emails — finding people randomly on the Internet, visiting the company’s website, using our gut to decide who the key decision makers were, doing whatever we could to figure out their contact info, and then cold-email. That worked a little better.

But it was when we got into LinkedIn that we discovered the gold mine.

We saw the open rates go above 60% when we started using LinkedIn for sales sourcing.

Then we layered Proleads on top of it, and that got our response rates up as well.

It’s a lot of grunt work (more on this below).

What were some things that you were mistaken about, growth-wise, in the beginning?

1. Consumer vs enterprise

I thought our big bet was going to be in consumer because we had started the subscription model and it was mildly successful early on. We had some early traction there, and I thought hey if we can just push it a bit more, it can scale.

But when we investigated, we realized that growing a consumer base wasn’t going to happen very quickly and/or we were going to have to spend a LOT of money to get it to happen. 

Realizing that we didn’t have a lot of money to spend on marketing, we decided to focus on growth we can achieve for free, or with a lot of grunt work.

2. Grunt work

My second mistake was thinking we weren’t going to have to do a lot of grunt work 🙂 We thought, “I can just write a script to farm a bunch of emails!”

And I actually did this!

I got 3 million emails. And then I thought well now I have 3 million emails, all I have to do is email them and badabing badaboom.

We were wrong about that one too.

Anything you can do that easily, a lot of other people can do too. It would be overdone, and value-less — impossible for it to make money. 

3. Enable domain keys

After we started using LinkedIn for email sourcing, we were able to get a 30% open rate.

But Dominic (aka DistroDom) kept telling us, “Dude, you can definitely get over 50% because I’ve gotten over 60.”

I was thinking, “In what WORLD are you getting over 60% open rates??”

It turns out we had to enable domain keys. Dom telling us, “Dude, I know you can do it!” and helping us figure out how was the key to this.

4. One magic bullet

It’s never one magic bullet that does it.

We learned the hard way that finding salespeople is not easy.

We figured once we have the leads, we can just hire a bunch of salespeople, and close the deals. We found some sales people, they could talk a good game, and had experience in other sales, but when it came to enterprise, it was worlds harder to close.

There’s a certain level of polish + passion + knowledge of industry + knowledge of product + timing + persuasion that is required to get the deal made. Not many people have this mix, and that was a hard lesson for us too.

What have you done about your sales problem?

My cofounder has been selling, haha.

And we’ve found one other salesperson who’s been helping him out. And we’ve leveraged everything else we can to free up Daniel’s time and make it happen.

We’ve also optimized the hell out of the process to make it easier for the salesperson to succeed.

As a success metric, we used to get to scheduling the demo on the 3rd call, but now we do them on the 1st call.

A huge factor is that we’ve gotten really good at being able to tell up front who’s going to be a good client, who’s ready to buy and then getting them into it.

Now we know our sales process works, and we just have to put enough firepower into it.

What advice would you give founders just starting out? Just starting out with growth?

We really paid attention to our customers to try to understand what they wanted, “listening between the lines” to understand what they really need. That helped us a lot in our growth process, to understand not just what they say they want but what they’re DEALING WITH.

If you think about who the user is, what problems they’re dealing with, this became really clear to us during 500 through all of the talks and workshops.

Understanding the customer is more important than building the product. Their situation will inform everything about what you do.

Don’t be afraid to blow things up! 🙂 hehe. Sometimes you need to blow things up and do something else, other times you need to keep it going.

What were your ANTI-time wasters?

Spending time with founders in 500 was more than worth it. There’s a lot of synergy, and people are really helpful in terms of making intros. I see it happening now, when most of us aren’t even that big yet. Imagine that those friendships remain this tight and we actually go places and grow much bigger networks.

500 pitch prep was very useful as well (shout-out Andrea Barrica). After Demo Day, a few of us entered a pitch competition, and that was just funny.

It was a world of difference to see the 500 pitches versus everyone else. We won all places — 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place.

What’s your favorite thing about the Accelerator?

We came to 500 for funding, and this is still reason number one just because it was so easy to raise funding and not have to waste months and months chasing money.

The second thing… would have to be Dom. It’s a hard pick. He’s a really close second to the money 🙂

Andrea helped so much as well. She understands the kinds of problems that startups deal with, and understands how to help you get some perspective.

We raised 3.3M total from very respected VCs in the Valley in SAAS and B2B. New money was about 3M. We did that in record time, valuation is strong at $15M premoney. We feel really fortunate.

What’s next for us is how to crack the content marketing conundrum. It’s a long investment that will eventually pay off for us. We feel like it’s a really big opportunity because we have nothing but really amazing content.

What are you most excited about coming up for Avanoo?

 For me personally, I’m really excited about what we’re building because we have a real chance at changing the world in a meaningful way. 🙂

There’s so much hurt. Why do people ever get fired? Why do people ever divorce? Why do people not know how to raise their kids? There is so much potential not tapped.

What we found at Avanoo, is that the potential is all there within each of us. It’s simply about finding it and learning how to deploy it.

That’s our mission and that’s what I’m always excited about coming up — enabling people to become superstars in all areas of their lives.

MOAARR IMPORTANT ENDNOTES N STUFF

1. AVANOO IS HIRING

  • Customer Success Manager
  • Account exec

More info on Avanoo jobs here.

2. Check out the 500 Startups Accelerator

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Announcing Distro Dojo Malaysia

With a regional market cap of USD$1.97 trillion and counting, Southeast Asia is a big deal. Today we’re excited to announce it’s about to GROW even bigger.

We’ve previously dug in with our pilot growth marketing program, “Cerebro,” our 500 TukTuks $10M regional fund, and our early investment into Southeast Asian unicorn GrabTaxi.

Coming this summer, 500 Startups will launch the first ever Distro Dojo in Malaysia, with the support of the Malaysian Global Innovation & Creativity Centre (MaGIC) and its MaGIC campus in Cyberjaya.

MaGic headquarters cyberjaya malaysia

Why Malaysia, Why Distro?

The past couple of years have seen the ASEAN startup ecosystem continue to mature, with more companies emerging in the region — and more money to fund them.

There are plenty of ways to spend your investors’ money, but in 500 Distro’s completely unbiased opinion, nothing beats the ROI on growth marketing: scaling customer acquisition, retention and revenue.

That’s why we’re launching Distro Dojo Malaysia — to help ASEAN startups 10x their reach with world class mentorship, hands-on guidance, and funding to power growth experiments.

About Distro Dojo

Distro Dojo is a 10-week growth-focused training and implementation program for companies who have previously raised at least USD$150,000 in funding from other investors.

Our Malaysia Dojo will be led by 500 Distro and other badass growth marketers from around the world, including regional mentors with a track record of blowing up customer acquisition in Southeast Asia and beyond.

If chosen, companies will get $50,000 in funding from 500 Startups, with $25k allocated to the Distro Dojo program fee and another $25k earmarked for growth spend.

The Dojo Experience

1. MOAR mentors:

Distro Dojo will be staffed with 2-6 mentors on site, with EVEN MOAR mentors available remotely.

2. MOAR accountability:

500 Distro Chandini Ammineni leads the program, and will be tracking each company’s OKRs and growth progress.

3. MOAR channels and coverage:

Distro Dojo focuses on “growth as a mindset.” Growth marketing isn’t a set of hackt-ics, but a process of experimentation that builds growth into the structure of the organization itself.

In addition to proven customer acquisition strategies, Malaysia Dojo will cover emerging channels like Instagram, Pinterest, video, mobile and MOAR.

4. Hands-on implementation

Distro Dojo Malaysia is 10 weeks of expert-guided implementation — learning by doing, not by listening to a bunch of talks.

How to Apply

The Distro Dojo operates as an investment vehicle for 500 Startups, so getting into the Dojo requires that you’d qualify for an investment from 500 Startups.

What we’re looking for:

1. Traction: It’s a post-seed investment, so you should have closed a previous round of financing, and demonstrated product-market fit.

2. Founders & team: We’re looking for founders and teams who are committed to growth as a mindset. This means you’re willing to spend resources (aka MONEY and TIME) on growth marketing to take your company to the next level.

Applications are now open for the inaugurual Distro Dojo Malaysia program.

Learn more and apply here

Additional coverage: TechCrunch, E27

Background design credit: Yiying Lu

Kuala Lumpur skyline photo credit: Guyfrombronx 

“Smoke Tests” for GROWTH Will Save Your Business

I give a lot of presentations on growth, but my favorite topic of all covers “Smoke Tests” — a simple way to validate an idea before actually building product.

Why do I like Smoke Testing so much?

Because Smoke Tests have saved me $1000s of dollars, and saved my first business from going under.

Because I think it’s a method that’s widely relevant to startups and teams of all sizes, and yet it’s often forgotten about when it comes to GROWTH.borat smoke tests i like

So, as Borat would say “I like a the smoke test!”

Smoke Tests are more than just 404 tests. They’re an actual process that, if done well, becomes ideologically engrained into your growth and your product team’s daily habits.

The fundamental thesis of Smoke Testing is:

Don’t let your product roadmap hi-jack growth, rather let growth drive your product roadmap.

Let me first explain the process I now use at 500 Startups as part of the 500 DISTRO team to help companies learn faster, grow bigger, and save money. Then, I’ll share some real life examples of smoke tests I’ve used.

SMOKE TESTING 101

What Is A Smoke Test

A simple way to validate an idea before actually dedicating technical resources to building product.

Why Do I Use Smoke Tests

You should use smoke tests when you believe that a new product/feature/function will increase your growth rate, but in order to accomplish this “new idea” you have to dedicate additional resources.

Use a smoke test to validate this idea and prove it to yourself rather than building product — because that way you don’t stunt growth.

How Do I Figure Out What To Test To Run

So you know that Smoke Tests are a good idea, but what tests should you run? Not knowing your business, it’s impossible for me to tell you exactly what to test.

Here are the questions you should ask when coming up with ideas for what to smoke test:

  • What are the bottlenecks in my business and what do I think could solve them? Is it customer acquisition, is it activation, retention, etc? Figure out the highest impact change you could make then Smoke Test it.
  • Where are resources most strapped? Is your product backlog just a blackhole of “ideas?”  If so, try to validate more of them before passing them to product team. But, don’t waste time trying to validate anything that isn’t directly correlated to growth.
  • What is a product feature I’ve recently released that didn’t have the impact on Growth I expected? Make a list of iterations and Smoke Test those.

How Do I Run A Smoke Test

From my talk at this year’s Weapons of Mass Distribution conference. Slides here and video here.

Always make sure that you prove your ideas to yourself before involving others. As Parker Thompson says :

“ If you can’t clearly explain why you’re doing something, then you don’t know what the fuck you are doing.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Next is to figure out how to basically implement these ideas and try them by yourself or with no engineers (unless you have an unlimited amount of cheap engineering talent that can pump ideas out in hours, not days — probably not the case!).

Make sure you run your test properly too (i.e., that the people you’re running the test on actually represent the correct audience). Don’t cheat yourself and just pick people it will work with and don’t cheat your company by being sloppy and not investing the time to figure out the right traffic/customer base.

It’s obvious, but I have to say it because so many people forget it.

KEEP SCORE.

If you don’t keep score, nothing matters. So, make sure you have the right tracking setup. This can even be something really simple like Google Analytics.

Once you have your tracking in place, then you’ll be able to use them to optimize. MOST SMOKE TESTS AREN’T SUCCESSFUL OR EVEN ACTIONABLE ON THE FIRST ITERATION.

As a result, making a decision is really tough. So a lot of this has to do with your confidence you tested the idea the best way possible using this process.

Now… the stories that share some of the reasons I LOVE SMOKE TESTS 🙂

The first, and hopefully last, time I almost went bankrupt 🙂

My first business, GarmentValet, was hemorrhaging money — around $30K/mo actually.

My founder and I, along with the entire team, were subject to groupthink and collectively decided that we should wait on “marketing” or in my co-founder’s terms “opening the floodgates of customers waiting for our service” until we had quality completely 100% squared away.

How would we do that? Automate the shit out of every process from top to bottom.

I’m talking silly stuff. We built our own CRM, we built out apps that drivers would use to scan in bags, we built out apps that ran conveyor systems based on barcodes we’d heatseal onto garments — the whole 9 yards.

When we were finally “done” we “turned on marketing” — haha.

Turns out that there were NOT floods of customers waiting to use our service.

Turns out that growing a laundry and dry cleaning delivery customer base is actually quite painful because no one cares enough to change until their cleaner fucks up their order and no one trusts you that your service is “better.”

The good news is that we had some business already, around $100k/mo. But, we were spending $130k to service them and pay our way through the credit card debt my cofounder and I racked up to build all these “cool” systems.

Sounds like you were failing DistroDom, what does this have to do with Smoke Tests?

So this one night I was working with Ryan Bloomer and we figured out that all of our profitable revenue came from customers in 4 zones, all where the highrises were. So we decided we needed to cut everything else and just get more of those customers.

Pretty much overnight we did these three smoke tests:

Smoke Test 1: Reduce/Cancel Service To Non-Condo Customers

Rather than engineering some complicated service schedule, we just deactivated all the buildings we didn’t want to service that didn’t have active orders and sent all the customers in those buildings a nice email explaining we no longer serviced them with a link to other cleaners (hyperlink to google search Dry Cleaners Near Me).

RESULT: A few angry customers, but no more driving out to random neighborhoods for a $20 order.

Smoke Test 2: Get Condo Customers to Refer More Customers

We printed out all these Willy Wonka style tickets with manual coupon codes we set to only work at those addresses and sent them out to each of the customers in our buildings.

The call to action was simple: “Invite your neighbors by giving them this card and you’ll both get $50 in cleaning.”

Since we had drivers going to these buildings we literally did this super manual and relied on concierges to give them to the customers.

RESULT: We increased the # of customers we had in desirable buildings by 50% in one month, so each trip was significantly more profitable.

Smoke Test 3: Increases the Order Minimum for non-condo customers in condo zones

We told customers in areas with Condos we were upping our delivery minimum from $20 to $35.

RESULT: Some complaints, but we didn’t actually lose more than a handful of customers because revenue actually grew and customer attrition stayed steady.

SMOKE TESTING – DO IT.

So, in summary, I really believe that all great founders should quickly validate their ideas to prevent their product backlog from stunting growth.

I think the best way to do this is run Smoke Tests, for GROWTH.

Have you used Smoke Tests for growth marketing? Let me know @distrodom or in the comments below.

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7 Lessons from 500, YC, Angelpad alum — How to Prepare For Any Accelerator Interview

This month 500 Startups and General Assembly teamed up to hold a pre-accelerator program. Last week, we had our mini Demo Day.

I led the final week of the program where, in addition to 60-second pitch workshops, Angel.co profile show-and-tell, and pitch deck review sessions, I organized mock accelerator interviews.

To help me, I called a few of my friends*, Ryan Jackson of Paid and Andrew Norris of Taplytics, both YCombinator alums, Mason Blake at UpCounseland Tristan Pollock of Storefront (now EIR @500) who went through AngelPad, and Selcuk Atli and me from 500Startups (both of us with YC backgrounds from Boostable/inDinero).

We started with a panel introducing ourselves and the accelerator processes: YC does 10 minute interviews with a few partners and cares more about founders than ideas; 500 does a deeper dive over 20–30 min and focuses on people and growth. With Angelpad, you’ll be talking to Thomas and Carine, and there will be fewer companies in your cohort. Each pre-accelerator company then had a 5-minute mock interview with us.

Despite the differences between us and our accelerators, the six of us noticed very similar patterns in the founders. The following mistakes to avoid and advice will help you prepare for any accelerator interview (and some investor conversations, too!)

Most Common Mistakes:

1) Over-talking

Most common mistake: over-explaining product, technology, everything. Tangents. Doing a full sales pitch. Remember you are getting people excited about your business, not trying to sell them your product.

2) Defensive answers and body language

Confronted with a tough question or interviewer, many people become visibly stressed, nervous, verbose, even angry or hostile — their postures change, their voices speed up, and they over-talk and under-listen.

3) Strange co-founder dynamic

This is really important. Nothing worse than seeing co-founders disagree, interrupt one another, or have one founder completely dominate while the others sit in silence (looking at you, “CTOs”).

4) Not telling a story

Or, telling the wrong stories. Or, taking forever to tell a very simple story. Clinical “problem — solution — market — traction” pitches are so forgettable. Not having any prepared user stories.

5) Losing control of interview

These are the cringe-interviews where founders surrender into reactionary mode and have to go on the defensive. We’ve all been there.

6) Not being able to talk differentiation

Being “marginally better” is never good enough. “Design” was also an answer that fell flat. Some people talked too highly, too much, or too weakly about competitors.

7) Terrible energy

Founders with low energy make interviewing not fun at all. We had quite a few companies who didn’t bring any energy, aliveness, or personality to their interviews.

No assholes. No BS. — Selcuk

Our advice:

1) Be brief.

Nail your elevator pitch. If I have to spend 10 minutes figuring out what you are doing — you’re not getting in.— Andrew

Nail the elevator pitch — less than 20 seconds: what do you do, who is your target market, why is this rad? Ryan gave this example format: “We are Paid, Autopilot for Accounts Receivable. We help companies invoice their customers and get paid with 200% return on their ROI.” They apparently like the “X for Y” over at YC. Whatever you do — make sure it’s clear. Remember to say your company name. In all following questions, answer the question as briefly as you can. Avoid tangents. Don’t make us interrupt you. If you are in a Skype or remote interview, this advice is even more important.

Answers before explanation.— Ryan

2) Know your trigger questions. Breathe.

Know your nervous ticks, too. Talk too fast? Jiggle your leg? Identify the top questions, personality types, and factors that give you anxiety. Defensiveness comes from stress and lack of mindfulness. Take a breath before answering a question. Accelerator interviewers want to know you are coachable, so defensiveness during an interview is a horrible signal. Stay in control.

Be aware of the story you are telling with your body, not just your words. –Andrea

3) Be a team. Plan founder contributions.

First of all, unless totally necessary, don’t correct or interrupt your co-founder (unless they aren’t following #1, then perhaps a team-agreed signal or nudge). Be a team. Address any tension before heading into an interview.

Every co-founder should speak during an interview. It’s fine if someone takes charge, but all founders should be ready to contribute. Interviewers may single out people in the team, so every co-founder should be able to articulate the basics.

Be careful to not fall victim to the “Eye Contact Problem.” They will always be looking at the last person who spoke, but they don’t have to be the one to answer.—Ryan

Before an interview, assign question categories, like “Maria will take fundraising, business, and sales. Pablo will take anything technical and tell our user story, and Jenn will take questions about competitors, differentiation, and market.” If you have a team with previous exits, baller backgrounds with great companies, or any amazing feats, be sure to mention them. If you find it hard to brag about yourselves, empower each other during the interview.

Bonus points: I always ask “How did you all meet?” Most investors want to bet on strong c0-founder relationships that can withstand the tough times. A few of the teams we interviewed laughed, looked at each other, waited for the other to speak, started talking at once, then sentimentally reported the “story of how they met.” I call this the “newlywed effect,” and it’s something that I appreciate very much.

4) Know your story.

On a macro-level, this applies to your company: what is genuinely interesting about your story as a product, as a team, in your space? Have you learned anything? Why are you doing this? On a micro-level, this applies to how you will talk about your traction and value proposition: do you have a great customer or user story? Come prepared with data, results, or a story that will surprise us, overturn an assumption we have, or inspire us. And, be able to tell your stories succinctly. All great stories can be told in under a minute, and some only need 20 seconds or less.

Avoid marketing speak. No synergy. No disruption. No bullshit. — All of us

5) Prioritize Top 3 things.

There are tough interviewers and investors out there who will try to dominate and intimidate you. Along with your simple, short elevator pitch, also come prepared with the three things you want to cover before the interview is over, for example: differentiation within your market, traction (which, if you have, talk about as soon as possible) and team backgrounds. Interviews can span a few minutes to half an hour, but knowing YOUR agenda will help ensure you don’t get trapped in someone else’s line of questioning or run out of time before your startup’s best can shine. If you get derailed, you can maneuver back to your Top 3. We also suggest knowing the Top 3 things that you DON’T want to bring up, but we also warn that these things might actually belong on your Top 3 list.

6) Be more than marginally better.

Differentiation is key. If you are entering a crowded space or have robust competition, this is Concern #1 on every interviewer’s mind (looking at you social networks, sales automation SaaS, food delivery, etc.) There is a reason you started your company. You may not know it yet, but there is. As an early stage company, it’s hard to know what your “moat” or “secret sauce” is, but you should avoid describing your company’s advantage in terms of features, slight advantages, user experience — instead, describe in simple language the value that your customers and users get from your service. Describe the vision of what you are building toward.

Being marginally better than your competitors is not enough — really need to have a key differentiator, a reason to switch, something you do MUCH better— Mason

7) Bring your best self.

Understand that your interviewers will be talking to many companies in one day, one after another, for hours. They can all easily blur together. If you have low, uninspiring energy, your traction better be fucking incredible. There’s nothing more inspiring than a founder who is passionate about what they are building, their mission, their team, their customers. Pump yourself up with music, go to a morning rave, read the journal entries from the day you quit your job to become an entrepreneur — do whatever it takes to bring your most authentic, alive self to your interview. Your only job in an interview is to make someone in that room excited about you and your company.

Make the interviewer generally excited, and energize the room. Confidence without delusion — Selcuk

Now, go crush those interviews.

I’m interviewing companies right now for 500 Startups Batch 14 in San Francisco. Follow me @abarrica.

*Not happy with the lack of diversity in my interviewer group. I did ask women and minority friends, too, but got no reply or couldn’t make it happen. I was still compliant with 500 policy on panels (at least 1 woman, aim for 50/50) due to my active involvement (I talk enough for at least 2 people!) Next time — more outreach and planning!