Where Are They Now?

We’re excited to announce the return of our flagship VC training program, Venture Capital Unlocked: Secrets of Silicon Valley Investing (formerly called IGSVI). 500 Startups, in partnership with the Stanford Center for Professional Development, will be once again running this popular two-week program. In this program, individuals will learn 500s investment playbook and gain firsthand access to world-famous Silicon Valley VCs, Angels, SV startups and entrepreneurs (including 500’s portfolio). This session will run from February 8-19, 2016. For more information and to apply, please visit: 500.vc/apply

500 Diversity Scholarship

We’re pleased to announce that we will be offering several 12K scholarships to selected investors from backgrounds that have been traditionally underrepresented in venture capital, including women and candidates from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds and geographies. Candidates must have an investment budget of less than 1M to qualify for the Diversity Scholarship.

In the spirit of recognizing some of our diverse participants (and hopefully encouraging more to apply), we’ve highlighted three women that have taken their careers to new heights with the applied knowledge of this program. In the second part of this series, we sat down with Pocket Sun, Founding Partner of SoGal Ventures.


Pocket Sun (@pocketysun) is the Founding Partner of SoGal Ventures. Read more about her female-led millennial venture capital firm here.

Can you please tell us a little bit about your background?

I grew up in China and moved to the US for college. Before VC Unlocked, I founded SoGal, a global platform to empower and inspire the next generation of diverse entrepreneurs. In the process of working with many female-led startups, I learned first hand and researched how bad the gender issue is in entrepreneurship and in venture capital. VC Unlocked was the perfect program to immerse me into Silicon Valley and the VC world.

What are you working on now?

I’m currently in Singapore, working towards raising SoGal Ventures Fund I, while expanding SoGal to Asia. SoGal Ventures is the first female-led, cross-border millennial venture capital firm investing in diverse entrepreneurs in both the US and Asia.


Are you using any of the concepts taught at the program in your work today?

I met my Founding Partner Elizabeth Galbut at VC Unlocked. We were both inspired by what we learned and whom we met, and realized that there needs to be pioneers to improve the gender disparity issue in venture capital. We were able to learn a great deal from our fellow classmates who are experienced VCs or angel investors, and decided to take actions and lead by example. I also really liked 500’s investment approach – big portfolio, small bets. It’s a great model for a microVC fund like the one we’re building.

If you had to name one key outcome of the program, what would that be?

Meeting everyone in the program was fantastic. We were 34 investors from 15 different countries, and half were female! You don’t see that anywhere else. I really appreciated 500’s efforts to improve the gender ratio, and bring interesting people together. I learned a lot about the startup ecosystems in many parts of the world.


What advice do you have for women who are interested in becoming investors?

Start small. As Jason Calacanis said, “Beg founders to let you in at a small dollar amount, and then 10x outperform your money to serve the company. Know the risks and enter it with eyes wide open – you may not get all your money back!” Investing in early stage companies has a lot to do with identifying the right person, so start from someone you trust for a referral or attend startup events to see what’s out there.

Missed the first part of the series? Learn more about Paula Schwarz’s journey after completing VC Unlocked.

Anti-Predictions for Tech in 2016 from 500 Startups

As we close another big year in tech it’s a time honored tradition to take a moment to reflect. Not on the year past of course. In this industry it’s actually too dangerous to look behind you. So instead the venture community likes to make bold visionary-like predictions for what’s to happen next year. While we are almost never right about this stuff that doesn’t stop us from cranking out these prediction posts.

Of course here at 500 we do things a little bit different. To that end, we’re happy to present the 500 Startups 2016 anti-predictions for tech. Basically a few predictions that are never going to f*cking happen. Although it would be pretty cool if they did.


Twitter Board announces launch of new mobile app called “TwinderCEO”, meets once per month to swipe right & select new Twitter CEO.
-Dave McClure


Palantir ends up buying Palo Alto. Like the whole town. They then promptly rename the city to Palantiro.
-Sean Percival and concerned Palo Alto resident Christine Tsai


Donald Trump wins Presidency, announces new tech taskforce with Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Page to turn off the Internet.
-Dave McClure


Steph Curry leaves NBA to become venture partner at 500 Startups; decides to only invest in companies that are more than 3,000 miles away (calls it the “3-point shooting for VCs”).
– Dave McClure

Uber raises $1B every other week of 2016 amassing a larger war chest than most small countries.
– Sean Percival


A16Z and Benchmark do merger — Marc Andreessen and Bill Gurley have a tip-toe contest to see who is actually taller and decide who takes over as CEO.
– Dave McClure


Dave McClure leaves 500 Startups to become a scout for Sequoia (shhh, don’t tell anyone)
-The 500 Startups Mole


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One Email, One CTA

Growth is life and life is growth, aka what email marketing taught me about life outside the inbox.

When you think about growth all day long, and have a practice of yoga and meditation, it’s natural to start drawing some parallels between marketing, and — life.

(This is not going to turn into a Canva card, I promise.)

The following post came out of the many conversations I’ve had in “work” and in “life” (to me, a continuum), where I find myself talking about growth in one area, only to say “It’s just like in… [the other area].”

You don’t grow your business without some inevitable takeaways for growth in your life. If you don’t see it, maybe ur doin’ it wrong.

As we close out 2015 and spreadsheet our dreams for next year, I would love for all of us in the greater innovation community* to think about how growth = life and life = growth.

*VCs, founders, early teams, wantrepreneurs, spiritual seekers, you’re all included.


One of the principles I talk about most when I talk about email marketing for growth is “one email, one CTA.”

It’s a simple rule:

Each email campaign should only have 1 tight, focused call-to-action.

More specifically:

– Don’t include more than one call to action in an email that you’re trying to use for true persuasion or conversion (if, for some reason, you want to send an email that’s not conversion-oriented, then that’s a different story)

– It’s ok, and even preferable, to include multiple instances of your call-to-action destination within one email.

– For example, if the desired action is for your subscriber to click through to your landing page http://emailforstartups.com/ultimate-email-playbook then you can link to that landing page in 2 to 3 different places:

1. a button

2. a linked image

3. an in-line hyperlink, like this:


“Monthly update” style newsletters, which usually present a carousel-like buffet of content and actions, are ineffective at conversion for this very reason.

We tend to keep things compartmentalized in our lives, but to me marketing has always = life and life has always = marketing.

One email, one CTA.

This same principle applies beautifully to life optimization as well.

One day, one A.

I usually have so many browser tabs open that my browser stops working. My whole machine stops working because there so many browser tabs in multiple windows and even in multiple browsers.

Sure I could buy a more powerful machine, level up the computing power.

But if I did that, I’m not sure my own mind could keep up.

If there’s a tiny lag in my internet, I start mousing over to a new tab.

I can’t tell you how many exit intent collectors I’ve triggered not because I truly intend to exit or close the tab, but simply because my mind starts to wander. Fast.

In Chet Holmes’ book, The Ultimate Sales Machine, the author focuses mainly on the management of the sales process and personal effectiveness rather than tricks and tactics to get more sales.

(Side note: any good “Machine” for achieving a goal is really just the collected, structured and codified process by which we travel towards that goal (the goal is often like a rainbow or a mirage), not one-time tricks. Similarly, Growth Machine = growth is a process, and silver bullets don’t exist).

In the book, Holmes presents a philosophy that he calls “One touch.”

Basically, it means: don’t pick something up unless you aim to finish it then and there.

For example, don’t open an email unless you are prepared to answer it or take action.

Now obviously you can’t do this all the time — sometimes we have to open it to become aware of what the question is, only to find out we need more information before we can take action.

(But the preview text helps a lot 🙂

Taking it beyond the inbox — because there’s always a beyond — I can apply this to my whole life.

“One touch” means I don’t pick it up unless I aim to finish it.

This is the opposite of how most of us conduct our lives, and I have proof.

Do you use Sidekick?

Sidekick is a fascinating way to study this in other people, aka your recipients, because it allows you to track every open and click on the emails you send to people.

You’ll see patterns of open behavior as people get prepared to take action on your email.

There is usually one open (probably on mobile, as 60%+ of email gets opened on mobile first), and then a quiet period as the person goes about their morning or day. That’s the first touch.

Then, as the person remembers or re-approaches the action moment, the opens and reopens start to appear in quick succession.

If you’re using Sidekick for sales to a high level lead, and you want to know the exact moment to ‘strike’ (that is, put through a call or otherwise do a followup or remarketing), you want to watch for that flurry of reopens.

But, this pattern of multiple touches means something totally different when you’re the one who’s doing it.

In managing your own attention and time, how many touches do you make before you take action?

I realized I was touching things many, many times.

Picking them up and putting them down and picking them up and putting them down and switching and switching.

Every subsequent time you open the same email, it costs you. A few seconds to find the email, a little bit of memory and energy for Gmail or your browser — not to mention your brain — to process that query and call it back up again.

Has your browser ever crashed on you?

Mine has crashed lot recently. Running out of memory, too many tabs — and yes, I’m still talking about Chrome, not my brain.

I realized that I actually like when Chrome doesn’t remember my tabs after the restart. I’ve noticed that it really doesn’t matter, I didn’t lose anything of consequence. I only gained space.

Sometimes it’s nice to close everything and restart.

So now I’m trying this thing — one day, one “A” (for Action).

I ask myself:

What’s my 1D1A today?

After I finish my one needle-moving, most important Action, I’m allowed to feel free and accomplished and satisfied.

That’s the deal. If I do the thing, the flip side of the deal is I have to allow myself that freedom from gnawing anxiety that I “haven’t done enough.”

Everything else I close after my 1D1A is just compounding extra goodness that I get to feel great about, sort of like negative churn.

The kicker is that completing my 1D1A, gives me extra juice to complete (not just start) one more focused thing, which sometimes gives me extra juice to complete yet another — or maybe like five more.

But let’s not get carried away.

I don’t think about those “bonuses” (or “upsells” if you will…) when I’m still focused on my main 1D1A. It’s a funnel after all — every step of the funnel is all-consuming in that moment, and its only job is to deliver you to the next step, not all at once all the way to the final conversion in some kind of magical, non-linear explosion.

This works well in email optimization:

The tighter your funnel — within the email, since every email is its own funnel as well as belonging to a larger lifecycle funnel — the higher your conversion rate.

It works even better in time-optimization:

The more times you open the same email before “closing it out” with action, the more time and energy you ended up spending.

Those seconds add up. Those bits and bytes of memory add up, and it doesn’t always bounce back to 100 when the task itself is done.

It works best of all in attention optimization (time being only a proxy for attention and energy):

The fewer things you’re switching your attention from back and forth, the more attention you have.

And where attention goes, so energy flows.

Like powerful, concentrated dose of Get Shit Done / Move the Mountain.

Today, my 1 A is writing this post till its end — just the first draft till its natural end. And here I am.

What’s yours?



If you liked this post, please help a girl out by sharing and voting:

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More on Email Marketing:

7 Little Known Techniques in the New Email Marketing

YouTube webinars:

Content Marketing 4 Startups

Email Marketing 4 Startups 

And if you’re curious about other lessons on / from email marketing (or better yet, ready for some proven shortcuts), check out my project ==> Email For Startups <==

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Where Are They Now?

(The first in a three part series catching up with past VC Unlocked participants. Find out how the program benefited them, as well as their best advice for those who are thinking of investing.) 

We’re excited to announce the return of our flagship VC training program, Venture Capital Unlocked: Secrets of Silicon Valley Investing (formerly called IGSVI). 500 Startups, in partnership with the Stanford Center for Professional Development, will be once again running this popular two-week course. In this course, individuals will learn 500s investment playbook and gain firsthand access to world-famous Silicon Valley VCs, Angels, SV startups and entrepreneurs (including 500’s portfolio). This session will run from February 8-19, 2016. For more information and to apply, please visit: 500.vc/apply

In the spirit of recognizing some of our diverse participants (and hopefully encouraging more to apply), we’ve highlighted three women that have taken their careers to new heights with the applied knowledge of this program. We’re kicking off this series with Paula Schwarz. 


Paula Schwarz (@Paulapolice & @Startup_boat) is the Founder of  Startupboat and The Exponential Network. Read more about her work here

Can you please tell us a little bit about your background? 

I am half-Greek and half-German. I was working for KRW Schindler Private Ventures to raise funds in the Middle East and wanted to deepen my knowledge on investment management. Also, the combination of gathering experience at Stanford together with LPs of 500 Startups and a number of Venture Investors seemed very appealing to me. Having studied political science, my approach to venture is driven by the goal to achieve social impact. I’m thrilled to apply learnings from the VC Unlocked to my work today. 

What are you working on now?

I founded a mobile incubator that develops scalable and financially self-sustainable solutions for the social challenge of mass migration. I work with teams that build prototypes for tools and support them in the further development of their concepts.


Are you using any of the concepts taught at the program in your work today?

Yes. Many of our solutions can be compared to start-ups. They have a clear roadmap, are scalable and exit driven – which means we think about who the perfect lead for the initiative could be next year. We also address the assessment of value and look at potential ways to generate revenue with a product, for example, launching an app. I was also taught to take great care in building teams that can truly identify with a project and portray its vision to a user community, team members and investors.

If you had to name one key outcome of the program, what would that be?

First of all, I learned that there’s no one right way to go. We all cook with water and in the end what counts is that a venture does something that works – it’s sustainable. As a founder, you must know how to make your assets work for you, even if you don’t start off at the perfect position. If you can do that the rest usually falls into place…keep up the good spirit, take it step by step and be transparent.


What advice do you have for women who are interested in becoming investors?

Please don’t start if you want to be an investor. Start because there’s a topic you love, something you want to drive forward that is bigger than you. First of all, write down your personal investment thesis. Narrow it down to a region. Ask yourself, what is it you can give to a venture, only you and no one else? Connect the dots and figure out why you’re an asset, and not why people want your money.

As an investor your job is to empower others to do their best. It’s your job to give valuable advice and direction in times of confusion. Try to see yourself as part of the team and be of help in ways that have nothing to do with the financial investment you provide, but more with an investment of time, thought, contacts or experience. That way, you prevent others from making foreseeable mistakes and act in the interest of all parties involved.


Pitch, Please: 14 Must-Read Pitch Lessons Every Startup Founder Should Know

A few reasons you won’t raise money:

  1. Your business isn’t the right fit for VC (which is totally OK!)
  2. You business could be interesting to VC, but you have nothing yet. Stop pitching, and focus on building a solid business that solves a big problem, getting customers, and assembling a great team.
  3. You’re not talking to the right investors, or you may live in a city without a mature ecosystem that supports early stage companies, or…..
  4. Your pitch sucks, and you can’t tell your story on stage or on the fly.  

I can help with the last one.

Building a great business is more important than a great pitch, but if you don’t know how to tell your story, you probably don’t understand what is most interesting about your business. This problem affects more than just fundraising.

The hardest part about pitching is that it’s not about you. It’s a delicate balance between being authentically who you are, but more so focusing on what is important to your audience. This is what I help founders understand.



My Most Common Advice To Founders

  1. Don’t start with slides. Avoid templates. There isn’t a magic order, and templates often create boring, clinical, unsuitable pitches. Instead, master this question: what is most interesting about your business? (Seriously, do you know what it is?)
  2. Traction, Team, Tech, Vision – in general, most startups will fall into one of these categories. If you have (impressive) traction, you have a Traction Story. If you have a great team with a previous exit or serious domain chops, you have a Team Story. If you’ve built interesting technology (read: not a mobile or web app), you have a Tech Story. The problem? Most people choose the wrong story, try to tell all the stories, or think they have a truly interesting Team or Traction story – when they actually don’t. If you have nothing, you’ll probably tell a Vision Story, which means that you shouldn’t tell a Vision Story… and that you better bring the personality!  Hint: When you figure it out, de-emphasize everything else.
  3. Stop selling the product. Sell the opportunity. Sales pitches aren’t investor pitches. With investors, it’s simple. Increase greed; reduce risk.
  4. Benchmarks by vertical. Know what good traction means in your industry, like:
    • Marketplaces –  20% MoM GMV growth & 20% margin
    • SaaS – 20% MRR growth,  <5% churn
    • E-commerce – >10%MoM growth, margins, repeat customers, average cart size
    • Mobile – Engagement (# opens/day) especially if downloads/MAUs are early
    • Social impact – focus on business metrics first before you dive into your epic vision. Order is key. Win their wallets, then their hearts.
  5. Don’t. Be. Boring. When dealing with a skeptical crowd, bring up something interesting as soon as possible. Dave McClure loves the traction sandwich and bringing up #s ASAP. Some pitches start with a shocking statistic.  If you don’t have #s, mention a team brag, accolade, famous investor, anything you can. The most memorable pitches surprise, challenge, delight, educate, and inspire.IMG_2681
  6. Less is more. Good elevator, good pitch. Let the short pitch (i.e. 60-90 seconds) constrain you in the best way. In an investor meeting, let your answers be brief. If you are dominating an investor meeting, you are doing it wrong.draper photo
  7. Cut out detail & marketing speak. 90% of pitches I hear for the first time have way too much detail about the product and product features (looking at you, technical companies.) Cut out:
    • Buzzwords like “disrupt”, fixing “broken” industries, “revolutionize”, “rockstar team”
    • Forecasts of any kind beyond YTD
    • Advisors/Investors (except REALLY famous people/relevant companies)
    • Section for use of funds (we know you will hire developers & salespeople)
  8. Tell a story, and master transitions. Stories and case studies allow you to make points and brag (humbly). You can always tell a great pitch by the strength of the transitions – how the founder weaves each section of their pitch together in a cohesive flow and story.
  9. Nail Differentiation, especially if you are in a crowded space. (Hint: you should be able to do this in 1-2 sentences.) Don’t waste time explaining what everyone already knows, especially the problem. If you are a logistics company, don’t go on and on about how big the logistics industry is after you say it’s $4T. We get it. If you are a food delivery startup, don’t talk about the problem of not knowing what you’re eating for dinner.  Everybody knows. In reality, a) that’s probably not the problem you’re actually solving, and b) we probably already agree it’s a problem — we’re just not convinced your solution is solving it. The more niche, international, or underground your problem/market, the more time you should spend educating. (Hint: there are no straight answers here – you have to iterate on sample audiences, but see #14).IMG_2477
  10. Focus on what you have learned. What are your key learnings? Steve Blank loves to ask founders this during pitch competitions, and it’s because investors are interested in the real story, not the fake Silicon Valley TechCrunch success theatre version. They also want to know they are investing in a team who can fail, learn, iterate, and move quickly.
  11. Bottom up, not top town market story, as Guy Kawasaki has often talked about. Narrow TAM, and be specific. Big #s on a slide make bullshit sensors go off.
  12. Don’t forget delivery. Don’t memorize it word for word. BREATHE. Beautiful, simple slides might distract an audience a little bit, but you are the star.
  13. Your pitch is not your business. Get in your best mental position; work out any insecurities. Come to terms with the imperfection of your company. Ban wishy-washy, apologetic, “trying” language. All startups are lopsided in some way.
  14. Avoid pitch feedback whiplash and don’t try to please everyone. The most successful pitches are often polarizing.


How I judge pitches:

  • Is the product and differentiation clear?
  • Does this pitch communicate the best possible version of this company? (I won’t know this unless I dig in deeper with you.)
  • Does this pitch teach me something, surprise me, or connect me to you as a person?

From Ghana to Poland to the Silicon Valley, I’ve had the pleasure of coaching hundreds of entrepreneurs from all over the world, and many have gone on to raise a lot of money ($50M-ish).

Startup Istanbul:

l love helping people tell their stories. If you want to talk pitching, tweet me at @abarrica. I make extra time to work with women and minorities.


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How To Hack Hiring, for Startups

Crystal HSCrystal Huang is the Co-Founder and CEO of ProSky, a high-growth startup and #500strong company. She previously led marketing for Vivint, which sold one entity to Blackstone for $2B and brought a second entity to IPO. She loves spending her free time with her family, designing, and shopping.


At ProSky, we believe that “your people are your greatest assets”! I know that sounds cliché, but the fact is that at all stages of a company, an organization’s people can make or break a company. The merger of HP and Compaq in the 90’s seemed to be the story of hope. In the end, it nearly devastated the company because the two corporations had too different of people and culture to work in sync. The Harvard Business Review reports that nearly 80% of all turnover in a company is a result of  bad hiring decisions. HR.com writes that it costs $7,000 to replace a salaried employee, $10,000 to replace a mid-level employee, and $40,000 to replace a senior executive. Even worse, a bad hire can cost a company more than $25,000. 1 in 4 CEOs report that it costs their companies more than $50,000 per bad hire.

As a startup, when and how do you start hiring the right people? I get a lot of feedback from startups who tell me that they don’t have the big war-chest to attract top talent and as a result can’t start early. More tell me “Oh…we’ll wait till Series A or B to hire the good ones”. It is vital that the first hires are great recruits as they will help you, as founders define your company culture and work processes and as a result, help shape your company’s success.

Knowing When to Hire, and When to Let Go

Find the right people who fit within your company culture right off the bat or get rid of those who don’t… fast! I know startups can get so worried about finding talent, that they will sometimes take whoever they can find. Some shops are also afraid of letting talent go, even when the new hires don’t fit the culture.

We had an employee once who had huge trust issues. Right off the bat, his personality and the way he worked did not sync with everyone else. Meetings were torturous as we always had to convince him to do things a different way. The final straw came when we found out that he was monitoring our emails and calendars. If we had continued working with him, I know we wouldn’t be anywhere as successful as we are now. If we had let go of him sooner, we could have had more time to find the right candidate for our team.

Hacking the Hiring Process

So how do you hack hiring as a startup? Obviously, you can’t compete with brand name companies like Facebook or Google,but you can do a few things that will help narrow that gap! Here are four tips to get you started:

  1.  Stop looking at resumes! Candidates should show, and not tell you what they can do. Consider assigning them projects instead. You can tell how great of a skill-set a candidate possesses by working with him/her, and see what kind of personality they have to know if they will be the right culture fit for your company.
  2. Have candidates try projects in teams. You will be able to identify who is a great collaborator and leader. You will see who is self-motivated and who comes up with great ideas when push comes to shove. You will identify  who has an amazing work ethic and who lets details slip through the cracks. Not only will you be able to hire great employees this way, you will be able to hire employees for specific leadership tracks or teams.
  3. Have conversations with your candidates. Forget all the personality tests, weird questions, and definitely the same old boring interview questions. Get to know the candidates. Have a genuine interest in who they are, what they have done, and most importantly, what they want for their future. You can always train someone but you can’t change their personality and belief system.  
  4. Use your existing employees. Some of our best hires have come from employee referrals! Our employees were hired because they fit and understand what our company needs to be successful.. You can offer fun incentives like a free massage, free lunches for a week, and so on for employees who bring in great candidates. It definitely beats paying a third-party recruiter 25% of an annual salary!

The Hands-on Approach

Millennials are the candidates who are entering the workforce or are in the workforce currently. They approach job seeking in a different way. They don’t just want job security. They want to work for a company they are passionate about. They will even take a lower salary if it means working for something cooler and better. At ProSky, we have worked with candidates who’ve done projects for “no-name” companies. These candidates were skeptical at the beginning, but were in love with the company by the end of the recruiting process..

Project Dashboard

What changed? For one, the company mentors or recruiters really took the time to get to know these candidates. They gave them actual projects with lots of good, constructive feedback. One CEO even brought his laptop around his small startup office and introduced the team of candidates to everyone in the office. He also took an interest in each candidate and offered great advice. The candidates loved this management and hiring approach and wanted to work for him.

Projects and conversations, when paired together, can promote your company in a different light. When done right, they can elevate your company’s coolness level. At ProSky, we have helped numerous companies find the right fit through this very model. We’re happy to report that employee churn rate for the companies we partner with have dropped significantly and companies have reported a much more harmonious and happy workplace.

The moral of the story: Hire right. Spend the time to get to know the candidates you will be calling “your people”.

Tools to Optimize Your Holiday Ecommerce Strategy

305807Sharoon Thomas is an expert in business information systems. In his career as an ERP consultant, Sharoon has helped retailers of all sizes implement their omni-channel strategy. He is a co-founder and the CEO of Fulfil.IO, a platform which helps internet retailers to manage every aspects of their business. Fulfil.IO is a 500 Startups company (Accelerator Batch 15).

The holiday season is officially in full swing! and there is no better time than the present for internet retailers to use social media and other tech tools to increase sales. At Fulfil.io, we support retailers with our suite of inventory and order management tools, custom built for each business. Another new feature available now is the “Buy” button from Google, Facebook and Pinterest. This post explores the social checkout experience offered by each platform and the impact  on retailers, brands, and shoppers.

Google’s Buy Button

Google has been displaying product information on their shopping results pages for the past few years. With the new “Buy” button, customers can now also complete the checkout process without ever having to leave search results. This reduces the friction during checkout and leads to more sale conversions.  Payment is made to Google using Google Wallet.


Google’s pricing model is also unique. Retailers only pay for clicks on shopping ads. For those retailers who run ads (on a cost-per-click basis), the “Buy” button experience is free for the retailer. The only extra effort required is sending real time inventory status to Google.

In addition, Google provides purchase protection for customers.

Facebook’s Buy Button

Facebook has been revamping its Pages experience to make it better for businesses and consumers alike. A recent Forrester study found that Facebook is already a top acquisition channel for US retailers, and the “Buy” button now makes Facebook Pages the prime place to discover new products and drive e-commerce activity.

Screen Shot 2015-12-11 at 3.36.14 PMFor consumers, being able to shop and pay for products, while enjoying I Haz Cheezburger cat photos on their news feed, is a big step towards reducing friction along the purchase funnel. This is compared to alternatives elsewhere, where shoppers must leave the app and type in their credit card number, shipping, billing and contact information into little text boxes.

Pinterest’s Buyable Pins

Pinterest is arguably a stronger e-commerce platform than Facebook or Twitter, given that the platform is widely used by its users as a visual wishlist. Earlier this year,  Pinterest launched a new feature that allowed consumers to make purchases without leaving the platform. Pinterest is also unique in having a shopping category in its search that highlights buyable product pins. The Pinterest iOS app makes payment easy  with its Apple Pay support.

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A Quick Comparison

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The “Buy” button in your holiday checkout strategy

With e-commerce, it all comes down to conversion rates. If the “Buy” button can make a prospective customer checkout faster and shave off steps from the purchase funnel, then adding this feature to your existing sales channels is a no brainer.

For the smaller retailer, the purchase protection and payment wallet offered by big brands like Facebook and Pinterest opens up opportunities to build trust with new customers.

Conversion on Mobile VS Desktop

Research indicates that conversion rates on mobile are less than half of the conversion rates for the same brands on desktop. As Google, Facebook and Pinterest have significant consumer reach and reputation in the mobile space, we expect features like the “Buy” button to significantly shape how brands will build their own mobile e-commerce sites and apps moving forward.

Meeting and Exceeding Customer Expectations

Checkout is the first step of the customer’s shopping experience on your store. The “Buy” buttons make checkout simple and frictionless, and satisfy the expectations of today’s consumers seamlessly. At Fulfil.io, we empower retailers with our suite of customized order and inventory management tools. Our clients can manage orders and sell and track inventory across multiple sales platforms (website, in-store, Amazon, etc), manage shipment orders and more, all in one location.

However you choose to optimize your checkout funnel, take advantage of the available technology to convert casual browsers into paying customers. Good luck this holiday season!

Seoul Searching

At 500 Startups, our team of 100 people manage seed investments in 18 countries and speak over 20 languages. We are a diverse family that is often flying from Silicon Valley to different corners of the world. Right now some of my colleagues are traveling to Bahrain (Manama), UAE (Abu Dhabi & Dubai), Jordan (Amman & Dead Sea) and Egypt (Cairo) for the latest Geeks On A Plane tour. At 500, we love to explore new territories and connect with some of the brightest founders from different cultures, backgrounds, religions, personalities, beliefs systems and abilities.

500 Startups is taking active steps to bring the tech world closer together. We’re only scratching the surface in understanding how the world works and how we’re truly interconnected. Luckily, technology accelerates all of this and allows us to explore cross-border opportunities everyday.

Launching #500Kimchi

Last February, my colleague and 500 Partner Tim Chae invited me to help with the press launch of #500Kimchi. I met with founders, Korean officials, startup leaders and the incredible team on the ground.

It was wonderful to return after nearly a decade. Long ago, I moved to Seoul to discover my mother’s old stomping grounds. I got to study alongside some of Korea’s brightest at Ewha Womans University. In my second year in Seoul, I became a champion of North Korean Human Rights through my NGO work at NKHR. Through these experiences I learned more about my history, my roots and had a better understanding of the world outside of the United States.


My Heritage and Connection to Seoul (서울)

I am of Korean and Norwegian heritage and often identify myself as “Korwegian”. My ancestors were Vikings, Mongolians, adventurers, nomads, immigrants and entrepreneurs. I am proud of who I am and will reflect more on my Asian American experience (as Tracy Chou of Pinterest does so well in this post).

When growing up, my parents brought me to foreign restaurants, introduced me to foreign films and always encouraged me to learn more about the outside world. I believe that my unique cultural makeup and upbringing has contributed to my cultural curiosity and made me a lover of all things different. There is an excitement of discovering the unknown. I remember when I first arrived in South Korea. Walking through Seoul for the very first time was a completely novel experience (even with my Korean background). The loud crowded streets, new smells, the energy—it was all so foreign to me. The food was inexpensive, healthy and DELICIOUS. The landscape had mountains, a truly wonderful visual discovery for someone who came from the flatlands of Minnesota.

I was immediately introduced to a fast paced and high energy way of living. Moving from a city of 400K inhabitants to a city of 10 million is probably one of the biggest cultural shocks I’ve encountered. The everyday experiences were so radically different. I was speaking a new language, listening to new music, watching new films and finally learning how to cook my mother’s dishes. I was living in a new culture and it was probably one of the most exciting and life-changing moments to date.

Google Campus Seoul & 500 Startups Team Up

Fast forward to today and what Diversity Means to Me (다양성)

A decade later I can now reflect and have a deeper appreciation for the experiences that led me to meet extraordinary people from all different walks of life. I now look at diversity in a completely new light. So much to the point where I founded Geekettes, an organization that encourages women to join the tech industry. Why? Because a richer tapestry of people leads to a richer tapestry of ideas, of problem solving and innovation. People from different corners of the globe can come together and tackle problems in unique ways, and from different perspectives. All that I have described is embodied in the ethos and spirit of 500 Startups. It’s the reason I joined this amazing team, the reason why I had the opportunity to return to Korea and why I’m carving out a new role as Director of Diversity.

This past October, I had the opportunity to meet with leaders from Korea’s next generation of tech companies. I got to participate in a series of startup conferences, meet ups and help curate a Diversity Summit alongside Google Campus Seoul. I wanna give a very big and special shout out to my colleague Kyungmin Kim who busted her ass to make it a fantastic event. Women and men were left inspired and ready to create more diverse working environments within their startups.

Seoul is a Startup Itself (스타트업)

Seoul in many ways is like a startup in itself. It’s chaotic, it’s moving fast and it’s breaking things. The startup ecosystem is blowing up. Founders are inventing incredible things with great passion, teaching each other what they have learned, and inspiring one another with new tech solutions to everyday challenges. The startup community is paving a new way for tech entrepreneurs and each individual I met has an amazing story to share.

Korean BBQ time with the #500STRONG Family

Here is a short list of places you should visit and folks you should connect with on your trip to Seoul:

I. Google Campus Seoul

Google Campus Seoul is part of a global network of spaces where big ideas are shaping the future. Together 500 and Google hosted a series of talks, panels and discussion around diversity. Watch this fireside chat with Christine Tsai (500’s Founding Partner) and Sofia Benjumea (Head of Google Campus Madrid):

(This fireside chat was translated into Korean HERE via the Bridge.)

BONUS: I gave a talk on “10 Reasons Why Need More Women in Tech” and its also translated into Korean HERE.


A great tech startup event with live performances, talks and breakout sessions for founders and investors. Special thanks to Stella Heesun Suh and Kocca for involving 500 Startups on this very special day.

500Startups Panel with Kocca

III. K-Global Startup Engine 2015

Startup competition where 38 founders in Seoul pitched in front of an international group of VCs. My colleague Haley Kim sat on the judging panel, GO #500Women! Special thanks to the team at Accelerate Korea for the kind invitation and delicious Korean craft beer.

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Accelerate Korea Team

IV. Baedal Minjok 

I caught up with Mike Kim (a SF transplant in Seoul). He’s joined a successful Korean food delivery startup called Baedal Minjok. Mike’s an awesome guy who is super passionate about the Seoul startup community and writes great blog posts like this one. I had a wonderful visit and scored some amazing BM swag that celebrates the Korean alphabet!

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Visiting Mike at Baedal Minjok

Closing Thoughts

I’m proud of my Korean ancestors who created a civilization and unique culture despite many years of oppression from the outside. Koreans are brave, resilient and extremely kindhearted. I’m proud of my heritage and this trip has only brought me closer to my roots. I’m proud to watch a burgeoning startup ecosystem grow and to connect with new founders and community members.

Thank you 500 Startups for bringing me back, this trip meant so much to me. Big shout out to Tim Chae, Kyungmin Kim, Haley Kim, Christine Tsai, Dave McClure and the team at Google Campus Seoul.

Dae-han-min-guk (clap, clap, clap, clap, clap)

Your Korwegian,