Startup India: What Investors & Founders Really Think

Editor’s Note:

This following is the second of a 3-part research series from Walter Thompson, 500 Startups Journalist-in-Residence. (See Part 1 here: India’s Startup Ecosystem: Sure Bet or Impending Bust?)

Walter will be covering key topics on international and emerging ecosystems, and mid- to late-stage startup growth.

In our ever- (and rapidly) expanding world of VC content, there are a lot voices chiming on from Silicon Valley, from Silicon Valley.  

We brought Walter on board because we believe — and are seeing evidence of — “Silicon Valleys” springing up in new places around the globe.

Each has their own important story to tell, with actionable takeaways for all those who are listening closely, investors and founders alike.

Please share your thoughts on this series with us in the comments below, or email me directly at susan at

–Susan Su, Partner / Content Chief at 500


Most successful startups like Flipkart and InMobi are Singapore-based, thanks to lower taxes and a more business-friendly climate, but Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi aims to cultivate homegrown talent by cutting red tape, creating a direct pipeline between STEM education and industry and giving founders/investors new tax breaks and regulatory incentives.

Last month, Modi announced Startup India, a series of proposals intended to make it easier to launch, fund and sell new technology firms. The initiative was crafted with input from entrepreneurs, economists, and industry groups like NASSCOM, which represents India’s IT sector, and FICCI, the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

Capital gains, income tax and labor inspections? Waived for three years. Patent registration fees? 80% off. How about a government app that facilitates same-day business setup? Coming soon.

To gather a diverse set of opinions about Startup India, I reached out to natives and people of Indian origin who’ve worked in-country with the following caveat:

To promote a frank discussion that will be posted on 500 Startups’ blog, we’ll anonymize quotes and will identify participants only by their job title or industry, as opposed to using names. We’re interested in a broad range of opinions, so supporters, detractors, and skeptics are encouraged to weigh in.

We heard back from several founders and investors who wanted to weigh in; their comments appear below. Enough respondents asked to speak on the record that we’ve included their names and faces. Thanks very much to everyone who participated.

Pankaj Jain (Partner, 500 Startups)
Pankaj Jain, Partner 500 Startups

“There weren’t a whole lot of things in the policy announcement that were clear, but many things were left very vague. There were some things that sounded like they will be better and will have some impact on local angel investors, like some part of their earnings when they exit would be tax-free. The classification of what a startup is is still very gray. Since founders will have to get a government body involved to say, ‘yes, you are a startup’, it could create a weird situation.

On the foreign investor side, there was nothing that I saw that is going to attract foreign investors. They did some things to try to improve the number of local angel investors, perhaps there’ll be some local funds getting created, but they didn’t really do anything to attract foreign capital, which I think is a mistake. They should have been a little more aggressive on the tax side and provided a whole lot of tax incentives to go out and create businesses and get investors in, both domestic and international.

I think the best option here is for the government to get out of the way, and that’s exactly what they’re not doing because of historical regulatory, cultural and political baggage. They should just set up a general framework of how startups are going to be treated from a tax perspective, from a legal perspective, from a foreign capital perspective, and then, say ‘we are going to get out of the way and let startups and SEBI registered foreign and domestic funds to what they are best suited to do, innovate.’

Overall, I’m happy to see that the government is acknowledging this idea called a ‘startup.’ They are taking the first steps in a very complex regulatory and tax environment to let entrepreneurs innovate and build great businesses, while, trying to put a proper regulatory framework in place to limit the uneducated and the scammers from taking advantage of tax policies, available capital, etc.”

Head of a large Indian tech multinational, very active angel investor

“I am a big fan. Good set of first moves. Several funds have got capital from Fund of Funds and [this] general attitude to startups is what we need. Policies like tax breaks will get better..3 years of zero tax does not make sense since first 3 years is losses anyway.”

Investor, Top-tier India Fund:

“Overall, we are huge fans of what the government is doing. The main highlight is that it is positive that startups are getting recognised as a sector and will be encouraged. The recent changes proposed by the RBI [Reserve Bank of India] will ease doing business for all building, investing and exiting startups are a great first step forward.

As with all announcements in India though, the value of this will be in the execution and in this case defining and certifying what a “startup” is – where there is still uncertainty. The intention of the RBI and the central government seems sincere, and if implemented well could really help grow this important source of FDI [foreign direct investment] and employment.”

Tarun Davda (Managing Director, Matrix Partners India)

Tarun Davda

“Net is that the intent is right; for the first time entrepreneurship and startups are an item on the national agenda which is fantastic. Action needs to of course follow, and we’re hopeful it will in due course.

Soaib Grewal (India Investment Advisor, 500 Startups)

Soaib Grewal

“I think the first few steps they’ve taken are a good start.

While the government has announced a few programs to boost local venture capital, it doesn’t incentivize global funds from participating in India as much as it could. Local VCs too are heavily reliant on foreign LPs. A robust tech ecosystem will require global capital both direct and indirect.”

Principal, Top-tier US-based VC firm:

“The Startup India initiative by PM Modi provides a much needed boost to the startup world as it addresses some core issues relating to setup, taxation and liquidation. By easing the barriers to setting up a company, it will give a big impetus to entrepreneurs and we will witness a lot more action on the ground. Companies that register in Singapore and Delaware should now look at Bangalore and Delhi as preferred alternatives.

While these initiatives are great starting points, they must be backed by startup-friendly policies in key sectors like Ecommerce/Retail, Transportation, Financial Services, etc.  for a conducive business environment.”

Shubhankar Bhattacharya (Venture Partner, Kae Capital)

Shubhankar Bhattacharya

“The Good:

  1. The extensive media coverage given to start-ups and technology innovations as a result of Startup India bode well to encourage the emergence of a new generation of entrepreneurs, motivate high-quality talent to consider joining early-stage companies, and create a social system that is more conducive and accepting of start-ups.
  2. The Prime Minister’s announcements of a Credit Guarantee fund, exemptions from capital gains tax, and tax exemptions on investments above fair market value are all well-timed initiatives needed to support financing of early-stage companies and show that the government is paying heed to what the startup ecosystem is asking for.
  3. The launch of the Atal Innovation Mission, sector-specific incubators, as well as entrepreneurship programs for students also made my wishlist to the PM and I expect them to be vital to support entrepreneurship in the core sectors, thereby creating more India-focused solutions and innovations.
  4. Lastly, the PM’s emphasis on patent applications is a welcome change in thought process, where we see Indians as innovators & technologists, rather than mere copycats of business models that have worked elsewhere in the world.

The Question Marks:

  1. We have heard of the Rs. 10,000 Crore fund for startups earlier and therefore execution is critical to make sure the fund is deployed in a transparent and effective manner to deserving startups.
  2. It is debatable how many ‘startups’ would truly benefit from being exempted for income-tax levied on profit gains for the first three years.”

The people I spoke to generally expressed guarded optimism, as well as respect and appreciation for Modi’s overtures, but on and off the record, everyone’s taking a wait-and-see attitude. Considering the massive potential of India’s startups, even modest reductions in red tape and regulation could plump up the number of companies launched this year.

In the months ahead, I’ll touch base with some of the founders in 500 Startups’ India Fund to see if the government’s plans are meeting expectations.

Get More Global Ecosystem Updates

* indicates required

Growth Case Study: Aircall on One Metric That Matters & Selling to Uber

Aircall is a 500 portfolio company that addresses this one single truth about growing a business and getting repeat customers:

Phone calls still matter.

The company offers next-gen phone support solutions that integrate your stuff with Slack, a Chrome app, Zendesk, and a bunch of other services, and they recently raised $2.75 million upon graduating from the 500 Accelerator’s Batch 14.

Now, raising a decent round from Balderton Capital, Funders Club and others is nice and all… but internally driven, ongoing growth is where the real money’s at.

Recently, I spoke with Aircall’s founder and CEO Olivier Pailhes about the company’s One Metric That Matters, growth process, and the tactic that helped them get 800 clients, including the likes of Uber.

It was a really fun interview, and I learned a few things that I’ve started applying to my own stuff, even though I’m not running a startup that’s aiming to disrupt the $350 billion customer service industry.

Hopefully you will too.

1. What’s your OMTM (one metric that matters)?

For us, it’s all about monthly recurring revenue.

Usage is important, and we have different engagement and pricing levels, but ultimately we believe that usage and engagement are measured by willingness to pay.

2. What’s your 3-month growth on your OMTM?

31% per month, from $15.3K to $34.4K.

3. What’s your 6-month growth on your OMTM?

31% per month, from 15.3k$ to 58.5k$

4. Ok, that’s weird. Why was MoM growth so consistent, to the precise tune of 31%?

Well we are hustlers. We set our sales quota at 31% growth, so that is exactly what our team hits every month. No less (so far), and no more.

Sales people are extremely goal oriented. Given them a quota — and the right incentive — and they will hit it, even if that means making calls at 6 pm on December 31st or Christmas Eve to get warms leads to close (our Jewish sales guy did this).

The last two weeks or the last week of the month, if we’re below target… well, we’re just running like crazy to make that target. If I showed you our weekly gross, it would be a lost less consistent, but when we set a monthly target, we organize everything to meet that.

5. So, sales people are competitive and will work their butts off for the right incentives. What’s your incentive structure for your sales team?

I can tell you what we do today, which is different from six months ago and will probably be different six months from now.

Currently what we do is a team bonus. This is probably unusual, but so far it has helped us to work hard — as a team — and hit goals — as a team. We’re aligned.

Here are some actual numbers.

In December 2015, our target was $60K.

If we hit it, the deal was we were going to do a cash bonus of $5K for the team (hey, we’re still a startup).

There are five of us, so that means $1,000 for each person.

Our next target is $100K in revenue. If we make that by the end of February, which is super short so it’s a big stretch goal, then we’re gonna give $10k to the whole team.

On top of this, there’s a side bonus for the tech team. If we meet the target, then the business team invites the whole tech team to a great restaurant to reward them for providing support on the tech side. So it’s indirect bonus to them as well.

This is how we do right now, at this stage and size. It’s probably nuts, but it seems to be working for us right now as a small team. We hit the quotas, and it creates a team spirit.

6. What other factors contributed to your 3- and 6-month growth, besides your sales process.?

Outbound campaigns to selected verticals drove a lot of good, ongoing inbound leads (thanks, Susan, for your email scripting 🙂

Then as we built integrations, especially with Zendesk and Slack, things started to take off even more.

This month, 80% of our leads came from inbound. This is great, but the absolute best part is that we convert 30% of those leads to paying customers.

7. 30% lead-to-close is pretty damn good. Why / how?

Well, I’ll tell you how it happened with Uber, as I think that illustrates a lot.

We were out running (yes we do it as a team), and we saw a signup come through that was from Uber.

We thought, “That’s a joke, right?” but then we saw that it was an email address.

As per our normal process, where we aim to call leads back within 2 hours max, but ideally within the hour, we called them immediately, within about 20 minutes of their signup.

They were so incredibly impressed with the call back time, and the fact that we responded them to ask if they were happy with the product. At that time, it was something like 9 pm PST, so it really wowed them as nice customer service.

This process isn’t just for big clients like Uber, either. We take a lot of pride in our business, and try to extend this for every client. It’s not a sexy “hack” but it is working really well for us.

8. Let’s switch gears because you’re making all of us feel bad. What’s one thing you tried that FAILED MISERABLY?

Doing a “soft sale” proposing a blog interview for leadgen and engagement.

We had a discussion with Nemo, who was our 500 Distro, in which we told him, Hey… we’re running our outbound campaigns and yet we are conversion rates around 1% (at the time).

Nemo said, You cannot continue like that, so why don’t we start this modern approach where we’d reach out to companies proposing to do a blog interview and generate some inbound, while also getting a chance to get in front of them and talk about our product.

We ended up doing 250 blog interviews. But, in the end, we realized this is something for Nemo — this is something for someone smart. And we’re not, exactly. We’re just a small team of 2 guys, 2 interns and yes we got the interviews but then were very difficult to move forward.

Nemo did a test himself to prove the concept, he spoke to a random guy and converted him. We recorded the conversation, and it was fantastic.

But, we realized that it’s something we’re just not experienced in and wasn’t going to work for us.

So the takeaway is, play to your strengths, and realize when you in particular don’t have the skills to execute a given tactic. As in our case, the problem could be YOU, but don’t take it personally — it’s just a fact that you have to accept and move on from.

9. What’s your next goal?

We want to move from SMBs to more Enterprise clients, and do more and better customer nurture. Our goal is to move from 10 seats to 30-50 seats, and create more products and features that enterprise level clients want.

This month, we had 560 signups and 80% of those were inbound, with 30% converting to paid customers. 4 months ago, it was half of that, and a huge part has to do with the 500 Accelerator.
The best part of 500 was the growth side.

Like I said, Nemo was too smart for us, and we felt bad and stupid and unstructured every week when we met with him — but it still helped immensely.

It was having our own personal, dedicated growth marketing expert. Doing the Accelerator was honestly one of our best decisions, and we’re very excited to make this company big.

Want more? Get the 500 Distro Newsletter

* indicates required


500 Startups Announces 500 Kulfi: $25M India Fund

Namaskar! We’re excited to announce our latest regional fund focused on India including Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. 500 Kulfi will be a $25M fund focusing on early stage companies with product-market fit and demonstrated traction. Although we’re sector-agnostic, we will take a closer look at FinTech, EdTech, Health & Wellness, Data Analytics, Content and SaaS/SMB.

Why is India important to invest in?

As Walter Thompson (500 Startups Journalist-in-Residence) recently noted, private equity investment activity in India was up 67% from 2014 to $21 billion. GDP is expected to grow at 7.6% this year, faster than any other large global economy. India has the second largest Internet population in the world after China, more than 300 million users. The number of smartphones in use in India is set to reach over 700 million by 2020. The median age in India is 27.3 years old.

All this means that India is looking as sweet as Kulfi!

We’ve have a very large and young population, with more disposable income available and that amount is growing faster than anywhere else and global investors are taking notice and pouring money into Indian startups.

While the industry has been tweeting and blogging about doom and gloom hitting unicorns and startups alike, we believe the long-term opportunity remains as solid as ever. We see market changes as part of a natural cycle. While some good companies may have a harder time raising money this year, others will find it easier to get great talent. Some consolidation and stepping back from irrational exuberance is a good thing. In an environment like this, the Warren Buffett investor will thrive because they look for value. We hope to continue to find value in many verticals across India.

500 Startups has invested in over 50 companies in India since 2011 including amazing startups like ZipDial, SourceEasy, Instamojo, CultureAlley, SilverPush, KartRocket, and Headout. Last year we did over 20 deals in India. However, we don’t think that’s enough. We’re thrilled to announce our plans to do more in India; much, much more.

Get in touch with Pankaj at

About Pankaj Jain:


Pankaj Jain is a Partner at 500 Startups and runs the 500 India Fund “500 Kulfi”. While at 500 Startups, he has led investments in over 50 companies across 6 countries.

Prior to joining 500 Startups, he spent over 12 years in the financial industry at firms including JPMorgan, Long-Term Capital Management (LTCM) and GlobeOp Financial Services. Pankaj formerly founded 2 companies including an on-demand, employment marketplace and the HeadStart Network Foundation. He also spent time at TLabs, an Indian accelerator, where he helped source, select and invest in startups.

Pankaj would like to sincerely apologize for his role in bringing down the global financial system while working at LTCM in 1998… his comment on the incident “oops, my bad” serves as a reminder to all of us that no one is too big to fail.

Pankaj received his BS from NYU’s Stern School of Business. He sometimes blogs at and can be found on Twitter at @pjain

Artwork by Yiying Lu

Kulfi image by Kings Kulfi, Gurgaon

India’s Startup Ecosystem: Sure Bet or Impending Bust?

Note: In researching this post, I contacted multiple founders and investors from India and the US to get their take on whether recent developments will create a startup environment where friendly regs and access to capital can balance the need to bootstrap and network.)

Lifehacking is a core aspect of Indian culture.

Nearly every citizen employs Jugaad: necessity-driven problem solving that uses whatever tools are at hand to get things done, whether it’s constructing a water pump, mailing a parcel or building a new house.

India’s entrepreneurs in every sector rely on Jugaad to cut through red tape, reduce R&D costs and resolve other inefficiencies.

Also known as frugal engineering, the ethos is associated with breakout successes like Grey Orange Robotics, which has succeeded in an environment lacking significant infrastructure for hardware companies, or founders like Vishal Mehta of Infibeam, who sold his home and several long-term investments to self-fund one of the nation’s largest e-commerce startups.

If recent proposals pan out, India’s startup ecosystem is poised to become a more sustainable environment for founders and investors; PM Narendra Modi’s Startup India initiative includes a $1.5 billion fund and 3 years of exemptions from income tax, labor inspections and capital gains for startups. The proposal also includes free legal support, faster and 80% cheaper patent applications, and an app that enables same-day business setup.

Startup India includes funding for a nationwide network of incubators, research parks, and university research centers, even 3D printers for engineering labs. To foster a startup mindset and build social ties between IT students, more than 500,000 schools will offer innovation education programs that integrate with ongoing startup fests and pre-incubation training.


The entrepreneurs and VCs I talked to to generally agreed that bootstrapping will always be essential for Indian startups, but also acknowledged that a cultural shift is underway.

Whether or not the new economic, educational and regulatory moves proposed in Startup India comes to fruition, bankers and investors (domestic and international) are stepping in where angels once literally feared to tread. According to VCCEdge, Indian private equity investments exceeded $21 billion last year, a 67% increase over 2014.

Since PM Modi’s proposals were unveiled, private lenders have made moves to support the startup community; RBI Bank’s India Startup Club offers founders end-to-end banking services, as well as administrative services like HR, office space and CRM. Last month, the State Bank of India opened InCube, a Bangalore branch which will also assist with financial services and mentorship.

Notably, neither RBI or SBI plan to invest in the startups they’ll advise.

Even with last year’s increase in private equity investment, several international investors I spoke to said India still lacks a critical mass of local funding and expertise, which makes sense, since the nation’s startup environment is only 7 to 10 years old, depending on who you speak to. Local investors are pragmatic due to “historical necessity,” one VC told me; entrepreneurs who’ve established themselves selling durable goods are largely unmoved by “change the world” founder pitches, it seems.

Market watchers hope RBI’s recently announced plans to allow foreign investors to transfer shares in Indian companies to local firms will attract more international money to fill this gap, even as many overseas funds have dialed back their involvement in the last two years.

In the coming months, one barometer of success for India’s startup ecosystem will be the number of new companies that are based inside the country. Due to capital gains and historically onerous regulations, standouts like Flipkart and Ola are Singapore-based, a model many other founders have emulated as they work toward an IPO. Last September, Infibeam became the first India-based online retailer to prepare an offering for the National Stock Exchange.

In an informal poll of the people I spoke to, fintech, education and e-commerce were all attractive sectors, with two respondents noting that B2B and SaaS in particular, is very appealing. Less so: food delivery, social networking and user-generated content.

Although media coverage of India’s startup scene largely focuses on big wins and belly flops, the consensus we gathered is that a slowdown in new investments is the result of a correction, not skittishness.

Last month, Grofers, a hyperlocal grocery delivery startup, shuttered operations in 9 cities, even though it recently closed a funding round of $120 million. Contractions like these can be taken as a sign of hard times, or, as one investor explained, they can also indicate that a company’s unit economics are too low to scale the business.

“Things are more realistic,” a founder explained.

With a population of 1.2 billion and an IT education system that produces approximately 1 million new engineers each year, “opportunity” may be too small a word to describe India’s startup potential.

As government and industry streamline regs and direct more capital to the IT sector, international investors would be well served to use Jugaad to seek out sustainable local partnerships and get in the game.

Get More Global Ecosystem Updates

* indicates required

Inside the 500 Accelerator, Week 4: Growth Experiments, Startup Legal & Tequila

Inside the 500 Accelerator is a weekly series by 500 founder Troy Sultan. This week, Troy shares takeaways on what it really means to “run experiments,” the black box of startup legal, and when startup founders finally get to take a vacation. 

4 weeks in, we’re finally getting settled. We’ve developed a cadence among our team, our work, and we’re even having fun when no one’s looking.

The first quarter of the program was intense: ~150 new people to meet, names to remember, companies to understand, relationships to build, questions to field, pitching to do, announcements to make — all while maintaining our daily duty as startup firefighters.

I spent much of month 1 understanding the landscape. What levers exist here? Who controls them? Which ones might we be interested in pulling, now or in the future? How can we be helpful?

An accelerator might be viewed as a 3–4 month experience which comes and goes; the goal being to extract as much value as you can before the ride ends. I think it’s more interesting to approach the experience with the next few decades in mind.

How can we create residual value — for a lifetime — from a 4-month experience we have today?

Although it’s wild that we’re already one quarter through the program, it’s also exciting because we’re finally getting comfortable (don’t worry — not too comfortable).

Here’s a look into week 4, the week we started to feel at home:


This week our calendar thinned out slightly to make way for execution mode. Coming out of MHW, we’ve defined our OMTM and a pipeline of 30 experiments as the backbone of our growth engine. More on this in a bit.

With that, we did have a few talks and events sprinkled throughout the week that covered Legal 101, managing the cap table with CapShare, pitch prep, a mentor mingle and a batch field trip to the Mountain View office. Here are the deets:

Second official batch meeting w/ Marvin

We welcomed a new EIR to the 500 family and… got yelled at for leaving too many dishes in the sink. #TheStruggleIsReal.

Those beginning their fundraising process now were encouraged to talk with Marvin and the staff to collaborate on their approach before taking investor meetings.

Startup Legal 101: Neil Dugal

Neil gave the batch an pointed talk breaking down the SV legal landscape and how to manage the relationships you have with your counsel.

While legal isn’t the first priority in an early-stage founder’s mind (ask for forgiveness, not permission…right?) there are numerous legal hurdles to overcome when prepping to raise capital, and there’s many ways it can go wrong without professional help. Personally, I think the entire legal industry needs professional help, but that’s a story for a different day. Takeaways from Neil’s talk:

Law firm hierarchy:


  • Negotiate term sheets
  • Strategic decisions
  • Connections


  • Everything else


  • Records and paperwork
  • Cap table maintenance
  • Logistics, signature pages

If you’re getting billed the partner’s hourly rate to do cap table maintenance, push back and make sure the partner only spends time on high leverage tasks.

What you should pay:

  • Incorporation: $2.5k — $5k (more for conversions from foreign companies)
  • Note financing: $5k — $15k
  • Seed financing: $7k — $20k
  • Series A financing: $30k+ and Lead Investor legal fees (usually capped at $30k, maybe higher if term sheet isn’t as clean)
  • Trademark prosecution: $2k+
  • Patent Prosecution and Application: At least $15k, likely a lot more
  • Copyright Prosecution: $150

What not to do:

  • Avoid over optimizing early stage legal work (use standard founder vesting, etc.)
  • Do not use LegalZoom, do not do things yourself, maybe use Clerky
  • Do not “delegate and forget”
  • Do not be cheap
  • Do not micromanage
  • Do not email your law firm partner on every single matter unless you want to pay their rate (they’ll bill you for email)
  • Avoid being special. Standardization will reduce your fees in the long run.

Field trip! B16 heads to Mountain View for B15’s Preview Day

We Caltrain-ed into the future to watch B15’s preview day pitches, just one week before their demo day. It was inspiring (and scary as hell) to see where we’ll be as a batch in a few months.

The companies in B15 seemed a bit later stage than our batch, and were tacking very different markets. While every pitch was eerily dialed-in, I found them too cookie-cutter for my taste. Originality excites me, and although the companies and numbers were really impressive, I felt like I was watching an episode of Shark Tank. If demo day is a platform to raise your seed, I’m not sure this format would get early stage investors overly excited. If it we’re a platform to showcase 500 companies to LP’s, it was executed perfectly. But then again, what do I know?

Queue Don LaFontaine voice:

“Imagine a world where eating ice cream cake gives you abs…. Hello, and welcome. I’m Troy, the Founder & CEO of…”

Mentor Mingle

~30 mentors from the 500 family introduced themselves, described their backgrounds and specialty areas, and how they can best help us. We then spent the next several hours getting to know the most relevant mentors over food and drinks. Good times! We met an awesome executive recruiter, a Co-founder of NerdWallet (they’re 2 floors below our office) and the Head of Growth at Coin, among others.


Team Mentimeter, all blonde and good looking like usual


We’re getting to know our batchmates beyond their title of “Founders of X”. We’re officially beyond the “new people, new office, new system”. All positive, cozy vibes this week.

We’re also getting to know our POCs and their getting to know us enough to really see where we plan take Resource in the long term, rather than letting what we are today define us. After healthy contemplation, we pitched today’s business to the 500 partners for our interview, and now that we’re here, we’re building on that to sell the grander vision.

We’re refining our story (with their help) and settling into new routines, practicing restraint in what we “yes” to vs. what we ignore for not being best use of our time that day. This is getting easier each week.

I’m not sure I should admit this one but….. We’re actually starting to have fun 😉

Gustavo of Worthix. Told you we were having fun.
Alex of Indemand and his large bottle of.. water?

500 Alumni

I met with several alumni this week including two founders who’ve gone through 500 twice (who’ve since sold their companies) and another semi-recent alum actively raising a Series A (best of luck my dudes!).

A common thread in these conversations was fundraising. Here’s the best piece of advice I got:

“Until you can take a 3 month extended vacation from your company without any numbers going down, you’re not ready.”

The other conversation was tactical content marketing advice. We devised a quick and dirty podcasting and broader blog content framework that we’ll test in the coming months.

My last chat was with an alum who now runs 500’s Korean fund who broke down his experience raising a fund as a VC/GP and compared it to his experience as a previous founder raising VC. It was fascinating.

The process, psychology and timelines are vastly different than a founder’s fundraise — longer sales cycles, a pitch focused almost purely on track record and returns, and an audience who’s managing stock piles of cash. As the GP, you’re just a sliver of one category inside a much larger, diversified portfolio.

One day..


This week we ran our first growth experiments: a change to the CTA on our landing page, a new approach letting customers sample our product for free, and a segmented outbound sales effort built and supported with our own sourcing team and software.

We’ve seen immediate results at the top of our funnel but the jury’s still out on conversion numbers (there’s great anecdotal numbers but I’ll wait for a larger sample to report findings).

We’ve also shipped major product improvements this week (thanks to a herculean effort by Wade) and tightened the feedback loop with our customers.


I’m invigorated. We all are. As a team, we were maxing out when we joined 500, so I spent the first couple weeks heads down to get above water. Now I’m letting myself loosen up.

We’ve spent time drinking with batchmates, sharing war stories, backgrounds, weekend plans. Interestingly, this “non-productive” time is helping me focus better while heads down.

And luckily, the wonderful souls behind Worthix initiated a Friday tradition that’s growing in momentum:


Check out next week’s post for a breakdown of the #ArtOfThePitch workshop and pitch prep, term sheets and equity, our first team offsite while at 500 and more.

Thanks for following along 🙂 If you’re enjoying the ride, it’d be awesome if you hit recommend below. You can also follow me on Twitter, and check out Resource for elite-quality candidate sourcing, on-demand.

Read previous posts:

Or better yet APPLY HERE


Inside the 500 Accelerator, Week 3: Marketing Hell

In this week’s post 500 founder Troy Sultan shares his take on the ~25 hours of lectures, workshops and presentations by 500 growth mentors that we call Marketing  Hell Week. The week’s programs cover everything from pricing and positioning to marketing metrics, content marketing, viral growth and more.


MHW did indeed live up to its name. There was far less time for “real” work, so a lot of us had to get creative. Taking calls and meetings during breaks or lunch, scheduling walking meetings to and from the office, and leaving the office at or past midnight were common themes for most of us.

This post is long, so I’ll get right to it.

Note: There were few sessions I didn’t attend which is reflected in the notes below. Also — huge thanks to Tammy, Susan and all else who helped make MHW so memorable (and exhausting).


Building A Growth Machine w/ Brian Balfour (video)

  • Growth has nothing to do with tactics, everything to do with process
  • Silver bullets don’t exist: what works for others won’t work for you
  • Experiments don’t always have to be right, but theres an expectation that the results and learning improves over time

Goals of the process:

  1. Rhythm: Momentum is powerful. Establish a cadence to fight through failures, get to successes and find momentum.
  2. Learning: constant learning of your customer, product, channels, and feeding and learning into the process to improve.
  3. Autonomy: individuals decide what they work on to achieve the team goals.
  4. Accountability: with autonomy comes accountability. You don’t have to be right all the time but there is an expectation to improve.

Setting goals: OKRs (Objectives and Key Results)

  • Objective: Qualitative statement (timeframe: 30–90 days)
  • KR1: Measurable goal 1 (hit 90% of time) (relatively easy to hit)
  • KR2: Measurable goal 1 (hit 50% of time) (pretty good job)
  • KR3: Measurable goal 1 (hit 10% of time) (knocked these out of park. lets go to vegas and celebrate)

If you rarely hit KR1s, you’re being too aggressive. If you regularly hit KR3s, you’re not setting goals aggressively enough.


  • Brainstorm
  • Prioritize
  • Test
  • Implement
  • Analyze
  • Systemize

REPEAT: as many times as possible within 30–90 period of OKRs

4 key documents:

  1. Backlog: idea dump (everyone contributes). Provides an outlet to dump any ideas that arise as you go through the experimentation cycle (don’t keep them in your head).
  2. Pipeline: ledger of experiments that you’ve run previously, the ones currently running, and the ones on deck. When a new member joins your team, they’ll see every experiment you’ve run from day 1, understanding clearly how you got to today.
  3. Experiment doc: (most important) forces you to think through whyyou’re doing this experiment, what you expect to learn from it, how you’ll design and implement it successfully, and what learnings might help you improve.
  4. Playbooks: step by step guides to successfully repeat the things you want to do over and over again.

After a few cycles (quarterly or every ~4mo) look at:

  1. Batting average: how many successes to failures? Improving over time?
  2. Accuracy: are your hypotheses getting more accurate?
  3. Throughput: how many experiments are you running in a given time period? How do you do more?

Pricing and Positioning: Mat Johnson

Positioning: be IMPORTANT!

  • For customers
  • For word-of-mouth
  • For investors
  • For acquisitions

Pricing is NOT about revenue. It’s about:

  • Strategy and competition
  • Customer segments

Pricing could be a matter of life and death. You’re a small startup — if you don’t already have an unfair advantage, you’ve already lost.

Customer attention:

  1. Do I care enough to pay attention?
  2. Does this product address my #1 problem?
  3. Is this product even any good?

How to think about acquisition multiples:

  • Revenue alone: 1x annual sales (“internet property”)
  • Eng team: $1M/high-quality engineer (“acqui-hire”)
  • Strategic Leadership team: $50M+ (Assistly/
  • Market-winning product line: $1B (Yammer)
  • Strategic threat/the future: $B+, 10% mkt Cap (Instagram, Whatsapp)


  • Compete with pricing
  • 3x your revenue, just by asking for it
  • Raise money at higher valuations from better investors by positioning yourself as the future
  • Sell your company for higher multiple

One Metric That Matters (OMTM): Andrei Marinescu

Focus is major key advantage. A good metric is:

  • Comparative
  • Understandable (can the board members understand it?)
  • Actionable
  • A ratio (not an absolute value. e.g. # of users)
  • An enabler of behavior change (does it let you know if things are going well or not?)

What are you trying to measure?

  • Qualitative (e.g. customer sentiment) vs. Quantitative (LTV, CAC, etc…)
  • Vanity (# of accounts, # of page views etc…) vs. Actionable (purchases)

Leading vs. Lagging:

  • Leading = does it predict success? You can act upon it with these customers (customer satisfaction)
  • Lagging = by the time you see it, you have already failed with these customers (churn)

Correlated (it correlates to certain events. e.g. more purchases on Sundays) vs. Casual

How to choose your OMTM: have context!

Type of business is important (B2B, B2C, SaaS, gaming, app): similar companies have similar OMTMs

Bad OMTMs:

  • # of page views
  • # of unique visitors
  • # of downloads
  • # of registrations
  • # of shares / likes
  • # of emails collected
  • Time on site

The time interval for the OMTM should be weekly (something you can look and react upon every week).

Funnel-related OMTMs are good, because they will work for ANY acquisition channel.

Fireside Chat: Dave McClure and James Currier

Dave describes James as “one of the smartest people in the fucking world”

Key takeaways:

  • Most people start with the thing they want changed in the world and then work from the product toward the messaging. Do the opposite. Start with the messaging that’s already in people’s heads and work backwards to the product.
  • How are you positioned in the consumers mind? Go down to the basement of what your business really is to position it. That’s the foundation of growth.
  • Know where you get your love. Know what you’re really after, why you’re really here, what you really want to happen in the end.
  • Failure is temporary but success is forever. You need humility to succeed in a network business — it’s all about iteration speed.

Helpful growth-related books/articles:


Smoke Tests: Dominic Coryell (video)

You can “fake” features (and even whole products) to prove customer demand before building anything.

  • See if people want it FIRST
  • Get to know your customers better
  • Wait as long as possible to allocate engineering resources
  • Shorten your backlog: eliminate all features you don’t need
  • Don’t alienate the dev team from customers
  • Let growth drive the product roadmap

SEO for F*cking Startups: Aaron Blumenthal

Aaron was both entertaining and *really* knowledgable on SEO

Do startups need an SEO?

  • Full time? F*ck no
  • Part time? Maybe

How to pay them:

  • Salary / wages (don’t do it)
  • Fees / contract (meh)
  • Commission / referral / equity (do go on..)

Divvy up the work: SEO is a team sport (content + eng + SEO)

  • Keywords define relevancy
  • Relevancy = using same language as the person searching for stuff
  • Use clean URLs, not nasty ones (which confuse search engines)
  • Preventative maintenance is ~75% of SEO

Meta description

  • Part sales pitch
  • Part relevancy hack
  • Beware of keyword stuffing

H# tags: H1 = candy, H2 = chocolate, H3 = dark chocolate

  • Only use one H1 per page
  • Don’t use H tags for page structural purposes


  • DON’T stuff keywords
  • DO use lots of keyword permutations
  • Don’t sound like an idiot
  • DO revise your content often


  • Links = equity
  • Seek them religiously
  • Give out links sparingly

URL structures

  • Flat structure preferred
  • What’s easy != what’s right
  • Clean URL example:
  • Don’t use subdomains if you can avoid it


  • BE RESPONSIVE. It’s 2016. Just do it.
  • Pay attention to bounce rate: Google tracks who many people click the back button. Focus on holding the user.


  • Always buy a domain with existing SEO history if possible. Consult with an SEO before buying.

IP/Server history

  • Shared IPs: problematic, you do not want to share a server with shady sites

Competitive research

  • Look at your competitor’s robots.txt. Lots of interesting things in there they don’t want search engines (or you) to see 🙂

Content and Email Marketing w/ Susan Su (videos here andhere)

Email marketing

Golden rules

  1. Always Be Collecting [emails]: persistent across site, CTAs on marketing content, staff profiles, email signatures, promote offers, consider offline
  2. Be persistent: multiple touches, social proof
  3. Subject lines MATTER: they impact a subscriber’s perception of your entire email
  4. Deliverability: use
  5. Target and segment: don’t be random
  6. Measure what matters: opens, clicks, conversions, subscribes, unsubscribes, replies
  7. TEST: over 65% of email gets opened on mobile FIRST


Paid acquisition — Search: Samir Patel (full guide here)

Check out Samir’s guide above. It’s an incredible resource he’s giving away for free.

Core concepts of search marketing:

  • Intent
  • Relevance: it’s not about what you want to say, it’s what the user is looking for
  • Quality Score

5 Pillars of Adwords optimization:

  1. Account structure
  2. Keywords
  3. Ad copy
  4. Landing pages
  5. Google Analytics

Impression share report: know what % of impression share you have vs. competition


Viral Growth — YouTube Viral Videos: Karen Cheng

Karen is a total badass


  1. Don’t be too good for marketing: what if I do everything I can to promote and get no views? That would be embarrassing. Videos don’t go viral without a bunch of marketing behind them.
  2. Think like a reporter: what is the story that someone else might care about?
  3. Release on a Monday or Tuesday (particularly for videos). People typically watch videos at work. Avoid holidays!
  4. Make it short: how short? as short as possible while still getting point across
  5. Understand which emotions spread: Some emotions spread well: awe, anger and amusement (high arousal emotions). Some don’t: sadness, contentment.
  6. Do something controversial: hit on the anger emotion
  7. Make other people look good: users share not because your stuff makes you look good, but because it makes them look good
  8. Fake it until you make it: get friends to try your new trend, pose as fans/evangelists of your video for press, etc.

Sales Hacking: Matt Ellsworth

Defining sales: Sales is generating revenue through person-to-person (or bot) interaction

  • Deals need perceived and actual value
  • Be helpful (not just sales meetings, but all meetings)
  • Sales hacking is a process to finding better ways to sell

John Boyd’s four point loop for making fast and effective decisions:

  1. Observe: collect current information from as many sources as practically possible
  2. Orient: analyze this information, and use it to update your current reality
  3. Decide : determine a course of action
  4. Act: follow through on your decision

Breaking sales into 3 parts:

  • Targeting
  • Selling
  • Delivering

Day 5

A/B Testing: Hiten Shah

Thanks Hiten! Are we, like, homies now?

Growth isn’t a strategy, it’s a result.

  • Be better than yesterday (this was a core value at Kissmetrics)
  • 1 out of 5 tests win
  • Always have test running, no matter how small
  • If you don’t have a process, there’s no way to continuously improve.
  • Process > tactics: improving your experimentation process is what will get you growth

A/A tests: before starting a test, run the same thing against the same thing. If the conversions are different, something is wrong. (Get patterns about your traffic, seasonality, what days of week are converting better, what are the patterns, etc).

Document every test and create a playbook. That should include these items:

  1. Your starting hypothesis
  2. Dates for when you ran the test
  3. Screenshots of control and all variations used during the test
  4. Expected change in conversion
  5. Probability of change
  6. Screenshot of raw data used in your analysis
  7. A screenshot of the A/B test report in KISSMetrics/other
  8. The decision you’ve made from the test
  9. What you learned from the test

Workshop: Funnel Optimization: Ryan Deiss

Goal: craft a conversation funnel that lowers the cost of acquisition, while simultaneously increasing immediate and lifetime customer value.

Follow the 12 steps to intimacy in a business context

  • You wouldn’t approach someone at a bar and ask them to marry you, yet you do this with your customers.
  • Sometimes, it DOES hurt to ask

Understand your customer journey:

  1. Aware
  2. Engage
  3. Subscribe
  4. Convert
  5. Excite
  6. Ascend
  7. Advocate
  8. Promote

Speak directly to the desired result. Get to the end goal your customers want with your messaging. Use the same language they use.

Writing better copy

Think about the before and after state that you shift people through: good marketing is articulating the shift from that before state to the after state.

4 categories:

Have: What do (or don’t) they have before? What do they have after?

Feel: What is their emotional state before? What is it after?

Average day: What’s the average day like before? After?

Status: What is their status before? After? How does your product/service make them more valuable?

Questions to answer:

  1. How will you get their attention?
  2. How will you turn a glance into a stare? (value first — education or entertainment)
  3. How will you “get their number”? (specificity is essential)
  4. How will you get them to show commitment? (wallet or calendar?)
  5. What “little victory” will you offer that will encourage them to ascend? (Tesla sales reps encouraging test-drivers to try a P85D Insane Mode launch)
  6. How will you teach them?

Building a Growth Team: Open Discussion

Define the culture you’re creating early

  1. Know what do you stand for
  2. Know your purpose
  3. How do you work as an organization?
  4. How do you treat each other?
  5. What attitudes and behaviors are unacceptable?
  6. How much/little process do you want?
  7. How numbers driven are you?
  8. How much nonconformity do you tolerate?
  9. Are you centralized and hierarchical?

Hiring & Firing

  1. Hire amazing people: Get good at being able to tell the difference. If you’re a not a natural, this can be learned.
  2. Don’t be an asshole: Good hires are hard to make. If its not working out, deal with it quickly and respectfully — it’s best for both sides.
  3. Listen to your gut: But consciously avoid bias and seek diversity — mix of backgrounds and approaches. This starts at the pipeline phase — its never too early!
  4. But don’t discriminate: Age, race, gender, sexual orientation, even length of commute — anything not directly related to their ability to perform on the job. “A players hire A players. B players hire C players”
  5. On hiring friends: BE CAREFUL. These situations are usually terrible mistakes or a huge competitive advantage to your business.

“I’d fire my mom if she wasn’t getting the job done” — Anonymous


So what did all of this lead to? A pipeline of 30 experiments we’ll each be running over the next few weeks with oversight from our Distro POC.

I’m excited to report back on our learnings. Market on!

Is your company hiring? Check out Resource’s modern candidate sourcing and outreach.

If you like this post, share it!




Or, let Troy know your thoughts on twitter or by email at [ troy at ].

Previous posts in this series:

Or better yet APPLY HERE

Inside the 500 Accelerator, Weeks 1 & 2: Content, Progress, & the Original Name for 500 Startups

This is the 2nd post in a weekly series from founder Troy Sultan and his team at Resource, currently a part of 500 Accelerator Batch 16. 

Troy will be documenting Resource’s trials and wins throughout Batch 16, so you’ll get an (only mildly censored) look behind the scenes at the 500 Accelerator. 

We interviewed for 500 in December, and during the month between the interview and our start date, we heard many opinions on how much value 500 might bring to our company. Not all of them were positive.

My hope for this series is to be open and honest, even if that means sharing the uncomfortable.

With that, I’ll admit we likely wouldn’t be a part of 500 today had we gotten into YC. We applied there and were rejected. But just as the YC door closed, one at 500 opened.

We did a fair amount of diligence before accepting our offer from 500 — we combed through Google and Quora, talked to alumni founders, questioned the investment partners/staff and sought out opinions from mentors and advisors.

No matter how much diligence we attempted to do, we still had no idea what it was actually like to go through 500 (or any other accelerator for that matter) on a week-to-week basis. After accepting 500’s offer, I felt obligated to do my part to make the decision easier for companies who tread the path behind us.

On day 1 I showed up excited but skeptical. Two weeks in, I’m sold. Here’s my recount of that time, which I hope details why:

The 500 Content

Marvin Liao giving us the rundown on Day 1

Marvin Liao kicked off our very first batch meeting on day 1, giving us an overview of the 500 family, culture, values and experience. Here’s some of Marvin’s advice for getting the most out of our time at 500:

Metrics: know the metrics that drive your business

Distribution: better understand how to drive customers and keep them

Fundraising: have raised or be in a good position to raise your seed round

Brand: start building a strong brand and convince people why you’re AWESOME

Network: have valuable relationships w/500 family, your batchmates, and Silicon Valley at large


What’s expected of us

  • Take risks
  • Be confident, but be humble
  • Be transparent and honest
  • Be an adult
  • Don’t be an asshole (unless absolutely necessary)

Onboarding and Setup

We finished setting up our business entity as a Delaware C Corp so we can raise outside capital (and accept 500’s investment), received documentation addressing 500’s values, rules, building access, desk assignments, perks and discounts, and invites to the 500 Facebook groups.

Points of Contact

We were assigned points of contact to help us through the duration of the accelerator.

We feel lucky to have Mat Johnson as our Distro POC, advising us on all things sales, growth and distribution. We feel equally fortunate to have Carl Fritjofsson and Max Fram-Schwartz as our general POCs, helping us navigate 500 at large, fundraising, team building, recruiting, strategy, and (unfortunately for them) managing my psychology.

Our POCs are badass.

Batch 16 Welcome Night

Our first official drunken gathering!

Nothing brings you closer to friends than whiskey right?

Prior to the fun, each founder had 30 seconds to pitch the entire room of founders and 500 staff on their company, Dave jumping in after each pitch to, well, tear it apart.

I think he was exhausted by the time I went so I sneaked away with my ego mostly in tact. That lasted until Pitch Practice (see below).

Fireside chat with Dave McClure

2 hours of Dave McClure, uncensored.

Wait, is he ever censored?

Fun facts and takeaways:

  • He once received a “straight” in college (that’s an A, B, C, D and an F). Impressive, huh?
  • Describing his Paypal experience: slight misconception that Paypal hired well. Rather, people were so entrepreneurial coming out of that company because they busted ass for 5 years and didn’t make much money (dilution and other reasons). They were still hungry. That’s what drove the Paypal mafia to become what they did.
  • On his second angel investment ever: he signed the papers but hadn’t yet mailed the check. Company gets acquired. Mails check, gets a check mailed back made out for twice the amount. “Holy shit, this is easy!”
  • Dave originally wanted to name 500 Startups The Fail Factory but luckilyChristine vetoed.
  • Overall life lesson: “I’m not good, I’m lucky. If you continue to bust your ass until you’re 50, you’ll get lucky too.”

Pitch Prep

A founder from each company pitches on a 60 second clock to a room of batchmates and staff who give feedback immediately after.

It was interesting to watch founders in the audience describe back to the pitching founder what his/her company does. Most people were way off the mark, proving to all of us that our pitches need serious work.

Pitch Takeaways:

  • Cut through the bullshit and jargon
  • You need a “grandma” pitch (your grandmother should understand what you do)
  • Traction sandwich: traction, story, traction
  • Put yourself in the investor’s shoes: what gets them excited?

PR 101

Kelsey Cullen led a session on PR and shared insights on speaking to reporters, building a media kit, and knowing your product, numbers and story. She also shared contacts and reach out strategies for specific journalists in different focus areas.

The People

Celebrating with the RapidAPI team on Welcome Night. Photo cred: Iddo


#B16FTW — Seriously, our batch is fucking awesome. A few days in, it occurred to me that every person here got into 500 Startups because they’re smart and amazing and curious and they hustle. How lucky am I?

Fun facts about B16:

  • We’re the largest 500 batch ever at 52 companies
  • Several founders have gone through multiple accelerators (including YC and others)
  • Many companies have raised seed rounds prior to the program. Many even leveraged their acceptance to attract last minute angel checks before the batch began. Clever, huh?
  • The batch is diverse: there’s a mix of Thiel fellows, college and high school(!) drop outs and an overall incredible level of intellect and hustle
  • Many founders moved from outside the Bay Area (from as far away as Africa!)

The 500 Staff

Every person on the 500 staff is proactive, approachable and makes clear that they really want to help you.

It’s a great feeling as a founder to know so many smart, dedicated people have your back.


We were given access to the 500 community, which has already proven active and powerful. Alumni founders and mentors regularly make themselves available for office hours, questions, tips, leads, and recommendations to the community.

We’ve already pursued a useful recruiting lead and we may use an accounting consultancy recommended by an alum. What’s powerful is, while our accelerator experience will come to an end, this community will only continue to grow.

Real Progress So Far

It’s been a challenge taking full advantage of the resources available, spend adequate time getting to know our batchmates and still run, nurture, and (gasp!) grow our company. Here’s what we’ve done in the first two weeks to move the needle for Resource:


Protecting our time will be a recurring theme for us throughout 500 and beyond. We set several recurring blocks on our calendars dedicated to product, strategy, sales, team check-ins and weekly outings.


We spent time with Mat defining our weekly growth metrics as well as the experiments we’ll run each week to meet and (hopefully) exceed our goals.

As it pertains to our sales process, we set specific goals for number of prospective conversations, sales calls and closed deals per week.

Accountability is a valuable byproduct of this type of advisory. I’m excited to build habits around metrics and accountability across our team so it carries with us beyond 500.


Sprints, roadmaps, networking, fun — we’ve planned it all. We’re trying to be as proactive as possible to make the most of our time.


We’re working with incredible startup leadership coaches to more effectively give and receive feedback as a team, plan and manage our time, define the culture and values of our company, and most importantly become better leaders.

The Feelings

I understand I’m writing from a very biased perspective, but I’ve been overly impressed with the 500 organization in short time.

We’re seeing change and accountability in our business that we didn’t have before, we’re becoming closer as a team and we’re now able to leverage a vast and valuable network of smart people who want the best for us. Sure it’s felt overwhelming at times, but it’s already making us better.

Other neat stuffs

Immediately after joining 500, we got Techcrunched and quoted in The Guardian and Cult of Mac. Disclaimer: I don’t know what I’m talking about, so read with caution any quotes bearing my name 🙂

Look out for the next post detailing 500’s infamous Marketing Hell Week (assuming we survive, that is).

Is your company hiring? Check out Resource’s modern candidate sourcing and outreach.

If you like this post, share it!




Or, let Troy know your thoughts on twitter or by email at [ troy at ].

Previous posts in this series:

Or better yet APPLY HERE

Marketing Hell Week is Here [DAY 1]

Marketing Hell Week is HERE. Today’s guest post comes from Marshall Darr, a founder who’s helping us pull off our most complex — yet elegant — choreography of a growth marketing crash course ever created. Read on to see the full schedule of material, and find out how to grab it for yourself.

There’s a chance I’m in way over my head.

The past few months have been a bit of a whirlwind, concluding with me sitting in an empty auditorium at 500 Startups as the firm’s Batch 16 gears up for one of the most intense weeks at one of the most intense startup accelerators in the world. For this one week, I’m going to be joining them.

Saying I’m new to Growth would be a bit of a disservice to those new to Growth.

The first time I even heard the word applied outside of a botanical setting was six months back in the middle of a phone call with Misha Chellam, founder of Tradecraft, discussing whether or not I would be a good fit for his program.

I graduated from Tradecraft on Friday, September 11th and by the following Monday I was working full time on launching a startup of my own (if you’re curious, check out this shameless backlink: Captivate Real Estate).

As a founder, I threw myself into learning the ins and outs of real estate, running growth experiments in my “spare” time, and figuring out a way to get us to a cash positive position by the end of February.

Then something unexpected interrupted my strict routine of 12+ hours a day of halogen tanning punctuated with the occasional bout of sleep.

Misha connected me and Danny Minutillo, a fellow alumni, with 500 Startups.

Tammy and Susan were looking for someone to back up Growth Marketing Hell Week at 500 Startups. It seemed like an amazing opportunity to learn at the frontlines, so Danny and I jumped in immediately.

Now, Growth is a pretty large subject range and six months isn’t enough time to get much more than just the vocabulary down. Entire companies have been built with a sole focus on specific specialties within slivers of the topic, and now I’m meeting with some of the people responsible for founding the field.

On my walk over to 500 Startups for my first meeting, the butterflies in my stomach started throwing up. That’s right. Not only were there butterflies, but they too, were sick to their stomachs.

I was anxious.

I would soon be in a room with 70+ potential future Zuckerbergs, and all I could think about was how I wished I had picked a different shirt that morning.

Tammy and Susan had assembled what can only be described as the first family of Growth, and for some reason I was going to be involved with it.

Speakers from Hubspot, KISSmetrics and other top companies were all lining up to lend their time to 500’s new batch, and I felt like a math tutor desperately trying to stay one chapter ahead of their students.

And yet here I am. My head is still swimming with all that needs to get done, but the feeling of unbridled potential that permeates the air in 500’s SF office has a way of swallowing up newcomers. Dreams don’t feel too big to hold here.

As with everything that seems to happen in this office, this is going to be a wild scramble, but this feels like the right place to do it. Keep your fingers crossed for me.


  • Building a Growth Machine — Brian Balfour
  • Fireside Chat: On Growth — James Currier & Dave McClure
  • Pricing + Positioning — Mathew Johnson
  • Workshops: Defining Your OMTM and Your Funnel — Andrei Marinescu
  • Creating Your Analytics Tracking Plan — Tammy Camp
  • Smoke Tests for Growth — Dom Coryell
  • U/X for Growth – Brandon Flayler
  • SEO for F*cking Startups — Aaron Blumenthal
  • Content Marketing for Startups — Susan Su
  • (Next Level) Email Marketing for Startups — Susan Su
  • Display and Psychographic Marketing — Mike Collela
  • Paid Acquisition: Remarketing — Susan Coellius
  • Paid Acquisition – Facebook Ads — AdEspresso Team
  • Paid Acquistion – Facebook Dark Testing — Patrick Costello, Naytev
  • and MUCH MORE!!! Sorry, got tired of typing, sign up below to get the rest 🙂