Looking back at VC Unlocked 2017

After two weeks of intense coursework, six guest lectures, 32 investment thesis presentations, and a mind-boggling amount of coffee, another successful VC Unlocked Program with the Stanford Center for Professional Development is officially a wrap.

With over 200 applicants, this was our most competitive application process yet. We’ve covered the amazing diversity and background of the class in a previous post, but suffice to say that we had several contenders for The Most Interesting Woman (and Man) in the World.

Now that we’ve had some time to catch up on some sleep (and email), we’ll recap a few of the many highlights from the latest installment of our flagship educational program.

Setting the framework

“Whether they’re new to angel investing or an experienced practitioner, we want participants to come away from VC Unlocked with an insider’s perspective on Silicon Valley investing. It’s about empowering participants with better resources and insights that they can apply to their investing back home,” said Bedy Yang, managing partner at 500 and the mastermind behind VC Unlocked.

That thinking is reflected in the structure of the curriculum. The first week was grounded in academic theory and VC fundamentals. Stanford University faculty and 500 partners covered topics including building an investment thesis, VC structure and returns, attracting deal flow, opportunity assessment, and how to raise a fund.

“The beginning of the course provides a theoretical foundation for the practice of venture capital investing,” said Michael Lepech, Associate Professor at Stanford University.

Prominent VCs joined our afternoon sessions throughout the week for candid discussions. Marlon Nichols discussed his investment approach at Cross Culture Ventures and experience as a Kauffman fellow. SoftTech’s Andy McCoughlin shared 12 lessons from 12 years of investing, including “beware the quick pass.”

Renata Quintini at VC Unlocked

Renata Quintini of Lux, a member of Forbes’ Midas Brink list, talked about her path across the table from the Stanford Endowment fund to frontier investing, and how her experience as a karate champ shaped her approach to business.

Finally, Capria’s Will Poole wrapped up the first week with a prediction that “impact investing will become a strategy employed by all investors.”

VC Unlocked Potluck

Credit: Paula Barrientos

Applying Concepts

During week two, participants applied those concepts with more practical, action-based exercises and in-depth lectures.

As always, one of the highlights of the program was our visit to 500’s DemoDay in Mountain View, where participants got a front-row look at our Batch 22 accelerator companies. During an investment committee simulation with 500 partners, participants also got the chance to meet a few of those startups and drill down on their businesses.

500 Startups DemoDay

In-class case studies on valuations and M&A, where participants split into groups and simulated both sides of an acquisition offer, were two of the most fun and interactive sessions.

Interactive Sessions at VC Unlocked

This year also included a trip down Sand Hill Road to visit the Andreesen-Horowitz office and learn more about their investment approach from investment partner, Li Jin.

Angel investor and one-man Shark Tank, Jason Calacanis, joined for his infamous “founder interviews” session.

Jason Calacanis at VC Unlocked

Rick Marini of Dragonfly Partners talked about war stories from angel investing and the importance of finding a path to Series A. Lightspeed’s Jeremy Liew spoke about consumer tech trends and rubbing elbows with Will.i.am and Gwyneth Paltrow on the set of Planet of the Apps.

Rick Marini of Dragonfly Partners

The course culminated in participants’ investment thesis presentations, honed after two weeks of coursework. It was a great opportunity for participants to incorporate feedback from faculty and fellow peers and stress-test their latest thinking. 78% of the class said their investment thesis had changed over the course of the program.

Last day of the program!

Testimonials

“VC Unlocked is an insider’s guide to an asset class filled with mystery and risk. I feel more confident and informed about my decision making process after this rigorous two weeks. Thank you 500 Startups & Stanford!”

  • Vivek Shah, Equanimity Ventures LLP

“The most important thing in venture capital is your network. The people I met in the program – classmates, instructors, 500 team – are amazing. They’ll be professional contacts and personal friends forever, which is truly invaluable.”

  • Jules Miller, LunaCap

Applications for Next Year

Interested in attending the next VC Unlocked program?

Join our email list to stay updated on the latest news. We’re finalizing exact dates for next year and will let you know as soon as it’s official.

Announcing: The First Batch in 500 Startups Data Track

Two weeks ago, the first batch of 500 Startups’ new Data Track kicked off in San Francisco, alongside the twenty-second incarnation of our flagship Seed Program. We selected some of the most innovative startups in big data, machine learning and AI to participate in the intensive 3-month program.

Today, we’re excited to share the inaugural cohort, which consists of 7 companies from 7 different countries around the world:

Botsociety (Italy)
Botsociety is a design tool for previewing, prototyping and testing conversational interfaces.

Curio.io (United Kingdom)
Curio.io delivers professionally narrated audio of curated articles from leading news publications like The Financial Times and The Guardian.

Mobile Forms (Nigeria)
Mobile Forms is a platform for local and international businesses to crowdsource reliable market data in Nigeria.

OpenUp (USA)
OpenUp measures the impact on purchase behavior across online and offline ads.

reDock (Canada)
reDock is a proposal automation solution that mines and tailors corporate information on-demand to help professional services companies win complex RFPs.

Texel (Israel)
Texel enables efficient streaming of VR/AR content over existing networks by using viewing data and behavioral analytics to reduce the bandwidth by more than 50%.

VCV (Russia)
VCV is an AI-powered recruiter that identifies candidates, automatically screens them using voice recognition and submits a video interview of qualified candidates directly to hiring managers.

Also, check out Venture Beat’s coverage of our first data track. 


Chris Neumann is a big data veteran who co-founded DataHero (acquired by Cloudability), and was the first employee at Aster Data (acquired by Teradata). Travel lover and sports nut. Unapologetically Canadian. For more from Chris, connect with him on Linkedin or Twitter.

Announcing 500 Startups Batch 22!

Two weeks ago, the latest incarnation of the 500 Startups Seed Program, Batch 22 (B22), kicked off in sunny San Francisco.  The new cohort consists of 36 innovative startups from 14 countries.  42% of the companies are based outside of the United States, with founders representing Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Hong Kong, Israel, Italy, Nigeria, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom.

B22 includes a focus on FinTech (9 companies), Data (7 companies), and Digital Health (4 companies), with other startups ranging from facial recognition to supply chain management to the largest global community of motorcycle riders.  14% of companies have a female founder.  31% of founders are Asian, 11% Middle Eastern, 10% LatinX and 8% Black.

As is tradition, B22 kicked off with the notorious Sales and Marketing Hell Week, as founders dove head-first into the world’s most rigorous growth accelerator program.

Here’s a full list of B22 companies:

Agentbong — A home care marketplace in Asia that helps families hire qualified and trustworthy caregivers.

Botsociety — A design tool for previewing, prototyping and testing conversational interfaces

COR — Project management software for helping professional services firms increase profitability by intelligently optimizing project costs and cash flows.

Core Labs — Helps knowledge workers early in their career access mentorship, build a reputation, and unlock the value of their professional connections with goal-oriented “micro-networks.”

Cryptomover — Developing index funds to allow investors diversify their crypto portfolios with minimal time and effort.

curio.io — Listen to curated, professionally narrated articles from premium publications like The Financial Times, The Guardian, and Aeon at home or on the go.

Cushion — Trains bots to fight banks fees on customers’ behalves.

Elyse28 — An online subscription service that helps women live free of chronic illness by offering personalized health coaching.

FalaFreud — An online subscription service that helps Brazilians get therapy from certified therapists over audio, text, and video on their mobile device.

FreightRoll — Makes shipping predictable through an open marketplace of connected shippers and truckers.

Fyodor Biotechnologies — Developing a non-invasive technology that helps people with a fever diagnose malaria in 25 minutes using a few drops of urine instead of blood.

Jones — Automated insurance compliance that helps enterprises kill the headache of hiring independent contractors.

Judolaunch — A tool that helps small e-commerce brands expand internationally by engaging a global community of online consumers.

LaborVoices — LaborVoices protects apparel brands through intel on factory conditions sourced directly from workers.

MailHaven — An electronic mailbox that helps suburban homeowners secure and monitor their deliveries without the need for wired power or home WiFi.

Mediation Online — A web service that helps Brazilian corporations and consumers resolve legal disputes quickly and inexpensively with an automated, binding mediation process.

Mira — Streamlines the life insurance experience for the higher risk population using technology and machine learning.

Mobile Forms — A platform for local and international businesses to crowdsource reliable market data in Africa.

Myndlift — Offers a therapist-guided solution to help people improve their attention ability using “brain wave” training.

Next Play — Powers personalized employee mentorship at scale.

Ohalo — Blockchain-based data management solution to help financial institutions prove data provenance and compliance.

OpenUp — Measures the impact on purchase behavior across online and offline ads.

Payment24 — A fuel payment and fleet management system that integrates into gas stations and vehicles to reduce fraud and increase efficiencies.

Plum — A chatbot that automates your money so you can effortlessly save, invest and avoid rip-off bills.

Prodsmart — Provides a tracking system to help factories eliminate paperwork and collect real time data by using smartphones on the shop floor.

Public Goods — Health-focused consumer-packaged goods.

Rapa — Alternative mortgage lender for US customers to buy homes abroad

reDock — A proposal automation solution that mines and tailors corporate information on-demand to help professional services companies win complex RFPs

Rever — A mobile application that helps a global community of motorcycle riders discover, track and share their riding experiences together.

Sendoso — Helps B2B companies grab the attention of prospects and customers with an all-in-one platform for sending things like direct mail, handwritten notes, and custom gifts.

ShortPoint — A subscription software that helps department managers build gorgeous intranets with no coding from their existing content systems, such as Office 365, SharePoint, and SAP Cloud Portal.

Sofy.ai — Intelligent, trainable bots for software developers to end daily repetitive tasks like testing, deploying and monitoring and live support.

Texel — Enables efficient streaming of VR and AR content over existing networks by using viewing data and behavioral analytics to reduce the bandwidth by more than 50%.

TrueFace.Ai — A turnkey facial recognition solution for privacy conscious enterprises

VCV — AI-powered recruiting bot that helps enterprises hire smarter and faster by autonomously searching resumes, conducting automated phone screens with voice recognition and recording video interviews.

WayPay — Streamlines the accounts payable process for SME’s by connecting to any AP system and automatically reconciling payments sent to local or international suppliers from any combination of bank and credit card accounts.

Welcome to the #500Strong family Batch 22!

Announcing VC Unlocked: Deal Camp at Berkeley

Applications are now open for VC Unlocked: Deal Camp at Berkeley!

Deal Camp is our four-day program for investors who want to hone their ability to define, negotiate, and execute early-stage investments. This is the third time we’ve run Deal Camp with UC Berkeley, one of the top universities in the world, and we’re really excited about the upcoming program. Go Bears!

Participants will work with leading UC Berkeley faculty and 500 Startups partners to develop strategies to structure deals in order to maximize investment returns. At the end of the week, participants will walk away with a Certificate from UC Berkeley Law, an expanded global network, the confidence and practical know-how to make better investments…and some #500Strong swag!

The program is scheduled to take place from Monday, October 23rd to Thursday, October 26th.

A reminder that space is limited so sign up today to secure your spot.

Program

Our instructors use a project-based learning approach which takes participants outside the classroom to take part in a negotiation simulation with real companies fresh from a pitch at 500 Startups Preview Day.

Course topics include: “Scaling your Portfolio,” “The Art of Valuation,” and “Team Sheet Olympics.”

We’ve recruited amazing lecturers from the 500 staff, including Christine Tsai, Bedy Yang, and Amit Bhatti, as well as Adam Sterling, Robert Bartlett, and Steven Davidoff Solomon of UC Berkeley. We also have a great lineup of top VCs who will join the class for special sessions.

For attorneys interested in attending the program, up to 16 hours MCLE credit is being offered by Berkeley Law. The grant of MCLE credit is within the purview of the states, and they will provide a certificate of attendance and other materials to use in seeking continuing education credits. Berkeley Law certifies that this activity has been approved for 16 hours MCLE credit by the State Bar of California.

Testimonials

Deal Camp is one of our most popular courses, with NPS scores as high as 100. Participants come from angel investing, VC, legal, and government backgrounds. Here’s what a few past participants had to say:

“Whether you’re considering starting a fund or have already done so, VC Unlocked is a tremendous help. From fine-tuning an investment thesis to validating cap tables and negotiating term sheets, there really is something for everyone. The team put together a powerhouse lineup of speakers including the 500 executives themselves, some of the other most prominent VC firms in the valley, and great faculty representation from UC Berkeley. I’d recommend VC Unlocked to anyone remotely serious about venture capital.”

Ben Brasher, Blacktop VC

“The VC Unlocked was essential for me as a tech lawyer. I gained insider tips on the dynamics of the top VC and industry leaders in Silicon Valley. The program provides a comprehensive overview of the venture capital investment cycle, talks on the latest practices and trends in the startup world, and workshops on structuring legal documents such as term sheets and convertible notes.”

Tatiana Nehme, Nehme and Associates

Details & Logistics

The intensive four-day program of lectures and workshops takes place on the UC Berkeley Campus. Participants will also be invited to attend the 500 Startups Preview Day in San Francisco.

The program fee is $9,200 and covers tuition, all course materials, most meals, and admission and transport to DemoDay. Travel and accommodations are not included. There is a discounted rate available for VC Unlocked and UC Berkeley alumni.

We accept qualified candidates on a rolling basis and space is limited, so we encourage you to apply early.

Who Should Apply

Angel investors, VCs, fund managers and attorneys looking to improve their ability to define, negotiate, and execute early stage investments.

Learn more about previous programs from some of our recent posts:

Venture Capital Unlocked Deal Camp Yields 100% Satisfaction

Here’s What Happened at Deal Camp at Berkeley

Space is running out so apply today

Kicking off VC Unlocked, and a New Website!

Big news! It’s the first week of VC Unlocked!

We’re welcoming an awesome new group to the Stanford campus this week. They’ve traveled from as far as Lagos and Melbourne to be with us here in Silicon Valley and we couldn’t be more thrilled.

In the spirit of #500Strong, we wanted to share some fun facts about the participants and the exciting program we have planned. Here goes:

  • 47% of participants are women
  • 74% are based internationally, representing 17 countries including Brazil, Nigeria, Russia, Colombia, and the UAE
  • Participants have made 250+ investments in total
  • Areas of investment focus include FinTech, BioTech, telecom, FoodTech, and more
  • Participants come from family funds, government offices, startup accelerators, and private equity backgrounds
Participants from the July/Aug 2016 cohort of VC Unlocked on Stanford Campus

In addition to our stellar lineup of Stanford University professors and 500 Startups partners, we’ve also recruited some of the top VCs from Silicon Valley. Guest speakers this year include Renata Quintini (Lux Capital), Jason Calacanis (INSIDE.com) Jeremy Liew (Lightspeed VP), Marlon Nichols (Cross Culture Ventures), Andy McLoughlin (SoftTech VC), and Rick Marini (Dragonfly Partners).

We’ve got a packed schedule for the next two weeks. Lecture topics run the gamut, from “Understanding Cap Tables and Ownership” to “Attracting Deal Flow,” as well as practical and action-based exercises, including founder interviews, opportunity assessments, and more.

Outside the classroom, we’ve also planned special visits to Andreesen-Horowitz, class dinners, and, drumroll please, our invite-only DemoDay!

Guest lecturer Jason Calacanis presenting to participants in 2016

Oh, and one more thing. We also launched a new site for VC Unlocked today!

It’s an updated visual design that showcases more information about the program, attendees, and instructors. We think it will be a great resource for prospective students and past participants alike and we’re excited to share it today. Let us know what you think!

Tune in over the next few weeks where we’ll feature guest posts from current participants as well as a fun recap that summarizes some of the key takeaways from the program’s lectures and events.

 

Announcing “Silicon Valley Secrets for Investing in Asia” with INSEAD

We’re excited to announce that applications are now open for our newest course, “Silicon Valley Secrets for Investing in Asia.” We’ve teamed up with INSEAD, a leading global business school, to offer investors a one-week deep dive on how to apply Silicon Valley investing expertise to Asia-based startups.

After the huge success of our VC Unlocked programs in the Bay Area, this marks the first time we’re taking one of our programs outside the U.S. The course will be held at INSEAD’s Asia campus in Singapore from November 6 – 10, 2017.

For AIPAC investors, that means the same unrivaled access to our Silicon Valley network, investing know-how, and extensive Asia knowledge, minus the 12-hour flight and jetlag.

Sound good? Apply today to be part of the inaugural class in November 2017.

Course Overview

During the course, participants will work directly with INSEAD faculty and 500 Startups partners to explore startup investing trends across different markets in Asia. The program will explore topics relevant for venture capital, such as honing and evaluating investment theses, structuring early stage tech investments, and raising your next fund.

As part of the course, participants will also meet with top VCs from China, India, Japan, South Korea, and Southeast Asia. Admission also includes exclusive access to a special DemoDay, where participants will have the chance to evaluate real startups from the 500 Startups portfolio.

Other key benefits include:

  • Connecting with other Asia-focused startup investors as well as INSEAD alumni
  • Getting feedback on your investment thesis from world-renowned INSEAD faculty specialized in VC and entrepreneurship and 500 Startups Managing Partners
  • Getting fundraising tips and tools for structuring a fund from top VCs in the region
  • Improving your ability to identify and evaluate top startups for your portfolio
  • Building your deal flow
  • Earning a Certificate of Completion from INSEAD

 

VC Unlocked 2016

500 Startups in Asia

Here at 500 Startups, we pride ourselves on helping build viable startup ecosystems around the world. Since our inception in 2010, we’ve invested in over 1,800 companies and 3,000 founders in more than 60 countries, including Southeast Asian companies like Grab and Viki, which was acquired by Rakuten in 2012.

Geeks on a Plane, East Asia, Tokyo 2016

With $36B invested in startups and tech deals last year, Asia has emerged as a new hub of VC activity. Our decision to launch the first VC Unlocked program outside of Silicon Valley in Singapore is yet another example of our commitment to the Asian market.

We recently doubled down on Southeast Asia with a new $50M Durians Fund, launched a new $10M fund in Vietnam, and appointed a new head of business for China

About INSEAD

With three campuses (France, Singapore, Abu Dhabi), 145 faculty members from 40 countries, and 1,400 students in their PhD and degree programs, INSEAD is one of the world’s top graduate business schools.

They recently earned the top place in the Financial Times’ “Global MBA Ranking 2017” for the second year running.

INSEAD Asia Campus

Details & Logistics

We accept qualified candidates on a rolling basis. Space is limited so we encourage you to apply as soon as possible before the deadline of October 18, 2017.

The program fee of $9,800 USD covers tuition, course materials, most meals, admission to DemoDay, and transport to any site visits. Accommodations are not included but can be arranged for an additional fee.

If you have any questions about the program or would like to set up a call, feel free to reach out to Newton Davis at newton [at] 500startups.com.

 

Making Changes at 500

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

This is the advice I give to people whenever they ask for it. It’s aspirational, which means it is a lot easier said than done. As I write this post, I’m reminded even more of it.

In recent months, we found out that my co-founder Dave McClure had inappropriate interactions with women in the tech community. His behavior was unacceptable and not reflective of 500’s culture and values. I sincerely apologize for the choices he made and the pain and stress they’ve caused people. But apologies aren’t enough without meaningful actions and change.

Because of this, we made the decision a few months ago to change the leadership structure at 500. I took on the role of CEO, which involves directing the Management Team and overall day-to-day operations of 500.

Dave’s role has been limited to fulfilling his obligations to our investors as a General Partner. In addition, he’s been attending counseling to work on changing his perspectives and preventing his previous unacceptable behavior.

The actions we took weren’t easy, but it was critical to us that we uphold our culture and values – even if it meant asking my co-founder to step aside in order for 500 to grow stronger.

That said, I’ll echo what many are already saying. As much as we want to be part of the solution, we clearly have also been part of the problem. Undoubtedly there are ways I could have done more or acted sooner.

The change I want to see is a startup environment where everyone, regardless of gender and background feels welcome and safe. Where sexual harassment or discrimination will not impede great talent from producing great impact.

How do we make this change happen? How can we be that change we want to see?

It starts with me, and the work 500 started on and will continue to do. I am far from perfect, and 500 is far from perfect. But 500 is much more than one person, and we will continue building on our momentum of change. We have a lot of work to do.

Growth Hacking the MENA Region

Following up on our earlier post announcing the first closing of 500 Falcons, our fund for the Middle East and North Africa, we’re going to be posting a few more announcements on the MENA region and the meaningful ecosystem-building projects we’re working on.

As we’ve been investing in the region over the last 6 years, we’ve seen a lot of similarities between the Middle East and other emerging entrepreneurial markets in comparison to the startups we see in Silicon Valley. One particular area of focus that we felt needed a big boost was growth hacking. Growth hacking in simple terms is data-driven, online customer acquisition and distribution methodologies that have evolved as a distinct skill set from either traditional business development, sales or marketing. For this reason, we thought it made a lot of sense to bring our Series A Program  to the region with QSTP. Our inaugural Batch 1 kicked off with 9 post-seed startups on the 30th of April and will continue through the 30th July. In addition to arming the batch companies with the skills and processes to scale their businesses quickly, we’re coaching them on presentation and fundraising so they can achieve progression into their next funding round.

Our partnership with the Qatar Science and Technology Park (QSTP) and the Qatar Foundation has been a fruitful one for startups in the MENA region, as it has enabled us to bring our growth hacking superpowered “Distro Team” to the region to transfer knowledge and best practices around rapid growth and distribution.

The program was led by Nate Gilmore, along with Saalim Chowdhury, Andy Young, Nopadon Wongpakdee, Nemo Chu, Roula Khatib, Mathew Johnson and 500 Falcons partner, Sharif El-Badawi.

The Series A Program, which is the first 500 Startups program in the MENA region, is a 3 month program hyper-focused on teaching late seed stage companies growth (sales and marketing teams) and modern distribution hacking techniques.  The program consists of a 1 month in-residency training (at QSTP) followed by 2 months of mentoring.  Here are a few of the tools that the startups develop expertise in over the 3 months:

The 1 month in-residence culminated in an exciting Investor Day where the startups pitched their companies to an auditorium full of investors and key stakeholders. All 9 startups received tremendous interest for their Series A rounds.

The startups have already begun achieving great results in the Dojo during the first month and we’re excited to work with Batch 1 for the next two months as they run countless more experiments across their funnels.  Here are just a few of the comments heard in the Dojo:

It puts you in beast mode about your business.
Very tangible and structured learnings. Great chance
to learn from other founders and team members
.
Legit and honest feedback, no BS. Amazing help
from experts to uncover growth avenues.
We learned a customer driven, clear, repeatable
and measurable way to make changes that
have an impact every week.

Check out each of the 9 companies, hailing from 4 countries, who were part of the first batch of MENA companies that joined the program:

 

Eat – eatapp.co

Eat allows you to find restaurants around you and confirm your reservation in less than three clicks. It has two products, one for restaurants, and another for consumers. The consumer app is simple. No need to call! The restaurants have an iPad installed at the front desk. This app allows restaurants to internally manage reservations and tables, and to notify the consumer app about availabilities.

Edfa3ly – edfa3ly.co

Edfa3ly provides the Middle East with a personal shopping service to buy Western goods without any of the hassles and confusion of cross border shipping.  Orders are fast and guaranteed.

 

Eventtus – eventtus.com

Eventtus is an event engagement platform and mobile app for event planning, networking and ticketing. Eventtus helps event organizers create an interactive mobile app for their events in few minutes. Through the app, organizers share content, such as the agenda/logistics, speaker bios, and exhibitors. Polls and surveys provide real-time feedback, and Eventtus’ post-event analytics help organizers understand their audiences, measure success, and improve future planning.

 

Mumm – getmumm.com

Mumm, the first word many of us ever learned to exemplify food that we got from our most trusted source, our Moms. Mumm is an online marketplace for delicious Home Cooked Meals. Cooked by Moms, Housewives and Freelance Chefs near you. Order your food and it will arrive fresh and healthy.

 

Ghinwa – ghinwa.com

Ghinwa is the Snapchat for singing.  Download the app, sing along to your favorite tune, apply Ghinwa exclusive background music and filters and share with your loved ones.

 

 

Justmop – justmop.com

Justmop.com is a website and mobile app connecting individuals looking for cleaning services with well-trained & pre-screened cleaning service providers across the gulf.

 

 

Meddy – meddy.co

Meddy helps you find best doctors in the gulf based on patient reviews and credentials. Browse doctor profiles with their background information, get reviews from other patients going to that doctor and get clinic locations. Make an informed health decision based on knowledge, not chance.

Find Doctor profiles, patient reviews, clinic locations. Helping you make informed health decisions.

 

Souq Al Mal – souqalmal.com

Souqalmal.com (Souq al Mal is Arabic for ‘money market’) is the #1 comparison website in the Middle East and lets you compare and buy financial and insurance products. With more than 360 credit cards, 450 bank accounts, 147 personal loans, 100 car loans, 105 mortgages, 1143 mobile phone plans, 150 broadband plans, 280 schools and 234 nurseries and 100+ car deals, plus 115 SME financial products, the consumer portal allows customers to do their homework using up-to-date, unbiased information.

 

 

 

Taskty – taskty.com

Taskty is the #1 online home service market in Egypt.  Taskty provides home cleaning, washing upholstery, plumbing, electricity, insect control, photography events and many other services.

Taskty services are guaranteed for quality at extremely competitive prices.

 

 

7 Marketing Secrets from 500 Startups Demo Days

Have Fun, Get Deals Done – The Future of Marketing is the Brand Experience

Pitching to top Silicon Valley investors like Tim Draper is nerve-racking. It helps when he’s dressed in a superhero costume.

From Valentine’s Day-Themed (Batch 19) to Summer of Love-Themed (Batch 20), 500 Startups Demo Day is more than a pitch day, it’s a festival where everyone has fun and gets deals done.

Here’s a look back at lessons we’ve learned from the last 7 Demo Days, and how 500 Startups stumbled upon creating the unique pitch day in Silicon Valley.

1. Listen to Your Audience

Back in the day, 500 Startups Demo Day was pretty basic (see Batch 8):


500 Startups Founding Partner, Dave McClure, speaking at 500 Batch 8 Demo Day (back when the most colorful thing at Demo Day was Dave’s language).

During Batch 13 Demo Day, things got a little bit more interesting.

It all started when I bought Dave a unicorn hoodie for his birthday, which happened to coincide with the Batch 13 Preview Day (an invite-only sneak peek to Demo Day). To our surprise, many investors and founders in the audience loved Dave’s unexpected fashion statement, talking and tweeting about it.

Dave noted the audience engagement and decided to wear the unicorn costume again on Demo Day. He also encouraged Founding Partner Christine Tsai, a former ballerina, to wear a rainbow tutu. Again, the response was extremely positive at Demo Day. Silicon Valley Business Journal even dedicated an article to Unicorn theme.

The lightbulb turned on, and we saw the potential marketing value in bringing creativity to our Demo Days. But it wasn’t a mere fluke — we listened to the audience feedback, saw the marketing value, and applied it.

 

2. Turn Challenges into Creative Advantage

When planning for Batch 14 Demo Day, we found out the only day the venue was available was the day before Halloween. We were not happy. Typically we tried to plan our events around major holidays, like Halloween, assuming people would be busy attending their own company parties. We were worried about not having enough investors attend our event, but we couldn’t change the date. So we decided to exploit the timing instead. Thus, Demo-Ween was born.

In our past Demo Days, we always focused on the pitches, not wanting to take away from the big day of our batch companies. However, the thematic timing forced us to look at the Demo Days from a different angle. We decided to make Demo Days more entertaining. We added the Halloween theme to our Demo Day, aka “Demo-ween” — presenting the content in a new form. The new form of Demo Day allowed startups and investors to dress up, have fun, and get deals done together.

As a result, the Demo-ween not only helped us maintain the previous demo day attendance, it also attracted more international investors than ever before (50% increase). By presenting the content in a more engaging format, we turned a challenge into our competitive advantage.

The first Demo-ween was so successful, we decided to make it an annual theme. 




3. Use Product-Launches to Rejuvenate Your Brand

In 2016, we started adding speciality tracks to our seed program, starting with a Fintech track in the Batch 16 program.

In order to highlight our new Fintech focus, we made the Batch 16 Demo Day poker themed. In order to create an authentic experience, the 500 events team hired a top poker player to give attendees poker lessons and play blackjack. Founding Partners Dave McClure and Christine Tsai also dressed up for the poker theme.

Partly in thanks to a successful Fintech-Themed Demo Day, we saw a 23% increase in Fintech applications to the following batch.

4. Embrace Company Culture

During the Batch 17 program in June 2016, the 500 team and batch companies attended the San Francisco Pride Parade. Pride inspired us to redefine the meaning of “unicorn” at 500. In tech, a unicorn company means a billion dollar company valuation. We decided that being a unicorn also brings about a sense of love and unity. We are not only about making profits and increasing portfolio company valuations but also about celebrating people and culture.

The momentum of the Pride Month continued into our Demo Day planning process. We wanted to use the upcoming Demo Day as a platform to promote 500’s company value of embracing diversity and inclusion. We chose the theme “Beauty & the Geek” based on our B17 tracks Fashion & B2B and decided to break down gender stereotypes by having Dave dress up as the “Beauty” and Christine the “Geek”.

After Demo Day, Microsoft offered to sponsor our efforts to advocate diversity in tech by supporting our Unity and Inclusion Summits. Our open and embracing culture has attracted a very diverse group of companies. In our latest batch, Batch 20, 36% of our batch companies were international (from 10 different countries), 20.5% of companies had at least one female founder, and 25% of companies had a black / Latinx founder.

 

5. Make It About Your People

At the end of the Batch 17 Demo Day, a flash mob of the 500 team appeared from the audience and started dancing on stage with Dave. The big screen started playing videos of venture capital investors and founders of successful 500 portfolio companies around the world wishing Dave a happy birthday. The B17 Demo Day happened to be Dave’s 50th birthday and our 500 family planned a surprise for Dave.

The Demo Day birthday surprise is just one example of the many things that we would do simply because we care about people. We build the 500 brand by connecting with people on a personal level.

6. Create Positive Emotion

From the previous Demo Days, we began to see that themes created a supportive environment for founders and investors to develop relationships. For Batch 19, we chose a Valentine’s Day theme because we wanted to bring more emotion into the experience.

We dressed up our founders as Cupid (Christine) and the Queen of Hearts (Dave) and decorated the stage with all shades of pink and hearts. Investors could give batch companies Valentine cards that said, “I have my eyes on you!”.



 

7. Leverage Culture & History

Our Batch 20 program was based in San Francisco around the same time as the city’s 50th anniversary of the “Summer of Love” – the 1967 summer event that drew nearly 100,000 young people to the city’s Haight-Ashbury neighborhood. Starting from early spring 2017, streets in San Francisco were decorated with the “Summer of Love” theme. We decided to do the same theme for our Demo Day to pay tribute to the city’s history.

With flowers, rainbow-colored lighting and our emcee in a Grateful Dead bear costume, this Demo Day brought a sense of nostalgia to the city many 500 Startups team members call home.



Conclusion

Our Demo Days are instrumental in building the 500 brand. We strive to create an organic ecosystem of investors, founders, and corporate partners by providing meaningful and engaging content to our audience.

If your goal is to stand out from the crowd and flaunt your unique brand to the world, don’t forget to incorporate these 7 Marketing Lessons from 500 Startups Demo Days:

  1. Listen to the Audience: Gather feedback from your audience, catch the opportunity, and act on it
  2. Reframe the Challenge: Look at the problem from another perspective and turn challenges into advantages
  3. Inspire with your products: Rejuvenate your brand with new products
  4. Embrace Company Culture: Integrate the company values and culture to create a powerful marketing message
  5. Focus on People: Build a people-centric ecosystem to organically grow your business
  6. Engage your audience with Emotions: Create Positive emotions to Drive Connection and Awareness
  7. Integrate Art into Business: Leverage the power of culture and history in your marketing

500 Batch 22 begins July 24th, 2017 in San Francisco.

Click Here to apply for our the Batch 22 Seed Program.

More from Yiying Lu: 


yiyinglu-profile-square

Yiying Lu is award-winning bilingual (English & Chinese) artist and designer. Born in Shanghai China, Educated in Sydney Australia & London UK, now based in San Francisco, Silicon Valley, she currently is a Design Lecturer at the NYU Shanghai Program on Creativity & Innovation. She is also an individual creative consultant who provides talks & workshops for global startups and corporate innovation teams on design thinking, entrepreneurship & creativity. Her projects have been featured in many publications, including The New York Times, Forbes, NBC News, TIME, CNN, BBC, San Francisco Chronicle, TechCrunch, Mashable, and The Huffington Post. She was named a “Top 10 Emerging Leader in Innovation” in the Microsoft Next 100 series. For more from Yiying, you can follow her on TwitterLinkedin and Medium.

 

Announcing 500 Falcons first closing at $15m out of $30m target

 

Today, I’m thrilled to announce the first closing of our 500 Startups MENA Fund (aka 500 Falcons) at $15M out of our $30M target. While we have been investing in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region since 2011, including 55 deals in 32 companies for a total of $6M, this is our first fund focused entirely on the Arab world.

With this new fund, we plan to invest in approximately 100-150 companies with about half of the fund and reserve the other half for follow-on investment in the top 20% of companies. The fund will focus on early-stage startups in the MENA region, MENA diaspora founders and non-MENA founders targeting MENA.

The MENA Team

I’m so thrilled to announce that Sharif El-Badawi has joined the team as a Partner for 500 Falcons.

Sharif El-Badawi
Sharif El-Badawi

Sharif joined 500 Startups as a Venture Partner in February of 2016 while he was still at Google and the Chairman of the leading global non-profit bridging MENA entrepreneurs with Silicon Valley, TechWadi. He left his role at Google after nearly 7 years this past September working with some of the top startups and VC funds in Silicon Valley to focus his time and attention on investing in MENA startups. He’s already been a great help to the startups in our portfolio and an asset to the team. Prior to Google, Sharif was with AdMob, which sold to Google in 2009 for $750 million, and a serial entrepreneur, advisor and investor in Consumer Internet startups since 1998 having jumped into his first tech startup, Website.com. Sharif brings almost twenty years of product, business development, marketing, and sales experience to the 500 portfolio.

We’re also actively recruiting for our team in the region, with plans to have people on the ground in our key markets such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan amongst others.

Who Are We Working With?

I’m pleased to announce that among our LPs for the first closing are 2 highly respected regional institutions, the Qatar Science and Technology Park and the Oman Investment Fund. In these LPs we have found partners that will help us achieve our mission to support and invest in startups and build ecosystems in the MENA region. I truly believe that thanks to LPs such as these we’ll have a significant impact on the regional ecosystem.

Along with our partners at QSTP, we are bringing our Series A Program (formerly known as our Distro Dojo) to the region as ‘Doha Dojo.’ Once a year, we will be working with some of the top MENA startups at the Series A level to bring them to Doha with some of the best growth hackers in the world to help build a growth mindset and support them in their growth. More information on our first batch is coming soon and investor day is taking place on May 23rd in Doha. If you’re a Series A investor and interesting in joining, please get in touch with Ms. Ghada Darwish at gdarwish@qstp.org.qa.

QSTP
QSTP – Partners for our Distro Dojo Program in the MENA region

In Oman, we are engaging on an ecosystem building project in partnership with the Oman Investment Fund through the Oman Tech Fund. This year we’ll be advising and supporting the Wadi Accelerator program in Oman with knowledge transfer, capacity building and a cadre of mentors. In addition, we’re working on a unique event, Geeks in a Wadi, the first event of its kind, with further details to be announced soon.

Oman - One of the most beautiful places in the world
A natural ‘Wadi’ in Oman

Why Are We Doing This?

The region has long faced political and economic uncertainty, and a growing younger population that is looking to take charge and change things with their own hands. These youth have access to the same global wealth of information as anyone else. If they so choose, they’re capable of achieving the same things anyone else in the world is.

The Middle East and North Africa are among the last large regional ecosystems to rise up, and emerging markets tend to leapfrog adoption of innovations and technology at higher and higher frequencies. Being a latecomer does not mean staying behind, and the Arabic speaking world is 500 million strong – young, resourceful, wealthy and a yearning to thrive.

Top 5 Reasons MENA is a Must Bet

  1. Massive 500 million Arabic speaking population
  2. Largely untapped ecosystem/market, internally and internationally
  3. Shift in fossil fuel prices and changing geopolitical forces
  4. Lower valuations and costs of operating a business
  5. Highly educated, competitive and vibrant talent pool

Bonus (coming soon): Surge in investor interest and options for progression from seed to exit

According to MAGNiTT’s State of MENA Funding Report, 2016 saw nearly $1B of venture capital investment into regional startups, a 424% increase over the previous year, and arguably a flat year due to the fact almost all the VCs were fundraising, including us. Sorry founders, but 2017 is looking very strong! We hope that our 40+ deals/year will boost early-stage startup growth and encourage more angel and venture capital to flow in.

I look forward to 500 Startups playing a significant role in building ecosystems across the MENA region, and investing in the best founders solving real problems. I hope that our deal volume and speed will provide at least a small boost in funding activity at the earliest stages and even encourage others to do more deals as well. I’m grateful to the other investors and key stakeholders in the region who are fighting for the same cause. Progression is key for entrepreneurs and they need optionality of capital sources at all stages in their startup and scaling. We’re all aligned in that we want to create more companies and help those companies grow.

Here’s to building world class startups from the Middle East, creating jobs, solving real problems, empowering the youth, women and anyone who wants to effect real change to better their surroundings, and generating a positive return on capital while we’re at it!