You have been accepted into 500 Startups. Now what?

Guest Author – Eugene Vyborov, CTO, YayPay (A 500 Startups Batch 20 Company)

Among the 180+ independent accelerators around the world, American programs hold sway and considerable appeal. Getting into a US-based accelerator is a dream for many startups, especially ones that are based outside the United States. It’s easy to see the attraction: accelerators offer access to the American ecosystem of innovation, collective wisdom of successful entrepreneurs, visibility to prominent VCs, and a trip to the US, all in one package.

From reading cover stories in magazines, one might buy into the idea that once a company is accepted into a prestigious accelerator program, its path to success is clear. The reality is far from it. As I have previously mentioned in “5 Things International Startups Should Know Before Joining a U.S. Accelerator,” acceptance into a top program is just the beginning. My earlier article was based on my experience at Techstars Boston. Now that I have completed Batch 20 at 500 Startups, I am ready to share my thoughts on what it takes to maximize the opportunities and deal with the challenges that come with joining the 500 Startups family.

Let me begin by saying that accelerator programs like 500 Startups are highly competitive. Thousands apply, 30-50 get in. In fact, you have a better chance of getting into Harvard than joining a new 500 Startups batch. If you have been accepted, you definitely have a reason to celebrate. Now, the real work begins.

Here is the thing. Accelerator “freshmen” tend to overlook the need to build a solid foundation in terms of logistics, mental shifts, and financial reserves. By accepting the invitation to join 500 Startups they have signed up for a marathon – and the sooner they begin training the better. Participants must trust the process that is built by experienced investors and entrepreneurs, but they must also come prepared. From having been a part of both Techstars and 500 Startups, I can tell you that the accelerator process is powerful, but it has no magic. All any accelerator can do is accelerate the path the company is on, for better or worse. There are things founders can to make sure they are on the right path – before they pick up the speed.

What does that look like? I have interviewed 3 fellow founders and Marvin Liao himself as they prepared to wrap up their journey with 500 Startups’ Batch 20. Here is their advice:

1. Focus on bringing a great product.

An idea, no matter how brilliant, does not cut it. Some programs (like the Y Combinator) will consider applicants in early stages of development, but both Techstars and 500 Startups require that you have a functional product that’s ready for the market. There are some exceptions (a highly innovative idea, or a proven team with strong credentials and a solid track record) but they only confirm the basic rule.

The “functional product” requirement means that you must have a product and it must be good. The accelerator process will fuel evolution and improvements, but your starting point must be sufficiently strong to allow the product to morph without crumbling. Invest your pre-accelerator time and money into making a product that people love. Resist falling in love with the technical aspects of your product, and get the market to fall in love with the way it solves their problem – before you go any further.

2. Come prepared for the expense.

The cost of participating in the program is covered by the portion of the accelerator’s investment in your company that is held back to cover office space, event facilitation, and other expenses. That is convenient, but it is only a part of the story. Alexey Zenivoch, the co-founder of Belarus-based Friendly Data that builds natural language interfaces for databases, spoke for many of his batchmates when he reflected that San Francisco is expensive. Travel and living expenses can really add up, especially if multiple team members choose to travel to the US and stay for the duration of the program. The investment is well-worth it for the right company, but alumni recommend you consider the whole cost to avoid any surprises.

3. Have a plan for integrating what you learn with the team at home.

The three international startup founders we spoke with all brought several co-workers with them. In the words of Ragnar Sass, the founder of Clanbeat out of Estonia, the ability to include teammates was a “deal breaker” that helped him choose 500 Startups above other accelerators. If your company hopes to break into the US market, it is critical that everyone on the team understands the Silicon Valley, he said.

“I believe that this area is the best environment for developing your business. 500 Startups is also friendly for the non-founders. It is very important that everyone on the team actually understands the Silicon Valley.”

-Ragnar Sass, Clanbeat (Estonia)

That brings us to an important point: few startups can afford to re-locate their entire team to the US for the duration of the accelerator program. You will need a plan for sharing what you learn with your home-base team to bring them along. “Translating” the Silicon Valley culture and conveying the less technical ideas and changes can be difficult. You must have a way of “converting” the knowledge and bringing everyone together, even while you are separated by geography.

4. Get comfortable with networking.

Participants repeatedly state that networking opportunities are some of the key benefits of participating in 500 Startups. And yet, that networking won’t happen by osmosis. You must have a plan for reaching your mentors, building relationships, and establishing connections that will be strong enough to persevere after graduation.

“It’s all about the people. You can meet your new friends and a lot of very smart people. 500 gives you access to strong mentors who help you understand your real market, give you feedback and advice on how to work with your clients.”

-Alex Zenovich, Friendly Data (Belarus)

The good news is that the 500 Startups program is custom-built to encourage collaboration. Because participants share a co-working space, they get to see each other’s victories and defeats. Don’t under-estimate the power of random conversations over lunch!

5. Remember that “sales” is not a dirty word.

500 Startups is strongly focused on customer acquisition. Whether or not you’re a technical founder, you must understand that just building a great product is not enough.

“Openness to learning sales and marketing is really important. You need to have a mindset for it.”

-Marvin Liao, Founder, 500 Startups

Distribution is the name of the game, and organizers structure the content around helping each batch of companies get to their customers fast. Every startup gets a distribution mentor, but you won’t experience traction until you absorb the idea that “selling” is key to your company’s success.

Bonus advice: beef up your English skills!

If you don’t have a high degree of comfort with the English language, there is a limit to how much you will get out of the program. Marvin Liao shared that he would love to see more foreign companies go through the 500 Startups, but the language barrier prevents many great companies from applying. When international teams are present, their conversational facility with English makes an enormous difference on their ability to build the network and maximize their progress.

“Two-thirds of this batch are from the US and a third are from overseas. I do not have a quota. We like international companies, some of our best teams are from overseas. The biggest part is whether they speak English. If you don’t speak English, you won’t do well here.”

-Marvin Liao, Founder, 500 Startups

500 Startups: Lessons learned

Don’t think of joining a US-based accelerator as a binary “yes/no” proposition. The answer may well be “not right now”. Timing matters, as does the degree to which your product is ready for the market. Your team must be open and ready to absorb the volume of sales and distribution learning that has been described as drinking out of a firehose. The application process is highly competitive, and if your team and product have known gaps you may be at a disadvantage compared to companies that are further along in their development. Consider your financial situation as well – your total investment will be greater than just the cost to join the class.

Lastly, think about what happens after the program. Many participants aim to maintain at least some presence in the US after graduation. Mark Masongson, the CEO and Co-Founder of Canadian-based UrbanLogiq, said it best:

“Now that we have access to this network, we cannot close the door on that.”

-Mark Masongson, UrbanLogiq

Marvin Liao has seen companies have success with maintaining an overseas development team and a US-based sales and marketing team.

“The best companies are the ones that keep the engineering team home, but double down on the sales and marketing front in the US.”

Marvin Liao, Founder, 500 Startups

“I won’t say that it’s easy, but we have seen enough examples,” Marvin said, citing the success story of TalkDesk that has a development team in Portugal and a sales and marketing team in San Francisco. The badge of “500 Startups portfolio company” does not come without sacrifice, but it is well worth it!

Eugene Vyborov is technology entrepreneur, geek, Co-founder and CTO of YayPay – Batch 20 company that uses AI and machine learning to accelerate cash flow and automate accounts receivables.


About the Guest Author: Eugene Vyborov is technology entrepreneur, geek, Co-founder and CTO of YayPay, a 500 Startups Batch 20 company that uses AI and machine learning to accelerate cash flow and automate accounts receivables. Follow YayPay on CrunchbaseTwitter, or Linkedin.

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!

Part 2: 27 Interview Questions to Find the GREAT Growth Hackers (& Weed Out the Big Talkers)

In my last article, I gave the 7 Focus Areas Every GREAT Growth Marketing Hire Should Know, but there’s still some tools you need to have in your toolkit to find a GREAT growth hacker. Why? Because big talking growth hackers will blow smoke that may blind founders who are not trained in interviewing GREAT growth hackers.

For example, you may ask one of my focus area questions, like:

“Do you have experience with Mixpanel?”
A Big Talking Growth Hacker will answer: Absolutely I used it all the time in my past role.
But what they really mean: The engineer sitting next to me was always talking about the difference between events and properties, but I don’t understand it.

Or you might ask:

“How about Google Analytics?”
A Big Talking Growth Hacker will answer: It’s my favorite app. I know it inside out.
But what they really mean:  I’m used to going in, finding a graph that looks up and to the right, and then sticking it into a presentation to show it to my boss.

It’s one thing to know the term, it’s a totally different thing to have done used it at the scale and proficiency your startup needs.

Below are 27 Interview Questions to Find the GREAT Growth Hackers (& Weed Out the Big Talkers):

1. They know how to get traffic

  • Question 1: Without using Dropbox, Facebook, and Hotmail, what are your favorite viral loops in the market? How would you design a viral loop for our business? Are there any tools you’d use that don’t require coding? Desired Answer: if they don’t have one, that means they aren’t looking for one. If you’re a curious growth hacker, you probably encountered one in the last couple of days.
  • Question 2: If we were to hire you, what would you do the first week to improve our SEO rankings? What tools would you use? What websites, access, and passwords will you need? Desired Answer: Do they ask for Webmaster Tools? Google Analytics? Do they know some SEO Tools?
  • Question 3: In previous jobs, what was your paid advertising budget and goals?
  • Question 4: In Adwords, do you prefer single keyword ad groups or grouping? Up to how many keywords in each one? Desired Answer: It doesn’t matter their answer. There are good reasons for both. That being said, be aware if they seem to think, “I can’t believe this guy goes into that much detail…” If so, they probably are not proficient.
  • Question 5: Ask them about a particular pay-per-click metric (cost per install, per signup, per free trial). Ask them about CTRs from past ads to see if they remember them.
  • Question 6: We run Adwords Campaigns for Countries/Cities/Regions to Achieve {X} business objective… What campaigns would you run, and how would you structure them? Further Prompts: What will be the break up of the campaigns or ad groups? What are the settings they’d pick?
  • Question 7: We run Facebook Ads on Multiple Countries/Cities/Regions to Achieve {X} business objective. What campaigns would you run, and how would you structure them? Further Prompts: What will be the break up of the campaigns or AdSet? What will be their settings on Facebook? What will be the audiences they’d target? What will be the conversion pixel they’d optimize for?Also, look for them to tell you how they’d do a remarketing campaign for retention.

2. They are a tracking pro

  • Question 7: What were your Urchin Tracking Module (UTM) tagging practices on your last job? Further Prompts: How did you tag people coming from Facebook Ads vs. people coming from Facebook Social? How did you do email marketing vs. search?
  • Question 8: Given what you know about our business, what are the main events and properties you’ll send to our tracking software? What would be the code that you’d send to engineers? (Give them a computer to Google it). Desired Answer: When Googling, they should go right to the developer’s documentation of Mixpanel, Amplitude, or Kissmetrics and grab the javascript.
  • Question 9: What Split Testing Software do you recommend we use? Why? How is it different from the others?
  • Question 10: If we were to do a Split Test of our landing page/checkout/{insert section you want}, what would be the level of confidence you’d want? How would you know if the test is statistically valid?

3. They write persuasive copy

  • Question 11: Create a Facebook Ad for our business based on X landing page.
  • Question 12: How would you improve X landing page headline? What would be an alternative headline you’d test? Desired Answer: You’re looking for how quickly the candidate come up with persuasive wording, and if you like the wording. After all, the ads the candidate writes represent your company!
  • Question 13: If we were to do a content marketing effort (like write an article, webinar, ebook, or white paper), which one would you choose? What would be its title and the table of contents?

4. They convert using UI/UX design

  • Question 14: Aside from Slack, what’s your favorite onboarding funnel? Why?
  • Question 15: How would you improve our onboarding? (Show them your current onboarding)
  • Question 16: Tell them they can ask questions about what you do in other channels, cases. Desired Answer: See if they think multichannel.
  • Question 17: What are some of your favorite landing pages from real companies? Desired Answer: Will tell us if they are paying attention to landing pages.
  • Question 18: How do you get inspired? How do you save things you like? Desired Answer: They should have a folder or tool they use to store cool things.

5. They know how to handle data

  • Question 19: What dashboard would you build for our business? What are 5-10 key metrics you would monitor? In what timespan?
  • Question 20: Write SQL (Structured Query Language) to query the number of {“x” events} per week for this year.

6. They’re a great communicator

  • Question 21: How would you write an email to one of our engineers to implement the changes you suggested to our landing page/onboarding? What extra info you would add? Desired Answer: You want somebody that is clear and will support things with pictures, video, and links to API documentation/libraries.

7. They a stubborn learner

  • Question 22: Can you remember something that took several experiments to crack?
  • Question 23: Give an example of a time in your life when you persisted. Desired Answer: This can be a personal experience. Do they have a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu? Have they finished an Ironman?
  • Question 24: What blogs do you read regularly?
  • Question 25: What book are you currently reading?
  • Question 26: What podcasts do you subscribe to?
  • Question 27: What are some conferences you want to attend? Courses your want to do? Desired Answer: You want to see that they are learning continuously. You also want to know how they keep themselves updated.

Depending on the candidate’s knowledge the interview can last more than an hour. Give them a heads up, and let them know you ask very detailed real world questions. You can also send some of your questions in advance via email (but send only some to ensure they don’t have a someone helping them answer).

These questions are VERY specific. If you’re not a trained growth hacker, you might not know the answers yourself. But these 27 questions will trigger good conversations, and you’ll see how much your candidate actually knows by how they explain it to you.

I honestly believe interviewing this way will save you A LOT of time, money, and headaches. You’ll avoid the Big Talkers or at least you’ll know if you decided to hire one or a half-baked Growth Hacker)! And most importantly, I guarantee, these questions will help you find a GREAT growth hacker.

FAQs

Do you have a Hiring Book/Interviewing Book to Recommend?

Who by Geoff Smart. It is a more digestible, less corporate version the book “Topgrading,” written by the author’s dad, Brad Smart (the guy who helped Jack Welch at GE). If you want a thick book to knock someone out, I do think Topgrading is a better choice. It’s boring and dry, but who says hiring should be fun!

Does he/she need to know how to code?

No. But it helps! A LOT. A least the minimum to be able to communicate effectively with engineers (depending on the engineer… this is not an easy task!)

Do they need to be proficient in all these areas?

This is about hiring a GREAT Growth Hacker, right? If you want GREAT, yeah they do.

But I understand sometimes you get what you can pay for. At least these areas / questions will help you understand their weaknesses, so they can improve or you can hire help or outsourcers to support weaker areas.

IMPORTANT: I’m talking about hiring A SINGLE person. Once you are showered with money in your Series A, B, C… Z, you’re probably better off creating a “Growth Team” where areas are covered by more than one person.

My Ask for You?

Was this article helpful? Yes?

Then PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE Share it Everywhere. Yes, EVERYWHERE.

Twitter, Facebook, GrowthHackers.com, email it to friends & CEOs.

It will help A LOT of founders conduct better interviews and avoid VERY COSTLY mistakes.

And of course… let me know on Twitter (@juanmartitegui) what you think!

If I get enough love… I’ll write next about How to Create & Train a Growth Hacker (with training resources included)… This is great if you can’t hire a growth hire with enough experience or expertise.

 


Made in Argentina, Juan Martitegui is the Founder of VirtualiaNet, The Biggest Teleworking School in the Hispanic Market. With more than 11,000 students (and growing rapidly), he and his team teach people how to find and perform in jobs they love without commuting or going into a traditional office. When Juan is not working on his businesses, he is probably finding great startups to invest on as a 500 Startups Venture Partner in the 500 startups fund, reading some strange book on evolutionary psychology and persuasion, trying to improve his Rubik’s cube solving times, or spending time as a father of Pedro and Felipe and husband to Marina. For more from Juan, follow him on Linkedin or Twitter.

Part 1:  7 Focus Areas Every GREAT Growth Marketing Hire Should Know Inside & Out

Since I started working at 500 Startups the question I get asked most often (aside from, “What’s Dave’s email address?”) is, “Do you know a great Growth Hacker?”

And my always answer is, “No I don’t. If I did I’d hire him myself”

Why? Because since the term “Growth Hacker” (definition here, here and here) was coined, thousands of people have popped up claiming to be a GREAT growth hacker… But few people actually are a GREAT growth hacker.

To make sure you’re hiring someone who’s actually a GREAT, it’s important to make sure they’ve “been there, done that”. Do your due diligence by deep diving into these 7 Focus Areas Every GREAT Growth Marketing Hire Should Know:

  1. They know how to get traffic
    • What’s your experience with Facebook Ads?
    • What’s your experience with Adwords?
    • What’s your SEO experience?
    • What’s your experience designing and implementing viral loops?
  1. They are a tracking pro
    • What’s your experience with Google Analytics?
    • What’s your experience using Mixpanel, Amplitude, Kissmetrics, or another tracking tool?
    • What your experience with Google Tag Manager?
    • What’s your experience with Javascript?
    • What’s your experience split testing? Do you have a software preference for split testing?  
  1. They write persuasive copy
    • What’s your experience writing ads?
    • What’s your experience writing lifecycle emails?
    • What’s your experience writing landing page headlines?
    • What’s your experience launching and maintaining content marketing initiatives?
  1. They convert using UI/UX design
    • What’s your experience designing landing pages?
    • Have they ever designed a funnel?
    • What’s their favorite landing page software?
  1. They know how to handle data
    • How good are you with numbers?
    • Do you know how to use excel?
  1. They’re a great communicator
    • How clear of a communicator are you?
  1. They a stubborn learner
    • Do you love to learn?
    • Are you persistent?

Your candidate isn’t a great growth marketer if they don’t know these 7 focus areas inside and out. Make sure you deep dive into each of these buckets, so that you don’t make the painful and COSTLY mistake of hiring the wrong person.

Stay tuned for Part 2 next week when I help you weed out the “big talkers” who can BS the above focus area questions.

 


Made in Argentina, Juan Martitegui is the Founder of VirtualiaNet, The Biggest Teleworking School in the Hispanic Market. With more than 11,000 students (and growing rapidly), he and his team teach people how to find and perform in jobs they love without commuting or going into a traditional office. When Juan is not working on his businesses, he is probably finding great startups to invest on as a 500 Startups Venture Partner in the 500 startups fund, reading some strange book on evolutionary psychology and persuasion, trying to improve his Rubik’s cube solving times, or spending time as a father of Pedro and Felipe and husband to Marina. For more from Juan, follow him on Linkedin or Twitter.

500 Startups Launches its First Distro Bootcamp in Israel

500 Startups has launched its first “distro bootcamp” in Israel in partnership with Google, Amazon AWS, Poalim Hi-Tech, Meitar and WeWork and has selected 9 B2B companies for its first cohort.

Distro Bootcamp is a selective 4 week education program specifically designed from the ground up to help pre-seed and seed stage companies develop a systematic approach to reach product market fit, and assist founders with sales, marketing and distribution.

The program is uncompromisingly focused on actionable training and taught by the 500 Startups in-house distribution team from San Francisco and London with 1-on-1 sessions with International and local entrepreneurs.

The program stems from and is a shorter, compact version of our Series A program that runs globally with 12 different locations since 2015.

Adam Benayoun, 500 Startups Israeli Venture Partner says:

“Israel is often praised for being home to the most startups and venture capital per capita, however while Israel has produced a great number of startups – many are still struggling to reach product market fit. Marketing and distribution expertise is exactly what we are hoping to bring to Israel through the Distro Bootcamp to solve that problem.”

Startups in the bootcamp will have access to the distribution team and 500 Startups’ large network of mentors and partners to monitor their progress. Additionally, each company is given $25k in funding earmarked for marketing experiment in exchange for 1% of the company.

Maya Gura – CEO and co-founder at MissBeez (a 500 Startups portfolio company) says:

“My experience with Adam and the team at 500 Startups was very unusual as it’s rare to meet investors who are so hands on and proactively work to help entrepreneurs. Their expertise in growth, primarily for consumer oriented products like Missbeez, is essential for any startup to grow rapidly while constantly measuring and testing KPIs. As we expand from one major city to another and new verticals, we are capable to utilize these best practices to increase virality, liquidity, and gain traction.”

Since 500 Startups officially announced it was launching in Israel a year and a half ago, it has made 11 seed investments including Panoply (Raised $7M from Intel Capital) and RapidAPI (Raised $3.5M from Andreessen Horowitz)

The 9 companies selected for the first cohort are:

Wizer –

Wizer accelerates teaching to meet the needs of the 21-century students. Create, analyze, collaborate and personalize the learning experience is as easy as making a worksheet. Wizer quickly reached 300K users with 30% monthly organic growth rate, through word-of-mouth.

Distrybite –

Distribyte provides a simplified cloud environment for companies seeking to expand their digital presence. Our novel runtime powers the most complex workloads addressing the entire software lifecycle. Distribyte ensures the release of high quality software products, with predictable results, in a fraction of the budget.

CybeReady –

CybeReady reduces the risks of phishing through automated end-user training. The CybeReady automated simulation engine allows companies worldwide to instantly deploy a fully customizable and operational solution, covering their weakest link with proven KPIs. The company has paying customers from six different countries, on an annual subscription basis

Ubeya –

Ubeya is Uber for temporary workforce in the events industry. Ubeya provides a SAAS platform for businesses from the events industry to manage their workforce. Connecting between staffing agencies and event companies for staff on a daily basis.

Ondigo –

ONDiGO is an AI & automation platform that boosts the bottom-line performance of sales/accounts teams. ONDiGO is leveraging quantitative indicators such as: trends, sentiment and engagement velocity to increase win-rate, shorten sales cycles and capture repeatable-success-patterns. ONDiGO provides VP Sales with powerful visibility into their team’s performance, activity, and major KPIs. Sales-ops will see what works and what doesn’t in the company’s pipeline, account management, and customer success. Some of ONDiGO’s notable customers: Payoneer, Rakuten, Matomy, Clicktale, Groupon, Natural Intelligence, Keywee, Quad Analytics, Silicon Valley Education Foundation.”

Udobu –

Udobu helps better monetize live sports events. Sports clubs and media rights holders struggle with inventory and capacity utilization as well as revenue generation issues. Already working with top clubs from Spanish La Liga and Italian Serie A, udobu addresses these challenges using its proprietary fan behavior prediction technology.

MuvingAPP –

Moving is stressful – so we’re changing. With MuvingApp, you can create a digital, Visual Inventory in less than 10 minutes. It facilitates a transparent, easier moving experience as well as a myriad of related services: packing, insurance and even connect utilities in your new house – All through one App.

GeenQ –

GreenQ, a young, innovative and growing company aiming to bring the best technology to the waste pickup space. Moving fast with strategic partners, we are working to fulfill our vision to improve the urban living habitat. Our smart waste management services were designed to meet the needs of collection vendors, system integrators, and municipalities.

Market Beyond –

Market Beyond provides Fortune 500 companies with actionable, real-time, product level insight to increase market share. Our platform uncovers our customers’ blind spots in a fragmented e-commerce space by deriving insight from billions of e-shoppers’ decisions across the global e-commerce universe

For further information please contact: Adam Benayoun at adamb@500startups.com and read more here via TechCrunch

#500FAMILY

Recently, a 500 colleague posted this on social media:

“Diversity and equality is NOT about women who succeed because they sacrifice everything else so they “have nothing else to do but work”. It’s about EVERYONE stepping up to the plate and pitching in. So we as a society don’t ever have to choose life OR work, but rather being able to do both well.”

This colleague isn’t a parent, nor is he planning to have kids anytime soon. Yet he still felt adamantly about the importance of gender parity and acknowledging that it’s everyone’s responsibility.

Breaking down barriers is tough. Many companies make the mistake of dismissing diversity early on, only to realize later how foundational it is to their success or failure. Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet that makes a company diverse. In order to have a meaningful impact, companies should value diversity and inclusion from Day One. This applies to how they design their parental leave policy.

At 500, our policy is 12 weeks of fully paid leave for all parents in the U.S. Parents can choose to take this leave consecutively, or spread it out through the first 12 months after birth. Despite the fact that only 21% of the 500 team are parents, we know that may change. In fact, in 2017 alone, there will be 8 babies born on the 500 team. We feel strongly about supporting our team and making sure they have time to recover, bond with their families, and find their bearings as they get used to a new normal. Given how crazy this period can be, we also feel that making that time fully paid is important. The last thing new parents need to worry about is whether money is coming in the door. The sad reality is that in the U.S., only 13% of workers have access to paid parental leave, and the U.S. trails 41 other nations in not mandating paid leave.

Admittedly, we’re aware that our parental leave policy may pale in comparison to other companies or even national leave policies worldwide. As 500 grows, we aim to keep improving upon our parental leave policy as well as all of our company offerings. Also, given that we’re a global team spanning 23 countries, we’re working hard to be mindful of different standards in each market and balancing that with 500’s core values.

We also feel that it’s important to acknowledge the fact that many men and women share in childcare responsibilities. Especially in this day and age, where nearly 50% of women are the breadwinners​, and there exist many different kinds of parents and parental relationships — two moms, two dads, single parents, co-parents, and so on. At the end of the day, regardless of one’s orientation or identification or relationship status, parents are parents. And that was the motivation for making it 12 weeks across the board, rather than separating maternity vs. paternity.

There’s a good amount of research out there that shows generous parental leave policies have a significant positive impact on employee retention and morale. While some companies (particularly startups) worry that the added costs are detrimental, the reality is that such costs pale in comparison to losing talent outright. Moreover, it’s an excellent way to attract great talent. People want to join teams where they’ll feel supported. For parents, that means not having to “hide” the fact that they are parents or worry about being judged for doing what they need to do for their kids.

The boys enjoying La Jolla Beach

Truth? When I was pregnant (both times), I experienced a lot of anxiety about how it would impact me professionally. I worried about being hit with the Motherhood Penalty, how my colleagues would perceive me, how others in VC would perceive me, how I’d juggle running 500 with raising kids. I remember cringing when people would ask me whether I’d be returning to 500 after I gave birth. The first few months postpartum were incredibly challenging, and it took awhile before I felt like myself again. While everyone’s experience is different, my own experience certainly was instrumental in shaping 500’s parental leave policy. I didn’t want others to feel as anxious as I did, nor did I ever want them to worry that they’d be treated differently at 500. That isn’t the kind of culture we want to build.

Restroom signage at the 500 offices in SF and Mountain View

It was important to us to create a parental leave policy that echoed our core values. Diversity and inclusion is not just an attractive tagline for marketing purposes. It is evident in everything we do — our team, our portfolio investments, our parental leave policy, our office restroom signage (see above photo). We work hard and attempt to do the impossible, yet we respect the fact that we’re all human and are constantly juggling our professional and personal lives. We’re committed to creating an inclusive environment where talented people are empowered to do amazing things, yet don’t feel torn about having to choose between work and life.

Like one of our EIRs delivering a fireside chat while feeding his 5 week-old son.

500 EIR Chris Neumann’s baby bottle of choice is Lifefactory

Thanks to my 500 colleagues for their feedback on this post, particularly Elizabeth Yin, Dave McClure, Clayton Bryan, Kelsey Cullen, Monica Matison, & Chris Neumann. Special nod to Tim Chae for being that “500 colleague” I quoted.

500 Startups Launches Second Latin American Fund with IFC as Anchor

Great news for Latin-American Startups! 500 Startups is launching its second Latin American Regional fund, Luchadores II, which is targeting $10M in commitments to invest in Spanish-speaking and LatAm founders.

The International Finance Corporation (IFC, a member of the World Bank Group) will be the first anchor investor in the 500 Startups’ Luchadores II Fund. Having one of the most important international groups and their network backing up Luchadores II makes this fund a very promising and interesting investment opportunity for potential LPs in the region. 500 Startups is the most active early stage investor in the LatAm & Spanish-speaking market with over 100 companies and over $8M USD invested in the region since 2013.

“The support of the IFC, their experience and influence across multiple industries and sectors is clearly an inflection point that will contribute to the startups in the #500Strong family,” said Santiago Zavala, Partner at 500 Startups and Managing Partner of Luchadores I & II.  “Partnering with one of the largest global development institutions focused exclusively on the private sector in developing countries will give our portfolio even more access than before.”

Luchadores I’s portfolio companies have generated over 650 jobs in the region and have gone on to raise over $95M USD to date. Luchadores II will allow us to continue the pace and invest in more companies generating even more jobs in the region alongside continued ecosystem development.

Luchadores II plans to invest in over 120 companies through the LatAm 500 Seed Program over the next 2 years.

Portfolio companies including Konfio, Conekta, Nubity, Rocket, Clip, Boletia and 99 Minutos have already raised series A rounds and are proving their capability to offer real solutions to the LatAm market.

Luchadores II will be looking to invest in Education, Health, Financial Technologies, Software as a Service, E-commerce, Health Technologies, Tourism and other industries.

The 500 LatAM Seed Program, which is based in Mexico City,  will be a key component to Luchadores II. The 500 startups team has run 6 Seed Programs in Mexico City providing growth hacking, fundraising help, and more for the chosen companies.

“It’s no question that there are seriously talented people around the world, and the LatAm market is no exception,” said Dave McClure, Founding Partner 500 Startups. “That’s why we’ve been investing in the region for over 4 years. IFC shares our vision of actively supporting developing countries.”

teampic

The Luchadores team includes: Santiago Zavala as Partner, René Lomelí as Operations Director for LatAm, Daphne Salinas and Didier Quiroz as Associates.

Batch 20 triples down on FinTech and Digital Health, Takes on Uncle Sam with GovTech

500 Startups’ 20th program (B20) in Silicon Valley starts at time that will be remembered across the world. Only three days after a new (and highly controversial) United States government administration has taken power and Silicon Valley is preparing for a Trumpocalypse.

Seeing this regulatory disruption as an opportunity for private sector tech companies, B20 includes GovTech (13.6% of B20), FinTech (27%) and Digital Health (15.9%).

In total, there are 44 companies in the four-month program that will run from January to May. Popular technology trends — including SaaS, marketplaces, AI/bots, big data, analytics, devops and hardware — also remain prevalent in the seed program formally known as an accelerator but continually geared towards scaling companies with early traction.

In total, 36% of the B20 are international representing 10 countries. Canada comes in first in terms of founder representation. Israel is a close second. Founders in B20 also hail from Thailand, Hong Kong, Latvia, Estonia, Brazil, United Kingdom, Nigeria, and France.

B20 is also a diverse set and has 20.5% of companies with at least one woman founder, 11.4% of companies in with at least one black founder, and 13.6% of companies with at least one latinX founder.

Programming continues to be focused on growth, fundraising and storytelling in B20 with a few specialty events, including the notorious Marketing Hell Week, the second B2B sales summit, and a new two-day, intensive fundraising boot camp.

For specific companies in the batch, General Motors is also getting involved and offering exclusive mentorship and access to the automotive industry.

Here’s the full list of companies published in TechCrunch.

Applications for the next program (B21 in Mountain View) are being accepted here.

picture1Pictured above: our SF Seed Program Team

Turbo Charging Growth: 500 Partners with GM

After 19 batches since 2010, we’ve seen our companies experience the impact of strong mentorship. Today, 500 Startups, is announcing a Seed Program collaboration between General Motors and 500 focused right here in Silicon Valley as an effort to continually evolve and heighten our programs.

Our first corporate partner track aligns with GM’s vision to be innovative, autonomous, connected, electrified, and to create solutions that truly change the value and sustainability of transportation to enhance customers’ lives.

This partnership with GM will provide important resources developed to give access and knowledge transfer to one of the largest global automotive companies in the world.

When is this happening?

Starting January 23rd, we will open the first class as part of Batch 20’s Seed Program which includes: VC funding, exposure to corporate infrastructure, demo day, mentorship from GM, plus the opportunity of possible follow-on funding from GM.

Apply now! Deadline is December 31st. And while we are selecting ~5 companies for the GM specialized track, we still have a couple openings left.

The GM partnership will also continue for Batch 21 which will start in April of 2017.

What we’re looking for:

We’re looking for strong teams who focus on

  •         Mobility services
  •         Machine learning
  •         Virtual Reality
  •         Robotics
  •         Additive manufacturing

“Working with 500 Startups will help us identify early-stage startups that could have relevance for automotive, but are either services or supporting technologies rather than merely vehicle features. Being able to mentor startup companies and learn from them is important, and 500 Startups has a track record of finding this talent globally.”  – Jon Lauckner, CTO of General Motors

The specialized GM track will be run by Robert Neivert (pictured below), Lupin Campos, Aaron Blumenthal, and several members of the GM’s Advanced Technology Silicon Valley Office. This track allows companies access to GM’s vast automotive knowledge to help companies build a product with strong market fit and the tools to grow. Connecting and understanding the groups behind innovation will help fuel advancement. And General Motors gets that.

rob

Read more about the 500 + GM partnership in TechCrunch here.