The Artist Formerly Known As Accelerator

When Christine and I started 500 Startups six years ago, we knew we wanted to run an investment program for startups that emphasized community and education. We had long been inspired by other earlier programs such as YCombinator, TechStars, and SeedCamp. However, we had a new approach and perspective, and wanted to create our own VC firm + accelerator with a decidedly different vibe and experience.  

All these programs, including the 500 accelerator, share several key concepts:

  1. Provide a modest amount of investment capital to a group of startups
  2. Startups work in shared physical space (note: YC de-emphasizes this)
  3. Connect them with a community of experienced founders and mentors
  4. Help companies “accelerate” their progress in a short amount of time
  5. We accept many companies fail, but a few will thrive and grow BIG

On the other hand, 3 key elements make 500 programs different:

  1. A global approach to investing in startups all over the world
  2. A large, diverse team of 150 people, and community of 3,000 founders & mentors
  3. Emphasis on “full-stack” growth marketing and distribution support

Today, we are currently running our 19th batch in Mountain View, and along with our growth marketing and Mexico City programs, we have now graduated over 600 startups in the past six years — and we have invested in another 1,000 other startups as well.

A lot has changed from when we started, and just like our startups, we have experimented and iterated on our model to provide the best possible impact for founders. We have expanded and improved our curriculum, increased our check sizes and batch sizes, and grown our team, skills, and support. We now have a far more robust program, and the bar for companies joining our programs are higher and tougher than ever. Some have millions in revenue and have raised millions from other investors before they even set foot in the door. Rather than just building or improving an MVP, now our companies are focused on customers, revenue, growth, ramping up sales and marketing, expanding their team, and raising a larger round of institutional capital from top Silicon Valley VC firms.

Noting how different things are from when we started, we have decided to change the name and branding for our programs to emphasize these differences and make it clear to founders what our programs are all about. Our Accelerator program will now be referred to as the “500 Seed Program” and our Distro Dojo programs will now be the “500 Series A Program”. The name of the programs more clearly represent their fundraising goals and metrics. Below, we’ve highlighted what we’re doing now compared to before, and what startup founders should expect when they join our programs.

500 Seed Program

Before: when we started our accelerator program, we accepted companies that barely had an MVP (and a few weren’t even that far along), and most had limited usage and revenue traction. We only invested $50K for 5% equity.

Now: 500 Seed Program is geared towards companies with early traction. Most all of them have a functional product, and most have substantial user adoption & revenue. Many have already raised capital, and a few have >$1M in revenue and >$1M raised.

The 500 Seed Program gives startups access to our Silicon Valley network as well as sales, marketing, and distribution expertise. Additionally, founders receive ongoing funding strategy and support. This program invests $150k USD for 6% and $37.5k in program fees.

Company highlights: Shippo, Neighbor.ly, Talkdesk, RealtyShares, Compstak, Mayvenn, Tout, Innovacer, Headout, Haven.ly, OhmConnect, Le Tote, Cleanify, Italist, Finova Financial

500 Series A Program:

Before: In our first year of investing at the post-seed stage often we found ourselves joining seed round extensions, but are now finding more and more opportunities to invest in exceptional companies closer to the subsequent A round than the previous seed round.

Now: 500 Series A program is targeted towards startups that are on the verge of raising their Series A round. This program will include intensive growth and marketing help from our team of top Silicon Valley growth experts. Designed to help companies close to their Series A and build scalable, repeatable marketing operations that can ingest millions of dollars and produce many more millions in revenue. Aka, get the best Series A deal and terms possible. This program provides a check size ranging from $150-250k USD with $50k in program fees. Note that terms depend on company’s prior financing.

Company highlights: Mayvenn, Dollar Beard Club, Saucey, Storemaven, “Rock, Pamper, Scissors”, and Cleanify

And with that, we bid adieu to our former program names and are moving full force ahead with our 500 Seed Program and 500 Series A Program and will continue to provide top tier programs for entrepreneurs around the world.

500 Startups Announces 18 New Investments in Latin America

Today we are announcing our newest LatAm Accelerator Batch, a program based in Mexico City which focuses on startups in LatAm and Spanish speaking regions. This is our 6th LatAm batch and we’ve invested in 91 companies to date through the program.

Alongside this news, we’ve also opened a new LatAm HQ in Mexico City with an expanded team!

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After receiving over 408 applications for the current LatAm program, and conducting over 100 founder interviews, 500 Startups chose 18 high potential teams to participate in the program. Each company receives $65K in investment, and joins for 4 months of working side-by-side with support from 500’s team and global family of mentors.

Among the 18 startups in Batch 6, there are companies from Mexico, Argentina, Chile and Colombia, covering industries including e-commerce, education, SaaS, food tech, logistics, government services, tourism, amongst others.

The program covers legal, product, marketing and growth, and finance among other critical themes that founders must master. The program also includes dedicated sessions with specialized mentors each week, and brings in local as well as international expertise.

Additionally, it is currently running in 500’s new LatAm HQ in the Juarez neighborhood of Mexico City, a space that was remodeled over the past few months to be the home of our growing Latin America operations. The space is designed to offer a workspace for startups, as well as an event space that accommodates up to 150 people.

Our LatAm team is growing with new additions Didier Quiroz and Daphne Salinas who will work as Associates to the LatAm fund. Didier and Daphne will be working alongside Bedy Yang as Managing Partner, Santiago Zavala as Partner, and René Lomelí as Director of Operations.

latamteampic(Left to Right: Daphne, René, Santiago, and Didier)

And now, we’re proud to announce the 18 newest companies to join the #500Strong family!

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#LOOKEA – Ready to shop style inspiration destination for consumers who love fashion and lifestyle products. The company creates high quality leads for fashion e-commerce sites and brands. Moreover, they allow users to upload their own photos and their algorithm identifies and recommends similar fashion items they can buy.

Asistia – A health platform where you can hire high quality caretaker services for elderly citizens and schedule recurring daily or weekly visits. The company’s allow caretakers to log in the beginning and end of a service and also post notes relevant to the service.

Backstartup – Professional accounting and legal services made for startups. The company focuses on having all their clients investment ready, from having all legal and accounting matters up to date and ready for due diligence to helping founders understand and negotiate investment terms.

Buenchef – Delivers recipes and all the ingredients the client needs. Redefining weeknight dinner. The founders have a successful previous experience in the food delivery space with an exit and now are trying to improve and solve

Cívica Digital – has develop digital tools to strengthen citizenship and for governments to have the appropriate feedback on the services they provide to the community with the intent of improve them. The company also works with NGOs in order to improve many aspects of society.

CuidaMiMascota – Allows users to find high quality and trustful pet sitters near them. By scheduling a service, the company connects you to one of their many sitters and helps you coordinate the service in the easiest way possible, so your furry friend is well taken care in your absence.

Deporprivé – Sport-specific flash sales website where members receive exclusive access to sales from top sports brands. Each week there are specific sales ranging from running shoes to training equipment and technology.

EasyPoint – Receive e-commerce products in a network of pickup points over neighborhood stores

EcomExperts – Suite of tools to help online sellers manage their account, thus making them sell more and reduce costs. Moreover, the company offers analytics for clients to have insights on their business.

HostTonight – Service that allows new and experienced Airbnb host to delegate the property managament and take full advantage of the Airbnb model without the pains and problems associated with it such as key exchange logistics, cleaning services and negotiation with guests.

HoyPido – Is a Blockchain-inspired FDN (Food Delivery Network). By analyzing the excess capacity of small kitchens, the company incorporates them to their program and use that excess capacity to provide standardized meal to workers in near by businesses.

Impulsando Academy – Is offering specialized content and skills. The company’s educational platform provides live and recorded sessions so students can learn as better suits them. Moreover, the company is focused on providing personalized experiences so all their students get most out of their lesson.

LocalAventura – Online platform that allows travelers to search, book, and pay for tour with passionate local guides in Latin America. The company simplifies the experience of traveling to the region offering a truly personalized offering catered to you needs and taste.

LECO – One stop solution for lens users. Through their Platform users can access their correct prescription and order the visual solution of their choice either contact lenses or glasses whenever and wherever they need it.

Tarefa –  Is working to give any student timely answers to the questions on topics such as math and science. Through their educational platform the company connects students with teachers to solve their must burning questions. Also, the company is developing software that will allow to solve some of these questions without a teacher

TipiTop – End-to-end service to sell or buy pre-owned cars in a reliable and easy way. The company is growing a network of certified mechanics and sellers that verifies every car that goes through their platform, assuring the quality of such an important acquisition.

Yaydoo – Through their network of suppliers the company is creating and On-demand procurement assistant that resolves all the needs of a business reducing work and logistics to ensure that companies have everything they need for their daily activities.

Yetcargo – Allows companies to ship their product at affordable prices by allowing them to use the excess capacity of shipment and delivery trucks.

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500 Startups Brings Distro Dojo to Berlin!

For the first time ever, 500 Startups is running its highly selective “Distro Dojo” growth hacking program in Berlin. The three-month intensive growth marketing program for Pre-Series-A companies started in September with six startups. The program is hosted at hub:raum with sponsorship from Deutsche Telekom.

The program will focus on:

  • Teaching a scientific growth process
  • Creating a marketing experiment pipeline
  • Testing and adding emerging channels
  • Making the right hires for your growth team
  • Talks from 500 Partners and industry experts

“We see a lot of impressive startups in Berlin, so we’re expanding our local presence by launching our Distro Dojo program here, following on the program’s warm reception this past year in London,” said Matt Lerner, Head of 500 Startups London office.

This first Berlin batch of companies includes:

Voya.ai simplifies business travel by combining the expertise of travel agents with the efficiency of a chatbot. Offering a concierge like service on a familiar chat-interface, Voya built the simplest way to book and manage business trips. They created the first business travel service that both companies and their users love, which may be why their business is doubling each month.

Junomedical – A digital health platform where patients worldwide are matched with high-quality medical care abroad at an affordable price. Junomedical’s passionate team of digital experts and geeks is led by Dr. Sophie Chung – tackling a $50 billion medical travel industry.

Heycater! Lets busy office managers quickly order catering online. Founders, Sophie Radtke and Therese Köhler don’t simply plan to unite clients and caterers on a curated platform; their mission is to shape the way people eat at work and create a movement of happier, healthier and more productive companies.

Zenjob is a mobile tech company that solves short-term staffing emergencies by providing hourly workers on-demand. Zenjob actually hires the workers and lends them out to companies. People working with Zenjob earn more than minimum wage and companies have less admin hassle and more flexibility than with traditional temp agencies.

Movivo Movivo’s platform allows users to cover the cost of their mobile minutes by completing surveys, crowdsourced tasks and by downloading new mobile apps. Movivo works with many of the world’s largest telecoms operators and the service is growing quickly in a number of emerging market countries.

Job Pal builds chat bots that automate candidate engagement and pre-screening. Companies want to engage much more with prospective employees, but cannot due to a lack of resources. Meanwhile, recruiters mostly sift through irrelevant applications while they need to spend more time with relevant candidates. Job Pal solves both problems through Machine Intelligence.

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About the Distro Dojo

The “Distro Dojo” is a three-month hands-on growth program where companies receive investment from 500 Startups and work side-by-side with world-class entrepreneurs and growth marketers to start the growth process within their companies. The process, created and refined by experts at many of the great hyper-growth startups of the past 15 years, includes identifying the right business metrics, identifying “hacks” to increase customer engagement, and testing them out through a process of experimentation and iteration. Participants work with experienced entrepreneurs and growth experts throughout the program. After 11 Dojos in 7 cities, participant feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.

“For us, the program was transformative” said Truly Experiences founder Jack Huang, who participated in the London Dojo. “In 1 month, we fully revamped our SEO, SEM, data stack, CRO and implemented a new experiment process. Not to mention gathered more ideas for channels and tactics to test. Plus, mentors and guest speakers really know their stuff and roll-up-the-sleeves to get dirty, unlike the majority of advisors and consultants out there.”

500 Startups in Europe

With over 140 investments in Europe, 500 Startups is fast becoming one of the most active investors in the region. Our European portfolio includes consumer and enterprise companies including TalkDesk, Intercom and Skimlinks.

Meet the 500 Berlin Team

Matt Lerner, Nopadon Wongpakdee & Jess Erickson.

Matt Lerner – Partner, 500 Startups

  • Matt runs our London office and leads our European Distro Dojo. He specializes in conversion optimization, analytics, engagement and retention. As a member of the in-house growth (AKA”Distro”) team, he works closes with 500 portfolio companies to help them build growth engines and scale. Previously, Lerner worked as Marketing Director at PayPal, where he built and managed growth teams for many years.

Nopadon Wongpakdee – Growth Hacker In-Residence

  • Nopadon Wongpakdee is a London-based Inbound Marketing Consultant with over 15 years experience. He specialises in SEO, User Acquisition, User Retention and Inbound Marketing Strategies. Before consulting, he was the 10th employee at acclaimed London startup Huddle.com, where I was responsible for developing and executing their digital marketing strategy.

Jess Erickson – Program Director, 500 Startups

  • Jess Erickson is the Program Director at 500 Startups. She spent her early startup years at Speaklike, 6Wunderkinder & General Assembly. She is also the Founder of Geekettes, an organization uniting, mentoring and promoting women in tech of worldwide.

Next, Final Frontier: Lessons Learned Investing in West & South Africa

During my time at global early stage seed fund, 500 Startups, I’ve led deals in agriculture marketplaces in Indonesia (iGrow), global workflow management software from Brazil (Pipefy), and even education or sewing marketplaces in “emerging markets” like the MidWest of the United States.
500 Startups has a culture of looking ahead to emerging markets, so I was encouraged to follow my investment thesis that there is massive opportunity in thinking ahead.
There were many haters, especially when I became interested in West Africa:

“These markets are too early.” 

or,

There’s no downstream capital for these companies.”

Initially, I was worried about whether I would be stranding these companies or whether it was too early for 500 Startups.

Over the last eight months, we have invested in four companies in South and West Africa through our accelerator program: Sweepsouth, (B14),  KudoBuzz (B14), mVendr (B16),  Podozi (B16), and just recently accepted SureGifts in Batch 18, one of the fastest growing loyalty technology companies in Nigeria and Kenya.

This piece is about what I learned investing in these markets, and why I think all serious investors should learn and be aware about what’s happening on the African continent.

Geeks On A Plane 2016 will be in Africa, so there is an amazing opportunity coming in March.

Here’s what I learned.

1) Why go to West or East or South Africa in the first place? The Future is African. 

This stat that blew my mind: “Sub-Saharan Africa will have a population boom from today’s 900 million people to 2.4 billion by 2050, with almost half of the world’s children being on the continent by 2100.”

There are 54 countries in Africa with unique individual cultures that are all geared for massive economic growth – 50% of the people on the continent are 19 or younger.

I read this right before my trip, and my mind was blown. There were talks of startups like Paga, ACE, Jobberman, Jumia, and increased funding:

“$400 million in VC funding for African startups in 2014. More than a billion dollars will be invested in Africa by 2018.”

Trends in “M-commerce”, B2B for growing SMEs, fintech, big data, and more have been covered in great pieces like this one from I-Dev International. But, you have to go. There’s nothing you can read in a book that will prepare you for feeling the energy and innovation building in the ecosystem, and we international tech investors have a lot to learn.

2) Mentorship is more rare than money, and foreign investors and entrepreneurs can add immense value.

Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology – a two-year entrepreneurship funded school that finds and invests in entrepreneurs from Nigeria, Ghana, and Kenya invited me to visit after I made an accelerator investment in a graduate company called KudoBuzz, a SaaS tool for e-commerce companies.

I was blown away during my time giving a guest lecture and spending time with the entrepreneurs at MEST. What also blew me away was that Jorn, CEO and founder of multi-national SaaA company Meltwater,  spends time every single quarter mentoring young entrepreneurs.

It’s his time, not just the considerable capital Meltwater has invested, that makes MEST an amazing addition to the ecosystem.

At 500, the main areas we were able to help the startups were around understanding the fundraising process.

From our South African founder of Sweepsouth, Aisha Pandoor, called Sweepsouth’s experience in San Francisco in the accelerator a “game-changer for SweepSouth in the level of mentors and the network we’ve had exposure to, both of which would previously have been quite far out of reach for a startup based on the other side of the world.

As one of the first services marketplaces in Africa, it was hard to find local founders and mentors with enough experience to provide meaningful advice, and this is a conundrum for other disruptive African startups.”

3) The challenges are real, but they can be overcome (with time).

Last batch, I led our first accelerator investment in a Nigeria-based company called Podozi, a beauty e-commerce company, going after the exciting African women market who spends five times more on beauty and hair than other ethnic groups and will continue to grow.They had graduated from Savannah.vc, a Nairobi-based incubator.

My thesis around Podozi was around my conviction about the growing and interesting beauty market in Nigeria and across the continent, and in the founders, Teniola and Wale. Building an e-commerce beauty brand like Sephora will be challenging, but someone will win in this market. I believe Teni and Wale have the conviction and experience to win. However, their journey will be full of challenges.

Not only were there challenges with logistics, basic office management, and recruiting – the dropping value of Nigerian Naira made tracking metrics complicated and disheartening for them.

Then, there was the bleak downstream capital situation. Clayton Bryan, in the SF office, helped me connect Wale to local angels, as well as explore more downstream capital sources for African-based companies in the European VC scene in London, Dublin, and other hubs.

There are super early stage programs like MEST, Savannah Fund and then growth funds, but very few options in between, which is why Podozi and other startups must focus on revenue and growth until they reach the stage they can access capital in their markets or foreign investors.

Four months after making the bet on this team, I watched Teniola (TeniBeauty to friends) pitch at Demo Day stage with confidence.

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3) Focus on founders – experienced founders are beginning to emerge

Since downstream capital is challenging to close in the ecosystem, so it makes sense to filter for scrappy founders and innovative, clever business models who can be more cashflow generating if they haven’t raised locally.

Other accelerators are beginning to take notice. While I was at MEST, I also had the chance to coach three Ghanaian and Nigerian women, all-technical team, building a social app for African hair calledTress. Nine months later, they were accepted into the YC fellowship program, and today they are raising a seed round to grow faster.

I’m very excited about the team that is joining me in San Francisco this coming week for the launch of Batch 18 – SureGifts. The founders are ex-Jumia (one of most successful e-commerce brands out of Rocket Internet) early team members and have already raised capital. They have already proven they can expand out of their local market and have scaled from Nigeria to Kenya.

These are the types of founders that we are getting at 500 Startups now, since we have been investing, learning, and building relationships and reputation early.

4) Community is key.

Many programs and accelerators in emerging markets are early and still figuring out how to provide value in their early ecosystems.

Many “angel investors” aren’t used to investing in technology startups and come from real estate or private equity, not operating backgrounds, which can create problems between the local investors and entrepreneurs.  It’s another example where money is less valuable than mentors and experience.

Our role is to support and identify  the best credible and local investors to co-invest with, as well as to provide perspective and mentorship to entrepreneurs on the ground. Even if your fund does not support international investments, you can begin to make the relationships.

Distrust between local investors and entrepreneurs can be complicated, but as foreign investors we can provide perspective about the importance of fair practices and terms for early stage technology investments, as well as encourage communities of entrepreneurs to share information, help each other, and build sustainable communities.

Trust is hard to build, but after my experiences with MEST, She Leads Africa, and other great organizations, I am confident these communities can become sustainable.

 5)  Just go and learn for yourself.

If you’re an early stage investor and have any plans to be a part of the emerging economies globally, you’re missing out if you continue to ignore (or overlook) the African markets – the only color we care about as investors is green.

Foreign investors can provide a lot of value through mentorship and spending time helping entrepreneurs who are solving problems in their communities.

I urge other investors to pay attention to what is happening on the African continent, from Lagos and Accra to Nairobi to Johannesburg.

Come join us at GOAP and find out for yourself.

Additional Resources:

How to Use PR + Thought Leadership to Grow Your Startup

Editor’s Note: This post is a continuation of The Art of the Press Release, and comes from Conrad Egusa, CEO of Publicize and a 500 Startups Mentor specializing in media relations and PR. 

PR can be invaluable for startups — not only as a one-time bump in growth but also for long-term amplification of your good efforts.

In today’s post, Conrad talks about how startup can extend the PR halo beyond initial “buzz” and establish a foundation of thought leadership to influence customers and potential investors.

So your business doesn’t have an announcement but you’d still like some media coverage? Given the constant need to stand out from the host of other startups and businesses, it makes sense to promote your name and business as much as possible. After all, maintaining a public presence is an important factor of any successful business. But how can you make a media appearance when you haven’t got anything new to announce, or say?

As previously explained on the 500 Startups blog, good Public Relations – that is, PR – is all about honing in on a space and making it your own. Strong PR processes are upheld by two core pillars on which successful campaigns rely; announcements via press releases and guest articles. While we previously focused on press releases, it is important to recognize that PR is not just about announcing things. It is perfectly possible to build and maintain a credible public image by way of the second pillar of guest articles.

Guest articles help founders, CEOs and other business owners to become industry leaders in their own right. Establishing yourself as an authority on a given subject, or about a specific industry, is an excellent way of ensuring future press coverage and media attention later on.

But what’s the best way to write a guest article? And how can you ensure that you pitch it to the right publications?

How to Really Leverage Guest Articles

Guest articles serve as platforms to offer insight, opinions and advice, or even to weigh in on a current industry debate. As an example, if you have an accounting company, by authoring an article on where you see the accounting industry heading in the upcoming years, you position yourself as a thought leader in the space. You’ll also find that publications will be more likely to quote you in the future as your thoughts are online.

The scope of these articles are limited solely by your own knowledge, experience and, of course, your imagination.

Executed properly, guest articles draw attention to you and your business. They lay the foundations for solid social proof link – the means by which you build a strong reputation – and future media coverage. Being a known entity will help encourage media attention for later press releases and announcements.

True Thought Leadership

All guest articles need an original and interesting idea behind them in order to be successful – after all, nobody is going to read a re-hashed argument about something that has been discussed a hundred times already. This is what is known as thought-leadership. The aim of a guest article is to put forward your thoughts and opinions in an authoritative manner that establishes you and your business as a pioneer in your industry. As such, it is incredibly important to think about what you want to write and say; do your research beforehand.

Similarly, keep your article plan within your field of expertise. Sure, you might have a ton of opinions about who should be the next president of the United States but, if your expertise is about SaaS companies, no one is going to want to read them.

Remember to not be self-promotional as well. Think about what you know is happening in, or affecting, the industry that you work in. If you founded an accounting software startup, it would be too self-promotional to author an article about your company, however you can think about and discuss industry trends and/or problems, or what you have learned as a founder in this space, which will indirectly benefit your company.

If you don’t have any ideas for guest articles, we recommend starting by asking yourself these questions:

  • What are three things you’ve learned about your industry that you hadn’t known when you’d first started?

  • If you could give your best friend advice for your company’s industry, what would it be?

  • Which 3-5 trends do you see impacting your industry in the upcoming years?

An example topic for Entrepreneur Magazine is below:

 

Target for Publishing

Next you need to think about which publications you ultimately want this article to be published on. A scatter gun approach is not going to work here, and you won’t be able to have it published by more than one publication. In targeting your article, be realistic: if you’re company focus is a niche topic, it probably won’t be accepted on bigger or more mainstream publications. Most publications follow specific formats and look for certain lengths as well.

When targeting these publications think about your and their target audience. Are they compatible? If not, find a publication that is more closely aligned to the theme you are writing about. For example, if you are writing about advice for founders, pitch to a publication such as Entrepreneur Magazine. Don’t waste precious time chasing titles based on their name or size if they have nothing to do with your sector.

Send “On Spec”

Once you know what you want for your article, it’s time to start writing. It’s important to send a finished article to editors, not a draft, or an introductory email asking if you can write one. This is known as sending an article ‘on spec’. This means sending a full and completed article for editors or journalists to read and assess. I repeat, this does not mean sending a draft for feedback.

The people you end up pitching to do not have a lot of time, so don’t waste precious interactions by clumsily introducing yourself, or your idea.

A mistake first-time founders make is first writing to an editor with only an article idea, and then not receiving any responses back. You can pitch only article ideas down the road once you’ve established a relationship with an editor, but for your first article it is important to have it finished. Finish your article completely, then send it to potential publications. Which leads on to…

…Pitching

Pitching a guest article is different to pitching a press release. As previously mentioned, you will only be able to publish your guest article on one publication. If you send it to more than one and they both publish, prepare to be blacklisted for future articles.

In pitching the article, make sure to provide editors with a rundown of the argument and an introduction as to the background and expertise of the author. Do your homework and double check that the publications you reach out to have a track record of publishing guest articles and that your article is written in their house style.

Below is the email we sent to TechCrunch to ask if they would publish our guest article.

 

“A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words”

The old adage is true – by adding a photo of you and/or your team, you provide another layer for your audience to identify with. There are countless unidentifiable entrepreneurs and CEOs out there who could increase public awareness of their profile by publishing photos of themselves and their companies alongside their articles.

Images and videos are more powerful mediums of communication than text; using them alongside guest articles will only serve to boost the impression you are make to potential customers and investors.

With the proliferation of smartphones and other devices it has never been easier to take your videos or photos of you and your team. Still, if you want the ultimate professional touch, hire a photographer to take some photos of you and your team.

Sharing and Content Distribution

Like with successful press release pitches and the resulting news stories, once your guest article is published you need to share it far and wide. Social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook are great platforms to promote your newly published piece but you should also email your article to investors, clients and employees to further engagement. If you have a company blog, you can also post a link to your guest article there, ensuring that anyone visiting your website will also have a chance to see it.

Once your article is online we also recommend re-posting it on platforms such as Medium.com and LinkedIn. It is important to first publish the article on the publication, as a site will likely not publish your work if it knows it had earlier been published elsewhere.

Conrad Egusa is the CEO of Publicize and is a Mentor at 500 Startups, specializing in PR and the media. He periodically contributes to publications including TechCrunch and Forbes. Conrad was earlier a writer for VentureBeat, and prior to this founded an angel-investor backed startup in Silicon Valley.

How Might A Trump Presidency Impact Silicon Valley?

Editor’s Note: Today’s post is Part 1 of a two part series examining how the U.S. presidential race could affect Silicon Valley innovation, an ecosystem that’s affected by the United States’ international relations, immigration policy, and other political factors.

We have attempted to stay away from political preferences and present findings as publicly reported by the candidates themselves.

Part 2 will look at how a Clinton presidency could affect Silicon Valley, and will be published next week.

[Update, 8/14/16: Malcolm McGough, the Trump campaign’s California political director, contacted us after this was posted and confirmed that we stated the candidate’s views on these issues accurately.]

With 87 days left until the 2016 presidential election, we’re taking a look at how the candidates’ policies might impact innovation and the tech industry. In Part 1 today, we take a look at the potential impacts a Trump presidency could have on Silicon Valley.

(Full disclosure: I left a message with the Trump campaign’s San Francisco office, but they did not respond.)

1. Condense Tax Brackets, Raise Taxes On Carried Interest, Repatriate Overseas Tech Wealth

Donald Trump has called for sweeping changes to the tax code, starting with the elimination of federal income taxes on individuals who make less than $25K and couples who make under $50K. Additionally, he’s proposed condensing the existing seven tax brackets into three.

First-bracket earners would pay 12%, middle-bracket workers would pay 25%, and those at the top would pay 33%, instead of today’s 39.6%, said Trump, who also wants to raise the tax rate on carried interest — net capital gains passed through to a fund’s general partner and investment managers.

Today, carried interest is taxed at 23.8%: of that, 3.8% is an investment tax, and 20% is for net capital gains. Under the Trump plan, carried interest would be taxed at 33%, which would reduce earnings for VCs and portfolio managers.

In an August 8 address to the Detroit Economic Club, Trump described the Carried Interest Deduction as one of several “special interest loopholes that have been so good for Wall Street investors, and people like me, but unfair to American workers.”

The New York-based real estate magnate said he would lower the top tax rate for business income from 35% at 15% and would also encourage US corporations to repatriate “trillions” of dollars kept in offshore banks. “Our plan will bring that cash home, applying a 10 percent tax,” said Trump.

An estimate by Moody’s Investor Service said $504 billion of the $1.7 trillion in overseas cash US firms held in 2015 was in the accounts of five tech companies: Apple, Cisco, Microsoft, Oracle and Alphabet. If a President Trump could convince these titans to bring those dollars home, the funds could be used for stock buybacks, increased dividends, R&D, distro, and much more.

2. Proposed Immigration Rule Could Ban Startup Founders From US

Although he initially called for an immediate halt to all immigration from countries with majority Muslim populations, Trump has since broadened his stance. This week, GOP Vice Presidential candidate Gov. Mike Pence said he and Trump now want “a temporary suspension of immigration from countries or territories compromised by terrorism.

Without a specific list of nations, it’s hard to predict how this might affect the US tech community, which has generally welcomed talent, regardless of one’s country of origin. It’s also unclear whether countries that have experienced terror attacks — such as the UK, France, Belgium, and Israel –would be impacted by this proposed policy.

3. Is Trump Anti-encryption?

It’s unclear whether Trump is opposed to tech firms offering encrypted products, but when Apple refused to help the FBI access an iPhone used by the perpetrators of the San Bernadino terror attack, Trump called for a boycott.

However, CNET revealed that Trump still holds between $1.1 and $2.25 million in Apple stock. Because the candidate hasn’t mentioned the issue since first raising it in May, it’s hard to determine exactly where he stands on encryption standards.

4. Tougher Stance on IP protection in China

According to Trump’s Detroit speech, “improved protection of America’s intellectual property in China would produce more than 2 million more jobs right here in the United States.”

Politico reports that Trump’s stats are from a 2011 International Trade Commission report that estimated 2.1 million new jobs and up to $107 billion in increased sales if China stepped up IP enforcement, but economists aren’t able to quantify the “specific impact of such a policy change.”

5. Make Tech Manufacturing Great Again

“We’re going to get Apple to build their damn computers in this country instead of other countries.”

In a January speech at Liberty University, Trump ended with a pledge:

“We’re going to get Apple to build their damn computers in this country instead of other countries.”

On several occasions, Trump has criticized firms like Ford and Carrier for shuttering US plants and reopening them in Mexico to lower labor costs. So far, his campaign has not provided a detailed proposal for attracting a large base of high-tech manufacturing jobs that can accommodate global demand for consumer tech.

Tech manufacturers tend to rely on lean supply chains to keep labor costs low and maximize profits, so it’s hard to imagine what incentive they’d have to stop ordering from China, where workers who assemble iPhones earn about $750/month with overtime, according to China Labor Watch.

Since launching his campaign, Donald Trump has continued to workshop policies after they’ve been announced, so it’s not entirely clear which of these ideas he’d attempt to codify. Legislators on both sides of the aisle have long resisted calls to boost capital gains rates, and when the state of Kansas exempted pass-through income from taxation, it blew a hole in the state’s budget. The candidate hasn’t shared details for his manufacturing plan, and many experts agree that his proposed immigration policies “defy the logic of science, engineering and law.”

While it’s impossible to know exactly how a Trump presidency would affect Silicon Valley, or the nation at large, we believe it’s important to look closely at self-reported pledges from each candidate to understand their impact on innovation, founders, and the investment ecosystem.

Stay tuned next week for Part 2: How would a Clinton presidency affect Silicon Valley?

The 7 (Pitching) Habits of Highly Effective Founders

Finding the right investors is like dating — you need to kiss many frogs before you find a prince.  

Today, I’m going to share seven ways fundraising founders can kiss fewer frogs and find more princes (subtle hint: Batch 19 applications are now open).

Habit 1 – Pitch to the Right Investors

Not all investors are created equal.

Some investors only invest in seed investments. Some investors only focus on Series A.  

Before approaching any investors, do your homework and make sure you go after the right target audience.

You can segment them with these 5 characteristics:

  1. Investment stages (seed, Series A, B, C, etc.)
  2. Check size (e.g. $50,000 – $150,000)
  3. How many deals has he or she done in past 6 months (you will find out how active this investor is)
  4. Industry focus (if any)
  5. Geography (most Silicon Valley investors would not invest outside of the Bay Area)

It is certainly quite rare to turn someone who isn’t already engaged in your industry or geography into someone who suddenly cares about what you’ve created.

Habit 2 – Pitch with Purpose

My colleague Andrea Barrica introduced me to this quote by Maya Angelou:

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

What do you want your potential investors walk away with after your pitch?

Keep that in mind and you very likely will change the story you tell and the way you tell it.

Habit 3 – Curate Your Story

It’s harder to tell a short than a long story.

It’s easy to tell your investors everything that’s happened in your life since you were 3, but whittling that down to what they really need to know is much harder — and much more compelling.

Don’t be lazy, or self-indulgent. Put in the extra 20% effort and curate only relevant and story that make you uniquely over qualify for your startup.

Habit 4 – Pitch like a Professional  

During your pitch, you need to convey two things: 1) why you are the most qualified person and 2) why investors should give you money now.  

Be sure to cover the following if you are ready, but always start with traction & demo if you have it.

Here are 11 things to cover:

  1. Traction, traction, traction
    1. Revenue
    2. User download
    3. User engagement
    4. Major signed partnerships
  2. Product demo (If you have it. You should have it.)
  3. Market size & target market
  4. Pain point
  5. Product
  6. Team (team, investors, advisors)
  7. Technology
  8. Business model
  9. Monetization model  
  10. Competition
  11. Market Trends

Habit 5 – Understand the Big Picture

Most founders I met are in love with their product.  

Unfortunately, as an investor, I don’t just want a person who is in love with himself or herself or their product.

I want a founder who truly understands how to create a business. You should be the one who can tell me everything about your competitors, market, legal environment or policy changes.

Habit 6 – 24 Hour Follow Up

After your first call or in person meeting, be sure to follow up within 24 hours and make sure to cover the following in your follow up email:

  • Thank them!
  • Your deck
  • Current traction
  • Team
  • Action items
  • Your ask
  • Ask for follow up meetings or phone calls

Habit 7 – Show Passion & Honesty

Building a startup is really, really hard work.

As an investor, I want to find someone who won’t back down when things get (even) harder, and is willing to do whatever it takes to make things happen.

A huge part of working hard — and knowing where to work harder — is knowing what isn’t working (yet).

Show your true self, and be honest. It’s ok to say, “I don’t know.” You don’t need to have all the answers, but you do need to have the strength of character and work ethic to figure it out.

The Hunt: How Startups WIN on Product Hunt

Product Hunt (PH) has become the de facto source for new and upcoming technology products.

Product Hunt win with Arka

If you get featured on the homepage, the next 24 hours could be glorious:

  • Thousands of site hits, a boost in customers
  • MOAR revenue
  • Massive brand awareness among target audience

Or, it could be an utter failure. You might get low conversion rates to your site, ghosted from the PH featured page and buried under your competitors.

You choose.

How to WIN at Product Hunt

I’ve helped companies like Indemand and Arka gain over 1,000 upvotes in less than 24 hours, which — with high conversion from PH to landing page — led to hundreds of new customers and thousands of revenue dollars in just a few days.

Don’t worry, it’s a repeatable process. Here’s the step-by-step recipe for how to gain traffic and conversions from Product Hunt.

#1 Gather the important information

Ok, this sounds boring, but if you want someone to post you on PH, the person should be relevant to you and you should build that relationship before making the ask.

I post about things that get me excited, as well as for 500 Startups and AngelPad companies because I’m a part of those communities.

Here’s the info you should gather and customize to fit PH.

  • The date to post
  • Category (Tech/Games/Books/Podcasts)
  • Product name
  • Website
  • Catchy tagline (40 characters or less)
  • Blurb on why I think the product is awesome (I’ll write this as the hunter, but helpful thoughts are encouraged)
  • Special offers for the cat-loving PH community (optional)
  • Links to 1-2 recent articles (optional)
  • Platforms and tags (ex: web, developer tool, transportation)
  • Media (one for icon, one for header)
    • I highly recommended you customize your images for PH. Here’s an example from Arka:

custom image product hunt arka

  • Status (available now vs pre-launch)
  • Twitter handles of founders (to be added as PH Makers and tweeted out — Twitter promotion is 🔑 )

The above fields are from the PH hunt form and the PH product page itself. The ‘Hunt a Product’ form does change from time to time, but here’s what it looks like today.

Screen Shot 2016-07-11 at 11.39.40 AM

#2 Use the power of social network effects

Find a strong PH influencer to post you and follow that person (in this case, me).

tristan pollock product hunt influencer

Then have your team and friends follow the hunter as well. This amplifies your post reach because all followers are notified when a product is hunted, and if they upvote/share, their followers are notified with a PH alert. And on and on.

Extra points if you have a strong collection built around your business and can get the collection creator to add you. I like to post about 500 Startups, ViceTech (experiences), Frontier Tech, Digital Nomads, and Music (and creativity) in my collections.

Collections can be picked up and promoted by PH at any time. An example is my Comedy collection that was featured on the PH email newsletter. This can give your PH post longevity, in addition to the norm of using upvotes to rank highly for specific keywords.
Screen Shot 2016-07-11 at 11.45.16 AM

#3 Post at midnight, because timing is everything

This is key.

Hunting a product at midnight gives you a full 24 hours on the front page.

You also get another 24 hours on the Yesterday page that sits right below the Today featured feed on the home page. 95% of upvotes occur in the first 24 hours.

To make sure I’m in sync with the Maker when hunting the product, I ask them to:

  1. Send me an calendar invite for 11:30pm-12:30am for the day we are hunting with all hunting information included
  1. Comment on the post immediately after it is live. Here you should mention that you are the founder and here to answer questions (the more PH community engagement the better)
  1. Share with your personal and business networks. Usually if you are the top post by 9AM PST (aim for 100-150 upvotes) then you are in good shape for the rest of the day. Here’s a sample message you can send out:

Hi Friend – help us squish it on Product Hunt this morning!

To upvote [MY PRODUCT] follow these instructions:

1/ Go to the producthunt.com homepage.

2/ Find [MY PRODUCT] and upvote (note: if you are in a shared office space with others upvoting, use a different IP address by using your mobile device with Wifi turned off and you’ll get a more powerful upvote).

3/ Add a comment about why you love us, or a question about the product (the more engagement we have the more visibility we get).

4/ Share to your own networks via Twitter/Facebook/text/email (get creative with email lists, friends, family, accelerators, etc).

Much love,

YOU

#4 Focus on engagement and conversion will come

image

Arka saw a spike to their landing page that peaked 24 hours in, and lasted four days total with about 10% of traffic remaining over the next two weeks. Over 120 new customers paid for their product.

arka conversions

Indemand saw an even larger increase in traffic and customers, including:

  • Users. An increase of 7,000 unique visitors with their user base growing by 25% just through Product Hunt. About 15% of the total uniques churned.
  • Revenue. Over $150k worth of custom deals came through Product Hunt, plus an increase of MRR by $5k. This happened over the first 5 days after the hunt.

I attribute their success to these factors in order of importance:

  1. Product Hunt community. At the end of the day, the most successful products on PH fit the community, which is still majority tech oriented, and come from Hunters/Makers who participate in the community, write thoughtful comments, and have been engaging on the platform over a longer period of time. The Indemand founders fit this mold and so did their product.
  1. Hustle hard. The Arka and Indemand teams did everything possible to bring awareness to their hunt from alerting their accelerator batch network to downloading their LinkedIn contacts to handing out candy on the street. They were determined, creative and very, very persistent.
  1. Hunter-Maker collaboration. If it isn’t clear already, I spend too much time on PH. As their Hunter, I worked closely with Arka and Indemand to improve their content, share it to additional communities I have access to (e.g. accelerators, personal networks), and, of course, have competitive fun in the process.
  1. Timing. Post between 12am-2am. No excuses. Indemand pulled an all-nighter to monitor questions, comments, and fuel the hunt.

#5 A note on external factors

There are always things you can’t control.

For example, if a new product by Google is hunted the same day as your product it will draw attention away from you. Or the fact that less people are engaged on PH from Friday to Monday, so you probably want to avoid those days. Some of these factors you can plan for. Others you can’t, but if you follow the above steps, you should be able to gain healthy initial exposure, but always make sure to be respectful of the Product Hunt community rules by reading their FAQs.

Lastly, if you haven’t used PH often, it’s best to get involved, comment, ask questions, upvote products you like, and talk with other Hunters before hunting your own product. Give before you receive. It’s called cat power. 😻

product-hunt

Tristan is a Venture Partner at 500 Startups, follow him on Twitter here.

4 Steps Every Startup Must Take To Build Culture, Compete for Talent, and Win

I talk to brilliant founders every day who are 100% focused on growing their company.

They’re solving problems and improving their business at light-speed, turning their great idea into an even better company. Unfortunately, a lot of them have the same blind spot:

They don’t understand company culture.


Having a strong culture doesn’t mean you have a beautifully designed office or that you offer your employees unlimited vacation days or catered lunches.

Culture, at its core, is the way your team works together. In other words, it’s not about the perks.

When your culture is strong, your team is deeply connected and each member takes personal ownership over their own little piece of the company. This commitment is what powers successful startups and it can be incredibly difficult to instill.

To help you along the way, I’ve broken down 4 critical steps to growing a strong company culture.

1. Grow Your Culture By Design

You need to plan your culture in advance.

As a startup, things are constantly in flux. A higher up will leave early on, a feature you thought was brilliant will tank, and as you tumble through these peaks and valleys you’ll hit upon some genius ideas and pivot your company accordingly.

It is very easy for these fluctuations to make team members feel uncertain. It’s up to you as a founder to instill certainty in them by having a strong culture in place before problems arise. Knowing how they will deal with whatever comes next—and trusting their teammates to help—makes this much less uncertain.

Think of Facebook’s now-cliche “Move fast and break things” motto. It doesn’t tell team members what they’ll be working on. Instead, as former Facebook employee Sarah Smith says, the motto told team members “to take risks and not think too much about every potential consequence knowing that if something failed, it would be okay.”

So if a developer built and launched a new feature in a few days only to find that it crashed the Facebook site, it was okay. That sort of reckless, rapid innovation was at the core of Facebook’s culture and everyone bought into it.

Planning a strong culture in advance requires you to answer several questions, including:

  • What does your decision-making process look like? Do individual team members have the power to “move fast and break things,” or do they need your approval first?
  • What is the top priority in your work? Are you customer-centric, or do you have a growth-at-all-costs mindset?
  • How does your team communicate? Slack? In person? Email? Does all communication need to be transparent and visible to the whole team?
  • What is the team’s relationship with each other? Do you have team events, or do you keep work and personal life completely separate? What about for remote workers?

Having this in place before problems arise is critical to growing a successful company.

2. Recruit What You Don’t Have—Not Just More Of The Same

attachment-2

It’s easy to get tunnel vision once you have a clear picture of your company culture. You imagine your ideal employee and you begin recruiting people who fit that template perfectly.

The problem is that you have shortcomings and you need to recruit people who compensate for them. If you’re only recruiting one type of person, you are not creating a team with a diverse skill set who can cover for and complement each other.

For example, if you have a sales rep on your team and are hiring a second, recruit someone who complements your current staff. If your current sales rep has an analytical personality, try to recruit someone who is more creative.

Hiring for your weaknesses is trickier than it sounds because it requires you to be hyper-aware of your own shortcomings and blind spots. To do it well, you have to constantly audit yourself, your team, and your hiring process.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Are you using a diverse set of recruiting channels, or are you recruiting exclusively from similar groups? For example, are you only posting to job boards frequented by people with a certain background?
  • If you had every team member write down their biggest weakness, what would be the most common answer? Have you hired someone who is strong in that area?
  • Are there any areas you give less attention to because they don’t fit your skill-set or you find them less interesting? Have you hired someone to delegate them to?

It’s tricky to be aware of your blind spots, but it’s critical to building the right team.

3. Manage Your Cultural Carriers

There are two kinds of authority in a company. Founders, project managers, team leaders, etc. all have official authority and define your company’s culture as part of their job. On the other hand, there are always going to be unofficial cultural carriers on any team.

Some people are charismatic, some people are persuasive. Who are these people on your team?

Look around and develop your awareness of WHO the unofficial carriers are, and their effects on your team.

Let’s say you have an all-hands meeting each morning. If you and everyone in a leadership position show up on time every day, it sets the tone that punctuality is expected. However, if an unofficial cultural carrier shows up late for the meeting consistently, other people will begin to follow suit.

Sometimes managing these unofficial carriers means sitting them down and talking to them about your company culture and their role in it. You want their buy-in, because they can be a huge benefit to your culture.

When your team hits a tough obstacle, it is a huge help to have an unofficial carrier on the team who embodies your company culture and is 100% committed to pushing forward. They will drive their team to do the same.

4. Hire The Same Way You Date

Hiring someone solely because their CV qualifies them for the job is a mistake. You need to know they communicate in a way that fits your culture, that they enjoy the sort of environment you’re cultivating, and that they have a mentality about work that jives with your company.

To figure out if candidates really fit your company culture, you have to get to know them on a more personal level.

There a number of ways to do this:

  • Have them eat lunch with the company.
  • Invite them to a team social event.
  • Take a long walk with them after the interview.

Anything that puts you in a situation with them outside the context of an in-office interview is going to give you a more complete picture of how they interact and whether they’ll fit your culture.

This isn’t just about making sure your company culture stays strong. It’s also about being fair to the candidate and your team. Bringing someone on who is destined to struggle with your company’s culture sets them up for failure, and forces an unnecessary burden on your team.

Your Culture Is Your Biggest Advantage

As a startup, you have to build and keep a rockstar team to succeed. This means you’re frequently going to go head-to-head with bigger companies for the best candidates. You won’t be able to offer them the same salary or perks as a giant company. All you have to sell them on is your culture.

But this can be to your advantage. Having a strong culture means creating bonds of trust between your team members and this creates loyalty to your company. You may not be able to bribe your team members with retreats and office dogs, but you can create a culture that connects your team on a much deeper level.

To hear more from Louise, follow her on Twitter at @louise_kinglui

Should You Take the Offer? A Growth Marketers’ Framework to Climbing the Startup Career Ladder

This post comes from Alex Nucci, VP of Growth at ClutchPrep, a company that provides textbook-specific videos and tutoring in science subjects to college students. Under Alex’s guidance, ClutchPrep has tripled their MRR over the past 8 months.

8 months ago, I hit a crossroads.

About to choose my next career move, it wasn’t clear to me which option was best. They were all great, but there was definitely a better one to pick (there always is).

I created a list of things that one considers when making a decision like this. The idea was to put them all in perspective with what my long term goals were, as opposed to being lured in by what might be a short term win.

After spending some time grouping and prioritizing, I placed all of the reasons into buckets. I then used them to help me score my choices.

The way I see it, these are the most important ranking factors when choosing the path to level-up within your vocation.

The buckets are career oriented, and do not take into account a whole slew of other preferences or situations. Culture fit, health, family, location…these variables are more intimate in nature. It would be hard to give advice on them without some context.

Additionally, experience and age should also play a big role in how you choose what’s most important to you. Where you are on your career trajectory is somewhat subjective, and how you weigh each of the buckets should depend on that. Self awareness is key.

Everyone should rank them differently, depending on how career vs lifestyle vs risk-averse oriented they are.

In no particular order, the buckets are:

Mentorship 💭

Do you deeply respect the team or leaders at this company?

Working alongside the right people can greatly accelerate your career trajectory. The inverse is also true; working with the wrong ones can add years to that journey.

Pick your sources of experience and inspiration wisely — more so when building a foundation.

Assuming equally willing mindsets and difficulty levels, It’s harder to unlearn something than it is to learn it. Quitting a bad habit is more challenging than picking up a new good one.

This is probably the most undervalued bucket — at least it comes up less frequently when others say why they chose a job.

I would advise anyone under 25 to make this their top deciding factor. Pick the absolute best person or team that will hire you, and take that job regardless of anything else.

Passion 🔥

This job fulfills you, at least right now, at a personal level. Doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks, this shit feels good.

Become passionate about things that line up with your skills and strengths.

Passion can represent itself in a job through one of more of these:

  • Cause
  • Industry
  • Company
  • Position

If you’re lucky enough, you’ll find something that hits on all four.

I have mixed feelings on choosing a career path based on passion. It’s hard to tell someone to not do what they’re passionate about, yet the reality is that it’s hard to line up passion with skill. It’s also likely that once you do what you’re passionate about day-in and day-out, you’ll lose interest in it…it’ll become routine and no longer fulfilling (this happened to me).

A more interesting (and less common way) of choosing based on passion, while having a successful outcome, is to become passionate about things that line up with your skills and strengths.

If people tell you that you argue too much, you might be a good lawyer 🙂

Compensation 💰

Two main versions of this:

1. Pays above average for that particular job description

2. It’s the best paying job offer you’ve gotten

Ideally, if this bucket is having considerable weight on your decision, it’s being used as a tie-breaker. A reason to pick one out of a few jobs that are very similar and fulfill you in the same ways.

Odds are, that if the job doesn’t also hit on a few more buckets that you value, you should stop considering that opportunity. When given a chance between learning or earning, choose learning and maximize that opportunity. Especially early on in your career.

There are exceptions, of course. Like taking a job that you expect to last <6 months. Or the extra money brings in some needed flexibility that allows you to plan or fund your next move.

Flexibility 🔓

By taking this job, you can work on your side project. Or take that night coding bootcamp. Or start working part-time on something that gets you closer to your ultimate goal.

Or put in time at the non-profit you’re passionate about.

Flexibility without a clearly defined ulterior motive, though, is just comfort. And comfort stagnates progress.

In most cases, this will be a temporary position or solution, and ideally matches well with the compensation bucket. Lining up both should give you the needed time and resources for your real career to take off soon enough.

Flexibility without a clearly defined ulterior motive, though, is just comfort. And comfort stagnates progress.

Security 🛡

Working for the government. Or a Fortune 500. Or an organization that’s been around for decades.

You know that you’re (relatively) set for a long time. That the health insurance is great. That you’ll do good so long as you work the system.

This position, at this company, makes you feel set and secure. You’re comfortable.

I almost fell asleep while writing about this bucket.

Stage Experience 🚀

See what it’s like to be part of the early days of a startup. Learn about corporate structure. Strap onto a rocket ship that’s about to go from 30 to 100 employees.

You might want to see if it’s what you really think it is. Or if you’re a good fit at a company this size. Maybe it’s about getting first-hand experience, so that you can learn to sell to companies at that stage.

This is somewhat similar to mentorship, in that you’re looking for learning experiences, or validation, on something that will make you better at your ultimate goal.

Industry Experience + Networking ⛓

If you already know what industry you want to be a part of, you’ll ideally take positions that help you get to know how things work. Or meet the people that shape it.

The goal of this is to come out of this with a mix of 30% what you know and 70% who you know.

Having people that trust and believe in you is great. Having those people be inside of your industry is even better.

Creative Freedom 💡

Do you want to draw the map or steer the ship?

Do you want to take the risk of creating the something new from scratch, or do you want to manage an existing process and/or execute on it to perfection?

You might be able to create, manage and execute early on. As you scale, however, it’s likely you’ll only get to focus on two of them.

No matter how much you like everything else about the job, if you can’t see yourself executing on someone else’s ideas, you won’t be happy in the long run.

Same goes with putting yourself in a position that requires a lot of creativity, when what you really want is to execute on a clear vision.

Trophy 🏆

If you’re in finance, you spent some time at Goldman. If you’re in tech, you were a double-digit hire at Airbnb. Maybe you get to work at a multi-exit entrepreneur’s newest venture.

These are hard to come by, and very few people will turn down the opportunity. Even if they just plan on sticking with them for one year, and doing a right of passage.

It’s hard for this to not pay dividends. This stepping stone will likely make every step you take after it one much easier.

Applying this way of thinking led me to a clear choice. When I finished the list, I decided to join Clutch as VP of Growth.

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At the stage I was at, I weighed mentorship, stage experience and creative freedom above all else.

A few specific reasons:

1. Join a brilliant + dedicated team.

From the outside looking in, I could tell ClutchPrep was about to hit an inflection point on all fronts — team member count, revenue, product scale, experience — and I wanted to be part of that journey.

2. Tackle a real problem (textbooks) within a broken system (college education).

Clutch had just been accepted to 500 Startups Miami Distro Dojo Batch 1, and I was looking forward to going through a Growth-specific program with the rest of the team.

3. I get to do what I love most: grow revenue.

When it comes to your career, opportunity cost should be treated as the greatest cost of all.

If you are currently searching for something new, I hope this helps you find some clarity. If you’re not searching, but after reading this realize you are not hitting on the points that matter most to you, I hope this kickstarts a new search.

My advice: Go for the long term win. When it comes to your career, opportunity cost should be treated as the greatest cost of all.

We live in a time that you can pick, or at least try, anything that you want to do. More than ever, we have the luxury of being fulfilled through passion. You owe it to yourself to give it a shot.*

When you look back at the decision you made, it should be clear that it brought you further along to your ultimate goal. Regardless of what happened, how long it lasted, or if you changed direction.

If you made the choice based on a vision of your future self, you’ll be happy with it.

Thank you Bibi, Jenny, Johnny & Marcio for reading drafts + giving feedback.

* This paragraph was a great, almost-verbatim, point made by Marcio, Clutch’s CEO, while giving feedback on a draft.

To learn more about the Distro Dojo growth accelerator program, go here.

To join 500’s newsletter of daily growth marketing tips, go here.

Special thanks to ClutchPrep for contributing this post.