Venture Capital na teoria e prática [Portuguese]

[Editor’s Note] This is a guest post from Gabriela de Salles van der Linden, a participant in our recent Venture Capital Unlocked program at Stanford CPD. Gabriela has 10 years of work experience in the Brazilian venture capital industry, most recently as an executive partner of CRP Companhia de Participaçōes.

O que aprendi no curso da 500 Startups em conjunto com Stanford University

Quando tive conhecimento sobre o curso da 500 Startups em conjunto com Stanford University, o VC Unlocked, me perguntei se de fato um curso com tais características poderia ampliar minha visão depois de quase 10 anos trabalhando com venture capital no Brasil. Seria essa uma boa oportunidade para refletir e atualizar sobre o que está acontecendo sob uma perspectiva global?

Diversidade, Teoria e Prática

O curso une os  aprendizados do Vale do Silício à experiência internacional trazida pelos participantes – ao todo, foram 32 pessoas, das quais 74% de fora dos EUA. O ambiente não poderia ser mais adequado para propiciar um tempo de reflexão, discussão dos principais desafios e, em especial, ver na prática como esse ambiente foi construído e as principais mudanças e tendências.

Class at Venture Capital Unlocked

Pela primeira vez participei de um curso de educação executiva onde quase 50% dos participantes eram mulheres. Além disso, todos os continentes estavam muito bem representados com uma variedade de países, de Rússia ao Hawaii, de Austrália a África, passando também por Colômbia, Índia, China, México, Arábia Saudita. Aqui foi a maior riqueza da discussão – misturar os segredos de VC no Vale do Silício com as diferentes e riquíssimas experiências ao redor do mundo.

A parceria 500+Stanford foi uma ótima combinação entre teoria e prática. A experiência do time de Stanford foi implacável para traduzir o que aconteceu no Vale do Silício e seu histórico de inovação, não só em tecnologia mas também em formas de investimento. Em paralelo, a abordagem da 500 foi de mostrar como a empresa vem fazendo para se diferenciar neste mercado complexo e competitivo. Em sete anos, investiram em mais de 1,7 mil startups globalmente, hoje com três unicórnios no portfólio e dezenas de empresas com valuations que já atingem centenas de milhões de dólares.

Refletindo sobre o curso, não tenho dúvida que a educação é uma iniciativa fundamental para a construção de novos ecossistemas fortes de empreendedorismo, investimento e inovação. Viajar, fazer benchmark, aprender com os mais experientes e sob outras perspectivas é fundamental para vencer os inúmeros obstáculos na vida do venture capitalist. Sai do Brasil buscando essa oxigenação e volto mais convicta de alguns princípios básicos para a formação de negócios de sucesso.

Existe uma fórmula para o sucesso?

Os retornos extraordinários são para poucos. Poucos, porém existem e atuam com características próprias, únicas e que de fato os diferenciam. Embora não exista uma fórmula para o sucesso, alguns elementos são imprescindíveis. Dentre eles, os que acredito serem mais importantes são:

IT’S ALL ABOUT PEOPLE

Selecionar, desenvolver, cultivar relações saudáveis e transparentes. Um time que se entende e compartilha dos mesmos princípios e visões é fundamental para trilhar esta jornada.

O melhor time é construído com alinhamento de valores, princípios e uma complementaridade muito forte.  A formação do time resulta na reputação da empresa. O dia a dia, desde os primeiros contatos com os empreendedores, a condução das negociações e o acompanhamento das investidas vai refletir na forma como a empresa é vista, na atratividade dos empreendedores e investidores para a sustentabilidade do negócio.

Workshop at Venture Capital Unlocked

Nesse aspecto, tivemos a oportunidade de visitar a Andreesen Horowitz. Com uma equipe de mais de 150 pessoas, número bastante atípico para uma gestora puramente de VC, há um foco bastante forte em ter especialistas, time técnico de análise e suporte das investidas. Condição para poucos, considerando o custo para uma estrutura nestes moldes. Entretanto, a preocupação com a qualidade é tanta que um indicador relevante que monitoram é o NPS, o qual avalia  atendimento daqueles empreendedores que tiveram o processo declinado pelo fundo. Esses mesmos empreendedores podem ser amigos de um próximo empreendedor de sucesso ou mesmo virem a ser um em alguns anos. Mantenha a melhor reputação, sempre!

FOCO

É para muito poucos o benefício de ser muito bom em diversos mercados ou estágios. Se você não está neste seleto grupo, simplifique e foque.

A especialização – regional, setorial ou por estágio – nos coloca em outro patamar de conhecimento, com capacidade de identificar as transformações e direcionamentos do mercado. Nos permite a construção de uma rede de parceiros, conselheiros, advisors, executivos de ponta.

Tivemos a oportunidade de ouvir e aprender com a experiência de de convidados ao longo do curso. Gestores de VC e investidores anjo com teses bastante distintas como Andy McLoughlin, SoftTech VC, que investe em early stage, Renata Quintini, Lux Capital, focada em ciência e tecnologias emergentes, e Allen Taylor, Endeavor Catalyst. Em comum, todos afirmam: nós investimos naquilo que a gente conhece.

Renata Quintini

NETWORKING

O acesso às melhores oportunidades, aos melhores profissionais e investidores é a combinação de fazer muito bem o seu trabalho e conectar com as pessoas certas.

Seja em um mercado altamente promissor e competitivo ou naqueles ainda em desenvolvimento, com escassez de oportunidades, vence aquele que acessar primeiro as startups e tiver a capacidade de identificar o potencial – correr o risco na direção certa. Para isso, é fundamental ter uma agenda dedicada a constantemente conhecer pessoas, ouvir, trocar experiências, observar e ajudar.

Temos que manter os nossos bancos sempre muito bem atualizados, sejam de talentos – (CTOs, CFOs, CMOs, etc), de potenciais compradores e coinvestidores, sendo este último aqueles que irão participar do plano de crescimento da investida e ajudar a potencializar o retorno – seja por expertise técnica, atuação em novos mercados ou outra complementaridade de recursos.

Team Potluck at Venture Capital Unlocked

Conclusões

Desvendar os segredos do Vale do Silício é um exercício de constante inquietação e inspiração. É inegável a existência de características únicas desse ecossistema. Mas também é inegável a oportunidade que está sendo criada em novos mercados. Mercados grandes, com potencial consumidor ascendente e cada vez mais pessoas qualificadas para inovar e executar. O Brasil é, sem dúvida, uma destas oportunidades. Há dez anos, não falávamos em aceleradoras, rodadas de investimento, coinvestimento, etc… Hoje temos grupos de investidores anjo, aceleradoras e inúmeros fundos de venture capital que estão cada vez mais qualificados para a construção do nosso ecossistema de empreendedorismo, inovação e investimento de nível global. A jornada ainda é longa e desafiadora, mas vejo que estamos no caminho certo.

Obrigada 500 Startups pela oportunidade e pelo incentivo a educação e a diversidade, acredito nessas iniciativas, abertas e colaborativas, para a evolução do o venture capital no mundo.

Interested in learning more about early stage investing? Check out our next program, Venture Capital Unlocked: Deal Camp at Berkeley from October 23-26, 2017. Deal Camp is an intensive four-day course for investors who want to improve their ability to define, negotiate, and execute early-stage investments. Apply today

Growth Hacking the MENA Region

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Eat – eatapp.co

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

Edfa3ly – edfa3ly.co

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

 

Eventtus – eventtus.com

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

 

Mumm – getmumm.com

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

 

Ghinwa – ghinwa.com

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

 

 

Justmop – justmop.com

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

 

 

Meddy – meddy.co

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

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

 

Souq Al Mal – souqalmal.com

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

 

 

 

Taskty – taskty.com

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

Taskty services are guaranteed for quality at extremely competitive prices.

 

 

7 Marketing Secrets from 500 Startups Demo Days

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

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

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

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

1. Listen to Your Audience

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


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

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

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

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

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

 

2. Turn Challenges into Creative Advantage

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

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

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

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




3. Use Product-Launches to Rejuvenate Your Brand

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

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

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

4. Embrace Company Culture

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

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

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

 

5. Make It About Your People

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

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

6. Create Positive Emotion

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

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



 

7. Leverage Culture & History

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

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



Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

More from Yiying Lu: 


yiyinglu-profile-square

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

 

Geeks on a Plane ’17 Africa Recap

From March 20 – April 2, 500 Startups brought a group of 22 “geeks” to Africa for our 18th Geeks on a Plane (GOAP) tour. Over two non-stop weeks, the group of entrepreneurs, investors, and corporate executives got an in-depth look at the West and South African startup and investment ecosystems through events like accelerator visits, mentoring sessions, dinners with US ambassadors, pitching events, tech conferences, and evening meetups. Below is our summary, insights, and takeaways from the trip.

GEEKS ON A PLANE OVERVIEW >>

  • 3 countries & 4 cities (Lagos, Nigeria / Accra, Ghana / Johannesburg, South Africa / Cape Town, South Africa)
  • 43 events over 2 weeks (including accelerator visits, pitch competitions, intimate roundtable discussions, embassy dinners, red carpet events, and one helluva safari)
  • 22 ‘Geeks’ representing financial services/fintech, social impact investing, government, and venture capital
  • Connections to top investors/investment firms (like African Capital Alliance, Venture Garden Group, EchoVC, and Singularity Investments in Nigeria, Pave Investments and Chanzo Capital in Ghana, and 4di, Edge Growth, and AngelHub Ventures in South Africa)
  • Connections to public sector officials including the Nelson Mandela family, Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, US Embassy Charges d’ Affaires Jessye Lapenn, Ghana Ministry of Communication Liaison, the U.S. Consul General F. John Bray, Minister Naledi Pandor from the South African Department of Science and Technology, and Minister Rob Davies from the South African Department of Trade & Industry
  • Connections with local accelerators and entrepreneur communities (Andela, CCHub, Seedstars, MEST, Startup Grind Cape Town, Barclays Rise, Workshop 17, IBM Innovation Lab, Google Launchpad)
  • Over two dozen pieces of press coverage, including a TV interview by CNBC Africa and online article by TechCrunch

SEE ALL THE GOAP PRESS COVERAGE HERE

WHAT SOME GEEKS SAID >>

  • “GOAP was an intense road trip with some incredible people. It’s a strong mix of networking, learning and having fun. The access to local tech leaders was very valuable and made it easy to build up a picture of what’s really happening in Africa” – Itai Damti, CEO Asia Pacific, Leverate
  • “Geeks on a Plane has contributed significantly to my personal and professional development. GOAP creates a context to make great new friends, insights, and opportunities. Anyone interested in really understanding the global investment and entrepreneurship landscape should consider becoming a geek!” – Dave Troy, CEO, 410 Labs
  • “RippleWorks only works with the best social ventures in the world. GOAP short-circuited the time it took me to meet great entrepreneurs and ventures that have a legit shot to build a great business AND make the world a better place.” – Doug Galen Co-Founder & CEO RippleWorks

INSIGHTS >>

VIEW ALL THE GOAP AFRICA FUN WITH MORE PHOTOS FROM LAGOS, ACCRA, AND SOUTH AFRICA 

THANK YOU TO OUR REGIONAL HOST:
THANK YOU TO OUR COUNTRY HOSTS:
THANK YOU TO OUR GHANA COMMUNITY PARTNERS:
THANK YOU TO OUR SOUTH AFRICA COMMUNITY PARTNERS: 
 
WANT MORE 500? DON’T MISS OUR UPCOMING EVENTS.

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

 

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

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

The MENA Team

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

Sharif El-Badawi
Sharif El-Badawi

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

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

Who Are We Working With?

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

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

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

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

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

Why Are We Doing This?

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

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

Top 5 Reasons MENA is a Must Bet

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

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

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

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

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

Indonesia Team Expands with Ashraf Sinclair as Latest Venture Partner

We welcome Ashraf Sinclair to the 500 Startups Southeast Asia team (also known as 500 Durians)  to help find and select the next wave of Indonesia investments. I personally relocated to Indonesia for close to a year now, in an effort to significantly deepen our coverage in Indonesia, and this is the first of more new 2017 hires to be announced.

Ashraf is known locally as a celebrity actor. Aside from Ashraf’s career in the entertainment industry, he is also a seasoned business person, having started restaurants, gyms, content and production agencies, and most recently co- produced a sold out 3,500 person solo concert for his wife, Bunga Citra Lestari, Indonesia’s Award Winning Singer Actress.

I’ve know him for the past 4 years. I referred Ashraf his first startup investment, Korean cosmetics company Althea, to invest in as an angel.

After seeing how Ashraf thinks, moves, and adds value to a startup, I knew I wanted to work with him more. I want the startup industry to leverage the world of mass media and trends, something the local entertainment industry understands well. Ashraf can be this bridge.

There is immense alignment with his ambitions to use the network he has gained in the entertainment industry to support and build the next generation of Indonesian “creatives”. The enormous Indonesian market wants more than just entertainment. They want products, services, and solutions that calls for a new generation of entrepreneurs to provide. 500 gives Ashraf a platform to do this faster, at a larger scale.

I expect a lot of the new, game changing startups to come from outside the tech startup echo chamber. The startup industry in Indonesia is booming. But it is still relatively new compared to the entertainment industry in the region. Many entrepreneurs building real businesses across the country may not have heard of venture capital, but they would’ve heard of Ashraf.

Ashraf’s next order of priority is to deploy capital from 500 Durians Fund II into Indonesian startups, alongside myself and 500 Startups Partner Vishal Harnal.

500 Startups is no stranger to investing in Indonesia, having invested in over 30 companies in the country, including Bukalapak, Kudo, Bro.do, HIJUP, Kredivo, and others.

Much of 500’s Southeast Asian portfolio of 120+ companies have expanded operations into Indonesia. Any regional startup will want to get a foothold of Greater Jakarta’s 25 Million Facebook savvy population, and the cities beyond Jakarta. And they have all set up operations here. And that’s why we want to do what we can to help them win Indonesia.

Ashraf Sinclair

The Build Up to Batch 20 Demo Day

It’s two weeks out from Batch 20’s demo day and the energy is building in the 500 Startups San Francisco office, also known as 500 Del Norte.

Startup team members are flying in from around the world to join their founders in the office in preparation for the flower-power themed extravaganza that is a 500 Demo Day (yes, the theme is ‘Summer of Love’).

Thirty-six percent of Batch 20 hail from countries outside of the US, including Thailand, Hong Kong, Latvia, Estonia, Brazil, Britain, Australia, Russia, Ukraine, Nigeria, India, Canada and France. We also had our first team from Belarus in Batch 20, FriendlyData, a natural language interface for databases, who recently topped the 2017 charts on ProductHunt.

(You can see the growing number of B20 companies hunted on ProductHunt here, as well as a full list of all 44 companies on TechCrunch.)

The move to the US has proved fruitful for other international teams as well. Russian startup VisaBot has quickly reacted to the current immigration environment and is helping hundreds of US immigrants access services via their chatbot and previously Latvia-based Funderful opened their San Francisco office while signing UC Berkeley and Rhodes Scholars as clients since their move to the Bay Area in January for the 500 Seed Program.

With the addition of the full teams, the office is packed, hot and buzzing. Pitches are heard whisping through the air almost 24/7. Founders crowd around war room tables in meeting rooms named after the 15 of the most populous cities in the world.

Furniture is pulled left and right in an ever changing landscape. White boards turn into art pieces of partially erased mysteries. It’s the true beauty of the world’s most active accelerator in full bloom.

Pitch prep continues into the night more often than naught. Drinks are poured to cool off from the sweat equity spent. VC office hours are sprinkled throughout every day now. Post-it notes line the doors with names like Accel, A16Z, Bessemer, and FundersClub.

Fireside chats continue weekly from the likes of Silicon Valley’s best: Jason Lemkin, Andrew Chen, Scott Farquhar, co-founder of Atlassian, and Ken Lin, the founder of CreditKarma, one of 500’s unicorns. There’s a constant need to be on the top of your game. Founders become well versed in disguising their few hours of sleep in energetic sentences.

But it’s all worth it in the end. After four months of growth, preparation, practice, Marketing Hell Week, investors, experts, Sales Hell (no one said this was easy), office hours, batch self-made videos, and more late nights than one can count, everything coalesces in the grandeur of a 500 demo day. An event that never stays the same.

From flash mobs to rap battles to a fireside chat with Mattermark founder Danielle Morrill while Dave wore a unicorn wig to Demoween, there will always be surprises in store for the audience of 450+ investors.

So, we hope to see you there. The next generation of tech companies is waiting for you.

Apply to attend 500 Startups Batch 20 Demo Day here.

Announcing Diversity Scholarship for VC Unlocked with Stanford CPD

Diversity is in our DNA 

Anyone familiar with 500 Startups knows diversity is one of our core values. 

We are concerned with the current “mostly male, mostly white” panorama in the VC world. According to TechCrunch, only 7% of senior partners at the top 100 venture firms are women and less than 1% are black or hispanic.*

At 500 Startups, our team comes from more than 20 countries, and we have invested in startups in over 50 countries. About half our team is female, and more than half are people of color. About half of us like peanut butter and jelly; the other half thinks disco dancing is still cool.

We look and act different from most other venture capitalists, and we kinda like it that way. Our founders are also diverse; we work hard to discover and invest in people who come from many different walks of life.

The most diverse (and the craziest) team of unicorn hunters in Silicon Valley

Diversity Multiplier Effect

In the past, we have offered scholarships to VC Unlocked to people traditionally overlooked in the VC world. Their participation in the program helped them catapult their careers in venture to success. Here are just a few examples:

Arlan Hamilton – Arlan became the first black woman to launch a syndicate on AngelList after participating in our program in 2014,  Her fund focuses on  black, latino, gay or female entrepreneurs.

Katherine HagueKatherine launched Female Funders after taking our program. Its an online community where female angel investors can get inspired, learn, network, and invest. The organization’s mission to empower 1000 women to make their first angel investment.

Pocket Sun and Elizabeth GalbutAfter meeting each other in our inaugural 2014 class, Pocket and Elizabeth co-founded SoGal Ventures, the first female-led millennial venture capital firm.

Pocket and Elizabeth, co-founders of SoGal Ventures

We are proud of all of our past scholarship recipients, who have used the knowledge and network they acquired in the program to really start tipping the scales in the venture ecosystem. 

We want to continue to be part of the solution.

Scholarship Details

This year, we will once again be offering ten 12K scholarships for VC Unlocked: Secrets of Silicon Valley Investing.

We run this two-week executive education program for investors in partnership with Stanford Center for Professional Development. It will take place July 24 – Aug. 4th, 2017 in Palo Alto, CA.

The scholarships are earmarked for accredited investors who have been traditionally under-represented in the VC industry, especially women and/or ethnic minorities.

We are looking to identify individuals who will use the knowledge learned in the program in order to build diverse innovation ecosystems in and around their community.

To qualify, applicants should fill out the main application form as well as the additional scholarship application on the program website: education.500.co/stanford. The scholarship application requires a short essay and a video about participation in the program will benefit the applicant’s community. 

*https://techcrunch.com/2015/10/06/s23p-racial-gender-diversity-venture/

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.