What is 500 Startups?
We’re a seed fund that runs a kickass accelerator program. We run our accelerator program twice a year, offering hands on programming, office hours, mentorship, bootcamps, and the tools you need to blow up your startup. Additionally, we invest in startups outside of our accelerator, host conferences and events such as unSEXY, Inbox Love, Geeks on a Plane, and more. Head to 500.co to learn more about us.
Does 500 Startups actually invest in its accelerator companies? If so, how much do you invest?
Yes, every startup accepted into our accelerator program receives an investment of $50,000 for 5% equity. For companies who’ve raised more than $250K prior to joining the accelerator, we typically split the terms on the $50K. ($25K on our accelerator terms, $25K on your existing round terms)
Does it cost money to participate in the accelerator program?
Yes, we charge program fees for each company going through the program. These fees help to cover the costs of running the program and should be thought of like a tuition (vs. office rent). For the Fall 2013 batch, the program fees are $15,000 (USD) per company.
How do I get into the 500 Startups accelerator program?
Apply through AngelList. If you don’t have one already, create an AngelList profile and apply through our AngelList page.
Is there anything else I can do to increase my chances of being accepted?
We highly value recommendations from our network. This includes mentors and founders from the 500 family. We trust people in our network to help us filter, evaluate, and find the type of companies that fit our investment thesis. Not all opinions are weighed the same, and careful referrals with a lot of thought and consideration are weighed more heavily. A referral like, “Hey, meet my friend X! Thx!” won’t get you very far.
What’s the accelerator program like?
It’s a fast-paced program with ~30 startups hosted at 500 headquarters in Mountain View for 4 months. Week to week, you’ll be exposed to a number of awesome talks, office hours, events, and hands-on mentorship in distribution, customer acquisition, metrics, design and UX, fundraising, PR, business development, and more. We take our accelerator batches on field trips to platform companies like Google, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. At the end of the program, we hold Demo Days in Mountain View, San Francisco, and New York. During Demo Days, the accelerator startups pitch to potential investors, partners, and press. To see what it’s like, watch this video.
When is the deadline to apply for the Fall 2013 Accelerator batch?
Friday August 16st, at 11:59PM Pacific. Apply on our AngelList page.
What is the timeline for the application process?
-Applications will open Tuesday, July 16th at 9:00AM Pacific and remain open until Friday, August 16th at 11:59PM Pacific.
-We’ll be reviewing applications and reaching out to promising companies throughout the application process, including interviews. We’ll likely be doing interviews August 26 – September 5. Decisions will likely be made during the week of September 9.
-The first day of the Fall 2013 batch will be October 7.
Notice we used “likely” a lot? These dates are all subject to change, but those are what we’re shooting for.
What are the dates for the next 500 Accelerator Batch?
The next accelerator class will begin on October 7, 2013 (estimate) and conclude sometime in January.
What type of companies does 500 Startups look for?
Generally, we look for the following:
-Strong cross-functional team: A solid team is the foundation for all great companies. We usually look for a small cross-functional team with the combination of technical skills, design talent, marketing know-how (“Hacker, Hustler, Designer”). We look for smart, passionate people who work well together (and have known each other for a long time), and are driven to solve problems for a target customer group.
-Investment themes: The following are our major investment themes. We’ve also included examples of 500 companies that fall under that theme. You’ll also find that many companies may fall under more than one theme:
–Consumer & Commerce (ex. zozi, 9GAG, Ipsy)
–SMB / SaaS (ex. LucidChart, Recurly, Crocodoc)
–Family Tech (ex. ecomom, Kiwi Crate, Red Tricycle)
–Education (ex. Udemy, MindSnacks, Chalkable)
–Marketing / Distribution services (ex. Wildfire, FanBridge, Reachli)
–Video Content & Infrastructure (ex. Zencoder, Virool, Vungle)
–Language / International (ex. Gengo, Babelverse, Language Cloud)
–Mobile / Tablet (ex. Elacarte, SearchMan, AppStack)
–Financial Services / Payments (ex. Credit Karma, ReadyForZero, Simple)
–Food Tech (ex. Kitchit, LoveWithFood)
-Functional product that solves a problem for a specific target customer: We have a strong preference for companies whose products are launched and have demonstrated some usage validation (beyond just friends and family). The product should address a problem for a specific target customer and rely primarily on scalable methods of distribution, particularly using online platforms (search, social, mobile, local).
-Real customers (and better yet, some revenue too): We don’t expect companies to have millions of customers or dollars in revenue, but showing promising traction that proves usage validation and that you’re approaching (or at) product market fit is key. At minimum, we want to see small but measurable usage – some customers, some revenue.
-Simple revenue model: We prefer simple and straightforward revenue models. Examples include subscription, lead generation, transaction/SaaS, etc.
-Capital-efficient businesses: We look for companies that can be operational with less than $1M in funding.
-Rely primarily on internet-based, scalable distribution: We have a preference for companies that rely on scalable, online forms of distribution. So that might mean search via Google, social via Facebook and Twitter, mobile via Apple and Android, etc.
What will I get out of being in the 500 Accelerator Program?
-Mentorship: One of the biggest benefits of going through the 500 Startups Accelerator program is having access to knowledgeable mentors. As founders going through the program, you will have access to the 500 Partners, seasoned entrepreneurs, experienced investors, or individuals with considerable expertise in their field to give feedback and offer you guidance. We also host numerous talks and fireside chats. These speakers include top domain experts on important topics such as distribution, design, data, fundraising, and more. Learn more through this video.
-500 Network: The 500 Startups network (which we often refer to as the “500 Family”) consists of over 600 company founders and over 200 mentors. They come from diverse backgrounds, expertise, and locations. You’ll be connected to a growing list of engineers, designers, marketers, and founders from not just Silicon Valley or other parts of the U.S., but also markets in Europe, Brazil, Mexico, India, China, Japan, Russia, and more. It is a tight-knit community that actively communicates with each other and provides support.
-Brand and PR: In less than 3 years, 500 Startups is already ranked as one of the top 5 accelerator programs worldwide and one of the most active seed stage investors in the universe. The 500 brand draws an impressive group of people, ranging from investors, platform partners, press, and even the occasional celebrity. In addition, we run events and conferences throughout the year that are consistently sold out. We always like to feature our own 500 family at these events. All of this means great exposure and visibility for your company.
-Funding: Accelerator companies receive $50K in funding for 5% of the company. We also double down on companies (invest more money) where we think things are working.
-Office space: We have a 10,000 sq ft office space in Mountain View with the best views of Silicon Valley:
During your time in the accelerator, you will work in our office along with about 25-35 other startups. The space fosters collaboration and camaraderie between teams and founders; everyone offers help, advice, encouragement, and support to help others succeed. Previous classes have likened it to the most awesome summer camp they’ve ever attended.
-Fun: The 500 culture is best described in one hashtag: #500STRONG. This means collaboration and support for everyone in the 500 Family, creativity, taking risks, openness, and moving quickly – even if it means falling flat on your face. We embrace failure, as long as you learn from it. In the 500 Accelerator, we want you to push yourself past your comfort zone and take your company to the next level. You’ll be working hard, but we also believe in “fun at all costs.” Our startups have danced to Thriller, created awesome videos (like Sh*t 500 Says, The Funding Games and Thrifty Startup), and often spend long hours working alongside each other. They do crazy things like practicing their Demo Day pitches in public areas. They come together as a tribe, bringing together many international cultures, backgrounds, and personalities.
What are some companies that have gone through the 500 accelerator program?
Examples include Punchd (acquired by Google), InternMatch, 9GAG, Snapette, ToutApp, Vayable, Cardinal Blue, LaunchRock, Farmeron, BrandBoards, Fitocracy, SafeShepherd, Spinnakr, Intercom, 72lux, Chalkable, Wanderable, PublikDemand, TokyoOtakuMode, and Happy Inspector. For a complete list, see here.
What is it ACTUALLY like being in the 500 Startups Accelerator?