(The first in a three part series catching up with past VC Unlocked participants. Find out how the program benefited them, as well as their best advice for those who are thinking of investing.) 

We’re excited to announce the return of our flagship VC training program, Venture Capital Unlocked: Secrets of Silicon Valley Investing (formerly called IGSVI). 500 Startups, in partnership with the Stanford Center for Professional Development, will be once again running this popular two-week course. In this course, individuals will learn 500s investment playbook and gain firsthand access to world-famous Silicon Valley VCs, Angels, SV startups and entrepreneurs (including 500’s portfolio). This session will run from February 8-19, 2016. For more information and to apply, please visit: 500.vc/apply

In the spirit of recognizing some of our diverse participants (and hopefully encouraging more to apply), we’ve highlighted three women that have taken their careers to new heights with the applied knowledge of this program. We’re kicking off this series with Paula Schwarz. 


Paula Schwarz (@Paulapolice & @Startup_boat) is the Founder of  Startupboat and The Exponential Network. Read more about her work here

Can you please tell us a little bit about your background? 

I am half-Greek and half-German. I was working for KRW Schindler Private Ventures to raise funds in the Middle East and wanted to deepen my knowledge on investment management. Also, the combination of gathering experience at Stanford together with LPs of 500 Startups and a number of Venture Investors seemed very appealing to me. Having studied political science, my approach to venture is driven by the goal to achieve social impact. I’m thrilled to apply learnings from the VC Unlocked to my work today. 

What are you working on now?

I founded a mobile incubator that develops scalable and financially self-sustainable solutions for the social challenge of mass migration. I work with teams that build prototypes for tools and support them in the further development of their concepts.


Are you using any of the concepts taught at the program in your work today?

Yes. Many of our solutions can be compared to start-ups. They have a clear roadmap, are scalable and exit driven – which means we think about who the perfect lead for the initiative could be next year. We also address the assessment of value and look at potential ways to generate revenue with a product, for example, launching an app. I was also taught to take great care in building teams that can truly identify with a project and portray its vision to a user community, team members and investors.

If you had to name one key outcome of the program, what would that be?

First of all, I learned that there’s no one right way to go. We all cook with water and in the end what counts is that a venture does something that works – it’s sustainable. As a founder, you must know how to make your assets work for you, even if you don’t start off at the perfect position. If you can do that the rest usually falls into place…keep up the good spirit, take it step by step and be transparent.


What advice do you have for women who are interested in becoming investors?

Please don’t start if you want to be an investor. Start because there’s a topic you love, something you want to drive forward that is bigger than you. First of all, write down your personal investment thesis. Narrow it down to a region. Ask yourself, what is it you can give to a venture, only you and no one else? Connect the dots and figure out why you’re an asset, and not why people want your money.

As an investor your job is to empower others to do their best. It’s your job to give valuable advice and direction in times of confusion. Try to see yourself as part of the team and be of help in ways that have nothing to do with the financial investment you provide, but more with an investment of time, thought, contacts or experience. That way, you prevent others from making foreseeable mistakes and act in the interest of all parties involved.