Calling All Jedi Designers to Launch Startups for Peace and Justice in the Galaxy

Jess Erickson

March 30, 2011

Note from Enrique Allen: I joined 500 Startups because it’s the greatest way for me to optimize my energy-to-impact ratio and inspire great design with hundreds of companies at the earliest stages of their DNA (before they become a bureaucracy). I don’t wake up excited about investing a little seed money and making big returns, that’s just a way of keeping score and things running. I dream about creating a whole new generation of empathetic designers with the education, technical skills, community and resources to actually solve real meaningful problems & pleasures that ultimately benefit humanity at scale (not just consulting to keep big brands rich). Our goal is to make startup design innovation more predictable, pragmatic and human centered. Think Y Combinator + Startup Design School. How might we develop the next 500 top startup designers? How might we help foster the next 500 startups founded by designers?


While that may sound lofty, it’s actually quite achievable. In less than 6 months, Miche Capone, Rick Boardman, Jason Hrera, Karl Dotter and I with the the help of countless folks like Christina Brodbeck, Elliot Loh, David Shen, Mitch Kapor, Janice Fraser, Michal Kopec, Lane Becker, Jeff Veen, Ryan Freitas, Laura Klein, Blake Commagere,  Craig Mod,Brian Witlin, Dave Baggeroer, Thomas Both, Chris Nesladek, Jeffrey Kalmikoff, Darius A Monsef IV, John Zeratsky, Xianhang Zhang, Bradley Heilbrun, Abid Mohsin, Jason Putorti, Ben Blumfeld, James Hong, Chris Messina & Irene Au (those are just some of the designers I’ve seen here in Mountain View contribute work) along with organizations like the Stanford dschool and CCA (more to come soon), have been prototyping a ‘menu’ of options for designers to get engaged with our startups.

We’ve experimented with multiple Product Design Guild meetups, office hours & talks, codifying startup design methods like the dschool’s bootcamp bootleg, conducting monthly design reviews, running all of our accelerator companies through a lean ux design bootcamp, working with multiple designers in residence, and setting our companies up with freelancers to do design sprints. After great results, it’s now time to scale up our forces even more as we prepare for our next batch of accelerator companies from mid-May to August.

We can create internships aka ‘designerships’, add more designers in residence, fund startups founded by designers, & explore whatever story you’re trying to realize.

Please let us know what stage of development you are in:


    • Youngling / Initiate – fledgling designer, still in school looking to build essential skills and network


    • Padawan / Apprentice – junior designer, possibly fresh from school, less than 5 years of experience, looking to build out portfolio and do something heroic


    • Jedi Knight / Journeyman– senior designer, more than 5 years of experience, has achieved notable successes


    • Master Jedi / Guru – visionary designer, defines success for our whole force field

and what paths you’re interested in. We’re open to more but here’s some examples:

    • Web designer/developer– Help build and manage 500startups.com and build functional prototypes with our startups. Minimum commitment: 1 design sprint.
    • Visual/UI designer– Help create visual assets for 500startups.com and our startups ranging from logos to mocks. Minimum commitment: 1 design sprint.
    • Interaction/Information Architecture– Help create feedback loops for 500startups.com and our startups ranging from signup invites to shopping carts across multiple platforms and devices. Minimum commitment: 1 design sprint.
    • UX Research Designer– Conduct UX research with 500startups.com and our startups ranging from interviews to in-person testing. Minimum commitment: 1 design sprint.
    • Designer Writer & Community Magnet- Write about design at 500startups.com and setup pipelines to top schools, agencies, and geographic clusters of designers. Minimum commitment: 1 blog post

Paths to becoming an awesome designer who makes ‘scalable’ impact are broken in many places. Pave a new way for the designer ecosystem to grow through startups.


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