Taking our Flagship Accelerator Virtual-First


May 15, 2020

There is not a single business that is not affected in some form or another from COVID-19, and 500 Startups is no different. When news broke of COVID-19 entering in the US, we were one of the first major accelerators to turn the Demo Day experience completely virtual, and since then, we have focused on collecting data from investors and founders to help the community at-large through reports like our COVID-19 Investor Survey and Female Founders Survey

We’ve also seen our portfolio companies step up to the challenge with everything from helping frontline workers to bettering remote work for thousands. Our founders continue to inspire us, and in the true nature of putting their safety and wellbeing first, we are taking our flagship SF accelerator fully virtual for the foreseeable future. 

Virtual-First = Founders First

Virtual-first means prioritizing the delivery, capture, and access of all activities, so founders never have to choose between the value 500 offers or running their business. What does this mean in practice? Content will be a mix of live and pre-recorded based on what the founder needs.

Live content will be timely and more high-level of major topics affecting the founders at-large. We’ve seen that our founders tend to prefer this type of content to be live and the most up-to-date as possible. Once they have identified key aspects that they want to dive into, they will be able to watch, read, and consume a variety of deep dives from the 500 team on-demand. 

Global Mission, Global Startups

Investing in global startups is at the crux of almost all that we do. In fact, ~50% of startups in the program hail from outside the U.S. We understand that this virtual-first approach will be especially valuable to our founders from overseas who will now be able to take part in our program without the need for travel. 

Because of our cohort’s inherent global nature, this isn’t the first time we are including a virtual component to our accelerator, and we are leaning on our past experience to help us tailor the program for founders’ specific needs.

Increasing Access to the World’s Best Mentors

As some may have noticed in our formal call for more female mentors in our #500FemaleForces campaign, we are firm believers in a strong, curated mentor network. A virtual-first approach unlocks engagement opportunities with our network of best-in-class mentors, no matter where the founder or mentor may happen to be in the world. 

We believe that this virtual-first approach will normalize global interaction and will lead to founders seeking out and connecting with mentors regardless of geography, allowing them to get the best advice for their specific situation. 

Tapping Into the Global Community

Already on any given week, we have 100s of active founders on our online platform, and more and more, we are fostering connections vertically throughout our community from mentors to alumni to current batch founders and more. This is all made possible through our full stack of community platforms including an engaged slack ecosystem, fundraising tools, and our mentor matching system. 

We have worked diligently over the past few weeks to make sure that in all we do, we are staying true to our mission and serving our founders in the best way possible. For the time being, that will include having a virtual accelerator. But for the long-term viability of our program, we will continue to accept applications 365 days a year from passionate seed-stage founders around the world. 


This post is intended solely to provide information regarding 500 Startups. All content provided in this post is provided for general informational or educational purposes only. 500 Startups makes no representations as to the accuracy or information contained in this post and while 500 Startups has taken reasonable steps to ensure that the information contained herein  is accurate and up-to-date, no liability can be accepted for any error or omissions. Figures are approximated based on internal estimates as at May 15, 2020 and have not been independently verified.

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