After five years of busting our butts at 500 Startups, we recently invested in our 1,000th company (actually, we think it happened sometime in March). That’s over 1,000 investments in amazing startups around the world by our team of 50+ badasses who reside in 12 countries and speak 20+ languages (and spit fire sometimes while doing it).
We should note that the # of companies in our portfolio is a bit of a vanity metric, and our focus is more often on results and returns (which are doing alright, thank you). Nevertheless, we believe investing in 1,000 companies is still an important milestone, and a testament to the hard work of many people striving to achieve a common goal. That goal of course, is to find, fund, and help grow the best entrepreneurs and startups from around the globe. These entrepreneurs inspire us daily — not just because they’re awesome (they are!), but because they’re #500STRONG and have invited us to join them for a small part of their journey… and we are very thankful to be along for the ride.
First it’s important to note that over 300 of our investments are in companies that started outside the US, across 50+ countries. As it turns out talented founders are not limited to Silicon Valley. We have put more airline miles behind us than a sassy flight attendant spanning the globe to identify the next generation of kick-ass founders. And we’re not stopping, as we continue to double down with our recently-launched regional funds 500 Kimchi (Korea) and 500 TukTuks (Thailand). This is in addition to our other investment efforts in Latin America, India, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and Europe. This might sound strange for most Silicon Valley VCs, but actually our team is on the ground in those geographies, they speak the language, and in most cases they were born there.
Of course DIVERSITY on the 500 team (over 40% female) and amongst our founders (see below) plays a big part in the work we do, so it’s incredibly rewarding for us to look back and see that over 250 of our investments include female founders on the team, and over 150 of those companies have a female CEO. We applaud other investors who have recently begun to focus on diversity, although for 500 this has been our focus since we started. We encourage others to join us in funding accents, women, minorities, and people who look and sound a little different — together we can make a lot more impact in this area, and avoid the narrow-minded and myopic focus on people who come from only one demographic, geographic, or socio-graphic neighborhood.
Finally let’s talk about our accelerator programs that now graduate over 150 companies per year (in addition to the 150+ seed investments we make annually). Since we started our accelerator in 2011, we have graduated over 400 companies from 18 cohorts out of 3 locations (Mountain View, San Francisco and Mexico City). Although our program is only 4 years old, many of these companies have now raised Series A & B institutional rounds, and we are starting to see several reach valuations over $50-100M. Graduates from our accelerator program who have raised over $1M now include: Vessel, SourceEasy, Carelulu, Pop Up Archive, Totspot, ProductBio, Neighborly, Lenda, Shopline, RAIN, ProductBio, Givesurance, Shakr, Zoomforth, Shippo, Unwind Me, Holidog, PredictionIO, Whale Path, DOZ, FameBit, TargetingMantra, Friend Trusted, Intercom.io, ToutApp, TalkDesk, 9Gag, PicCollage, CompStak, Soldsie, TokyoOtakuMode, Whill, LeTote, Traity, ContaAzul, Happy Inspector, uBiome, ClubW, just to name a few.
If you think you have what it takes to do a startup, we encourage you to Apply now to our upcoming Batch 14 (note: our new US accelerator terms are now $125K for 5%, less a $25K program tuition).
In addition to our investment efforts, we run several other related programs such as our industry conferences and events on e-commerce, customer acquisition, and venture capital innovation, and our recently-announced investor education class with the Stanford School of Continuing Studies, titled “The Insider’s Guide to Silicon Valley Investing”. We also have lots of ideas for new startup services coming in the future.
So what’s next? Are we done? Are we changing the name to 1000 Startups? Well no and no, although someday we might decide to change it to 500 VCs. We have no intention to slow down, and although we did over 300 investments last year, we are just beginning to hit our stride. In fact, after 1,000 companies, we finally feel like we are ready to start scaling.