When Christine and I started 500 Startups six years ago, we knew we wanted to run an investment program for startups that emphasized community and education. We had long been inspired by other earlier programs such as YCombinator, TechStars, and SeedCamp. However, we had a new approach and perspective, and wanted to create our own VC firm + accelerator with a decidedly different vibe and experience.
All these programs, including the 500 accelerator, share several key concepts:
- Provide a modest amount of investment capital to a group of startups
- Startups work in shared physical space (note: YC de-emphasizes this)
- Connect them with a community of experienced founders and mentors
- Help companies “accelerate” their progress in a short amount of time
- We accept many companies fail, but a few will thrive and grow BIG
On the other hand, 3 key elements make 500 programs different:
- A global approach to investing in startups all over the world
- A large, diverse team of 150 people, and community of 3,000 founders & mentors
- Emphasis on “full-stack” growth marketing and distribution support
Today, we are currently running our 19th batch in Mountain View, and along with our growth marketing and Mexico City programs, we have now graduated over 600 startups in the past six years — and we have invested in another 1,000 other startups as well.
A lot has changed from when we started, and just like our startups, we have experimented and iterated on our model to provide the best possible impact for founders. We have expanded and improved our curriculum, increased our check sizes and batch sizes, and grown our team, skills, and support. We now have a far more robust program, and the bar for companies joining our programs are higher and tougher than ever. Some have millions in revenue and have raised millions from other investors before they even set foot in the door. Rather than just building or improving an MVP, now our companies are focused on customers, revenue, growth, ramping up sales and marketing, expanding their team, and raising a larger round of institutional capital from top Silicon Valley VC firms.
Noting how different things are from when we started, we have decided to change the name and branding for our programs to emphasize these differences and make it clear to founders what our programs are all about. Our Accelerator program will now be referred to as the “500 Seed Program” and our Distro Dojo programs will now be the “500 Series A Program”. The name of the programs more clearly represent their fundraising goals and metrics. Below, we’ve highlighted what we’re doing now compared to before, and what startup founders should expect when they join our programs.
500 Seed Program
Before: when we started our accelerator program, we accepted companies that barely had an MVP (and a few weren’t even that far along), and most had limited usage and revenue traction. We only invested $50K for 5% equity.
Now: 500 Seed Program is geared towards companies with early traction. Most all of them have a functional product, and most have substantial user adoption & revenue. Many have already raised capital, and a few have >$1M in revenue and >$1M raised.
The 500 Seed Program gives startups access to our Silicon Valley network as well as sales, marketing, and distribution expertise. Additionally, founders receive ongoing funding strategy and support. This program invests $150k USD for 6% and $37.5k in program fees.
Company highlights: Shippo, Neighbor.ly, Talkdesk, RealtyShares, Compstak, Mayvenn, Tout, Innovacer, Headout, Haven.ly, OhmConnect, Le Tote, Cleanify, Italist, Finova Financial
500 Series A Program:
Before: In our first year of investing at the post-seed stage often we found ourselves joining seed round extensions, but are now finding more and more opportunities to invest in exceptional companies closer to the subsequent A round than the previous seed round.
Now: 500 Series A program is targeted towards startups that are on the verge of raising their Series A round. This program will include intensive growth and marketing help from our team of top Silicon Valley growth experts. Designed to help companies close to their Series A and build scalable, repeatable marketing operations that can ingest millions of dollars and produce many more millions in revenue. Aka, get the best Series A deal and terms possible. This program provides a check size ranging from $150-250k USD with $50k in program fees. Note that terms depend on company’s prior financing.
Company highlights: Mayvenn, Dollar Beard Club, Saucey, Storemaven, “Rock, Pamper, Scissors”, and Cleanify
And with that, we bid adieu to our former program names and are moving full force ahead with our 500 Seed Program and 500 Series A Program and will continue to provide top tier programs for entrepreneurs around the world.