The Global VC

How We Used Poker to Meet Investors & Do Sales Prospecting

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500 Global Team

500 Global Team






Live events can be a great way to do leadgen. Case in point, our events here at 500 Startups have been very effective in building out our lead pipeline for investors and founders alike (yes we are running a business too).

It seems like a simple formula: throw a good event, meet people, make $$. But there are a few simple additional ways to make sure you actually collect on all those parties.

The following is a guest post from Frank DeGeorge, founder of 500 Accelerator Batch 16 company YouStake, who recently hosted a poker tournament for fun and for profit.

Last week, the first ever YouStake Invitational at 500 Startups HQ in San Francisco brought together founders, staff, mentors, friends and some friendly investors.

YouStake is a marketplace for fans to invest in poker players and share in their winnings. Recently, we held a special event at the 500 office — a championship poker tournament that (not accidentally) ended up netting leads for both fundraising and customer acquisition.

The Poker Event



40 seats were pre sold and 5 more chairs were added to accommodate an additional 5 players.  They all came to play with two of the very best poker players in the world, Jamie Gold (WSOP Main Event Champ) and Anthony Zinno (Card Player, WPT & APA Player of the Year).

Buy-in: $50
Players: 45
Prizes: 1st place, $400 plus private coaching lessons by Jamie Gold, winner of the largest WSOP Main Event Championship prize pool in history at $12 million. 2nd place, $260 plus paid entry to the 2016 WSOP Colossus II $1 million guaranteed first place prize. 3rd place, $140 plus a bottle of ONEHOPE Champagne donated by Batch 16 company Bottles Tonight. 4th to 8th place, YouStake swag bag and hat plus a $50 promo credit to Bottles Tonight.

How to Do Leadgen from Small-Scale Live Events

In this section, we’ll share 3 Simple Steps for how to use small-scale live events plus your existing product and network to get quality leads.

Step 1: Create Demand.

First, you must create something with high demand that a lot of people will want to do.

For us, this was easy; we’re a marketplace for fans to invest in poker players – so of course we focused on a Poker Event.

  • Bring the (poker) stars – Be lucky enough to have the connections, and make sure it’s worth their time. Otherwise, keep costs low and do something that will cover those expenses.

  • Invite the investors – Build a list of target investors, ask for warm intros, and worst case begin to cold email. Don’t worry if not everyone responds, people are busy.

  • Fill in with founders – Get others involved, whether it’s other founders or partners; this will create a buzz and others will want to join.

Step 2: Host a FUN event.

Next, make sure you are prepared and can execute, don’t worry if you make small mistakes because no one will know.

Think about the audience and make sure you accommodate them.

  • Location is key – Find a place with easy access and plenty of space. 500 Startups was gracious enough to let us use their SF office.

  • Timing is key – Not every event needs to be an all-day extravaganza. Sometimes night events work better especially if it’s after work hours and people are available.

  • Don’t forget the alcohol – Or the food, the latter is a mistake we made but we quickly corrected. Bonus points: go out afterwards for drinks and close down the bar.

Step 3: Follow up religiously.

Following up religiously is the last, and probably the most important, step. Make sure you follow up with everyone who showed up, and even those that couldn’t make it.

  • Blog post – An event recap is one easy way to document the results and continue to create that demand; FOMO.

  • New leads – If you did everything right, you created a list of names and emails; for us we funneled every entry through our site (they had to create an account with us to participate in the event).

  • Do it again – Was it a success? If yes, figure out if people would show up again, and as they say, “rinse & repeat”.

For a quick recap about the poker event itself, see our post about it here.

500 Global Team

500 Global Team