For the first time since 2019, startup founders and prospective investors gathered in-person last week in San Francisco for 500 Global’s flagship demo day.
While the in-real-life reunion was a reason to celebrate, the uncertain economic climate — intensified in recent weeks with the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank — wasn’t lost on the crowd. Still, optimism reigned.
“Great companies are formed in times of crisis…”
“There is a lot that we don’t know yet,” Christine Tsai, 500 Global’s CEO and founding partner, said in her opening remarks for the firm’s 31st demo day. “But we do know this — we know that great companies are formed in times of crisis and upheaval.”
Nineteen startups — all participants in 500’s global accelerator program — made their two-minute presentations on-stage last Thursday in front of a packed house in San Francisco’s SoMa district. Ideas ranged from a marketplace that helps social media influencers sell their excess clothing (Detoure) to technology that brings an automated, “Amazon Go” experience to gas stations (Autopass).
“It felt like we didn’t miss a beat since 2019,” 500 Global’s partner and head of accelerator Clayton Bryan said.
True to 500 Global’s mission of unlocking potential around the world, over half of the presenting companies had at least one founder born outside the U.S., including Kenya-based Tripitaca, which is helping to bring Africa’s travel industry online, and IMAN, which is building interest-free financial products that allow Muslims to bank.
“There are millions of people who remain hugely underserved,” Tsai said. “This is why 500 has been investing globally since day one, long before many others saw this opportunity.”
Artificial intelligence — perhaps unsurprisingly — was a common thread among startups on-stage. ArbiLex, a marketplace for litigation financing, said it’s using AI to help investors better understand the chances that lawsuits will win. Verisoul said AI enhances its ability to identify fake users for its corporate clients.
In an investor panel discussion at the event, Cindy Bi, general partner at CapitalX, said she’s excited to see what happens when her portfolio companies add AI to their existing offerings.
“The next few years are going to be some of the best vintages ever.”
Meanwhile, Ali Moiz, CEO and founder of Stonks (a 500 Global portfolio company), echoed the sentiment that an unstable economy can be an opportune time to start a startup. While raising capital might be more difficult, founders will likely find themselves with fewer competitors and more access to high quality employees, he said.
“Both in investing and in building, it’s a great time,” Moiz said. “The next few years are going to be some of the best vintages ever.”
Presenting companies included Ailumia, ArbiLex, Autopass, Bitpowr, Crescendo Lab, Detoure, Dinari, effa, Flex Finance, IMAN, Lablabee, Mightyfly, Stethy, Stylemyle, SustainFI, Susu, Tripitaca, Verisoul, and Viewabo. More information about these companies and a recording of the event is available here.
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