April StartupQ8 Event with CFA Institute

CFA Society Kuwait in collaboration with StartupQ8Union of Investment Companies, Ajar,  and Sirdab Lab is holding a conference about Fintech (Tech startups in the Finance industry) on Monday the 24th of April as part of CFAI’s global “Putting Investors First” initiative.

Our main speaker, Saalim Chowdry, who is an Entrepreneur in Residence at 500 Startups, the world’s most active fintech investor, will be presenting “Fintech: What’s Next?” .

His talk will cover the following key questions:

• New developments in financial technology and what it means for asset managers and profitability

• What are the expected benefits and challenges of fintech on the industry?

• Who wins and who loses in a fintech-savvy world?

• Will big data and artificial intelligence change the model for investment research?

In addition Shaheen Al-Khudari, CEO of Ajar will be interviewed by Haider Al-Mosawi the CEO and cofounder of Sirdab Lab. The interview aims to explore the story behind Ajar Online, a Fintech startup that simplified the rent collection process for landlords and tenants, as well as to gain insights from the experiences of Shaheen Al-Khudari in entrepreneurship.

We look forward to seeing you there.

Date: Monday April 24th 2017

Venue: Kuwait Chamber of Commerce – Theatre – Ground Floor

Time: 6pm to 9pm


6-6:30 Registration and networking

6:30-7:30 Presentation & Q&A: Fintech what’s next? By Mr. Saalim Chowdhry

7:30-7:45 Break

7:45-8:45 Interview with Mr. Shaheen Al-Khudari

About Saalim Chowdry

Saalim Chowdhury is currently an Entrepreneur in Residence at 500 Startups. At 500 Startups he sources and evaluates startups for investment, as well as teaches and writes syllabi and content on several of the company’s growth programs globally. 500 Startups is the world’s most active Fintech investor according to CB Insights’ most recent report. He’s frequently a commentator on the changing world of professional services, and the impact of policy and regulation on growth and innovation. His key industry areas are Fintech (esp. blockchain & banking), enterprise, SaaS, media and entertainment.


Weekly one-on-one Advice Sessions with Abdulaziz

Abdulaziz AlLoughani (ex-partner at talabat.com and current Vice Chairman at Kuwait National Fund) is doing a weekly one-on-one advice sessions with entrepreneurs to give feedback on their startups and projects. That’s a free advice from one of the best minds in tech and business we have in Kuwait. I really appreciate what he is doing and I hope you all benefit from it. The meetings will be every Thursday, send an email directly to his email aballoughani(at)gmail.com to book your spot.

Good luck!

StartupQ8 Event – 25th of Jan

Hello everyone,

We are kicking off this year with a very special guest, Ihsan Jawad. Ihsan is a managing partner at MEVP and founder of Zawya.com (Bloomberg of the MENA region that was acquired by Reuters).

You shouldn’t miss this event if you want to learn how to build a successful startup and how to raise money in the region. Ihsan is also an investor in FishFishMe, Inc., so you’ll get some insider stories about that as well since I’ll be the person interviewing Ihsan in the event.

Event schedule – 25th of Jan

7:00pm – 8:00pm: Interview with Ihsan Jawad

8:00pm – 9:00pm: Networking

Venue: Global Tower (Kuwait City)

We will change the event structure starting from this event. Instead of having two talks, we will have one talk (something like an interview) and the second part will be networking. I usually hate networking because its always awkward to go talk to someone you don’t know! So we will do something more interesting than just tag names to make sure you get to meet everyone. Really looking forward for this event and it’s good to be back!


Why you should attend ArabNet – Kuwait?

So Arabnet is coming to Kuwait! That’s a great news! ArabNet is a yearly conference event done in a Middle Eastern city to celebrate startups, founders, technology and share knowledge. The most famous ArabNet event is probably Arabnet Dubai and Arabnet Beirut. I need to be honest, I never been to any Arabnet event before. But, I know the team behind it, their motivations and how they are adding value to the startup ecosystem in the Middle East. So when they reached out to help them spread the word about the event, we were happy to do so.

But, I was wondering why they choose Kuwait, do they really believe that we have an interesting tech startup scene? Or the event was paid by the government to show that we have something happening in Kuwait! I was also wondering what can a startup founder gain from attending the conference. Is it a waste of time and money to you? Is there any solid evidence that startups will gain from participating? Who is coming to the event? Any cool and important people attending? While my job is to promote the event, I want to make sure you don’t waste your time or money attending Arabnet – Kuwait.

I chatted with Arabnet team and asked them some questions that I think will help you make your decision:

1- Why did you choose Kuwait?

Kuwait is one of the MENA’s hottest digital markets, boasting entrepreneurial success stories, high internet and mobile penetration, and strong appetite for digital & social media services, currently leads in MENA in digital media adoption, on major social platforms such as Snapchat and Instagram, and is home to GCC’s most important online influencers; not to mention that The country is witnessing a surge in entrepreneurship support and institutions, from funds (including the $7B Kuwait National Fund for SME development in 2013), to co-working spaces, angels and investors. Kuwait is one of the most promising digital ecosystems in MENA today.

2- Who is attending the event?

ArabNet Kuwait 2016 will be bringing together corporate decision-makers innovators, investors, accelerators and top leaders in the MENA region and from around the globe such as : The National Fund for SMEs Development Vice Chairman Abdulaziz B. Al Loughani (Investor/Accelerator) , Beco Capital CEO (Investor/Accelerator), MEVP managing partner (Investor/Accelerator) 212 Managing Director (Investor/Accelerator) as well as a variety of decision makers and top leaders from different countries around the globe such as : Andrew Hyde Director of New Programming at Techstars ( Entrepreneurship) , Lloyed Lobo Chief Growth Officer | Speakeasy.co at Boast Capital  (Entrepreneurship) and many more.


3- What entrepreneurs should expect (Some success stories)?

  • [Arabnet Beirut 2016 – Innovation Avenue] Krimston 2 have launched a Kickstarter campaign here
  • Arabnet Beirut 2015 – Startup Demo] Handasiyat founder and CEO on Forbes list of 100 business women in MENA here
  • [Arabnet Riyadh 2014 – Startup Demo] ShortPoint signed a strategic partnership with TjDeeD Technology & DSOA here
  • [Arabnet Riyadh 2015 – Startup Demo] Vanoman qualifies for the international semi-finals of GITR here
  • [Arabnet Summit 2010 – Startup Demo] FOO gets majority stake acquired by Zain here
  • [Arabnet Beirut 2016 – Startup Demo] Reable gets selected to join Techstar’s Barclays Accelerator in Cape Town here
  • [Arabnet Riyadh 2012 – Startup Demo] Foodpanda acquires Hungerstation in Saudi Arabia here
  • [Arabnet Riyadh 2015 – Startup Demo] B8ak earned $10,000 in the 8th MIT Arab Enterprise Forum here
  • [Arabnet Beirut 2015 – Startup Demo] Mini Exchange launching KSA site here
  • Wuzzuf and Eventtus are on the list of The 20 Most Promising Egyptian Startups here
  • [Arabnet Riyadh 2015 – Startup Demo] Jellyfish to Silicon Valley. Monica & TopShou at Speed@BDD Demo Day here
  • [Aabnet Cairo 2011 – Startup Demo] Mai Medhat, founder of the Eventtus, sits with US President Obama here
  • [Arabnet Summit 2012 – Startup Demo] Reserveout raises $4M Series A from Silicon Badia here

The agenda is not finalized so I didn’t get permission to share it with you guys.

To register for the event please visit the link below:

Startup Investment Guide for Kuwaiti Investors

Two weeks ago I was in talks with a person (that I greatly appreciate) to help them out with their new fund. They wanted to invest in startups and my job was as an advisor in the fund. While I really liked the initial idea and the people behind it, we disagreed on the strategy of the fund and how everything should work.

I had my own investment thesis that I developed myself. I’m no investment expert, I actually never invested in anything before except for a couple of bad stocks that went bust!! But hey, I still worked in Private Equity, passed CFA level II and did my MBA in one of the top 10 schools in the world and been a full time entrepreneur more than 5 years now 🙂

Anyway, as most of you know I like to share my crazy ideas, and here is why I decided to share my amazing TOP SECRET investment thesis:

1- It will start an interesting discussion.

2- It will help others to think of their own investment strategy.

3- Some of you might actually get excited and start investing himself/herself.

4- Might open new opportunities.

I constructed the theory based on two main factors:

1- The type of Startup

2- The problem they are trying to solve (is it local, regional or global)

After that I applied many factors based on my personal opinion and experience. The factors used to create the thesis:

  1. Type of startup
  2. What a startup need to succeed
  3. Does the startup has potential to grow globally, regionally or only in Kuwait.
  4. Startup stage
  5. Acceptable valuation range
  6. Potential exit
  7. Potential return
  8. Potential acquirers
  9. Probability to succeed 

After creating the thesis I converted it to a guide (aka a cheat sheet) that any Kuwaiti or GCC investor can use. I preferred to use specific numbers and narrow ranges to be more practical. However, these numbers can be far from reality, but it should give you a good sense on what to expect when investing in startups. Again I used so many assumptions to arrive to some of these numbers, so please don’t use this guide as something written in stone.

Here is a link of the full guide in Google Sheets:


Please feel free to write any comments in the sheet, will be interesting to get your feedback. Below is further explanation of the guide.

1- The Pure Tech:

These are startups that are building pure technology and the team should be heavy in technology. These startups usually focus to solve a specific problem for businesses or regular people. Usually these startups comes in a shape of a web app or mobile app. An example of these companies will be something like Google, Microsoft, Salesforce, Mixpanel..etc.

These companies usually charge in a monthly basis or per usage (aka SaaS startups). Usually minimal human interaction is required and often the customer doesn’t really care where the startup is based. A pure tech startup needs to be close to a pool of talented programmers.

Pure 2

2- The Marketplaces:

A marketplace connects buyers to sellers. These startups don’t really have a product to sell, they sell other people products or services. Example is Uber, Airbnb, talabat.com and fishfishme.com.

Lots of ground work is usually involved here and the startup needs to be close to it’s sellers and buyers.

Marketplace 2

3- The E-commerce:

Either you sell your own branded products or a third party products. Will still see new e-commerce companies emerge as long as we have new platforms coming up. Also we get to see some clothing brands that do online only. E-commerce startups need to focus on their product, UX/UI and marketing.

E-commerce websites need to be close to their suppliers, customers and investors.

Ecommerce 2

4- The Hardware:

Hardware startups develop physical technology. We rarely see these startups in Kuwait and the region, but if we do usually they do well. Why? I think a hardware startup get better media coverage and it’s cooler than a software startup. Also usually they solve a local problem ignored by giant global manufacturers, thus very focused and relevant to the local market.

I have few example of these in the region, but to give you an idea a Saudi women created an electronic coffee maker Yatooq. Kuwaiti Sakhar computer was also considered a successful hardware company back then (I feel very proud about Sakhar being Kuwaiti!).

Hardware 3

5- The Social/Content/Media Startups:

These are startups that fall into the social network, content publishing and user generated content category. I usually underestimate these startups, but I see them do very well. I think mostly because of their social and viral element embedded in most of these apps. Some of the success startup that comes to mind are Nabd and Mojaz. 

Social 2

I probably missed some types of startups, such as gaming startups for example. But, I guess you can easily apply the concept to any startup type. 

Fund Structure:


Fund size: US$3M-5M
Number of investments: 30 – 40 investments (remember only few startups succeed, high risk high return game)

Duration of the fund: 5-8yrs
Fund deployment period: 3 years (target of 10 investments per year)
Focus: GCC startups (locals and non-locals)
Your job as an investor: help in fund raising (connecting with other investors) and finding potential acquirers.
Duration to make a decision : 1 month (from first meeting to wiring money). However, Round 3 investments should probably require more diligence.
How to get deal flow: Start by co-investing with well know angels in Kuwait. Then co-invest with well known VCs in the region.

Sorry for the long post. But, thought will be interesting for some of you. I can go on and on talking about this, but I’ll keep it till here and wait to here your feedback. Please share this with your investor friends and encourage them to give their feedback as well!

1st StartupQ8 Event in 2016 – This Tuesday 19th of Jan!!

Hi guys,

We are kicking off 2016 with a StartupQ8 event this Tuesday the 19th of Jan at 7PM in Global Tower. I know this might be a short notice, but we promise this event will be worth it. Two interesting talks in the event:

1- 7pm – 7:45pm Startup Weapons:

Abdullah Alshalabi (the co-founder of StartupQ8 and Fishfishme.com is back!) will be talking about Startup tools. The tools that will help you with your support, design, marketing and sales activities. He probably used more than +100 tools during his 4+ years journey and will cover the best ones with some live examples. 
Best List

2- 8pm – 8:45pm Ajar Story:

Ajar is a mobile App to pay your apartment rent (and for landlords to collect rent). The founder Shaheen AlKhudhari will tell their story with how they secured the big partnership with Warba Bank.



The event will start on 7pm sharp, don’t be late. Event for free, in English and open to everyone. Questions? contact Startupq8@gmail.com.

The 500Startups Army

We just finished 500Startups accelerator program. Demo day was great, but so stressful! I probably need 10 posts to write about the program, but I’ll focus on one thing today. Something that many people neglect to mention when talking about accelerators. It’s probably the most important element when selecting your program. The people running the accelerator program.

Everyone knows Dave McClure, but there are an army of more than 20 people working in a daily basis with the startups.

When we first started the program we got assigned to 2 POC’s (Point of Contacts), one for funding/strategy and the other for distribution (Marketing and sales). 500Startups team is a mix of entrepreneurs (Entrepreneurs in Residence EIR), marketers and investors. 500 team is split between Mountain View office and San Francisco office.

You’ll have the privilege to reach out to any of them to help you with your startup. You are not limited to your POC’s. The trick is to know what each one of is good at to go and get their advice. It took us a while to get to know them and thought to share what our batch (amazing batch#13, Mountain View Office) think of the strengths of each one of them.

So I did a survey and here is what our batch think of each team member (ok only 5 filled the survey, but still not a bad insight!):


1- Elizabeth Yin (Program Manager):



Fundraising, personal advice and B2B sales.

Elizabeth went through a lot building her startup and she can really relate to our problems, pain and stress. She used to be a 500 startup then managed to build a company and sell it for millions. She is humble, sincere and intelligent.


Elizabeth was running the whole show, and she did excellent. She was the co-founder and CEO of LaunchBit.com, a 500startup company from batch#2 that got acquired.

Linkedin profile>>


2- Chris Nolet (EIR):


Product, UX and founders well-being

I actually didn’t know that Chris is a product guy until I saw the survey responses! I should’ve met with him more often. What I know, is that Chris is like the nicest guy in the office.


Chris is one of the co-founders of App.io, a successful startup in San Francisco. App.io was also part of 500Startups batch#5. So Chris also knows what are you going through and how stressful life is for founders.

Chris Linkedin Profile>>


3- Robert Neivert (Venture Partner)


Fundraising, strategy, pitching, sales and anything really!!

If there is one person I won’t mind to replace me as CEO is Robert. This man is just brilliant! Whatever you need help with he is there for you. And not only that, the answer he gives you is clear and logical. You can always feel from his answers that he has lots of experience and been through a lot. Check his background and you’ll know why.


Was the CEO of a couple of two venture backed startups. Moreover, was working in a venture capital company. In addition to that worked in operation, marketing and sales position. A super man advisor.

Rob Linkedin Profile>>


4- Poornima Vijayashanker (EIR):


Growth and pushing you to do better (sometimes she even screams at you! But, that means she loves you)

Poornima is one of the hardest working advisors. She will give you the honest feedback that few will tell you, but she will also tell you how to improve. It’s exactly what you need after entering 500startups. You think your startup is awesome because you got into 500, she will bring you back to earth and you’ll start working your ass.


Poornima founded two successful startups BizeeBee and Femigineer. She also worked at Intuit and Mint.com. She knows the in and out’s of a building a successful startup.

Poornima Linkedin Profile>>


5- Tanya Soman (Principal):


Pitching and pitch decks  

I only worked with Tanya while preparing for my pitch. She spotted all of the mistakes in my slides right away even though I show them to 3 other advisors before her. Every pitch and pitch deck should go through Tanya, she will help make your pitch deck look perfect.



Coming from Social Media and sales background.

Tanya Linkedin Profile>>


6- Sean Percival


Marketing, Social Media, PR, connections and HAIR (lol I think I know who wrote this!)



From a janitor to a successful CEO. An extremely funny and smart guy. Background in marketing, getting media exposure and building startups.

Sean Linkedin Profile>>


7- Matt Ellsworth (Distro team):


Growth hacker, B2B marketing, web scraping, drip campaigns and super funny guy!



Matt is part of 500 Distribution team, his job is simply to grow the startups. Worked in sales and marketing with startups in the Bay Area. Matt is also a fantastic standup comedian.

Matt Linkedin Profile>>


8- Andrea Barrica (Venture Partner & EIR – SF Office):


Pitching, sales and intros

I never pitched to Andrea, but heard she was the best in how to improve your pitching style (voice, attitude, how to use your hands).



Well she is the co-founder of inDinero.com, a successful company which was part of Y Combinator and also funded by 500Startups. Worked in operation, sales and basically everything during the early days of inDinero.

Andrea Linkedin Profile>>


9- Susan Su (Distro Team):


Email Marketing and Content marketing

One of my favorite distro team. Susan is a big believer in email marketing, as she says “Email = Money”. I just wished we could spend time with her in the office.


She worked at Google, hi5 and AppSumo, working mostly on content and email marketing.

Susan Linkedin Profile>>


10- Richard Speakman (Office Manager):


Well organized and our loving mom!

Try to leave a dirty dish in the sink, you are a dead person. Rich keeps things in order and without him sometime you find yourself without a desk (looking at you AJ)!


Worked in plenty of Silicon Valley startups in HR and administrative roles.

Rich Linkedin Profile>>


11- Christine Tsai


Fundraising and intros to investors



Christine is a founder partner at 500 and the number 2 person after Dave McClure. Christine worked 7 years at Google as Product Marketing Manager.

Christine Linkedin Profile>>


12- Zafer Younes (Venture Partner – SF Office):


Strategy, planning, fundraising and honesty

Zafer was my POC. Most of the big improvements in our startup during the program is because of this guy advice. It’s true it was problematic that he was in San Francisco office and I was in Mountain view (1.5hrs away by train + Uber), but in the few meetings we had we made some major decisions.


Zafer is famous for his company The Online Project. He built one of the earliest marketing agencies in the MENA region and very well. Zafer is one of the early tech entrepreneurs in the MENA.

Zafer Linkedin Profile>>


13- Mat Johnson (Head of Distro team):


SEO, Adwords, Email marketing and growth hacking in general

Mat was our Distro POC.. He helped us with rethinking many of our marketing strategies specially our SEO and email marketing. I wish we had more time to spend with him to dig deeper, but we already benefited a lot from his experience.



Mat is the head of 500 Distro team and also a partner at 500. Most of his background is on marketing and growth hacking. He did marketing for several companies and startups including his own company LeadGenCo.

Mat Linkedin Profile>>


Sorry if I missed anyone. If you have any questions about the program follow me on twitter @a_alshalabi or connect with me in Linkedin and shoot me your questions. Hey and don’t forget to follow our amazing startup @fishfishme.


Smart City App Hack – Dubai

Been a while since I wrote a post and I was supposed to write about more about my experience in 500Startups, but Mijbel suggested we do an event about that since I’ll be in Kuwait 2nd week of June (more about that later).

One of the most people I respect in Dubai and a person that helped us a lot during our 2 years journey in Dubai (Rekha Setpal) recommended that I post about a great event happening in Dubai. The event is called Decode Dubai Hackathon and it will held for 48- hours between 11-13 June (which is our office, so you might actually end up using my desk!!).  Ten winning teams will have an opportunity to get free mentorship and acceleration at in5 Innovation Centre and compete for the final awards in Barcelona during the Smart City Expo 2015 in November

Screen Shot 2015-06-03 at 1.59.33 AM

The five themes are:

1- Shopping

2- Tourism

3- Mobility

4- Energy

5- Collaborative city

For more info and to signup check below links:



Cool Batch 13 – Part 1

I love writing about startups and their stories! In this post I’m writing about startups with us at 500Startups batch 13. Below is a number of startups that I interviewed, and there will be more startups that I’ll cover in future posts. We are 28 startups in batch 13, so hopefully in 4 posts I’ll be able to cover all startups here. I also asked some of them about how did they get to join 500Startups to give you an idea of what probably should you do to join future batches.

Will start with our neighbors and one of my favorite startups CoContest:

1- CoContest (Rome, Italy):

CoContest is an Italian startup that helps people create interior designs for their homes in an affordable price by crowdsourcing the design. Think of it like 99designs (the website we used to create StartupQ8 logo), but for interior designs instead. This is how it works, you post a project like “interior design for my living room” and specify how much you’ll pay “800USD for example” then you sit back and designers will submit to you the designs. You might get 20 different designs, but you only pay for one!




Filippo and Alessandro are the co-founders of CoContest in addition to 2 other co-founders. Filippo used to be an architect for 5 years and realized that hiring an interior designer is too expensive and it’s so difficult for young designers to get new projects. This is why he came up with the idea and believes CoContest solving the problem for both parties and probably disrupting the interior designing industry forever. I love this idea, actually I was thinking of something similar before starting fishfishme, but obviously fishfishme makes more sense for me since I’m more passionate about it 🙂 )

If anyone is thinking to do an interior design soon, I think you should give it a try.


Alessandro Rossi

Filippo Schiano di Pepe

Federico Schiano di Pepe


2- CellBreaker (North Carolina, USA)

This startup helps you break your contract with your phone provider. Let’s say you have a phone contract with AT&T and you are stuck with them for a year, these guys let you break the contract without paying any penalty charges by finding flaws in the contract that you are not aware of. It’s currently only operating in the US, but it’s already causing many problems for phone companies, which is good for the people.



The co-founder Jon Colgan used to have 3 mobile phones and wanted to end one of the them. He read the contract and found a breach in the contract that allowed him to break the contract without paying anything. He wanted to test if other people had a similar problem, so he created a landing page with two paragraphs explaining that he can help people break their contracts for 30$. In less than a week he had 65 paying customers!! He couldn’t help all of them so he returned most of the customers money, but he decided to build a company around it and try to automate part of the process.

Founders and team:

Jon Colgan

Justin Baker

Julis Hill

Haider Khan


3- Omate: (French founder, based between Hong Kong, France and Bay Area)

Omate is a smart watch startup. I know you might think that Apple Watch will dominate the market, but these guys are killing it and they actually started doing this even before Samsung watch. They created a Kickstarer campaign, seeking to raise US$100K and they ended up raising US$1M selling 65,000 watches. They now have many styles and kind of smart watches. It’s an android watch and it’s more affordable than Apple watch, and their focus is more in the fashion side of a watch than technology.




Omate is founded by Laurent Le Pen, a French entrepreneur that used to be a mobile designer before that. The idea started when he focused in his last job in creating a very small mobile phone that actually can stay at your rest. They thought why not create a mobile phone watch that could be useful for outdoor activities. The first version was called OutdoorMate, which is a smart watch with real phone that you can call from. That was the first watch that they sold in KickStarter. They later changed the name to Omate and start creating more fashionable watches. Now they have female line and they told me that it’s already sold out. It appears that the company is doing phenomally well, they already have 21 employees in less than 18 months in operation!


4- Publishizer (Australian founder living in South East Asia)

It’s kickstarter for books. If you are thinking of writing a book, but don’t have the money or a publisher to support you then Publishizer is the way to go. The funny part is that I actually tried to buy from the website 2 weeks before the program started, and I had some problems checking out. So I sent an email to the company and Guy (the co-founder) replied to me and we exchanged emails. Two weeks later we met in 500Startups and offered me the book for free! (actually he didn’t, but I pushed him to do so J)


Guy Vincent is an amazing, funny and full of energy person. Moreover, he is very passionate about what he does. He used to work in a book printing company in Singapore and realized that many of his friends and people surrounding him actually want to publish a book, but never thought that a publishing company will support them (funding the printing and distribution). He thought to himself that the best way to solve this by crowd funding. He also believes that Kickstarter is not best suited for authors, they need a separate platform just for that.


5- Kollecto: (CA, USA)

Kollecto is a website to help people finding art. They connect regular people with art advisors to help them purchase the best art based on their needs. The company is fairly new established with less than 9 months of operations, yet it’s already getting some good traction and backed with one of the most famous female angel investors known as the Gotham Gal (also wife of Fred Wilson).


Tara Reed previously worked at Foursquare and Microsoft mostly in marketing. She realized that finding and buying art work is actually a very hard thing to do, especially for ordinary people like me and you. Since art is a beautiful, but complicated piece then the best way to solve this problem is by connecting people with art advisors that can help you during this process.


6- Hazel Lane (USA)

Hazel Lane delivers a box each month with local products that best represent a city, state or a country. The idea is that each destination has it’s own special products. It’s a good way to know more about each state and it’s a nice surprise each time you receive the box with no idea of what could possibly be inside. The price is US$45/month or US$175/month for the luxury box.


Samantha Strom (the founder) always had this idea when she was working in marketing and PR with big fashion companies. She tried to convince them to do something similar for their marketing campaigns, but they didn’t. So she said screw this I’ll do it myself! Samantha tried the idea with her boyfriend father by giving him a present with products from San Francisco, a city he lived in for years, and he was in tears when he open the gift. That pushed her to move forward with the idea. Samantha recently lunched the startup and looking forward to grow it with 500Startups.

How did you get accepted at 500Startups?

I applied and get rejected the first time after the first interview. I asked why and they said I had something I need to fix in my startup team, once fixed they accepted me.


7- Pixc.com (Australia & SF)

Pixc helps ecommerce websites clean their photos to be suitable to be used in the website. By cleaning I they remove the background of an image.


Holly Cardew the founder used to have another startup in Australia called CountryandCo.com. The idea was to help people living in the country to sell their products to people in the city. It was doing very well until a competitor (an older women with more money) came to the picture and started doing the same. Holly ended up selling the business to her competitor (Countryculture.com) for an “OK” amount of money. When I asked her “to you hate your competitor?” she was shocked and said “why! Of course not!” I love Australians; they are very nice and peaceful people 🙂

Ok back to the story. During her previous startup she realized it was hard to fix photos for her platform and needed designers help to do it. That led her to create Pixc.com. When you submit a photo in Pixc is a real designer in the back actually fixing your photo and sending it to you to get the best quality photo.

How did you get accepted in 500Startups?

Holly met Elizabeth (one of 500Startups) team during an event in San Francisco, and while telling her story Elizabeth told her to apply and she will refer her.

Stay tuned for the next startups, that’s a batch with lots of future millionaires!

500Startups here we come!

I’d like to announce that fishfishme.com joined 500Startups batch 13 in Mountain View, CA. The program kicked off last Monday 20th of April. If you don’t know what’s 500Startups, then you can watch the video here:

500Startups invests $100K in startups selected in addition to a 4 months program. During the program they help startups improve their product, marketing channels and raise money.

Some back story about our journey since we arrived here. Jose (my co-founder), Christian (our designer) and I arrived in San Francisco on the 18th of April. We are staying at Blackbox office/house in Palo Alto renting a couple of rooms. It’s perfect for us with a reasonable price compared to rest of the options. If you don’t remember what’s Blackbox, here is a post and video to refresh your memory:

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You need to know that rent in this area (Palo Alto, Mountain View and surrounding areas) is crazy! An apartment for 3 people will cost more than 3,500USD and most probably not furnished.

500Startups office is in Mountain View. To get there we go by train (a 10min ride). The round trip cost something around 5USD by train. You’ll think a city like Palo Alto, were most tech companies started and has Stanford University, will have the most advanced public transportation. But, that’s not really the case. We take the train every morning, and you’ll need to check the schedule because it usually arrives twice or once every hour. So you need to plan when to go to the train station. Moreover, you need to buy a card to tag on and tag off every time you use the train, which is fine, but if you forget to do so you lose all of the money you had in the card (which of course happened to us!). To be fair it’s not completely bad, it’s just your expectation for such high tech city is much higher.

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Clipper, I hate you!

Once we arrive at Mountain View station we walk for 10min to 500 office which is located in the highest building in Mountain View called Mountain Bay Plaza building and 500 office is on the 12th floor. 500 office and here you feel that you are in a high tech office. First of all to open the main door we use an app called Lockitron. You press a unlock button and tada, the door is opened. The office is huge and divided into open working offices, open area for events and closed meeting rooms. I love it! You can see the full city form the top. The best part is that drinks (coffee and soft drinks) and snacks are free! For lunch meals we get two free meals per week, and we order them online from Eat Club. Each startup has it’s own desk, and some have bigger desk than others depending on team size.

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The program kicked off on the 20th of April. And to be honest the amount of effort put into it and the things we will be getting is beyond my expectations. For us the best value is that we get assigned with two main offices one is called POC and the other person is called Distro-POC. I honestly forgot what POC stands for, but basically is a person that will help us during the whole period and his main job is to help us with our business, strategy, hiring and fund raising. The POC also help us with connecting us with the best person to help us with a specific subject. The Distro person is only focused to help us grow our company. For us our case grow number of bookings. Disro stands for Distribution and that includes marketing and sales. Our POC is Zafer, a fellow friend I previously met in Dubai, but didn’t know that he joined 500Startups. Very cool guy and I’m happy to working with for the next 4 months and beyond. Our Destiro POC is Mathew Johnson and the head of 500Distro team (yes, we are lucky to get the head working with us). So far these guys been amazing and already helped to open our eyes on new things and to focus on the things that will have bigger effect on us.


The team that help startups is huge, and if I counted correctly is more than 20 people focused to help startup batch. Most of 500 team is focused on growth and distribution. There are also some entrepreneur in residents and VC partners that work full time to help startups to raise money and to overcome business problems. I’ll do a future post about each department job and how they help startups.

Each week at 500 we have a theme such as legal week, hiring, product and Hell Marketing week. Talks and mentors are invited to give talks and lectures. Startups don’t need to attend all talks, unless they think they need it. That’s good, because startups in different stages will need different things.

So far the program is great and we feel lucky to be here. They say it only gets better with time, so will keep you posted. Next post will be about startups with us in the program, will interview some of them and post about their stories. Stay tuned.

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