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):

Elizabeth-new

Strengths:

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.

Background:

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):

Chris-Headshot
Strengths:

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.

Background:

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)

124704-medium_jpgStrengths:

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.

Background:

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):

avatar-539b7cb86b156a382dd295f1-250x250Strengths:

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.

Background:

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):

tanyasomanStrengths:

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.

 

Background:

Coming from Social Media and sales background.

Tanya Linkedin Profile>>

 

6- Sean Percival

seanStrengths:

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

 

Background:

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):

matt-elStrengths:

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

 

Background:

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):

avatar-54c19712fec38f0b0ca4bada-250x250Strengths:

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).

 

Background:

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):

avatar-53b206e250510cea47412f55-250x250Strengths:

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.

Background:

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

Susan Linkedin Profile>>

 

10- Richard Speakman (Office Manager):

richStrengths:

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)!

Background:

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

Rich Linkedin Profile>>

 

11- Christine Tsai

avatar-535fc1e1c21e3757256506c6-250x250Strengths:

Fundraising and intros to investors

 

Background:

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):

zafer-250x250Strengths:

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.

Background:

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):

avatar-53abc12baa7031353f006671-250x250Strengths:

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.

 

Background:

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.

 

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!

IMG_9641

 

Story:

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.

Founders:

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.

CellBreaker

Story:

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.

IMG_9646

 

Story:

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)

Story:

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).

Story:

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.

IMG_9652

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.

Story:

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.

Story:

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!

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