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.
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.
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.
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.
5- Tanya Soman (Principal):
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.