500 Startups week 11 Wrap – Big push before the break

Personal Log earth date 22-12-5,774

Week 11 came and went. Right before we have a couple slow weeks at 500 Startups for the holidays, we had another big week.

The week kicked off with the batch meeting. This week most of the 500 S team was focused on interviewing teams for batch 8, but Parker Thompson was kind enough to run the meeting and others trickled in over time.



Daniel from Populr was VERY excited about the meeting. He might have been caught on tape sleeping during the meeting. In his defense he did apparently pull an all nighter Sunday night.



Ah, the joy of sitting next to me…

On Tuesday,Ben Ling from Khosla Ventures came to 500 and told us about his investment strategy & focus. He shared both hos current focus and his strategy when he was an angel investor. Very good insights for those who are fundraising in the batch.


Ben’s presentation was followed by an afternoon & evening with Sami Inkinen from Trulia. Sami both had a mentor session with us and then a fireside chat in which he shared a lot of insights about company culture, company growth and his experiences on what to do and what not to do. Sorry, fireside chats are not recorded so I can’t share them…



We worked form the city on Wednesday but rumor has it that some of the other teams had great mentor meetings.

On Tuesday we also launched our GA partnership with Any.Do to all their android users. Now whenever an Any.Do user puts a task to book a hotel they can automatically do that via OLSET. Exciting times.

On Thursday Kris Duggan from Badgeville gave a pitch on enterprise sales 101. Great insights for those who do not have B2B sales experience.



And then it was Friday, aka pitch day #2 for the companies that did not pitch last week.

We had a whole gamut of pitches. Some great, some in need of improvement. All, on their way to doing well on demo day.

Jonathan from Launchtrack got us started:



Dave McClure jumped in and provided some joyful feedback



There were a bunch of other pitches, I didn’t take all the pictures but then Pouria from CityBlis played Emily and pitched



We set up the batch with an easy way to book hotels for the NY demo day on OLSET. A coupe teams already booked. Fun times.


Happy Holidays!



500 Startups week 10 Wrap – Let the pitches begin!

Personal log, earth date 12-14-5,774

Rumor has it this past week was the coldest we have had in the Bay Area in over a decade. It has now warmed back up but this is definitely reflected in the pictures from the batch meeting on Monday (notice the beautiful hats Max & Dave are wearing and Christine’s freezing stance…):


Most interesting news in the batch meeting is that the demo day in NY is on! So we have a preview day on Jan 22 in Mountain View, Pitch day in MV on Feb 5 and then we are off to NY on Feb 13. We are going to book all the hotels for the batch using OLSET!

After the batch meeting we had a “pitch view party”. We looked at a bunch of pitches from previous batches and learned the good and the bad, Very interesting and insightful.

On Tuesday, Christine Herron from Intel Capital dropped by and told us all about how VCs operate. We missed this presentation as we had the first OLSET investor / advisor / team meeting at that time.


You can find a recording of the presentation here: http://new.livestream.com/500SAcc/events/2611496

Stephanie Hay came to 500 startups on Wed and Thu and raised a storm! Definitely a couple of the best presentations we had throughout the program and a very informative mentor session. Stephanie has a knack for cutting through any BS and getting right to the point. What is the value you provide, to whom and why the hell are you doing what you are doing?

On Wednesday Stephanie gave a pitch on content for startups and what we should, or shouldn’t have on your website.



On Thursday Stephanie focused on our pitch on pitch day, what is important, what is not important (mainly what is not important…). Great insights!



You can find Stephanie’s presentation here: http://new.livestream.com/500SAcc/kickasspitch

Rewind a bit to Wednesday evening. 500 S hosted the Blue Hawaiian accelerator pitch day in MV. We saw pitches from a few very interesting companies. There are some great ideas coming out of Hawaii. They also shared pictures of having board meetings on surfboards and catching waves. If anyone is interested in joining an accelerator in paradise, this is not a bad option (not much money but who cares?).



They were kind enough to not only pitch but also share some Hawaiian Mai-Thais and Hawaiian food.

Here’s the CityBliss team after a few cocktails 🙂



And me enjoying a drink:



The drinks looked good (a bit froofy in my taste):



On Thursday evening our very own Celso Pita, the CEO of BTCJam gave us a presentation on Bitcoin 101. Amazing how much we don’t know about Bitcoin. 

You can find Celso’s presentation here: http://new.livestream.com/500SAcc/Bitcoin

And then it was Friday and we had pitch practice! 

A few of us volunteered to pitch on this first day, get feedback (some positive, some negative, most very helpful and surprisingly nobody was hurt).

Nick Holland from Populr was the first to go (apparently he pulled an all nighter before this):



Dave McClure was as gentle as a feather with his feedback (or not)…



I went second. Fun times. I definitely recommend pitching early as you get the most feedback that way and can improve the most.

We wrapped up the week with a meeting with our POC Parker Thompson and planning the next couple weeks. The OLSET team is working hard this weekend making some final adjustments to our Any.Do partnership in preparation for the GA launch with them this week.

Rumor has it that a bunch of our batch-mates went skydiving this afternoon. I wonder if we should be concerned as we haven’t heard anything from them yet and no pictures were posted on Facebook.

Well, that wraps week 10. The next couple weeks will be quiet as many of the teams are heading home for the holidays.

Have a great weekend


500 Startups – week 9 Wrap (50% over)

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Whoa, good to be back in the swing of things for a few more weeks before things quiet down again.

500 did a good job this week setting up presentations and knowledge transfer sessions every day this week.

It was a bit quiet early in the week as teams were getting back from the long weekend. As such we had only a handful of people in the batch meeting (OK, I might have missed it too but I was in the office on a call with an advisor we are trying to get on board for OLSET).

Main takeaway from the batch meeting is that after much deliberation we will have 2 demo days at the end of the batch. One in MountainView and another in NY. Fun times!!!

Wow, what an NFL game Monday night. I am sure Arka Ray from Sidelines app and our local Seahawks fan was very happy!

On Tuesday Mike Greenfield from Circle of Moms dropped by to share his experience on email marketing and the fact that while it is unglamorous and Difficult, it is also very effective. Mike shared how they grew Circle of Moms’ Email Engagement Nearly 10x. Very practical advise and pointers.



You can find a recording of this presentation here: http://new.livestream.com/500SAcc/events/2594505

On Wednesday Chikodi Chima shared his experience on how to drive Public Relations in Startups and How to build an audience, get press, and stay in the conversation. Chikodi had some very good and practical ideas.

Chikodi Chima

Apparently there was a problem with the recording of this session but when it is available, you will be able to find it here: http://new.livestream.com/500SAcc/events/2596697

On Wednesday afternoon the team from Chewse (500 Startups batch 5) hosted a cookie potluck and invited all local 500 family companies to join. Wow, very “tough” evening of cookies and wine (aka death by chocolate as Tracey from Chewse put it :)). Great to connect with other teams and founders from the 500 S family.


Thursday kicked off with a great mentor meeting with Matt Tillman, Matt shared a lot of information about the advertising world, how it works and who the players are. Great to see that there are companies similar to OLSET trying to drive deep analytics in the online ads world.

In the afternoon 500’s very own Matt Berman gave a talk about Facebook Ads, how to create them, how to target etc. We are trying to see if we can “hire” Matt and the distribution team for a couple months so they can help us with some B2C marketing efforts. Yet another one of the perks of being at 500.

Matt Berman


On Thursday evening Victoria Ransom the founder and CEO of Wldfire which was recently acquired by Google gave a very insightful fireside chat. We were asked not to share insights from the chat as it was very personal. All I’ll say is that I heard there were rumors of wedding proposals during the presentation…

Victoria On Friday the team from Amazon AWS bought us pizza (thank you) and gave a presentation on Scaling to Your First 10M Users led by Todd Varland. We then had 1:1 meetings with Amazon to discuss how we can optimize our instances. It is great to have this free support for AWS. BTW, I mentioned Rewardli (https://500.rewardli.com/offers) in the past and I highly recommend to any startup to take advantage of the offers here. We are essentially hosting for free on AWS for 24 months. Great way to save money.

Looking forward to another fun-filled week next week including the first OLSET investor / mentor / team  meeting on Tuesday.


Have a great weekend


500 Startups week 8 Wrap – Turkey week

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Well, we thought it was going to be a short week so not much happening. Turns out there is no such thing at 500 Startups…

Monday morning started bright and early (Amyn and I were in by 8AM and had 500 S to ourselves forabout an hour an hour).

Of course, I had my little breakfast of champions!



Monday at noon we had a sparsely attended batch meeting. Dave was back (for a while) so the meeting was much more entertaining than expected….I’ll stick to calling it “colorful”.



On Tuesday Andrei Marinescu from from the 500 S growth team came to visit from LA and gave a talk about different metrics, calculation, tracking and presenting them. Always good to be reminded of the basics. 



You can see Andrei’s presentation on Slideshare, here: http://www.slideshare.net/500startups/500-s-batch-7-metrics-presentation?from_search=1.

I managed to capture a “conference call” 500 S style on film. Scott & Pouria from CityBlis showing off how you optimize resources. I guess you get very close as startup founders….



We had an amazing sunset Tuesday evening. It looked like the sky in Mountain View was on fire. One can only assume it is due to all the progress our batch-mates are making and lighting it up.


I mentioned in the past that one of the advantages of being at 500 Staruptups is the random visits we get from great people who can share amazing knowledge. On Wednesday Samir Patel of SearchForce fame dropped by and gave up many insights into “Dirty tricks for Adwords & Google Analytics”. A bit scary to see how much there is to learn and how much we don’t know about Google Adwords. I am happy that at OLSET we focus mainly on distribution through our partners 🙂


You can see Samir’s presentation here: http://new.livestream.com/500SAcc/adwords

Wednesday was also the last day to apply for the SF batch of 500 Startups which starts early next year. Waiting for the stats on applciations but needless to say it was in the 4 digits and only 20-30 companies will make it in. Looking forward to having them as part of the family and seeing the new downtown office. 

Wednesday evening was the 500 S Thanksgivnukah potluck.

There was Waaaaaay to much food (and a bit of alcohol too :)). I am proud to report that my latkes were the first to go.



We have some sightings of founders showing off their eating skills. Here’s Hana from Bounty Huntr exploring her Jewish roots.



P.S. Rare sighting of Angela Potter from OLSET in the background…

And Raz from 3Sourcing scaring his food.



That was about it for the 3 days of week 8.

Very much looking forward to the next stretch of 4 weeks lading up to Christmas and New years. A lot of stuff to do in this period. First thing’s first, launching the beta with our partner Any.Do this week.

Have a great week


500 Startups week 7 Wrap – the missing week…

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I am very happy to be back in San Francisco after an amazing week at the Travel Innovation Summit in Hollywood Florida.

I missed the week at 500 Startups so this report comes to you directly from Atish Davda @EquityZen, Angela Potter from OLSET and what I collected from emails and communication from other batch-mates and the 500 S team.

Monday kicked off with a mentor meeting with Joyce Kim from Freestyle. Joyce previously founded SimpleHoney (a travel startup) so she had great pointers. This meeting was followed by the weekly batch meeting.

We had a Facebook trip on Monday afternoon to learn more about their advertising solutions.

Meanwhile in Hollywood Florida, we were preparing for the OLSET pitch at the PhocusWright Travel Innovation Summit (#TIS13).



On Tuesday, Robert Scoble dropped by 500 S for a visit and presented his take on social media. Great to hear from him that he believes in the trend for companies to be increasingly personalized — using context to detect user needs. Robert also highlighted how important it is to overcome the “creepy factor” that users feel when you’re tracking them all the time and allowing them to customize manually if they want, and to allow them to turn off tracking.

And, in Florida at the same time, I was presenting on stage. You can view a recording of my presentation here: http://phocuswrightconference.com/ondemand (if the OLSET presentation doesn’t start immediately, look for it in the list below).

On Tuesday afternoon our friends from the Samsung Open Innovation Center (OIC) came to visit, mentor the companies and learn more about our innovations. We had met with them in the past so we skipped this meeting but we look forward to working with them going forward.

Tuesday wrapped up with 1:1 meetings with the Gunderson law firm for those teams that need some legal help. We are happy with our partnership with Wilson Sonsini so again we skipped this one.

On Wednesday we set up our booth at the conference and got to meet other 500 statups founders from MyGola who were our neighbors.


Meanwhile back at the ranch in Mountain View, 500’s very own Sean Percival gave a riveting presentation (based on people who were there, I still need to review the recording) about getting started with SEO. Based on the summary I received Sean imparted a lot of good information.



Our friends from MyGola were selected as the Brand USA Marketing innovator so we celebrated with them on Wednesday evening:


On Thursday, Brad Jefferson the co-founder & CEO of Animoto came by for a fireside chat. Brad shared stories about growing Animoto from nothing to 8Mn registered users and 65 employees, as well as the the trials & tribulations of founder life.


To wrap up the week, 500 organized the Warm Gun design Conference on Friday. You can find more information here: http://warmgun.com/


Looking forward to being back at 500 Startups starting tomorrow.

Happy Thanksgiving!


500 Startups Week 6 Wrap. 1.5 Months in!

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Unfortunately I missed some of the activities this week due to intensive preparations for the Phocuswright Travel Innovation Summit #TIS13. OLSET is one of a few startups selected to present at this prestigious event. You can see more details here: http://phocuswrightconference.com/ . This means we are spending next week in Florida so the week 7 wrap will be written by guest contributors.

OK, now that’s out of the way, let’s talk about week 6.

As always the weeks kicked off with the batch meeting. This one had a somber note as it was decided that we will not be partnering with Angellist on a fund for the batch. Luckily most of the companies in the batch are OK with this.


Here’s Christine Tsai delivering the news…

The great mentor sessions continued after that. Marvin Liao shared insights on partnering with large organizations like Yahoo based on his vast experience.

On Monday afternoon we were visited by an group of entrepreneurs from Korea who pitched their companies at 500 Startups. Very interesting!


On Tuesday we had a few meetings in the city in the morning and made it into 500 just in time for a noon presentation by Reddit. The provided a lot of information about the Reddit platform, how we can get started with it and the benefits of marketing with them.


20131112_123222_resizedOn Wednesday we met with Softlayer to learn more about what they can offer us both in terms of hosting and other sales & marketing support.

SoftlayerI have not shared information about Rewardli yet but it is a great program. Whether you are a 500 Startups company or not you can get a lot of value from this platform. One example is that we get free hosting for a couple of years with AWS, MS Bizspark, Softlayer etc. There are many other benefits for startups. You can learn more here: http://www.rewardli.com

We’ll see if we can work with Softlayer as we have PCI compliance at OLSET and AWS offers a platform that supports the compliance.

We had a hump day happy hour at 500 S on Wed afternoon but I missed it as I went to the opening night events for the MEF global forum. 500’s very own Parker Thompson was on a panel at the conference & he invited both OLSET and Partender to present at the event.

The Wed evening reception was held at the Mozilla offices in San Francisco. Great view of the Bay Bridge (from the other side of the view from my house) and the Ferry building:




Quick break from the week’s events at 500. Quite a few people apparently care what Dave McClure is up to as he hasn’t appeared in my posts in the last few weeks. Well, turns out Dave is hopping around the world with Geeks On A Plane #GOAP. This week he shared great views from Dubai & Abu Dabi. Here are some awesome pictures that he shared.

Grande mosque

BurjKhalifa - Dubai


We hope he actually makes it back from there… 🙂

We now continue with our regular programming.

Thursday morning we presented at the MEF forum. You can find my slides here: http://www.slideshare.net/bashvitz/olset-presentation-at-mef-nov-2013

This was followed by the investor panel talking about their focus & interest.

20131114_111052_resizedRyan Domico from Crocodoc came to visit and have lunch with us on Thursday.

He shared some of his knowledge and experience starting a company, growing it and being acquired.

ryan-crocodocAfter that we met with Aaron Batalion from Living Social. Aaron had some GREAT insights on testing marketing ideas and validating distribution options without development.

Our mentor meeting with Aaron was followed by him sharing insights & knowledge in a fireside chat.

aaronbatalionWe worked from the city on Friday and I know we missed a few things but we had to prepare for the conference next week and the launch with our partner Any.Do next week.

The week actually wrapped up with a mentor session with Omer Perchik the CEO of Any.Do. Very timely 🙂

That’s it for this week. Amyn (My Co-Founder and OLSET’s CTO) and I are off to Florida tomorrow morning.

Wish us luck.

Have a great week.






500 Startups Batch 007 – Week 5 Wrap!

Personal Log Earth date 11-9-5774

Well, we are 5 weeks into the program and everything continues to accelerate.

Less than 3 months to go until we all get on stage at demo days!!!

So, what happened in 500-land this week?

Monday started off with the batch meeting as usual (good to have some structure). Seems like batch meetings are becoming shorter and shorter as we all become more busy! Yep, we were promised this would happen. Christine Tsai took the lead on the batch meeting this week!


Parker (Thompson) rocked his new hat on Monday 🙂

We started a new tradition on Monday evening. Arka Ray from SidelinesApp was the driver of a peer review meeting in which each founder had the opportunity to bring up challenges we have and get pointers from other founders. We also had the opportunity to share some horror stories. Jonathan Cordeau from LaunchTrack took the cake with a story of how good intentions with partners can get you screwed…. Glad it all worked out in the end.

20131104_173900Look at how civilized we look here. That will change later in the week 🙂

Last but not least, we launched the OLSET partnership with GetGoing on Monday. You can now take advantage of the OLSET algorithms & technology when you book hotels on GetGoing (www.getgoing.com).

Alex Moore, CO-FOUNDER & CEO OF BAYDIN came to visit on Tuesday. He gave a great presentation about The Hockey Stick Myth: The Truth About Growth via Email, SEO, & App Stores. The most important points came up after the camera stopped recording. Alec had some great pointers on real growth vs. forced growth and how to position your growth to investors.

20131105_121052 We got some work done Tuesday afternoon and were able to get the first version of the OLSET integration with our partner Any.Do (www.any.do). Looking forward to launching our beta soon.

On Wednesday Jason Evanish from Greenhorn Connect shared his experience and presented about The nuts and bolts of building a customer driven company. You can see Jason’s presentation (at least the formal parts) here: http://new.livestream.com/500SAcc/customerlove

The nuts and bolts of building a customer driven company

And then it was Thursday! 500’s very own Mark Saldaña shared his marketing wisdom and told us about Uncool” marketing channels that work for startups. Amazing how most of the things we do in startups and drive our success are VERY UNCOOL!!!! They are very rewarding in the end but cool is definitely not part of 95% of what we do. You can see Mark’s presentation here: http://new.livestream.com/500SAcc/UnCoolMarketing


Don’t you feel you are going through the program with us by watching these presentations? As long as you are here, can you do the dishes?

One of the advantages of being at 500 Startups is that you get impromptu visits from great people. Dan Martell from Clarity dropped by in the afternoon and gave an “off the record” talk sharing from his awesome experience. Dan had some great words of wisdom. He gave some great analogies between dating and meeting with investors. Very relevant for all the nerds in our batch :).

Dan Martell

Instead of watching the the Stanford Oregon game on Thursday evening we hung out with James Hong the Co-Founder of HOTorNOT.com. James had great stories about doing things you are passionate about and investing time in your friends!

We started off with this picture:

Hot or not


But decided that James looks better now:


I was introduced to the “Mervins” establishment on Thursday night. It was good to hang out with the guys from EquityZen, Shopseen and we even had a rare visit by George from WishPlz and Scott from the OLSET team! You will never find this hole in the wall unless people tell you exactly where it is hidden in an alley in Mountain View. This was a very informative evening learning about smoking habits from the Camel reps and how to play a new type of chess that we will call “apparatus chess” for lack of a better name. Atish from EquityZen was definitely the Grand Master of this chess…


Pretty clean for a dive bar.

The luxury continued when I crashed at the closest motel to 500 Startups. This is the luxurious ABVI in Mountain View. Nothing but luxury hotels when you are at a startup…


Friday breakfast provided a beautiful view as usual. This time it was a bit more cloudy than usual:



I am pretty sure that the 500 S office has the best view in the Bay Area.

Our friends from PayPal Blueprint were kind enough to host a Fiesta Lunch on Friday!


These sounds like a great program. Unfortunately I don’t think it will work for us.

Allen Liu had some great insights about marketing and growth during our afternoon mentor call. Thanks Allen for talking with us so late on a Friday afternoon from NY!

Friday wrapped up for us with a great meeting with our friend Philippe Cases. Great discussion about metrics and driving / proving success.

We managed to sneak in another release of OLSET before the week ended.

There are also rumors that there was a Birthday celebration for Jay Singh from ViralGains last night but I have not seen more details. I can only guess it was a wild one. Happy birthday Jay.

OK, time to hit the gym and make sure I at least get a short run in…

Looking forward to week 6 and our presentation at the MEF Global Forum on Thursday: http://mefglobalforum.org/

Have a great week