Week 1 Post 500 Startups – AKA welcome to our new office

Personal Log Earth Date 22-2-5774

I am going to keep this post short and sweet.

To anyone who was wondering, the blog lives on!

Starting next week we are going to have a new format in which every week a different founder from our batch will give an account of what their company is up to.

On he OLSET front a lot of stuff I can’t talk about happened this week…

The one big thing that I can’t talk about is the move to our new OLSET / BTCJam office is SOMA.

Monday saw much activity moving in and putting furniture together and learning about a lot of hidden skills!

Here is an assortment of pictures of the team showing off their skills 🙂

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It took a good part of the day on Monday but by the end of it we were OLSET!

We have a great view from the meeting room including a sunset:

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But while the rest of the office is set up and the teams are cranking along:

Bottom floor:

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And top floor (before anyone came in, in the morning):

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The meeting room still needs some work…

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A bunch of our batchmates were featured on Wall Street Cheat Sheet: http://wallstcheatsheet.com/business/8-new-startups-coming-up-from-dave-mcclures-stable.html/?a=viewall

Go: Shortcut, EquityZen, LaunchTrack, AdEspresso, uBiome, RealtyShares, Populr, OLSET and of course Dave McClure from whose stable we apparently come…

Oh, last but not least. Wednesday was a VERY BUSY day and all I had a chance to eat was Taco Bell on the way between meetings. I am sure Christine will be proud!

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Look for a post from one of our batch founders next week.

Gadi

500 Startups week 16 wrap – Demo Day Goes BOOM!!!!

Personal Log earth date 8-2-5,774,

OK, let’s start by saying that there is absolutely NO WAY to capture the experiences of this week in a blog posting (well, at least not for me…).

Let’s do this in order…

Sunday was a very disappointing Superbowl (not that I care too much who won, it was just not a good game!). But before the game, 500 S’s Mark Seldana hosted a fantastic champagne breakfast.

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This was followed by a superbowl viewing at 500 S. Dave brought the kids who were fascinated by the game!!!

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Monday kicked off with the LAST batch meeting.

The whole 500 S crew was there. We had a very interesting discussion regarding what we can and can’t say at demo day and it got very personal between Dave and Greg…

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After the batch meeting we met with Jennifer McCormick, one of the UX mentors for our last mentor meeting and some great feedback on our UX.

On Tuesday we had a bunch of meetings and some good time to prepare for the big day on Wednesday!

Apparently the morning was cold. When I showed up in the office Daniel from Populr & Gina from WePlann seemed a bit chilly.

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And then it was Demo Day in Mountain View. Great production by the entire 500 S team and awesome presentations by all our batchmates – Go 007!!!

We showed up at Microsoft in MV in the morning to get set up

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Each presenter had their own way to present.

Some like D2 from Anyadir Education stood on stage and recited their presentation

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While others like Maddie from Popbasic just used some uppers 🙂

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We had good division of labor in the OLSET team. While I was preparing to pitch the team was hard at working getting $hit done!

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And then we were off to the races. Dave got us started but then Christine Tsai took over and put on a show the entire day

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We were in the 2nd group to present and this is what it looks like standing in line waiting to present after Tom from 3Sourcing & Aakash from Shopseen:

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I can’t really talk about all the pitches because there is way to much to say but I can at least share some pictures of all the great presentations at the end of this blog posting. See below.

I will call out the fact that for some reason we didn’t get a picture of Hitesh from SilverPush presenting (I can confirm that he was there) but then I did see him post the following picture so I can only assume he pitched somewhere else at the same time. Now, that is impressive technology!!!

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We got the opportunity to get some great pictures and meet awesome investors, reporters and partners after the pitches.

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We got some amazing press coverage after the event and had a lot of follow up meetings scheduled. Here are a few links to some press where OLSET and many of our batchmates were featured

1. TechCrunch: http://techcrunch.com/2014/02/05/its-almost-like-im-writing-checks/

2. The Next Web: http://thenextweb.com/insider/2014/02/06/10-favorite-companies-500-startups-seventh-accelerator-class-demo-day/

3. Silicon Valley Business Journal:  http://www.bizjournals.com/sanjose/news/2014/02/06/heres-whos-trending-from-500.html?page=all

There was quite a bit of celebration at 500 after the presentations and we had a Looooong night following up on all the meeting requests. Some of had time toplay FlipCup:

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Thursday was whirlwind of meetings and on Friday we had the batch 007 Goodbye Party (no worries, we are all hanging out in NY next week).

The festivities started with a viewing of the Movie Crocodiles on the Yang-Tse – the Story of Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba. This was set up by Patai from Builk:

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The future tenants of 1 Bluxome apt 418 can be seen here. We hung out with our office-mates to be – BTCJam.

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And many other festivities including Dave showing off his love for More Cowbell:

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Here are pictures of all the presenters at demo day, I’ll let others in the batch add more comments and thoughts!

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One week to go!

Have a great weekend

Gadi

500 Startups week 14 wrap – Preview day goes Boom!

Personal Log earth date 25-1-5,774,

Now worries, that was a GOOD BOOM!

Wow, things are really heating up as our demo day draws near.

We had a local peek this week with preview day. Preview day is a small demo day where many 500 Startups LPs and mentors come to see our pitches in preparation for demo day. More about that later.

Monday kicked off with an international prep session. Angelika Blendstrup came in to help international founders perfect their accent. Considering the quality of the pitches on Wednesday I would say – GREAT JOB. Rui from Careira Beauty pitching:

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And Hana from BountyHuntr:

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The prep session was followed by the weekly batch meeting. The 500 S team was there in full force:

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Most of the discussion was around the upcoming demo days.

On Tuesday we had a dry run for the Wed preview day. This was a full dress rehearsal (sans the partying later). Celso from BTCJam put on a show:

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And Brian from MailLift shared the importance of sending hand written letters and how customers like Adroll are seeing a great lift in conversion rates using their service.

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This is a good panoramic view of prep day:

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And then it was preview day! Wednesday started with a bang. This is how the office looked at 10AM…

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I was a bit concerned that I am in the wrong place but turned out the teams were just getting in a bit later. Within a few hours we were in full force:

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And then the pitches commenced. MC Christine Tsai did a great job getting us on and off stage with awesome support by Tim Chae and Max F-S.

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Dave McClure helped kick things off and then headed to the back to hang out with Parker and enjoy the fruits of their hard work:

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James Levine sat beside them and enjoyed his hard work as well:

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There were a lot of great pitches and things flowed well. I’ll share more about the actual pitches on the real demo day. We don’t want to ruin anything.

And then there was much drink and celebration.

Tom from 3Sourcing showed up his socks:

 

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and we had great food:

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The teams needed to relax after the pitches by playing cards:

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Then we headed to a bar to chill and Daniel from Populr who worked all night to create an app for accredited investors to show interest in companies showed that he can crash anywhere if needed:

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Apparently there was a loooong night of Kareoke that followed but I missed it.

Teams recuperated on Thursday and on Friday we were right back to pitch prep with VCs from Grelock.

All in all very good week. 1 more full week to go before demo day.

500 Startups week 12 wrap – Pitchslapping!

Personal Log earth date 11-1-5,774

We’re Baaaaaack!

After a couple weeks off for the holidays the activities have resumed at 500 Startups.

The theme of the week watch Pitch Prep. As pitch days approach we are all starting to figure out our pitches, what works, what doesn’t work and what people love and hate.

We had a number of amazing investors and advisers come in this week and critique our pitches. As you will see below they had great feedback. You very quickly learn to focus on a few points:

1. Grab the audience attention in the first 15 seconds or lose them forever.

2. Don’t give them any opportunities to go down rabbit holes. If you bring up anything that distracts them and they start thinking about something else. You lose them forever.

3. Be memorable. There are 30 companies pitching and we all have a great story. How will I be remembered?

4. Focus your pitch on the people who care about you. Very few companies are interesting to all investors. At least 50% (and in many cases 90%) of the investors are not focused on what you do and are not likely to invest in you. Make sure that your pitch captures the attention of the investors who care.

5. Don’t be boring and don’t confuse them!

I am sure there are many other key points but those 5 are a good start. I’ll leave it to others (and future posts) to add more pointers.

So, let’s get to the activities of the week.

As usual Monday kicked off with the batch meeting:

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Meeting was a bit sleepy as many teams were not back yet due to the horrible weather all around the country (except California :)).

Most of the discussion was about demo days and the prep we need for them. Dave McClure and Christine Tsai also collected feedback from the batch to see who needs help with making some noise about their team and raising money! The next few weeks will be very interesting. At OLSET we are shooting for an investor marketing blitz this coming week.

Monday afternoon we started with pitch prep. This process will continue every day until the Mountain View demo day on Feb 5. Each company decides when and how many times they want to pitch. Every day we have different mentors (some of them were very kind and came in multiple times) and they provide feedback and direction. Our strategy was to give 3 different pitches, 1 each day, see what people like and don’t like and hone in on the one that works best so I can run with it starting next week. After giving my 3-pitches, I think I am going to try a 4th version next week (yes, they loved the 3 that much :)).

I don’t remember exactly who pitched on what day and which mentors were in on what day but here are some pictures and mentor pointers from Monday through Wednesday.

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Patai from Builk got us started.

Marcus Ogawa, James Levine, David Shen, Marvin Liao and a few other mentors were in and shared the love!

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Hana from BountyHuntr experimented with a bunch of different versions of her pitch

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I don’t recall who the feedback was to (probably best that I don’t remember) but Marcus definitely had the most pointed feedback to one of us saying “I felt like you opened the kimono and showed me all your warts”. Aka, Waaaaaaaay too much info that led me down a bunch of rabbit holes.

Brian from Mailift got the best logo feedback from Angelika Blendstrup, I’ll leave that yo everyone’s imagination.

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 We also got to experience pitches from Silverpush:

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Atish from EquityZen:

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Prof’ D2 from Anyadir Education:

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And many others. My apologies to all the pitchers and mentors I did not mention. I’ll catch you next week…

On Wednesday Oliver Comargo from WePlann and I had a travel founder interview with Mark Seldana from 500 Startups. I’ll post a link to the interview next week at it is not online yet.

I wasn’t at 500 S on Thursday as I started looking for offices in San Francisco for our post 500 days but Gina from WePlann posted this picture of Sunset in Mountain View. I think this is Shri from EquityZen but I am not sure:

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The 500 startups team had an offsite later in the wek and we received some pictures. Looks like they didn’t suffer too much:

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The week wrapped up with a visit by the Japanese minister for innovation at 500. Good to see that Silicon valley is inspiring innovation around the world.

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Have a great weekend and let the fun continue!

 

Gadi

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…):

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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.

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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.

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

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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?).

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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 🙂

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And me enjoying a drink:

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

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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):

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

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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

Gadi

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!

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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

Mark

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:

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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…

Mervins

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…

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

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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!

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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

G

500 Startups – Week 1 Wrap (aka time to get $hit done)

Personal log, earth date 10-12-5774,

Sitting at home on a Saturday morning looking out at the Bay Bridge and reflecting on week 1 @500Startups. This is the view from the home office in SF.

Bay Bridge from home office

I guess I have to start with: My name is Gadi Bashvitz, the co-founder of OLSET, that is http://www.olset.com (you had to be there…).

Week started off with the welcome session on Monday. First opportunity to meet the extended 500 S team and our new  007 batch-mates. I think Christine Tsai gets the prize for most interesting personal story shared at kickoff.

Kickoff After a few hours of getting settled, meeting the neighbors (The Populr kids in class) the joy of welcome evening started. We got to hear a lot of great stories from previous founders and learn form their best practices. Then the real fun started and a rep from each company gave a 60 second pitch about their company. Amyn was uber brave, got out of his comfort zone and pitched OLSET. Dave McClure was very gentle with his comments of feedback. I think the image below best represents the feeling most presenters had…

Rubber gloveSome alcohol followed so the pain was soon forgotten 🙂

Tuesday was our day to get the real work started. We kicked off the morning with a session with Parker Thompson (our designated venture partner = DVP). First step getting oriented, getting our sea legs and seeing what help we can get to make OLSET go BOOM (in a good way…). I am sure a lot of interesting stuff happened after that but I had to go back to SF for some partner meetings so I missed it.

Wednesday kicked off with Breakfast of champions and a view…

Breakfast with a viewYep, that’s the view from the office. Not sure who selected the office location but, GOOD JOB!  More pictures below. Breakfast was followed by our first mentor session. Already getting some great insights from very experienced mentors including Thomas Knoll, Johnathan Chizick and Dave Nemetz.

Caught up with Shai Goldman, the 500 S NY partner in the afternoon and hopefully hooked him up with some fun meetings on his Israel trip.

Mark Suster @msuster dropped by in the afternoon and shared a TON of knowledge on fundraising, structuring rounds and what to do and not to do.

I got to hang out with a bunch of the other founders Wednesday evening, As expected a lot can be achieved over drinks! Not only did we start a scotch club (still need to work on that) but I got to learn a lot more about some of the people and companies in the batch including:

Celso from BTCjam (Bitcoin from Brazil)

Flavio from Carreira Beauty (Beauty salons in Brazil)

Emily from CityBlis (Creating a clothing line)

Atish, Shri and Phil from Equity Zen (providing liquidity to employees in private companies)

Christina from PlateJoy (delivering healthy food to busy people)

Jay & Kate from ViralGains (tracking engagement on YouTube videos)

Oliver from WePlann (Travel experiences for emerging market travelers in their language)

Dinner was at Scott’s Seafood right by the office. They have a very cool fire pit outside:

Scott's seafood

I know I forgot a few people but this is roughly the point where the alcohol kicked in so let’s connect this week 🙂

Thursday continued with a discussion about how 500 S can help us fundraising and a few more mentor meetings. We also managed to get some work done on the product thanks to the focus by our team!

Thursday evening started with a fireside chat by Dave McClure. Many, many fun facts and some very colorful language. Great tips on dealing with the media, interesting facts on what brought Dave to Silicon valley and what you can and can’t call people you disagree with (WOW, it was very hard to keep this section clean…). Needless to say it looked something like this:

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After this we headed to Steakout and learned how to play: 1,2, Pitch. I got to learn about some AMAZING companies including Firehat, Girljacket, Horseumbrella and their premium service Unicornumrella and many others. Steakout has a great German beer collection.

Steakout

Friday started off with another great view from the office.

View

We then focused on our next drop and got a lot more actual work done. We did find time to play a doubles game of table tennis. Very proud that Raz from 3Desk and I did well against Erik & Dan from WishPlz.

Friday wrapped up with Brewski Friday and learning much more about some of our other friends from Grata, WishPlz and Sidelines. I headed back into the city (that is SF for anyone not from the area…).

Looking back at the week, not too shabby. Very little sleep but we only have 15 weeks left to make the most out of the program. I am sure I forgot a lot of stuff and I hope I didn’t offend anybody (too badly).

NOW it is time to freak out about all the stuff I wanted to get done this week and didn’t get to. I guess that’s the reason they invented weekends… No worries Parker & Matt, all the materials will be ready for our Tuesday meetings…

Time to get to work.

Gadi