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 ūüôā

20140217_110328 20140217_110333 20140217_110336 20140217_110346

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:


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

Bottom floor:


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


The meeting room still needs some work…


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!


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



500 Startups week 17 wrap – 500 S takes over NY (or The weather was angry this week)

Personal Log earth date 15-2-5,774,

I am VERY happy to be back home in San Francisco where the weather is AWESOME!

Looking back, I have no idea how I spent 5+ years in NY before moving to SF 6 years ago. Awesome place, crappy weather.

OK, enough of that. Let’s get down to business.

Our 4 months at 500 Startups are OVER! The week in NY was our last week and we went out with a bang. For all of you who are feeling a pinch reading this line, no worries, this weekly blog will continue with posts from all our batch companies so you will be able to continue sharing in the joy (and pain) which is the life of batch 007 – the best batch ever!!!

I missed a couple of the events at 500 S on Monday as I flew out to NY for a bunch of meetings ahead of demo day but rumor has it that there was a very lightly attended batch meeting.

The week was supposed to be all about our demo day on Thursday but the weather gods had a something else in mind.

When I arrived in NY on Monday evening times square looked like this:



Very clod but blue skies. This is what it looked like the next morning after the storm hit:



Yes, this was taken around 8AM. And this is what things looked like a couple hours later when everything started turning to slush…



At least it warmed up a bit when it was snowing…

As always with snow you also get some beautiful shots like this one of Columbus circle where I had a meeting:


The week was filled with meetings and festivities leading up to the big day on Thursday. Unfortunately Thursday was the biggest storm so many people did not make it into the city. The demo day format was a good format. A bunch of 1:1 meetings which worked out well. Unfortunately not all the attendees showed up due to the weather.

The venue at Goodwin Procter was great and the view from their 40th floor was very cool:



The layout where we each had a table and huge screens worked very well:

20140213_191330 20140213_191308 20140213_154555


And this was a great opportunity to not only meet with partners and investors but also catch up with our batch-mates (Nav from Reality share & Amyn from OLSET enjoying some wine):



Even the 500 S lady founders came out in force (Maddie from Popbasic, Hana from Bounty Huntr, Christina from PlateJoy & Anjali from Partender) and showed some #500strong girl power:


Maya, Tim, Max, Christen and the rest of the 500 team did a great job setting this up.

OK, this posting felt strange until now and I just realized why. I can’t publicly post anything about most of what happened this week as we need to make sure we follow all the regulations that we have to follow. Trust me this week was waaaaaay more fascinating than what this post makes it sound…

After the demo day the festivities started. Us “Old Guys” only went to the first couple bars. I had an excuse as I had an 8:30AM meeting with a potential partner on Friday morning and I did want to get some sleep before that.

The Center Bar was pretty cool:

photo 1¬†And a couple min later this happened (aparently Phil fromEquityZen &Christina from Platejoy are now engaged….):

photo 2


I can’t wait to see those kids. Tons of secondary equity & healthy food, who needs genetic engineering???

It was great to catch up with Allen Liu one of the awesome 500 S mentors who has been helping us out right before I flew back to San Francisco. Allen even managed to find a little coffee shop called Little Collins which is named after little Collins street in Melbourne and has the same ambiance and coffee. Great memories from a past life:



Many of our batch-mates stayed in NY for the weekend and reports are coming in via all social media channels about their festivities including some good pictures:

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Well, I guess that’s it for this posting, but as I said above, not to worry the story of batch 007 is just starting and the next chapters will be written here and posted in all the major publications soon!

Off to the next chapter.


500 Startups week 15 wrap – Irish Twins

Personal Log earth date 1-2-5,774,

Our batch 007 hasn’t even wrapped up and this week batch 008 kicked off up in San Francisco. This is the new 500 Startups strategy. 4 batches a year, 2 in Mountain View and 2 in SF.

So, what did we have this week?

Most of the focus was on prep for next week’s demo day – woo hoo, but as usual at 500 there were a lot more afoot…

But, before the week actually kicked off, many of our batch-mates got together at the BTCJam complex to celebrate a beautiful weekend in the Bay Area with food and much drink.




Due to the batch 8 kickoff, batch 7 got no love on Monday and this was the first time we did not have a Monday batch meeting. Well, we will really be in trouble if we can’t do without them as we only have 1 left before we leave the nest.

Apparently the 500 S office in the city is not quite ready yet so their kickoff was a bit improvised…


We were compensated by having Stephanie Palmeri @stephpalmeri from SoftTech VC ran pitch prep on Monday and provided some great feedback to many of the teams.



On Tuesday we had a bunch of meetings in SF so did not make it down to Mountain View but there were many things going on. We did manage to remotely join the fireside chat with Pierre-Olivier Latour from EverPix:

EverpixPierre shared a lot of valuable information regarding what to do, what not to do and what could be done better based on his experience!

Our team huddled in our shared office @WSGRSoma to view the live stream:


On Wednesday afternoon there was more pitch prep followed by the formal batch 8 kickoff. Great opportunity to share our knowledge and catch up with founders from past batches and the newbies from batch 8. We heard their initial pitches and while they have a LOT of work ahead of them (wow, did we ever sound that green?), there seem to be some awesome companies in this batch.

20140129_183635 Parker Thompson did a great job corralling a horde of founders and keeping us on track.


The kickoff was at the very pimped out Pivotal labs office…

Thursday was the Chinese New Year. Goodbye year of the Snake, Hello year of the Horse! The BoutyHunter team celebrated the year with some the customary ping pong game (well, I am quite sure this had nothing to do with the New Years but notice how quickly Hana moves) and great Chinese food.



1560690_10202849265329644_1221342324_nAnd those of us who couldn’t make it to the dinner went to a Mongolian BBQ to prepare for the nightly pitch prep.



Great catching up with the EquityZen, PopBasic, Populr, OLSET and WePlann teams over dinner and surprisingly fantastic ice cream.

And then we had the traditional Thursday night pitch prep with Maneesh Arora and James Cham.



Maneesh and James provided extremely valuable feedback, focused on why our products are better and how we can better convey our messages.



Massimo from AdEspresso won the prize for best visual deck.

The last pitch prep session was on Friday and we also got the new OLSET shirts:



The other exciting news for the week is that we found an office in San Francisco that we will be moving into on Feb 17.

2 More weeks to go!

Wish us luck with demo day on Wed!

Have a great weekend.







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:



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.



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!


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


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.


 We also got to experience pitches from Silverpush:







Atish from EquityZen:



Prof’ D2 from Anyadir Education:



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:



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



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.



Have a great weekend and let the fun continue!



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 ūüôā

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 ūüôā

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 Salda√Īa 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