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Backstage
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LAST UPDATED
August 30, 2016

500 lessons that we learned at 500 Startups

Content Marketing Manager at Avocode.

"I write for those who want to be seen..."

“…nooow you can unfaaasten your seatbelt' and tuuurn on your electronic deeevices” says Matthew McConaughey-like voice on a bird that carries me over the ocean, far from Silicon Valley. I reinterpret his announcement as a signal to start writing these lines.

Wow, it's been over 4 months

4 months since I closed my own business, dropped out of my masters in college and joined Avocode. A price worth paying.

When I first arrived to California at the end of April, I wasn't the only one who didn't really know what to expect. To be honest, I thought that Mountain View is a suburb of San Francisco and when our CEO told me that we're joining 500 Startups I had to google what that is.

All that changed. Not only that I became a member of the 500 Startups family, something people compare to an Ivy League membership in the States... I got a chance to take a peek into the backstage of the Silicon Valley.

In the past three months I learned more than in three years in college. Everyday when I woke up and entered the building at 444 Castro Street or met with our mentors like Nemo Chu or Chikodi Chima I was making notes and gathering know-how. Since 500 lessons would account for a book, not a blog post, I picked the most interesting ones.

People-wise 👫

The biggest bug that needs fixing might be your team structure.

Yes, there comes a time when you need to start with things called processes. Are you a fan of a flat company structure? It can only go so far. This is how our team developed and changed.

Find friends that tackle the same challenges.

We cannot thank enough to 500 Startups to setting us up (maybe unconsciously) with all the amazing talent from all over the globe. We've learnt a sh** ton from you guys!

Ken, the guy on the right co-founded a company called TravelFlan. If you're from Japan or South Korea, you might have heard about these guys.

Chill.

If you go home early, the world will most likely not collapse. Even though we were at work usually from 10 to 10, we completely switched off during the weekends. We almost made it to the El Capitan in Yosemite and one time our co-founders even turned into bar tenders.

Life is a game. Play it.

Sometimes it looks like the GTA. Mission failed? Try again.

Never forget where you came from.

But it's ok to get comfy elsewhere for a while.

Our home was not build out of stone, but IKEA.

Responsibility doesn't bite. Don't be scared.

Check out what it's like to represent your company in the Silicon Valley as bare employees and not founders. Easy peasy.

Business-wise 💼

Speak the business jargon, but know what you're saying.

Are you a business man? Learn what a funnel is. And MRR. And Churn. Google it.

In about two months you will see a result of this legendary brainstorming.
Define the one thing that people use your product for. It's called core action. Find it. Find it quick!”

What is a core action? You better think twice if you wish for things exponential growth, the so-called hockey stick graph. Because once you start, you can never stop.

Our CMO in the depths of JavaScript.

Don't be afraid of money.

Fun fact: people in the States are used to getting be sold to. But you don't have to be a capitalist to know that when you're putting time and energy to anything you call a business, you better think about your profit. FYI, the same goes for NGO's.

Talking about e-mail marketing strategy with Nemo Chu.

Digital startups grow faster than hardware companies.

If you have a physical product, you have to have product costs every time you make it. If you have a virtual product, you can multiply it zillion times without a penny. It's called downloading.

If you wanna go big, prepare for the headache.

If you're looking for a recipe on how to build a unicorn, don't. If you think you have a billion dollar idea, good luck. If you want to have a scalable business? You better test your quality, measure, assess, and hire a Customer Success Manager. It'll pay off.

We put on these unicorn t-shirts during the San Francisco Pride parade. It says: "Believe in your 'effin self.

Experience-wise 🤘🏼

Hustle.

The number one lesson of Entrepreneurship 1.01.

Read this. It's the best story of the entire summer.

Become a visionary.

Freestyle if you don't know how. You can only fake it for this long. Then you have to make it.

Though you're loosing energy, don't forget to shine.

Prepare and then show what you've got.

If you find out that NASA, Google and Linkedin HQ is almost in your back yard, don't freak out.

The USA is a new country. One that doesn't have much history and culture to build on. This is extremely evident in artificial bubble spots like Mountain View, California. The distances are crazy and you never meet people in the streets other than in downtown. But is still has it's perks.

Understand your customers.

Listen to them, converse, discuss, reply, ignite dialogue. Once you're on the same page, stay there. Here is a simple guide to set up the Ideal Customer Profile and a smart methodology called Hierarchy of Engagement that might help.

Your branding matters.

People will love you for it. If you have a look at the toilets at SF airport, Adobe lobby or 500 Startups offices, you'll know what I'm talking about.

You can find all our stories from the 500 Startups here. Have you ever been in an accelerator? How was it? Tell us in the comments below. 👇🏼

And one more thing...

You can look forward to a series of 4 interviews that we conducted with 4 super-skilled Founders from our batch at 500 Startups. Stay tuned. 🎤

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