There are tons of things that I learned, and these are the things that I wish I knew:
1. Make better use of mentor time
There are more than 200 mentors available in 500 Startups network, together with the whole family (mentors, founders, staffs) more than 1000 people. That’s the huge network that anyone could ever dream off for any entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurship is a lonesome road; however, this network give you no excuse about “I don’t know how to do abc, xyz”. Unless you invented a whole new problem in your startups; there will always someone in the network expert for your problems. And, if you can’t find anyone who experience that problem before, you’re in a very deep shitty problem; including how to scale your back-end performance, understanding the term sheet, or decoding investors’ message.
All mentors offer office hours at least once per month, per batch, or even more, 30-45 mins session each; however, make the best use of the mentor time by read their profiles (literally stalk them), do your homework, send them an email about your company, and few questions that you want to discuss in the mentor session. That how you will make the best use of your mentor time and your time!
2. Focus on your tractions, metrics, and users, instead of products
GreenGar came to 500 Startups with 500,000 monthly active users. What does that mean? I have half million people to think about every night before I go to sleep, literally. However, we’re not coming to 500 Startups to show off our tractions (who cares?); we’re here to make a difference for our company, to take GreenGar to the next levels. 500 Startups has a great team of distribution and growth hacking; however, it won’t be helpful if you don’t know your metrics. In fact, I think having a great tractions like GreenGar has a lot of disadvantages, most people think “GreenGar will be doing okay”. Yes, we clearly know how to make apps that people love, and we know how to make money.
And we made a huge mistake, we focusing developing the new products, myself, and co-founder, and our lead developer spend literally 16 hours per day, wrote 170,000 lines of code per week. We successfully developed The New Whiteboard. However, our metrics did not improve a bit during the 3 months here. However, one thing we did write, I took an advice from Dave McClure and do intensive user research about our user database. Therefore, at least we know that The New Whiteboard is the product that all of our users have been waiting for.
3. There will be 1000 advices, listen to all, but only choose some that matters.
From #1, if you think it’s sweet to have 1000 people giving you advices, it could be the biggest pain on the butts as well. Before the Demo Day, we have pitch prep for a month long, we pitch with mentors, with investors, with each others. “Fake it until you make it” is the term that we use. Everyday, we pitch like it’s the real pitch at the Demo Day. If there are 2 people watching your pitch, you will get 2 different advices; if there are 6 people watching you, you will get 5 different advices (likely 1 of them will agree with some other in the group). I literally work on my pitch and my slide decks everyday! It’s about 2-3 hours everyday, including changing the slides and practice. Bottom line: everyone are giving time and advices for you because they want the best for you, they want you be able to get attention at the Demo Day, and more important, everyone want you to be success.
Lesson learned: There is no wrong advice, there are only a few that valid for certain period of time, certain stage of your company. No one on this world know your company, your products, your vision more than yourself.
4. Greatest asset of 500 Startups is the co-working space
Before I join 500 Startups, I remember someone told me, “Dave McClure is the greatest asset of 500 Startups”. In my opinion, the greatest asset of 500 Startups is the co-working space. I spent 14 -16 hours in the office every single day. In my apartment, I don’t even have furniture, neither chairs nor tables. It’s more like a crash place than a home! But being able to work together with the batch mates, high speed Internet, full-beverage-refrigerator is like heaven for any start-ups!
500 Startups Batch 6 have over 70% from outside the US. It feel like going back to college again, except the guys sit next to you will spend like 10-12 hours per day working at the same time, it give me a lot of motivation, and lots of help as needed. None of people in my team know how to set up the server before, luckily, Adam (CEO of Binpress) is an expert and offer us lots of help when he can.
5. Spend more time with your batch mates and team mates
With the greatest asset of the co-working space, we learn from our batch mates as much as learning from mentors, and the 500 Startups staffs. Needless to say, 500 Startups do have the most awesome staffs on earth, everyone are so caring and giving.
Spending time with batch mates: during the accelerator program, I found many great friendship. We spend days and nights together at the office, giving each others a hand, a courage, or just a compliment to make the day better. After I got ripped apart in my investment meeting, a batch mate said, “Don’t worry, he’s just another a-hole or stupid” (It really makes you feel better, LOL)
Spending time with your team mates: For many teams who didn’t have office before, 500 Startups is probably the first time that they have their team all sitting together at one place. Better yet, many of us live in the same apartment building, or in the same apartment, it’s the great time for you to spend time with your team mates. However, be careful not to get trap into workaholic (I must admit that I did). End of the day: you’re building the company not by building the products, but by building the people who will build the company together with you.
Applying and joining 500 Startups is probably the most controversial but the best decision I ever made as the CEO of GreenGar.
Once upon the time, we went full-force with our maximum speed/capability, hustle ourselves every single day to deliver our very best.
Once upon the time, I met the most awesome people on earth, the best of the best entrepreneurs on earth — we work hard and we play hard together.
Once upon the time, I was that crazy girl who believe “The sky isn’t my limit!” and everything is possible
Once upon the time, I got the best courage, support, mentor, and love of everyone around me — and I love them all very much, too!
This blog is dedicated to all of my batch mates, 500 Startups Staffs, Christine Herron, Marvin Liao, Jun Li, Maneesh, Dave, Christine Tsai, George, Max, Melissa, and everyone!
And if you believe you could be the “The next big thing”, application for Batch 007 is now open: https://angel.co/500startups
444 Castro – silent night