Xcelerator Sp20 Cohort Summary

The Berkeley Blockchain Xcelerator is a blockchain startup accelerator run by UC Berkeley. We provide non-dilutive support to our teams that ranges from access to our high-quality mentor and talent network to special programming sessions with thought leaders and blockchain / crypto venture capital firms. Since January 2019, we have accelerated 45 teams from around the world via 3 batches. Investors in our teams include Polychain, Pantera, Susquehanna, IDEO Co-Lab, Draper Venture Network, Digital Currency Group, HTC, Alibaba, etc., as well as grants from Web3 Foundation and ConsenSys. Over 75% of our first cohort raised follow-on funding for a total of $16M!

Demo Day Recap

On October 1st, the Xcelerator wrapped up its 2020 Cohort (our third cohort) with a demo day!

It was a fully virtual cohort, having to adapt to the times, and our 18 teams presented to an online audience of over 200 people, including investors, industry leaders, faculty and students. After presenting, we opened up breakout rooms for founders to chat with investors more personally, with attendees able to virtually visit each booth as they pleased.

Demo day was a huge success! Teams and attendees alike praised the experience, and demo day marked the start of new rounds of fundraising for our teams, some of which have already closed in the weeks since!

Let’s hear more about the 2020 Xcelerator Program and what founders loved most about being part of the Xcelerator!

Program Summary

The Spring 2020 cohort is our third batch of teams going through the Berkeley Blockchain Xcelerator. From a competitive pool of 135+ applications, 18 teams were selected.

The cohort was one of the most exciting and diverse we have ever seen.

  • From over 11 countries: New Zealand, Japan, Germany, China, France, Philippines, Turkey, Mexico, Russia, Kenya, and Canada
  • Across all use cases: DeFi, Institutional Finance, Gaming, Fan Engagement, Renewable Energy, Rewards, Data Sharing for IoT, Healthcare, and Autonomous Vehicles
  • And, across all stages, from a very early student founders to teams that had been building for 5+ years and looking to expand to new areas

The program is offered by staff, faculty and students at UC Berkeley, with support of our extensive network of mentors and industry partners. For the 2020 Cohort, Jocelyn Weber, Sanil Rajput (’20), Nishan D’Souza (’22) and Simon Guo (’23) were the directors.

The program is also supported by Xcelerator Fellows and staff from Berkeley Engineering’s Sutardja Center for Entrepreneurship & Technology (SCET).
Fellows: Matt McGee (MBA ’20), Omkar Shanbhag (’20), Joseph Broder (’22), Neil Tewari (’22), Sahil Saxena (’22), Saneel Sreeni (’23), Alpin Yukseloglu (’23)
Staff: Kristin Shopp, Luke Kim (Berkeley Alum)
Interns: Justin R. Wong (’21), Tiffany Tong (’23), Helen Rhee (’22), Andy Jiang (’23), Mher Torjyan (’20)

The goal of the Xcelerator Program is to advance the blockchain technology through education and opportunity creation for our startups, as well as for the UC Berkeley community. Since our kick off in April 2020 through our demo day in October 2020, we have supported our teams and community through the various kinds of engagements listed below.

Speaker Series & Workshops

Although the program became virtual due to the impact of COVID-19, we continued to organize workshops and sessions for our teams to support them. In general, we plan for 4 to 5 sessions per month of 2 to 3 hours each, as categorized below:

Startup Best Practices:
Topics Include: Advice from Xcelerator Alumni on Fundraising, Marketing & Branding, Human-Centered Design, Go-to-Market Strategies, Product & Engineering Management, Sales, Pitch Decks

Startup Training and Support:
Crypto & Token Regulatory Environment with Law Firm such as Perkins Coie, 8 pitch training and feedback sessions with mentors, Info session with programs such as CoinList Seed, Office Hours with VCs and Mentors

Venture Capital and Fundraising:
Topics Include: How VC Funds Function, Fund Investment Thesis, Raising & Pitching during COVID, Perspective on Industry Landscape, Meet & Greet

We are grateful to host various firms including Coinbase Ventures, Pantera, Blockchain Capital, Ausum Ventures, Electric Capital, Bloccelerate, and Draper Dragon, as well as crowdfunding platform such as Republic Crypto. Many of our teams established contact with them and some even raised funding from them. For example, Acala’s $7M series-A led by Pantera, and SheeldMarket’s €1M Seed Round led by Draper Dragon.

Industry & Academia Pioneers:
We were fortunate to host the pioneers in the blockchain industry and research to discuss their insights with our teams and share their journey.

  • David Schwartz, CTO of Ripple & XRP, Co-creator of Interledger Protocol
  • Jeremy Gardner, Co-Founder of Augur
  • Sina Nader (Berkeley Alum), COO of FTX, formerly Head of Crypto at Robinhood
  • Richard Lyons, UC Berkeley’s Chief Innovation & Entrepreneurship Officer, 14th Dean of the Berkeley Haas School of Business

Fellows Program

A special resource each team had was an Xcelerator Fellow — a UC Berkeley student from Blockchain at Berkeley — to guide them through their journey! Fellows are a one-stop-shop with the ability to connect founders to anywhere around the Xcelerator ecosystem. In Batch 3, fellows’ contributions included organized meetups to showcase companies, leading marketing campaigns, connecting founders to student talent and mentors, and giving pitch/fundraising advice to founders.

Community Engagement

The Xcelerator is committed to opportunity creation not only for our teams, but also the UC Berkeley community and the broader crypto & blockchain community.

We put together a talent portal of hundreds of college students interested in working at blockchain startups. A few of our teams hired several interns from that pool in the summer, as well as full-time new grad roles.

There is an array of blockchain education events at Berkeley. Many of our current and past teams spoke at Berkeley Engineering’s Emerging Tech for Social Impact class, as well as Blockchain at Berkeley’s Blockchain Fundamental Webinars and DeFi whitepaper circles.

We are only able to accept a limited amount of teams due to the limitations of our resources, but we host a community social every two months on Icebreaker with teams in the program, teams that applied (regardless of acceptance), and our network of industry professionals and mentors.

Mentorship

Over the years, we have established a network of over 100 industry mentors and made it available to our founders. Our fellows coordinate with each team to “warm intro” them to our mentors. In addition, we also host mentor office hours and invite our mentors to our online socials.

Any team could find a valuable connection in our diverse batch of mentors, who have prior experiences ranging from fundraising and branding to smart contract security and crypto regulation. One team even had a mentor join their board of directors!

Collaboration with Other Programs

As a non-dilutive accelerator, we are always pleased to partner with some of the other leading blockchain / crypto programs in our network that seek to move the industry and startups forward. Below are some examples of how are 2020 Cohort participated in other programs.

Cohort Summary and Highlights

We asked our founders about their achievements throughout the program. Here are their responses 🚀

💸 Consumer Finance and Rewards

StormX is the easiest place to earn your favorite cryptocurrencies. Shop from over 700 stores like Nike, eBay, NewEgg, Aliexpress, and earn Bitcoin, Ethereum, & other crypto.

Main achievements: 1) Acquired over 400,000 unique users in nine months. 2) Launched services in 150+ countries. 3) Added 700+ shops 4) Featured #2 Product of the Day on Product Hunt 5) Monthly sales transactions doubled almost every month since June 2020.
How has the Xcelerator helped you reach your goals? They connected us with a great network of entrepreneurs and investors in the crypto space.

Calypso is a reverse auction marketplace creating a client-centric shift in the loan industry — borrowers propose the terms and lenders bid for the contract.

Main achievement: We launched our MVP and conducted Calypso’s first round of beta testing.
How has the Xcelerator helped you reach your goals? Through hearing from various industry experts BBX helped Calypso streamline a pitch that was at once informative and compelling. That’s when the connection happens.

Linkdrop is a mobile-first user acquisition, onboarding and retention platform for crypto.

Main achievement: Integrated Acala parachain; Added xDai STAKE support; got 200 inbound requests, run a few big use cases with Maker; received funding from Binance, NEAR Protocol and Web3 Foundations.
How has the Xcelerator helped you reach your goals?
We had connections with other cohort teams and with the Acala team now we have a partnership and soon we’ll add support of their blockchain to Linkdrop. Also, we in the middle of the process to receive funding from Polkadot’s Web3 Foundation to add support Polkadot blockchain ecosystem.

🏭 Industry Use Cases

Blok-Z is an energy software startup building blockchain based white-label solutions for energy retailers to verify the origin of the renewable energy they offer to their customers in real-time without the risk of green-washing.

Main achievement: We landed multiple major contracts with large energy companies and expanded our reachable energy network to over 10 million electricity consumers!
How has the Xcelerator helped you reach your goals? Through the Xcelerator program we managed to connect with VCs that share our vision for a sustainable future and meet remarkable mentors that have helped refine our vision, in short, the Xcelerator team outdid our wildest expectations!

Snark Health is the next generation of healthcare built around the Doctor-Patient relationship.

Main achievement: We launched our product and signed up 800+ patients, 50 Doctors and 30+ Community Health Volunteers (CHVs) in the rural western part of Kenya.
How has the Xcelerator helped you reach your goals? We got valuable feedback on pitching and introduction to amazing and experienced mentors!

Nodle is a global, decentralized IoT network that uses smartphones to connect devices in a more cost efficient way than traditional solutions.

Main achievement: We migrated our infrastructure from the stellar blockchain to Parity Substrate. We went over our the number of 5 Million active phones maintaining the network, per day.
How has the Xcelerator helped you reach your goals? The Xcelerator provided us with great pitch feedbacks and awesome mentoring sessions that helped us shape our product and prepare us for even higher success.

GVOS is the Data Layer for Autonomous Driving.

Main achievement: Signed a strategic partnership agreements with several major businesses, together we will make the data sharing easier for the autonomous driving industry.
How has the Xcelerator helped you reach your goals? They Xcelerator helped us connect with great mentors and investors.

🎮 Gaming

Flowerpatch (by Nugbase) is an Ethereum-based cannabis farming social game with real world rewards.

Main achievements: Launched our “proof of gaming” currency, SEED, which is now one of the top 5 most active currencies on the Matic Layer 2 Network. We also partnered with our first physical location, Delta Dispensary in Antioch. Early next year, Delta will distribute our digital FLOWER strains, as a form of loyalty system.
How has the Xcelerator helped you reach your goals? The UC Berkeley Blockchain Xcelerator has given me the business education, and connections, that I was severely missing as a technical founder!

ARterra is a fan engagement platform designed for Esports teams and content creators to manage, reward, and engage fans using custom digital collectibles and prediction contests.

Main achievement: Our team secured 3 major Esports teams as customers and connected with key leaders that accelerated our growth as leader in an emerging industry.
How has the Xcelerator helped you reach your goals? The Xcelerator connected us with key leaders in the Esports and Traditional sports industries, while also providing great feedback and input on our go-to-market strategy.

Geer is a platform for brands and games.

Main achievement: We signed Berkeley on as a client.
How has the Xcelerator helped you reach your goals? The support we received from program directors, student fellows, and peer founders was unparalleled. Through the Berkeley Blockchain Xcelerator we got new clients, new team members, strategic direction, and many introductions — all for zero equity dilution or cash. There’s simply nothing else like this out there.

OPgames is a suite of tools that enables game developers to transform their single player games into multiplayer tournaments with crypto buy in and pay out.

Main achievement: During the Xcelerator program we have successfully released our first MVP and is very much on our way to releasing our Alpha with Near Protocol.
How has the Xcelerator helped you reach your goals? I think the biggest help the Xcelerator helped us with is that it was able to connect us to the right sets of people that in some shape or form helped us align our product, tech and business strategies to a more sensible direction.

💼 Institutional Finance

Finoa is a global digital asset custodian providing secure and regulated custody, brokerage as well as blockchain-enabled services like staking to professional investors such as Asset Managers, VCs, Foundations and Family Offices as well as Financial Institutions and Corporates.

Main achievement: We announced significant partnerships with credible institutions such as T-Systems and Coinlist as well as interesting collaborations with Dapper Labs and the NEAR-, Oasis, and Skale-Foundations.
How has the Xcelerator helped you reach your goals? We had great networking sessions, good mentors and got very valuable feedback on our pitch(es).

Liquid Mortgage is a loan-backed digital asset and payments platform for traditional debt products.

Main achievement: We have multiple new potential strategic relationships in the pipeline, from several different types of firms. Closing these would bring us the ecosystem necessary to change the market from within. We are also closer to raising our first round of capital.
How has the Xcelerator helped you reach your goals? The Xcelerator helped to bring together like-minded founders, mentors, and investors in a still young blockchain industry.

Sixtant is a market-neutral algorithmic cryptocurrency trading firm.

Main achievement: We strengthened the company vision and greatly improved our strategic framework. — We solidified our relationship with our two main partners, and 3x-ed our contracts with them. — We increased our revenue which allowed us to hire our 2 first employees.
How has the Xcelerator helped you reach your goals? The very diverse feedback we received (from Jocelyn, the fellows, cohort-mates, mentors…) has helped solidify and grow the vision we had for the company before we started.

🌐 Protocols and Decentralized Finance

Acala Network is a cross-chain DeFi Hub and stablecoin platform for Polkadot and beyond.

Main achievement: We gained 14,000 new accounts, 142,000 meaningful transactions and $52 mil TLV on last testnet campaign, and 30+ ecosystem collaborators integrating and building with Acala. Raised Series Raised A $7mil from a diverse set of backers and strategic partners that will help Acala bootstrap liquidity and launch mainnet on Kusama and Polkadot. We are a pioneer for a true fair launch on Kusama & Polkadot through Parachain Lease Offering — a new way to build a strong and well-intentioned community from the ground up.
How has the Xcelerator helped you reach your goals? The VC and mentor network is amazing~

Snowball Money is a NEO Bank powered by DeFi and wrapped stablecoin swaps.

Main achievement: We came in to the program with ideas and have since launched two products.
How has Xcelerator helped you reach your goals? Marketing and weekly product support.

Stake Technologies Plasm Network is a scalable smart contract layer on Polkadot.

Main achievement: Lockdrop: around $54M USD worth ETH had locked on our smart contract in 4 weeks. Hiring: Hired 1 Chinese member from BearX Partnership: Chainlink Myself: Became a task force member at Trusted Web Council led by Japanese government.
How has the Xcelerator helped you reach your goals? They connected us with VCs!

Next Batch Overview/Call for 2021 Applicants

We hope you enjoyed hearing about our 2020 cohort and are as excited for their further progress as we are! We’re even more excited to announce that our application for the 2021 Cohort is now open on F6s!

It’s a better time than ever to join the Xcelerator family. We’ve been working hard this offseason to build an even better cohort experience on top of that of our 2020 Batch!

To start off, this batch we’ll have three top Layer 1s — the Web3 Foundation (Polkadot, Kusama), Tezos Foundation, and Algorand Foundation — joining us as partners of the Xcelerator and to grow our community. Startup law firm Perkins Coie is also joining as a partner, as we continue to grow our legal resources for teams.

We’re also expanding our reach into the university ecosystem: we’re running a Building with Blockchain course in UC Berkeley Engineering in conjunction with our three Layer 1 partners, and are continuing to expand our talent network to universities worldwide. We’ve also brought in a whole new round of Blockchain at Berkeley fellows to be paired with 2021 cohort teams!

Absolutely any team, regardless of location, stage, and size, can apply to the Xcelerator! We celebrate our diversity in every single cohort.

After accepting applications on F6s until January 24, 2021, we’ll select our 2021 teams in March, with a cohort start date in the March/April 2021 timeframe. The program will last ~6 months, with demo day targeted for September/October, depending on our COVID-19 situation and it’s implications.

👇Apply Now! 👇

Be sure to check our website and twitter over the next few weeks for more information from us!

Thank You & Acknowledgement

The Xcelerator team would like to thank the following organizations and individuals:

We would also like to thank all of our amazing speakers and workshop mentors that made all of our sessions possible!

They are: Ikhlaq Sidhu (Berkeley SCET), Shomit Ghose (Berkeley SCET), Kenneth Leung (Oracle), Dmitriy Berenzon (Bollinger Investment Group, MBA ’19), David Schwartz (Ripple / XRP), Brian Foster & Justin Mart (Coinbase Ventures), Paul Veradittakit (Pantera, Berkeley ’05), Franklin Bi (Pantera), Sina Nader (Robinhood Crypto, Berkeley Alum), Lowell Ness & Sarah Hody Shtylman (Perkins Coie), Bryan Myint & Graham Friedman (Republic), Joshua Rivera & Kinjal Shah (Blockchain Capital), Mike Grandinetti (Berkeley SCET), Jeremy Gardner (Ausum Ventures, Augur), Maria Shen (Electric Capital), Sam Yilmaz (Bloccelerate), Victor Fang (AnChain.AI, Xcelerator Sp 19), Mike Zajko (CoinList), Scott Williams (Zane Venture Fund), Michael Beller (Lightship Partners), Liam DiGregorio (Blockchain at Berkeley, Berkeley ’20), Robert Li (Draper Dragon), Isaiah Steinfeld (Nike), Karen Salay (visitorX), Dhruv Mehta (Outbound.io), Justine Humenansky (Playground Global, MBA ’20), Emily Bui (Berkeley ’22), Tina Teng (Berkeley ’21), Susan Lin (Berkeley ’22), Ryan Adolf (Berkeley ’23), Medhi Kothari (Celo, she(256), Berkeley ’20), Jon Allen (Dekrypt Capital, Berkeley ’18), Adithya Iyengar (The House Fund, Berkeley ’18), Don Ho (Quantstamp), Gigi Wang (Berkeley SCET), Sara Reynolds (she(256), Berkeley ’21), Anthony DiPrinzio (BASF Blockchain Lab, Berkeley ’19), Rich Lyons (UC Berkeley Chief Innovation & Entrepreneurship Officer)